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sufficient self-command to act collectedly. Instead of yielding to the almost convulsive efforts of her companion to close the door again, she held it open long enough to ascertain that none of her own party was in sight, or likely on the instant to endeavour to gain admission: then she allowed the opening to be shut. Her orders and proceedings now became more calm and rational. But a single bar was crossed, and Jennie was directed to stand in readiness to remove even that at any application from a friend. She then ascended the ladder to the room above, where, by means of a loop-hole, she was enabled to get as good a view of the island as the surrounding bushes would allow. Admonishing her associate below to be firm and steady, she made as careful an examination of the environs as her situation permitted.
To her great surprise, Mabel could not at first see a living soul on the island, friend or enemy. Neither Frenchman nor Indian was visible, though a small straggling white cloud, that was floating before the wind, told her in which quarter she ought to look for them. The rifles had been discharged from the direction of the island whence June had come, though whether the enemy were on that island, or had actually landed on her own, Mabel could not say. Going to the loop that commanded a view of the spot where M‘Nab lay, her blood curdled at perceiving all three of his soldiers lying apparently lifeless at his side. These men had rushed to a common centre at the first alarm, and had been shot down almost simultaneously by the invisible foe whom the corporal had affected to despise.
Neither Cap nor Lieutenant Muir was to be seen. With a beating heart, Mabel examined every opening through the trees, and ascended even to the upper story, or garret, of the blockhouse, where she got a full view of the whole island, so far as its covers would allow, but with no better success. She had expected to see the body of her uncle lying on the grass, like those of the soldiers, but it was nowhere visible. Turning towards the spot where the boat lay, Mabel saw that it was still fastened to the shore ; and then she supposed that by some accident Muir had been prevented from effecting his retreat in that quarter. In
short, the island lay in the quiet of the grave, the bodies of the soldiers rendering the scene as fearful as it was extraordinary.
“For God's holy sake, Mistress Mabel,” called out the woman from below: for though her fear had become too ungovernable allow to keep silence, our heroine's superior refinement, more than the regimental station of her father, still controlled her mode of address .“ Mistress Mabel, tell me if any of our friends are living ? I think I hear groans that grow fainter and fainter, and fear that they will all be tomahawked !”
Mabel now remembered that one of the soldiers was this woman's husband, and she trembled at what might be the immediate effect of her sorrow, should his death become suddenly known to her. The groans too gave a little hope, though she feared they might come from her uncle, who lay out of view.
“We are in his holy keeping, Jennie,” she answered. “We must trust in Providence, while we neglect none of its benevolent means of protecting ourselves. Be careful with the door ; on no account open it, without my directions.”
“Oh! tell me, Mistress Mabel, if you can any where see Sandy? If I could only let him know that I'm in safety, the guid man would be easier in his mind, whether free or a prisoner."
Sandy was Jennie's husband, and he lay dead in plain view of the loop from which our heroine was then looking.
“ You no' tell me if you're seeing of Sandy,” the woman repeated from below, impatient at Mabel's silence.
“ There are some of our people gathered about the body of M‘Nab," was the answer; for it seemed sacrilegious in her eyes to tell a direct untruth under the awful circumstances in which she was placed.
“ Is Sandy amang them ?" demanded the woman, in a voice that sounded appalling by its hoarseness and energy.
“ He may be certainly; for I see one, two, three, four, and all in the scarlet coats of the regiment."
“ Sandy !" called out the woman frantically, “why d’ye no care for yoursal', Sandy ? Come hither the instant, man, and share your wife's fortunes, in weal or woe. It's no
a moment for your silly discipline and vain-glorious notions of honour ! Sandy! Sandy!”
Mabel heard the bar turn, and then the door creaked on its hinges. Expectation, not to say terror, held her in suspense at the loop, and she soon beheld Jennie rushing through the bushes in the direction of the cluster of the dead. It took the woman but an instant to reach the fatal spot. So sudden and unexpected had been the blow, that she, in her terror, did not appear to comprehend its weight. Some wild and half-frantic notion of a deception troubled her fancy, and she imagined that the men were trifling with her fears. She took her husband's hand, and it was still warm, while she thought a covert smile was struggling on his lip.
“Why will ye fool life away, Sandy ?" she cried, pulling at the arm. “ Ye'll all be murdered by these accursed Indians, and you no takin' to the block like trusty soldiers ! Awa'! awa'! and no be losing the precious moments.”
In her desperate efforts, the woman pulled the body of her husband in a way to cause the head to turn completely over, when the small hole in the temple, caused by the entrance of a rifle bullet, and a few drops of blood trickling over the skin, revealed the meaning of her husband's silence. As the horrid truth flashed in its full extent on her inind, the woman clasped her hands, gave a shriek that pierced the glades of every island near, and fell at length on the dead body of the soldier. Thrilling, heart-reaching, appalling as was that shriek, it was melody to the cry that followed it so quickly as to blend the sounds. The terrific war-whoop arose out of the covers of the island, and some twenty savages, horrible in their paint, and the other devices of Indian ingenuity, rushed forward eager to secure the coveted scalps. Arrowhead was foremost, and it was his tomahawk that brained the insensible Jennie ; and her reeking hair was hanging at his girdle as a trophy in less than two minutes after she had quitted the blockhouse. His companions were equally active, and M‘Nab and his soldiers no longer presented the quiet aspect of men who slumbered. They were left in their gore, unequivocally butchered corpses.
All this passed in much less time than has been required to relate it, and all this did Mabel witness. She had stood riveted to the spot, gazing on the whole horrible scene, as if enchained by some charm, nor did the idea of self, or of her own danger, once obtrude itself on her thoughts. But no sooner did she perceive the place where the men had fallen covered with savages, exulting in the success of their surprise, than it occurred to her that Jennie had left the blockhouse door unbarred. Her heart beat violently, for that defence alone stood between her and immediate death, and she sprang toward the ladder with the intention of descending to make sure of it. Her foot had not yet reached the floor of the second story, however, when she heard the door grating on its hinges, and she gave herself up for lost. Sinking on her knees, the terrified but courageous girl endeavoured to prepare herself for death, and to raise her thoughts to God. The instinct of life, however, was too strong for prayer, and while her lips moved, the jealous senses watched every sound beneath. When her ears heard the bars, which went on pivots, secured to the centre of the door, turning into their fastenings, not one, as she herself had directed, with a view to admit her uncle, should he apply, but all three, she started again to her feet, all spiritual contemplations vanishing in her actual temporal condition, and it seemed as if all her faculties were absorbed in the sense of hearing.
The thoughts are active in a moment so fearful. At first Mabel fancied that her uncle had entered the blockhouse, and she was about to descend the ladder and throw herself into his arms; then the idea that it might be an Indian, who had barred the door to shut out intruders while he plundered at leisure, arrested the movement. The profound stillness below was unlike the bold restless movements of Cap, and it seemed to savour more of the artifices of an enemy: if a friend at all, it could only be her uncle, or the Quarter-master; for the horrible conviction now presented itself to our heroine, that to these two and herself were the whole party suddenly reduced, if, indeed, the two latter survived. This consideration held Mabel in check, and for fuil two minutes more a
breathless silence reigned in the building. During this time the girl stood at the foot of the upper ladder, the trap which led to the lower opening on the opposite side of the floor; the eyes of Mabel were riveted on this spot, for she now began to expect to see, at each instant, the horrible sight of a savage face at the hole. hension soon became so intense, that she looked about her for a place of concealment. The procrastination of the catastrophe she now fully expected, though it were only for a moment, afforded a relief. The room contained several barrels; and behind two of these Mabel crouched, placing her eyes at an opening by which she could still watch the trap. She made another effort to pray ; but the moment was too horrible for that relief. She thought, too, that she heard a low rustling, as if one were ascending the lower ladder, with an effort at caution so great, as to betray itself by its own excess; then followed a creaking, that she was certain came from one of the steps of the ladder, which had made the same noise under her own light weight as she ascended. This was one of those instants into which are compressed the sensations of years of ordinary existence. Life, death, eternity, and extreme bodily pain, were all standing out in bold relief from the plane of every-day occurrences; and she might have been taken, at that moment, for a beautiful pallid representation of herself, equally without motion and without vitality. But, while such was the outward appearance of the form, never had there been a time in her brief career, when Mabel heard more acutely, saw more clearly, or felt more vividly. As yet, nothing was visible at the trap; but her ears, rendered exquisitely sensitive by intense feeling, distinctly acquainted her that some one was within a few inches of the opening in the floor. Next followed the evidence of her eyes, which beheld the dark hair of an Indian rising so slowly through the passage, that the movements of the head might be likened to that of the minute-hand of a clock; then came the dark skin and wild features, until the whole of the swarthy face had risen above the floor. The human countenance seldom appears to advantage when partially concealed ; and Mabel ima