“My motive for the action I must beg you to excuse my entering upon,” replied Gerald. “Of this, however, be assured, Captain Jackson, that I had no intention to injure yon sleeping villain. On the word of an officer and a gentleman, and by the kindness you have shown me on all occasions since our journey commenced, do I solemnly assure you this is the fact.”
“And on the word of an officer, and a true Tennessee man, bred and born, I am bound to believe you,” returned the American, much affected. “A man that could fight so wickedly in the field would never find heart, I reckon, to stick an enemy in the dark. No, Liftenant Grantham, you were not born to be an assassin. And now let’s be starting—the day has already broke.”
“And yet,” returned Gerald, with a smile of bitter melancholy, as they hurried towards the spot where they had left their horses, “if any man ever had reason to act so as to merit the imputation of being such, I have. In that savage woodsman, Captain Jackson, you have beheld the murderer—the self acknowledged murderer of my father.”
“God bless my soul!” cried Jackson, dropping the saddle which he carried, and standing still with very amazement. “A pretty fix I’ve got into, to be sure. Here’s one man accuses another of murdering his son, and t’other, by way of quits, accuses him, in his turn, of murdering his father. Why, which am I to believe?”
“Which you please, Captain Jackson,” said the sailor coolly, yet painedly; and he moved forward in pursuit of his horse.
“Nay, Liftenant Grantham,” said the Aid-de-Camp, who had again resumed his burden, and was speedily at the side of his companion, “don’t be offended. I’ve no doubt the thing’s as you say, but you must make allowance for my ideas, never too much of the brightest, being conglomerated, after a fashion, by what I have seen and heard, since we let loose our horses last night upon this prairie.”
“I am not offended, only hurt,” replied Gerald, shaking the hand that was cordially tendered to him; “hurt that you should doubt my word, or attach any thing to the assertion of that man beyond the mere ravings of a savage and diseased spirit. Justice to myself demands that I should explain every thing in detail.”
“Now that’s what I call all right and proper,” returned the Aid-de-Camp, “and should be done both for your sake and mine; but we will leave it till we get once more upon the road and in sight of a tavern, for its dry work talking and listening without even so much as a gum tickler of the Wabash to moisten one’s clay.”