Wacousta/Volume I/Chapter V
Chapter V 
The sun was just rising above the horizon, in all that peculiar softness of splendour which characterises the early days of autumn in America, as Captain Erskine led his company across the drawbridge that communicated with the fort. It was the first time it had been lowered since the investment of the garrison by the Indians; and as the dull and rusty chains performed their service with a harsh and grating sound, it seemed as if an earnest were given of melancholy boding. Although the distance to be traversed was small, the risk the party incurred was great; for it was probable the savages, ever on the alert, would not suffer them to effect their object unmolested. It was perhaps singular, and certainly contradictory, that an officer of the acknowledged prudence and forethought ascribed to the governor--qualities which in a great degree neutralised his excessive severity in the eyes of his troops--should have hazarded the chance of having his garrison enfeebled by the destruction of a part, if not of the whole, of the company appointed to this dangerous duty; but with all his severity, Colonel de Haldimar was not without strong affection for his children. The feelings of the father, therefore, in a great degree triumphed over the prudence of the commander; and to shield the corpse of his son from the indignities which he well knew would be inflicted on it by Indian barbarity, he had been induced to accede to the earnest prayer of Captain Erskine, that he might be permitted to lead out his company for the purpose of securing the body. Every means were, however, taken to cover the advance, and ensure the retreat of the detachment. The remainder of the troops were distributed along the rear of the ramparts, with instructions to lie flat on their faces until summoned by their officers from that position; which was to be done only in the event of close pursuit from the savages. Artillerymen were also stationed at the several guns that flanked the rear of the fort, and necessarily commanded both the common and the outskirt of the forest, with orders to fire with grape-shot at a given signal. Captain Erskine's instructions were, moreover, if attacked, to retreat back under the guns of the fort slowly and in good order, and without turning his back upon the enemy.
Thus confident of support, the party, after traversing the drawbridge with fixed bayonets, inclined to the right, and following the winding of the ditch by which it was surrounded, made the semi-circuit of the rampart until they gained the immediate centre of the rear, and in a direct line with the bomb-proof. Here their mode of advance was altered, to guard more effectually against the enemy with whom they might possibly have to contend. The front and rear ranks of the company, consisting in all of ninety men, were so placed as to leave space in the event of attack, of a portion of each wheeling inwards so as to present in an instant three equal faces of a square. As the rear was sufficiently covered by the cannon of the fort to defeat any attempt to turn their flanks, the manoeuvre was one that enabled them to present a fuller front in whatever other quarter they might be attacked; and had this additional advantage, that in the advance by single files a narrower front was given to the aim of the Indians, who, unless they fired in an oblique direction, could only, of necessity, bring down two men (the leading files) at a time.
In this order, and anxiously overlooked by their comrades, whose eyes alone peered from above the surface of the rampart on which they lay prostrate, the detachment crossed the common; one rank headed by Captain Erskine, the other by Lieutenant Johnstone. They had now approached within a few yards of the unfortunate victim, when Captain Erskine commanded a halt of his party; and two files were detached from the rear of each rank, to place the body on a litter with which they had provided themselves. He and Johnstone also moved in the same direction in advance of the men, prepared to render assistance if required. The corpse lay on its face, and in no way despoiled of any of its glittering habiliments; a circumstance that too well confirmed the fact of De Haldimar's death having been accomplished by the ball from Sir Everard Valletort's rifle. It appeared, however, the ill-fated officer had struggled much in the agonies of death; for the left leg was drawn Up into an unnatural state of contraction, and the right hand, closely compressed, grasped a quantity of grass and soil, which had evidently been torn up in a paroxysm of suffering and despair.
The men placed the litter at the side of the body, which they now proceeded to raise. As they were in the act of depositing it on this temporary bier, the plumed hat fell from the head, and disclosed, to the astonishment of all, the scalpless crown completely saturated in its own clotted blood and oozing brains.
An exclamation of horror and disgust escaped at the same moment from the lips of the two officers, and the men started back from their charge as if a basilisk had suddenly appeared before them. Captain Erskine pursued:-- "What the devil is the meaning of all this, Johnstone?"
"What, indeed!" rejoined his lieutenant, with a shrug of the shoulders, that was intended to express his inability to form any opinion on the subject
"Unless it should prove," continued Erskine, "as I sincerely trust it may, that poor Valletort is not, after all, the murderer of his friend. It must be so. De Haldimar has been slain by the same Indian who killed Murphy.--Do you recollect his scalp cry? He was in the act of despoiling his victim of this trophy of success, when Sir Everard fired. Examine the body well, Mitchell, and discover where the wound lies."
The old soldier to whom this order was addressed now prepared, with the assistance of his comrades, to turn the body upon its back, when suddenly the air was rent with terrific yells, that seemed to be uttered in their very ears, and in the next instant more than a hundred dark and hideous savages sprang simultaneously to their feet within the bomb-proof, while every tree along the skirt of the forest gave back the towering form of a warrior. Each of these, in addition to his rifle, was armed with all those destructive implements of warfare which render the Indians of America so formidable and so terrible an enemy.
"Stand to your arms, men," shouted Captain Erskine, recovering from his first and unavoidable, though but momentary, surprise. "First and fourth sections, on your right and left backwards wheel:--Quick, men, within the square, for your lives." As he spoke, he and Lieutenant Johnstone sprang hastily back, and in time to obtain admittance within the troops, who had rapidly executed the manoeuvre commanded. Not so with Mitchell and his companions. On the first alarm they had quitted the body of the mutilated officer, and flown to secure their arms, but even while in the act of stooping to take them up, they had been grappled by a powerful and vindictive foe; and the first thing they beheld on regaining their upright position was a dusky Indian at the side, and a gleaming tomahawk flashing rapidly round the head of each.
"Fire not, on your lives," exclaimed Captain Erskine hastily, as he saw several of the men in front levelling, in the excitement of the moment, their muskets at the threatening savages. "Prepare for attack," he pursued; and in the next instant each man dropped on his right knee, and a barrier of bristling bayonets seemed to rise from the very bowels of the earth. Attracted by the novelty of the sight, the bold and daring warriors, although still retaining their firm grasp of the unhappy soldiers, were for a moment diverted from their bloody purpose, and temporarily suspended the quick and rotatory motion of their weapons. Captain Erskine took advantage of this pause to seize the halbert of one of his sergeants, to the extreme point of which he hastily attached a white pocket handkerchief, that was loosely thrust into the breast of his uniform; this he waved on high three several times, and then relinquishing the halbert, dropped also on his knee within the square.
"The dog of a Saganaw asks for mercy," said a voice from within the bomb-proof, and speaking in the dialect of the Ottawas. "His pale flag bespeaks the quailing of his heart, and his attitude denotes the timidity of the hind. His warriors are like himself, and even now upon their knees they call upon their Manitou to preserve them from the vengeance of the red-skins. But mercy is not for dogs like these. Now is the time to make our tomahawks warm in their blood; and every head that we count shall be a scalp upon our war poles."
As he ceased, one universal and portentous yell burst from the fiend-like band; and again the weapons of death were fiercely brandished around the heads of the stupified soldiers who had fallen into their power.
"What can they be about?" anxiously exclaimed Captain Erskine, in the midst of this deafening clamour, to his subaltern.--"Quiet, man; damn you, quiet, or I'll cut you down," he pursued, addressing one of his soldiers, whose impatience caused him to bring his musket half up to the shoulder. And again he turned his head in the direction of the fort:--"Thank God, here it comes at last,--I feared my signal had not been noticed."
While he yet spoke, the loud roaring of a cannon from the ramparts was heard, and a shower of grape-shot passed over the heads of the detachment, and was seen tearing up the earth around the bomb-proof, and scattering fragments of stone and wood into the air. The men simultaneously and unbidden gave three cheers.
In an instant the scene was changed. As if moved by some mechanical impulse, the fierce band that lined the bomb-proof sank below the surface, and were no longer visible, while the warriors in the forest again sought shelter behind the trees. The captured soldiers were also liberated without injury, so sudden and startling had been the terror produced in the savages by the lightning flash that announced its heavy messengers of destruction. Discharge after discharge succeeded without intermission; but the guns had been levelled so high, to prevent injury to their own men, they had little other effect than to keep the Indians from the attack. The rush of bullets through the close forest, and the crashing of trees and branches as they fell with startling force upon each other, were, with the peals of artillery, the only noises now to be heard; for not a yell, not a word was uttered by the Indians after the first discharge; and but for the certainty that existed in every mind, it might have been supposed the whole of them had retired.
"Now is your time," cried Captain Erskine; "bring in the litter to the rear, and stoop as much as possible to avoid the shot."
The poor half-strangled fellows, however, instead of obeying the order of their captain, looked round in every direction for the enemy by whom they had been so rudely handled, and who had glided from them almost as imperceptibly and swiftly as they had first approached. It seemed as if they apprehended that any attempt to remove the body would be visited by those fierce devils with the same appalling and ferocious threatenings.
"Why stand ye there, ye dolts," continued their captain, "looking around as if ye were bewitched? Bring the litter in to the rear.--Mitchell, you old fool, are you grown a coward in your age? Are you not ashamed to set such an example to your comrades?"
The doubt thus implied of the courage of his men, who, in fact, were merely stupified with the scene they had gone through, had, as Captain Erskine expected, the desired effect. They now bent themselves to the litter, on which they had previously deposited their muskets, and with a self-possession that contrasted singularly with their recent air of wild astonishment, bore it to the rear at the risk of being cut in two at every moment by the fire from the fort.
One fierce yell, instinctively proffered by several of the lurking band in the forest, marked their disappointment and rage at the escape of their victims; but all attempt at uncovering themselves, so as to be enabled to fire, was prevented by the additional showers of grape which that yell immediately brought upon them.
The position in which Captain Erskine now found himself was highly critical. Before him, and on either flank, was a multitude of savages, who only awaited the cessation of the fire from the fort to commence their fierce and impetuous attack. That that fire could not long be sustained was evident, since ammunition could ill be spared for the present inefficient purpose, where supplies of all kinds were so difficult to be obtained; and, if he should attempt a retreat, the upright position of his men exposed them to the risk of being swept away by the ponderous metal, that already fanned their cheeks with the air it so rapidly divided. Suddenly, however, the fire from the batteries was discontinued, and this he knew to be a signal for himself. He gave an order in a low voice, and the detachment quitted their recumbent and defensive position, still remaining formed in square. At the same instant, a gun flashed from the fort; but not as before was heard the rushing sound of the destructive shot crushing the trees in its resistless course. The Indians took courage at this circumstance, for they deemed the bullets of their enemies were expended; and that they were merely discharging their powder to keep up the apprehension originally produced. Again they showed themselves, like so many demons, from behind their lurking places; and yells and shouts of the most terrific and threatening character once more rent the air, and echoed through the woods. Their cries of anticipated triumph were, however, but of short duration. Presently, a hissing noise was heard in the air; and close to the bomb-proof, and at the very skirt of the forest, they beheld a huge globe of iron fall perpendicularly to the earth, to the outer part of which was attached what they supposed to be a reed, that spat forth innumerable sparks of fire, without however, seeming to threaten the slightest injury. Attracted by the novel sight, a dozen warriors sprang to the spot, and fastened their gaze upon it with all the childish wonder and curiosity of men in a savage state. One, more eager and restless than his fellows, stooped over it to feel with his hand of what it was composed. At that moment it burst, and limbs, and head, and entrails, were seen flying in the air, with the fragments of the shell, and prostrate and struggling forms lay writhing on every hand in the last, fierce agonies of death.
A yell of despair and a shout of triumph burst at the same moment from the adverse parties. Taking advantage of the terror produced, by this catastrophe, in the savages, Captain Erskine caused the men bearing the corpse to retreat, with all possible expedition, under the ramparts of the fort. He waited until they got nearly half way, and then threw forward the wheeling sections, that had covered this movement, once more into single file, in which order he commenced his retreat. Step by step, and almost imperceptibly, the men paced backwards, ready, at a moment's notice, to reform the square. Partly recovered from the terror and surprise produced by the bursting of the shell, the Indians were quick in perceiving this movement: filled with rage at having been so long baulked of their aim, they threw themselves once more impetuously from their cover; and, with stimulating yells, at length opened their fire. Several of Captain Erskine's men were wounded by this discharge; when, again, and furiously the cannon opened from the fort. It was then that the superiority of the artillery was made manifest. Both right and left of the retreating files the ponderous shot flew heavily past, carrying death and terror to the Indians; while not a man of those who intervened was scathed or touched in its progress. The warriors in the forest were once more compelled to shelter themselves behind the trees; but in the bomb-proof, where they were more secure, they were also more bold. From this a galling fire, mingled with the most hideous yells, was now kept up; and the detachment, in their slow retreat, suffered considerably. Several men had been killed; and, about twenty, including Lieutenant Johnstone, wounded, when again, one of those murderous globes fell, hissing in the very centre of the bomb-proof. In an instant, the Indian fire was discontinued; and their dark and pliant forms were seen hurrying with almost incredible rapidity over the dilapidated walls, and flying into the very heart of the forest, so that when the shell exploded, a few seconds afterwards, not a warrior was to be seen. From this moment the attack was not renewed, and Captain Erskine made good his retreat without farther molestation.
"Well, old buffers!" exclaimed one of the leading files, as the detachment, preceded by its dead and wounded, now moved along the moat in the direction of the draw-bridge, "how did you like the grip of them black savages?--I say, Mitchell, old Nick will scarcely know the face of you, it's so much altered by fright.--Did you see," turning to the man in his rear, "how harum-scarum he looked, when the captain called out to him to come off?"
"Hold your clapper, you spooney, and be damned to you!" exclaimed the angry veteran.--"Had the Ingian fastened his paw upon your ugly neck as he did upon mine, all the pitiful life your mother ever put into you would have been spirited away from very fear; so you needn't brag."
"Sure, and if any of ye had a grain of spunk, ye would have fired, and freed a fellow from the clutch of them hell thieves," muttered another of the men at the litter. "All the time, the devil had me by the throat, swinging his tommyhawk about my head, I saw ye dancing up and down in the heavens, instead of being on your marrow bones on the common."
"And didn't I want to do it?" rejoined the first speaker. "Ask Tom Winkler here, if the captain didn't swear he'd cut the soul out of my body if I even offered so much as to touch the trigger of my musket."
"Faith, and lucky he did," replied his covering man (for the ranks had again joined), "since but for that, there wouldn't be at this moment so much as a hair of the scalp of one of you left."
"And how so, Mr. Wiseacre?" rejoined his comrade.
"How so! Because the first shot that we fired would have set the devils upon them in right earnest--and then their top-knots wouldn't have been worth a brass farthing. They would have been scalped before they could say Jack Robinson."
"It was a hell of a risk," resumed another of the litter men, "to give four men a chance of having their skull pieces cracked open like so many egg-shells, and all to get possession of a dead officer."
"And sure, you beast," remarked a different voice in a tone of anger, "the dead body of the brave captain was worth a dozen such rotten carcasses with all the life in them. What matter would it be if ye had all been scalped?" Then with a significant half glance to the rear, which was brought up by their commander, on whose arm leaned the slightly wounded Johnstone, "Take care the captain doesn't hear ye prating after that fashion, Will Burford."
"By Jasus," said a good-humoured, quaint looking Irishman, who had been fixing his eyes on the litter during this pithy and characteristic colloquy; "it sames to me, my boys, that ye have caught the wrong cow by the horns, and that all your pains has been for nothing at all, at all. By the holy pope, ye are all wrong; it's like bringing salt butter to Cork, or coals to your Newcastle, as ye call it. Who the divil ever heard of the officer wearing ammunition shoes?"
The men all turned their gaze on that part of the vestment of the corpse to which their attention had been directed by this remark, when it was at once perceived, although it had hitherto escaped the observation even of the officers, that, not only the shoes were those usually worn by the soldiers, and termed ammunition or store shoes, but also, the trowsers were of the description of coarse grey, peculiar to that class.
"By the piper that played before Moses, and ye're right, Dick Doherty," exclaimed another Irishman; "sure, and it isn't the officer at all! Just look at the great black fist of him too, and never call me Phil Shehan, if it ever was made for the handling of an officer's spit."
"Well said, Shehan," observed the man who had so warmly reproved Will Burford, and who had formerly been servant to De Haldimar; "the captain's hand is as white and as soft as my cross-belt, or, what's saying a great deal more, as Miss Clara's herself, heaven bless her sweet countenance! and Lieutenant Valletort's nigger's couldn't well be much blacker nor this."
"What a set of hignoramuses ye must be," grunted old Mitchell, "not to see that the captain's hand is only covered with dirt; and as for the ammunition shoes and trowsers, why you know our officers wear any thing since we have been cooped up in this here fort."
"Yes, by the holy poker," (and here we must beg to refer the reader to the soldier's vocabulary for any terms that may be, in the course of this dialogue, incomprehensible to him or her,)--"Yes, by the holy poker, off duty, if they like it," returned Phil Shehan; "but it isn't even the colonel's own born son that dare to do so while officer of the guard."
"Ye are right, comrade," said Burford; "there would soon be hell and tommy to pay if he did."
At this point of their conversation, one of the leading men at the litter, in turning to look at its subject, stumbled over the root of a stump that lay in his way, and fell violently forward. The sudden action destroyed the equilibrium of the corpse, which rolled off its temporary bier upon the earth, and disclosed, for the first time, a face begrimmed with masses of clotted blood, which had streamed forth from the scalped brain during the night.
"It's the divil himself," said Phil Shehan, making the sign of the cross, half in jest, half in earnest: "for it isn't the captin at all, and who but the divil could have managed to clap on his rigimintals?"
"No, it's an Ingian," remarked Dick Burford, sagaciously; "it's an Ingian that has killed the captain, and dressed himself in his clothes. I thought he smelt strong, when I helped to pick him up."
"And that's the reason why the bloody heathens wouldn't let us carry him off," said another of the litter men. "I thought they wouldn't ha' made such a rout about the officer, when they had his scalp already in their pouch-belts."
"What a set of prating fools ye are," interrupted the leading sergeant; "who ever saw an Ingian with light hair? and sure this hair in the neck is that of a Christian."
At that moment Captain Erskine, attracted by the sudden halt produced by the falling of the body, came quickly up to the front.
"What is the meaning of all this, Cassidy?" he sternly demanded of the sergeant; "why is this halt without my orders, and how comes the body here?"
"Carter stumbled against a root, sir, and the body rolled over upon the ground."
"And was the body to roll back again?" angrily rejoined his captain.--"What mean ye, fellows, by standing there; quick, replace it upon the litter, and mind this does not occur again."
"They say, sir," said the sergeant, respectfully, as the men proceeded to their duty, "that it is not Captain de Haldimar after all, but an Ingian."
"Not Captain de Haldimar! are ye all mad? and have the Indians, in reality, turned your brains with fear?"
What, however, was his own surprise, and that of Lieutenant Johnstone, when, on a closer examination of the corpse, which the men had now placed with its face uppermost, they discovered the bewildering fact that it was not, indeed, Captain de Haldimar who lay before them, but a stranger, dressed in the uniform of that officer.
There was no time to solve, or even to dwell on the singular mystery; for the Indians, though now retired, might be expected to rally and renew the attack. Once more, therefore, the detachment moved forward; the officers dropping as before to the rear, to watch any movements of the enemy should he re-appear. Nothing, however, occurred to interrupt their march; and in a few minutes the heavy clanking sound of the chains of the drawbridge, as it was again raised by its strong pullies, and the dull creaking sound of the rusty bolts and locks that secured the ponderous gate, announced the detachment was once more safely within the fort.
While the wounded men were being conveyed to the hospital, a group, comprising almost all the officers of the garrison, hastened to meet Captain Erskine and Lieutenant Johnstone. Congratulations on the escape of the one, and compliments, rather than condolences, on the accident of the other, which the arm en echarpe denoted to be slight, were hastily and warmly proffered. These felicitations were the genuine ebullitions of the hearts of men who really felt a pride, unmixed with jealousy, in the conduct of their fellows; and so cool and excellent had been the manner in which Captain Erskine had accomplished his object, that it had claimed the undivided admiration of all who had been spectators of the affair, and had, with the aid of their telescopes, been enabled to follow the minutest movements of the detachment.
"By heaven!" he at length replied, his chest swelling with gratified pride at the warm and generous approval of his companions, "this more than repays me for every risk. Yet, to be sincere, the credit is not mine, but Wentworth's. But for you, my dear fellow," grasping and shaking the hand of that officer, "we should have rendered but a Flemish account of ourselves. How beautifully those guns covered our retreat! and the first mortar that sent the howling devils flying in air like so many Will-o'the-wisps, who placed that, Wentworth?"
"I did," replied the officer, with a quickness that denoted a natural feeling of exultation; "but Bombardier Kitson's was the most effective. It was his shell that drove the Indians finally out of the bomb-proof, and left the coast clear for your retreat."
"Then Kitson, and his gunners also, merit our best thanks," pursued Captain Erskine, whose spirits, now that his detachment was in safety, were more than usually exhilarated by the exciting events of the last hour; "and what will be more acceptable, perhaps, they shall each have a glass of my best old Jamaica before they sleep,--and such stuff is not to be met with every day in this wilderness of a country. But, confound my stupid head! where are Charles de Haldimar and Sir Everard Valletort?"
"Poor Charles is in a high fever, and confined to his bed," remarked Captain Blessington, who now came up adding his congratulations in a low tone, that marked the despondency of his heart; "and Sir Everard I have just left on the rampart with the company, looking, as he well may, the very image of despair."
"Run to them, Sumners, my dear boy," said Erskine, hastily addressing himself to a young ensign who stood near him; "run quickly, and relieve them of their error. Say it is not De Haldimar who has been killed, therefore they need not make themselves any longer uneasy on that score."
The officers gave a start of surprise. Sumners, however, hastened to acquit himself of the pleasing task assigned him, without waiting to hear the explanation of the singular declaration.
"Not De Haldimar!" eagerly and anxiously exclaimed Captain Blessington; "who then have you brought to us in his uniform, which I clearly distinguished from the rampart as you passed? Surely you would not tamper with us at such a moment, Erskine?"
"Who it is, I know not more than Adam," rejoined the other; "unless, indeed, it be the devil himself. All I do know, is, it is not our friend De Haldimar; although, as you observe, he most certainly wears his uniform. But you shall see and judge for yourselves, gentlemen. Sergeant Cassidy," he enquired of that individual, who now came to ask if the detachment was to be dismissed, "where have you placed the litter?"
"Under the piazza of the guard-room, Sir," answered the sergeant.
These words had scarcely been uttered, when a general and hasty movement of the officers, anxious to satisfy themselves by personal observation it was not indeed De Haldimar who had fallen, took place in the direction alluded to, and in the next moment they were at the side of the litter.
A blanket had been thrown upon the corpse to conceal the loathsome disfigurement of the face, over which masses of thick coagulated blood were laid in patches and streaks, that set all recognition at defiance. The formation of the head alone, which was round and short, denoted it to be not De Haldimar's. Not a feature was left undefiled; and even the eyes were so covered, it was impossible to say whether their lids were closed or open. More than one officer's cheek paled with the sickness that rose to his heart as he gazed on the hideous spectacle; yet, as the curiosity of all was strongly excited to know who the murdered man really was who had been so unaccountably inducted in the uniform of their lost companion, they were resolved to satisfy themselves without further delay. A basin of warm water and a sponge were procured from the guard-room of Ensign Fortescue, who now joined them, and with these Captain Blessington proceeded to remove the disguise.
In the course of this lavation, it was discovered the extraordinary flow of blood and brains had been produced by the infliction of a deep wound on the back of the head, by the sharp and ponderous tomahawk of an Indian. It was the only blow that had been given; and the circumstance of the deceased having been found lying on his face, accounted for the quantity of gore, that, trickling downwards, had so completely disguised every feature. As the coat of thick encrusted matter gave way beneath the frequent application of the moistening sponge, the pallid hue of the countenance denoted the murdered man to be a white. All doubt, however, was soon at an end. The ammunition shoes, the grey trowsers, the coarse linen, and the stiff leathern stock encircling the neck, attested the sufferer to be a soldier of the garrison; but it was not until the face had been completely denuded of its unsightly covering, and every feature fully exposed, that that soldier was at length recognised to be Harry Donellan, the trusty and attached servant of Captain de Haldimar.
While yet the officers stood apart, gazing at the corpse, and forming a variety of conjectures, as vague as they were unsatisfactory, in regard to their new mystery, Sir Everard Valletort, pale and breathless with the speed he had used, suddenly appeared among them.
"God of heaven! can it be true--and is it really not De Haldimar whom I have shot?" wildly asked the agitated young man. "Who is this, Erskine?" he continued, glancing at the litter. "Explain, for pity's sake, and quickly."
"Compose yourself, my dear Valletort," replied the officer addressed. "You see this is not De Haldimar, but his servant Donellan. Neither has the latter met his death from your rifle; there is no mark of a bullet about him. It was an Indian tomahawk that did his business; and I will stake my head against a hickory nut the blow came from the same rascal at whom you fired, and who gave back the shot and the scalp halloo."
This opinion was unanimously expressed by the remainder of the officers. Sir Everard was almost as much overpowered by his joy, as he had previously been overwhelmed by his despair, and he grasped and shook the hand of Captain Erskine, who had thus been the means of relieving his conscience, with an energy of gratitude and feeling that almost drew tears from the eyes of that blunt but gallant officer.
"Thank God, thank God!" he fervently exclaimed: "I have not then even the death of poor Donellan to answer for;" and hastening from the guard-room, he pursued his course hurriedly and delightedly to the barrack-room of his friend.