Hitherto the individual spoken of had preserved an unbroken silence, keeping, as we have already shown, his gaze rivetted on the ground, except at intervals when he seemed to look around,—with an eye of suspicion, as if to measure the distance that separated him from the groups of Indians in the background. The disclaimer of the Major had, however, the effect of restoring to him the use of his tongue. Casting his uncertain eye on the gentlemanly person of the latter he exclaimed, in a tone of insufferable vulgarity;
“I’ll tell you what it is, Mister Major—you may think yourself a devilish fine feller, but I guess as how an officer of the Michigan Militia is just as good and as spry as any blue coat in the United States rig’lars; so there’s that (snapping his fingers) for pretendin’ not to know me.”
An ill suppressed titter pervaded the group of British officers—the General alone preserving his serieux.
“May I ask your name?” he demanded.
“I guess, Giniril, it’s Paul, Emilius, Theophilus, Arnoldi; Ensign in the United States Michigan Militia,” was answered with a volubility strongly in contrast with the preceding silence of the speaker.
“Then, Mr. Arnoldi, as an officer in the American Militia, you shall enjoy your liberty on parole. I need not, I presume, sir, point out to you the breach of private honor and national faith consequent on any violation of that parole.”
“I guess not, Giniril, for, I take it, the word of a Michigan Militia officer is as good as that of any United States rig’lar, as ever stepped in shoe leather.”
Another very pardonable disposition, on the part of the younger officers to indulge in mirth, was interrupted by the General, desiring a young aid-de-camp to procure the necessary billet and accomodation for Ensign Arnoldi.
These two individuals having moved away in search of the required lodging, the General, with his staff and prisoner guests, withdrew towards the fort. Their departure was the signal for the breaking up of the groups; and all dispersed to their several homes, and in pursuit of their various duties. The recently arrived Indians were distributed throughout the encampment, already occupied as we have described, and the prisoners taken in the morning were provided with suitable accommodation.
As Colonel D’Egville was about to enter the gate of the fort, with his fair charge leaning on his arm, Gerald Grantham approached the party, with the intention of addressing the General in regard to the prisoner Arnoldi; but finding him engaged in close conversation with Major Montgomerie, he lingered, as if awaiting a fitting opportunity to open the subject.
While he yet loitered the eye of Miss Montgomerie met his. What it expressed we will not venture to describe, but its effect upon the young officer was profound. The moment before, discouraged by her apparent reserve, he had stood coldly by, but now startled into animation, he bent upon her an earnest and corresponding look; then with a wild tumult at his heart, which he neither sought to stifle nor to analyze, and wholly forgetting what had brought him to the spot, he turned and joined his brother, who, at a short distance, stood awaiting his return.