Oppressed with the weight of contending feelings, which this generous conduct had inspired, Gerald waited but to cast a last look upon the ill-fated Matilda; and then with a slow step and a heavy heart for ever quitted a scene fraught with the most exciting and the most painful occurrences of his life. The first rays of early dawn beginning to develop themselves as they issued from the temple, Jackson extinguished his lamp, and leading through the narrow pass that conducted to the town, made the circuit of the ridge of hills until they arrived at a point where a negro (the same who had led the party that bore Matilda and himself to the temple) was in waiting, with a horse ready saddled and the arms and accoutrements of a rifleman.
The equipment of Gerald was soon completed, and with the shot-bag and powder-horn slung over his shoulder, and the long rifle in his hand, he soon presented the appearance of a backwoodsman hastening to the theatre of war.
When he had seated himself in the saddle, Jackson drew forth a well filled purse, which he said he had been directed by Colonel Forrester to present him with to defray the expences of his journey to the frontier.
Deeply affected by this new proof of the favor of the generous American, Gerald received the purse, saying, as he confided them to the breast of his hunting frock—
“Captain Jackson, tell Colonel Forrester from me, that I accept his present merely because in doing so I give the best evidence of my appreciation of all he has done for me on this trying occasion. In his own heart, however, he must look for the only reward to which this most noble of actions justly entitles him.”
The frank-hearted Aid-de-Camp promised compliance with this parting message, and after pointing out the route it would be necessary to follow, warmly pressed the hand of his charge in a final grasp, that told how little he deemed the man before him capable of the foul intention with which his soul had been so recently sullied.
How often during those hours of mad infatuation, when his weakened mind had been balancing between the possession of Matilda at the price of crime, and his abandonment of her at that of happiness, had the observation of the Aid-de-Camp, on a former occasion, that he “was never born to be an assassin,” occurred to his mind, suffusing his cheek with shame and his soul with remorse. Now, too, that conscious of having fallen in all but the positive commission of the deed, he saw that the unsuspecting American regarded him merely as one whom accident or intrigue had made an unwilling witness of the deadly act of a desperate woman, his feelings were those of profound abasement and self disesteem.
There was a moment, when urged by an involuntary impulse, he would have undeceived Captain Jackson as to his positive share in the transaction; but pride suddenly interposed and saved him from the degradation of the confession. He returned the pressure of the American’s hand with emphasis, and then turning his horse in the direction which he had been recommended to take, quitted Frankfort for ever.