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- The Canadian Brothers (Volume II) - 1/45 -
THE CANADIAN BROTHERS; OR, THE PROPHECY FULFILLED.
A few days after the adventure detailed in our last chapter, the American party, consisting of Major and Miss Montgomerie, and the daughters of the Governor, with their attendants, embarked in the schooner, to the command of which Gerald had been promoted. The destination of the whole was the American port of Buffalo, situate at the further extremity of the lake, nearly opposite to the fort of Erie; and thither our hero, perfectly recovered from the effect of his accident, received instructions to repair without loss of time, land his charge, and immediately rejoin the flotilla at Amherstburg.
However pleasing the first, the latter part of the order was by no means so strictly in consonance with the views and feelings of the new commander, as might have been expected from a young and enterprising spirit; but he justified his absence of zeal to himself, in the fact that there was no positive service to perform; no duty in which he could have an opportunity of signalizing himself, or rendering a benefit to his country.
If, however, the limited period allotted for the execution of his duty, was a source of much disappointment to Gerald, such was not the effect produced by it on his brother, to whom it gave promise of a speedy, termination of an attachment, which he had all along regarded with disapprobation, and a concern amounting almost to dread. We have seen that Henry Grantham, on the occasion of his brother's disaster at the pic-nic, had been wound up into an enthusiasm of gratitude, which had nearly weaned him from his original aversion; but this feeling had not outlived the day on which the occurrence took place. Nay, on the very next morning, he had had a long private conversation with Gerald, in regard to Miss Montgomerie, which, ending as it did, in a partial coolness, had tended to make him dislike the person who had caused it still more. It was, therefore, not without secret delight that he overheard the order for the instant return of the schooner, which, although conveyed by the Commodore in the mildest manner, was yet so firm and decided as to admit neither of doubt nor dispute. While the dangerous American continued a resident at Detroit, there was every reason to fear that the attachment of his infatuated brother, fed by opportunity, would lead him to the commission of some irrevocable act of imprudence; whereas, on the contrary, when she had departed, there was every probability that continued absence, added to the stirring incidents of war, which might be expected shortly to ensue, would prove effectual in restoring the tone of Gerald's mind. There was, consequently, much to please him in the order for departure. Miss Montgomerie once landed within the American lines, and his brother returned to his duty, the anxious soldier had no doubt that the feelings of the latter would resume their wonted channel, and that, in his desire to render himself worthy of glory, to whom he had been originally devoted, he would forget, at least after a season, all that was connected with love.
It was a beautiful autumnal morning, when the schooner weighed anchor from Detroit. Several of the officers of the garrison had accompanied the ladies on board, and having made fast their sailing boat to the stem, loitered on deck with the intention of descending the river a few miles, and then beating up against the current. The whole party were thus assembled, conversing together and watching the movements of the sailors, when a boat, in which were several armed men encircling a huge raw-boned individual, habited in the fashion of an American backwoodsman, approached the vessel. This was no other than the traitor Desborough, who, it will be recollected, was detained and confined in prison at the surrender of Detroit. He had been put upon his trial for the murder of Major Grantham, but had been acquitted through want of evidence to convict, his own original admission being negatived by a subsequent declaration that he had only made it through a spirit of bravado and revenge. Still, as the charges of desertion and treason had been substantiated against him, he was, by order of the Commandant of Amherstburg, destined for Fort Erie, in the schooner conveying the American party to Buffalo, with a view to his being sent on to the Lower Province, there to be disposed of as the General Commanding in Chief should deem fit.
The mien of the settler, as he now stepped over the vessel's side, partook of the mingled cunning and ferocity by which he had formerly been distinguished. While preparations were being made for his reception and security below deck, he bent Ms sinister, yet bold, glance on each of the little group in succession, as if he would have read in their countenances the probable fate that awaited himself. The last who fell under his scrutiny was Miss Montgomerie, on whom his eye had scarcely rested, when the insolent indifference of his manner seemed to give place at once to a new feeling. There was intelligence enough in the glance of both to show that an insensible interest had been created, and yet neither gave the slightest indication, by word, of what was passing in the mind.
"Well, Mister Jeremiah Desborough," said, Middlemore, first breaking the silence, and, in the taunting mode of address he usually adopted towards the settler, "I reckon as how you'll shoot no wild ducks this season, on the Sandusky river--not likely to be much troubled with your small bores now."
The Yankee gazed at him a moment in silence, evidently ransacking his brain for something sufficiently insolent to offer in return. At length, he drew his hat slouchingly over one side of his head, folded his arms across his chest, and squirting a torrent of tobacco juice from his capacious jaws, exclaimed in his drawling voice:
"I guess, Mister Officer, as how you're mighty cute upon a fallen man--but tarnation seize me, if I don't expect you'll find some one cuter still afore long. The sogers all say," he continued with a low, cunning laugh, "as how you're a bit of a wit, and fond of a play upon words like. If so, I'll jist try you a little at your own game, and tell you that I had a thousand to one rather be troubled with my small bores than with such a confounded great bore as you are; and now, you may pit that down as something good, in your pun book when you please, and ax me no more questions."
Long and fitful was the laughter which burst from Villiers and Molineux, at this bitter retort upon their companion, which they vowed should be repeated at the mess table of either garrison, whenever he again attempted one of his execrables.
Desborough took courage at the license conveyed by this pleasantry, and pursued, winking familiarly to Captain Molineux, while he, at the same time, nodded to Middlemore,
"Mighty little time, I calculate, had he to think of aggravatin', when I gripped him down at Hartley's pint, that day. If it hadn't been for that old heathen scoundrel Gattrie, my poor boy Phil, as the Injuns killed, and me, I reckon, would have sent him and young Grantham to crack their puns upon the fishes of the lake. How scared they were, sure-LY."
"Silence, fellow!" thundered Gerald Grantham, who now came up from the hold, whither he had been to examine the fastenings prepared for his prisoner. "How dare you open your lips here?"--then pointing towards the steps he had just quitted--"descend, sir!"
Never did human countenance exhibit marks of greater rage than Desborough's at that moment. His eyes seemed about to start from their sockets--the large veins of his neck and brow swelled almost to bursting, and while his lips were compressed with violence, his nervous fingers played, as with convulsive anxiety to clutch themselves around the throat of the officer; every thing, in short, marked the effort it cost him to restrain himself within such bounds as his natural cunning and prudence dictated. Still, he neither spoke nor moved.
"Descend, sir, instantly!" repeated Gerald, "or, by Heaven, I will have you thrown in without further ceremony --descend this moment!"
The settler advanced, placed one foot upon the ladder, then turned his eye steadfastly upon the officer. Every one present shuddered to behold its expression--it was that of fierce, inextinguishable hatred.
"By hell, you will pay me one day or t'other for this, I reckon," he uttered, in a hoarse and fearful whisper-- "every dog has his day--it will be Jeremiah Desborough's turn next."
"What! do you presume to threaten, villain?" vociferated Gerald, now excited beyond all bounds: "here men, gag me this fellow--tie him neck and heels, and throw him into the hold, as you would a bag of ballast."
Several men, with Sambo at their head, advanced for the purpose of executing the command of their officer, when the eldest daughter of the Governor, who had witnessed the whole scene, suddenly approached the latter, and interceded warmly for a repeal of the punishment. Miss Montgomerie, also, who had been a silent observer, glanced significantly towards the settler. What her look implied, no one was quick enough to detect; but its effect on the Yankee was evident--for, without uttering another syllable, or waiting to be again directed, he moved slowly and
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