At laste, the Ridskins hold to that notion." I was, I confess, very thankful that we had not been compelled to eat the creatures; though I did not know what hunger might have induced me to do. As we paddled on, Uncle Mark asked Lily and Dora to sing. They were not girls to offer excuses, and declare that they were out of voice. "What shall it be?" said Lily.
I felt very certain that, with me to carry, he could not possibly reach the train before the Indians would be up with us, and he could scarcely have failed to know this. "Cling to me back, Masther Roger, and I'll show the Ridskins how a bog-trotter can get over the ground;" and stooping down, he seized my arms and threw me on his back.
At last they became sufficiently confidential to inform the stranger of their object in going to the Sawback Hills. "Ha! Vat is dat you say?" he exclaimed, with well-feigned surprise; "von yoong man carried avay by Ridskins. I saw'd dem! Did pass dem not longe ago. T'ree mans carry von man. I t'ink him a sick comrade, but now I reklect hims face vas vhitish."
"Much obliged to the gintlemen," remarked Mike; "but we will not let them do that same if we can help it, and we'll show them that the Palefaces have as much brains in their skulls as the Ridskins, cunning as they think themselves." Kakaik consented to stop with us for the night, and we had several more tunes from Mike's fiddle, and another dance, almost as boisterous as the first.
As soon as they ceased, Lily and Dora gave us a third; and so we went on, singing and paddling over the calm water. "Och! but it's a sad pity that them Ridskins have got me beautiful fiddle!" exclaimed Mike. "Would I not have been giving you all a tune! Sure, if I do not recover it I will be breaking me heart intirely."
"Och, botheration! but the Ridskins have got it bad luck to the spalpeens! and sorra a one of thim can play a tune, or I would not mind it so much," answered Mike. "But you must try to get him back," observed Quambo; "if dey not play on him, dey not want him." "I'm mighty afraid it's burned, though," said Mike, with a sorrowful countenance.
The Indians allowed Mike and me to talk together without interfering with us. I told him that I would try to escape as soon as I could. "Sure, and that is what I'll be afther," he answered. "But it's more easily said than done, I am afraid. However, where there is a will there is a way; and cunning as the Ridskins think themselves, maybe we'll be even with them."
And I began to recount to them how Daniel O'Rourke one night, returning from waking Widow Casey at Ballybotherem, and having taken a drop more than usual of the `crayther, saw the fairies come dancing round him; and I went on to describe what Daniel said, and what the fairies did. `And now, says I, `just sit quiet where you are till I come back and finish me story. And on this, giving another whoop, and a hop, skip, and a jump, I was making me way back to the river, when up sprang the Ridskins and came bounding afther me. `Sure, thin, says I, stopping short, and beginning to scrape away as before on me fiddle, `you don't understand me. And, by me faith, indade they did not; for without more ado they got round me, and suspecting that I had been bamboozling them, began to prick me with their spears behind, as a gentle hint that I was to march forward.
"Och, but the Ridskins are upon us!" cried out Mike. "We must run for it, Masther Reuben dear. Niver mind the nets, or the fish, or the mosquito bastes. It's too much for any mortal man to stand, with the savages into the bargain. Come along as fast as your legs can carry you; but we will find Masther Roger first.
They's more 'n twinty commissioned officers, Rebels, ivery son av 'em, now on their way to meet the chiefs av these tribes. An' all the Kansas settlements down the river is to be fell upon by the Ridskins, an' nobody to be spared. Wid them Missouri raiders on the east and the Injuns in the southwest where'll anybody down there be, begorra, betwixt two sich grindin' millstones?