Snodgrass calmly; 'but so are you, ain't you?' Mr. Winkle replied in the affirmative; and perceiving that he had not alarmed his companion sufficiently, changed his ground.
'Snodgrass,' he said, in a voice tremulous with emotion, 'if I fall, you will find in a packet which I shall place in your hands a note for my-- for my father.'
This attack was a failure also. Mr. Snodgrass was affected, but he undertook the delivery of the note as readily as if he had been a twopenny postman.
'If I fall,' said Mr. Winkle, 'or if the doctor falls, you, my dear friend, will be tried as an accessory before the fact. Shall I involve my friend in transportation--possibly for life!' Mr. Snodgrass winced a little at this, but his heroism was invincible. 'In the cause of friendship,' he fervently exclaimed, 'I would brave all dangers.'
How Mr. Winkle cursed his companion's devoted friendship internally, as they walked silently along, side by side, for some minutes, each immersed in his own meditations! The morning was wearing away; he grew desperate.
'Snodgrass,' he said, stopping suddenly, 'do not let me be balked in this matter--do not give information to the local authorities--do not obtain the assistance of several peace officers, to take either me or Doctor Slammer, of the 97th Regiment, at present quartered in Chatham Barracks, into custody, and thus prevent this duel!--I say, do not.'
Mr. Snodgrass seized his friend's hand warmly, as he enthusiastically replied, 'Not for worlds!'
A thrill passed over Mr. Winkle's frame as the conviction that he had nothing to hope from his friend's fears, and that he was destined to become an animated target, rushed forcibly upon him.
The state of the case having been formally explained to Mr. Snodgrass, and a case of satisfactory pistols, with the satisfactory accompaniments of powder, ball, and caps, having been hired from a manufacturer in Rochester, the two friends returned to their inn; Mr. Winkle to ruminate on the approaching struggle, and Mr. Snodgrass to arrange the weapons of war, and put them into proper order for immediate use.
it was a dull and heavy evening when they again sallied forth on their awkward errand. Mr. Winkle was muffled up in a huge cloak to escape observation, and Mr. Snodgrass bore under his the instruments of destruction.
'Have you got everything?' said Mr. Winkle, in an agitated tone.
'Everything,' replied Mr. Snodgrass; 'plenty of ammunition, in case the shots don't take effect. There's a quarter of a pound of powder in the case, and I have got two newspapers in my pocket for the loadings.'
These were instances of friendship for which any man might reasonably feel most grateful. The presumption is, that the gratitude of Mr. Winkle was too powerful for utterance, as he said nothing, but continued to walk on--rather slowly.
'We are in excellent time,' said Mr. Snodgrass, as they climbed the fence of the first field;'the sun is just going down.' Mr. Winkle looked up at the declining orb and painfully thought of the probability of his 'going down' himself, before long.
'There's the officer,' exclaimed Mr. Winkle, after a few minutes walking. 'Where?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'There--the gentleman in the blue cloak.' Mr. Snodgrass looked in the direction indicated by the forefinger of his friend, and observed a figure, muffled up, as he had described. The officer evinced his consciousness of their presence by slightly beckoning with his hand; and the two friends followed him at a little distance, as he walked away.
The evening grew more dull every moment, and a melancholy wind sounded through the deserted fields, like a distant giant whistling for his house-dog. The sadness of the scene imparted a sombre tinge to the feelings of Mr. Winkle. He started as they passed the angle of the trench--it looked like a colossal grave.
The officer turned suddenly from the path, and after climbing a paling, and scaling a hedge, entered a secluded field. Two gentlemen were waiting in it; one was a little, fat man, with black hair; and the other--a portly personage in a braided surtout--was sitting with perfect equanimity on a camp-stool.