Obrázky stránek

Is she of your way of thinking, in this matter?"-though, I suppose she must be, as you say she is betrothed."

"We have not yet conversed on the subject, your honour; but I consider her mind as good as made up, from several little circumstances that might be. named."

"And what are these circumstances, Sergeant?" asked the Major, who began to take more interest than he had at first felt in the subject. "I confess a little curiosity to know something about a woman's mind, being, as you know, a bachelor myself."

"Why, your honour, when I speak of the Pathfinder to the girl, she always looks me full in the face; chimes in with everything I say in his favour, and has a frank open way with her, which says as much as if she half considered him already as a husband."

"Hum-and these signs you think, Dunham, are faithful tokens of your daughter's feelings?"


"I do, your honour, for they strike me as natural. When I find a man, sir, who looks me full in the face, while he praises an officer-for, begging your honour's pardon, the men will sometimes pass their strictures on their betters-and when I find a man looking me in the eyes as he praises his captain, I always set it down that the fellow is honest and means what he says.


[ocr errors]

Is there not some material difference in the age of the intended bridegroom, and that of his pretty bride, Sergeant?"

"You are quite right, sir; Pathfinder is well advanced towards forty, and Mabel has every prospect of happiness that a young woman can derive from the certainty of possessing an experienced husband. I was quite forty myself, your honour, when I married her mother."

"But, will your daughter be as likely to admire a green hunting-shirt, such as that our worthy guide wears, with a fox-skin cap, as the smart uniform of the 55th?


[ocr errors]

Perhaps not, sir; and therefore she will have the merit of self-denial, which always makes a young woman wiser and better."

“And are you not afraid that she may be left a widow while still a young woman? what between wild beasts, and wilder savages, Pathfinder may be said to carry his life in his hand."

"Every bullet has its billet,' Lundie," for so the Major was fond of being called, in his moments of condescension, and when not engaged in military affairs; "and no man in the 55th can call himself beyond or above the chances of sudden death. In that particular, Mabel would gain nothing by a change. Besides, sir, if I may speak freely on such a subject, I much doubt if ever Path

finder dies in battle, or by any of the sudden chances of the wilderness."


[ocr errors]

And why so, Sergeant?" asked the Major, looking at his inferior with the sort of reverence which a Scot of his day was more apt than at present to entertain for mysterious agencies. “He is a soldier, so far as danger is concerned, and one that is much more than usually exposed; and being free of his person, why should he expect to escape, when others do not?"

"I do not believe, your honour, that the Pathfinder considers his own chances better than any one's else, but the man will never die by a bullet. I have seen him so often, handling his rifle with as much composure as if it were a shepherd's crook, in the midst of the heaviest showers of bullets, and under so many extraordinary circumstances, that I do not think Providence means he should ever fall in that manner. And yet, if there be a man in his Majesty's dominions who really deserves such a death, it is ́ Pathfinder."

"We never know, Sergeant," returned Lundie, with a countenance that was grave with thought; "and the less we say about it, perhaps, the better. But, will your daughter-Mabel, I think, you call her will Mabel be as willing to accept one, who, after all, is a mere hanger-on of the army, as to take one from the service itself? There is no hope of promotion for the guide, Sergeant.

[ocr errors]

"He is at the head of his corps already, your honour. In short, Mabel has made up her mind on this subject; and, as your honour has had the condescension to speak to me about Mr. Muir, I trust you will be kind enough to say that the girl is as good as billeted for life."

"Well, well, this is your own matter, and, now - Sergeant Dunham!

[ocr errors]

"Your honour," said the other, rising, and giving the customary salute.

"You have been told it is my intention to send you down among the Thousand Islands for the next month. All the old subalterns have had their tours of duty in that quarter- all that I like to trust, at least; and it has, at length, come to your turn. Lieutenant Muir, it is true, claims his right; but being Quarter-master, I do not like to break up well-established arrangements. Are the men drafted?”

"Everything is ready, your honour. The draft is made, and I understood that the canoe which got in last night brought a message to say that the party already below is looking out for the relief."

"It did and you must sail the day after to-morrow, if not tomorrow night. It will be wise, perhaps, to sail in the dark."


"So Jasper thinks, Major Duncan, and I know no one more to be depended on, in such an affair, than young Jasper Western." Young Jasper Eau-douce!" said Lundie, a slight smile gathering around his usually stern mouth. Will that lad be of your party, Sergeant?"


"Your honour will remember that the Scud never quits port without him."

"True; but all general rules have their exceptions. Have I not seen a seafaring person about the fort within the last few days?"

"No doubt, your honour; it is Master Cap, a brother-in-law of mine, who brought my daughter from below."

“Why not put him in the Scud for this cruise, Sergeant, and leave Jasper behind? Your brother-in-law would like the variety of a fresh-water cruise, and you would enjoy more of his company."

"I intended to ask your honour's permission to take him along; but he must go as a volunteer. Jasper is too brave a lad to be turned out of his command without a reason, Major Duncan; and I'm afraid brother Cap despises fresh water too much to duty on it."

"Quite right, Sergeant, and I leave all this to your own discretion. Eau-douce must retain his command, on second thoughts. You intend that Pathfinder shall also be of the party?"

"If your honour approves of it. There will be service for both the guides, the Indian as well as the white man.'

[ocr errors]

"I think you are right. Well, Sergeant, I wish you good luck in the enterprise; and remember the post is to be destroyed and abandoned when your command is withdrawn. It will have done its work by that time, or we shall have failed entirely, and it is too ticklish a position to be maintained unnecessarily. You can retire."

Sergeant Dunham gave the customary salute, turned on his heels, as if they had been pivots, and had got the door nearly drawn-to after him, when he was suddenly recalled.

"I had forgotten, Sergeant, the younger officers have begged for a shooting-match, and to-morrow has been named for the day. All competitors will be admitted, and the prizes will be a silvermounted powder-horn, a leathern flask ditto," reading from a piece of paper, “as I see by the professional jargon of this bill, and a silk calash for a lady. The latter is to enable the victor to -show his gallantry, by making an offering of it to her he best loves."

"All very agreeable, your honour, at least to him that succeeds. Is the Pathfinder to be permitted to enter?"

"I do not well see how he can be excluded, if he choose to come forward. Latterly, I have observed that he takes no share in these sports, probably from a conviction of his own unequalled skill."

"That 's it, Major Duncan; the honest fellow knows there is not a man on the frontier who can equal him, and he does not wish to spoil the pleasure of others. I think we may trust to his delicacy in anything, sir. Perhaps it may be as well to let him have his own way?"

"In this instance we must, Sergeant. Whether he will be as successful in all others remains to be seen. I wish you good evening, Dunham."

The Sergeant now withdrew, leaving Duncan of Lundie to his own thoughts that they were not altogether disagreeable, was to be inferred from the smiles which occasionally covered a countenance that was hard and martial in its usual expression, though there were moments in which all its severe sobriety prevailed. Half an hour might have passed, when a tap at the door was answered by a direction to enter. A middle-aged man, in the dress of an officer, but whose uniform wanted the usual smartness of the profession, made his appearance, and was saluted as "Mr. Muir."

"I have come, sir, at your bidding, to know my fortune," said the Quarter-master, in a strong Scotch accent, as soon as he had taken the seat which was proffered to him. "To say the truth to you, Major Duncan, this girl is making as much havoc in the garrison, as the French did before Ty; I never witnessed so general a rout in so short a time!"

"Surely, Davy, you don't mean to persuade me that your young and unsophisticated heart is in such a flame, after one week's ignition? Why, man, this is worse than the affair in Scotland, where it was said the heat within was so intense that it just burnt a hole through your own precious body, and left a place for all the lassies to peer in at, to see what the combustible material was worth."

"Ye'll have your own way, Major Duncan; and your father and mother would have theirs before ye, even if the enemy were in the camp. I see nothing so extraordinar' in young people following the bent of their inclinations and wishes."

"But you've followed yours so often, Davy, that I should think by this time it had lost the edge of novelty. Including that informal affair in Scotland, when you were a lad, you've been married four times already."

"Only three, Major, as I hope to get another wife. I've not yet had my number: no, no; only three."

"I'm thinking, Davy, you don't include the first affair I mentioned; tat in which there was no parson."

"And why should I, Major? The courts decided that it was no marriage; and what more could a man want? The woman took advantage of a slight amorous propensity, that may be a weakness in my disposition, perhaps; and inveigled me into a contract, that was found to be illegal."

"If I remember right, Muir, there were thought to be two sides to that question, in the time of it?"

"It would be but an indifferent question, my dear Major, that hadn't two sides to it; and I've known many that had three. But the poor woman's dead, and there was no issue; so nothing came of it after all. Then, I was particularly unfortunate with my second wife; I say second, Major, out of deference to you, and on the mere supposition that the first was a marriage at all; but first or second, I was particularly unfortunate with Jeannie Graham, who died in the first lustrum, leaving neither chick nor chiel behind her. I do think, if Jeannie had survived, I never should. have turned my thoughts towards another wife."

"But as she did not, you married twice after her death; and are desirous of doing so a third time."

"The truth can never justly be gainsaid, Major Duncan, and I am always ready to avow it. I'm thinking, Lundie, you are melancholar' this fine evening?"

"No, Muir, not melancholy absolutely; but a little thoughtful, I confess. I was looking back to my boyish days when I, the laird's son, and you the parson's, roamed about our native hills, happy and careless boys, taking little heed to the future; and then have followed some thoughts, that may be a little painful, concerning that future, as it has turned out to be."

"Surely, Lundie, ye do not complain of ye'r portion of it. You 've risen to be a major, and will soon be a lieutenant-colonel, if letters tell the truth, while I am just one step higher than when your honoured father gave me my first commission, and a poor deevil of a Quarter-master.".

66 And the four wives ?"?

"Three, Lundie; three only that were legal, even under our own liberal and sanctified laws."

[ocr errors]

"Well, then, let it be three. Ye know, Davy," said Major Duncan, insensibly dropping into the pronunciation and dialect of his youth, as is much the practice with educated Scotchmen, as they warm with a subject that comes near the heart;66 ye know, Davy, that my own choice has long been made, and in how anxious and hope-wearied a manner I 've waited for that happy hour when I can call the woman I've so long loved, a wife; and

« PředchozíPokračovat »