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قراءة كتاب Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 2

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‏اللغة: English
Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 2

Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 2

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 3

Heaven, we are betrayed,—here he is," quickly rejoined the other, in the same low tone. "Keep close to the hut, and stand behind me. If my dagger fail, you must try your own. But fire not, on your life, unless there be more than two, for the report of a pistol will be the destruction of ourselves and all that are dear to us."

Each with uplifted arm now stood ready to strike, even while his heart throbbed with a sense of danger, that had far more than the mere dread of personal suffering or death to stimulate to exertion in self-defence. Footsteps were now distinctly heard stealing round that part of the hut which bordered on the road; and the young men turned from the orchard, to which their attention had previously been directed, towards the new quarter whence they were intruded upon.

It was fortunate this mode of approach had been selected. That part of the hut which rested on the road was so exposed as to throw the outline of objects into strong relief, whereas in the direction of the thickly wooded orchard all was impenetrable gloom. Had the intruder stolen unannounced upon the alarmed but determined officers by the latter route, the dagger of the first would in all probability have been plunged to its hilt in his bosom. As it was, each had sufficient presence of mind to distinguish, as it now doubled the corner of the hut, and reposed upon the road, the stout square-set figure of the Canadian. The daggers were instantly restored to their sheaths, and each, for the first time since the departure of their companion, respired freely.

"It is quite well," whispered the latter as he approached. "It was my poor Babette, who tought I was gone to be kill. She scream so loud, as if she had seen my ghost. But we must wait a few minute in de house, and you shall see how glad my girl is to see me once again."

"Why this delay, Francois? why not start directly?" urged the taller officer; "we shall never clear the river in time; and if the dawn catches us in the waters of the Detroit, we are lost for ever."

"But you see I am not quite prepare yet," was the answer. "I have many tings to get ready for de canoe, which I have not use for a long times. But you shall not wait ten minute, if you do not like. Dere is a good fire, and Babette shall give you some ting to eat while I get it all ready."

The young men hesitated. The delay of the Canadian, who had so repeatedly urged the necessity for expedition while in the fort, had, to say the least of it, an appearance of incongruity. Still it was evident, if disposed to harm them, he had full opportunity to do so without much risk of effectual opposition from themselves. Under all circumstances, therefore, it was advisable rather to appear to confide implicitly in his truth, than, by manifesting suspicion, to pique his self-love, and neutralize whatever favourable intentions he might cherish in their behalf. In this mode of conduct they were confirmed, by a recollection of the sacredness attached by the religion of their conductor to the oath so solemnly pledged on the symbol of the cross, and by a conviction of the danger of observation to which they stood exposed, if, as they had apprehended, it was actually a human footstep they had heard in the orchard. This last recollection suggested a remark.

"We heard a strange sound within the orchard, while waiting here for your return," said the taller officer; "it was like the footstep of a man treading cautiously over rotten leaves and branches. How do you account for it?"

"Oh, it was my pigs," replied the Canadian, without manifesting the slightest uneasiness at the information. "They run about in de orchard for de apples what blows down wid de wind."

"It could not be a pig we heard," pursued his questioner; "but another thing, Francois, before we consent to enter the hut,—how will you account to your daughter for our presence? and what suspicion may she not form at seeing two armed strangers in company with you at this unseasonable hour."

"I have tell her," replied the Canadian, "dat I have bring two friends, who go wid me in de canoe to shoot de ducks for two tree days. You know, sir, I go always in de fall to kill de ducks wid my friends, and she will not tink it strange."

"You have managed well, my brave fellow; and now we follow you in confidence. But in the name of Heaven, use all possible despatch, and if money will lend a spur to your actions, you shall have plenty of it when our enterprise has been accomplished."

Our adventurers followed their conductor in the track by which he had so recently rejoined them. As they turned the corner of the hut, the younger, who brought up the rear, fancied he again heard a sound in the direction of the orchard, resembling that of one lightly leaping to the ground. A gust of wind, however, passing rapidly at the moment through the dense foliage, led him to believe it might have been produced by the sullen fall of one of the heavy fruits it had detached in its course. Unwilling to excite new and unnecessary suspicion in his companion, he confined the circumstance to his own breast, and followed into the hut.

After ascending a flight of about a dozen rude steps, they found themselves in a small room, furnished with no other ceiling than the sloping roof itself, and lighted by an unwieldy iron lamp, placed on a heavy oak table, near the only window with which the apartment was provided. This latter had suffered much from the influence of time and tempest; and owing to the difficulty of procuring glass in so remote a region, had been patched with slips of paper in various parts. The two corner and lower panes of the bottom sash were out altogether, and pine shingles, such as are used even at the present day for covering the roofs of dwelling houses, had been fitted into the squares, excluding air and light at the same time. The centre pane of this tier was, however, clear and free from flaw of every description. Opposite to the window blazed a cheerful wood fire, recently supplied with fuel; and at one of the inner corners of the room was placed a low uncurtained bed, that exhibited marks of having been lain in since it was last made. On a chair at its side were heaped a few dark-looking garments, the precise nature of which were not distinguishable at a cursory and distant glance.

Such were the more remarkable features of the apartment into which our adventurers were now ushered. Both looked cautiously around on entering, as if expecting to find it tenanted by spirits as daring as their own; but, with the exception of the daughter of their conductor, whose moist black eyes expressed, as much by tears as by smiles, the joy she felt at this unexpected return of her parent, no living object met their enquiring glance. The Canadian placed a couple of rush-bottomed chairs near the fire, invited his companions to seat themselves until he had completed his preparation for departure, and then, desiring Babette to hasten supper for the young hunters, quitted the room and descended the stairs.


The position of the young men was one of embarrassment; for while the daughter, who was busied in executing the command of her father, remained in the room, it was impossible they could converse together without betraying the secret of their country, and, as a result of this, the falsehood of the character under which they appeared. Long residence in the country had, it is true, rendered the patois of that class of people whom they personated familiar to one, but the other spoke only the pure and native language of which it was a corruption. It might have occurred to them at a cooler moment, and under less critical circumstances, that, even if their disguise had been penetrated, it was unlikely a female, manifesting so much lively affection for her parent, would have done aught to injure those with whom he had evidently connected himself. But the importance attached to their entire security from danger left them but little room for