“Now, I’ll tell you what it is, friend,” he said calmly, throwing hack at the same time the blanket that concealed his uniform, and—what was more imposing—a brace of large pistols stuck in his belt. “you’d better have no nonsense with me, I promise you, or—” and he tapped with the fore finger of his right hand upon the butt of one of them, with an expression that could not be misunderstood.
The woodsman seemed little awed by this demonstration. He was evidently one on whom it might have been dangerous for one man, however well armed, to have forced his presence, so far away from every other human habitation; and it is probable that his forbearance then arose from the feet of their being two opposed to him, for he glanced rapidly from one to the other, nor was it until he seemed to have mentally decided that the odds of two to one were somewhat unequal, that he at length withdrew himself out of the door-way, as if in passive assent to the stay he could not well prevent.
“Just so, my old cock,” continued Jackson, finding that he had gained his point, “and when you speak of this again, don’t forget to say it was a true Tennessee man, bred and born, that gave you a lesson in what no American ever wanted—hospitality to a stranger. Suppose you begin and make yourself useful, by tethering and foddering old spare bones.”
“I reckon as how you’ve hands as well as me,” rejoined the surly woodsman, “and every man knows the ways of his own beast best. As for fodder, they’ll find it on the skirt of the wood, and where natur’ planted it.”
Gerald meanwhile, finding victory declare itself in favor of his companion, had followed his example and entered the hut with his saddle. As he again quitted it, a sudden flash of light from the fire, which Jackson was then in the act of stirring, fell upon the countenance of the woodsman who stood without, his arms folded and his brow scowling, as if planning some revenge for the humiliation to which he had been subjected. In the indistinct dusk of the evening Grantham had not been able to remark more than the outline of the figure; but the voice struck him as one not unknown to him, although somewhat harsher in its tones than that which his faint recollection of the past supplied. The glance he had now obtained, momentary as it was, put every doubt to rest. What his feelings were in recognizing in the woodsman the traitor settler of the Canadas, Jeremiah Desborough, we leave to our readers to infer.
There was a time when to have met his father’s enemy thus, would have been to have called into activity all the dormant fierceness of Gerald’s nature; but since they had last parted, a new channel had been opened to his feelings, and the deep and mysterious grief in which we have seen him shrouded, had been of so absorbing and selfish a nature, as to leave him little consideration for sorrows not his own. The rash impetuosity of his former character, which had often led him to act even before he thought, and to resent an injury before it could well be said to have been offered, had moreover given place to a self-command, the fruit of the reflective habits and desire of concealment which had made him latterly almost a stranger to himself.