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   Chapter 26 No.26

The Chainbearer; Or, The Littlepage Manuscripts By James Fenimore Cooper Characters: 33434

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Ye midnight shades, o'er nature spread!

Dumb silence of the dreary hour!

In honor of th' approaching dead,

Around your awful terrors pour.

Yes, pour around,

On this pale ground,

Through all this deep surrounding gloom,

The sober thought,

The tear untaught,

Those meetest mourners at the tomb."

-Mallet.

* * *

It is a law of human nature, that the excesses of passion bring their own rebukes. The violence of man feeds itself, until some enormity committed under its influence suddenly rises before the transgressor, as the evidence of his blindness and the restorer of his senses. Guilt performs the office of reason, staying the hand, stilling the pulses, and arousing the conscience.

Thus it seemed to be with the squatters of Mooseridge. A stillness so profound succeeded the crack of that rifle, that I heard the stifled breathing of Dus, as she stood over the body of her uncle, astounded, and almost converted into a statue by the suddenness of the blow. No one spoke; no one attempted to quit the place; in fact, no one moved. It was never known who fired that shot. At first I ascribed it to the hand of Tobit; but it was owing more to what I knew of his temper and character, than to what I knew of his acts at that particular time. Afterward I inclined to the opinion that my friend had fallen by the hand of Thousandacres himself; though there were no means of bringing it home to him by legal proof. If any knew who was the criminal besides the wretch who executed the deed, the fact was never revealed. That family was faithful to itself, and seemed determined to stand or fall together. In the eye of the law, all who were present, aiding and abetting in the unlawful detention of Dus and her uncle, were equally guilty; but the hand on which the stain of blood rested in particular, was never dragged to light.

My first impulse, as soon as I could recollect myself, was to pass an arm around the waist of Dus and force her through the crowd, with a view to escape. Had this attempt been persevered in, I think it would have succeeded, so profound was the sensation made, even upon those rude and lawless men, by the deed of violence, that had just been done. But Dus was not one to think of self at such a moment. For a single instant her head fell on my shoulders, and I held her to my bosom, while I whispered my wish for her to fly. Then raising her head, she gently extricated her person from my arms, and knelt by the side of her uncle.

"He breathes!" she said huskily, but hastily. "God be praised, Mordaunt, he still breathes. The blow may not be as heavy as we at first supposed; let us do what we can to aid him."

Here were the characteristic decision and thoughtfulness of Ursula Malbone! Rising quickly, she turned to the group of silent but observant squatters, and appealed to any remains of humanity that might still be found in their bosoms, to lend their assistance. Thousandacres stood foremost in the dark cluster at the door, looking grimly at the motionless body, over which Dus stood, pale and heart-stricken, but still calm and collected.

"The hardest-hearted man among you will not deny a daughter's right to administer to a parent's wants!" she said, with a pathos in her voice, and a dignity in her manner, that filled me with love and admiration, and which had a visible effect on all who heard hear. "Help me to raise my uncle and to place him on a bed, while Major Littlepage examines his hurt. You'll not deny me this little comfort, Thousandacres, for you cannot know how soon you may want succor yourself!"

Zephaniah, who certainly had no hand in the murder of Chainbearer, now advanced; and he, myself, Lowiny and Dus, raised the still motionless body, and placed it on the bed of Prudence, which stood in the principal room. There was a consultation among the squatters, while we were thus employed, and one by one the family dropped off, until no one was left in the house but Thousandacres, and his wife, and Lowiny; the latter remaining with Dus, as a useful and even an affectionate assistant. The father sat, in moody silence, on one side of the fire while Prudence placed herself on the other. I did not like the aspect of the squatter's countenance, but he said and did nothing. It struck me he was brooding over the facts, nursing his resentments by calling up fancied wrongs to his mind, and plotting for the future. If such was the case, he manifested great nerve, inasmuch as neither alarm nor hurry was, in the slightest degree, apparent in his mien. Prudence was dreadfully agitated.

She said nothing, but her body worked to and fro with nervous excitement; and occasionally a heavy, but suppressed groan struggled through her efforts to resist it. Otherwise, she was as if not present.

I had been accustomed to seeing gunshot wounds, and possessed such a general knowledge of their effects as to be a tolerable judge of what would, and what would not, be likely to prove fatal. The first look I took at the hurt of Chainbearer convinced me there could be no hope for his life. The ball had passed between two of the ribs, and seemed to me to take a direction downward; but it was impossible to miss the vitals with a wound commencing at that point on the human body. The first shock of the injury had produced insensibility; but we had hardly got the sufferer on the bed, and applied a little water to his lips, ere he revived; soon regaining his consciousness, as well as the power to speak. Death was on him, however; and it was very obvious to me that his hours were numbered. He might live days, but it was not possible for him to survive.

"Got pless you, Mortaunt," my old friend murmured, after my efforts had thus partially succeeded. "Got forever pless ant preserf you, poy, ant repay you for all your kintness to me ant mine. T'em squatters haf killet me, lat; put I forgif t'em. T'ey are an ignorant, ant selfish, ant prutal preed; ant I may haf triet 'em too sorely. Put Dus can never pecome t'e wife of any of t'e family."

As Zephaniah was in the room, though not near the bed at the moment, I was anxious to change the current of the wounded man's thoughts; and I questioned him as to the nature of his hurt, well knowing that Chainbearer had seen so many soldiers in situations similar to his own unhappy condition, as to be a tolerable judge of his actual state.

"I'm killet, Mortaunt," old Andries answered, in a tone even firmer than that in which he had just spoken. "Apout t'at, t'ere can pe no mistake. T'ey haf shot t'rough my rips, and t'rough my vitals; ant life is impossible. But t'at does not matter much to me, for I am an olt man now, hafin' lifet my t'reescore years ant ten-no, t'at is no great matter, t'ough some olt people cling to life wit' a tighter grip t'an t'e young. Such ist not my case, howsefer; ant I am reaty to march when t'e great wort of commant comet'. I am fery sorry, Mortaunt, t'at t'is accitent shoult happen pefore t'e patent has peen fully surfeyet; put I am not pait for t'e work t'at is finishet, ant it ist a great comfort to me to know I shall not tie in tebt. I owe you, ant I owe my goot frient, t'e general, a great teal for kintnesses, I must confess; put, in t'e way of money, t'ere wilt pe no loss by t'is accitent."

"Mention nothing of this sort, I do entreat of you, Chainbearer; I know my father would gladly give the best farm he owns to see you standing, erect and well, as you were twenty minutes since."

"Well, I tares to say, t'at may pe true, for I haf always fount t'e general to pe friently and consiterate. I wilt tell you a secret, Mortaunt, t'at I haf nefer pefore revealet to mortal man, put which t'ere ist no great use in keepin' any longer, ant which I shoult haf peen willing to haf tolt long ago, hat not t'e general himself mate it a p'int t'at I shoult not speak of it--"

"Perhaps it might be better, my good friend, were you to tell me this secret another time. Talking may weary and excite you; whereas, sleep and rest may possibly do you service."

"No, no, poy-t'e hope of t'at ist all itleness ant vanity. I shalt nefer sleep ag'in, tilt I sleep t'e last long sleep of teat'; I feelt sartain my wound is mortal, ant t'at my time must soon come. Nefert'eless, it doesn't gif me pain to talk; ant, Mortaunt, my tear lat, fri'nts t'at pe apout to part for so long a time, ought not to part wit'out sayin' a wort to one anot'er pefore separation. I shoult pe glat, in partic'lar, to tell to a son all t'e kintness ant fri'ntship I haf receifet from his fat'er. You know fery well, yourself, Mortaunt, t'at I am not great at figures; and why it shoult pe so, ist a wonter ant a surprise to me, for my grantfat'er Van Syce was a wonterful man at arit'metic, and t'e first Coejemans in t'is country, t'ey say, kept all t'e tominie's accounts for him! Put, let t'at pe ast it wast, I nefer coult do anyt'ing wit' figures; ant it ist a secret not to pe concealet now, Mortaunt, t'at I nefer coult haf helt my commission of captain six weeks, put for your own fat'ers kintness to me. Fintin' out how impossible it was for me to get along wit' arit'metic, he offeret to do all t'at sort of tuty for me, ant t'e whole time we was toget'er, seven long years ant more, Colonel Littlepage mate out t'e reports of Coejemans' company. Capital goot reports was t'ey, too, ant t'e atmiration of all t'at see t'em; ant I often felt ashamet like, when I he'rt t'em praiset, and people wonterin' how an olt Tutchman ever l'arnet to do his tuty so well! I shalt nefer see t'e general ag'in, ant I wish you to tell him t'at Andries tit not forget his gootness to him, to t'e latest preat' t'at he trew."

"I will do all you ask of me, Chainbearer-surely it must give you pain to talk so much?"

"Not at all, poy; not at all. It is goot to t'e poty to lighten t'e soul of its opligations. Ast I see, howsefer, t'at Dus ist trouplet, I wilt shut my eyes, and look into my own t'oughts a little, for I may not tie for some hours yet."

It sounded fearful to me to hear one I loved so well speak so calmly, and with so much certainty, of his approaching end. I could see that Ursula almost writhed under the agony these words produced in her; yet that noble-minded creature wore an air of calmness that might have deceived one who knew her less well than she was known to me. She signed for me to quit the side of the bed, in the vain hope that her uncle might fall asleep, and placed herself silently on a chair, at hand, in readiness to attend to his wants. As for me, I took the occasion to examine the state of things without, and to reflect on what course I ought to take, in the novel and desperate circumstances in which we were so unexpectedly placed; the time for something decisive having certainly arrived.

It was now near an hour after the deed had been done-and there sat Thousandacres and his wife, one on each side of the fire, in silent thought. As I turned to look at the squatters, and the father of squatters, I saw that his countenance was set in that species of sullen moodiness, which might well be taken as ominous in a man of his looseness of principle and fierceness of temperament. Nor had the nervous twitchings of Prudence ceased. In a word, both of these strange beings appeared at the end of that hour just as they had appeared at its commencement. It struck me, as I passed them in moving toward the door, that there was even a sublimity in their steadiness in guilt. I ought, however, in some slight degree to exempt the woman, whose agitation was some proof that she repented of what had been done. At the door itself, I found no one; but two or three of the young men were talking in a low tone to each other at no great distance. Apparently they had an eye to what was going on within the building. Still no one of them spoke to me, and I began to think that the crime already committed had produced such a shock, that no further wrong to any of us was contemplated, and that I might consider myself at liberty to do and act as I saw fit. A twitch at my sleeve, however, drew my look aside, and I saw Lowiny cowering within the shadows of the house, seemingly eager to attract my attention. She had been absent some little time, and had probably been listening to the discourse of those without.

"Don't think of venturing far from the house," the girl whispered. "The evil spirit has got possession of Tobit; and he has just sworn the same grave shall hold you, and Chainbearer and Dus. 'Graves don't turn state's evidence,' he says. I never know'd him to be so awful as he is to-night; though he's dreadful in temper when anything goes amiss."

The girl glided past me as she ceased her hurried communication, and the next instant she was standing quietly at the side of Dus, in readiness to offer her assistance in any necessary office for the sick. I saw that she had escaped notice, and then reconnoitred my own position with some little care.

By this time the night had got to be quite dark; and it was impossible to recognize persons at the distance of twenty feet. It is true, one could tell a man from a stump at twice that number of yards, or even further; but the objects of the rude clearing began to be confounded together in a way to deprive the vision of much of its customary power. That group of young men, as I suppose, contained the formidable Tobit; but I could be by no means certain of the fact without approaching quite near to it. This I did not like to do, as there was nothing that I desired particularly to say to any of the family at the moment. Could they have known my heart, the squatters would have felt no uneasiness on the subject of my escaping, for were Dus quite out of the question, as she neither was nor could be, it would be morally impossible for me to desert the Chainbearer in his dying moments. Nevertheless, Tobit and his brethren did not know this; and it might be dangerous for me to presume too far on the contrary supposition.

The darkness was intensest near the house, as a matter of course; and I glided along close to the walls of logs until I reached an angle of the building, thinking the movement might be unseen. But I got an assurance that I was watched that would admit of no question, by a call from one of the young men, directing me not to turn the corner to go out of sight in any direction, at the peril of my life. This was plain speaking; and it induced a short dialogue between us, in which I avowed my determination not to desert my friends-for the Chainbearer would probably not outlive the night-and that I felt no apprehension for myself. I was heated and excited, and had merely left the house for air; if they offered no impediment I would walk to and fro near them for a few minutes, solely with a view to refresh my feverish pulses, pledging my word to make no attempt at escape. This explanation, with the accompanying assurance, seemed to satisfy my guard; and I was quietly permitted to do as I had proposed.

The walk I selected was between the group of squatters and the house, and at each turn it necessarily brought me close to the young men. At such moments I profited by my position to look in through the door of the dwelling at the motionless form of Dus, who sat at the bedside of her uncle in the patient, silent, tender, and attentive manner of woman, and whom I could plainly see in thus passing. Notwithstanding the fidelity of my homage to my mistress at these instants, I could perceive that the young men uniformly suspended the low dialogue they were holding together, as I approached them, and as uniformly renewed it as I moved away. This induced me gradually to extend my walk, lengthening it a little on each end, until I may have gone as far as a hundred feet on each side of the group, which I took for the centre. To have gone farther would have been imprudent, as it might seem preparatory to an attempt at escape, and to a consequent violation of my word.

In this manner, then, I may have made eight or ten turns in as many minutes, when I heard a low, hissing sound near me, while at the extremity of one of my short promenades. A stump stood there, and the sound came from the root of the stump. At first I fancied I had encroached on the domain of some serpent; though animals of that species, which would be likely to give forth such a menace, were even then very rare among us. But my uncertainty was soon relieved.

"Why you no stop at stump?" said Susquesus, in a voice so low as not to be heard at the distance of ten feet, while it was perfectly distinct and not in a whisper. "Got sut'in' tell-glad to hear."

"Wait until I can make o

ne or two more turns; I will come back in a moment," was my guarded answer.

Then I continued my march, placing myself against a stump that stood at the other end of my walk, remaining leaning there for an entire minute or two, when I returned, passing the young men as before. This I did three several times, stopping at each turn, as if to rest or to reflect; and making each succeeding halt longer than the one that had preceded it. At length I took my stand against the very stump that concealed the Indian.

"How came you here, Susquesus?" I asked; "and are you armed?"

"Yes; got good rifle. Chainbearer's gun. He no want him any longer, eh?"

"You know then what has happened? Chainbearer is mortally wounded."

"Dat bad-must take scalp to pay for dat! Ole fri'nd-good fri'nd. Always kill murderer."

"I beg nothing of the sort will be attempted; but how came you here?-and how came you armed?"

"Jaap do him-come and break open door. Nigger strong-do what he like to. Bring rifle-say take him. Wish he come sooner-den Chainbearer no get kill. We see."

I thought it prudent to move on by the time this was said; and I made a turn or two ere I was disposed to come to another halt. The truth, however, was now apparent to me. Jaap had come in from the forest, forced the fastenings of the Onondago's prison, given him arms, and they were both out in the darkness, prowling round the building, watching for the moment to strike a blow, or an opportunity to communicate with me. How they had ascertained the fact of Chainbearer's being shot, I was left to conjecture; though Susquesus must have heard the report of the rifle; and an Indian, on such a night as that, left to pursue his own course, would soon ascertain all the leading points of any circumstance in which he felt an interest.

My brain was in a whirl as all these details presented themselves to my mind, and I was greatly at a loss to decide on my course. In order to gain time for reflection, I stopped a moment at the stump, and whispered to the Onondago a request that he would remain where he was until I could give him his orders. An expressive "good" was the answer I received, and I observed that the Indian crouched lower in his lair, like some fierce animal of the woods, that restrained his impatience, in order to make his leap, when it did come, more certain and fatal.

I had now a little leisure for reflection. There lay poor Chainbearer, stretched on his death-pallet, as motionless as if the breath had already left his body. Dus maintained her post, nearly as immovable as her uncle; while Lowiny stood at hand, manifesting the sympathy of her sex in the mourning scene before her. I caught glimpses, too, in passing, of Thousandacres and Prudence. It appeared to me as if the first had not stirred from the moment when he had taken his seat on the hearth. His countenance was as set, his air as moody, and his attitude as stubborn, as each had been in the first five minutes after the Chainbearer fell. Prudence, too, was as unchanged as her husband. Her body continued to rock, in nervous excitement, but not once had I seen her raise her eyes from the stone of the rude hearth that covered nearly one-half of the room. The fire had nearly burned down, and no one replenishing the brush which fed it, a flickering flame alone remained to cast its wavering light over the forms of these two conscience-stricken creatures, rendering them still more mysterious and forbidding. Lowiny had indeed lighted a thin, miserable candle of tallow, such as one usually sees in the lowest habitations; but it was placed aside, in order to be removed from before the sight of the supposed slumberer, and added but little to the light of the room. Notwithstanding, I could and did see all I have described, stopping for some little time at a point that commanded a view of the interior of the house.

Of Dus, I could ascertain but little. She was nearly immovable at the bedside of her uncle, but her countenance was veiled from view. Suddenly, and it was at one of those moments when I had stopped in front of the building, she dropped on her knees, buried her face in the coverlet, and became lost in prayer. Prudence started as she saw this act; then she arose, after the fashion of those who imagine they have contributed to the simplicity, and consequently to the beauty of worship, by avoiding the ceremony of kneeling to Almighty God, and stood erect, moving to and fro, as before, her tall, gaunt figure, resembling some half-decayed hemlock of the adjacent forest, that has lost the greater portion of its verdure, rocked by a tempest. I was touched, notwithstanding, at this silent evidence that the woman retained some of the respect and feeling for the services of the Deity, which, though strangely blended with fanaticism and a pertinacious self-righteousness, no doubt had a large influence in bringing those who belonged to her race, across the Atlantic, some five or six generations previously to her own.

It was just at this instant that I recognized the voice of Tobit, as he advanced toward the group composed of his brethren; and speaking to his wife, who accompanied him as far as his father's habitation, and there left him, apparently to return to her own. I did not distinguish what was said, but the squatter spoke sullenly, and in the tone of one whose humor was menacing. Believing that I might meet with some rudeness of a provoking character from this man, should he see me walking about in the manner I had now been doing for near a quarter of an hour, ere he had the matter explained, I thought it wisest to enter the building, and effect an object I had in view, by holding a brief conversation with Thousandacres.

This determination was no sooner formed than I put it in execution; trusting that the patience of the Indian, and Jaap's habits of obedience, would prevent anything like an outbreak from them, without orders. As I re-entered the room, Dus was still on her knees, and Prudence continued erect, oscillating as before, with her eyes riveted on the hearth. Lowiny stood near the bed, and I thought, like her mother, she was in some measure mingling in spirit with the prayer.

"Thousandacres," I commenced in a low voice, drawing quite near the squatter, and succeeding in causing him to look at me, by my address-"Thousandacres, this has been a most melancholy business, but everything should be done that can be done, to repair the evil. Will you not send a messenger through to the 'Nest, to obtain the aid of the physician?"

"Doctors can do but little good to a wound made by a rifle that was fired so cluss, young man. I want no doctors here, to betray me and mine to the law."

"Nay, your messenger can keep your secret; and I will give him gold to induce the physician to come, and come at once. He can be told that I am accidentally hurt, and might still reach us to be of service in alleviating pain; I confess there is no hope for anything else."

"Men must take their chances," coldly returned that obdurate being. "Them that live in the woods, take woodsmen's luck; and them that live in the open country, the open country luck. My family and lumber must be presarved at all risks; and no doctor shall come here."

What was to be done-what could be done, with such a being? All principle, all sense of right, was concentrated in self-in his moral system. It was as impossible to make him see the side of any question that was opposed to his interests, fancied or real, as it was to give sight to the physically blind. I had hoped contrition was at work upon him, and that some advantage might be obtained through the agency of so powerful a mediator; but no sooner was his dull nature aroused into anything like action, than it took the direction of selfishness, as the needle points to the pole.

Disgusted at this exhibition of the most confirmed trait of the squatter's character, I was in the act of moving from him, when a loud shout arose around the building, and the flashes and reports of three or four rifles were heard. Rushing to the door, I was in time to hear the tramp of men, who seemed to me to be pushing forward in all directions; and the crack of the rifle was occasionally heard, apparently retiring toward the woods. Men called to each other, in the excitement of a chase and conflict; but I could gain no information, the body of darkness which had settled on the place having completely hidden everything from view, at any distance.

In this state of most painful doubt I continued for five or six minutes, the noise of the chase receding the whole time, when a man came rushing up to the door of the hut where I stood, and, seizing my hand, I found it was Frank Malbone. The succor, then, had arrived, and I was no longer a captive.

"God be praised! you at least are safe," cried Malbone. "But my dear sister?"

"Is there unharmed, watching by the side of her uncle's dying bed. Is any one hurt without?"

"That is more than I can tell you. Your black acted as guide, and brought us down on the place so skilfully, that it was not my intention to resort to arms at all, since we might have captured all the squatters without firing a shot, had my orders been observed. But a rifle was discharged from behind a stump, and this drew a volley from the enemy. Some of our side returned the discharge, and the squatters then took to flight. The firing you have just heard is scattered discharges that have come from both sides, and can be only sound, as any aim is impossible in this obscurity. My own piece has not even been cocked, and I regret a rifle has been fired."

"Perhaps all is then well, and we have driven off our enemies without doing them any harm. Are you strong enough to keep them at a distance?"

"Perfectly so; we are a posse of near thirty men, led by an under-sheriff and a magistrate. All we wanted was a direction to this spot, to have arrived some hours earlier."

I groaned in spirit at hearing this, since those few hours might have saved the life of poor Chainbearer. As it was, however, this rescue was the subject of grateful rejoicing, and one of the happiest moments of my life was that in which I saw Dus fall on her brother's bosom and burst into tears. I was at their side, in the doorway of the hut, when this meeting took place; and Dus held out a hand affectionately to me, as she withdrew herself from her brother's arms. Frank Malbone looked a little surprised at this act; but, anxious to see and speak to Chainbearer, he passed into the building, and approached the bed. Dus and I followed; for the shouts and firing had reached the ears of the wounded man, and Andries was anxious to learn their meaning. The sight of Malbone let him into a general knowledge of the state of the facts; but a strong anxiety was depicted in his falling countenance, as he looked toward me for information.

"What is it, Mortaunt?" he asked, with considerable strength of voice, his interest in the answer probably stimulating his physical powers. "What is it, poy? I hope t'ere hast peen no useless fightin' on account of a poor olt man like me, who hast seen his t'reescore years ant ten, ant who owest to his Maker t'e life t'at wast grantet to him seventy long years ago. I hope no one hast peen injuret in so poor a cause."

"We know of no one beside yourself, Chainbearer, who has been hurt to-night. The firing you have heard, comes from the party of Frank Malbone, which has just arrived, and which has driven off the squatters by noise more than by any harm that has been done them."

"Got pe praiset! Got pe praiset! I am glat to see Frank pefore I tie, first to take leaf of him, as an olt frient, ant secontly to place his sister, Dus, in his care. T'ey haf wantet to gif Dus one of t'ese squatters for a huspant, by way of making peace petween t'ieves and honest people. T'at woult nefer do, Frank, as you well know Dus ist t'e ta'ghter of a gentleman, ant t'e ta'ghter of a laty; ant she ist a gentlewoman herself, ant ist not to pe marriet to a coarse, rute, illiterate, vulgar squatter. Wast I young, ant wast I not t'e gal's uncle, I shoult not venture to s'pose I coult make her a fit companion myself, peing too little edicated ant instructed to pe the huspant of one like Dus Malpone."

"There is no fear now, that any such calamity can befall my sister, my dear Chainbearer," answered Frank Malbone. "Nor do I think any threats or dangers could so far intimidate Dus, as to cause her to plight her faith to any man she did not love or respect. They would have found my sister difficult to coerce."

"It ist pest as it ist, Frank-yes, it ist pest as it ist. T'ese squatters are fery sat rascals, ant woult not pe apt to stop at trifles. Ant, now we are on t'is supject, I wilt say a wort more consarnin' your sister. I see she hast gone out of t'e hut to weep, ant she wilt not hear what I haf to say. Here ist Mortaunt Littlepage, who says he lofes Dus more ast man efer lovet woman pefore-" Frank started, and I fancied that his countenance grew dark-"ant what ist nat'ral enough, when a man dost truly lofe a woman in t'at tegree, he wishes fery, fery much to marry her"-Frank's countenance brightened immediately, and seeing my hand extended toward him, he grasped it and gave it a most cordial pressure. "Now, Mortaunt woult pe an excellent match for Dus-a most capital match, for he ist young ant goot lookin', ant prave, ant honoraple, ant sensiple, ant rich, all of which pe fery goot t'ings in matrimony; put, on t'e ot'er hant, he has a fat'er, ant a mot'er, ant sisters, ant it ist nat'ral, too, t'at t'ey shoult not like, overmuch, to haf a son ant a prot'er marry a gal t'at hasn't anyt'ing put a set of chains, a new compass, ant a few fielt articles t'at wilt fall to her share a'ter my teat'. No, no; we must t'ink of t'e honor of t'e Coejemans ant t'e Malpones, ant not let our peloved gal go into a family t'at may not want her."

I could see that Frank Malbone smiled, though sadly, as he listened to this warning; for, on him, it made little or no impression, since he was generous enough to judge me by himself, and did not believe any such mercenary considerations would influence my course. I felt differently, however. Obstinacy in opinion, was one of the weak points in Chainbearer's character, and I saw the danger of his leaving these sentiments as a legacy to Dus. She, indeed, had been the first to entertain them, and to communicate them to her uncle, and they might revive in her when she came to reflect on the true condition of things, and become confirmed by the dying requests of her uncle. It is true, that in our own interview, when I obtained from the dear girl the precious confession of her love, no such obstacle seemed to exist, but both of us appeared to look forward with confidence to our future union as to a thing certain; but at that moment, Dus was excited by my declarations of the most ardent and unutterable attachment, and led away by the strength of her own feelings. We were in the delirium of delight produced by mutual confidence, and the full assurance of mutual love, when Thousandacres came upon us, to carry us to the scenes of woe by which we had been, and were still, in a degree, surrounded. Under such circumstances, one might well fall under the influence of feelings and emotions that would prove to be more controllable in cooler moments. It was all-important, then, for me to set Chainbearer right in the matter, and to have a care he did not quit us, leaving the two persons he most loved on earth, very unnecessarily miserable, and that solely on account of the strength of his own prejudices. Nevertheless, the moment was not favorable to pursue such a purpose, and I was reflecting bitterly on the future, when we were all startled by a heavy groan that seemed to come out of the very depths of the chest of the squatter.

Frank and I turned instinctively toward the chimney, on hearing this unlooked-for interruption. The chair of Prudence was vacant, the woman having rushed from the hut at the first sound of the recent alarm; most probably in quest of her younger children. But Thousandacres remained in the very seat he had now occupied nearly, if not quite, two hours. I observed, however, that his form was not as erect as when previously seen. It had sunk lower in the chair, while his chin hung down upon his breast. Advancing nearer, a small pool of blood was seen on the stones beneath him, and a short examination told Malbone and myself, that a rifle-bullet had passed directly through his body, in a straight line, and that only three inches above the hips!

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