The Canadian Brothers; or, The Prophecy Fulfilled. A tale of the late American war.
By Major Richardson,
Knight of the military order of Saint Ferdinand, author of "Ecarte," "Wacousta," &c. &c.
In Two Volumes.
To His Excellency Major General Sir John Harvey, K.C.B.: K.C.H. Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick who bore a conspicuous part in the war of 1812, and who contributed so essentially to the success of the British arms during the campaigns of 1813 and 1814, and particularly at Stoney Creek in Upper Canada, on the night of the 5th June 1813, when, entrusted with the execution of his own daring plan, he, at the head of sever hundred and twenty men of the 8th and 49th Regiments, (The former the Author's Corps,) surprised and completely routed at the point of the bayonet, a division of the American army, (under generals Winder and Chandler,) three thousand five hundred strong, capturing their leaders, with many other inferior prisoners, and several pieces of cannon; the Canadian edition of this historical talk is inscribed, with sentiments of high public and personal esteem, by his faithful and obedient servant,
Windsor Castle, October 29, 1832.
DEAR SIR,—I have received your letter of the 27th instant, and beg to reply that there cannot be the least objection to your sending a copy of your work, with the autograph addition; and that if you will send it to me, I will present it to His Majesty.
I do not presume you wish to apply for permission to dedicate the work to His Majesty, which is not usually given for work of fiction.
I remain, Dear Sir, your faithful Servant,
(Signed,) H. TAYLOR
Lieut. RICHARDSON, &c. &c. &c. H. P. 92nd Regt.
BRIGHTON, December 18, 1832.
DEAR Sir,—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 14th instant, and of the copy of your work, WACOUSTA, for the King, which I have had the honor of presenting to His Majesty, who received it very graciously.
I remain, Dear Sir, your faithful Servant,
(Signed,) H. TAYLOR
Lieut. RICHARDSON, &c. &c. &c. H. P. 92nd Regt.
WINDSOR CASTLE, August 7, 1833.
DEAR SIR,—I have to acknowledge your letter of the 1st instant, together with its enclosure, and beg to express the deep gratification I have felt in the perusal of that chapter of your new work which treats of the policy of employing the Indians in any future war we may have with the United States. Should you be desirous of dedicating it to His Majesty I can foresee no difficulty.
Permit me to avail myself of this opportunity of assuring you of the deep interest with which your WACOUSTA has been read by the whole Court.
I remain, Dear Sir, your faithful Servant,
(Signed,) H. TAYLOR.
Lieut. RICHARDSON, &c. &c. &c. H. P. 92nd Regt.
WINDSOR CASTLE, August 12, 1833.
DEAR SIR,—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 9th, and to acquaint you that His Majesty acquiesces in your wish to be permitted to dedicate your new work to him.
I remain, Dear Sir, your faithful Servant,
(Signed,) H. TAYLOR.
Lieut. RICHARDSON, &c, &c. &c. H. P. 92nd Regt.
By the above letters, two material points are established. The first is that, although works of fiction are not usually dedicated to the Sovereign, an exception was made in favour of the following tale, which is now for the first time submitted to the public, and which, from its historical character, was deemed of sufficient importance not to be confounded with mere works of fiction. The exception was grounded on a chapter of the book, which the seeker after incident alone will dismiss hastily, but over which the more serious reader may be induced to pause.
The second, and not least important, point disposed of, is one which the manner in which the principal American characters have been disposed of, renders in some degree imperative.
The Author has no hesitation in stating, that had it not been for the very strong interest taken in their appearance, by a portion of the American public in the first instance, these volumes never would have been submitted to the press of this country. Hence, to a corresponding feeling might, under other circumstances, have been ascribed the favorable light under which the American character has been portrayed. From the dates of the above letters from the principal Aid-de-Camp and Private Secretary to His late Majesty, it will, however, be seen, that the work was written in England, and therefore before there could have existed the slightest inducement to any undue partiality.
That this is the case, the Author has reason to rejoice; since in eschewing the ungenerous desire of most English writers on America, to convey a debasing impression of her people, and seeking, on the contrary, to do justice to their character, as far as the limited field afforded by a work, pre-eminently of fiction, will admit, no interested motive can be ascribed to him. Should these pages prove a means of dissipating the slightest portion of that irritation which has—and naturally—been engendered in every American heart, by the perverted and prejudiced statements of disappointed tourists, whose acerbity of stricture, not even a recollection of much hospitality could repress; and of renewing that healthy tone of feeling which it has been endeavoured to show had existed during the earlier years of the present century, the Author will indeed feel that he has not written in vain.
One observation in regard to the tale itself. There is a necessary anachronism in the book, of too palpable a nature not to be detected at a glance by the reader. It will. however, be perceived, that such anachronism does not in any way interfere with historical fact, while it has at the same time facilitated the introduction of events, which were necessary to the action of the story, and which have been brought on the scene before that which constitutes the anachronism, as indispensable precursors to it. We will not here mar the reader's interest in the story, by anticipating, but allow him to discover and judge of the propriety of the transposition himself.
Tecumseh, moreover, is introduced somewhat earlier than the strict record of facts will justify; but as his presence does not interfere with the general accuracy of the detail, we trust the matter of fact reader, who cannot, at least, be both to make early acquaintance with this interesting Chieftain, will not refuse us the exercise of our privilege as a novelist, in disposing of characters, in the manner most pleasing to the eye.
We cannot conclude without apology for the imperfect Scotch, which we have (to use a homely phrase,) put into the mouth of one of our characters, our apology for which is that we were unaware of the error, until the work had been so far printed as not to admit of our remedying it. We are consoled, however, by the reflection that we have given the person in question so much of the national character that he can well afford to lose something in a minor particular.
THE CANADIAN BROTHERS; OR, THE PROPHECY FULFILLED.
At the northern extremity of the small town which bears its name, situated at the head of Lake Erie, stands, or rather stood—for the fortifications then existing were subsequently destroyed—the small fortress of Amherstburg.
It was the summer of 1812. Intelligence had been some days received at that post, of the declaration of war by the United States, the great aim and object of which was the conquest, and incorporation with her own extensive territories, of provinces on which she had long cast an eye of political jealousy, and now assailed at a moment when England (fighting the battles of the, even to this moment, recreant and unredeemed Peninsula,) could ill spare a solitary regiment to the rescue of her threatened, and but indifferently defended transatlantic possessions.
Few places in America, or in the world, could, at the period embraced by our narrative, have offered more delightful associations than that which we have selected for an opening scene. Amherstburg was at that time one of the loveliest spots that ever issued from the will of a beneficent and gorgeous nature, and were the world-disgusted wanderer to have selected a home in which to lose all memory of artificial and conventional forms, his choice would assuredly have fallen here. And insensible, indeed, to the beautiful realities of the sweet wild solitude that reigned around, must that man have been, who could have gazed unmoved, from the lofty banks of the Erie, on the placid lake beneath his feet, mirroring the bright starred heavens on its unbroken surface, or throwing into full and soft relief the snow white sail, and dark hull of some stately war-ship, becalmed in the offing, and only waiting the rising of the capricious breeze, to waft her onward on her THEN peaceful mission of dispatch. Lost indeed to all perception of the natural must he have been, who could have listened, without a feeling of voluptuous melancholy, to the plaintive notes of the whip-poor-will, breaking on the silence of night, and harmonising with the general stillness of the scene. How often have we ourselves, in joyous boyhood, lingered amid these beautiful haunts, drinking in the fascinating song of this strange night-bird, and revelling in a feeling we were too young to analyze, yet cherished deeply—yea, frequently, even to this hour, do we in our dreams revisit scenes no parallel to which has met our view, even in the course of a life passed in many climes; and on awaking, our first emotion is regret that the illusion is no more.
Such was Amherstburg, and its immediate vicinity, during the early years of the present century, and up to the period at which our story commences. Not, be it understood, that even THEN the scenery itself had lost one particle of its loveliness, or failed in aught to awaken and fix the same tender interest. The same placidity of earth, and sky, and lake remained, but the whip-poor-will, driven from his customary abode by the noisy hum of warlike preparation, was no longer heard, and the minds of the inhabitants, hitherto disposed, by the quiet pursuits of their uneventful lives, to feel pleasure in its song, had eye nor ear for aught beyond what tended to the preservation of their threatened homes.
Let us, however, introduce the reader more immediately to the scene. Close in his rear, as he stands on the elevated bank of the magnificent river of Detroit, and about a mile from its point of junction with Lake Erie, is the fort of Amherstburg, its defences consisting chiefly of stockade works, flanked, at its several angles, by strong bastions, and covered by a demi lune of five guns, so placed as to command every approach by water. Distant about three hundred yards on his right is a large, oblong square building, resembling in appearance the red low roofed blockhouses peering above the outward defences of the fort. Surrounding this, and extending to the skirt of the thinned forest, the original boundary of which is marked by an infinitude of dingy half blackened stumps, are to be seen numerous huts or wigwams of the Indians, from the fires before which arises a smoke that contributes, with the slight haze of the atmosphere, to envelope the tops of the tall trees in a veil of blue vapour, rendering them almost invisible. Between these wigwams and the extreme verge of the thickly wooded banks, which sweeping in bold curvature for an extent of many miles, brings into view the eastern extremity of Turkey Island, situated midway between Amherstburg and Detroit, are to be seen, containing the accumulated Indian dead of many years, tumuli, rudely executed it is true, but picturesquely decorated with such adornments as it is the custom of these simple mannered people to bestow on the last sanctuaries of their departed friends. Some three or four miles, and across the water, (for here it is that the river acquires her fullest majesty of expansion,) is to be seen the American Island of Gros Isle, which, at the period of which we write, bore few traces of cultivation —scarcely a habitation being visible throughout its extent—various necks of land, however, shoot out abruptly, and independently of the channel running between it and the American main shore, form small bays or harbours in which boats may always find shelter and concealment.
Thus far the view to the right of the spectator, whom we assume to be facing the river. Immediately opposite to the covering demi lune, and in front of the fort, appears, at a distance of less than half a mile, a blockhouse and battery, crowning the western extremity of the Island of Bois Blanc, which, one mile in length and lashed at its opposite extremity by the waters of Lake Erie, at this precise point, receives into her capacious bosom the vast tribute of the noble river connecting her with the higher lakes. Between this island and the Canadian shore lies the only navigable channel for ships of heavy tonnage, for although the waters of the Detroit are of vast depth every where above the island, they are near their point of junction with the lake, and, in what is called the American channel, so interrupted by shallows and sandbars, that no craft larger than those of a description termed "Durham boats" can effect the passage—on the other hand the channel dividing the island from the Canadian shore is at once deep and rapid, and capable of receiving vessels of the largest size. The importance of such a passage is obvious; but although a state of war necessarily prevented aid from armed vessels to such forts of the Americans as lay to the westward of the lake, it by no means effectually cut off their supplies through the medium of the Durham boats already alluded to. In order to intercept those, a most vigilant watch was kept by the light gun boats despatched into the lesser channel for that purpose.
A blockhouse and battery crowned also the eastern extremity of the island, and both, provided with a flag staff for the purpose of communication by signal with the fort, were far from being wanting in picturesque effect. A subaltern's command of infantry, and a bombardier's of artillery, were the only troops stationed there, and these were there rather to look out for, and report the approach of whatever American boats might be seen stealing along their own channel, than with any view to the serious defence of a post already sufficiently commanded by the adjacent fortress. In every other direction the island was thickly wooded—not a house—not a hut arose to diversify the wild beauty of the scene. Frequently, it is true, along the margin of its sands might be seen a succession of Indian wigwams, and the dusky and sinewy forms of men gliding round their fires, as they danced to the monotonous sound of the war dance; but these migratory people, seldom continuing long in the same spot, the island was again and again left to its solitude.
Strongly contrasted with this, would the spectator, whom we still suppose standing on the bank where we first placed him, find the view on his left. There would he behold a neat small town, composed entirely of wooden houses variously and not inelegantly painted; and receding gradually from the river's edge to the slowly disappearing forest, on which its latest rude edifice reposed. Between the town and the fort, was to be seen a dockyard of no despicable dimensions, in which the hum of human voices mingled with the sound of active labour—there too might be seen, in the deep harbour of the narrow channel that separated the town from the island we have just described, some half-dozen gallant vessels bearing the colours of England, breasting with their dark prows the rapid current that strained their creaking cables in every strand, and seemingly impatient of the curb that checked them from gliding impetuously into the broad lake, which some few hundred yards below, appeared to court them to her bosom. But although in these might be heard the bustle of warlike preparation, the chief attention would be observed to be directed towards a large half finished vessel, on which numerous workmen of all descriptions were busily employed, evidently with a view of preparing for immediate service.
Beyond the town again might be obtained a view of the high and cultivated banks, sweeping in gentle curve until they at length terminated in a low and sandy spot, called from the name of its proprietor, Elliott's Point. This stretched itself toward the eastern extremity of the island, so as to leave the outlet to the lake barely wide enough for a single vessel to pass at a time, and that not without skilful pilotage and much caution.
Assuming our reader to be now as fully familiar with the scene as ourselves, let him next, in imagination, people it, as on the occasion we have chosen for his introduction. It was a warm, sunny, day in the early part of July. The town itself was as quiet as if the glaive of war reposed in its sheath, and the inhabitants pursued their wonted avocations with the air of men who had nothing in common with the active interest which evidently dominated the more military portions of the scene. It was clear that among these latter some cause for excitement existed, fat, independently of the unceasing bustle within the dock yard—a bustle which however had but one undivided object-the completion and equipment of the large vessel then on the stacks—the immediate neighbourhood of the fort presented evidence of some more than ordinary interest. The encampment of the Indians, on the verge of the forest, had given forth the great body of their warriors, and these clad in their gayest apparel, covered with feathers and leggings of bright colours, decorated with small tinkling bells that came not inharmoniously on the ear, as they kept tone to the measured walk of their proud wearers, were principally assembled around and in front of the large building we have described as being without, yet adjacent to, the fort. These warriors might have been about a thousand in number, and amused themselves variously—(the younger at least)—with leaping—wrestling—ball playing-and the foot race—in all which exercises they are unrivalled. The elders bore no part in these amusements, but stood, or sat cross legged, on the edge of the bank, smoking their pipes, and expressing their approbation of the prowess or dexterity of the victors in the games, by guttural, yet rapidly uttered exclamations. Mingled with these were some six or seven individuals, whose glittering costume of scarlet announced them for officers of the garrison, and elsewhere dispersed, some along the banks and crowding the battery in front of the fort, or immediately around the building, yet quite apart from their officers, were a numerous body of the inferior soldiery.
But although these distinct parties were assembled, to all appearance, with a view, the one to perform in, the other to witness, the active sports we have enumerated, a close observer of the movements of all would hare perceived there was something more important in contemplation, to the enactment of which these exercises were but a prelude. Both officers, and men, and even the participators in the sports, turned their gaze frequently up the Detroit, as if they expected some important approach. The broad reach of the wide river, affording an undisturbed view, as we have stated, for a distance of some nine or ten miles, where commenced the near extremity of Turkey Island, presented nothing, however, as yet, to their gate, and repeatedly were the telescopes of the officers raised only to fall in disappointment from the eye. At length a number of small dark specks were seen studding the tranquil bosom of the river, as they emerged rapidly, one after the other, from the cover of the island. The communication was made, by him who first discovered them, to his companions. The elder Indians who sat near the spot on which the officers stood, were made acquainted with what even their own sharp sight could not distinguish unaided by the glass. One sprang to his feet, raised the telescope to his eye, and with an exclamation of wonder at the strange properties of the instrument, confirmed to his followers the truth of the statement. The elders, principally chiefs, spoke in various tongues to their respective warriors. The sports were abandoned, and all crowded to the bank with anxiety and interest depicted in their attitudes and demeanor.
Meanwhile, the dark specks upon the water increased momentarily in size. Presently they could be distinguished for canoes, which, rapidly impelled, and aided in their course by the swift current, were not long in developing themselves to the naked eye. These canoes, about fifty in number, were of bark, and of so light a description, that a man of ordinary strength might, without undergoing serious fatigue, carry one for miles. The warriors who now propelled them, were naked in all save their leggings and waist cloths, their bodies and faces begrimed with paint: and as they drew neater, fifteen was observed to be the complement of each. They sat by twos on the narrow thwarts; and, with their faces to the prow, dipped their paddles simultaneously into the stream, with a regularity of movement not to be surpassed by the most experienced boat's crew of Europe. In the stern of each sat a chief guiding his bark, with the same unpretending but skilful and efficient paddle, and behind him, drooping in the breezeless air, and trailing in the silvery tide, was to be seen a long pendant, bearing the red cross of England.
It was a novel and beautiful sight to behold that imposing fleet of canoes, apparently so frail in texture that the dropping of a pebble between the skeleton ribs might be deemed sufficient to perforate and sink them, yet withal so ingeniously contrived as to bear safely not only the warriors who formed their crews, hut also their arms of all descriptions, and such light equipment of raiment and necessaries as were indispensable to men who had to voyage long and far in pursuit of the goal they were now rapidly attaining. The Indians already encamped near the fort, were warriors of nations long rendered familiar by personal intercourse, not only with the inhabitants of the district, but with the troops themselves; and these, from frequent association with the whites, had lost much of that fierceness which is so characteristic of the North American Indian in his ruder state. Among these, with the more intelligent Hurons, were the remnants of those very tribes of Shawanees and Delawares whom we have recorded to have borne, half a century ago, so prominent a share in the confederacy against England, but who, after the termination of that disastrous war, had so far abandoned their wild hostility, as to have settled in various points of contiguity to the forts to which they, periodically, repaired to receive those presents which a judicious policy so profusely bestowed.
The reinforcement just arriving was composed principally of warriors who had never yet pressed a soil wherein civilization had extended her influence—men who had never hitherto beheld the face of a white, unless it were that of the Canadian trader, who, at stated periods, penetrated fearlessly into their wilds for purposes of traffic, and who to the bronzed cheek that exposure had rendered nearly as swarthy as their own, united not only the language but so wholly the dress—or rather the undress of those he visited, that he might easily have been confounded with one of their own dark blooded race. So remote, indeed, were the regions in which some of these warriors had been sought, that they were strangers to the existence of more than one of their tribes, and upon these they gazed with a surprise only inferior to what they manifested, when, for the first time, they marked the accoutrements of the British soldier, and turned with secret, but unacknowledged awe and admiration upon the frowning fort and stately shipping, bristling with cannon, and vomiting forth sheets of flame as they approached the shore. In these might have been studied the natural dignity of man. Firm of step—proud of mien—haughty yet penetrating of look, each leader offered in his own person a model to the sculptor, which he might vainly seek elsewhere. Free and unfettered in every limb, they moved in the majesty of nature, and with an air of dark reserve, passed, on landing, through the admiring crowd.
There was one of the number, however, and his canoe was decorated with a richer and a larger flag, whose costume was that of the more civilized Indians, and who in nobleness of deportment, even surpassed those we have last named. This was Tecumseh. He was not of the race of either of the parties who now accompanied him, but of one of the nations, many of whose warriors were assembled on the bank awaiting his arrival. As the head chief of the Indians, his authority was acknowledged by all, even to the remotest of these wild but interesting people, and the result of the exercise of his all-powerful influence had been the gathering together of those warriors, whom he had personally hastened to collect from the extreme west, passing in his course, and with impunity, the several American posts that lay in their way. In order more fully to comprehend the motives and character of this remarkable man, it may not be impertinent to recur summarily to events that took place prior to the declaration of war by the United States against England.
It being a well established—and even by themselves uncontradicted—fact, we can have no hesitation in stating (what we trust no American will conceive to be stated in illiberality of spirit, since such feeling we utterly disclaim) that the government of the United States, bent on the final acquisition of all the more proximate possessions of the Indians, had for many consecutive years, waged a war of extermination against these unfortunate people, and more especially those residing on the Wabash, to which the eye of interest or preference, or both, had directed a jealous attention. For a series of years the aggression had been prosecuted with fearful issue to the Indians, when, at length, one of those daring spirits, that appear like meteors, few and far between, in the horizon of glory and intelligence, suddenly started up in the person of Tecumseh, who, possessed of a genius, as splendid in conception, as it was bold in execution, long continued to baffle the plans and defeat the measures of his most experienced enemies. Whether the warrior owed his original influence, or rather the opportunity for development of his extraordinary talents, both diplomatic and warlike, to the fact of his being the brother of the Prophet—a similar, and rather mean looking person, whom a deep reading of the prejudices of his followers had bound to him in an enthusiasm of superstitious credence —whether, we repeat, Tecumseh owed his elevation to this circumstance in part, or wholly to his own merit, it is difficult to determine with certainty, but it is matter of history, that plausible and powerful as the Prophet had rendered himself, his more open and generous brother, while despising in his heart the mummeries practised by his wily relative, was not long in supplanting him in the affections, as he rapidly superseded him in authority and influence, over his people—All looked up to him as the defender and saviour of their race, and so well did he merit the confidence reposed in him, that it was not long after his first appearance as a leader in the war-path, that the Americans were made sensible, by repeated defeat, of the formidable character of the chief who had thrown himself into the breach of his nation's tottering fortunes, resolved rather to perish on the spot on which he stood, than to retire one foot from the home of their forefathers. What self-ennobling actions the warrior performed, and what talent he displayed during that warfare, the page of American history must tell. With the spirit to struggle against, and the subsequent good fortune to worst the Americans in many conflicts, these latter, although beaten, have not been wanting in generosity to admire their formidable enemy while living, neither have they failed to venerate his memory when dead. If they have helped to bind the laurel around his living brow, they have not been the less willing to weave the cypress that encircles his memory.
In almost every encounter with them, Tecumseh was more or less successful; but, like the conqueror of other days, he might have exclaimed, "another such victory and I am lost." Weakened in a constant succession of engagements, the Indians, and the Shawnees in particular, now presented but a skeleton of their former selves, while the Americans, on the contrary, with an indefatigability that would have done credit to a better cause, kept pouring in fresh forces to the frontier, until, in the end, opposition to their purpose seemed almost hopeless. It is doubtful, however, what would have been the final result of a contest against a warrior of such acknowledged ability and resource as Tecumseh, had it not unfortunately happened that the Americans, taking advantage of the performance of some of those mummeries by which the Prophet still sought to uphold his fast declining power, managed to surprise the Shawanee encampment in the dead of night, when, favoured by circumstances, they committed fearful havoc, nearly annihilating their enemies.
Finding every effort to preserve his situation on the Wabash unavailing, Tecumseh, accompanied by the remnant of his followers, fell back on the Ohio, Miami, and Detroit, where his first object was to enter into a treaty, offensive and defensive, with the formidable nations of the Delawares, Hurons, etc. An alliance with the English, then momentarily apprehending a rupture with the United States, was, moreover renewed, and then with the hope strong at his heart of combating his enemies once more, with success, he had with exulting spirit and bounding step, set out to win to the common interest, the more distant tribes of the Sioux, Minouminies, Winnebagoes, Kickapoos, etc., of whom he had secured the services of the warriors just arrived.
It was amidst the blaze of an united salvo from the demi lune crowning the bank, and from the shipping, that the noble chieftain, accompanied by the leaders of those wild tribes, leaped lightly, yet proudly to the beach; and having ascended the steep bank by a flight of rude steps cut out of the earth, finally stood amid the party of officers waiting to receive them. It would not a little have surprised a Bond street exquisite of that day to have witnessed the cordiality with which the dark hand of the savage was successively pressed in the fairer palms of the English officers, neither would his astonishment have been abated, on remarking the proud dignity of carriage maintained by the former, in this exchange of courtesy, as though, while he joined heart to hand wherever the latter fell, he seemed rather to bestow than to receive a condescension.
Had none of those officers ever previously beheld him, the fame of his heroic deeds had gone sufficiently before the warrior to have insured him their warmest greeting and approbation, and none could mistake a form that, even amid those who were a password for native majesty, stood alone in its bearing: but Tecumseh was a stranger to few. Since his defeat on the Wabash he had been much at Amherstburg, where he had rendered himself conspicuous by one or two animated and highly eloquent speeches, having for their object the consolidation of a treaty, in which the Indian interests were subsequently bound in close union with those of England; and, up to the moment of his recent expedition, had cultivated the most perfect understanding with the English chiefs.
It might, however, be seen that even while pleasure and satisfaction at a reunion with those he in torn esteemed, flashed from his dark and eager eye, there was still lurking about his manner that secret jealousy of distinction, which is so characteristic of the haughty Indian. After the first warm salutations had passed, he became sensible of the absence of the English chief; but this was expressed rather by a certain outswelling of his chest, and the searching glance of his restless eye, than by any words that fell from his lips. Presently, he whom he sought, and whose person had hitherto been concealed by the battery on the hank, was seen advancing towards him, accompanied by his personal staff. In a moment the shade passed away from the brow of the warrior, and warmly grasping and pressing, for the second time, the hand of a youth—one of the group of junior officers among whom he yet stood, and who had manifested even more than his companions the unbounded pleasure he took in the chieftain's re-appearance—he moved forward, with an ardour of manner that was with difficulty restrained by his sense of dignity, to give them the meeting.
The first of the advancing party was a tall, martial looking man, wearing the dress and insignia of a general officer. His rather florid countenance was eminently fine, if not handsome, offering, in its more Roman than Grecian contour, a model of quiet, manly beauty; while the eye, beaming with intelligence and candour, gave, in the occasional flashes which it emitted, indication of a mind of no common order. There was, notwithstanding, a benevolence of expression about it that blended (in a manner to excite attention) with a dignity of deportment, as much the result of habitual self command, as of the proud eminence of distinction on which he stood. The sedative character of middle age, added to long acquired military habits, had given a certain rigidity to his fine form, that might have made him appear to a first observer even older than he was, but the placidity of a countenance beaming good will and affability, speedily removed the impression, and, if the portly figure added to his years, the unfurrowed countenance took from them in equal proportion.
At his side, hanging on his arm and habited in naval uniform, appeared one who, from his familiarity of address with the General, not less than by certain appropriate badges of distinction, might be known as the commander of the little fleet then lying in the harbour. Shorter in person than his companion, his frame made up in activity what it wanted in height, and there was that easy freedom in his movements which so usually distinguishes the carriage of the sailor, and which now offered a remarkable contrast to that rigidity we have stated to have attached (quite unaffectedly) to the military commander. His eyes, of a much darker hue, sparkled with a livelier intelligence, and although his complexion was also highly florid, if was softened down by the general vivacity of expression that pervaded his frank and smiling countenance. The features, regular and still youthful, wore a bland and pleasing character; while neither, in look, nor bearing, nor word could there be traced any of that haughty reserve usually ascribed to the "lords of the sea." There needed no other herald to proclaim him for one who had already seen honorable service, than the mutilated stump of what had once been an arm: yet in this there was no boastful display, as of one who deemed he had a right to tread more proudly because he had chanced to suffer, where all had been equally exposed, in the performance of a common duty. The empty sleeve, unostentatiously fastened by a loop from the wrist to a button of the lappel was suffered to fall at his side, and by no one was the deficiency less remarked than by himself.
The greeting between Tecumseh and these officers, was such as might be expected from warriors bound to each other by mutual esteem. Each held the other in the highest honor, but it was particularly remarked that while the Indian Chieftain looked up to the General with the respect he felt to be due to him, not merely as the dignified representative of his "Great Father," but as one of a heart and actions claiming his highest personal admiration, his address to his companion, whom he now beheld for the first time, was warmer, and more energetic; and as he repeatedly glanced at the armless sleeve, he uttered one of those quick ejaculatory exclamations, peculiar to his race, and indicating, in this instance, the fullest extent of approbation. The secret bond of sympathy which chained his interest to the Commodore, might have owed its being to another cause. In the countenance of the latter there was much of that eagerness of expression, and in the eye that vivacious fire, that flashed, even in repose, from his own swarthier and more speaking features; and this assimilation of character might have been the means of producing that preference for, and devotedness to, the cause of the naval commander, that subsequently developed itself in the chieftain. In a word, the General seemed to claim the admiration and the respect of the Indian— the Commodore, his admiration and friendship.
The greeting between these generous leaders was brief. When the first salutations had been interchanged, it was intimated to Tecumseh, through the medium of an interpreter, then in attendance on the General, that a war-council had been ordered, for the purpose of taking into consideration the best means of defeating the designs of the Americans, who, with a view to offensive operations, had, in the interval of the warrior's absence, pushed on a considerable force to the frontier. The council, however, had been delayed, in order that it might have the benefit of his opinions, and of his experience in the peculiar warfare which was about to be commenced.
Tecumseh acknowledged his sense of the communication with the bold frankness of the inartificial son of nature, scorning to conceal his just self-estimate beneath a veil of affected modesty. He knew his own worth, and while he over-valued not one iota of that worth, so did he not affect to disclaim a consciousness of the fact—that within his swarthy chest and active brain there beat a heart and lived a judgment, as prompt to conceive and execute as those of the proudest he that ever swayed the destinies of a warlike people. Replying to the complimentary invitation of the General, he unhesitatingly said he had done well to await his (Tecumseh's) arrival, before he determined on his course of action, and that he should now have the full benefit of his opinions and advice.
If the chief had been forcibly prepossessed in favour of the naval commander, the latter had not been less interested. Since his recent arrival, to assume the direction of the fleet, Commodore Barclay had had opportunities of seeing such of the chiefs as were then assembled at Amherstburg; but great as had been his admiration of several of these, he had been given to understand they fell far short, in every moral and physical advantage, of what their renowned leader would be found to possess, when, on his return from the expedition in which he was engaged, fitting opportunity should be had of bringing them in personal proximity. This admission was now made in the fullest sense, and as the warrior moved away to give the greeting to the several chiefs, and conduct them to the council hall, the gallant sailor could not refrain from expressing, in the warmest terms to General Brock, as they moved slowly forward with the same intention, the enthusiastic admiration excited in him by the person, the manner, and the bearing, of the noble Tecumseh.
Again the cannon from the battery and the shipping pealed forth their thunder. It was the signal for the commencement of the council, and the scene at that moment was one of the most picturesque that can well be imagined. The sky was cloudless, and the river, no longer ruffled by the now motionless barks of the recently arrived Indians, yet obeying the action of the tide, offered, as it glided onward to the lake, the image of a flood of quick-silver; while, in the distance, that lake itself, smooth as a mirror, spread far and wide. Close under the bank yet lingered the canoes, emptied only of their helmsmen (the chiefs of the several tribes,) while, with strange tongues and wilder gestures, the warriors of these, as they rested on their paddles, greeted the loud report of the cannon— now watching with eager eye the flashes from the vessel's sides, and now upturning their gaze, and following with wild surprise, the deepening volumes of smoke that passed immediately over their heads, from the guns of the battery, hidden from their view by the elevated and overhanging bank. Blended with each discharge arose the wild yell, which they, in such a moment of novel excitement, felt it impossible to control, and this, answered from the Indians above and borne in echo almost to the American shore, had in it something indescribably startling. On the bank itself the effect was singularly picturesque. Here were to be seen the bright uniforms of the British officers, at the head of whom was the tall and martial figure of General Brock, furthermore conspicuous from the full and drooping feather that fell gracefully over his military hat, mingled with the wilder and more fanciful head dresses of the chiefs. Behind these again, and sauntering at a pace that showed them to have no share in the deliberative assembly, whither those we have just named were now proceeding amid the roar of artillery, yet mixed together in nearly as great dissimilarity of garb, were to be seen numbers of the inferior warriors and of the soldiery, while, in various directions, the games recently abandoned by the adult Indians, were now resumed by mere boys. The whole picture was one of strong animation, contrasting as it did with the quiet of the little post on the Island, where some twelve or fifteen men, composing the strength of the detachment, were now sitting or standing on the battery, crowned, as well as the fort and shipping, and in compliment to the newly arrived Indians, with the colours of England.
Such was the scene, varied only as the numerous actors in it varied their movements, when the event occurred, with which we commence our next chapter.
Several hours had passed away in the interesting discussion of their war plans, and the council was nearly concluded, when suddenly the attention both of the officers and chiefs was arrested by the report of a single cannon. From the direction of the sound, it was evident the shot had been fired from the battery placed on the southern or lakeward extremity of the Island of Bois Blanc, and as the circumstance was unusual enough to indicate the existence of some approaching cause for excitement, several of the younger of both, who, from their youth, had been prevented from taking any active share in the deliberations of the day, stole, successively and unobservedly, through the large folding doors of the building, which, owing to the great heat of the weather, bad been left open. After traversing about fifty yards of sward, intersecting the high road, which, running parallel with the river, separated the council hall from the elevated bank, the officers found, collected in groups on the extreme verge of this latter and anxiously watching certain movements in the battery opposite to them, most of the troops and inferior Indians they had left loitering there at the commencement of the council. Those movements were hasty, and as of men preparing to repeat the shot, the report of which had reached them from, the opposite extremity of the Island. Presently the forms, hitherto intermingled, became separate and stationary—an arm of one was next extended—then was seen to rise a flash of light, and then a volume of dense smoke, amid which the loud report found its sullen way, bellowing like thunder through some blackening cloud, while, from the peculiar nature of the sound, it was recognized, by the experienced in those matters, to have proceeded from a shotted gun.
The war in Canada had its beginning in the manner thus described. They were the first shots fired in that struggle, and although at an object little calculated to inspire ranch alarm, still, as the first indications of an active hostility, they were proportionably exciting to those whose lot it was thus to "break ground," for operations on a larger scale.
Although many an eager chief had found it difficult to repress the strong feeling of mingled curiosity and excitement, that half raised him from the floor on which he sat, the first shot had been heard without the effect of actually disturbing the assembly from its fair propriety; but no sooner had the second report, accompanied as it was by the wild yell of their followers without, reached their ears, than, wholly losing sight of the dignity attached to their position as councillors, they sprang wildly up, and seizing the weapons that lay at their side, rushed confusedly forth, leaving Tecumseh, and two or three only of the more aged chiefs, behind them. The debate thus interrupted, the council was adjourned, and soon afterwards General Brock, accompanied by his staff, and conversing, through his interpreter, with the Shawanee chieftain as they walked, approached the groups still crowded along the bank of the river.
Meanwhile, after the discharge of the last gun, the battery on the Island had been quitted by the officer in command, who, descending to the beach, preceded by two of his men, stepped into a light skiff that lay chained to the gnarled root of a tree overhanging the current, and close under the battery. A few sturdy strokes of the oars soon brought the boat into the centre of the stream, when the stout, broad built, figure, and carbuncled face of an officer in the uniform of the —— regiment, were successively recognised, as he stood upright in the stem.
"What the deuce brings Tom Raymond to us in such a hurry? I thought the order of the General was that he should on no account leave his post, unless summoned by signal," observed one of the group of younger officers who had first quitted the council hall, and who now waited with interest for the landing of their companion.
"What brings him here, can you ask?" replied one at the side of the questioner, and with a solemnity of tone and manner that caused the whole of the group to torn their eyes upon him, as he mournfully shook his head.
"Aye, WHAT brings him here?" repeated more than one voice, while all closed inquiringly around for information.
"Why, the thing is as clear as the carbuncles on his own face—the boat to be sure. "And the truism was perpetrated with the same provokingly ludicrous, yet evidently forced, gravity of tone and manner.
"Execrable, Middlemore—will you never give over that vile habit of punning?"
"Detestable," said another.
"Ridiculous," repeated a third.
"Pshaw, the worst you ever uttered, "exclaimed a fourth, and each, as he thus expressed himself, turned away with a movement of impatience.
"That animal, Raymond, grows like a very porpoise," remarked a young captain, who prided himself much on the excessive smallness of his waist. "Methinks that, like the ground hogs that abound on his Island, he must fatten on hickory nuts. Only see how the man melts in the noon-day sun. But as you say, Villiers, what can bring him here without an order from the General? And then the gun last fired. Ha! I have it. He has discovered a Yankee boat stealing along through the other channel."
"No doubt there is CRAFT of some description IN THE WIND," pursued the incorrigible Middlemore, with the same affected unconsciousness; "and that may account for poor Raymond being BLOWN here."
"Ha! severe, are you," returned Captain Molineux, the Officer who had commented so freely upon the appearance of the fat Lieutenant in the boat." But your pun, infamous as it would be at the best, is utterly without point now, for there has not been a breath of wind stirring during the whole morning."
"Pun, did you say?" exclaimed Middlemore, with well affected surprise at the charge." My dear fellow, I meant no pun."
Further remark was checked by an impatience to learn the cause of Lieutenant Raymond's abrupt appearance, and the officers approached the principal group. The former had now reached the shore, and, shuffling up the bank as fast as his own corpulency and the abruptness of the ascent would permit, hastened to the General, who stood at some little distance awaiting the expected communication of the messenger.
"Well, Mr. Raymond, what is it—what have you discovered from your post?" demanded the General, who, with those around him, found difficulty in repressing a smile at the heated appearance of the fat subaltern, the loud puffing of whose lungs had been audible before he himself drew near enough to address the chief—"something important, I should imagine, if we may judge from the haste with which you appear to have travelled over the short distance that separates us?"
"Something very important, indeed, General," answered the officer, touching his undress cap, and speaking huskily from exertion; "there is a large bark, sir, filled with men, stealing along shore in the American channel, and I can see nothing of the gun boat that should be stationed there. A shot was fired from the eastern battery, in the hope of bringing her to, but, as the guns mounted there are only carronades, the ball fell short, and the suspicious looking boat crept still closer to the shore— I ordered a shot from my battery to be tried, but without success, for, although within range, the boat hugs the land so closely that it is impossible to distinguish her hull with the naked eye."
"The gun boat not to be seen, Mr. Raymond?" exclaimed the General; "how is this, and who is the officer in command of her?"
"One," quickly rejoined the Commodore, to whom the last query was addressed; "whom I had selected for that duty for the very vigilance and desire for service attributed to him by my predecessor—of course I have not been long enough here, to have much personal knowledge of him myself."
"His name?" asked the General.
"Grantham?" repeated the General, with a movement of surprise; "It is indeed strange that HE should forego such an opportunity."
"Still more strange," remarked the Commodore, "that the boat he commands should have disappeared altogether. Can there be any question of his fidelity? the Granthams are Canadians, I understand."
The General smiled, while the young officer who had been noticed so particularly by Tecumseh on his landing, colored deeply.
"If," said the former, "the mere circumstance of their having received existence amid these wilds can make them Canadians, they certainly are Canadians; but if the blood of a proud race can make them Britons, such they are. Be they which they may however, I would stake my life on the fidelity of the Granthams—still, the cause of this young officer's absence must be inquired into, and no doubt it will be satisfactorily explained. Meanwhile, let a second gunboat be detached in pursuit."
The Commodore having given the necessary instructions to a young midshipman, who attended him in the capacity of an aid-de-camp, and the general having dismissed Lieutenant Raymond back to his post on the island, these officers detached themselves from the, crowd, and, while awaiting the execution of the order, engaged in earnest conversation.
"By Jove, the Commodore is quite right in his observation," remarked the young and affected looking officer, who had been to profuse in his witticisms on the corpulency of Lieutenant Raymond; "the General may say what he will in their favour, but this is the result of entrusting so important a command to a Canadian."
"What do you mean, sir?" hastily demanded one even younger than himself—it was the youth already named, whose uniform attested him to be a brother officer of the speaker. He had been absent for a few minutes, and only now rejoined his companions, in time to hear the remark which had just been uttered.
"What do you mean, Captain Molineux?" he continued, his dark eye flashing indignation, and his downy cheek crimsoning with warmth. "Why this remark before me, sir, and wherefore this reflection on the Canadians?"
"Why really, Mr. Grantham," somewhat sententiously drawled the captain; "I do not altogether understand your right to question in this tone—nor am I accountable for any observations I may make. Let me tell you, moreover—" this was said with the advising air of a superior in rank—"that it will neither be wise not prudent in you, having been received into a British regiment, to become the Don Quixotte of your countrymen."
"RECEIVED into a British regiment, sir! do you then imagine that I, more than yourself, should feel this to be a distinction," haughtily returned the indignant youth. "But, gentlemen, your pardon," checking himself and glancing at the rest of the group, who were silent witnesses of the scene; "I confess I do feel the distinction of being admitted into so gallant a corps—this in a way, however, that must be common to us all. Again I ask, Captain Molineux," turning to that officer, "the tendency of the observation you have publicly made in regard to my brother."
"Your question, Mr. Grantham, might, with as much propriety, be addressed to any other person in the full enjoyment of his senses, whom you see here, since it is the general topic of conversation; but, as you seem to require an answer from me particularly, you shall have it. My remark referred to the absence of the officer in charge of the gun boat, from the station allotted to him, at a moment when an ARMED vessel of the enemy is in sight. Is this the fact, or is it not?"
"By which remark," returned the other, "you would imply that officer is either guilty of gross neglect or—"
"I draw no inferences, Mr. Grantham, but, even if I did, I should be more borne out by circumstances than you imagine."
"It is plain you would insinuate that my brother shuns the enemy, Captain Molineux—You shall answer to me for this insult, sir."
"As you please, Mr. Grantham, but on one condition only."
"Name it, sir, name it," said the younger officer quickly.
"That it is satisfactorily proved your brother has NOT shunned the enemy."
Bitter feelings swelled the heart of the enthusiastic Grantham, as, unconsciously touching the hilt of his sword, he replied: "If your hope of avoidance rest on this, sir, it will be found to hang upon a very thread indeed."
The attention of the group where this unpleasant scene had occurred, and indeed of all parties, was now diverted by the sudden appearance of the American boat, as, shooting past the head of the Island, which had hitherto concealed her from the view of the assembled crowds, her spars and white sails became visible in the far distance. A slight and favorable breeze, blowing off the shore which she still closely hugged, had now apparently sprung up, and, spreading all her canvass, she was evidently making every effort to get beyond the reach of the battery, (whither Lieutenant Raymond had returned) under whose range she was unavoidably impelled by the very wind that favored her advance. Owing to some temporary difficulty, the gun boat, just ordered by the Commodore to follow in pursuit, was longer than suited the emergency in getting under way, and when she had succeeded in so doing, nearly half an hour elapsed, before, owing to the utter absence of wind (which was partial and wholly confined to the opposite shore) as well as the rapidity of the current, she could be brought by the aid of her long and cumbrous sweeps to clear the head of the Island. The American, now discovered to be full of troops, had by this time succeeded in getting out of the range of a fire, which although well directed had proved harmless, and, using every exertion of oar and sail, bade fair, favored as she was by the breeze which reached not the canvass of her enemy, to effect her escape.
Concern sat on every brow, and was variously expressed— loud yells marking the fierce disappointment of the Indians, and undisguised murmurs that of the more disciplined troops. Coupled with this feeling, among the officers at least, naturally arose the recollection of him to whose apparent neglect this escape of the enemy was to be attributed, until at length the conduct of Lieutenant Grantham was canvassed generally, and with a freedom little inferior to that which, falling from the lips of Captain Molineux, had so pained his sensitive brother; with this difference, however, that, in this instance they were the candidly expressed opinions of men arraigning the conduct of one of their fellows apparently guilty of a gross dereliction from duty, and not, as in the former they had seemed to be, with any ungenerous allusion to his fidelity.
Warmly, and therefore audibly, commented on as was the unaccountable absence of the officer, by individuals of almost every rank, it was impossible that many of those observations could escape the attention of the excited Henry Grantham. Mortified beyond measure at the fact, yet unable, as be had done before, to stand forth the champion of his brother's honor, where all (with a very few exceptions, among whom he had the consolation to find the General) were united in opinion against him, his situation was most painful. Not that he entertained the remotest doubt of his brother bearing himself harmlessly through the ordeal, but that his generous, yet haughty spirit, could ill endure the thought of any human being daring to cherish, much less to cast the slightest aspersion on his blood.
Finding it vain to oppose himself to the torrent of openly expressed opinion, the mortified youth withdrew to a distance, and, hastening among the rude tumuli we have described, as being scattered about the edge of the bank, stood watching, with folded arms and heaving chest, the gradually receding bark of the enemy. Alternately, as he thus gazed, his dark eye now flashed with the indignation of wounded pride, now dilated with the exulting consciousness of cooling triumph. The assurance was strong within him, not only that his brother would soon make his appearance before the assembled groups who had had the cruelty to impugn his conduct, but that he would do so under circumstances calculated to change their warm censure into even more vehement applause. Fully impressed with the integrity of his absent relative, the impetuous and generous hearted youth paused not to reflect that circumstances were such as to justify the belief—or at least, the doubt—that had been expressed, even by the most impartial of those who had condemned him. It seemed to him that others ought to have known and judged him as he himself did, and he took a secret delight in dwelling on the self-reproach which (measuring the feelings of others by the standard of his own,) he conceived would attach to them, when it should be found how erroneous had been the estimate formed of his character.
While he thus gazed, with eyes intently bent upon the river, and manifesting even a deeper interest as the fleeing bark drew momentarily nearer to one particular point in the distance, the young officer heard footsteps approaching him. Hastily dashing away a tear which had been called up by a variety of emotions, he tamed and beheld the Chieftain Tecumseh, and with him one, who, in the full uniform of the British Staff, united, in his tall and portly figure, the martial bearing of the soldier to the more polished graces of the habitual courtier.
"Henry, my noble boy," exclaimed the latter, as he pressed the hand of the youth, "you must not yield to these feelings. I have marked your impatience at the observations caused by Gerald's strange absence, but I have brought you one who is too partial to you both, to join in the condemnation. I have explained every thing to him, and he it was who, remarking you to be alone and suspecting the cause, first proposed coming to rouse you from your reverie."
Affectionately answering the grasp of his noble looking uncle, (such was the consanguinity of the parties,) Henry Grantham turned at the same time his eloquent eye upon that of the chieftain, and, in a few brief but expressive sentences, conveyed, in the language of the Warrior, (with which the brothers were partially conversant), the gratification he experienced in his unchanged confidence in the absent officer.
As he concluded, with a warmth of manner that delighted him to whom he addressed himself, their hands met for the third time that day. Tecumseh at length replied, by pointing significantly to the canoes which still lay floating on the river, unemptied of their warriors, staling at the same time, that had not his confidence in his young friend been unbounded, he would long since have dispatched those canoes in pursuit; but he was unwilling the officer should lose any of the credit that must attach to the capture. "I know," he concluded, "where he is lying like the red skin in ambush for his enemy. Be patient, and we shall soon see him."
Before Henry Grantham could find time to inquire if the place of ambush was not the same to which his own hopes, induced by his perfect knowledge of localities, had, throughout, pointed as the spot most likely to conceal the hitherto invisible gun boat, his attention, and that of his immediate companion, was drawn to a scene that carried a glow of exaltation to the bosoms of them all.
The American boat, long since out of range of the battery, and scudding with a speed that mocked the useless exertion of those on board of the second gun boat, who could with difficulty impel her through the powerful eddy, formed by the Island, had been gradually edging from her own shore into the centre of the stream. This movement, however, had the effect of rendering her more distinguishable to the eye, breasting, as she did, the rapid stream, than while hugging the land, even when much nearer, she had been confounded with the dark outline of brushwood which connected the forest with the shore. She had now arrived opposite a neck of land beyond which ran a narrow, deep creek, the existence of which was known only to few, and here it chanced that in the exultation of escape, (for they were not slow to perceive the difficulties opposed to the progress of their pursuer,) they gave a cheer that was echoed back from either shore, hoisting at the same moment the American colours. Scarcely, however, had this cheer been uttered, when a second and more animating, was heard from a different point, and presently, dashing into the river, and apparently issuing from the very heart of the wood, was to be seen the gun boat which had been the subject of so much conversation, every stitch of her white canvass bellying from the masts, and her dark prow buried in a wreath of foam created by her own speed. As she neared the American, a column of smoke, followed a second or two later, by a dull report, rose from her bows, enveloping her a moment from the view, and when next visible she was rapidly gaining on the chase. The yells of the Indians, and the hurrahs of the soldiers gave an indescribable animation to the scene.
This was, indeed, a moment of proud triumph to the heart of Henry Grantham. He saw his brother not only freed from every ungenerous imputation, but placed in a situation to win to himself the first laurels that were to be plucked in the approaching strife. The "Canadian" as he imagined he had been superciliously termed, would be the first to reap for Britain's sons the fruits of a war in which those latter were not only the most prominent actors, but also the most interested. Already in the enthusiasm of his imagination, he pictured to himself the honor and promotion, which bestowed upon his gallant brother, would be reflected upon himself, and, in the deep excitement of his feelings he could not avoid saying aloud, heedless of the presence of his uncle:
"Now, Captain Molineux, your own difficulty is removed—my brother has revenged himself. With me you will have an account to settle on my own score."
"What do you mean, Henry?" seriously inquired Colonel D'Egville; "surely you have not been imprudent enough to engage in a quarrel with one of your brother officers."
Henry briefly recounted the conversation which had taken place between Captain Molineux and himself.
"Far be it from my intention to check the nice sense of honor which should be inherent in the breast of every soldier," returned his uncle impressively, "but you are too sensitive, Henry; Captain Molineux, who is, moreover, a very young man, may not have expressed himself in the most guarded manner, but he only repeated what I have been compelled to hear myself—and from persons not only older, but much higher in rank. Take my advice, therefore, and let the matter rest where it is; Gerald, you see, has given the most practical denial to any observations which have been uttered of a nature derogatory to his honor."
"True," quickly returned the youth, with a flushing cheek, "Gerald is sufficiently avenged, but you forget the taunt he uttered against Canadians."
"And if he did utter such taunt, why acknowledge it as such," calmly rejoined Colonel D'Egville, "are you ashamed of the name? I too am a Canadian, but so far from endeavoring to repudiate my country, I feel pride in having received my being in a land where every thing attests the sublimity and magnificence of nature. Look around you, my nephew, and ask yourself what there in the wild grandeur of these scenes to disown? But ha!" as he cast his eyes upon the water; "I fear Gerald will lose his prize after all—that cunning Yankee is giving him the Indian double."
During the foregoing short conversation, an important change had been effected in the position of the adverse boats. The shot fired, apparently with the view of bringing the enemy to, had produced no favorable result; but no sooner had the gun boat come abreast with the chase, than the latter, suddenly clewing up her sails, put her helm about, and plying every oar with an exertion proportioned to the emergency, made rapidly for the coast she had recently left. The intention of the crew was, evidently to abandon the unarmed boat, and to seek safety in the woods. Urged by the rapidity of her own course, the gun boat had shot considerably ahead, and when at length she also was put about, the breeze blew so immediately in her teeth that it was found impossible to regain the advantage which had been lost. Meanwhile, the American continued her flight, making directly for the land, with a rapidity that promised fair to baffle every exertion on the part of her pursuer. The moment was one of intense interest to the crowd of spectators who lined the bank. At each instant it was expected the fire of the gun boat would open upon the fugitives; but although this was obviously the course to be adopted, it being apparent a single shot was sufficient to sink her, not a flash was visible—not a report was heard. Presently, however, while the disappointment of the spectators from the bank was rising into murmurs, a skiff filled with men was seen to pull from the gun boat in the direction taken by the chase, which was speedily hidden from view by the point of land from which the latter had previously been observed to issue. Behind this, her pursuer, also disappeared, and after the lapse of a few minutes pistol and musket shots were distinguished, although they came but faintly on the ear. These gradually became more frequent and less distinct, until suddenly there was a profound pause—then three cheers were faintly heard—and all again was still.
A full half hour had succeeded to these sounds of conflict, and yet nothing could be seen of the contending boats. Doubt and anxiety now took place of the confidence that had hitherto animated the bosoms of the spectators, and even Henry Grantham—his heart throbbing painfully with emotions induced by suspense—knew not what inference to draw from the fact of his brother's protracted absence. Could it be that the American, defended as she was by a force of armed men, had succeeded, not only in defeating the aim of her pursuer, but also in capturing her? Such a result was not impossible. The enemy against whom they had to contend yielded to none in bravery; and as the small bark which had quitted the gun boat was not one third of the size of that which they pursued, it followed of necessity, that the assailants must be infinitely weaker in numbers than the assailed. Still no signal of alarm was made by the gun boat, which continued to lie to, apparently in expectation of the return of the detached portion of her crew. Grantham knew enough of his brother's character to feel satisfied that he was in the absent boat, and yet it was impossible to suppose that one so imbued with the spirit of generous enterprise should hare succumbed to his enemy, after a contest of so short duration, as, from the number of shots heard, this had appeared to be. That it was terminated, there could be no doubt. The cheers, which had been followed by an universal silence, had given evidence of this fact; yet why, in that case, if his brother had been victorious, was he not already on his return? Appearances, on the other hand, seemed to induce an impression of his defeat. The obvious course of the enemy, if successful, was to abandon their craft, cut off from escape by the gun boat without, and to make the best of their way through the woods, to their place of destination—the American fort of Detroit,—and, as neither party was visible, it was to be feared this object had been accomplished.
The minds of all were more or less influenced by these doubts, bat that of Henry Grantham was especially disturbed. From the first appearance of the gun boat, his spirits had resumed their usual tone, for he had looked upon the fleeing bark as the certain prize of his brother, whose conquest was to afford the flattest denial to the insinuation that had been breathed against him. Moreover, his youthful pride bad exulted in the reflection that the first halo of victory would play around the brow of one for whom he could have made every personal sacrifice; and now, to have those fair anticipations clouded at the very moment when he was expecting their fullest accomplishment, was almost unendurable. He felt, also, that, although his resolution was thus made to stand prominently forth, the prudence of his brother would assuredly be called in question, for having given chase with so inferior a force, when a single gun fired into his enemy must have sunk her. In the impatience of his feelings, the excited young soldier could not refrain from adding his own censure of the imprudence, exclaiming as he played hit foot nervously upon the ground: "Why the devil did he not fire and sink her, instead of following in that nutshell?"
While he was yet giving utterance to his disappointment, a hasty exclamation met his ear, from the chieftain at his side, who, placing one hand on the shoulder of the officer with a familiar and meaning grasp, pointed, with the forefinger of the other, in the direction in which the boats had disappeared. Before Grantham's eye could follow, an exulting yell from the distant masses of Indians announced an advantage that was soon made obvious to all. The small dark boat of the pursuing party was now seen issuing from behind the point, and pulling slowly towards the gun boat. In due course of a minute or two afterwards appeared the American, evidently following in the wake of the former, and attached by a tow line to her stem. The yell pealed forth by the Indians, when the second boat came in view, was deafening in the extreme; and every thing became commotion along the bank, while the little fleet of canoes, which still lay resting on the beach, put off one after the other to the scene of action.
Meanwhile, both objects had gained the side of the gun boat, which, favored by a partial shifting of the wind, now pursued her course down the river with expanded sails. Attached to her stern, and following at quarter cable distance, was to be seen her prize, from which the prisoners had been removed, while above the American flag was hoisted, in all the pride of a first conquest, the Union-Jack of England.
Informed of the success which had crowned the enterprise of their officer, the crews of the several vessels in the harbour swelled the crowd assembled on the bank near the fort, to which point curiosity and a feeling of interest had moreover brought many of the town's people, so that the scene finally became one of great animation.
The gun boat had now arrived opposite the fort, when the small bark, which had recently been used in pursuit, was again drawn up to the quarter. Into this, to the surprise of all, was first lowered a female, hitherto unobserved; next followed an officer in the blue uniform of the United States regular army; then another individual, whose garb announced him as being of the militia, and whose rank as an officer was only distinguishable from the cockade surmounting his round hat, and an ornamented dagger thrust into a red morocco belt encircling his waist. After these came the light and elegant form of one, habited in the undress of a British naval officer, who, with one arm supported by a black silk handkerchief, evidently taken from his throat, and suspended from his neck, and with the other grasping the tiller of the rudder, stood upright in the boat, which, urged by six stout rowers, now flew at his command towards the landing place, above which lingered, surrounded by several officers of either service, General Brock and Commodore Barclay.
"Well, Commodore, what think you of your Lieutenant now!" observed the former to his friend; "the young Canadian, you must admit, has nobly redeemed my pledge. On the score of his fidelity there could exist no doubt, and as for his courage, you see," pointing to the young man's arm," his conquest has not been bloodless to himself, at least."
"With all my soul do I disclaim the wrong I have done him," was the emphatic and generous rejoinder." He is, indeed, a spirited youth; and well worthy of the favorable report which led me to entrust him with the command— moreover he has an easy grace of carriage which pleased and interested me in his favor, when first I saw him. Even now, observe how courteously he bends himself to the ear of his female prisoner, as if to encourage her with words of assurance, that she may sustain the presence and yells of these clamorous beings."
The boat had now reached the beach, but the difficulty of effecting a passage, through the bands of wild Indians that crowded, yelling, in every direction, to take a nearer view of the prisoners, would, perhaps, have proved insurmountable, had it not been for the interference of one who alone possessed the secret of restraining their lawlessness. Tecumseh had descended to the beach, eager to be the first to congratulate his young friend. He pressed the hand promptly extended to receive his, and then, at a single word, made those give way whose presence impeded the landing of the party.
Pursuing their way up the rude steps by which Lieutenant Raymond had previously descended, the little band of prisoners soon stood in the presence of the group assembled to receive them. On alighting from the boat, the youthful captor had been seen to make the tender of his uninjured arm to the lady, who, however, had rejected it, with a movement, seemingly of indignant surprise, clinging in the same moment to her more elderly companion. A titter among the younger officers, at Gerald Grantham's expense, had followed this somewhat rode rejection of his proffered aim.
The young sailor was the first to gain the summit of the bank. Respectfully touching his hat, and pointing to the captives, who followed a few paces as in his rear:
"General—Commodore," he observed, his cheek flashing with a consciousness of the gratifying position in which he stood, "I have the honor to present to you the first fruits of our good fortune. We hare taken thirty soldiers of the American regular regiment, now in garrison at Detroit, besides the boat's crew. This gentleman," pointing to the elder officer, "is the commander of the party, and the lady I believe is—"
"Certainly a non-combatant on this occasion," interrupted the General, raising his plumed hat, and bowing to the party alluded to; "Gentlemen," he pursued, addressing the two officers," I am sorry we do not meet exactly on the terms to which we hare so long been accustomed; but, although the fortune of war has made you rather unwilling guests in the present instance, the rites of hospitality shall not be the less observed. But, Mr. Grantham, you have forgotten to introduce these officers by name."
"I plead guilty, General, but the truth is I have neglected to make the inquiry myself."
"Major Montgomerie, sir of the United States infantry," interposed the elderly officer, completely set at his ease by the affable and attentive manner of the British leader. "This young lady is my niece."
Again the general slightly, but courteously, bowed. "I will not, Major Montgomerie, pay you the ill timed compliment of expressing pleasure in seeing you on an occasion like the present, since we must unquestionably consider you a prisoner of war; but if the young lady your niece, has any desire to continue her journey to Detroit, I shall feel pleasure in forwarding her thither under a flag of truce."
"I thank you much, General, for this mark of your attention," returned the American;" but I think I may venture to answer for my niece, that she will prefer remaining with me."
"Not so, sir;" said a voice deep but femininely soft. "General," she continued, throwing aside her veil, which had hitherto concealed features pale even to wanness," I have the strongest—the most urgent reasons—for the prosecution of my journey, and gladly do I accept your offer."
The earnest manner of her address struck every hearer with surprise, contrasting as it did, with the unchanging coldness of her look; but the matter was a source of serious concern to her uncle. He regarded her with an air of astonishment, not unmixed with displeasure.
"How is this, Matilda," he asked; "after having travelled thus far into the heart of this disturbed district would you now leave me?"
"Major Montgomerie," she pursued, somewhat impatiently, "we are in the presence of strangers, to whom this discussion must be uninteresting—My mind is fully made up, and I avail myself of the British General's offer."
"Certainly, certainly," observed that officer, somewhat disconcerted by the scene; "and I can do it the more readily, as it is my intention to send an instant summons to the garrison of Detroit. Miss Montgomerie will, however, do well to consider before she decides. If the summons be not obeyed, another week will see our columns marching to the assault, and she must be prepared for all the horrors of such an extremity, aided, as I am compelled to be, (and he glanced at the groups of Indians who were standing around, but at some distance, looking silently yet eagerly at the prisoners,) by these wild and ungovernable warriors. Should she, on the contrary, decide on remaining here with her uncle, she will be perfectly safe."
"General," emphatically returned Miss Montgomerie, "were I certain that the columns to which you allude would not be repulsed whenever they may venture upon that assault, and were I as certain of perishing beneath the tomahawk and scalping knife of these savages"—and she looked fearlessly towards them—"still would my determination remain the same."
As she concluded a hectic spot rose to either cheek, lingered there a moment, and then left it colorless as before.
"Be it so, Miss Montgomerie, my word is pledged, and you shall go—Grantham, I had intended sending one of my personal staff with the summons, but, on reflection, you shall be the bearer. As the captor of the lady, to you should be awarded the charge of delivering her over to her friends."
"Friends!" involuntarily repeated the fair American, her cheek becoming even paler than before, and her lips compressed in a way to indicate some deep and painful emotion. Again she dropped her veil.
No other notice was taken of the interruption than what the surprised manner of Major Montgomerie manifested, and the General proceeded:
"I would ask you, Major Montgomerie, to become my guest, while you remain with us, but fear that, as a bachelor, I have but indifferent accomodation to offer to your niece."
"If Miss Montgomerie will accept it," said Colonel D'Egville, interposing, "I shall be most happy to afford her the accomodation of a home until she finally departs for the opposite coast. If the attention of a family of daughters," he continued, more immediately addressing himself to the young lady, "can render your temporary sojourn among us less tedious, you have but to command them."
So friendly an offer could not well be refused. Miss Montgomerie inclined her head in acquiescence, and Colonel D'Egville drew her arm within his own.
"It were unkind," remarked the General good humouredly, "to separate Major Montgomerie altogether from his niece. Either the young lady must partake of our rude fare, or we shall consider ourselves included in your dinner party."
"You could not confer on me a greater pleasure, General— and indeed I was about to solicit it. Commodore Barclay, may I hope that so short and unceremonious an invitation will be excused by the circumstances? Good—I shall expect you. But there is yet another to be included among our guests. Gerald, you will not fail to conduct this gentleman, whose name I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing"—and he looked at the latter, as if he expected him to announce himself.
"I fear sir," observed the young officer pointedly, "that your dinner party would be little honored by such an addition. Although he wears the uniform of an American officer, this person is wholly unworthy of a seat at your table."
"Every eye was turned with an expression of deep astonishment on the speaker, and thence upon the form of the hitherto scarcely noticed militia officer; who, with his head sunk sullenly upon his chest, and an eye now and then raised stealthily to surrounding objects, made no attempt to refute, or even to express surprise at, the singular accusation of his captor.
"This is strong language to apply to a captive enemy, and that enemy, apparently, an officer," gravely remarked the General: "yet I cannot believe Mr. Grantham to be wholly without grounds for his assertion."
Before Grantham could reply, a voice in the crowd exclaimed, as if the utterer had been thrown off his guard, "what, Phil!"
On the mention of this name, the American looked suddenly up from the earth on which bit gaze had been rivetted, and cast a rapid glance around him.
"Nay, nay, my young friend, do not, as I see you are, feel hurt at my observation," resumed the General extending his hand to Gerald Grantham; "I confess I did at one moment imagine that you had been rash in your assertion, but from what has this instant occurred, it is evident your prisoner is known to others as well as to yourself— No doubt we shall have every thing explained in due season. By the bye, of what nature is your wound? Slight I should say, from the indifference with which you treat it.
"Slight, General—far slighter," he continued, coloring, "than the wound that was sought to be affixed to my fair name in absence."
All looked at the speaker, and at each other with surprise, for, as yet, there could have been no communication to him of the doubts which had been entertained.
"Who is it of you all, gentlemen," pursued the young man, with the same composedness of voice and manner, and turning particularly to the officers of the —— Regiment, who were grouped around their Chief; "Who is it, I ask, on whom has devolved the enviable duty of reporting me as capable of violating my faith as a subject, and my honor as an officer?"
There was no reply, although the same looks of surprise were interchanged; but, as he continued to glance his eye around the circle, it encountered, either by accident or design, that of Captain Molineux, on whose rather confused countenance the gaze of Henry Grantham was at that moment bent with an expression of much meaning.
"No one answers," continued the youth; "then the sting has been harmless. But I crave your pardon, General—I am claiming an exemption from censure which may not be conceded by all. Commodore, how shall I dispose of my prisoners?"
"Not so, Mr. Grantham; you have sufficiently established your right to repose, and I have already issued the necessary instructions. Yet, while you have nobly acquitted yourself of YOUR duty, let me also perform mine. Gentlemen," he continued, addressing the large circle of officers, "I was the first to comment on Mr. Grantham's supposed neglect of duty, and to cast a doubt on his fidelity. That I was wrong I admit, but right I trust will be my reparation, and whatever momentary pain he may experience in knowing that he has been thus unjustly judged, it will I am sure be more than compensated for, when he hears that by General Brock himself his defence was undertaken, even to the pledging of his own honor—Mr. Grantham," concluded the gallant officer, "how you have obtained your knowledge of the conversation that passed here, during your absence, is a mystery I will not now pause to inquire into, but I would fain apologize for the wrong I have done. Have I your pardon?"
At the commencement of this address, the visible heaving of his full chest, the curling of his proud lip, and the burning flush of his dark cheek, betrayed the mortification Gerald felt, in having been placed in a position to be judged thus unjustly; but, as the Commodore proceeded, this feeling gradually passed away, and when the warm defence of his conduct, by the General, was alluded to, closed as the information was with a request for pardon, his temporary annoyance was banished, and he experienced only the generous triumph of one who is conscious of having won his way, through calumny and slander, to the well merited approbation of all right minded men.
"Come, come," interposed the General, more touched than he was willing to appear by the expressive manner in which the only hand of the Commodore now grasped that of his Lieutenant, and perceiving that the latter was about to reply; "We will defer all further explanation until a later period. But, before we depart, this person must be disposed of—Major Montgomerie, excuse my asking if you will be personally responsible for your fellow prisoner?"
"Certainly not," returned the Major quickly, and with something like alarm at the required responsibility; "that is to say, he does not belong to the United States regular service, and I know nothing of him. Indeed, I never saw him before last night, when he joined me with a verbal message from Detroit."
Hitherto the individual spoken of had preserved an unbroken silence, keeping, as we have already shown, his gaze rivetted on the ground, except at intervals when he seemed to look around,—with an eye of suspicion, as if to measure the distance that separated him from the groups of Indians in the background. The disclaimer of the Major had, however, the effect of restoring to him the use of his tongue. Casting his uncertain eye on the gentlemanly person of the latter he exclaimed, in a tone of insufferable vulgarity;
"I'll tell you what it is, Mister Major—you may think yourself a devilish fine feller, but I guess as how an officer of the Michigan Militia is just as good and as spry as any blue coat in the United States rig'lars; so there's that (snapping his fingers) for pretendin' not to know me."
An ill suppressed titter pervaded the group of British officers—the General alone preserving his serieux.
"May I ask your name?" he demanded.
"I guess, Giniril, it's Paul, Emilius, Theophilus, Arnoldi; Ensign in the United States Michigan Militia," was answered with a volubility strongly in contrast with the preceding silence of the speaker.