Volume Two of Three
It was on the evening of that day, so fertile in melancholy incident, to which our first volume has been devoted, that the drawbridge of Detroit was, for the third time since the investment of the garrison, lowered; not, as previously, with a disregard of the intimation that might be given to those without by the sullen and echoing rattle of its ponderous chains, but with a caution attesting how much secrecy of purpose was sought to be preserved. There was, however, no array of armed men within the walls, that denoted an expedition of a hostile character. Overcome with the harassing duties of the day, the chief portion of the troops had retired to rest, and a few groups of the guard alone were to be seen walking up and down in front of their post, apparently with a view to check the influence of midnight drowsiness, but, in reality, to witness the result of certain preparations going on by torchlight in the centre of the barrack square.
In the midst of an anxious group of officers, comprising nearly all of that rank within the fort, stood two individuals, attired in a costume having nothing in common with the gay and martial habiliments of the former. They were tall, handsome young men, whose native elegance of carriage was but imperfectly hidden under an equipment evidently adopted for, and otherwise fully answering, the purpose of disguise. A blue cotton shell jacket, closely fitting to the person, trowsers of the same material, a pair of strong deer-skin mocassins, and a coloured handkerchief tied loosely round the collar of a checked shirt, the whole surmounted by one of those rough blanket coats, elsewhere described, formed the principal portion of their garb. Each, moreover, wore a false queue of about nine inches in length, the effect of which was completely to change the character of the countenance, and lend to the features a Canadian-like expression. A red worsted cap, resembling a bonnet de nuit, was thrown carelessly over the side of the head, which could, at any moment, when deeper disguise should be deemed necessary, command the additional protection of the rude hood that fell back upon the shoulders from the collar of the coat to which it was attached. They were both well armed. Into a broad belt, that encircled the jacket of each, were thrust a brace of pistols and a strong dagger; the whole so disposed, however, as to be invisible when the outer garment was closed: this, again, was confined by a rude sash of worsted of different colours, not unlike, in texture and quality, what is worn by our sergeants at the present day. They were otherwise armed, however, and in a less secret manner. Across the right shoulder of each was thrown a belt of worsted also, to which were attached a rude powder horn and shot pouch, with a few straggling bullets, placed there as if rather by accident than design. Each held carelessly in his left hand, and with its butt resting on the earth, a long gun; completing an appearance, the attainment of which had, in all probability, been sedulously sought,—that of a Canadian duck-hunter.
A metamorphosis so ludicrously operated in the usually elegant costume of two young English officers,—for such they were,—might have been expected to afford scope to the pleasantry of their companions, and to call forth those sallies which the intimacy of friendship and the freemasonry of the profession would have fully justified. But the events that had occurred in such rapid succession, since the preceding midnight, were still painfully impressed on the recollection of all, and some there were who looked as if they never would smile again; neither laugh nor jeering, therefore, escaped the lips of one of the surrounding group. Every countenance wore a cast of thought,—a character of abstraction, ill suited to the indulgence of levity; and the little conversation that passed between them was in a low and serious tone. It was evident some powerful and absorbing dread existed in the mind of each, inducing him rather to indulge in communion with his own thoughts and impressions, than to communicate them to others. Even the governor himself had, for a moment, put off the dignity and distance of his usually unapproachable nature, to assume an air of unfeigned concern, and it might be dejection, contrasting strongly with his habitual haughtiness. Hitherto he had been walking to and fro, a little apart from the group, and with a hurriedness and indecision of movement that betrayed to all the extreme agitation of his mind. For once, however, he appeared to be insensible to observation, or, if not insensible, indifferent to whatever comments might be formed or expressed by those who witnessed his undissembled emotion. He was at length interrupted by the adjutant, who communicated something in a low voice.
"Let him be brought up, Mr. Lawson," was the reply. Then advancing into the heart of the group, and addressing the two adventurers, he enquired, in a tone that startled from its singular mildness, "if they were provided with every thing they required."
An affirmative reply was given, when the governor, taking the taller of the young men aside, conversed with him earnestly, and in a tone of affection strangely blended with despondency. The interview, however, was short, for Mr. Lawson now made his appearance, conducting an individual who has already been introduced to our readers. It was the Canadian of the