These likelihoods confirm her flight from hence,
Therefore, I pray you, stay not to discourse,
But mount you presently.
An hour had slid by, in hasty and nearly incoherent questions and answers, before Middleton, hanging over his recovered treasure with that sort of jealous watchfulness with which a miser would regard his hoards, closed the disjointed narrative of his own proceedings by demanding--
"And you, my Inez; in what manner were you treated?"
"In every thing, but the great injustice they did in separating me so forcibly from my friends, as well perhaps as the circumstances of my captors would allow. I think the man, who is certainly the master here, is but a new beginner in wickedness. He quarrelled frightfully in my presence, with the wretch who seized me, and then they made an impious bargain, to which I was compelled to acquiesce, and to which they bound me as well as themselves by oaths. Ah! Middleton, I fear the heretics are not so heedful of their vows as we who are nurtured in the bosom of the true church!"
"Believe it not; these villains are of no religion: did they forswear themselves?"
"No, not perjured: but was it not awful to call upon the good God to witness so sinful a compact?"
"And so we think, Inez, as truly as the most virtuous cardinal of Rome. But how did they observe their oath, and what was its purport?"
"They conditioned to leave me unmolested, and free from their odious presence, provided I would give a pledge to make no effort to escape; and that I would not even show myself, until a time that my masters saw fit to name."
"And that time?" demanded the impatient Middleton, who so well knew the religious scruples of his wife--"that time?"
"It is already passed. I was sworn by my patron saint, and faithfully did I keep the vow, until the man they call Ishmael forgot the terms by offering violence. I then made my appearance on the rock, for the time too was passed; though I even think father Ignatius would have absolved me from the vow, on account of the treachery of my keepers."
"If he had not," muttered the youth between his compressed teeth, "I would have absolved him for ever from his spiritual care of your conscience!"
"You, Middleton!" returned his wife looking up into his flushed face, while a bright blush suffused her own sweet countenance; "you may receive my vows, but surely you can have no power to absolve me from their observance!"
"No, no, no. Inez, you are right. I know but little of these conscientious subtilties, and I am any thing but a priest: yet tell me, what has induced these monsters to play this desperate game--to trifle thus with my happiness?"
"You know my ignorance of the world, and how ill I am qualified to furnish reasons for the conduct of beings so different from any I have ever seen before. But does not love of money drive men to acts even worse than this? I believe they thought that an aged and wealthy father could be tempted to pay them a rich ransom for his child; and, perhaps," she added, stealing an enquiring glance through her tears, at the attentive Middleton, "they counted something on the fresh affections of a bridegroom."
"They might have extracted the blood from my heart, drop by drop!"
"Yes," resumed his young and timid wife, instantly withdrawing the stolen look she had hazarded, and hurriedly pursuing the train of the discourse, as if glad to make him forget the liberty she had just taken, "I have been told, there are men so base as to perjure themselves at the altar, in order to command the gold of ignorant and confiding girls; and if love of money will lead to such baseness, we may surely expect it will hurry those, who devote themselves to gain, into acts of lesser fraud."
"It must be so; and now, Inez, though I am here to guard you with my life, and we are in possession of this rock, our difficulties, perhaps our dangers, are not ended. You will summon all your courage to meet the trial and prove yourself a soldier's wife, my Inez?"
"I am ready to depart this instant. The letter you sent by the physician, had prepared me to hope for the best, and I have every thing arranged for flight, at the shortest warning."
"Let us then leave this place and join our friends."
"Friends!" interrupted Inez, glancing her eyes around the little tent in quest of the form of Ellen. "I, too, have a friend who must not be forgotten, but who is pledged to pass the remainder of her life with us. She is gone!"
Middleton gently led her from the spot, as he smilingly answered--
"She may have had, like myself, her own private communications for some favoured ear."
The young man had not however done justice to the motives of Ellen Wade. The sensitive and intelligent girl had readily perceived how little her presence was necessary in the interview that has just been related, and had retired with that intuitive delicacy of feeling which seems to belong more properly to her sex. She was now to be seen seated on a point of the rock, with her person so entirely enveloped in her dress as to conceal her features. Here she had remained for near an hour, no one approaching to address her, and as it appeared to her own quick and jealous eyes, totally unobserved. In the latter particular, however, even the vigilance of the quick-sighted Ellen was deceived.
The first act of Paul Hover, on finding himself the master of Ishmael's citadel, had been to sound the note of victory, after the quaint and ludicrous manner that is so often practised among the borderers of the West. Flapping his sides with his hands, as the conquering game-cock is wont to do with his wings, he raised a loud and laughable imitation of the exultation of this bird; a cry which might have proved a dangerous challenge had any one of the athletic sons of the squatter been within hearing.
"This has been a regular knock-down and drag-out," he cried, "and no bones broke! How now, old trapper, you have been one of your training, platoon, rank and file soldiers in your day, and have seen forts taken and batteries stormed before this--am I right?"
"Ay, ay, that have I," answered the old man, who still maintained his post at the foot of the rock, so little disturbed by what he had just witnessed, as to return the grin of Paul, with a hearty indulgence in his own silent and peculiar laughter; "you have gone through the exploit like men!"
"Now tell me, is it not in rule, to call over the names of the living, and to bury the dead, after every bloody battle?"
"Some did and other some didn't. When Sir William push'd the German, Dieskau, thro' the defiles at the foot of the Hori--"
"Your Sir William was a drone to Sir Paul, and knew nothing of regularity. So here begins the roll-call--by the by, old man, what between bee-hunting and buffaloe humps, and certain other matters, I have been too busy to ask your name; for I intend to begin with my rear-guard, well knowing that my man in front is too busy to answer."
"Lord, lad, I've been called in my time by as many names as there are people among whom I've dwelt. Now the Delawares nam'd me for my eyes, and I was called after the far-sighted hawk. Then, ag'in, the settlers in the Otsego hills christened me anew, from the fashion of my leggings; and various have been the names by which I have gone through life; but little will it matter when the time shall come, that all are to be muster'd, face to face, by what titles a mortal has played his part! I humbly trust I shall be able to answer to any of mine, in a loud and manly voice."
Paul paid little or no attention to this reply, more than half of which was lost in the distance, but pursuing the humour of the moment, he called out in a stentorian voice to the naturalist to answer to his name. Dr. Battius had not thought it necessary to push his success beyond the comfortable niche, which accident had so opportunely formed for his protection, and in which he now reposed from his labours, with a pleasing consciousness of security, added to great exultation at the possession of the botanical treasure already mentioned.
"Mount, mount, my worthy mole-catcher! come and behold the prospect of skirting Ishmael; come and look nature boldly in the face, and not go sneaking any longer, among the prairie grass and mullein tops, like a gobbler nibbling for grasshoppers."