I got to my feet soon. My father came up to me, and wiped a cut on my forehead.
“Damn you, my boy!” said he. “Don’t ever interfere with me in a matter of that kind. You might have been hurt.”
We searched the island, high and low, for the ladies, but with no success. Then we marched our prisoners to the south channel, where a bateau—the same that brought us help—had been waiting. One of our men had been shot in the shoulder, another gored in the hip with a bayonet, and we left a young Briton dead on the shore. We took our prisoners to Paleyville, and locked them overnight in the blockhouse.
The channel was lighted by a big bonfire on the south bank, as we came over. Its flames went high, and made a great, sloping volcano of light in the darkness.
After the posting of the guard, some gathered about my father and began to cheer him. It nettled the veteran. He would take no honor for his defeat of the clever man, claiming the latter had no chance to fight.
“He had no foot-room with the boy one side and D’ri t’ other,” said he. “I had only to drive him back.”
My father and the innkeeper and D’ri and I sat awhile, smoking, in the warm glow of the bonfire.
“You ’re a long-headed man,” said I, turning to my comrade.
“Kind o’ thought they’d be trouble,” said D’ri. “So I tuk ’n ast yer father t’ come over hossback with hef a dozen good men. They got three more et the tavern here, an’ lay off ’n thet air bateau, waitin’ fer the moosecall. I cal’lated I did n’t want no more slidin’ over there ’n Canady.”
After a little snicker, he added: “Hed all ’t wus good fer me the las’ time. ’S a leetle tew swift.”
“Gets rather scary when you see the bushes walk,” I suggested.
“Seen whut wus up ’fore ever they med a move,” said D’ri. “Them air bushes did n’t look jest es nat’ral es they’d orter. Bet ye they’re some o’ them bushwhackers o’ Fitzgibbon. Got loops all over their uniforms, so ye c’u’d stick ’em full o’ boughs. Jerushy! never see nuthin’ s’ joemightful cur’us ’n all my born days—never.” He stopped a breath, and then added: “Could n’t be nuthin’ cur’user ’n thet.”
We hired team and wagon of the innkeeper, and a man to paddle up-river and return with the horses.
I had a brief talk with our tall prisoner while they were making ready.
“A word of business, your Lordship,” I said as he came out, yawning, with the guard.
“Ah, well,” said he, with a shiver, “I hope it is not so cold as the air.”
“It is hopeful; it is cheering,” was my answer.
“And the topic?”
“An exchange—for the ladies.”
He thought a moment, slapping the dust off him with a glove.
“This kind of thing is hard on the trousers,” he remarked carelessly. “I will consider; I think it could be arranged. Meanwhile, I give you my word of honor, you need have no worry.”