« PředchozíPokračovat »
Lieutenant Muir, as much as you under-rate Eau-douce's truth."
"Well, if I must speak plainly, Pathfinder, I e'en must. Captain Sanglier, here, and Arrowhead, this brave Tuscarora, have both informed me that this unfortunate boy is the traitor. After such testimony, you can no longer oppose my right to correct him, as well as the necessity of the act."
"Scélérat," muttered the Frenchman.
"Captain Sanglier is a brave soldier, and will not gainsay the conduct of an honest sailor," put in Jasper. "Is there any traitor here, Captain Flinty-heart?"
"Ay," added Muir, "let him speak out then; since ye wish it, unhappy youth! that the truth may be known. I only hope that ye may escape the last punishment when a court will be sitting on your misdeeds. How is it, Captain? do ye, or do ye not, see a traitor amang us?"
"Oui-yes, Sair-bien sûr."
66 Too much lie!" said Arrowhead, in a voice of thunder, striking the breast of Muir with the back of his own hand, in a sort of ungovernable gesture; "where my warriors?-where Yengeese scalp? Too much lie!"
Muir wanted not for personal courage, nor for a certain sense of personal honour. The violence which had been intended only for a gesture, he mistook for a blow; for conscience was suddenly aroused within him, and he stepped back a pace, extending his hand towards a gun. His face was livid with rage, and his countenance expressed the fell intention of his heart. But Arrowhead was too quick for him: with a wild glance of the eye the Tuscarora looked about him; then thrust a hand beneath his own girdle; drew forth a concealed knife; and, in the twinkling of an eye, buried it in the body of the Quarter-Master to the handle. As the latter fell at his feet, gazing into his face with the vacant stare of one surprised by death, Sanglier took a pinch of snuff, and said, in a calm voice:
"Voilà l'affaire finie; mais," shrugging his shoulders, "ce n'est qu'un scélérat de moins."
The act was too sudden to be prevented; and when Arrowhead, uttering a yell, bounded into the bushes, the white men were too confounded to follow. Chingachgook, however, was more collected; and the bushes had scarcely closed on the passing body of the Tuscarora, than they were again opened by that of the Delaware in full pursuit.
Jasper Western spoke French fluently, and the words and manner of Sanglier struck him.
"Speak, Monsieur," he said, in English, "am I the traitor?" "Le voilà," answered the cool Frenchman, "dat is our espion -our agent-our friend-ma foi-c'était un grand scélératvoici."
While speaking, Sanglier bent over the dead body, and thrust his hand into a pocket of the Quarter-Master, out of which he drew a purse. Emptying the contents on the ground, several double-louis rolled towards the soldiers, who were not slow in picking them up. Casting the purse from him in contempt, the soldier of fortune turned towards the soup he had been preparing with so much care; and finding it to his liking, he began to break his fast, with an air of indifference that the most stoical Indian warrior might have envied.
The only amaranthian flower on earth
Is virtue; th' only lasting treasure, truth.-COWPER.
THE reader must imagine some of the occurrences that followed the sudden death of Muir. While his body was in the hands of his soldiers, who laid it decently aside and covered it with a greatcoat, Chingachgook silently resumed his place at the fire, and both Sanglier and Pathfinder remarked that he carried a fresh and bleeding scalp at his girdle. No one asked any questions; and the former, although perfectly satisfied that Arrowhead had fallen, manifested neither curiosity nor feeling. He continued calmly eating his soup, as if the meal had been tranquil as usual. There was something of pride, and of an assumed indifference to fate, imitated from the Indians in all this; but there was more that really resulted from practice, habitual self-command, and constitutional hardihood. With Pathfinder the case was a little different in feeling, though much the same in appearance. He disliked Muir, whose smooth-tongued courtesy was little in accordance with his own frank and ingenuous nature; but he had been shocked at his unexpected and violent death, though accustomed to similar scenes, and he had been surprised at the exposure of his treachery. With a view to ascertain the extent of the latter, as soon as the body was removed, he began to question the Captain on the subject. The latter having no particular motive for secrecy, now that his agent was dead, in the course of the breakfast revealed the following circumstances, which will serve to clear up some of the minor incidents of our tale.
Soon after the 55th appeared on the frontiers, Muir had volun
teered his services to the enemy. In making his offers, he boasted of his intimacy with Lundie, and of the means it afforded of furnishing more accurate and important information than usual. His terms had been accepted, and Monsieur Sanglier had several interviews with him, in the vicinity of the fort at Oswego, and had actually passed one entire night secreted in the garrison. Arrowhead, however, was the usual channel of communication, and the anonymous letter to Major Duncan had been originally written by Muir, transmitted to Frontenac, copied, and sent back by the Tuscarora, who was returning from that errand when captured by the Scud. It is scarcely necessary to add that Jasper was to be sacrificed, in order to conceal the Quarter-Master's treason, and that the position of the island had been betrayed to the enemy by the latter. An extraordinary compensation, that which was found in his purse, had induced him to accompany the party under Sergeant Dunham, in order to give the signals that were to bring on the attack. The disposition of Muir towards the sex was a natural weakness, and he would have married Mabel, or any one else who would accept his hand; but his admiration of her was in a great degree feigned, in order that he might have an excuse for accompanying the party, without sharing in the responsibility of its defeat, or incurring the risk of having no other strong and seemingly sufficient motive. Much of this was known to Captain Sanglier, particularly the part in connection with Mabel, and he did not fail to let his auditors into the whole secret, frequently laughing in a sarcastic manner, as he revealed the different expedients of the luckless Quarter-Master.
"Touchez-là," said the cold-blooded partisan, holding out his sinewy hand to Pathfinder, when he ended his explanations; "you be honnête, and dat is beaucoup. We tak' de spy as we tak la médecine, for de good; mais, je le déteste ! touchez-là."
"I'll shake your hand, Captain, I will; for you 're a lawful and nat❜ral inimy;" returned Pathfinder, "and a manful one; but the body of the Quarter-Master shall never disgrace English ground. I did intend to carry it back to Lundie, that he might play his bagpipes over it; but now it shall lie here, on the spot where he acted his villany, and have his own treason for a headstone. Captain Flinty-heart, I suppose this consorting with traitors is a part of a soldier's regular business; but, I tell you honestly, it is not to my liking, and I'd rather it should be you than I who had this affair on his conscience. What an awful sinner! To plot, right and left, ag'in country, friends, and the Lord! Jasper, boy, a word with you aside, for a single minute.
Pathfinder now led the young man apart; and squeezing his hand, with the tears in his own eyes, he continued :
"You know me, Eau-douce, and I know you," he said, "and this news has not changed my opinion of you in any manner. I never believed their tales, though it looked solemn at one minute, I will own; yes, it did look solemn; and it made me feel solemn too. I never suspected you for a minute, for I know your gifts don't lie that-a-way; but I must own, I didn't suspect the Quarter-Master neither.'
"And he holding his Majesty's commission, Pathfinder!"
"It isn't so much that, Jasper Western; it isn't so much that. He held a commission from God to act right, and to deal fairly with his fellow-creaturs, and he has failed awfully in his duty." "To think of his pretending love for one like Mabel too, when he felt none!"
"That was bad, sartainly; the fellow must have had Mingo blood in his veins. The man that deals unfairly by a woman can be but a mongrel, lad; for the Lord has made them helpless on purpose that we may gain their love by kindness and sarvices. Here is the Sergeant, poor man, on his dying bed; he has given me his daughter for a wife, and Mabel, dear girl, she has consented to it; and it makes me feel that I have two welfares to look after, two natur's to care for, and two hearts to gladden. Ah's me! Jasper; I sometimes feel that I'm not good enough for that sweet child!"
Eau-douce had nearly gasped for breath when he first heard this intelligence; and, though he succeeded in suppressing any other outward signs of agitation, his cheek was blanched nearly to the paleness of death. Still he found means to answer not only with firmness, but with energy
"Say not so, Pathfinder; you are good enough for a queen." "Ay, ay, boy, according to your idees of my goodness; that is to say, I can kill a deer, or even a Mingo at need, with any man on the lines; or I can follow a forest-path with as true an eye, or read the stars, when others do not understand them. No doubt, no doubt, Mabel will have venison enough, and fish enough, and pigeons enough; but will she have knowledge enough, and will she have idees enough, and pleasant conversation enough, when life comes to drag a little, and each of us begins to pass for our true value?"
"If you pass for your value, Pathfinder, the greatest lady in the land would be happy with you. On that head, you have no reason to feel afraid."
"Now, Jasper, I dare to say you think so, nay, I know you do; for it is nat'ral, and according to friendship, for people to look over favourably at them they love. Yes, yes: if I had to marry you, boy, I should give myself no consarn about my being
well looked upon, for you have always shown a disposition to see me and all I do with friendly eyes. But a young gal, after all, must wish to marry a man that is nearer to her own age and fancies, than to have one old enough to be her father, and rude enough to frighten her. I wonder, Jasper, that Mabel never took a fancy to you, now, rather than setting her mind on me."
"Take a fancy to me! Pathfinder," returned the young man, endeavouring to clear his voice without betraying himself; "what is there about me to please such a girl as Mabel Dunham? I have all that you find fault with in yourself, with none of that excellence that makes even the Generals respect you.'
"Well, well, it's all chance, say what we will about it. Here have I journeyed and guided through the woods, female after female, and consorted with them in the garrisons, and never have I even felt an inclination for any, until I saw Mabel Dunham. It's true the poor Sergeant first set me to thinking about his daughter; but after we got a little acquainted like, I'd no need of being spoken to, to think of her night and day. I'm tough, Jasper; yes, I'm very tough; and I'm risolute enough, as you all know; and yet I do think it would quite break me down, now, to lose Mabel Dunham !"
"We will talk no more of it, Pathfinder," said Jasper, returning his friend's squeeze of the hand, and moving back towards the fire, though slowly and in the manner of one who cared little where he went; we will talk no more of it. You are worthy of Mabel, and Mabel is worthy of you-you like Mabel, and Mabel likes you-her father has chosen you for her husband, and no one has a right to interfere. As for the Quarter-Master, his feigning love for Mabel is worse even than his treason to the King."
By this time they were so near the fire, that it was necessary to change the conversation. Luckily, at that instant, Cap, who had been in the block in company with his dying brother-in-law, and who knew nothing of what had passed since the capitulation, now appeared, walking with a meditative and melancholy air towards the group. Much of that hearty dogmatism, that imparted even to his ordinary air and demeanour an appearance of something like contempt for all around him, had disappeared, and he seemed thoughtful, if not meek.
"This death, gentlemen," he said, when he had got sufficiently near, "is a melancholy business, make the best of it. Now, here is Sergeant Dunham, a very good soldier, I make no question, about to slip his cable, and yet he holds on to the better end of it, as if he was determined it should never run out of the hawsehole and all because he loves his daughter, it seems to me. ; For