Chapter 22

The clouds and sunbeams o’er his eye,
That once their shades and glories threw,
Have left, in yonder silent sky,
No vestige where they flew.


A Stillness, as deep as that which marked the gloomy wastes in their front, was observed by the fugitives to distinguish the spot they had just abandoned. Even the trapper lent his practised faculties, in vain, to detect any of the well-known signs, which might establish the important fact that hostilities had actually commenced between the parties of Mahtoree and Ishmael; but their horses carried them out of the reach of sounds, without the occurrence of the smallest evidence of the sort. The old man, from time to time, muttered his discontent, but manifested the uneasiness he actually entertained in no other manner, unless it might be in exhibiting a growing anxiety to urge the animals to increase their speed. He pointed out in passing, the deserted swale, where the family of the squatter had encamped, the night they were introduced to the reader, and afterwards he maintained an ominous silence; ominous, because his companions had already seen enough of his character, to be convinced that the circumstances must be critical indeed, which possessed the power to disturb the well regulated tranquillity of the old man’s mind.

“Have we not done enough,” Middleton demanded, in tenderness to the inability of Inez and Ellen to endure so much fatigue, at the end of some hours; “we have ridden hard, and have crossed a wide tract of plain. It is time to seek a place of rest.”

“You must seek it then in Heaven, if you find yourselves unequal to a longer march,” murmured the old trapper. “Had the Tetons and the squatter come to blows, as any one might see in the natur’ of things they were bound to do, there would be time to look about us, and to calculate not only the chances but the comforts of the journey; but as the case actually is, I should consider it certain death, or endless captivity, to trust our eyes with sleep, until our heads are fairly hid in some uncommon cover.”

“I know not,” returned the youth, who reflected more on the sufferings of the fragile being he supported, than on the experience of his companion; “I know not; we have ridden leagues, and I can see no extraordinary signs of danger:—if you fear for yourself, my good friend, believe me you are wrong, for—”

“Your grand’ther, were he living and here,” interrupted the old man, stretching forth a hand, and laying a finger impressively on the arm of Middleton, “would have spared those words. He had some reason to think that, in the prime of my days, when my eye was quicker than the hawk’s, and my limbs were as active as the legs of the fallow-deer, I never clung too eagerly and fondly to life: then why should I now feel such a childish affection for a thing that I know to be vain, and the companion of pain and sorrow. Let the Tetons do their worst; they will not find a miserable and worn out trapper the loudest in his complaints, or his prayers.”

“Pardon me, my worthy, my inestimable friend,” exclaimed the repentant young man, warmly grasping the hand, which the other was in the act of withdrawing; “I knew not what I said—or rather I thought only of those whose tenderness we are most bound to consider.”

“Enough. It is natur’, and it is right. Therein your grand’ther would have done the very same. Ah’s me! what a number of seasons, hot and cold, wet and dry, have rolled over my poor head, since the time we worried it out together, among the Red Hurons of the Lakes, back in those rugged mountains of Old York! and many a noble back has since that day fallen by my hand; ay, and many a thieving Mingo, too! Tell me, lad, did the general, for general I know he got to be. did he ever tell you of the deer we took, that night the outlyers of the accursed tribe drove us to the caves, on the island, and how we feasted and drunk in security?”

“I have often heard him mention the smallest circumstance of the night you mean; but—”

“And the singer; and his open throat; and his shoutings in the fights!” continued the old man, laughing joyously at the strength of his own recollections.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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