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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
الصفحة رقم: 3

into the most iron-hearted of the assembled seamen; while they drew from the bosom of her gentle and sympathising cousin fresh bursts of desolating grief. Imagination itself would find difficulty in supplying the harrowing effect upon all, when, with upraised hands, and on her bended knees, her large eyes turned wildly up to heaven, she invoked in deep and startling accents the terrible retribution of a just God on the inhuman murderers of her father, with whose life-blood her garments were profusely saturated; and then, with hysteric laughter, demanded why she alone had been singled out to survive the bloody tragedy. Love and affection, hitherto the first principles of her existence, then found no entrance into her mind. Stricken, broken-hearted, stultified to all feeling save that of her immediate wretchedness, she thought only of the horrible scenes through which she had passed; and even he, whom at another moment she could have clasped in an agony of fond tenderness to her beating bosom,—he to whom she had pledged her virgin faith, and was bound by the dearest of human ties,—he whom she had so often longed to behold once more, and had thought of, the preceding day, with all the tenderness of her impassioned and devoted soul,—even he did not, in the first hours of her terrible consciousness, so much as command a single passing regard. All the affections were for a period blighted in her bosom. She seemed as one devoted, without the power of resistance, to a grief which calcined and preyed upon all other feelings of the mind. One stunning and annihilating reflection seemed to engross every principle of her being; nor was it for hours after she had been restored to life and recollection that a deluge of burning tears, giving relief to her heart and a new direction to her feelings, enabled her at length to separate the past from, and in some degree devote herself to, the present. Then, indeed, for the first time did she perceive and take pleasure in the presence of her lover; and clasping her beloved and weeping Clara to her heart, thank her God, in all the fervour of true piety, that she at least had been spared to shed a ray of comfort on her distracted spirit. But we will not pain the reader by dwelling on a scene that drew tears even from the rugged and flint-nerved boatswain himself; for, although we should linger on it with minute anatomical detail, no powers of language we possess could convey the transcript as it should be. Pass we on, therefore, to the more immediate incidents of our narrative.

The day now rapidly developing, full opportunity was afforded the mariners to survey the strict nature of their position. To all appearance they were yet in the middle of the lake, for around them lay the belting sweep of forest that bounded the perspective of the equidistant circle, of which their bark was the focus or immediate centre. The wind was dying gradually away, and when at length the sun rose, in all his splendour, there was scarce air enough in the heavens to keep the sails from flapping against the masts, or to enable the vessel to obey her helm. In vain was the low and peculiar whistle of the seamen heard, ever and anon, in invocation of the departing breeze. Another day, calm and breathless as the preceding, had been chartered from the world of light; and their hearts failed them, as they foresaw the difficulty of their position, and the almost certainty of their retreat being cut off. It was while labouring under the disheartening consciousness of danger, peculiar to all, that the anxious boatswain summoned Captain de Haldimar and Sir Everard Valletort, by a significant beck of the finger, to the side of the deck opposite to that on which still lay the suffering and nearly broken-hearted girls.

"Well, Mullins, what now?" enquired the former, as he narrowly scanned the expression of the old man's features: "that clouded brow of yours, I fear me, bodes no agreeable information."

"Why, your honour, I scarcely knows what to say about it; but seeing as I'm the only officer in the ship, now our poor captain is killed, God bless him! I thought I might take the liberty to consult with your honours as to the best way of getting out of the jaws of them sharks of Ingians; and two heads, as the saying is, is always better than one."

"And now you have the advantage of three," observed the officer, with a sickly smile; "but I fear, Mullins, that if your own be not sufficient for the purpose, ours will be of little service. You must take counsel from your own experience and knowledge of nautical matters."

"Why, to be sure, your honour," and the sailor rolled his quid from one cheek to the other, "I think I may say as how I'll venture to steer the craft with any man on the Canada lakes, and bring her safe into port too; but seeing as how I'm only a petty officer, and not yet recommended by his worship the governor for the full command, I thought it but right to consult with my superiors, not as to the management of the craft, but the best as is to be done. What does your honour think of making for the high land over the larboard bow yonder, and waiting for the chance of the night-breeze to take us through the Sinclair?"

"Do whatever you think best," returned the officer. "For my part, I scarcely can give an opinion. Yet how are we to get there? There does not appear to be a breath of wind."

"Oh, that's easily managed; we have only to brail and furl up a little, to hide our cloth from the Ingians, and then send the boats a-head to tow the craft, while some of us lend a hand at her own sweeps. We shall get close under the lee of the land afore night, and then we must pull up agin along shore, until we get within a mile or so of the head of the river."

"But shall we not be seen by our enemies?" asked Sir Everard; "and will they not be on the watch for our movements, and intercept our retreat?"

"Now that's just the thing, your honour, as they're not likely to do, if so be as we bears away for yon headlands. I knows every nook and sounding round the lake; and odd enough if I didn't, seeing as how the craft circumnavigated it, at least, a dozen times since we have been cooped up here. Poor Captain Danvers! (may the devil damn his murderers, I say, though it does make a commander of me for once;) he used always to make for that 'ere point, whenever he wished to lie quiet; for never once did we see so much as a single Ingian on the headland. No, your honour, they keeps all at t'other side of the lake, seeing as how that is the main road from Mackina' to Detroit."

"Then, by all means, do so," eagerly returned Captain de Haldimar. "Oh, Mullins! take us but safely through, and if the interest of my father can procure you a king's commission, you shall not want it, believe me."

"And if half my fortune can give additional stimulus to exertion, it shall be shared, with pleasure, between yourself and crew," observed Sir Everard.

"Thank your honours,—thank your honours," said the boatswain, somewhat electrified by these brilliant offers. "The lads may take the money, if they like; all I cares about is the king's commission. Give me but a swab on my shoulder, and the money will come fast enough of itself. But, still, shiver my topsails, if I wants any bribery to make me do my duty; besides, if 'twas only for them poor girls alone, I would go through fire and water to sarve them. I'm not very chicken-hearted in my old age, your honours, but I don't recollect the time when I blubbered so much as I did when Miss Madeline come aboard. But I can't bear to think of it; and now let us see and get all ready for towing."

Every thing now became bustle and activity on board the schooner. The matches, no longer required for the moment, were extinguished, and the heavy cutlasses and pistols unbuckled from the loins of the men, and deposited near their respective guns. Light forms flew aloft, and, standing out upon the yards, loosely furled the sails that had previously been hauled and clewed up; but, as this was an operation requiring little time in so small a vessel,