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قراءة كتاب Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 3

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‏اللغة: English
Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 3

Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 3

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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down the decks, watching the aspect of the heavens, and occasionally tauting a rope or squaring a light yard, unassisted, as the fluttering of the canvass in the wind rendered the alteration necessary.

"Well, Jack!" bluntly observed the latter in a gruff whisper that resembled the suppressed growling of a mastiff, "what the hell are ye thinking of now?—Not got over your flumbustification yet, that ye stand here, looking as sanctified as an old parson!"

"I'll tell ye what it is, Mr. Mullins," returned the sailor, in the same key; "you may make as much game on me as you like; but these here strange sort of doings are somehow quizzical; and, though I fears nothing in the shape of flesh and blood, still, when it comes to having to do with those as is gone to Davy Jones's locker like, it gives a fellow an all-overishness as isn't quite the thing. You understand me?"

"I'm damned if I do!" was the brief but energetic rejoinder.

"Well, then," continued Fuller, "if I must out with it, I must. I think that 'ere Ingian must have been the devil, or how could he come so sudden and unbeknownst upon me, with the head of a 'possum: and then, agin, how could he get away from the craft without our seeing him? and how came the ghost on board of the canoe?"

"Avast there, old fellow; you means not the head of a 'possum, but a beaver: but that 'ere's all nat'r'l enough, and easily 'counted for; but you hav'n't told us whose ghost it was, after all."

"No; the captain made such a spring to the gunwale, as frighted it all out of my head: but come closer, Mr. Mullins, and I'll whisper it in your ear.—Hark! what was that?"

"I hears nothing," said the boatswain, after a pause.

"It's very odd," continued Fuller; "but I thought as how I heard it several times afore you came."

"There's something wrong, I take it, in your upper story, Jack Fuller," coolly observed his companion; "that 'ere ghost has quite capsized you."

"Hark, again!" repeated the sailor. "Didn't you hear it then? A sort of a groan like."

"Where, in what part?" calmly demanded the boatswain, though in the same suppressed tone in which the dialogue had been, carried on.

"Why, from the canoe that lies alongside there. I heard it several times afore."

"Well, damn my eyes, if you a'rn't turned a real coward at last," politely remarked Mr. Mullins. "Can't the poor fat devil of a Canadian snooze a bit in his hammock, without putting you so completely out of your reckoning?"

"The Canadian—the Canadian!" hurriedly returned Fuller: "why, don't you see him there, leaning with his back to the main-mast, and as fast asleep as if the devil himself couldn't wake him?"

"Then it was the devil, you heard, if you like," quaintly retorted Mullins: "but bear a hand, and tell us all about this here ghost."

"Hark, again! what was that?" once more enquired the excited sailor.

"Only a gust of wind passing through the dried boughs of the canoe," said the boatswain: "but since we can get nothing out of that crazed noddle of yours, see if you can't do something with your hands. That 'ere canoe running alongside, takes half a knot off the ship's way. Bear a hand then, and cast off the painter, and let her drop astarn, that she may follow in our wake. Hilloa! what the hell's the matter with the man now?"

And well might he ask. With his eyeballs staring, his teeth chattering, his body half bent, and his arms thrown forward, yet pendent as if suddenly arrested in that position while in the act of reaching the rope, the terrified sailor stood gazing on the stern of the canoe; in which, by the faint light of the dawning day, was to be seen an object well calculated to fill the least superstitious heart with terror and dismay. Through an opening in the foliage peered the pale and spectral face of a human being, with its dull eyes bent fixedly and mechanically upon the vessel. In the centre of the wan forehead was a dark incrustation, as of blood covering the superficies of a newly closed wound. The pallid mouth was partially unclosed, so as to display a row of white and apparently lipless teeth; and the features were otherwise set and drawn, as those of one who is no longer of earth. Around the head was bound a covering so close, as to conceal every part save the face; and once or twice a hand was slowly raised, and pressed upon the blood spot that dimmed the passing fairness of the brow. Every other portion of the form was invisible.

"Lord have mercy upon us!" exclaimed the boatswain, in a voice that, now elevated to more than its natural tone, sounded startlingly on the stillness of the scene; "sure enough it is, indeed, a ghost!"

"Ha! do you believe me now?" returned Fuller, gaining confidence from the admission of his companion, and in the same elevated key. "It is, as I hope to be saved, the ghost I see'd afore."

The commotion on deck was now every where universal. The sailors started to their feet, and, with horror and alarm visibly imprinted on their countenances, rushed tumultuously towards the dreaded gangway.

"Make way—room, fellows!" exclaimed a hurried voice; and presently Captain de Haldimar, who had bounded like lightning from the deck, appeared with eager eye and excited cheek among them. To leap into the bows of the canoe, and disappear under the foliage, was the work of a single instant. All listened breathlessly for the slightest sound; and then every heart throbbed with the most undefinable emotions, as his lips were heard giving utterance to the deep emotion of his own spirit,—

"Madeline, oh, my own lost Madeline!" he exclaimed with almost frantic energy of passion: "do I then press you once more in madness to my doting heart? Speak, speak to me—for God's sake speak, or I shall go mad! Air, air,—she wants air only—she cannot be dead."

These last words were succeeded by the furious rending asunder of the fastenings that secured the boughs, and presently the whole went overboard, leaving revealed the tall and picturesque figure of the officer; whose left arm encircled while it supported the reclining and powerless form of one who well resembled, indeed, the spectre for which she had been mistaken, while his right hand was busied in detaching the string that secured a portion of the covering round her throat. At length it fell from her shoulders; and the well known form of Madeline de Haldimar, clad even in the vestments in which they had been wont to see her, met the astonished gaze of the excited seamen. Still there were some who doubted it was the corporeal woman whom they beheld; and several of the crew who were catholics even made the sign of the cross as the supposed spirit was now borne up the gangway in the arms of the pained yet gratified De Haldimar: nor was it until her feet were seen finally resting on the deck, that Jack Fuller could persuade himself it was indeed Miss de Haldimar, and not her ghost, that lay clasped to the heart of the officer.

With the keen rush of the morning air upon her brow returned the suspended consciousness of the bewildered Madeline. The blood came slowly and imperceptibly to her cheek; and her eyes, hitherto glazed, fixed, and inexpressive, looked enquiringly, yet with stupid wonderment, around. She started from the embrace of her lover, gazed alternately at his disguise, at himself, and at Clara; and then passing her hand several times rapidly across her brow, uttered an hysteric scream, and threw herself impetuously forward on the bosom of the sobbing girl; who, with extended arms, parted lips, and heaving bosom, sat breathlessly awaiting the first dawn of the returning reason of her more than sister.

We should vainly attempt to paint all the heart-rending misery of the scene exhibited in the gradual restoration of Miss de Haldimar to her senses. From a state of torpor, produced by the freezing of every faculty into almost idiocy, she was suddenly awakened to all the terrors of the past and the deep intonations of her rich voice were heard only in expressions of agony, that entered

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