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seen, nor was he long in letting it be known what direction they had taken.
“We are not in a part of the world where our ensigns and gauds ought to be spread abroad to the wind, Mabel Dunham!" he said, with an ominous shake of the head.
"I thought as much myself, Mr. Muir, and brought away the the little flag, lest it might be the means of betraying our presence here to the enemy, even though nothing is intended by its display. Ought not my uncle to be made acquainted with the circumstance?
'I no see the necessity for that, pretty Mabel; for as you justly say it is a circumstance, and circumstances sometimes worry the worthy mariner. But this flag, if flag it can be called, belongs to a seaman's craft. You may perceive that it is made of what is called bunting, and that is a description of cloth used only by vessels for such purposes, our colours being of silk, as you may . understand, or painted canvas. It's surprisingly like the fly of the Scud's ensign. And now I recollect me to have observed that a piece had been cut from that very flag."
Mabel felt her heart sink, but she had sufficient self-command not to attempt an answer.
"It must be looked to," Muir continued, "and, after all, I think it may be well to hold a short consultation with Master Cap, than whom a more loyal subject does not exist in the British empire."
"I have thought the warning so serious," Mabel rejoined, "that I am about to remove to the blockhouse, and to take the woman with me."
"I do not see the prudence of that, Mabel. The blockhouse will be the first spot assailed, should there really be an attack; and it's no well provided for a siege, that must be allowed. If Í might advise in so delicate a contingency, I would recommend your taking refuge in the boat, which, as you may now perceive, is most favourably placed to retreat by that channel opposite, where all in it would be hid by the islands in one or two minutes. Water leaves no trail, as Pathfinder well expresses it; and there appears to be so many different passages in that quarter, that escape would be more than probable. I've always been of opinion that Lundie hazarded too much, in occupying a post as far advanced and as much exposed as this."
"It's too late to regret it now, Mr. Muir, and we have only to consult our own security."
"And the King's honour, pretty Mabel. Yes, his Majesty's arms and his glorious name are not to be overlooked on any occasion.
"Then I think it might be better if we all turned our eyes towards the place that has been built to maintain them, instead of the boat," said Mabel, smiling; "and so, Mr. Muir, I am for the blockhouse, with a disposition to await there the return of my father and his party. He would be sadly grieved at finding we had fled, when he got back, successful himself, and filled with the confidence of our having been as faithful to our duties as he has been to his own."
"Nay, nay, for Heaven's sake, do not misunderstand me, Mabel," Muir interrupted, with some alarm of manner; "I am far from intimating that any but you females ought to take refuge in the boat. The duty of us men is sufficiently plain, no doubt; and my resolution has been formed from the first, to stand or fall by the blockhouse."
"And did you imagine, Mr. Muir, that two females could row that heavy boat, in a way to escape the bark canoe of an Indian?"
"Ah! my pretty Mabel, love is seldom logical, and its fears and misgivings are apt to warp the faculties. I only saw your sweet person in possession of the means of safety, and overlooked the want of ability to use them; but you'll not be so cruel, lovely creature, as to impute to me as a fault my intense anxiety on your own account!"
Mabel had heard enough: her mind was too much occupied with what had passed that morning, and with her fears, to wish to linger longer to listen to love speeches, that, in her most joyous and buoyant moments, she would have found unpleasant. She took a hasty leave of her companion, and was about to trip away towards the hut of the other woman, when Muir arrested the movement, by laying a hand on her arm.
"One word, Mabel," he said, "before you leave me. This little flag may, or it may not, have a particular meaning: if it has, now that we are aware of its being shown, may it not be better to put it back again, while we watch vigilantly for some answer that. may betray the conspiracy; and if it mean nothing, why nothing will follow."
"This may be all right, Mr. Muir, though if the whole is accidental, the flag might be the occasion of the fort's being discovered."
Mabel stayed to utter no more; but she was soon out of sight, running into the hut towards which she had been first proceeding. The Quarter-master remained on the very spot, and in the precise attitude in which she had left him, for quite a minute, first looking at the bounding figure of the girl, and then at the bit of bunting, which he still held before him, in a way to denote inde
cision. His irresolution lasted but for this minute, however; for he was soon beneath the tree, where he fastened the mimic flag to a branch again, though from his ignorance of the precise spot from which it had been taken by Mabel, he left it fluttering from a part of the oak where it was still more exposed than before to the eyes of any passenger on the river, though less in view from the island itself.
Each one has had his supping mess,
The pans and bowls clean scalded all,
Rear'd up against the milk-house wall.-COTTON.
It seemed strange to Mabel Dunham, as she passed along on her way to find her female companion, that others should be so composed, while she herself felt as if the responsibilities of life and death rested on her shoulders. It is true, that distrust of June's motives mingled with her forebodings; but when she came to recall the affectionate and natural manner of the young Indian girl, and all the evidences of good faith and sincerity that she had seen in her conduct during the familiar intercourse of their journey, she rejected the idea with the unwillingness of a generous disposition to believe ill of others. She saw, however, that she could not put her companions properly on their guard, without letting them into the secret of her conference with June; and she found herself compelled to act cautiously and with a forethought to which she was unaccustomed, more especially in a matter of so much moment.
The soldier's wife was told to transport the necessaries into the blockhouse, and admonished not to be far from it, at any time, during the day. Mabel did not explain her reasons. She merely stated that she had detected some signs in walking about the island, that induced her to apprehend that the enemy had more knowledge of its position than had been previously believed, and that they two, at least, would do well to be in readiness to seek a refuge at the shortest notice. It was not difficult to arouse the apprehension of this person, who, though a stout-hearted Scotchwoman, was ready enough to listen to any thing that confirmed her dread of Indian cruelties. As soon as Mabel believed that her companion was sufficiently frightened to make her wary, she threw out some hints, touching the inexpediency of letting the soldiers know the extent of their own fears. This was done with a view to prevent discussions and inquiries that might embarras
our heroine; she determining to render her uncle, the corporal, and his men, more cautious, by adopting a different course. Unfortunately, the British army could not have furnished a worse person, for the particular duty that he was now required to discharge, than Corporal M'Nab, the individual who had been left in command during the absence of Sergeant Dunham. On the one hand, he was resolute, prompt, familiar with all the details of a soldier's life, and used to war; on the other, he was supercilious as regards the provincials, opinionated on every subject connected with the narrow limits of his professional practice, much disposed to fancy the British empire the centre of all that is excellent in the world, and Scotland the focus of, at least, all moral excellence in that empire. In short, he was an epitome, though on a scale suited to his rank, of those very qualities which were so peculiar to the servants of the Crown, that were sent into the colonies, as these servants estimated themselves in comparison with the natives of the country; or, in other words, he considered the American as an animal inferior to the parent stock, and viewed all his notions of military service, in particular, as undigested and absurd. Braddock, himself, was not less disposed to take advice from a provincial, than his humble imitator; and he had been known, on more than one occasion, to demur to the directions and orders of two or three commissioned officers of the corps, who happened to be born in America, simply for that reason; taking care, at the same time, with true Scottish wariness, to protect himself from the pains and penalties of positive disobedience. A more impracticable subject, therefore, could not well have offered for the purpose of Mabel, and yet she felt obliged to lose no time in putting her plan in execution.
66 My father has left you a responsible command, Corporal," she said, as soon as she could catch M‘Nab a little apart from the rest of the soldiers; "for should the island fall into the hands of the enemy, not only would we be captured, but the party that is now out would in all probability become their prisoners also."
"It needs no journey from Scotland to this place, to know the facts needful to be o' that way of thinking," returned M‘Nab, drily. "I do not doubt your understanding it, as well as myself, Mr. M'Nab; but I'm fearful that you veterans, accustomed as you are to dangers and battles, are a little apt to overlook some of the precautions that may be necessary in a situation as peculiar as ours."
"They say Scotland is no conquered country, young woman, but I'm thinking there must be some mistak' in the matter, as we, her children, are so drowsy-headed, and apt to be o'ertaken when we least expect it."
Nay, my good friend, you mistake my meaning. In the first place, I'm not thinking of Scotland at all, but of this island; and then I am far from doubting your vigilance when you think it necessary to practise it; but my great fear is that there may be danger to which your courage will make you indifferent."
"My courage, Mistress Dunham, is doubtless of a very poor quality, being nothing but Scottish courage; your father's is Yankee, and were he here amang us, we should see different preparations beyond a doubt. Well, times are getting wrang, when foreigners hold commissions and carry halberds in Scottish corps; and I no wonder that battles are lost, and campaigns go wrang end foremost."
Mabel was almost in despair; but the quiet warning of June was still too vividly impressed on her mind, to allow her to yield the matter. She changed her mode of operating, therefore, still clinging to the hope of getting the whole party within the blockhouse, without being compelled to betray the source whence she obtained her notices of the necessity of vigilance.
"I dare say you are right, Corporal M'Nab," she observed, "for I've often heard of the heroes of your country, who have been among the first of the civilized world, if what they tell me of them is true."
"Have you read the History of Scotland, Mistress Dunham ?" demanded the corporal, looking up at his pretty companion, for the first time, with something like a smile on his hard repulsive countenance.
"I have read a little of it, corporal, but I've heard much more. The lady who brought me up had Scottish blood in her veins, and was fond of the subject."
"I'll warrant ye, the Sergeant no troubled himself to expatiate on the renown of the country where his regiment was raised?"
"My father has other things to think of, and the little I know was got from the lady I have mentioned."
"She'll no be forgetting to tall ye o' Wallace ?”
66 Of him I've even read a good deal."
"And o' Bruce, and the affair of Bannockburn ?"
Of that too, as well as o' Culloden-muir.'
The last of these battles was then a recent event, it having actually been fought within the recollection of our heroine, whose notions of it, however, were so confused that she scarcely appreciated the effect her allusion might produce on her companion. She knew it had been a victory, and had often heard the guests of her patroness mention it with triumph; and she fancied their feelings would find a sympathetic chord in those of every British