Returned to the abode of the latter, the young officer required no very great pressing to induce him to join his superior in the beverage, to which anxiety of mind not less than fatigue of body had so much disposed him, yet of which both partook moderately. While so employed, and awaiting the appearance of the sergeant, Ronayne, who had now no motive for further mystery or concealment, detailed at the request of his friend, but in much more succinct terms than he had done in the paper he had handed to Maria Heywood, the circumstances connected with his absence from the Fort, on the night of the attack upon the farm, and the means taken by him to attain the object in which he had been thwarted by Captain Headley.
“You dam Yankee, stop Injin when him go wigwam,” commenced Ronayne, rising at the same time and imitating the action of one unsteady from intoxication. “’Spose tell him gubbernor?”
“Ah! you horrid wretch—I see it all now, yet could I have been so imposed upon? You then were the pretended drunken Indian I let out that night? Upon my word, Master Ronayne. I never will forgive you for that trick.”
“Yes you will, old fellow. It was the only way to save you from a scrape, but I confess I have often since laughed in my sleeve at the recollection of the manner in which I deceived you.”
“Hang me if you didn’t play your part to admiration, but the best of the jest is, that on reporting the circumstance to Headley, on the following morning, he said I had acted perfectly right; so had you known this when you had that scene on the parade, you might have pleaded his sanction. However, all that is over. Now then for your adventure.”
“The tale is soon told,” began Ronayne. “On the evening when you and Von Vottenberg were so busy, the one in concocting his whisky-punch—the other in cutting up the Virginia, I was sacking my brain for a means to accomplish my desire to reach the farm, where I had a strong presentiment, from the lateness of the hour, without bringing any tidings of them, the fishing-party were, with Mr. Heywood and his people, in a state of siege, and I at length decided on what seemed to me to be the only available plan. I was not sorry to see you leave after taking your second glass, for I knew that I should have little difficulty in sewing up the doctor, whose tumbler I repeatedly filled, and made him drink off after sundry toasts, while he did not perceive—or was by no means sorry if he did—that I merely sipped from my own. When I thought he had swallowed enough to prevent him from interfering with my project, I bade him good night and left him, knowing well that in less than ten minutes he would be asleep. Instead, however, of going to bed, I hastened at once to preliminaries, having first got rid of my servant whom I did not wish to implicate, by making him acquainted with my intended absence. But tell me, did you examine my room at all the next day?”