“It’s too bad o’ that fire-eating fellow to fix on me for this particular service,” said he to one of the settlers named Hugh Barnes, a cooper, who acted as one of his captains; “and at night, too; just as if a man of my years were a cross between a cat (which everybody knows can see in the dark) and a kangaroo, which is said to be a powerful leaper, though whether in the dark or the light I don’t pretend to know, not being informed on the point. Have a care, Hugh. It seems to me you’re going to step into a quarry hole, or over a precipice. How my old flesh quakes, to be sure! If it was only a fair, flat field and open day, with any odds you like against me, it would be nothing; but this abominable Goat’s—Hah! I knew it! Help! hold on there! murder!”
Ole’s sudden alarm was caused by his stumbling in the dark over the root of a shrub which grew on the edge of, and partly concealed, a precipice, over which he was precipitated, and at the foot of which his mangled and lifeless form would soon have reposed had not his warlike forefathers, being impressed with the advantage of wearing strong sword-belts, furnished the sword which Ole wore with such a belt as was not only on all occasions sufficient to support the sword itself, but which, on this particular occasion, was strong enough to support its owner when he was suspended from, and entangled with, the shrubs of the cliff.
A ray of light chanced to break into the dark chasm at the time, and revealed all its dangers to the pendulous Thorwald so powerfully that he positively howled with horror.
The howl brought Hugh and several of his followers to his side, and they with much difficulty, for he was a heavy man, succeeded in dragging him from his dangerous position and placing him on his feet, in which position he remained for some time, speechless and blowing.
“Now, I’ll tell you what it is, boys,” said he at length, “if ever you catch me going on an expedition of this sort again, flay me alive—that’s all; don’t spare me. Pull off the cuticle as if it were a glove; and if I roar don’t mind—that’s what I say.”
Having said this, the veteran warrior smiled a ghastly smile, as if the idea of being so excruciatingly treated were rather pleasant than otherwise.
“You’re not hurt, I hope?” inquired Hugh.
“Hurt; yes, I am hurt,—hurt in my feelings, not in my body, thanks to my good sword and belt; but my feelings are injured. That villain, that rascal, that pirate—as I verily believe him to be—selected me especially for this service, I am persuaded, just because he knew me to be unfit for it. Bah! but I’ll pay him off for it. Come, boys, forward—perhaps, in the circumstances, it would be more appropriate to say upward! We must go through with it now, as our retreat is cut off. Lead the way, Hugh; your eyes are younger and sharper than mine; and if you chance to fall over a cliff, pray give a yell, like a good fellow, so that I may escape your sad fate.”