“Your apology I accept, Captain Molineux,” said Grantham, coming forward and unhesitatingly offering his hand. “If you have seen my brother, I am satisfied. Let there be no further question on the subject.”
“So then I am to be the only bulleted man on this occasion,” interrupted Middlemore, with ludicrous pathos—“the only poor devil who is to be made to remember Hartley’s point for ever. But no matter. I am not the first instance of a second being shot, through the awkward bungling of his principal, and certainly Grantham you were in every sense the principal in this affair, for had you taken my advice you would have let the fellows go to the devil their own way.”
“What! knowing, as I did, that the traitor Desborough had concealed in his canoe a prisoner on parole—nay, worse, a deserter from our service—with a view of conveying him out of the country?”
“How did you know it?”
“Because I at once recognized him, through the disguise in which he left the hut, for what he was. That discovery made, there remained but one course to pursue.”
“Ah! and course work you made of it, with a vengeance,” said Middlemore, “first started him up like a fox from his cover, got the mark of his teeth, and then suffered him to escape.”
“Is there no chance of following—no means of overtaking them?” said Captain Molineux—“No, by Heaven,” as he glanced his eye from right to left, “not a single canoe to be seen any where along the shore.”
“Following!” echoed Middlemore; “faith the scoundrels would desire nothing better: if two of us had such indifferent play with them on terra firma, you may rely upon it that double the number would have no better chance in one of these rickety canoes. See there how the rascals lie to within half musket shot, apparently hailing us.”
Middlemore was right. Desborough had risen in the stern of the canoe, and now, stretched to his full height, called leisurely, through his closed hands, on the name of Henry Grantham. When he observed the attention of that officer had, in common with that of his companions, been arrested, he proceeded at the full extent of his lungs.
“I reckon, young man, as how I shall pay you out for this, and drot my skin, if I once twists my fingers round your neck again, if any thing on this side hell shall make me quit it, afore you squeaks your last squeak. You’ve druv me from my home, and I’ll have your curst blood for it yet. I’ll sarve you, as I sarved your old father—You got my small bore, I expect, and if its any good to you to know that one of its nineties to the pound, sent the old rascal to the devil—why then you have it from Jeremiah Desborough’s own lips, and be d——d to you.”
And, with this horrible admission, the settler again seated himself in the stem of his canoe, and making good use of his paddle soon scudded away until his little vessel appeared but as a speck on the lake.