"Now, Jim," said George, "look that your pistols are all right, and watch that pass with me. The first man that shows himself I fire at; you take the second, and so on. It won't do, you know, to waste two shots on one."
"But what if you don't hit?"
"I shall hit," said George, coolly.
"Good! now, there's stuff in that fellow," muttered Phineas, between his teeth.
The party below, after Marks had fired, stood, for a moment, rather undecided.
"I think you must have hit some on 'em," said one of the men. "I heard a squeal!"
"I'm going right up for one," said Tom. "I never was afraid of niggers, and I an't going to be now. Who goes after?" he said, springing up the rocks.
George heard the words distinctly. He drew up his pistol, examined it, pointed it towards that point in the defile where the first man would appear.
One of the most courageous of the party followed Tom, and, the way being thus made, the whole party began pushing up the rock, — the hindermost pushing the front ones faster than they would have gone of themselves. On they came, and in a moment the burly form of Tom appeared in sight, almost at the verge of the chasm.
George fired, — the shot entered his side, — but, though wounded, he would not retreat, but, with a yell like that of a mad bull, he was leaping right across the chasm into the party.
"Friend," said Phineas, suddenly stepping to the front, and meeting him with a push from his long arms, "thee isn't wanted here."
Down he fell into the chasm, crackling down among trees, bushes, logs, loose stones, till he lay bruised and groaning thirty feet below. The fall might have killed him, had it not been broken and moderated by his clothes catching in the branches of a large tree; but he came down with some force, however, — more than was at all agreeable or convenient.
"Lord help us, they are perfect devils!" said Marks, heading the retreat down the rocks with much more of a will than he had joined the ascent, while all the party came tumbling precipitately after him, — the fat constable, in particular, blowing and puffing in a very energetic manner.
"I say, fellers," said Marks, "you jist go round and pick up Tom, there, while I run and get on to my horse to go back for help, — that's you;" and, without minding the hootings and jeers of his company, Marks was as good as his word, and was soon seen galloping away.
"Was ever such a sneaking varmint?" said one of the men; "to come on his business, and he clear out and leave us this yer way!"
"Well, we must pick up that feller," said another. "Cuss me if I much care whether he is dead or alive."
The men, led by the groans of Tom, scrambled and crackled through stumps, logs and bushes, to where that hero lay groaning and swearing with alternate vehemence.
"Ye keep it agoing pretty loud, Tom," said one. "Ye much hurt?"
"Don't know. Get me up, can't ye? Blast that infernal Quaker! If it hadn't been for him, I'd a pitched some on 'em down here, to see how they liked it."
With much labor and groaning, the fallen hero was assisted to rise; and, with one holding him up under each shoulder, they got him as far as the horses.
"If you could only get me a mile back to that ar tavern. Give me a handkerchief or something, to stuff into this place, and stop this infernal bleeding."
George looked over the rocks, and saw them trying to lift the burly form of Tom into the saddle. After two or three ineffectual attempts, he reeled, and fell heavily to the ground.
"O, I hope he isn't killed!" said Eliza, who, with all the party, stood watching the proceeding.
"Why not?" said Phineas; "serves him right."
"Because after death comes the judgment," said Eliza.
"Yes," said the old woman, who had been groaning and praying, in her Methodist fashion, during all the encounter, "it's an awful case for the poor crittur's soul."
"On my word, they're leaving him, I do believe," said Phineas.
It was true; for after some appearance of irresolution and consultation, the whole party got on their horses and rode away. When they were quite out of sight, Phineas began to bestir himself.
"Well, we must go down and walk a piece," he said. "I told Michael to go forward and bring help, and be along back here with the wagon; but we shall have to walk a piece along the road, I reckon, to meet them. The Lord grant he be along soon! It's early in the day; there won't be much travel afoot yet a while; we an't much more than two miles from our stopping-place. If the road hadn't been so rough last night, we could have outrun 'em entirely."
As the party neared the fence, they discovered in the distance, along the road, their own wagon coming back, accompanied by some men on horseback.
"Well, now, there's Michael, and Stephen and Amariah," exclaimed Phineas, joyfully. "Now we are made — as safe as if we'd got there."
"Well, do stop, then," said Eliza, "and do something for that poor man; he's groaning dreadfully."
"It would be no more than Christian," said George; "let's take him up and carry him on."
"And doctor him up among the Quakers!" said Phineas; "pretty well, that! Well, I don't care if we do. Here, let's have a look at him;" and Phineas, who in the course of his hunting and backwoods life had acquired some rude experience of surgery, kneeled down by the wounded man, and began a careful examination of his condition.
"Marks," said Tom, feebly, "is that you, Marks?"
"No; I reckon 'tan't friend," said Phineas. "Much Marks cares for thee, if his own skin's safe. He's off, long ago."
"I believe I'm done for," said Tom. "The cussed sneaking dog, to leave me to die alone! My poor old mother always told me 't would be so."
"La sakes! jist hear the poor crittur. He's got a mammy, now," said the old negress. "I can't help kinder pityin' on him."
"Softly, softly; don't thee snap and snarl, friend," said Phineas, as Tom winced and pushed his hand away. "Thee has no chance, unless I stop the bleeding." And Phineas busied himself with making some off-hand surgical arrangements with his own pocket-handkerchief, and such as could be mustered in the company.