"He is going to desert us," he exclaimed at last, as he saw him seize the reins, as if preparing to mount.
"He! never!" replied Robert. Instead of deserting them, the truth was that the Indian was going to try and save his friends by sacrificing himself.
Thaouka was ready, and stood champing his bit. He reared up, and his splendid eyes flashed fire; he understood his master.
But just as the Patagonian caught hold of the horse's mane, Glenarvan seized his arm with a convulsive grip, and said, pointing to the open prairie.
"You are going away?"
V. IV Verne
"Yes," replied the Indian, understanding his gesture. Then he said a few words in Spanish, which meant: "_Thaouka; good horse; quick; will draw all the wolves away after him_."
"Oh, Thalcave," exclaimed Glenarvan.
"Quick, quick!" replied the Indian, while Glenarvan said, in a broken, agitated voice to Robert:
"Robert, my child, do you hear him? He wants to sacrifice himself for us. He wants to rush away over the Pampas, and turn off the wolves from us by attracting them to himself."
"Friend Thalcave," returned Robert, throwing himself at the feet of the Patagonian, "friend Thalcave, don't leave us!"
"No," said Glenarvan, "he shall not leave us."
And turning toward the Indian, he said, pointing to the frightened horses, "Let us go together."
"No," replied Thalcave, catching his meaning. "Bad beasts; frightened; Thaouka, good horse."
"Be it so then!" returned Glenarvan. "Thalcave will not leave you, Robert. He teaches me what I must do. It is for me to go, and for him to stay by you."
Then seizing Thaouka's bridle, he said, "I am going, Thalcave, not you."
"No," replied the Patagonian quietly.
"I am," exclaimed Glenarvan, snatching the bridle out of his hands. "I, myself! Save this boy, Thalcave! I commit him to you."
Glenarvan was so excited that he mixed up English words with his Spanish. But what mattered the language at such a terrible moment. A gesture was enough. The two men understood each other.
However, Thalcave would not give in, and though every instant's delay but increased the danger, the discussion continued.
Neither Glenarvan nor Thalcave appeared inclined to yield. The Indian had dragged his companion towards the entrance of the RAMADA, and showed him the prairie, making him understand that now was the time when it was clear from the wolves; but that not a moment was to be lost, for should this maneuver not succeed, it would only render the situation of those left behind more desperate. and that he knew his horse well enough to be able to trust his wonderful lightness and swiftness to save them all. But Glenarvan was blind and obstinate, and determined to sacrifice himself at all hazards, when suddenly he felt himself violently pushed back. Thaouka pranced up, and reared himself bolt upright on his hind legs, and made a bound over the barrier of fire, while a clear, young voice called out:
"God save you, my lord."
But before either Thalcave or Glenarvan could get more than a glimpse of the boy, holding on fast by Thaouka's mane, he was out of sight.
"Robert! oh you unfortunate boy," cried Glenarvan.
But even Thalcave did not catch the words, for his voice was drowned in the frightful uproar made by the wolves, who had dashed off at a tremendous speed on the track of the horse.
Thalcave and Glenarvan rushed out of the RAMADA. Already the plain had recovered its tranquillity, and all that could be seen of the red wolves was a moving line far away in the distant darkness.
Glenarvan sank prostrate on the ground, and clasped his hands despairingly. He looked at Thalcave, who smiled with his accustomed calmness, and said:
"Thaouka, good horse. Brave boy. He will save himself!"
"And suppose he falls?" said Glenarvan.
"He'll not fall."
But notwithstanding Thalcave's assurances, poor Glenarvan spent the rest of the night in torturing anxiety. He seemed quite insensible now to the danger they had escaped through the departure of the wolves, and would have hastened immediately after Robert if the Indian had not kept him back by making him understand the impossibility of their horses overtaking Thaouka; and also that boy and horse had outdistanced the wolves long since, and that it would be useless going to look for them till daylight.