“It shall be done,” said Roland, as much relieved by the suggestion as he was pleased by the humane spirit that prompted it: “my two soldiers can watch, if they cannot fight, and I shall take care they watch well.”
Thus composing the difficulty, preparations were immediately made to occupy the ruin, into which Roland, having previously entered with the Emperor, and struck a light, introduced his weary kinswoman with her companion Telie; while Nathan and Pardon Dodge led the horses into the ravine, where they could be easily confined, and allowed to browse and drink at will, being at the same time beyond the reach of observation from any foe that might yet be prowling through the forest.
The light struck by the negro was soon succeeded by a fire, for which ample materials lay ready at hand among the ruins; and as it blazed up from the broken and long deserted hearth, the travellers could better view the dismal aspect of the cabin. It consisted, as has been mentioned, of but a single remaining apartment, with walls of logs, from whose chinks the clay, with which they had been originally plastered, had long since vanished, with here and there a fragment of a log itself, leaving a thousand gaps for the admission of wind and rain. The ceiling of poles (for it had once possessed a kind of garret) had fallen down under the weight of the rotting roof, of which but a small portion remained, and that in the craziest condition; and the floor of puncheons, or planks of split logs, was in a state of equal dilapidation, more than half of it having rotted away, and mingled with the earth on which it reposed. Doors and windows there were none; but two mouldering gaps in the front and the rear walls, and another of greater magnitude opening, from the side, into what had once been the hall or passage (though now a platform heaped with fragments of charred timber), showed where the narrow entrance and loop-hole windows had once existed. The former was without leaf or defence of any kind, unless such might have been found in three or four logs standing against the wall hard by, whence they could be easily removed and piled against the opening; for which purpose, Roland did not doubt they had been used, and by the houseless Nathan himself. But a better protection was offered by the ruins of the other apartment, which had fallen down in such a way