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

تنويه: تعرض هنا نبذة من اول ١٠ صفحات فقط من الكتاب الالكتروني، لقراءة الكتاب كاملا اضغط على الزر “اشتر الآن"

‏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: 5

an object of attention, passed comparatively unnoticed.

Fatigued and dimmed with the long and eager tension of its nerves, the eye of the latter now began to fail him. For a moment he closed it; and when again it fell upon the window; it encountered nothing but the clear and glittering pane. For upwards of a minute he and his friend still continued to rivet their gaze, but the face was no longer visible.

Why is it that what is called the "human face divine" is sometimes gifted with a power to paralyse, that the most loathsome reptile in the creation cannot attain? Had a hyena or cougar of the American forest, roaring for prey, appeared at that window, ready to burst the fragile barrier, and fasten its talons in their hearts, its presence would not have struck such sickness to the soul of our adventurers as did that human face. It is that man, naturally fierce and inexorable, is alone the enemy of his own species. The solution of this problem—this glorious paradox in nature, we leave to profounder philosophers to resolve. Sufficient for us be it to know, and to deplore that it is so.

Footsteps were now heard upon the stairs; and the officers, aroused to a full sense of their danger, hastily and silently prepared themselves for the encounter.

"Drop a bullet into your gun," whispered the elder, setting the example himself. "We may be obliged to have recourse to it at last. Yet make no show of hostility unless circumstances satisfy us we are betrayed; then, indeed, all that remains for us will be to sell our lives as dearly as we can. Hist! he is here."

The door opened; and at the entrance, which was already filled up in the imaginations of the young men with a terrible and alarming figure, appeared one whose return had been anxiously and long desired. It was a relief, indeed, to their gallant but excited hearts to behold another than the form they had expected; and although, for the moment, they knew not whether the Canadian came in hostility or in friendship, each quitted the attitude of caution into which he had thrown himself, and met him midway in his passage through the room. There was nothing in the expression of his naturally open and good-humoured countenance to denote he was at all aware of the causes for alarm that had operated so powerfully on themselves. He announced with a frank look and unfaltering voice every thing was in readiness for their departure.

The officers hesitated; and the taller fixed his eyes upon those of mine host, as if his gaze would have penetrated to the innermost recesses of his heart. Could this be a refinement of his treachery? and was he really ignorant of the existence of the danger which threatened them? Was it not more probable his object was to disarm their fears, that they might be given unprepared and, therefore, unresisting victims to the ferocity of their enemies? Aware as he was, that they were both well provided with arms, and fully determined to use them with effect, might not his aim be to decoy them to destruction without, lest the blood spilt under his roof, in the desperation of their defence, should hereafter attest against him, and expose him to the punishment he would so richly merit? Distracted by these doubts, the young men scarcely knew what to think or how to act; and anxious as they had previously been to quit the hut, they now considered the moment of their doing so would be that of their destruction. The importance of the enterprise on which they were embarked was such as to sink all personal considerations. If they had felt the influence of intimidation on their spirits, it arose less from any apprehension of consequences to themselves, than from the recollection of the dearer interests involved in their perfect security from discovery.

"Francois," feelingly urged the taller officer, again adverting to his vow, "you recollect the oath you so solemnly pledged upon the cross of your Saviour. Tell me, then, as you hope for mercy, have you taken that oath only that you might the more securely betray us to our enemies? What connection have you with them at this moment? and who is HE who stood looking through that window not ten minutes since?"

"As I shall hope for mercy in my God," exclaimed the Canadian with unfeigned astonishment, "I have not see nobody. But what for do you tink so? It is not just. I have given my oat to serve you, and I shall do it."

There was candour both in the tone and countenance of the man as he uttered these words, half in reproach, half in justification; and the officers no longer doubted.

"You must forgive our suspicions at a moment like the present," soothingly observed the younger; "yet, Francois, your daughter saw and exchanged signals with the person we mean. She left the room soon after he made his appearance. What has become of her?"

The Canadian gave a sudden start, looked hastily round, and seemed to perceive for the first time the girl was absent. He then put a finger to his lip to enjoin silence, advanced to the table, and extinguished the light. Desiring his companions, in a low whisper, to tread cautiously and follow, he now led the way with almost noiseless step to the entrance of the hut. At the threshold of the door were placed a large well-filled sack, a light mast and sail, and half a dozen paddles. The latter burden he divided between the officers, on whose shoulders he carefully balanced them. The sack he threw across his own; and, without expressing even a regret that an opportunity of bidding adieu to his child was denied him, hastily skirted the paling of the orchard until, at the further extremity, he had gained the high road.

The heavens were obscured by passing clouds driven rapidly by the wind, during the short pauses of which our adventurers anxiously and frequently turned to listen if they were pursued. Save the rustling of the trees that lined the road, and the slight dashing of the waters on the beach, however, no sound was distinguishable. At length they gained the point whence they were to start. It was the fatal bridge, the events connected with which were yet so painfully fresh in their recollection.

"Stop one minutes here," whispered the Canadian, throwing his sack upon the sand near the mouth of the lesser river; "my canoe is chain about twenty yards up de bridge. I shall come to you directly." Then cautioning the officers to keep themselves concealed under the bridge, he moved hastily under the arch, and disappeared in the dark shadow which it threw across the rivulet.

The extremities of the bridge rested on the banks of the little river in such a manner as to leave a narrow passage along the sands immediately under the declination of the arch. In accordance with the caution of their conductor, the officers had placed themselves under it; and with their backs slightly bent forward to meet the curvature of the bridge, so that no ray of light could pass between their bodies and the fabric itself, now awaited the arrival of the vessel on which their only hope depended. We shall not attempt to describe their feelings on finding themselves, at that lone hour of the night, immediately under a spot rendered fearfully memorable by the tragic occurrences of the morning. The terrible pursuit of the fugitive, the execution of the soldier, the curse and prophecy of his maniac wife, and, above all, the forcible abduction and threatened espousal of that unhappy woman by the formidable being who seemed to have identified himself with the evils with which they stood menaced,—all rushed with rapid tracery on the mind, and excited the imagination, until each, filled with a sentiment not unallied to superstitious awe, feared to whisper forth his thoughts, lest in so doing he should invoke the presence of those who had principally figured in the harrowing and revolting scene.

"Did you not hear a noise?" at length whispered the elder, as he leaned himself forward, and bent his head to the sand, to catch more distinctly a repetition of the sound.

"I did; there again! It is upon the bridge, and not unlike the step of one