Chapter 12

Pray God the Duke of York excuse himself!

King Henry VI.

The mustering of the borderers on the following morning was silent, sullen, and gloomy. The repast of that hour was wanting in the inharmonious accompaniment with which Esther ordinarily enlivened their meals; for the effects of the powerful opiate the Doctor had administered still muddled her intellects. The young men brooded over the absence of their elder brother, and the brows of Ishmael himself were knit, as he cast his scowling eyes from one to the other, like a man preparing to meet and to repel an expected assault on his authority. In the midst of this family distrust, Ellen and her midnight confederate, the naturalist, took their usual places among the children, without awakening suspicion or exciting comment. The only apparent fruits of the adventure in which they had been engaged, were occasional upliftings of the eyes, on the part of the Doctor, which were mistaken by the observers for some of his scientific contemplations of the heavens, but which, in reality, were no other than furtive glances at the fluttering walls of the proscribed tent.

At length the squatter, who had waited in vain for some more decided manifestation of the expected rising among his sons, resolved to make a demonstration of his own intentions.

“Asa shall account to me for this undutiful conduct!” he observed. “Here has the livelong night gone by, and he out-lying on the prairie, when his hand and his rifle might both have been wanted in a brush with the Siouxes, for any right he had to know the contrary.”

“Spare your breath, good man,” retorted his wife; “be saving of your breath; for you may have to call long enough for the boy before he will answer!”

“It ar’ a fact, that some men be so womanish, as to let the young master the old! But, you, old Esther, should know better than to think such will ever be the nature of things in the family of Ishmael Bush.”

“Ah! you are a hectorer with the boys, when need calls! I know it well, Ishmael; and one of your sons have you driven from you, by your temper; and that, too, at a time when he is most wanted.”

“Father,” said Abner, whose sluggish nature had gradually been stimulating itself to the exertion of taking so bold a stand, “the boys and I have pretty generally concluded to go out on the search of Asa. We are disagreeable about his ’camping on the prairie, instead of coming in to his own bed, as we all know he would like to do.”

“Pshaw!” muttered Abiram; “the boy has killed a buck; or perhaps a buffaloe; and he is sleeping by the carcass to keep off the wolves, till day; we shall soon see him, or hear him bawling for help to bring in his load.”

“’Tis little help that a son of mine will call for, to shoulder a buck or to quarter your wild-beef,” returned the mother. “And you, Abiram, to say so uncertain a thing! you, who said yourself that the red-skins had been prowling around this place, no later than the yesterday—”

“I!” exclaimed her brother, hastily, as if anxious to retract an error; “I said it then, and I say it now; and so you will find it to be. The Tetons are in our neighbourhood, and happy will it prove for the boy if he is well shut of them.”

“It seems to me,” said Dr. Battius, speaking with the sort of deliberation and dignity one is apt to use after having thoroughly ripened his opinions by sufficient reflection,—“it seems to me, a man but little skilled in the signs and tokens of Indian warfare, especially as practised in these remote plains, but one, who I may say without vanity has some insight into the mysteries of nature,—it seems, then, to me, thus humbly qualified, that when doubts exist in a matter of moment, it would always be the wisest course to appease them.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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