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´╗┐Title: Pathfinder; or, the inland sea
Author: Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pathfinder; or, the inland sea" ***

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THE PATHFINDER

or, THE INLAND SEA

By James Fenimore Cooper



PREFACE.

The plan of this tale suggested itself to the writer many years since,
though the details are altogether of recent invention. The idea of
associating seamen and savages in incidents that might be supposed
characteristic of the Great Lakes having been mentioned to a Publisher,
the latter obtained something like a pledge from the Author to carry
out the design at some future day, which pledge is now tardily and
imperfectly redeemed.

The reader may recognize an old friend under new circumstances in the
principal character of this legend. If the exhibition made of this old
acquaintance, in the novel circumstances in which he now appears, should
be found not to lessen his favor with the Public, it will be a source
of extreme gratification to the writer, since he has an interest in the
individual in question that falls little short of reality. It is not
an easy task, however, to introduce the same character in four separate
works, and to maintain the peculiarities that are indispensable
to identity, without incurring a risk of fatiguing the reader with
sameness; and the present experiment has been so long delayed quite as
much from doubts of its success as from any other cause. In this, as
in every other undertaking, it must be the "end" that will "crown the
work."

The Indian character has so little variety, that it has been my
object to avoid dwelling on it too much on the present occasion; its
association with the sailor, too, it is feared, will be found to have
more novelty than interest.

It may strike the novice as an anachronism to place vessels on the
Ontario in the middle of the eighteenth century; but in this particular
facts will fully bear out all the license of the fiction. Although the
precise vessels mentioned in these pages may never have existed on that
water or anywhere else, others so nearly resembling them are known to
have navigated that inland sea, even at a period much earlier than
the one just mentioned, as to form a sufficient authority for their
introduction into a work of fiction. It is a fact not generally
remembered, however well known it may be, that there are isolated spots
along the line of the great lakes that date as settlements as far back
as many of the older American towns, and which were the seats of a
species of civilization long before the greater portion of even the
older States was rescued from the wilderness.

Ontario in our own times has been the scene of important naval
evolutions. Fleets have manoeuvered on those waters, which, half a
century ago, were as deserted as waters well can be; and the day is not
distant when the whole of that vast range of lakes will become the
seat of empire, and fraught with all the interests of human society. A
passing glimpse, even though it be in a work of fiction, of what that
vast region so lately was, may help to make up the sum of knowledge by
which alone a just appreciation can be formed of the wonderful means by
which Providence is clearing the way for the advancement of civilization
across the whole American continent.



THE PATHFINDER.



CHAPTER I.

     The turf shall be my fragrant shrine;
     My temple, Lord! that arch of thine;
     My censer's breath the mountain airs,
     And silent thoughts my only prayers.
     MOORE


The sublimity connected with vastness is familiar to every eye. The
most abstruse, the most far-reaching, perhaps the most chastened of the
poet's thoughts, crowd on the imagination as he gazes into the depths
of the illimitable void. The expanse of the ocean is seldom seen by the
novice with indifference; and the mind, even in the obscurity of night,
finds a parallel to that grandeur, which seems inseparable from images
that the senses cannot compass. With feelings akin to this admiration
and awe--the offspring of sublimity--were the different characters with
which the action of this tale must open, gazing on the scene before
them. Four persons in all,--two of each sex,--they had managed to ascend
a pile of trees, that had been uptorn by a tempest, to catch a view
of the objects that surrounded them. It is still the practice of the
country to call these spots wind-rows. By letting in the light of heaven
upon the dark and damp recesses of the wood, they form a sort of oases
in the solemn obscurity of the virgin forests of America. The particular
wind-row of which we are writing lay on the brow of a gentle acclivity;
and, though small, it had opened the way for an extensive view to those
who might occupy its upper margin, a rare occurrence to the traveller
in the woods. Philosophy has not yet determined the nature of the power
that so often lays desolate spots of this description; some ascribing it
to the whirlwinds which produce waterspouts on the ocean, while others
again impute it to sudden and violent passages of streams of the
electric fluid; but the effects in the woods are familiar to all. On the
upper margin of the opening, the viewless influence had piled tree on
tree, in such a manner as had not only enabled the two males of the
party to ascend to an elevation of some thirty feet above the level of
the earth, but, with a little care and encouragement, to induce their
more timid companions to accompany them. The vast trunks which had been
broken and driven by the force of the gust lay blended like jack-straws;
while their branches, still exhaling the fragrance of withering leaves,
were interlaced in a manner to afford sufficient support to the hands.
One tree had been completely uprooted, and its lower end, filled with
earth, had been cast uppermost, in a way to supply a sort of staging for
the four adventurers, when they had gained the desired distance from the
ground.

The reader is to anticipate none of the appliances of people of
condition in the description of the personal appearances of the group
in question. They were all wayfarers in the wilderness; and had they not
been, neither their previous habits, nor their actual social positions,
would have accustomed them to many of the luxuries of rank. Two of the
party, indeed, a male and female, belonged to the native owners of the
soil, being Indians of the well-known tribe of the Tuscaroras; while
their companions were--a man, who bore about him the peculiarities of
one who had passed his days on the ocean, and was, too, in a station
little, if any, above that of a common mariner; and his female
associate, who was a maiden of a class in no great degree superior to
his own; though her youth, sweetness and countenance, and a modest, but
spirited mien, lent that character of intellect and refinement which
adds so much to the charm of beauty in the sex. On the present occasion,
her full blue eye reflected the feeling of sublimity that the scene
excited, and her pleasant face was beaming with the pensive expression
with which all deep emotions, even though they bring the most grateful
pleasure, shadow the countenances of the ingenuous and thoughtful.

And truly the scene was of a nature deeply to impress the imagination
of the beholder. Towards the west, in which direction the faces of the
party were turned, the eye ranged over an ocean of leaves, glorious
and rich in the varied and lively verdure of a generous vegetation, and
shaded by the luxuriant tints which belong to the forty-second degree of
latitude. The elm with its graceful and weeping top, the rich varieties
of the maple, most of the noble oaks of the American forest, with
the broad-leaved linden known in the parlance of the country as the
basswood, mingled their uppermost branches, forming one broad and
seemingly interminable carpet of foliage which stretched away towards
the setting sun, until it bounded the horizon, by blending with the
clouds, as the waves and the sky meet at the base of the vault of
heaven. Here and there, by some accident of the tempests, or by a
caprice of nature, a trifling opening among these giant members of the
forest permitted an inferior tree to struggle upward toward the light,
and to lift its modest head nearly to a level with the surrounding
surface of verdure. Of this class were the birch, a tree of some
account in regions less favored, the quivering aspen, various generous
nut-woods, and divers others which resembled the ignoble and vulgar,
thrown by circumstances into the presence of the stately and great. Here
and there, too, the tall straight trunk of the pine pierced the vast
field, rising high above it, like some grand monument reared by art on a
plain of leaves.

It was the vastness of the view, the nearly unbroken surface of verdure,
that contained the principle of grandeur. The beauty was to be traced
in the delicate tints, relieved by graduations of light and shade; while
the solemn repose induced the feeling allied to awe.

"Uncle," said the wondering, but pleased girl, addressing her male
companion, whose arm she rather touched than leaned on, to steady her
own light but firm footing, "this is like a view of the ocean you so
much love!"

"So much for ignorance, and a girl's fancy, Magnet,"--a term of
affection the sailor often used in allusion to his niece's personal
attractions; "no one but a child would think of likening this handful
of leaves to a look at the real Atlantic. You might seize all these
tree-tops to Neptune's jacket, and they would make no more than a
nosegay for his bosom."

"More fanciful than true, I think, uncle. Look thither; it must be miles
on miles, and yet we see nothing but leaves! what could one behold, if
looking at the ocean?"

"More!" returned the uncle, giving an impatient gesture with the elbow
the other touched, for his arms were crossed, and the hands were thrust
into the bosom of a vest of red cloth, a fashion of the times,--"more,
Magnet! say, rather, what less? Where are your combing seas, your blue
water, your rollers, your breakers, your whales, or your waterspouts,
and your endless motion, in this bit of a forest, child?"

"And where are your tree-tops, your solemn silence, your fragrant
leaves, and your beautiful green, uncle, on the ocean?"

"Tut, Magnet! if you understood the thing, you would know that green
water is a sailor's bane. He scarcely relishes a greenhorn less."

"But green trees are a different thing. Hist! that sound is the air
breathing among the leaves!"

"You should hear a nor-wester breathe, girl, if you fancy wind aloft.
Now, where are your gales, and hurricanes, and trades, and levanters,
and such like incidents, in this bit of a forest? And what fishes have
you swimming beneath yonder tame surface?"

"That there have been tempests here, these signs around us plainly show;
and beasts, if not fishes, are beneath those leaves."

"I do not know that," returned the uncle, with a sailor's dogmatism.
"They told us many stories at Albany of the wild animals we should fall
in with, and yet we have seen nothing to frighten a seal. I doubt if any
of your inland animals will compare with a low latitude shark."

"See!" exclaimed the niece, who was more occupied with the sublimity and
beauty of the "boundless wood" than with her uncle's arguments; "yonder
is a smoke curling over the tops of the trees--can it come from a
house?"

"Ay, ay; there is a look of humanity in that smoke," returned the old
seaman, "which is worth a thousand trees. I must show it to Arrowhead,
who may be running past a port without knowing it. It is probable there
is a caboose where there is a smoke."

As he concluded, the uncle drew a hand from his bosom, touched the male
Indian, who was standing near him, lightly on the shoulder, and pointed
out a thin line of vapor which was stealing slowly out of the wilderness
of leaves, at a distance of about a mile, and was diffusing itself in
almost imperceptible threads of humidity in the quivering atmosphere.
The Tuscarora was one of those noble-looking warriors oftener met with
among the aborigines of this continent a century since than to-day; and,
while he had mingled sufficiently with the colonists to be familiar with
their habits and even with their language, he had lost little, if any,
of the wild grandeur and simple dignity of a chief. Between him and
the old seaman the intercourse had been friendly, but distant; for the
Indian had been too much accustomed to mingle with the officers of the
different military posts he had frequented not to understand that his
present companion was only a subordinate. So imposing, indeed, had been
the quiet superiority of the Tuscarora's reserve, that Charles Cap, for
so was the seaman named, in his most dogmatical or facetious moments,
had not ventured on familiarity in an intercourse which had now lasted
more than a week. The sight of the curling smoke, however, had struck
the latter like the sudden appearance of a sail at sea; and, for the
first time since they met, he ventured to touch the warrior, as has been
related.

The quick eye of the Tuscarora instantly caught a sight of the smoke;
and for full a minute he stood, slightly raised on tiptoe, with
distended nostrils, like the buck that scents a taint in the air, and
a gaze as riveted as that of the trained pointer while he waits his
master's aim. Then, falling back on his feet, a low exclamation, in the
soft tones that form so singular a contrast to its harsher cries in
the Indian warrior's voice, was barely audible; otherwise, he was
undisturbed. His countenance was calm, and his quick, dark, eagle
eye moved over the leafy panorama, as if to take in at a glance every
circumstance that might enlighten his mind. That the long journey they
had attempted to make through a broad belt of wilderness was necessarily
attended with danger, both uncle and niece well knew; though neither
could at once determine whether the sign that others were in their
vicinity was the harbinger of good or evil.

"There must be Oneidas or Tuscaroras near us, Arrowhead," said Cap,
addressing his Indian companion by his conventional English name; "will
it not be well to join company with them, and get a comfortable berth
for the night in their wigwam?"

"No wigwam there," Arrowhead answered in his unmoved manner--"too much
tree."

"But Indians must be there; perhaps some old mess-mates of your own,
Master Arrowhead."

"No Tuscarora--no Oneida--no Mohawk--pale-face fire."

"The devil it is? Well, Magnet, this surpasses a seaman's philosophy:
we old sea-dogs can tell a lubber's nest from a mate's hammock; but I
do not think the oldest admiral in his Majesty's fleet can tell a king's
smoke from a collier's."

The idea that human beings were in their vicinity, in that ocean of
wilderness, had deepened the flush on the blooming cheek and brightened
the eye of the fair creature at his side; but she soon turned with a
look of surprise to her relative, and said hesitatingly, for both
had often admired the Tuscarora's knowledge, or, we might almost say,
instinct,--

"A pale-face's fire! Surely, uncle, he cannot know _that_?"

"Ten days since, child, I would have sworn to it; but now I hardly know
what to believe. May I take the liberty of asking, Arrowhead, why you
fancy that smoke, now, a pale-face's smoke, and not a red-skin's?"

"Wet wood," returned the warrior, with the calmness with which the
pedagogue might point out an arithmetical demonstration to his puzzled
pupil. "Much wet--much smoke; much water--black smoke."

"But, begging your pardon, Master Arrowhead, the smoke is not black, nor
is there much of it. To my eye, now, it is as light and fanciful a smoke
as ever rose from a captain's tea-kettle, when nothing was left to make
the fire but a few chips from the dunnage."

"Too much water," returned Arrowhead, with a slight nod of the head;
"Tuscarora too cunning to make fire with water! Pale-face too much book,
and burn anything; much book, little know."

"Well, that's reasonable, I allow," said Cap, who was no devotee of
learning: "he means that as a hit at your reading, Magnet; for the chief
has sensible notions of things in his own way. How far, now, Arrowhead,
do you make us, by your calculation, from the bit of a pond that you
call the Great Lake, and towards which we have been so many days shaping
our course?"

The Tuscarora looked at the seaman with quiet superiority as he
answered, "Ontario, like heaven; one sun, and the great traveller will
know it."

"Well, I have been a great traveller, I cannot deny; but of all my
v'y'ges this has been the longest, the least profitable, and the
farthest inland. If this body of fresh water is so nigh, Arrowhead, and
so large, one might think a pair of good eyes would find it out; for
apparently everything within thirty miles is to be seen from this
lookout."

"Look," said Arrowhead, stretching an arm before him with quiet grace;
"Ontario!"

"Uncle, you are accustomed to cry 'Land ho!' but not 'Water ho!' and you
do not see it," cried the niece, laughing, as girls will laugh at their
own idle conceits.

"How now, Magnet! dost suppose that I shouldn't know my native element
if it were in sight?"

"But Ontario is not your native element, dear uncle; for you come from
the salt water, while this is fresh."

"That might make some difference to your young mariner, but none to the
old one. I should know water, child, were I to see it in China."

"Ontario," repeated Arrowhead, with emphasis, again stretching his hand
towards the north-west.

Cap looked at the Tuscarora, for the first time since their
acquaintance, with something like an air of contempt, though he did not
fail to follow the direction of the chief's eye and arm, both of which
were directed towards a vacant point in the heavens, a short distance
above the plain of leaves.

"Ay, ay; this is much as I expected, when I left the coast in search of
a fresh-water pond," resumed Cap, shrugging his shoulders like one whose
mind was made up, and who thought no more need be said. "Ontario may
be there, or, for that matter, it may be in my pocket. Well, I suppose
there will be room enough, when we reach it, to work our canoe. But
Arrowhead, if there be pale-faces in our neighborhood, I confess I
should like to get within hail of them."

The Tuscarora now gave a quiet inclination of his head, and the whole
party descended from the roots of the up-torn tree in silence. When they
reached the ground, Arrowhead intimated his intention to go towards the
fire, and ascertain who had lighted it; while he advised his wife and
the two others to return to a canoe, which they had left in the adjacent
stream, and await his return.

"Why, chief, this might do on soundings, and in an offing where one knew
the channel," returned old Cap; "but in an unknown region like this I
think it unsafe to trust the pilot alone too far from the ship: so, with
your leave, we will not part company."

"What my brother want?" asked the Indian gravely, though without taking
offence at a distrust that was sufficiently plain.

"Your company, Master Arrowhead, and no more. I will go with you and
speak these strangers."

The Tuscarora assented without difficulty, and again he directed his
patient and submissive little wife, who seldom turned her full rich
black eye on him but to express equally her respect, her dread, and
her love, to proceed to the boat. But here Magnet raised a difficulty.
Although spirited, and of unusual energy under circumstances of trial,
she was but woman; and the idea of being entirely deserted by her two
male protectors, in the midst of a wilderness that her senses had just
told her was seemingly illimitable, became so keenly painful, that she
expressed a wish to accompany her uncle.

"The exercise will be a relief, dear sir, after sitting so long in the
canoe," she added, as the rich blood slowly returned to a cheek that had
paled in spite of her efforts to be calm; "and there may be females with
the strangers."

"Come, then, child; it is but a cable's length, and we shall return an
hour before the sun sets."

With this permission, the girl, whose real name was Mabel Dunham,
prepared to be of the party; while the Dew-of-June, as the wife of
Arrowhead was called, passively went her way towards the canoe, too much
accustomed to obedience, solitude, and the gloom of the forest to feel
apprehension.

The three who remained in the wind-row now picked their way around its
tangled maze, and gained the margin of the woods. A few glances of the
eye sufficed for Arrowhead; but old Cap deliberately set the smoke by
a pocket-compass, before he trusted himself within the shadows of the
trees.

"This steering by the nose, Magnet, may do well enough for an Indian,
but your thoroughbred knows the virtue of the needle," said the uncle,
as he trudged at the heels of the light-stepping Tuscarora. "America
would never have been discovered, take my word for it, if Columbus had
been nothing but nostrils. Friend Arrowhead, didst ever see a machine
like this?"

The Indian turned, cast a glance at the compass, which Cap held in a
way to direct his course, and gravely answered, "A pale-face eye. The
Tuscarora see in his head. The Salt-water (for so the Indian styled his
companion) all eye now; no tongue."

"He means, uncle, that we had needs be silent, perhaps he distrusts the
persons we are about to meet."

"Ay, 'tis an Indian's fashion of going to quarters. You perceive he has
examined the priming of his rifle, and it may be as well if I look to
that of my own pistols."

Without betraying alarm at these preparations, to which she had become
accustomed by her long journey in the wilderness, Mabel followed with a
step as elastic as that of the Indian, keeping close in the rear of
her companions. For the first half mile no other caution beyond a rigid
silence was observed; but as the party drew nearer to the spot where the
fire was known to be, much greater care became necessary.

The forest, as usual, had little to intercept the view below the
branches but the tall straight trunks of trees. Everything belonging to
vegetation had struggled towards the light, and beneath the leafy canopy
one walked, as it might be, through a vast natural vault, upheld by
myriads of rustic columns. These columns or trees, however, often served
to conceal the adventurer, the hunter, or the foe; and, as Arrowhead
swiftly approached the spot where his practised and unerring senses told
him the strangers ought to be, his footstep gradually became lighter,
his eye more vigilant, and his person was more carefully concealed.

"See, Saltwater," said he exulting, pointing through the vista of trees;
"pale-face fire!"

"By the Lord, the fellow is right!" muttered Cap; "there they are, sure
enough, and eating their grub as quietly as if they were in the cabin of
a three-decker."

"Arrowhead is but half right!" whispered Mabel, "for there are two
Indians and only one white man."

"Pale-faces," said the Tuscarora, holding up two fingers; "red man,"
holding up one.

"Well," rejoined Cap, "it is hard to say which is right and which is
wrong. One is entirely white, and a fine comely lad he is, with an air
of respectability about him; one is a red-skin as plain as paint and
nature can make him; but the third chap is half-rigged, being neither
brig nor schooner."

"Pale-faces," repeated Arrowhead, again raising two fingers, "red man,"
showing but one.

"He must be right, uncle; for his eye seems never to fail. But it is now
urgent to know whether we meet as friends or foes. They may be French."

"One hail will soon satisfy us on that head," returned Cap. "Stand you
behind the tree, Magnet, lest the knaves take it into their heads to
fire a broadside without a parley, and I will soon learn what colors
they sail under."

The uncle had placed his two hands to his mouth to form a trumpet, and
was about to give the promised hail, when a rapid movement from the hand
of Arrowhead defeated the intention by deranging the instrument.

"Red man, Mohican," said the Tuscarora; "good; pale-faces, Yengeese."

"These are heavenly tidings," murmured Mabel, who little relished the
prospect of a deadly fray in that remote wilderness. "Let us approach at
once, dear uncle, and proclaim ourselves friends."

"Good," said the Tuscarora "red man cool, and know; pale-face hurried,
and fire. Let the squaw go."

"What!" said Cap in astonishment; "send little Magnet ahead as a
lookout, while two lubbers, like you and me, lie-to to see what sort of
a landfall she will make! If I do, I--"

"It is wisest, uncle," interrupted the generous girl, "and I have no
fear. No Christian, seeing a woman approach alone, would fire upon
her; and my presence will be a pledge of peace. Let me go forward, as
Arrowhead wishes, and all will be well. We are, as yet, unseen, and the
surprise of the strangers will not partake of alarm."

"Good," returned Arrowhead, who did not conceal his approbation of
Mabel's spirit.

"It has an unseaman-like look," answered Cap; "but, being in the woods,
no one will know it. If you think, Mabel--"

"Uncle, I know. There is no cause to fear for me; and you are always
nigh to protect me."

"Well, take one of the pistols, then--"

"Nay, I had better rely on my youth and feebleness," said the girl,
smiling, while her color heightened under her feelings. "Among Christian
men, a woman's best guard is her claim to their protection. I know
nothing of arms, and wish to live in ignorance of them."

The uncle desisted; and, after receiving a few cautious instructions
from the Tuscarora, Mabel rallied all her spirit, and advanced alone
towards the group seated near the fire. Although the heart of the
girl beat quick, her step was firm, and her movements, seemingly, were
without reluctance. A death-like silence reigned in the forest, for they
towards whom she approached were too much occupied in appeasing their
hunger to avert their looks for an instant from the important business
in which they were all engaged. When Mabel, however, had got within a
hundred feet of the fire, she trod upon a dried stick, and the trifling
noise produced by her light footstep caused the Mohican, as Arrowhead
had pronounced the Indian to be, and his companion, whose character had
been thought so equivocal, to rise to their feet, as quick as thought.
Both glanced at the rifles that leaned against a tree; and then each
stood without stretching out an arm, as his eyes fell on the form of the
girl. The Indian uttered a few words to his companion, and resumed his
seat and his meal as calmly as if no interruption had occurred. On the
contrary, the white man left the fire, and came forward to meet Mabel.

The latter saw, as the stranger approached that she was about to be
addressed by one of her own color, though his dress was so strange a
mixture of the habits of the two races, that it required a near look
to be certain of the fact. He was of middle age; but there was an open
honesty, a total absence of guile, in his face, which otherwise would
not have been thought handsome, that at once assured Magnet she was in
no danger. Still she paused.

"Fear nothing, young woman," said the hunter, for such his attire would
indicate him to be; "you have met Christian men in the wilderness,
and such as know how to treat all kindly who are disposed to peace and
justice. I am a man well known in all these parts, and perhaps one of my
names may have reached your ears. By the Frenchers and the red-skins on
the other side of the Big Lakes, I am called La Longue Carabine; by the
Mohicans, a just-minded and upright tribe, what is left of them, Hawk
Eye; while the troops and rangers along this side of the water call me
Pathfinder, inasmuch as I have never been known to miss one end of the
trail, when there was a Mingo, or a friend who stood in need of me, at
the other."

This was not uttered boastfully, but with the honest confidence of one
who well knew that by whatever name others might have heard of him,
who had no reason to blush at the reports. The effect on Mabel was
instantaneous. The moment she heard the last _sobriquet_ she clasped her
hands eagerly and repeated the word "Pathfinder!"

"So they call me, young woman, and many a great lord has got a title
that he did not half so well merit; though, if truth be said, I rather
pride myself in finding my way where there is no path, than in finding
it where there is. But the regular troops are by no means particular,
and half the time they don't know the difference between a trail and a
path, though one is a matter for the eye, while the other is little more
than scent."

"Then you are the friend my father promised to send to meet us?"

"If you are Sergeant Dunham's daughter, the great Prophet of the
Delawares never uttered more truth."

"I am Mabel; and yonder, hid by the trees, are my uncle, whose name is
Cap, and a Tuscarora called Arrowhead. We did not hope to meet you until
we had nearly reached the shores of the lake."

"I wish a juster-minded Indian had been your guide," said Pathfinder;
"for I am no lover of the Tuscaroras, who have travelled too far from
the graves of their fathers always to remember the Great Spirit; and
Arrowhead is an ambitious chief. Is the Dew-of-June with him?"

"His wife accompanies us, and a humble and mild creature she is."

"Ay, and true-hearted; which is more than any who know him will say of
Arrowhead. Well, we must take the fare that Providence bestows, while we
follow the trail of life. I suppose worse guides might have been found
than the Tuscarora; though he has too much Mingo blood for one who
consorts altogether with the Delawares."

"It is, then, perhaps, fortunate we have met," said Mabel.

"It is not misfortunate, at any rate; for I promised the Sergeant I
would see his child safe to the garrison, though I died for it. We
expected to meet you before you reached the Falls, where we have left
our own canoe; while we thought it might do no harm to come up a few
miles, in order to be of service if wanted. It is lucky we did, for I
doubt if Arrowhead be the man to shoot the current."

"Here come my uncle and the Tuscarora, and our parties can now join."
As Mabel concluded, Cap and Arrowhead, who saw that the conference was
amicable, drew nigh; and a few words sufficed to let them know as much
as the girl herself had learned from the strangers. As soon as this was
done, the party proceeded towards the two who still remained near the
fire.



CHAPTER II.

     Yea! long as Nature's humblest child
     Hath kept her temple undefiled
        By simple sacrifice,
     Earth's fairest scenes are all his own,
     He is a monarch and his throne
        Is built amid the skies!
     WILSON.


The Mohican continued to eat, though the second white man rose, and
courteously took off his cap to Mabel Dunham. He was young, healthful,
and manly in appearance; and he wore a dress which, while it was less
rigidly professional than that of the uncle, also denoted one accustomed
to the water. In that age, real seamen were a class entirely apart from
the rest of mankind, their ideas, ordinary language, and attire being as
strongly indicative of their calling as the opinions, speech, and dress
of a Turk denote a Mussulman. Although the Pathfinder was scarcely in
the prime of life, Mabel had met him with a steadiness that may have
been the consequence of having braced her nerves for the interview; but
when her eyes encountered those of the young man at the fire, they fell
before the gaze of admiration with which she saw, or fancied she saw,
he greeted her. Each, in truth, felt that interest in the other which
similarity of age, condition, mutual comeliness, and their novel
situation would be likely to inspire in the young and ingenuous.

"Here," said Pathfinder, with an honest smile bestowed on Mabel, "are
the friends your worthy father has sent to meet you. This is a great
Delaware; and one who has had honors as well as troubles in his day. He
has an Indian name fit for a chief, but, as the language is not always
easy for the inexperienced to pronounce we naturally turn it into
English, and call him the Big Sarpent. You are not to suppose, however,
that by this name we wish to say that he is treacherous, beyond what
is lawful in a red-skin; but that he is wise, and has the cunning which
becomes a warrior. Arrowhead, there, knows what I mean."

While the Pathfinder was delivering this address, the two Indians gazed
on each other steadily, and the Tuscarora advanced and spoke to the
other in an apparently friendly manner.

"I like to see this," continued Pathfinder; "the salutes of two
red-skins in the woods, Master Cap, are like the hailing of friendly
vessels on the ocean. But speaking of water, it reminds me of my young
friend, Jasper Western here, who can claim to know something of these
matters, seeing that he has passed his days on Ontario."

"I am glad to see you, friend," said Cap, giving the young fresh-water
sailor a cordial grip; "though you must have something still to learn,
considering the school to which you have been sent. This is my niece
Mabel; I call her Magnet, for a reason she never dreams of, though
you may possibly have education enough to guess at it, having some
pretentions to understand the compass, I suppose."

"The reason is easily comprehended," said the young man, involuntarily
fastening his keen dark eye, at the same time, on the suffused face of
the girl; "and I feel sure that the sailor who steers by your Magnet
will never make a bad landfall."

"Ha! you do make use of some of the terms, I find, and that with
propriety; though, on the whole, I fear you have seen more green than
blue water."

"It is not surprising that we should get some of the phrases which
belong to the land; for we are seldom out of sight of it twenty-four
hours at a time."

"More's the pity, boy, more's the pity! A very little land ought to go
a great way with a seafaring man. Now, if the truth were known, Master
Western, I suppose there is more or less land all round your lake."

"And, uncle, is there not more or less land around the ocean?" said
Magnet quickly; for she dreaded a premature display of the old seaman's
peculiar dogmatism, not to say pedantry.

"No, child, there is more or less ocean all round the land; that's what
I tell the people ashore, youngster. They are living, as it might be, in
the midst of the sea, without knowing it; by sufferance, as it were, the
water being so much the more powerful and the largest. But there is
no end to conceit in this world: for a fellow who never saw salt water
often fancies he knows more than one who has gone round the Horn. No,
no, this earth is pretty much an island; and all that can be truly said
not to be so is water."

Young Western had a profound deference for a mariner of the ocean, on
which he had often pined to sail; but he had also a natural regard
for the broad sheet on which he had passed his life, and which was not
without its beauties in his eyes.

"What you say, sir," he answered modestly, "may be true as to the
Atlantic; but we have a respect for the land up here on Ontario."

"That is because you are always land-locked," returned Cap, laughing
heartily; "but yonder is the Pathfinder, as they call him, with some
smoking platters, inviting us to share in his mess; and I will confess
that one gets no venison at sea. Master Western, civility to girls, at
your time of life, comes as easy as taking in the slack of the ensign
halyards; and if you will just keep an eye to her kid and can, while I
join the mess of the Pathfinder and our Indian friends, I make no doubt
she will remember it."

Master Cap uttered more than he was aware of at the time. Jasper Western
did attend to the wants of Mabel, and she long remembered the kind,
manly attention of the young sailor at this their first interview. He
placed the end of a log for a seat, obtained for her a delicious morsel
of the venison, gave her a draught of pure water from the spring, and as
he sat near her, fast won his way to her esteem by his gentle but frank
manner of manifesting his care; homage that woman always wishes to
receive, but which is never so flattering or so agreeable as when it
comes from the young to those of their own age--from the manly to the
gentle. Like most of those who pass their time excluded from the society
of the softer sex, young Western was earnest, sincere, and kind in his
attentions, which, though they wanted a conventional refinement, which,
perhaps, Mabel never missed, had those winning qualities that prove
very sufficient as substitutes. Leaving these two unsophisticated young
people to become acquainted through their feelings, rather than their
expressed thoughts, we will turn to the group in which the uncle had
already become a principal actor.

The party had taken their places around a platter of venison steaks,
which served for the common use, and the discourse naturally partook
of the characters of the different individuals which composed it. The
Indians were silent and industrious the appetite of the aboriginal
American for venison being seemingly inappeasable, while the two
white men were communicative, each of the latter being garrulous and
opinionated in his way. But, as the dialogue will put the reader in
possession of certain facts that may render the succeeding narrative
more clear, it will be well to record it.

"There must be satisfaction in this life of yours, no doubt, Mr.
Pathfinder," continued Cap, when the hunger of the travellers was so far
appeased that they began to pick and choose among the savory morsels;
"it has some of the chances and luck that we seamen like; and if ours is
all water, yours is all land."

"Nay, we have water too, in our journeyings and marches," returned his
white companion; "we bordermen handle the paddle and the spear almost as
much as the rifle and the hunting-knife."

"Ay; but do you handle the brace and the bow-line, the wheel and the
lead-line, the reef-point and the top-rope? The paddle is a good thing,
out of doubt, in a canoe; but of what use is it in the ship?"

"Nay, I respect all men in their callings, and I can believe the things
you mention have their uses. One who has lived, like myself, in company
with many tribes, understands differences in usages. The paint of a
Mingo is not the paint of a Delaware; and he who should expect to see a
warrior in the dress of a squaw might be disappointed. I am not yet
very old, but I have lived in the woods, and have some acquaintance with
human natur'. I never believe much in the learning of them that dwell
in towns, for I never yet met with one that had an eye for a rifle or a
trail."

"That's my manner of reasoning, Master Pathfinder, to a yarn. Walking
about streets, going to church of Sundays, and hearing sermons, never
yet made a man of a human being. Send the boy out upon the broad ocean,
if you wish to open his eyes, and let him look upon foreign nations, or
what I call the face of nature, if you wish him to understand his own
character. Now, there is my brother-in-law, the Sergeant: he is as good
a fellow as ever broke a biscuit, in his way; but what is he, after all?
Why, nothing but a soldier. A sergeant, to be sure, but that is a sort
of a soldier, you know. When he wished to marry poor Bridget, my sister,
I told the girl what he was, as in duty bound, and what she might expect
from such a husband; but you know how it is with girls when their minds
are jammed by an inclination. It is true, the Sergeant has risen in his
calling, and they say he is an important man at the fort; but his
poor wife has not lived to see it all, for she has now been dead these
fourteen years."

"A soldier's calling is honorable, provided he has fi't only on the side
of right," returned the Pathfinder; "and as the Frenchers are always
wrong, and his sacred Majesty and these colonies are always right, I
take it the Sergeant has a quiet conscience as well as a good character.
I have never slept more sweetly than when I have fi't the Mingos, though
it is the law with me to fight always like a white man and never like
an Indian. The Sarpent, here, has his fashions, and I have mine; and yet
have we fi't side by side these many years; without either thinking a
hard thought consarning the other's ways. I tell him there is but one
heaven and one hell, notwithstanding his traditions, though there are
many paths to both."

"That is rational; and he is bound to believe you, though, I fancy, most
of the roads to the last are on dry land. The sea is what my poor sister
Bridget used to call a 'purifying place,' and one is out of the way of
temptation when out of sight of land. I doubt if as much can be said in
favor of your lakes up hereaway."

"That towns and settlements lead to sin, I will allow; but our lakes are
bordered by the forests, and one is every day called upon to worship
God in such a temple. That men are not always the same, even in the
wilderness, I must admit for the difference between a Mingo and a
Delaware is as plain to be seen as the difference between the sun and
the moon. I am glad, friend Cap, that we have met, however, if it be
only that you may tell the Big Sarpent here that there are lakes in
which the water is salt. We have been pretty much of one mind since our
acquaintance began, and if the Mohican has only half the faith in me
that I have in him, he believes all that I have told him touching the
white men's ways and natur's laws; but it has always seemed to me that
none of the red-skins have given as free a belief as an honest man likes
to the accounts of the Big Salt Lakes, and to that of their being rivers
that flow up stream."

"This comes of getting things wrong end foremost," answered Cap, with
a condescending nod. "You have thought of your lakes and rifts as the
ship; and of the ocean and the tides as the boat. Neither Arrowhead
nor the Serpent need doubt what you have said concerning both, though
I confess myself to some difficulty in swallowing the tale about there
being inland seas at all, and still more that there is any sea of fresh
water. I have come this long journey as much to satisfy my own eyes
concerning these facts, as to oblige the Sergeant and Magnet, though the
first was my sister's husband, and I love the last like a child."

"You are wrong, friend Cap, very wrong, to distrust the power of God
in any thing," returned Pathfinder earnestly. "They that live in the
settlements and the towns have confined and unjust opinions consarning
the might of His hand; but we, who pass our time in His very presence,
as it might be, see things differently--I mean, such of us as have white
natur's. A red-skin has his notions, and it is right that it should be
so; and if they are not exactly the same as a Christian white man's,
there is no harm in it. Still, there are matters which belong altogether
to the ordering of God's providence; and these salt and fresh-water
lakes are some of them. I do not pretend to account for these things,
but I think it the duty of all to believe in them."

"Hold on there, Master Pathfinder," interrupted Cap, not without some
heat; "in the way of a proper and manly faith, I will turn my back on no
one, when afloat. Although more accustomed to make all snug aloft, and
to show the proper canvas, than to pray when the hurricane comes, I know
that we are but helpless mortals at times, and I hope I pay reverence
where reverence is due. All I mean to say is this: that, being
accustomed to see water in large bodies salt, I should like to taste it
before I can believe it to be fresh."

"God has given the salt lick to the deer; and He has given to man,
red-skin and white, the delicious spring at which to slake his thirst.
It is unreasonable to think that He may not have given lakes of pure
water to the west, and lakes of impure water to the east."

Cap was awed, in spite of his overweening dogmatism, by the earnest
simplicity of the Pathfinder, though he did not relish the idea of
believing a fact which, for many years, he had pertinaciously insisted
could not be true. Unwilling to give up the point and, at the same time,
unable to maintain it against a reasoning to which he was unaccustomed,
and which possessed equally the force of truth, faith, and probability,
he was glad to get rid of the subject by evasion.

"Well, well, friend Pathfinder," said he, "we will leave the argument
where it is; and we can try the water when we once reach it. Only mark
my words--I do not say that it may not be fresh on the surface; the
Atlantic is sometimes fresh on the surface, near the mouths of great
rivers; but, rely on it, I shall show you a way of tasting the water
many fathoms deep, of which you never dreamed; and then we shall know
more about it."

The guide seemed content to let the matter rest, and the conversation
changed.

"We are not over-conceited consarning our gifts," observed the
Pathfinder, after a short pause, "and well know that such as live in the
towns, and near the sea--"

"On the sea," interrupted Cap.

"On the sea, if you wish it, friend--have opportunities which do not
befall us of the wilderness. Still, we know our own callings, and they
are what I consider natural callings, and are not parvarted by vanity
and wantonness. Now, my gifts are with the rifle, and on a trail, and
in the way of game and scouting; for, though I can use the spear and the
paddle, I pride not myself on either. The youth Jasper, there, who is
discoursing with the Sergeant's daughter, is a different cratur'; for
he may be said to breathe the water, as it might be, like a fish. The
Indians and Frenchers of the north shore call him Eau-douce, on account
of his gifts in this particular. He is better at the oar, and the rope
too, than in making fires on a trail."

"There must be something about these gifts of which you speak, after
all," said Cap. "Now this fire, I will acknowledge, has overlaid all
my seamanship. Arrowhead, there, said the smoke came from a pale-face's
fire, and that is a piece of philosophy which I hold to be equal to
steering in a dark night by the edges of the sand."

"It's no great secret," returned Pathfinder, laughing with great inward
glee, though habitual caution prevented the emission of any noise.
"Nothing is easier to us who pass our time in the great school of
Providence than to larn its lessons. We should be as useless on a trail,
or in carrying tidings through the wilderness, as so many woodchucks,
did we not soon come to a knowledge of these niceties. Eau-douce, as we
call him, is so fond of the water, that he gathered a damp stick or
two for our fire; and wet will bring dark smoke, as I suppose even you
followers of the sea must know. It's no great secret, though all is
mystery to such as doesn't study the Lord and His mighty ways with
humility and thankfulness."

"That must be a keen eye of Arrowhead's to see so slight a difference."

"He would be but a poor Indian if he didn't. No, no; it is war-time, and
no red-skin is outlying without using his senses. Every skin has its own
natur', and every natur' has its own laws, as well as its own skin.
It was many years before I could master all these higher branches of
a forest education; for red-skin knowledge doesn't come as easy to
white-skin natur', as what I suppose is intended to be white-skin
knowledge; though I have but little of the latter, having passed most of
my time in the wilderness."

"You have been a ready scholar, Master Pathfinder, as is seen by your
understanding these things so well. I suppose it would be no great
matter for a man regularly brought up to the sea to catch these trifles,
if he could only bring his mind fairly to bear upon them."

"I don't know that. The white man has his difficulties in getting
red-skin habits, quite as much as the Indian in getting white-skin ways.
As for the real natur', it is my opinion that neither can actually get
that of the other."

"And yet we sailors, who run about the world so much, say there is but
one nature, whether it be in the Chinaman or a Dutchman. For my own
part, I am much of that way of thinking too; for I have generally found
that all nations like gold and silver, and most men relish tobacco."

"Then you seafaring men know little of the red-skins. Have you ever
known any of your Chinamen who could sing their death-songs, with their
flesh torn with splinters and cut with knives, the fire raging around
their naked bodies, and death staring them in the face? Until you can
find me a Chinaman, or a Christian man, that can do all this, you cannot
find a man with a red-skin natur', let him look ever so valiant, or know
how to read all the books that were ever printed."

"It is the savages only that play each other such hellish tricks,"
said Master Cap, glancing his eyes about him uneasily at the apparently
endless arches of the forest. "No white man is ever condemned to undergo
these trials."

"Nay, therein you are again mistaken," returned the Pathfinder, coolly
selecting a delicate morsel of the venison as his _bonne bouche_; "for
though these torments belong only to the red-skin natur', in the way of
bearing them like braves, white-skin natur' may be, and often has been,
agonized by them."

"Happily," said Cap, with an effort to clear his throat, "none of his
Majesty's allies will be likely to attempt such damnable cruelties on
any of his Majesty's loyal subjects. I have not served much in the royal
navy, it is true; but I have served, and that is something; and, in the
way of privateering and worrying the enemy in his ships and cargoes,
I've done my full share. But I trust there are no French savages on this
side the lake, and I think you said that Ontario is a broad sheet of
water?"

"Nay, it is broad in our eyes," returned Pathfinder, not caring to
conceal the smile which lighted a face which had been burnt by exposure
to a bright red; "though I mistrust that some may think it narrow; and
narrow it is, if you wish it to keep off the foe. Ontario has two ends,
and the enemy that is afraid to cross it will be certain to come round
it."

"Ah! that comes of your d----d fresh-water ponds!" growled Cap, hemming
so loudly as to cause him instantly to repent the indiscretion. "No
man, now, ever heard of a pirate or a ship getting round one end of the
Atlantic!"

"Mayhap the ocean has no ends?"

"That it hasn't; nor sides, nor bottom. The nation which is snugly
moored on one of its coasts need fear nothing from the one anchored
abeam, let it be ever so savage, unless it possesses the art of ship
building. No, no! the people who live on the shores of the Atlantic need
fear but little for their skins or their scalps. A man may lie down at
night in those regions, in the hope of finding the hair on his head in
the morning, unless he wears a wig."

"It isn't so here. I don't wish to flurry the young woman, and therefore
I will be in no way particular, though she seems pretty much listening
to Eau-douce, as we call him; but without the edication I have received,
I should think it at this very moment, a risky journey to go over the
very ground that lies between us and the garrison, in the present state
of this frontier. There are about as many Iroquois on this side of
Ontario as there are on the other. It is for this very reason, friend
Cap, that the Sergeant has engaged us to come out and show you the
path."

"What! do the knaves dare to cruise so near the guns of one of his
Majesty's works?"

"Do not the ravens resort near the carcass of the deer, though the
fowler is at hand? They come this-a-way, as it might be, naturally.
There are more or less whites passing between the forts and the
settlements, and they are sure to be on their trails. The Sarpent has
come up one side of the river, and I have come up the other, in order to
scout for the outlying rascals, while Jasper brought up the canoe, like
a bold-hearted sailor as he is. The Sergeant told him, with tears in his
eyes, all about his child, and how his heart yearned for her, and how
gentle and obedient she was, until I think the lad would have dashed
into a Mingo camp single-handed, rather than not a-come."

"We thank him, and shall think the better of him for his readiness;
though I suppose the boy has run no great risk, after all."

"Only the risk of being shot from a cover, as he forced the canoe up a
swift rift, or turned an elbow in the stream, with his eyes fastened on
the eddies. Of all the risky journeys, that on an ambushed river is the
most risky, in my judgment, and that risk has Jasper run."

"And why the devil has the Sergeant sent for me to travel a hundred and
fifty miles in this outlandish manner? Give me an offing, and the enemy
in sight, and I'll play with him in his own fashion, as long as he
pleases, long bows or close quarters; but to be shot like a turtle
asleep is not to my humor. If it were not for little Magnet there, I
would tack ship this instant, make the best of my way back to York, and
let Ontario take care of itself, salt water or fresh water."

"That wouldn't mend the matter much, friend mariner, as the road to
return is much longer, and almost as bad as the road to go on. Trust to
us, and we will carry you through safely, or lose our scalps."

Cap wore a tight solid queue, done up in eelskin, while the top of his
head was nearly bald; and he mechanically passed his hand over both
as if to make certain that each was in its right place. He was at the
bottom, however, a brave man, and had often faced death with coolness,
though never in the frightful forms in which it presented itself under
the brief but graphic picture of his companion. It was too late to
retreat; and he determined to put the best face on the matter, though he
could not avoid muttering inwardly a few curses on the indiscretion with
which his brother-in-law, the Sergeant, had led him into his present
dilemma.

"I make no doubt, Master Pathfinder," he answered, when these thoughts
had found time to glance through his mind, "that we shall reach port in
safety. What distance may we now be from the fort?"

"Little more than fifteen miles; and swift miles too, as the river runs,
if the Mingos let us go clear."

"And I suppose the woods will stretch along starboard and larboard, as
heretofore?"

"Anan?"

"I mean that we shall have to pick our way through these damned trees."

"Nay, nay, you will go in the canoe, and the Oswego has been cleared of
its flood-wood by the troops. It will be floating down stream, and that,
too, with a swift current."

"And what the devil is to prevent these minks of which you speak from
shooting us as we double a headland, or are busy in steering clear of
the rocks?"

"The Lord!--He who has so often helped others in greater difficulties.
Many and many is the time that my head would have been stripped of
hair, skin, and all, hadn't the Lord fi't of my side. I never go into a
skrimmage, friend mariner, without thinking of this great ally, who can
do more in battle than all the battalions of the 60th, were they brought
into a single line."

"Ay, ay, this may do well enough for a scouter; but we seamen like our
offing, and to go into action with nothing in our minds but the business
before us--plain broadside and broadside work, and no trees or rocks to
thicken the water."

"And no Lord too, I dare to say, if the truth were known. Take my word
for it, Master Cap, that no battle is the worse fi't for having the Lord
on your side. Look at the head of the Big Sarpent, there; you can see
the mark of a knife all along by his left ear: now nothing but a bullet
from this long rifle of mine saved his scalp that day; for it had
fairly started, and half a minute more would have left him without
the war-lock. When the Mohican squeezes my hand, and intermates that I
befriended him in that matter, I tell him no; it was the Lord who led me
to the only spot where execution could be done, or his necessity be made
known, on account of the smoke. Sartain, when I got the right position,
I finished the affair of my own accord. For a friend under the tomahawk
is apt to make a man think quick and act at once, as was my case, or
the Sarpent's spirit would be hunting in the happy land of his people at
this very moment."

"Come, come, Pathfinder, this palaver is worse than being skinned from
stem to stem; we have but a few hours of sun, and had better be drifting
down this said current of yours while we may. Magnet dear, are you not
ready to get under way?"

Magnet started, blushed brightly, and made her preparations for
immediate departure. Not a syllable of the discourse just related
had she heard; for Eau-douce, as young Jasper was oftener called than
anything else, had been filling her ears with a description of the yet
distant part towards which she was journeying, with accounts of her
father, whom she had not seen since a child, and with the manner of
life of those who lived in the frontier garrisons. Unconsciously she
had become deeply interested, and her thoughts had been too intently
directed to these matters to allow any of the less agreeable subjects
discussed by those so near to reach her ears. The bustle of departure
put an end to the conversation, and, the baggage of the scouts or guides
being trifling, in a few minutes the whole party was ready to proceed.
As they were about to quit the spot, however, to the surprise of even
his fellow-guides, Pathfinder collected a quantity of branches and threw
them upon the embers of the fire, taking care even to see that some
of the wood was damp, in order to raise as dark and dense a smoke as
possible.

"When you can hide your trail, Jasper," said he, "a smoke at leaving
an encampment may do good instead of harm. If there are a dozen Mingos
within ten miles of us, some of 'em are on the heights, or in the trees,
looking out for smokes; let them see this, and much good may it do them.
They are welcome to our leavings."

"But may they not strike and follow on our trail?" asked the youth,
whose interest in the hazard of his situation had much increased since
the meeting with Magnet. "We shall leave a broad path to the river."

"The broader the better; when there, it will surpass Mingo cunning,
even, to say which way the canoe has gone--up stream or down. Water is
the only thing in natur' that will thoroughly wash out a trail, and even
water will not always do it when the scent is strong. Do you not see,
Eau-douce, that if any Mingos have seen our path below the falls,
they will strike off towards this smoke, and that they will naturally
conclude that they who began by going up stream will end by going up
stream. If they know anything, they now know a party is out from the
fort, and it will exceed even Mingo wit to fancy that we have come up
here just for the pleasure of going back again, and that, too, the same
day, and at the risk of our scalps."

"Certainly," added Jasper, who was talking apart with the Pathfinder,
as they moved towards the wind-row, "they cannot know anything about the
Sergeant's daughter, for the greatest secrecy has been observed on her
account."

"And they will learn nothing here," returned Pathfinder, causing his
companion to see that he trod with the utmost care on the impression
left on the leaves by the little foot of Mabel; "unless this old
salt-water fish has been taking his niece about in the wind-row, like a
fa'n playing by the side of the old doe."

"Buck, you mean, Pathfinder."

"Isn't he a queerity? Now I can consort with such a sailor as yourself,
Eau-douce, and find nothing very contrary in our gifts, though yours
belong to the lakes and mine to the woods. Hark'e, Jasper," continued
the scout, laughing in his noiseless manner; "suppose we try the temper
of his blade and run him over the falls?"

"And what would be done with the pretty niece in the meanwhile?"

"Nay, nay, no harm shall come to her; she must walk round the portage,
at any rate; but you and I can try this Atlantic oceaner, and then all
parties will become better acquainted. We shall find out whether his
flint will strike fire; and he may come to know something of frontier
tricks."

Young Jasper smiled, for he was not averse to fun, and had been a little
touched by Cap's superciliousness; but Mabel's fair face, light, agile
form, and winning smiles, stood like a shield between her uncle and the
intended experiment.

"Perhaps the Sergeant's daughter will be frightened," said he.

"Not she, if she has any of the Sergeant's spirit in her. She doesn't
look like a skeary thing, at all. Leave it to me, then, Eau-douce, and I
will manage the affair alone."

"Not you, Pathfinder; you would only drown both. If the canoe goes over,
I must go in it."

"Well, have it so, then: shall we smoke the pipe of agreement on the
bargain?"

Jasper laughed, nodded his head by way of consent, and then the subject
was dropped, as the party had reached the canoe so often mentioned, and
fewer words had determined much greater things between the parties.



CHAPTER III.

     Before these fields were shorn and till'd,
        Full to the brim our rivers flow'd;
     The melody of waters fill'd
        The fresh and boundless wood;
     And torrents dash'd, and rivulets play'd,
     And fountains spouted in the shade.
     BRYANT.


It is generally known that the waters which flow into the southern side
of Ontario are, in general, narrow, sluggish, and deep. There are some
exceptions to this rule, for many of the rivers have rapids, or, as they
are termed in the language of the region, "rifts," and some have falls.
Among the latter was the particular stream on which our adventurers were
now journeying. The Oswego is formed by the junction of the Oneida and
the Onondaga, both of which flow from lakes; and it pursues its way,
through a gently undulating country, some eight or ten miles, until it
reaches the margin of a sort of natural terrace, down which it tumbles
some ten or fifteen feet, to another level, across which it glides with
the silent, stealthy progress of deep water, until it throws its tribute
into the broad receptacle of the Ontario. The canoe in which Cap and his
party had travelled from Fort Stanwix, the last military station of the
Mohawk, lay by the side of this river, and into it the whole party now
entered, with the exception of Pathfinder, who remained on the land, in
order to shove the light vessel off.

"Let her starn drift down stream, Jasper," said the man of the woods
to the young mariner of the lake, who had dispossessed Arrowhead of his
paddle and taken his own station as steersman; "let it go down with the
current. Should any of these infarnals, the Mingos, strike our trail, or
follow it to this point they will not fail to look for the signs in the
mud; and if they discover that we have left the shore with the nose of
the canoe up stream, it is a natural belief to think we went up stream."

This direction was followed; and, giving a vigorous shove, the
Pathfinder, who was in the flower of his strength and activity, made a
leap, landing lightly, and without disturbing its equilibrium, in the
bow of the canoe. As soon as it had reached the centre of the river or
the strength of the current, the boat was turned, and it began to glide
noiselessly down the stream.

The vessel in which Cap and his niece had embarked for their long and
adventurous journey was one of the canoes of bark which the Indians are
in the habit of constructing, and which, by their exceeding lightness
and the ease with which they are propelled, are admirably adapted to a
navigation in which shoals, flood-wood, and other similar obstructions
so often occur. The two men who composed its original crew had several
times carried it, when emptied of its luggage, many hundred yards; and
it would not have exceeded the strength of a single man to lift its
weight. Still it was long, and, for a canoe, wide; a want of steadiness
being its principal defect in the eyes of the uninitiated. A few hours
practice, however, in a great measure remedied this evil, and both Mabel
and her uncle had learned so far to humor its movements, that they now
maintained their places with perfect composure; nor did the additional
weight of the three guides tax its power in any particular degree, the
breath of the rounded bottom allowing the necessary quantity of water
to be displaced without bringing the gunwale very sensibly nearer to the
surface of the stream. Its workmanship was neat; the timbers were small,
and secured by thongs; and the whole fabric, though it was so slight to
the eye, was probably capable of conveying double the number of persons
which it now contained.

Cap was seated on a low thwart, in the centre of the canoe; the Big
Serpent knelt near him. Arrowhead and his wife occupied places forward
of both, the former having relinquished his post aft. Mabel was half
reclining behind her uncle, while the Pathfinder and Eau-douce stood
erect, the one in the bow, and the other in the stern, each using a
paddle, with a long, steady, noiseless sweep. The conversation was
carried on in low tones, all the party beginning to feel the necessity
of prudence, as they drew nearer to the outskirts of the fort, and had
no longer the cover of the woods.

The Oswego, just at that place, was a deep dark stream of no great
width, its still, gloomy-looking current winding its way among
overhanging trees, which, in particular spots, almost shut out the light
of the heavens. Here and there some half-fallen giant of the forest lay
nearly across its surface, rendering care necessary to avoid the limbs;
and most of the distance, the lower branches and leaves of the trees
of smaller growth were laved by its waters. The picture so beautifully
described by our own admirable poet, and which we have placed at the
head of this chapter, was here realized; the earth fattened by the
decayed vegetation of centuries, and black with loam, the stream that
filled the banks nearly to overflowing, and the "fresh and boundless
wood," being all as visible to the eye as the pen of Bryant has
elsewhere vividly presented them to the imagination. In short, the
entire scene was one of a rich and benevolent nature, before it had
been subjected to the uses and desires of man; luxuriant, wild, full
of promise, and not without the charm of the picturesque, even in its
rudest state. It will be remembered that this was in the year 175-, or
long before even speculation had brought any portion of western New York
within the bounds of civilization. At that distant day there were two
great channels of military communication between the inhabited portion
of the colony of New York and the frontiers which lay adjacent to the
Canadas,--that by Lakes Champlain and George, and that by means of the
Mohawk, Wood Creek, the Oneida, and the rivers we have been describing.
Along both these lines of communication military posts had been
established, though there existed a blank space of a hundred miles
between the last fort at the head of the Mohawk and the outlet of the
Oswego, which embraced most of the distance that Cap and Mabel had
journeyed under the protection of Arrowhead.

"I sometimes wish for peace again," said the Pathfinder, "when one can
range the forest without searching for any other enemy than the beasts
and fishes. Ah's me! many is the day that the Sarpent, there, and I have
passed happily among the streams, living on venison, salmon, and trout
without thought of a Mingo or a scalp! I sometimes wish that them
blessed days might come back, for it is not my real gift to slay my own
kind. I'm sartain the Sergeant's daughter don't think me a wretch that
takes pleasure in preying on human natur'?"

As this remark, a sort of half interrogatory, was made, Pathfinder
looked behind him; and, though the most partial friend could scarcely
term his sunburnt and hard features handsome, even Mabel thought his
smile attractive, by its simple ingenuousness and the uprightness that
beamed in every lineament of his honest countenance.

"I do not think my father would have sent one like those you mention
to see his daughter through the wilderness," the young woman answered,
returning the smile as frankly as it was given, but much more sweetly.

"That he wouldn't; the Sergeant is a man of feeling, and many is the
march and the fight that we have had--stood shoulder to shoulder in,
as _he_ would call it--though I always keep my limbs free when near a
Frencher or a Mingo."

"You are, then, the young friend of whom my father has spoken so often
in his letters?"

"His _young_ friend--the Sergeant has the advantage of me by thirty
years; yes, he is thirty years my senior, and as many my better."

"Not in the eyes of the daughter, perhaps, friend Pathfinder;" put in
Cap, whose spirits began to revive when he found the water once more
flowing around him. "The thirty years that you mention are not often
thought to be an advantage in the eyes of girls of nineteen."

Mabel colored; and, in turning aside her face to avoid the looks of
those in the bow of the canoe, she encountered the admiring gaze of the
young man in the stern. As a last resource, her spirited but soft blue
eyes sought refuge in the water. Just at this moment a dull, heavy sound
swept up the avenue formed by the trees, borne along by a light air that
hardly produced a ripple on the water.

"That sounds pleasantly," said Cap, pricking up his ears like a dog that
hears a distant baying; "it is the surf on the shores of your lake, I
suppose?"

"Not so--not so," answered the Pathfinder; "it is merely this river
tumbling over some rocks half a mile below us."

"Is there a fall in the stream?" demanded Mabel, a still brighter flush
glowing in her face.

"The devil! Master Pathfinder, or you, Mr. Eau-douce" (for so Cap began
to style Jasper), "had you not better give the canoe a sheer, and get
nearer to the shore? These waterfalls have generally rapids above them,
and one might as well get into the Maelstrom at once as to run into
their suction."

"Trust to us, friend Cap," answered Pathfinder; "we are but fresh-water
sailors, it is true, and I cannot boast of being much even of that; but
we understand rifts and rapids and cataracts; and in going down these we
shall do our endeavors not to disgrace our edication."

"In going down!" exclaimed Cap. "The devil, man! you do not dream of
going down a waterfall in this egg shell of bark!"

"Sartain; the path lies over the falls, and it is much easier to shoot
them than to unload the canoe and to carry that and all it contains
around a portage of a mile by hand."

Mabel turned her pallid countenance towards the young man in the stern
of the canoe; for, just at that moment, a fresh roar of the fall was
borne to her ears by a new current of the air, and it really sounded
terrific, now that the cause was understood.

"We thought that, by landing the females and the two Indians," Jasper
quietly observed, "we three white men, all of whom are used to the
water, might carry the canoe over in safety, for we often shoot these
falls."

"And we counted on you, friend mariner, as a mainstay," said Pathfinder,
winking to Jasper over his shoulder; "for you are accustomed to see
waves tumbling about; and without some one to steady the cargo, all the
finery of the Sergeant's daughter might be washed into the river and be
lost."

Cap was puzzled. The idea of going over a waterfall was, perhaps, more
serious in his eyes than it would have been in those of one totally
ignorant of all that pertained to boats; for he understood the power of
the element, and the total feebleness of man when exposed to its fury.
Still his pride revolted at the thought of deserting the boat, while
others not only steadily, but coolly, proposed to continue in it.
Notwithstanding the latter feeling, and his innate as well as acquired
steadiness in danger, he would probably have deserted his post; had not
the images of Indians tearing scalps from the human head taken so
strong hold of his fancy as to induce him to imagine the canoe a sort of
sanctuary.

"What is to be done with Magnet?" he demanded, affection for his niece
raising another qualm in his conscience. "We cannot allow Magnet to land
if there are enemy's Indians near?"

"Nay, no Mingo will be near the portage, for that is a spot too public
for their devilries," answered the Pathfinder confidently. "Natur'
is natur', and it is an Indian's natur' to be found where he is least
expected. No fear of him on a beaten path; for he wishes to come upon
you when unprepared to meet him, and the fiery villains make it a point
to deceive you, one way or another. Sheer in, Eau-douce, and we will
land the Sergeant's daughter on the end of that log, where she can reach
the shore with a dry foot."

The injunction was obeyed, and in a few minutes the whole party had
left the canoe, with the exception of Pathfinder and the two sailors.
Notwithstanding his professional pride, Cap would have gladly followed;
but he did not like to exhibit so unequivocal a weakness in the presence
of a fresh-water sailor.

"I call all hands to witness," said he, as those who had landed moved
away, "that I do not look on this affair as anything more than canoeing
in the woods. There is no seamanship in tumbling over a waterfall,
which is a feat the greatest lubber can perform as well as the oldest
mariner."

"Nay, nay, you needn't despise the Oswego Falls, neither," put in
Pathfinder; "for, though they may not be Niagara, nor the Genessee,
nor the Cahoos, nor Glenn's, nor those on the Canada, they are narvous
enough for a new beginner. Let the Sergeant's daughter stand on yonder
rock, and she will see the manner in which we ignorant backwoodsmen get
over a difficulty that we can't get under. Now, Eau-douce, a steady hand
and a true eye, for all rests on you, seeing that we can count Master
Cap for no more than a passenger."

The canoe was leaving the shore as he concluded, while Mabel went
hurriedly and trembling to the rock that had been pointed out, talking
to her companion of the danger her uncle so unnecessarily ran, while
her eyes were riveted on the agile and vigorous form of Eau-douce, as he
stood erect in the stern of the light boat, governing its movements. As
soon, however, as she reached a point where she got a view of the fall,
she gave an involuntary but suppressed scream, and covered her eyes.
At the next instant, the latter were again free, and the entranced girl
stood immovable as a statue, a scarcely breathing observer of all that
passed. The two Indians seated themselves passively on a log, hardly
looking towards the stream, while the wife of Arrowhead came near Mabel,
and appeared to watch the motions of the canoe with some such interest
as a child regards the leaps of a tumbler.

As soon as the boat was in the stream, Pathfinder sank on his knees,
continuing to use the paddle, though it was slowly, and in a manner not
to interfere with the efforts of his companion. The latter still stood
erect; and, as he kept his eye on some object beyond the fall, it was
evident that he was carefully looking for the spot proper for their
passage.

"Farther west, boy; farther west," muttered Pathfinder; "there where
you see the water foam. Bring the top of the dead oak in a line with the
stem of the blasted hemlock."

Eau-douce made no answer; for the canoe was in the centre of the stream,
with its head pointed towards the fall, and it had already begun to
quicken its motion by the increased force of the current. At that moment
Cap would cheerfully have renounced every claim to glory that could
possibly be acquired by the feat, to have been safe again on shore.
He heard the roar of the water, thundering, as it might be, behind a
screen, but becoming more and more distinct, louder and louder, and
before him he saw its line cutting the forest below, along which
the green and angry element seemed stretched and shining, as if the
particles were about to lose their principle of cohesion.

"Down with your helm, down with your helm, man!" he exclaimed, unable
any longer to suppress his anxiety, as the canoe glided towards the edge
of the fall.

"Ay, ay, down it is sure enough," answered Pathfinder, looking behind
him for a single instant, with his silent, joyous laugh,--"down we go,
of a sartinty! Heave her starn up, boy; farther up with her starn!"

The rest was like the passage of the viewless wind. Eau-douce gave the
required sweep with his paddle, the canoe glanced into the channel, and
for a few seconds it seemed to Cap that he was tossing in a caldron. He
felt the bow of the canoe tip, saw the raging, foaming water careering
madly by his side, was sensible that the light fabric in which he
floated was tossed about like an egg-shell, and then, not less to his
great joy than to his surprise, he discovered that it was gliding across
the basin of still water below the fall, under the steady impulse of
Jasper's paddle.

The Pathfinder continued to laugh; but he arose from his knees, and,
searching for a tin pot and a horn spoon, he began deliberately to
measure the water that had been taken in the passage.

"Fourteen spoonfuls, Eau-douce; fourteen fairly measured spoonfuls. I
have, you must acknowledge, known you to go down with only ten."

"Master Cap leaned so hard up stream," returned Jasper seriously, "that
I had difficulty in trimming the canoe."

"It may be so; no doubt it _was_ so, since you say it; but I have known
you go over with only ten."

Cap now gave a tremendous hem, felt for his queue as if to ascertain its
safety, and then looked back in order to examine the danger he had
gone through. His safety is easily explained. Most of the river fell
perpendicularly ten or twelve feet; but near its centre the force of the
current had so far worn away the rock as to permit the water to shoot
through a narrow passage, at an angle of about forty or forty five
degrees. Down this ticklish descent the canoe had glanced, amid
fragments of broken rock, whirlpools, foam, and furious tossings of
the element, which an uninstructed eye would believe menaced inevitable
destruction to an object so fragile. But the very lightness of the
canoe had favored its descent; for, borne on the crest of the waves, and
directed by a steady eye and an arm full of muscle, it had passed like a
feather from one pile of foam to another, scarcely permitting its glossy
side to be wetted. There were a few rocks to be avoided, the proper
direction was to be rigidly observed, and the fierce current did the
rest. (1)

     (1) Lest the reader suppose we are dealing purely in
     fiction, the writer will add that he has known a long
     thirty-two pounder carried over these same falls in perfect
     safety.

To say that Cap was astonished would not be expressing half his
feelings; he felt awed: for the profound dread of rocks which most
seamen entertain came in aid of his admiration of the boldness of the
exploit. Still he was indisposed to express all he felt, lest it might
be conceding too much in favor of fresh water and inland navigation;
and no sooner had he cleared his throat with the afore-said hem, than he
loosened his tongue in the usual strain of superiority.

"I do not gainsay your knowledge of the channel, Master Eau-douce, and,
after all, to know the channel in such a place is the main point. I have
had cockswains with me who could come down that shoot too, if they only
knew the channel."

"It isn't enough to know the channel," said Pathfinder; "it needs narves
and skill to keep the canoe straight, and to keep her clear of the rocks
too. There isn't another boatman in all this region that can shoot the
Oswego, but Eau-douce there, with any sartainty; though, now and then,
one has blundered through. I can't do it myself unless by means of
Providence, and it needs Jasper's hand and eye to make sure of a dry
passage. Fourteen spoonfuls, after all, are no great matter, though
I wish it had been but ten, seeing that the Sergeant's daughter was a
looker-on."

"And yet you conned the canoe; you told him how to head and how to
sheer."

"Human frailty, master mariner; that was a little of white-skin natur'.
Now, had the Sarpent, yonder, been in the boat, not a word would he have
spoken, or thought would he have given to the public. An Indian knows how
to hold his tongue; but we white folk fancy we are always wiser than our
fellows. I'm curing myself fast of the weakness, but it needs time to
root up the tree that has been growing more than thirty years."

"I think little of this affair, sir; nothing at all to speak my mind
freely. It's a mere wash of spray to shooting London Bridge which is
done every day by hundreds of persons, and often by the most delicate
ladies in the land. The king's majesty has shot the bridge in his royal
person."

"Well, I want no delicate ladies or king's majesties (God bless 'em!) in
the canoe, in going over these falls; for a boat's breadth, either way,
may make a drowning matter of it. Eau-douce, we shall have to carry the
Sergeant's brother over Niagara yet, to show him what may be done in a
frontier."

"The devil! Master Pathfinder, you must be joking now! Surely it is not
possible for a bark canoe to go over that mighty cataract?"

"You never were more mistaken, Master Cap, in your life. Nothing is
easier and many is the canoe I have seen go over it with my own eyes;
and if we both live I hope to satisfy you that the feat can be done. For
my part, I think the largest ship that ever sailed on the ocean might be
carried over, could she once get into the rapids."

Cap did not perceive the wink which Pathfinder exchanged with Eau-douce,
and he remained silent for some time; for, sooth to say, he had never
suspected the possibility of going down Niagara, feasible as the thing
must appear to every one on a second thought, the real difficulty
existing in going up it.

By this time the party had reached the place where Jasper had left
his own canoe, concealed in the bushes, and they all re-embarked; Cap,
Jasper, and his niece in one boat and Pathfinder, Arrowhead, and the
wife of the latter in the other. The Mohican had already passed down the
banks of the river by land, looking cautiously and with the skill of his
people for the signs of an enemy.

The cheek of Mabel did not recover all its bloom until the canoe was
again in the current, down which it floated swiftly, occasionally
impelled by the paddle of Jasper. She witnessed the descent of the falls
with a degree of terror which had rendered her mute; but her fright
had not been so great as to prevent admiration of the steadiness of the
youth who directed the movement from blending with the passing terror.
In truth, one much less sensitive might have had her feelings awakened
by the cool and gallant air with which Eau-douce had accomplished this
clever exploit. He had stood firmly erect, notwithstanding the plunge;
and to those on the shore it was evident that, by a timely application
of his skill and strength, the canoe had received a sheer which alone
carried it clear of a rock over which the boiling water was leaping in
_jets d'eau_,--now leaving the brown stone visible, and now covering it
with a limpid sheet, as if machinery controlled the play of the element.
The tongue cannot always express what the eyes view; but Mabel saw
enough, even in that moment of fear, to blend for ever in her mind the
pictures presented by the plunging canoe and the unmoved steersman. She
admitted that insidious feeling which binds woman so strongly to man, by
feeling additional security in finding herself under his care; and, for
the first time since leaving Fort Stanwix, she was entirely at her ease
in the frail bark in which she travelled. As the other canoe kept quite
near her own, however, and the Pathfinder, by floating at her side,
was most in view, the conversation was principally maintained with
that person; Jasper seldom speaking unless addressed, and constantly
exhibiting a wariness in the management of his own boat, which might
have been remarked by one accustomed to his ordinarily confident,
careless manner.

"We know too well a woman's gifts to think of carrying the Sergeant's
daughter over the falls," said Pathfinder, looking at Mabel, while he
addressed her uncle; "though I've been acquainted with some of her sex
that would think but little of doing the thing."

"Mabel is faint-hearted, like her mother," returned Cap; "and you did
well, friend, to humor her weakness. You will remember the child has
never been at sea."

"No, no, it was easy to discover that; by your own fearlessness, any one
might have seen how little you cared about the matter. I went over once
with a raw hand, and he jumped out of the canoe just as it tipped, and
you many judge what a time he had of it."

"What became of the poor fellow?" asked Cap, scarcely knowing how to
take the other's manner, which was so dry, while it was so simple, that
a less obtuse subject than the old sailor might well have suspected its
sincerity. "One who has passed the place knows how to feel for him."

"He was a _poor_ fellow, as you say; and a poor frontierman too, though
he came out to show his skill among us ignoranters. What became of him?
Why, he went down the falls topsy-turvey like, as would have happened to
a court-house or a fort."

"If it should jump out of at canoe," interrupted Jasper, smiling,
though he was evidently more disposed than his friend to let the
passage of the falls be forgotten.

"The boy is right," rejoined Pathfinder, laughing in Mabel's face, the
canoes being now so near that they almost touched; "he is sartainly
right. But you have not told us what you think of the leap we took?"

"It was perilous and bold," said Mabel; "while looking at it, I could
have wished that it had not been attempted, though, now it is over, I
can admire its boldness and the steadiness with which it was made."

"Now, do not think that we did this thing to set ourselves off in female
eyes. It may be pleasant to the young to win each other's good opinions
by doing things which may seem praiseworthy and bold; but neither
Eau-douce nor myself is of that race. My natur' has few turns in it, and
is a straight natur'; nor would it be likely to lead me into a vanity of
this sort while out on duty. As for Jasper, he would sooner go over the
Oswego Falls, without a looker-on, than do it before a hundred pair of
eyes. I know the lad well from much consorting, and I am sure he is not
boastful or vainglorious."

Mabel rewarded the scout with a smile, which served to keep the canoes
together for some time longer; for the sight of youth and beauty was so
rare on that remote frontier, that even the rebuked and self-mortified
feelings of this wanderer of the forest were sensibly touched by the
blooming loveliness of the girl.

"We did it for the best," Pathfinder continued; "'twas all for the best.
Had we waited to carry the canoe across the portage, time would have
been lost, and nothing is so precious as time when you are mistrustful
of Mingos."

"But we have little to fear now. The canoes move swiftly, and two hours,
you have said, will carry us down to the fort."

"It shall be a cunning Iroquois who hurts a hair of your head, pretty
one; for all here are bound to the Sergeant, and most, I think, to
yourself, to see you safe from harm. Ha, Eau-douce! what is that in the
river, at the lower turn, yonder, beneath the bushes,--I mean standing
on the rock?"

"'Tis the Big Serpent, Pathfinder; he is making signs to us in a way I
don't understand."

"'Tis the Sarpent, as sure as I'm a white man, and he wishes us to drop
in nearer to his shore. Mischief is brewing, or one of his deliberation
and steadiness would never take this trouble. Courage, all! We are men,
and must meet devilry as becomes our color and our callings. Ah, I never
knew good come of boasting! And here, just as I was vaunting of our
safety, comes danger to give me the lie."



CHAPTER IV

     Art, stryving to compare
     With nature, did an arber greene dispred,
     Fram'd of wanton yvie flowing fayre,
     Through which the fragrant eglantines did spred.
     SPENSER.


The Oswego, below the falls, is a more rapid, unequal stream than it
is above them. There are places where the river flows in the quiet
stillness of deep water, but many shoals and rapids occur; and at that
distant day, when everything was in its natural state, some of the
passes were not altogether without hazard. Very little exertion was
required on the part of those who managed the canoes, except in those
places where the swiftness of the current and the presence of the rocks
required care; then, indeed, not only vigilance, but great coolness,
readiness, and strength of arm became necessary, in order to avoid
the dangers. Of all this the Mohican was aware, and he had judiciously
selected a spot where the river flowed tranquilly to intercept the
canoes, in order to make his communication without hazard to those he
wished to speak.

The Pathfinder had no sooner recognized the form of his red friend,
than, with a strong sweep of his paddle, he threw the head of his own
canoe towards the shore, motioning for Jasper to follow. In a minute
both boats were silently drifting down the stream, within reach of the
bushes that overhung the water, all observing a profound silence; some
from alarm, and others from habitual caution. As the travellers drew
nearer the Indian, he made a sign for them to stop; and then he and
Pathfinder had a short but earnest conference.

"The Chief is not apt to see enemies in a dead log," observed the white
man to his red associate; "why does he tell us to stop?"

"Mingos are in the woods."

"That we have believed these two days: does the chief know it?"

The Mohican quietly held up the head of a pipe formed of stone.

"It lay on a fresh trail that led towards the garrison,"--for so it
was the usage of that frontier to term a military work, whether it was
occupied or not.

"That may be the bowl of a pipe belonging to a soldier. Many use the
red-skin pipes."

"See," said the Big Serpent, again holding the thing he had found up to
the view of his friend.

The bowl of the pipe was of soap-stone, and was carved with great care
and with a very respectable degree of skill; in its centre was a small
Latin cross, made with an accuracy which permitted no doubt of its
meaning.

"That does foretell devilry and wickedness," said the Pathfinder, who
had all the provincial horror of the holy symbol in question which
then pervaded the country, and which became so incorporated with its
prejudices, by confounding men with things, as to have left its traces
strong enough on the moral feeling of the community to be discovered
even at the present hour; "no Indian who had not been parvarted by the
cunning priests of the Canadas would dream of carving a thing like that
on his pipe. I'll warrant ye, the knave prays to the image every time he
wishes to sarcumvent the innocent, and work his fearful wickedness. It
looks fresh, too, Chingachgook?"

"The tobacco was burning when I found it."

"That is close work, chief. Where was the trail?"

The Mohican pointed to a spot not a hundred yards from that where they
stood.

The matter now began to look very serious, and the two principal guides
conferred apart for several minutes, when both ascended the bank,
approached the indicated spot, and examined the trail with the utmost
care. After this investigation had lasted a quarter of an hour, the
white man returned alone, his red friend having disappeared in the
forest.

The ordinary expression of the countenance of the Pathfinder was that of
simplicity, integrity, and sincerity, blended in an air of self-reliance
which usually gave great confidence to those who found themselves under
his care; but now a look of concern cast a shade over his honest face,
that struck the whole party.

"What cheer, Master Pathfinder?" demanded Cap, permitting a voice that
was usually deep, loud, and confident to sink into the cautious tones
that better suited the dangers of the wilderness. "Has the enemy got
between us and our port?"

"Anan?"

"Have any of these painted scaramouches anchored off the harbor towards
which we are running, with the hope of cutting us off in entering?"

"It may be all as you say, friend Cap, but I am none the wiser for your
words; and in ticklish times the plainer a man makes his English the
easier he is understood. I know nothing of ports and anchors; but there
is a direful Mingo trail within a hundred yards of this very spot, and
as fresh as venison without salt. If one of the fiery devils has passed,
so have a dozen; and, what is worse, they have gone down towards the
garrison, and not a soul crosses the clearing around it that some
of their piercing eyes will not discover, when sartain bullets will
follow."

"Cannot this said fort deliver a broadside, and clear everything within
the sweep of its hawse?"

"Nay, the forts this-a-way are not like forts in the settlements, and
two or three light cannon are all they have down at the mouth of the
river; and then, broadsides fired at a dozen outlying Mingoes, lying
behind logs and in a forest, would be powder spent in vain. We have but
one course, and that is a very nice one. We are judgmatically placed
here, both canoes being hid by the high bank and the bushes, from all
eyes, except those of any lurker directly opposite. Here, then, we may
stay without much present fear; but how to get the bloodthirsty devils
up the stream again? Ha! I have it, I have it! if it does no good, it
can do no harm. Do you see the wide-topped chestnut here, Jasper, at the
last turn in the river--on our own side of the stream, I mean?"

"That near the fallen pine?"

"The very same. Take the flint and tinderbox, creep along the bank, and
light a fire at that spot; maybe the smoke will draw them above us. In
the meanwhile, we will drop the canoes carefully down beyond the point
below, and find another shelter. Bushes are plenty, and covers are
easily to be had in this region, as witness the many ambushments."

"I will do it, Pathfinder," said Jasper, springing to the shore. "In ten
minutes the fire shall be lighted."

"And, Eau-douce, use plenty of damp wood this time," half whispered the
other, laughing heartily, in his own peculiar manner; "when smoke is
wanted, water helps to thicken it."

The young man was soon off, making his way rapidly towards the desired
point. A slight attempt of Mabel to object to the risk was disregarded,
and the party immediately prepared to change its position, as it could
be seen from the place where Jasper intended to light his fire. The
movement did not require haste, and it was made leisurely and with care.
The canoes were got clear of the bushes, then suffered to drop down with
the stream until they reached the spot where the chestnut, at the foot
of which Jasper was to light the fire, was almost shut out from view,
when they stopped, and every eye was turned in the direction of the
adventurer.

"There goes the smoke!" exclaimed the Pathfinder, as a current of air
whirled a little column of the vapor from the land, allowing it to
rise spirally above the bed of the river. "A good flint, a small bit
of steel, and plenty of dry leaves makes a quick fire. I hope Eau-douce
will have the wit to bethink him of the damp wood now when it may serve
us all a good turn."

"Too much smoke--too much cunning," said Arrowhead sententiously.

"That is gospel truth, Tuscarora, if the Mingoes didn't know that they
are near soldiers; but soldiers commonly think more of their dinner at
a halt than of their wisdom and danger. No, no; let the boy pile on his
logs, and smoke them well too; it will all be laid to the stupidity of
some Scotch or Irish blunderer, who is thinking more of his oatmeal or
his potatoes than of Indian sarcumventions or Indian rifles."

"And yet I should think, from all we have heard in the towns, that the
soldiers on this frontier are used to the artifices of their enemies,"
said Mabel, "and become almost as wily as the red men themselves."

"Not they. Experience makes them but little wiser; and they wheel, and
platoon, and battalion it about, here in the forest, just as they did
in their parks at home, of which they are all so fond of talking. One
red-skin has more cunning in his natur' than a whole regiment from the
other side of the water; that is, what I call cunning of the woods. But
there is smoke enough, of all conscience, and we had better drop into
another cover. The lad has thrown the river on his fire, and there is
danger that the Mingoes will believe a whole regiment is out."

While speaking, the Pathfinder permitted his canoe to drift away from
the bush by which it had been retained, and in a couple of minutes the
bend in the river concealed the smoke and the tree. Fortunately a small
indentation in the shore presented itself, within a few yards of the
point they had just passed; and the two canoes glided into it, under the
impulsion of the paddles.

A better spot could not have been found for the purpose. The bushes
were thick, and overhung the water, forming a complete canopy of leaves.
There was a small gravelly strand at the bottom of the little bay, where
most of the party landed to be more at their ease, and the only position
from which they could possibly be seen was a point on the river directly
opposite. There was little danger, however, of discovery from that
quarter, as the thicket there was even denser than common, and the land
beyond it was so wet and marshy as to render it difficult to be trodden.

"This is a safe cover," said the Pathfinder, after he had taken a
scrutinizing survey of his position; "but it may be necessary to make it
safer. Master Cap, I ask nothing of you but silence, and a quieting of
such gifts as you may have got at sea, while the Tuscarora and I make
provision for the evil hour."

The guide then went a short distance into the bushes, accompanied by
the Indian, where the two cut off the larger stems of several alders
and other bushes, using the utmost care not to make a noise. The ends of
these little trees were forced into the mud, outside of the canoes, the
depth of the water being very trifling; and in the course of ten minutes
a very effectual screen was interposed between them and the principal
point of danger. Much ingenuity and readiness were manifested in making
this simple arrangement, in which the two workmen were essentially
favored by the natural formation of the bank, the indentation in the
shore, the shallowness of the water, and the manner in which the tangled
bushes dipped into the stream. The Pathfinder had the address to look
for bushes which had curved stems, things easily found in such a place;
and by cutting them some distance beneath the bend, and permitting the
latter to touch the water, the artificial little thicket had not the
appearance of growing in the stream, which might have excited suspicion;
but one passing it would have thought that the bushes shot out
horizontally from the bank before they inclined upwards towards the
light. In short, none but an unusually distrustful eye would have been
turned for an instant towards the spot in quest of a hiding-place.

"This is the best cover I ever yet got into," said the Pathfinder, with
his quiet laugh, after having been on the outside to reconnoitre; "the
leaves of our new trees fairly touch those of the bushes over our heads.
Hist!--yonder comes Eau-douce, wading, like a sensible boy, as he is, to
leave his trail in the water; and we shall soon see whether our cover is
good for anything or not."

Jasper had indeed returned from his duty above; and missing the canoes,
he at once inferred that they had dropped round the next bend in the
river, in order to get out of sight of the fire. His habits of caution
immediately suggested the expediency of stepping into the water, in
order that there might exist no visible communication between the marks
left on the shore by the party and the place where he believed them to
have taken refuge below. Should the Canadian Indians return on their own
trail, and discover that made by the Pathfinder and the Serpent in their
ascent from and descent to the river, the clue to their movements would
cease at the shore, water leaving no prints of footsteps. The young man
had therefore waded, knee-deep, as far as the point, and was now seen
making his way slowly down the margin of the stream, searching curiously
for the spot in which the canoes were hid.

It was in the power of those behind the bushes, by placing their eyes
near the leaves, to find many places to look through while one at a
little distance lost this advantage. To those who watched his motions
from behind their cover, and they were all in the canoes, it was evident
that Jasper was totally at a loss to imagine where the Pathfinder had
secreted himself. When fairly round the curvature in the shore, and out
of sight of the fire he had lighted above, the young man stopped and
began examining the bank deliberately and with great care. Occasionally
he advanced eight or ten paces, and then halted again, to renew the
search. The water being much shallower than common, he stepped aside,
in order to walk with greater ease to himself and came so near the
artificial plantation that he might have touched it with his hand. Still
he detected nothing, and was actually passing the spot when Pathfinder
made an opening beneath the branches, and called to him in a low voice
to enter.

"This is pretty well," said the Pathfinder, laughing; "though pale-face
eyes and red-skin eyes are as different as human spy-glasses. I would
wager, with the Sergeant's daughter here, a horn of powder against a
wampum-belt for her girdle, that her father's rijiment should march by
this embankment of ours and never find out the fraud! But if the Mingoes
actually get down into the bed of the river where Jasper passed, I
should tremble for the plantation. It will do for their eyes, even
across the stream, however, and will not be without its use."

"Don't you think, Master Pathfinder, that it would be wisest, after
all," said Cap, "to get under way at once, and carry sail hard down
stream, as soon as we are satisfied that these rascals are fairly astern
of us? We seamen call a stern chase a long chase."

"I wouldn't move from this spot until we hear from the Sarpent with the
Sergeant's pretty daughter here in our company, for all the powder in
the magazine of the fort below. Sartain captivity or sartain death would
follow. If a tender fa'n, such as the maiden we have in charge, could
thread the forest like old deer, it might, indeed, do to quit the
canoes; for by making a circuit we could reach the garrison before
morning."

"Then let it be done," said Mabel, springing to her feet under the
sudden impulse of awakened energy. "I am young, active, used to
exercise, and could easily out-walk my dear uncle. Let no one think me
a hindrance. I cannot bear that all your lives should be exposed on my
account."

"No, no, pretty one; we think you anything but a hindrance or anything
that is unbecoming, and would willingly run twice this risk to do you
and the honest Sergeant a service. Do I not speak your mind, Eau-douce?"

"To do _her_ a service!" said Jasper with emphasis. "Nothing shall tempt
me to desert Mabel Dunham until she is safe in her father's arms."

"Well said, lad; bravely and honestly said, too; and I join in it, heart
and hand. No, no! you are not the first of your sex I have led
through the wilderness, and never but once did any harm befall any
of them:--that was a sad day, certainly, but its like may never come
again."

Mabel looked from one of her protectors to the other, and her fine eyes
swam in tears. Frankly placing a hand in that of each, she answered
them, though at first her voice was choked, "I have no right to expose
you on my account. My dear father will thank you, I thank you, God will
reward you; but let there be no unnecessary risk. I can walk far, and
have often gone miles on some girlish fancy; why not now exert myself
for my life?--nay, for your precious lives?"

"She is a true dove, Jasper" said the Pathfinder, neither relinquishing
the hand he held until the girl herself, in native modesty, saw fit to
withdraw it, "and wonderfully winning! We get to be rough, and sometimes
even hard-hearted, in the woods, Mabel; but the sight of one like you
brings us back again to our young feelings, and does us good for the
remainder of our days. I daresay Jasper here will tell you the same;
for, like me in the forest, the lad sees but few such as yourself on
Ontario, to soften his heart and remind him of love for his kind. Speak
out now, Jasper, and say if it is not so?"

"I question if many like Mabel Dunham are to be found anywhere,"
returned the young man gallantly, an honest sincerity glowing in his
face that spoke more eloquently than his tongue; "you need not mention
the woods and lakes to challenge her equals, but I would go into
settlements and towns."

"We had better leave the canoes," Mabel hurriedly rejoined; "for I feel
it is no longer safe to be here."

"You can never do it; you can never do it. It would be a march of more
than twenty miles, and that, too, of tramping over brush and roots, and
through swamps, in the dark; the trail of such a party would be wide,
and we might have to fight our way into the garrison after all. We will
wait for the Mohican."

Such appearing to be the decision of him to whom all, in their present
strait, looked up for counsel, no more was said on the subject. The
whole party now broke up into groups: Arrowhead and his wife sitting
apart under the bushes, conversing in a low tone, though the man spoke
sternly, and the woman answered with the subdued mildness that marks the
degraded condition of a savage's wife. Pathfinder and Cap occupied one
canoe, chatting of their different adventures by sea and land; while
Jasper and Mabel sat in the other, making greater progress in intimacy
in a single hour than might have been effected under other circumstances
in a twelvemonth. Notwithstanding their situation as regards the enemy,
the time flew by swiftly, and the young people, in particular, were
astonished when Cap informed them how long they had been thus occupied.

"If one could smoke, Master Pathfinder," observed the old sailor, "this
berth would be snug enough; for, to give the devil his due, you have got
the canoes handsomely landlocked, and into moorings that would defy a
monsoon. The only hardship is the denial of the pipe."

"The scent of the tobacco would betray us; and where is the use of
taking all these precautions against the Mingo's eyes, if we are to tell
him where the cover is to be found through the nose? No, no; deny your
appetites; and learn one virtue from a red-skin, who will pass a week
without eating even, to get a single scalp. Did you hear nothing,
Jasper?"

"The Serpent is coming."

"Then let us see if Mohican eyes are better than them of a lad who
follows the water."

The Mohican had indeed made his appearance in the same direction as that
by which Jasper had rejoined his friends. Instead of coming directly on,
however, no sooner did he pass the bend, where he was concealed from any
who might be higher up stream, than he moved close under the bank; and,
using the utmost caution, got a position where he could look back, with
his person sufficiently concealed by the bushes to prevent its being
seen by any in that quarter.

"The Sarpent sees the knaves!" whispered Pathfinder. "As I'm a Christian
white man, they have bit at the bait, and have ambushed the smoke!"

Here a hearty but silent laugh interrupted his words, and nudging
Cap with his elbow, they all continued to watch the movements of
Chingachgook in profound stillness. The Mohican remained stationary as
the rock on which he stood full ten minutes; and then it was apparent
that something of interest had occurred within his view, for he drew
back with a hurried manner, looked anxiously and keenly along the margin
of the stream, and moved quickly down it, taking care to lose his trail
in the shallow water. He was evidently in a hurry and concerned, now
looking behind him, and then casting eager glances towards every spot on
the shore where he thought a canoe might be concealed.

"Call him in," whispered Jasper, scarcely able to restrain his
impatience,--"call him in, or it will be too late! See! he is actually
passing us."

"Not so, not so, lad; nothing presses, depend on it;" returned his
companion, "or the Sarpent would begin to creep. The Lord help us and
teach us wisdom! I _do_ believe even Chingachgook, whose sight is as
faithful as the hound's scent, overlooks us, and will not find out the
ambushment we have made!"

This exultation was untimely; for the words were no sooner spoken than
the Indian, who had actually got several feet lower down the stream than
the artificial cover, suddenly stopped; fastened a keen-riveted glance
among the transplanted bushes; made a few hasty steps backward; and,
bending his body and carefully separating the branches, he appeared
among them.

"The accursed Mingos!" said Pathfinder, as soon as his friend was near
enough to be addressed with prudence.

"Iroquois," returned the sententious Indian.

"No matter, no matter; Iroquois, devil, Mingo, Mengwes, or furies--all
are pretty much the same. I call all rascals Mingos. Come hither, chief,
and let us convarse rationally."

When their private communication was over, Pathfinder rejoined the rest,
and made them acquainted with all he had learned.

The Mohican had followed the trail of their enemies some distance
towards the fort, until the latter caught a sight of the smoke of
Jasper's fire, when they instantly retraced their steps. It now became
necessary for Chingachgook, who ran the greatest risk of detection, to
find a cover where he could secrete himself until the party might pass.
It was perhaps fortunate for him that the savages were so intent on this
recent discovery, that they did not bestow the ordinary attention on the
signs of the forest. At all events, they passed him swiftly, fifteen in
number, treading lightly in each other's footsteps; and he was enabled
again to get into their rear. After proceeding to the place where the
footsteps of Pathfinder and the Mohican had joined the principal trail,
the Iroquois had struck off to the river, which they reached just as
Jasper had disappeared behind the bend below. The smoke being now
in plain view, the savages plunged into the woods and endeavored to
approach the fire unseen. Chingachgook profited by this occasion to
descend to the water, and to gain the bend in the river also, which
he thought had been effected undiscovered. Here he paused, as has been
stated, until he saw his enemies at the fire, where their stay, however,
was very short.

Of the motives of the Iroquois the Mohican could judge only by their
acts. He thought they had detected the artifice of the fire, and were
aware that it had been kindled with a view to mislead them; for, after
a hasty examination of the spot, they had separated, some plunging again
into the woods, while six or eight had followed the footsteps of Jasper
along the shore, and come down the stream towards the place where the
canoes had landed. What course they might take on reaching that spot was
only to be conjectured; for the Serpent had felt the emergency to be
too pressing to delay looking for his friends any longer. From some
indications that were to be gathered from their gestures, however, he
thought it probable that their enemies might follow down in the margin
of the stream, but could not be certain.

As the Pathfinder related these facts to his companions, the
professional feelings of the two other white men came uppermost, and
both naturally reverted to their habits, in quest of the means of
escape.

"Let us run out the canoes at once," said Jasper eagerly; "the current
is strong, and by using the paddles vigorously we shall soon be beyond
the reach of these scoundrels!"

"And this poor flower, that first blossomed in the clearings--shall it
wither in the forest?" objected his friend, with a poetry which he had
unconsciously imbibed by his long association with the Delawares.

"We must all die first," answered the youth, a generous color mounting
to his temples; "Mabel and Arrowhead's wife may lie down in the canoes,
while we do our duty, like men, on our feet."

"Ay, you are active at the paddle and the oar, Eau-douce, I will allow,
but an accursed Mingo is more active at his mischief; the canoes are
swift, but a rifle bullet is swifter."

"It is the business of men, engaged as we have been by a confiding
father, to run this risk--"

"But it is not their business to overlook prudence."

"Prudence! a man may carry his prudence so far as to forget his
courage."

The group was standing on the narrow strand, the Pathfinder leaning on
his rifle, the butt of which rested on the gravelly beach, while both
his hands clasped the barrel at the height of his own shoulders. As
Jasper threw out this severe and unmerited imputation, the deep red of
his comrade's face maintained its hue unchanged, though the young man
perceived that the fingers grasped the iron of the gun with the tenacity
of a vice. Here all betrayal of emotion ceased.

"You are young and hot-headed," returned Pathfinder, with a dignity that
impressed his listeners with a keen sense of his moral superiority; "but
my life has been passed among dangers of this sort, and my experience
and gifts are not to be mastered by the impatience of a boy. As for
courage, Jasper, I will not send back an angry and unmeaning word to
meet an angry and an unmeaning word; for I know that you are true in
your station and according to your knowledge; but take the advice of one
who faced the Mingos when you were a child, and know that their cunning
is easier sarcumvented by prudence than outwitted by foolishness."

"I ask your pardon, Pathfinder," said the repentant Jasper, eagerly
grasping the hand that the other permitted him to seize; "I ask your
pardon, humbly and sincerely. 'Twas a foolish, as well as wicked thing
to hint of a man whose heart, in a good cause, is known to be as firm as
the rocks on the lake shore."

For the first time the color deepened on the cheek of the Pathfinder,
and the solemn dignity which he had assumed, under a purely natural
impulse, disappeared in the expression of the earnest simplicity
inherent in all his feelings. He met the grasp of his young friend
with a squeeze as cordial as if no chord had jarred between them, and a
slight sternness that had gathered about his eye disappeared in a look
of natural kindness.

"'Tis well, Jasper," he answered, laughing; "I bear no ill-will, nor
shall any one on my behalf. My natur' is that of a white man, and that
is to bear no malice. It might have been ticklish work to have said half
as much to the Sarpent here, though he is a Delaware, for color will
have its way--"

A touch on his shoulder caused the speaker to cease. Mabel was standing
erect in the canoe, her light, but swelling form bent forward in an
attitude of graceful earnestness, her finger on her lips, her head
averted, her spirited eyes riveted on an opening in the bushes, and
one arm extended with a fishing-rod, the end of which had touched the
Pathfinder. The latter bowed his head to a level with a look-out near
which he had intentionally kept himself and then whispered to Jasper,--

"The accursed Mingos! Stand to your arms, my men, but lay quiet as the
corpses of dead trees!"

Jasper advanced rapidly, but noiselessly, to the canoe, and with a
gentle violence induced Mabel to place herself in such an attitude as
concealed her entire body, though it would have probably exceeded his
means to induce the girl so far to lower her head that she could not
keep her gaze fastened on their enemies. He then took his own post near
her, with his rifle cocked and poised, in readiness to fire. Arrowhead
and Chingachgook crawled to the cover, and lay in wait like snakes, with
their arms prepared for service, while the wife of the former bowed her
head between her knees, covered it with her calico robe, and remained
passive and immovable. Cap loosened both his pistols in their belt, but
seemed quite at a loss what course to pursue. The Pathfinder did not
stir. He had originally got a position where he might aim with deadly
effect through the leaves, and where he could watch the movements of
his enemies; and he was far too steady to be disconcerted at a moment so
critical.

It was truly an alarming instant. Just as Mabel touched the shoulder of
her guide, three of the Iroquois had appeared in the water, at the bend
of the river, within a hundred yards of the cover, and halted to
examine the stream below. They were all naked to the waist, armed for
an expedition against their foes, and in their warpaint. It was apparent
that they were undecided as to the course they ought to pursue in order
to find the fugitives. One pointed down the river, a second up the
stream, and the third towards the opposite bank. They evidently doubted.



CHAPTER V

     Death is here and death is there,
     Death is busy everywhere.
     SHELLEY


It was a breathless moment. The only clue the fugitives possessed to the
intentions of their pursuers was in their gestures and the indications
which escaped them in the fury of disappointment. That a party had
returned already, on their own footsteps, by land, was pretty certain;
and all the benefit expected from the artifice of the fire was
necessarily lost. But that consideration became of little moment just
then; for the party was menaced with an immediate discovery by those who
had kept on a level with the river. All the facts presented themselves
clearly, and as it might be by intuition, to the mind of Pathfinder, who
perceived the necessity of immediate decision and of being in readiness
to act in concert. Without making any noise, therefore, he managed
to get the two Indians and Jasper near him, when he opened his
communications in a whisper.

"We must be ready, we must be ready," he said. "There are but three of
the scalping devils, and we are five, four of whom may be set down as
manful warriors for such a skrimmage. Eau-douce, do you take the fellow
that is painted like death; Chingachgook, I give you the chief; and
Arrowhead must keep his eye on the young one. There must be no mistake,
for two bullets in the same body would be sinful waste, with one like
the Sergeant's daughter in danger. I shall hold myself in resarve
against accident, lest a fourth reptile appear, for one of your hands
may prove unsteady. By no means fire until I give the word; we must not
let the crack of the rifle be heard except in the last resort, since
all the rest of the miscreants are still within hearing. Jasper, boy,
in case of any movement behind us on the bank, I trust to you to run out
the canoe with the Sergeant's daughter, and to pull for the garrison, by
God's leave."

The Pathfinder had no sooner given these directions than the near
approach of their enemies rendered profound silence necessary. The
Iroquois in the river were slowly descending the stream; keeping of
necessity near the bushes which overhung the water, while the rustling
of leaves and the snapping of twigs soon gave fearful evidence that
another party was moving along the bank, at an equally graduated pace;
and directly abreast of them. In consequence of the distance between
the bushes planted by the fugitives and the true shore, the two parties
became visible to each other when opposite that precise point. Both
stopped, and a conversation ensued, that may be said to have passed
directly over the heads of those who were concealed. Indeed, nothing
sheltered the travellers but the branches and leaves of plants, so
pliant that they yielded to every current of air, and which a puff of
wind a little stronger than common would have blown away. Fortunately
the line of sight carried the eyes of the two parties of savages,
whether they stood in the water or on the land, above the bushes, and
the leaves appeared blended in a way to excite no suspicion. Perhaps the
very boldness of the expedient alone prevented an immediate exposure.
The conversation which took place was conducted earnestly, but in
guarded tones, as if those who spoke wished to defeat the intentions
of any listeners. It was in a dialect that both the Indian warriors
beneath, as well as the Pathfinder, understood. Even Jasper comprehended
a portion of what was said.

"The trail is washed away by the water!" said one from below, who stood
so near the artificial cover of the fugitives, that he might have been
struck by the salmon-spear that lay in the bottom of Jasper's canoe.
"Water has washed it so clear that a Yengeese hound could not follow."

"The pale-faces have left the shore in their canoes," answered the
speaker on the bank.

"It cannot be. The rifles of our warriors below are certain."

The Pathfinder gave a significant glance at Jasper, and he clinched his
teeth in order to suppress the sound of his own breathing.

"Let my young men look as if their eyes were eagles'," said the eldest
warrior among those who were wading in the river. "We have been a whole
moon on the war-path, and have found but one scalp. There is a maiden
among them, and some of our braves want wives."

Happily these words were lost on Mabel; but Jasper's frown became
deeper, and his face fiercely flushed.

The savages now ceased speaking, and the party which was concealed heard
the slow and guarded movements of those who were on the bank, as they
pushed the bushes aside in their wary progress. It was soon evident
that the latter had passed the cover; but the group in the water
still remained, scanning the shore with eyes that glared through their
war-paint like coals of living fire. After a pause of two or three
minutes, these three began also to descend the stream, though it was
step by step, as men move who look for an object that has been lost. In
this manner they passed the artificial screen, and Pathfinder opened
his mouth in that hearty but noiseless laugh that nature and habit had
contributed to render a peculiarity of the man. His triumph, however,
was premature; for the last of the retiring party, just at this moment
casting a look behind him, suddenly stopped; and his fixed attitude and
steady gaze at once betrayed the appalling fact that some neglected bush
had awakened his suspicions.

It was perhaps fortunate for the concealed that the warrior who
manifested these fearful signs of distrust was young, and had still a
reputation to acquire. He knew the importance of discretion and modesty
in one of his years, and most of all did he dread the ridicule and
contempt that would certainly follow a false alarm. Without recalling
any of his companions, therefore, he turned on his own footsteps;
and, while the others continued to descend the river, he cautiously
approached the bushes, on which his looks were still fastened, as by a
charm. Some of the leaves which were exposed to the sun had drooped a
little, and this slight departure from the usual natural laws had caught
the quick eyes of the Indian; for so practised and acute do the senses
of the savage become, more especially when he is on the war-path, that
trifles apparently of the most insignificant sort often prove to be
clues to lead him to his object.

The trifling nature of the change which had aroused the suspicion of
this youth was an additional motive for not acquainting his companions
with his discovery. Should he really detect anything, his glory would
be the greater for being unshared; and should he not, he might hope to
escape that derision which the young Indian so much dreads. Then there
were the dangers of an ambush and a surprise, to which every warrior of
the woods is keenly alive, to render his approach slow and cautious. In
consequence of the delay that proceeded from these combined causes, the
two parties had descended some fifty or sixty yards before the young
savage was again near enough to the bushes of the Pathfinder to touch
them with his hand.

Notwithstanding their critical situation, the whole party behind the
cover had their eyes fastened on the working countenance of the young
Iroquois, who was agitated by conflicting feelings. First came the eager
hope of obtaining success where some of the most experienced of his
tribe had failed, and with it a degree of glory that had seldom fallen
to the share of one of his years or a brave on his first war-path; then
followed doubts, as the drooping leaves seemed to rise again and to
revive in the currents of air; and distrust of hidden danger lent its
exciting feeling to keep the eloquent features in play. So very slight,
however, had been the alteration produced by the heat on the bushes of
which the stems were in the water, that when the Iroquois actually laid
his hand on the leaves, he fancied that he had been deceived. As no man
ever distrusts strongly without using all convenient means of satisfying
his doubts, however, the young warrior cautiously pushed aside the
branches and advanced a step within the hiding-place, when the forms of
the concealed party met his gaze, resembling so many breathless statues.
The low exclamation, the slight start, and the glaring eye, were hardly
seen and heard, before the arm of Chingachgook was raised, and the
tomahawk of the Delaware descended on the shaven head of his foe. The
Iroquois raised his hands frantically, bounded backward, and fell
into the water, at a spot where the current swept the body away, the
struggling limbs still tossing and writhing in the agony of death. The
Delaware made a vigorous but unsuccessful attempt to seize an arm, with
the hope of securing the scalp; but the bloodstained waters whirled down
the current, carrying with them their quivering burden.

All this passed in less than a minute, and the events were so sudden
and unexpected, that men less accustomed than the Pathfinder and his
associates to forest warfare would have been at a loss how to act.

"There is not a moment to lose," said Jasper, tearing aside the bushes,
as he spoke earnestly, but in a suppressed voice. "Do as I do, Master
Cap, if you would save your niece; and you, Mabel, lie at your length in
the canoe."

The words were scarcely uttered when, seizing the bow of the light boat
he dragged it along the shore, wading himself, while Cap aided behind,
keeping so near the bank as to avoid being seen by the savages below,
and striving to gain the turn in the river above him which would
effectually conceal the party from the enemy. The Pathfinder's canoe lay
nearest to the bank, and was necessarily the last to quit the shore.
The Delaware leaped on the narrow strand and plunged into the forest,
it being his assigned duty to watch the foe in that quarter, while
Arrowhead motioned to his white companion to seize the bow of the boat
and to follow Jasper. All this was the work of an instant; but when the
Pathfinder reached the current that was sweeping round the turn, he felt
a sudden change in the weight he was dragging, and, looking back, he
found that both the Tuscarora and his wife had deserted him. The thought
of treachery flashed upon his mind, but there was no time to pause, for
the wailing shout that arose from the party below proclaimed that the
body of the young Iroquois had floated as low as the spot reached by
his friends. The report of a rifle followed; and then the guide saw that
Jasper, having doubled the bend in the river, was crossing the stream,
standing erect in the stern of the canoe, while Cap was seated forward,
both propelling the light boat with vigorous strokes of the paddles. A
glance, a thought, and an expedient followed each other quickly in one
so trained in the vicissitudes of the frontier warfare. Springing into
the stern of his own canoe, he urged it by a vigorous shove into the
current, and commenced crossing the stream himself, at a point so much
lower than that of his companions as to offer his own person for a
target to the enemy, well knowing that their keen desire to secure a
scalp would control all other feelings.

"Keep well up the current, Jasper," shouted the gallant guide, as he
swept the water with long, steady, vigorous strokes of the paddle; "keep
well up the current, and pull for the alder bushes opposite. Presarve
the Sergeant's daughter before all things, and leave these Mingo knaves
to the Sarpent and me."

Jasper flourished his paddle as a signal of understanding, while shot
succeeded shot in quick succession, all now being aimed at the solitary
man in the nearest canoe.

"Ay, empty your rifles like simpletons as you are," said the Pathfinder,
who had acquired a habit of speaking when alone, from passing so much
of his time in the solitude of the forest; "empty your rifles with an
unsteady aim, and give me time to put yard upon yard of river between
us. I will not revile you like a Delaware or a Mohican; for my gifts are
a white man's gifts, and not an Indian's; and boasting in battle is no
part of a Christian warrior; but I may say here, all alone by myself,
that you are little better than so many men from the town shooting at
robins in the orchards. That was well meant," throwing back his head,
as a rifle bullet cut a lock of hair from his temple; "but the lead that
misses by an inch is as useless as the lead that never quits the barrel.
Bravely done, Jasper! the Sergeant's sweet child must be saved, even if
we go in without our own scalps."

By this time the Pathfinder was in the centre of the river, and almost
abreast of his enemies, while the other canoe, impelled by the vigorous
arms of Cap and Jasper, had nearly gained the opposite shore at the
precise spot that had been pointed out to them. The old mariner now
played his part manfully; for he was on his proper element, loved his
niece sincerely, had a proper regard for his own person, and was not
unused to fire, though his experience certainly lay in a very different
species of warfare. A few strokes of the paddles were given, and the
canoe shot into the bushes, Mabel was hurried to land by Jasper, and for
the present all three of the fugitives were safe.

Not so with the Pathfinder: his hardy self-devotion had brought him
into a situation of unusual exposure, the hazards of which were much
increased by the fact that, just as he drifted nearest to the enemy the
party on the shore rushed down the bank and joined their friends who
still stood in the water. The Oswego was about a cable's length in width
at this point, and, the canoe being in the centre, the object was only a
hundred yards from the rifles that were constantly discharged at it; or,
at the usual target distance for that weapon.

In this extremity the steadiness and skill of the Pathfinder did him
good service. He knew that his safety depended altogether on keeping in
motion; for a stationary object at that distance, would have been hit
nearly every shot. Nor was motion of itself sufficient; for, accustomed
to kill the bounding deer, his enemies probably knew how to vary the
line of aim so as to strike him, should he continue to move in any one
direction. He was consequently compelled to change the course of the
canoe,--at one moment shooting down with the current, with the swiftness
of an arrow; and at the next checking its progress in that direction, to
glance athwart the stream. Luckily the Iroquois could not reload their
pieces in the water, and the bushes that everywhere fringed the shore
rendered it difficult to keep the fugitive in view when on the land.
Aided by these circumstances, and having received the fire of all his
foes, the Pathfinder was gaining fast in distance, both downwards and
across the current, when a new danger suddenly, if not unexpectedly,
presented itself, by the appearance of the party that had been left in
ambush below with a view to watch the river.

These were the savages alluded to in the short dialogue already related.
They were no less than ten in number; and, understanding all the
advantages of their bloody occupation, they had posted themselves at a
spot where the water dashed among rocks and over shallows, in a way to
form a rapid which, in the language of the country, is called a rift.
The Pathfinder saw that, if he entered this rift, he should be compelled
to approach a point where the Iroquois had posted themselves, for the
current was irresistible, and the rocks allowed no other safe passage,
while death or captivity would be the probable result of the attempt.
All his efforts, therefore, were turned toward reaching the western
shore, the foe being all on the eastern side of the river; but the
exploit surpassed human power, and to attempt to stem the stream would
at once have so far diminished the motion of the canoe as to render aim
certain. In this exigency the guide came to a decision with his usual
cool promptitude, making his preparations accordingly. Instead of
endeavoring to gain the channel, he steered towards the shallowest part
of the stream, on reaching which he seized his rifle and pack, leaped
into the water, and began to wade from rock to rock, taking the
direction of the western shore. The canoe whirled about in the furious
current, now rolling over some slippery stone, now filling, and then
emptying itself, until it lodged on the shore, within a few yards of the
spot where the Iroquois had posted themselves.

In the meanwhile the Pathfinder was far from being out of danger; for
the first minute, admiration of his promptitude and daring, which are so
high virtues in the mind of an Indian, kept his enemies motionless; but
the desire of revenge, and the cravings for the much-prized trophy, soon
overcame this transient feeling, and aroused them from their stupor.
Rifle flashed after rifle, and the bullets whistled around the head of
the fugitive, amid the roar of the waters. Still he proceeded like one
who bore a charmed life; for, while his rude frontier garments were more
than once cut, his skin was not razed.

As the Pathfinder, in several instances, was compelled to wade in water
which rose nearly to his arms, while he kept his rifle and ammunition
elevated above the raging current, the toil soon fatigued him, and he
was glad to stop at a large stone, or a small rock, which rose so high
above the river that its upper surface was dry. On this stone he placed
his powder-horn, getting behind it himself, so as to have the advantage
of a partial cover for his body. The western shore was only fifty feet
distant, but the quiet, swift, dark current that glanced through the
interval sufficiently showed that here he would be compelled to swim.

A short cessation in the firing now took place on the part of the
Indians, who gathered about the canoe, and, having found the paddles,
were preparing to cross the river.

"Pathfinder," called a voice from among the bushes, at the point nearest
to the person addressed, on the western shore.

"What would you have, Jasper?"

"Be of good heart--friends are at hand, and not a single Mingo shall
cross without suffering for his boldness. Had you not better leave the
rifle on the rock, and swim to us before the rascals can get afloat?"

"A true woodsman never quits his piece while he has any powder in his
horn or a bullet in his pouch. I have not drawn a trigger this day,
Eau-douce, and shouldn't relish the idea of parting with those reptiles
without causing them to remember my name. A little water will not harm
my legs; and I see that blackguard, Arrowhead, among the scamps, and
wish to send him the wages he has so faithfully earned. You have not
brought the Sergeant's daughter down here in a range with their bullets,
I hope, Jasper?"

"She is safe for the present at least; though all depends on our keeping
the river between us and the enemy. They must know our weakness now;
and, should they cross, no doubt some of their party will be left on the
other side."

"This canoeing touches your gifts rather than mine, boy, though I will
handle a paddle with the best Mingo that ever struck a salmon. If they
cross below the rift, why can't we cross in the still water above, and
keep playing at dodge and turn with the wolves?"

"Because, as I have said, they will leave a party on the other shore;
and then, Pathfinder, would you expose Mabel, to the rifles of the
Iroquois?"

"The Sergeant's daughter must be saved," returned the guide, with calm
energy. "You are right, Jasper; she has no gift to authorize her in
offering her sweet face and tender body to a Mingo rifle. What can
be done, then? They must be kept from crossing for an hour or two, if
possible, when we must do our best in the darkness."

"I agree with you, Pathfinder, if it can be effected; but are we strong
enough for such a purpose?"

"The Lord is with us, boy, the Lord is with us; and it is unreasonable
to suppose that one like the Sergeant's daughter will be altogether
abandoned by Providence in such a strait. There is not a boat between
the falls and the garrison, except these two canoes, to my sartain
knowledge; and I think it will go beyond red-skin gifts to cross in
the face of two rifles like these of yourn and mine. I will not vaunt,
Jasper; but it is well known on all this frontier that Killdeer seldom
fails."

"Your skill is admitted by all, far and near, Pathfinder; but a rifle
takes time to be loaded; nor are you on the land, aided by a good cover,
where you can work to the advantage you are used to. If you had our
canoe, might you not pass to the shore with a dry rifle?"

"Can an eagle fly, Jasper?" returned the other, laughing in his usual
manner, and looking back as he spoke. "But it would be unwise to expose
yourself on the water; for them miscreants are beginning to bethink them
again of powder and bullets."

"It can be done without any such chances. Master Cap has gone up to
the canoe, and will cast the branch of a tree into the river to try the
current, which sets from the point above in the direction of your rock.
See, there it comes already; if it float fairly, you must raise your
arm, when the canoe will follow. At all events, if the boat should pass
you, the eddy below will bring it up, and I can recover it."

While Jasper was still speaking, the floating branch came in sight; and,
quickening its progress with the increasing velocity of the current,
it swept swiftly down towards the Pathfinder, who seized it as it was
passing, and held it in the air as a sign of success. Cap understood
the signal, and presently the canoe was launched into the stream, with
a caution and an intelligence that the habits of the mariner had fitted
him to observe. It floated in the same direction as the branch, and in a
minute was arrested by the Pathfinder.

"This has been done with a frontier man's judgment Jasper," said the
guide, laughing; "but you have your gifts, which incline most to the
water, as mine incline to the woods. Now let them Mingo knaves cock
their rifles and get rests, for this is the last chance they are likely
to have at a man without a cover."

"Nay, shove the canoe towards the shore, quartering the current, and
throw yourself into it as it goes off," said Jasper eagerly. "There is
little use in running any risk."

"I love to stand up face to face with my enemies like a man, while
they set me the example," returned the Pathfinder proudly. "I am not a
red-skin born, and it is more a white man's gifts to fight openly than
to lie in ambushment."

"And Mabel?"

"True, boy, true; the Sergeant's daughter must be saved; and, as you
say, foolish risks only become boys. Think you that you can catch the
canoe where you stand?"

"There can be no doubt, if you give a vigorous push."

Pathfinder made the necessary effort; the light bark shot across the
intervening space, and Jasper seized it as it came to land. To secure
the canoe, and to take proper positions in the cover, occupied the
friends but a moment, when they shook hands cordially, like those who
had met after a long separation.

"Now, Jasper, we shall see if a Mingo of them all dares cross the Oswego
in the teeth of Killdeer! You are handier with the oar and the paddle
and the sail than with the rifle, perhaps; but you have a stout heart
and a steady hand, and them are things that count in a fight."

"Mabel will find me between her and her enemies," said Jasper calmly.

"Yes, yes, the Sergeant's daughter must be protected. I like you, boy,
on your own account; but I like you all the better that you think of
one so feeble at a moment when there is need of all your manhood. See,
Jasper! Three of the knaves are actually getting into the canoe! They
must believe we have fled, or they would not surely venture so much,
directly in the very face of Killdeer."

Sure enough the Iroquois did appear bent on venturing across the stream;
for, as the Pathfinder and his friends now kept their persons strictly
concealed, their enemies began to think that the latter had taken to
flight. Such a course was that which most white men would have followed;
but Mabel was under the care of those who were much too well skilled in
forest warfare to neglect to defend the only pass that, in truth, now
offered even a probable chance for protection.

As the Pathfinder had said, three warriors were in the canoe, two
holding their rifles at a poise, as they knelt in readiness to aim the
deadly weapons, and the other standing erect in the stern to wield the
paddle. In this manner they left the shore, having had the precaution
to haul the canoe, previously to entering it, so far up the stream as
to have got into the comparatively still water above the rift. It was
apparent at a glance that the savage who guided the boat was skilled
in the art; for the long steady sweep of his paddle sent the light bark
over the glassy surface of the tranquil river as if it were a feather
floating in air.

"Shall I fire?" demanded Jasper in a whisper, trembling with eagerness
to engage.

"Not yet, boy, not yet. There are but three of them, and if Master Cap
yonder knows how to use the popguns he carries in his belt, we may even
let them land, and then we shall recover the canoe."

"But Mabel--?"

"No fear for the Sergeant's daughter. She is safe in the hollow stump,
you say, with the opening judgmatically hid by the brambles. If what
you tell me of the manner in which you concealed the trail be true, the
sweet one might lie there a month and laugh at the Mingos."

"We are never certain. I wish we had brought her nearer to our own
cover!"

"What for, Eau-douce? To place her pretty little head and leaping heart
among flying bullets? No, no: she is better where she is, because she is
safer."

"We are never certain. We thought ourselves safe behind the bushes, and
yet you saw that we were discovered."

"And the Mingo imp paid for his curiosity, as these knaves are about to
do."

The Pathfinder ceased speaking; for at that instant the sharp report of
a rifle was heard, when the Indian in the stern of the canoe leaped high
into the air, and fell into the water, holding the paddle in his hand.
A small wreath of smoke floated out from among the bushes of the eastern
shore, and was soon absorbed by the atmosphere.

"That is the Sarpent hissing!" exclaimed the Pathfinder exultingly. "A
bolder or a truer heart never beat in the breast of a Delaware. I am
sorry that he interfered; but he could not have known our condition."

The canoe had no sooner lost its guide than it floated with the stream,
and was soon sucked into the rapids of the rift. Perfectly helpless,
the two remaining savages gazed wildly about them, but could offer no
resistance to the power of the element. It was perhaps fortunate for
Chingachgook that the attention of most of the Iroquois was intently
given to the situation of those in the boat, else would his escape have
been to the last degree difficult, if not totally impracticable. But not
a foe moved, except to conceal his person behind some cover; and every
eye was riveted on the two remaining adventurers. In less time than has
been necessary to record these occurrences, the canoe was whirling and
tossing in the rift, while both the savages had stretched themselves
in its bottom, as the only means of preserving the equilibrium. This
natural expedient soon failed them; for, striking a rock, the light
draft rolled over, and the two warriors were thrown into the river. The
water is seldom deep on a rift, except in particular places where it
may have worn channels; and there was little to be apprehended from
drowning, though their arms were lost; and the two savages were fain to
make the best of their way to the friendly shore, swimming and wading as
circumstances required. The canoe itself lodged on a rock in the centre
of the stream, where for the moment it became useless to both parties.

"Now is our time, Pathfinder," cried Jasper, as the two Iroquois exposed
most of their persons while wading in the shallowest part of the rapids:
"the fellow up stream is mine, and you can take the lower."

So excited had the young man become by all the incidents of the stirring
scene, that the bullet sped from his rifle as he spoke, but uselessly,
as it would seem, for both the fugitives tossed their arms in disdain.
The Pathfinder did not fire.

"No, no, Eau-douce," he answered; "I do not seek blood without a cause;
and my bullet is well leathered and carefully driven down, for the time
of need. I love no Mingo, as is just, seeing how much I have consorted
with the Delawares, who are their mortal and natural enemies; but I
never pull trigger on one of the miscreants unless it be plain that his
death will lead to some good end. The deer never leaped that fell by
my hand wantonly. By living much alone with God in the wilderness a man
gets to feel the justice of such opinions. One life is sufficient for
our present wants; and there may yet be occasion to use Killdeer in
behalf of the Sarpent, who has done an untimorsome thing to let them
rampant devils so plainly know that he is in their neighborhood. As I'm
a wicked sinner, there is one of them prowling along the bank this very
moment, like one of the boys of the garrison skulking behind a fallen
tree to get a shot at a squirrel!"

As the Pathfinder pointed with his finger while speaking, the quick eye
of Jasper soon caught the object towards which it was directed. One of
the young warriors of the enemy, burning with a desire to distinguish
himself, had stolen from his party towards the cover in which
Chingachgook had concealed himself; and as the latter was deceived by
the apparent apathy of his foes, as well as engaged in some further
preparations of his own, he had evidently obtained a position where
he got a sight of the Delaware. This circumstance was apparent by the
arrangements the Iroquois was making to fire, for Chingachgook himself
was not visible from the western side of the river. The rift was at a
bend in the Oswego, and the sweep of the eastern shore formed a curve
so wide that Chingachgook was quite near to his enemies in a straight
direction, though separated by several hundred feet on the land, owing
to which fact air lines brought both parties nearly equidistant from
the Pathfinder and Jasper. The general width of the river being a little
less than two hundred yards, such necessarily was about the distance
between his two observers and the skulking Iroquois.

"The Sarpent must be thereabouts," observed Pathfinder, who never turned
his eye for an instant from the young warrior; "and yet he must be
strangely off his guard to allow a Mingo devil to get his stand so near,
with manifest signs of bloodshed in his heart."

"See!" interrupted Jasper--"there is the body of the Indian the Delaware
shot! It has drifted on a rock, and the current has forced the head and
face above the water."

"Quite likely, boy, quite likely. Human natur' is little better than a
log of driftwood, when the life that was breathed into its nostrils
is departed. That Iroquois will never harm any one more; but yonder
skulking savage is bent on taking the scalp of my best and most tried
friend."

The Pathfinder suddenly interrupted himself by raising his rifle, a
weapon of unusual length, with admirable precision, and firing the
instant it had got its level. The Iroquois on the opposite shore was in
the act of aiming when the fatal messenger from Killdeer arrived. His
rifle was discharged, it is true, but it was with the muzzle in the air,
while the man himself plunged into the bushes, quite evidently hurt, if
not slain.

"The skulking reptyle brought it on himself," muttered Pathfinder
sternly, as, dropping the butt of his rifle, he carefully commenced
reloading it. "Chingachgook and I have consorted together since we were
boys, and have fi't in company on the Horican, the Mohawk, the Ontario,
and all the other bloody passes between the country of the Frenchers and
our own; and did the foolish knave believe that I would stand by and see
my best friend cut off in an ambushment?"

"We have served the Sarpent as good a turn as he served us. Those
rascals are troubled, Pathfinder, and are falling back into their
covers, since they find we can reach them across the river."

"The shot is no great matter, Jasper, no great matter. Ask any of the
60th, and they can tell you what Killdeer can do, and has done, and
that, too, when the bullets were flying about our heads like hailstones.
No, no! this is no great matter, and the unthoughtful vagabond drew it
down on himself."

"Is that a dog, or a deer, swimming towards this shore?" Pathfinder
started, for sure enough an object was crossing the stream, above the
rift, towards which, however, it was gradually setting by the force of
the current. A second look satisfied both the observers that it was
a man, and an Indian, though so concealed as at first to render it
doubtful. Some stratagem was apprehended, and the closest attention was
given to the movements of the stranger.

"He is pushing something before him as he swims, and his head resembles
a drifting bush," said Jasper.

"'Tis Indian devilry, boy; but Christian honesty shall circumvent their
arts."

As the man slowly approached, the observers began to doubt the accuracy
of their first impressions, and it was only when two-thirds of the
stream were passed that the truth was really known.

"The Big Sarpent, as I live!" exclaimed Pathfinder, looking at his
companion, and laughing until the tears came into his eyes with pure
delight at the success of the artifice. "He has tied bushes to his head,
so as to hide it, put the horn on top, lashed the rifle to that bit of
log he is pushing before him, and has come over to join his friends.
Ah's me! The times and times that he and I have cut such pranks, right
in the teeth of Mingos raging for our blood, in the great thoroughfare
round and about Ty!"

"It may not be the Serpent after all, Pathfinder; I can see no feature
that I remember."

"Feature! Who looks for features in an Indian? No, no, boy; 'tis the
paint that speaks, and none but a Delaware would wear that paint:
them are his colors, Jasper, just as your craft on the lake wears St.
George's Cross, and the Frenchers set their tablecloths to fluttering
in the wind, with all the stains of fish-bones and venison steaks upon
them. Now, you see the eye, lad, and it is the eye of a chief. But,
Eau-douce, fierce as it is in battle, and glassy as it looks from
among the leaves,"--here the Pathfinder laid his fingers lightly but
impressively on his companion's arm,--"I have seen it shed tears like
rain. There is a soul and a heart under that red skin, rely on it;
although they are a soul and a heart with gifts different from our own."

"No one who is acquainted with the chief ever doubted that."

"I _know_ it," returned the other proudly, "for I have consorted
with him in sorrow and in joy: in one I have found him a man, however
stricken; in the other, a chief who knows that the women of his tribe
are the most seemly in light merriment. But hist! It is too much like
the people of the settlements to pour soft speeches into another's ear;
and the Sarpent has keen senses. He knows I love him, and that I speak
well of him behind his back; but a Delaware has modesty in his inmost
natur', though he will brag like a sinner when tied to a stake."

The Serpent now reached the shore, directly in the front of his two
comrades, with whose precise position he must have been acquainted
before leaving the eastern side of the river, and rising from the water
he shook himself like a dog, and made the usual exclamation--"Hugh!"



CHAPTER VI.

     These, as they change, Almighty Father, these,
     Are but the varied God.
     THOMSON.


As the chief landed he was met by the Pathfinder, who addressed him in
the language of the warrior's people: "Was it well done, Chingachgook,"
said he reproachfully, "to ambush a dozen Mingos alone? Killdeer seldom
fails me, it is true; but the Oswego makes a distant mark, and that
miscreant showed little more than his head and shoulders above the
bushes, and an onpractysed hand and eye might have failed. You should
have thought of this, chief--you should have thought of this!"

"The Great Serpent is a Mohican warrior--he sees only his enemies when
he is on the war-path, and his fathers have struck the Mingos from
behind, since the waters began to run."

"I know your gifts, I know your gifts, and respect them too. No man
shall hear me complain that a red-skin obsarved red-skin natur'. But
prudence as much becomes a warrior as valor; and had not the Iroquois
devils been looking after their friends who were in the water, a hot
trail they would have made of yourn."

"What is the Delaware about to do?" exclaimed Jasper, who observed at
that moment that the chief had suddenly left the Pathfinder and advanced
to the water's edge, apparently with an intention of again entering the
river. "He will not be so mad as to return to the other shore for any
trifle he may have forgotten?"

"Not he, not he; he is as prudent as he is brave, in the main, though
so forgetful of himself in the late ambushment. Hark'e, Jasper," leading
the other a little aside, just as they heard the Indian's plunge into
the water,--"hark'e, lad; Chingachgook is not a Christian white man,
like ourselves, but a Mohican chief, who has his gifts and traditions to
tell him what he ought to do; and he who consorts with them that are not
strictly and altogether of his own kind had better leave natur' and use
to govern his comrades. A king's soldier will swear and he will drink,
and it is of little use to try to prevent him; a gentleman likes his
delicacies, and a lady her feathers and it does not avail much to
struggle against either; whereas an Indian's natur' and gifts are much
stronger than these, and no doubt were bestowed by the Lord for wise
ends, though neither you nor me can follow them in all their windings."

"What does this mean? See, the Delaware is swimming towards the body
that is lodged on the rock? Why does he risk this?"

"For honor and glory and renown, as great gentlemen quit their quiet
homes beyond seas--where, as they tell me, heart has nothing left to
wish for; that is, such hearts as can be satisfied in a clearing--to
come hither to live on game and fight the Frenchers."

"I understand you--your friend has gone to secure the scalp."

"'Tis his gift, and let him enjoy it. We are white men, and cannot
mangle a dead enemy; but it is honor in the eyes of a red-skin to do
so. It may seem singular to you, Eau-douce, but I've known white men of
great name and character manifest as remarkable idees consarning their
honor, I have."

"A savage will be a savage, Pathfinder, let him keep what company he
may."

"It is well for us to say so, lad; but, as I tell you, white honor will
not always conform to reason or to the will of God. I have passed days
thinking of these matters, out in the silent woods, and I have come
to the opinion, boy, that, as Providence rules all things, no gift is
bestowed without some wise and reasonable end."

"The Serpent greatly exposes himself to the enemy, in order to get his
scalp! This may lose us the day."

"Not in his mind, Jasper. That one scalp has more honor in it, according
to the Sarpent's notions of warfare, than a field covered with slain,
that kept the hair on their heads. Now, there was the fine young
captain of the 60th that threw away his life in trying to bring off a
three-pounder from among the Frenchers in the last skrimmage we had;
he thought he was sarving honor; and I have known a young ensign wrap
himself up in his colors, and go to sleep in his blood, fancying that he
was lying on something softer even than buffalo-skins."

"Yes, yes; one can understand the merit of not hauling down an ensign."

"And these are Chingachgook's colors--he will keep them to show his
children's children--" Here the Pathfinder interrupted himself, shook
his head in melancholy, and slowly added, "Ah's me! no shoot of the old
Mohican stem remains! He has no children to delight with his trophies;
no tribe to honor by his deeds; he is a lone man in this world, and yet
he stands true to his training and his gifts! There is something honest
and respectable in these, you must allow, Jasper."

Here a great outcry from the Iroquois was succeeded by the quick reports
of their rifles, and so eager did the enemy become, in the desire to
drive the Delaware back from his victim, that a dozen rushed into
the river, several of whom even advanced near a hundred feet into the
foaming current, as if they actually meditated a serious sortie. But
Chingachgook continued unmoved, as he remained unhurt by the missiles,
accomplishing his task with the dexterity of long habit. Flourishing his
reeking trophy, he gave the war-whoop in its most frightful intonations,
and for a minute the arches of the silent woods and the deep vista
formed by the course of the river echoed with cries so terrific that
Mabel bowed her head in irrepressible fear, while her uncle for a single
instant actually meditated flight.

"This surpasses all I have heard from the wretches," Jasper exclaimed,
stopping his ears, equally in horror and disgust.

"'Tis their music, boy; their drum and fife; their trumpets and
clarions. No doubt they love those sounds; for they stir up in them
fierce feelings, and a desire for blood," returned the Pathfinder,
totally unmoved. "I thought them rather frightful when a mere youngster;
but they have become like the whistle of the whippoorwill or the song of
the cat-bird in my ear now. All the screeching reptyles that could stand
between the falls and the garrison would have no effect on my narves
at this time of day. I say it not in boasting, Jasper; for the man that
lets in cowardice through the ears must have but a weak heart at
the best; sounds and outcries being more intended to alarm women and
children than such as scout the forest and face the foe. I hope the
Sarpent is now satisfied, for here he comes with the scalp at his belt."

Jasper turned away his head as the Delaware rose from the water, in pure
disgust at his late errand; but the Pathfinder regarded his friend with
the philosophical indifference of one who had made up his mind to be
indifferent to things he deemed immaterial. As the Delaware passed
deeper into the bushes with a view to wring his trifling calico dress
and to prepare his rifle for service, he gave one glance of triumph at
his companions, and then all emotion connected with the recent exploit
seemed to cease.

"Jasper," resumed the guide, "step down to the station of Master Cap,
and ask him to join us: we have little time for a council, and yet our
plans must be laid quickly, for it will not be long before them Mingos
will be plotting our ruin."

The young man complied; and in a few minutes the four were assembled
near the shore, completely concealed from the view of their enemies,
while they kept a vigilant watch over the proceedings of the latter, in
order to consult on their own future movements.

By this time the day had so far advanced as to leave but a few minutes
between the passing light and an obscurity that promised to be even
deeper than common. The sun had already set and the twilight of a low
latitude would soon pass into the darkness of deep night. Most of the
hopes of the party rested on this favorable circumstance, though it was
not without its dangers also, as the very obscurity which would favor
their escape would be as likely to conceal the movements of their wily
enemies.

"The moment has come, men," Pathfinder commenced, "when our plans must
be coolly laid, in order that we may act together, and with a right
understanding of our errand and gifts. In an hour's time these woods
will be as dark as midnight; and if we are ever to gain the garrison,
it must be done under favor of this advantage. What say you, Master Cap?
for, though none of the most experienced in combats and retreats in the
woods, your years entitle you to speak first in a matter like this and
in a council."

"Well, in my judgment, all we have to do is to go on board the canoe
when it gets to be so dark the enemy's lookouts can't see us, and run
for the haven, as wind and tide will allow."

"That is easily said, but not so easily done," returned the guide. "We
shall be more exposed in the river than by following the woods; and then
there is the Oswego rift below us, and I am far from sartain that Jasper
himself can carry a boat safely through it in the dark. What say you,
lad, as to your own skill and judgment?"

"I am of Master Cap's opinion about using the canoe. Mabel is too tender
to walk through swamps and among roots of trees in such a night as this
promises to be, and then I always feel myself stouter of heart and truer
of eye when afloat than when ashore."

"Stout of heart you always be, lad, and I think tolerably true of eye
for one who has lived so much in broad sunshine and so little in the
woods. Ah's me! The Ontario has no trees, or it would be a plain to
delight a hunter's heart! As to your opinion, friends, there is much for
and much against it. For it, it may be said water leaves no trail--"

"What do you call the wake?" interrupted the pertinacious and dogmatical
Cap.

"Anan?"

"Go on," said Jasper; "Master Cap thinks he is on the ocean--water
leaves no trail--"

"It leaves none, Eau-douce, hereaway, though I do not pretend to say
what it may leave on the sea. Then a canoe is both swift and easy when
it floats with the current, and the tender limbs of the Sergeant's
daughter will be favored by its motion. But, on the other hand, the
river will have no cover but the clouds in the heavens; the rift is a
ticklish thing for boats to venture into, even by daylight; and it is
six fairly measured miles, by water, from this spot to the garrison.
Then a trail on land is not easy to be found in the dark. I am troubled,
Jasper, to say which way we ought to counsel and advise."

"If the Serpent and myself could swim into the river and bring off the
other canoe," the young sailor replied, "it would seem to me that our
safest course would be the water."

"If, indeed! and yet it might easily be done, as soon as it is a little
darker. Well, well, I am not sartain it will not be the best. Though,
were we only a party of men, it would be like a hunt to the lusty and
brave to play at hide-and-seek with yonder miscreants on the other
shore, Jasper," continued the guide, into whose character there entered
no ingredient which belonged to vain display or theatrical effect, "will
you undertake to bring in the canoe?"

"I will undertake anything that will serve and protect Mabel,
Pathfinder."

"That is an upright feeling, and I suppose it is natur'. The Sarpent,
who is nearly naked already, can help you; and this will be cutting off
one of the means of them devils to work their harm."

This material point being settled, the different members of the party
prepared themselves to put the project in execution. The shades of
evening fell fast upon the forest; and by the time all was ready for
the attempt, it was found impossible to discern objects on the opposite
shore. Time now pressed; for Indian cunning could devise so many
expedients for passing so narrow a stream, that the Pathfinder was
getting impatient to quit the spot. While Jasper and his companion
entered the river, armed with nothing but their knives and the
Delaware's tomahawk, observing the greatest caution not to betray their
movements, the guide brought Mabel from her place of concealment, and,
bidding her and Cap proceed along the shore to the foot of the rapids,
he got into the canoe that remained in his possession, in order to carry
it to the same place.

This was easily effected. The canoe was laid against the bank, and
Mabel and her uncle entered it, taking their seats as usual; while the
Pathfinder, erect in the stern, held by a bush, in order to prevent the
swift stream from sweeping them down its current. Several minutes of
intense and breathless expectation followed, while they awaited the
results of the bold attempt of their comrades.

It will be understood that the two adventurers were compelled to swim
across a deep and rapid channel before they could reach a part of the
rift that admitted of wading. This portion of the enterprise was soon
effected; and Jasper and the Serpent struck the bottom side by side at
the same instant. Having secured firm footing, they took hold of each
other's hands, and waded slowly and with extreme caution in the supposed
direction of the canoe. But the darkness was already so deep that they
soon ascertained they were to be but little aided by the sense of sight,
and that their search must be conducted on that species of instinct
which enables the woodsman to find his way when the sun is hid, no stars
appear, and all would seem chaos to one less accustomed to the mazes of
the forest. Under these circumstances, Jasper submitted to be guided by
the Delaware, whose habits best fitted him to take the lead. Still it
was no easy matter to wade amid the roaring element at that hour, and
retain a clear recollection of the localities. By the time they believed
themselves to be in the centre of the stream, the two shores were
discernible merely by masses of obscurity denser than common, the
outlines against the clouds being barely distinguishable by the ragged
tops of the trees. Once or twice the wanderers altered their course, in
consequence of unexpectedly stepping into deep water; for they knew that
the boat had lodged on the shallowest part of the rift. In short, with
this fact for their compass, Jasper and his companion wandered about
in the water for nearly a quarter of an hour; and at the end of that
period, which began to appear interminable to the young man, they found
themselves apparently no nearer the object of their search than they
had been at its commencement. Just as the Delaware was about to stop, in
order to inform his associate that they would do well to return to
the land, in order to take a fresh departure, he saw the form of a man
moving about in the water, almost within reach of his arm. Jasper was
at his side, and he at once understood that the Iroquois were engaged on
the same errand as he was himself.

"Mingo!" he uttered in Jasper's ear. "The Serpent will show his brother
how to be cunning."

The young sailor caught a glimpse of the figure at that instant, and the
startling truth also flashed on his mind. Understanding the necessity of
trusting all to the Delaware chief, he kept back, while his friend moved
cautiously in the direction in which the strange form had vanished. In
another moment it was seen again, evidently moving towards themselves.
The waters made such an uproar that little was to be apprehended from
ordinary sounds, and the Indian, turning his head, hastily said, "Leave
it to the cunning of the Great Serpent."

"Hugh!" exclaimed the strange savage, adding, in the language of his
people, "The canoe is found, but there were none to help me. Come, let
us raise it from the rock."

"Willingly," answered Chingachgook, who understood the dialect. "Lead;
we will follow."

The stranger, unable to distinguish between voices and accents amid the
raging of the rapid, led the way in the necessary direction; and, the
two others keeping close at his heels, all three speedily reached the
canoe. The Iroquois laid hold of one end, Chingachgook placed himself
in the centre, and Jasper went to the opposite extremity, as it
was important that the stranger should not detect the presence of a
pale-face, a discovery that might be made by the parts of the dress the
young man still wore, as well as by the general appearance of his head.

"Lift," said the Iroquois in the sententious manner of his race; and by
a trifling effort the canoe was raised from the rock, held a moment
in the air to empty it, and then placed carefully on the water in its
proper position. All three held it firmly, lest it should escape
from their hands under the pressure of the violent current, while the
Iroquois, who led, of course, being at the upper end of the boat,
took the direction of the eastern shore, or towards the spot where his
friends waited his return.

As the Delaware and Jasper well knew there must be several more of the
Iroquois on the rift, from the circumstance that their own appearance
had occasioned no surprise in the individual they had met, both felt the
necessity of extreme caution. Men less bold and determined would have
thought that they were incurring too great a risk by thus venturing into
the midst of their enemies; but these hardy borderers were unacquainted
with fear, were accustomed to hazards, and so well understood the
necessity of at least preventing their foes from getting the boat, that
they would have cheerfully encountered even greater risks to secure
their object. So all-important to the safety of Mabel, indeed, did
Jasper deem the possession or the destruction of this canoe, that he had
drawn his knife, and stood ready to rip up the bark, in order to render
the boat temporarily unserviceable, should anything occur to compel the
Delaware and himself to abandon their prize.

In the meantime, the Iroquois, who led the way, proceeded slowly through
the water in the direction of his own party, still grasping the canoe,
and dragging his reluctant followers in his train. Once Chingachgook
raised his tomahawk, and was about to bury it in the brain of his
confiding and unsuspicious neighbor; but the probability that the
death-cry or the floating body might give the alarm induced that wary
chief to change his purpose. At the next moment he regretted this
indecision, for the three who clung to the canoe suddenly found
themselves in the centre of a party of no less than four others who were
in quest of it.

After the usual brief characteristic exclamations of satisfaction, the
savages eagerly laid hold of the canoe, for all seemed impressed with
the necessity of securing this important boat, the one side in order to
assail their foes, and the other to secure their retreat. The addition
to the party, however, was so unlooked-for, and so completely gave the
enemy the superiority, that for a few moments the ingenuity and address
of even the Delaware were at fault. The five Iroquois, who seemed
perfectly to understand their errand, pressed forward towards their
own shore, without pausing to converse; their object being in truth to
obtain the paddles, which they had previously secured, and to embark
three or four warriors, with all their rifles and powder-horns, the want
of which had alone prevented their crossing the river by swimming as
soon as it was dark.

In this manner, the body of friends and foes united reached the margin
of the eastern channel, where, as in the case of the western, the
river was too deep to be waded. Here a short pause succeeded, it being
necessary to determine the manner in which the canoe was to be carried
across. One of the four who had just reached the boat was a chief;
and the habitual deference which the American Indian pays to merit,
experience, and station kept the others silent until this individual had
spoken.

The halt greatly added to the danger of discovering the presence of
Jasper, in particular, who, however, had the precaution to throw the
cap he wore into the bottom of the canoe. Being without his jacket and
shirt, the outline of his figure, in the obscurity, would now be less
likely to attract observation. His position, too, at the stern of the
canoe a little favored his concealment, the Iroquois naturally keeping
their looks directed the other way. Not so with Chingachgook. This
warrior was literally in the midst of his most deadly foes, and he
could scarcely move without touching one of them. Yet he was apparently
unmoved, though he kept all his senses on the alert, in readiness
to escape, or to strike a blow at the proper moment. By carefully
abstaining from looking towards those behind him, he lessened the
chances of discovery, and waited with the indomitable patience of an
Indian for the instant when he should be required to act.

"Let all my young men but two, one at each end of the canoe, cross and
get their arms," said the Iroquois chief. "Let the two push over the
boat."

The Indians quietly obeyed, leaving Jasper at the stern, and the
Iroquois who had found the canoe at the bow of the light craft,
Chingachgook burying himself so deep in the river as to be passed by the
others without detection. The splashing in the water, the tossing arms,
and the calls of one to another, soon announced that the four who had
last joined the party were already swimming. As soon as this fact was
certain, the Delaware rose, resumed his former station, and began to
think the moment for action was come.

One less habitually under self-restraint than this warrior would
probably have now aimed his meditated blow; but Chingachgook knew there
were more Iroquois behind him on the rift, and he was a warrior much too
trained and experienced to risk anything unnecessarily. He suffered the
Indian at the bow of the canoe to push off into the deep water, and then
all three were swimming in the direction of the eastern shore. Instead,
however, of helping the canoe across the swift current, no sooner did
the Delaware and Jasper find themselves within the influence of its
greatest force than both began to swim in a way to check their farther
progress across the stream. Nor was this done suddenly, or in the
incautious manner in which a civilized man would have been apt to
attempt the artifice, but warily, and so gradually that the Iroquois at
the bow fancied at first he was merely struggling against the strength
of the current. Of course, while acted on by these opposing efforts,
the canoe drifted down stream, and in about a minute it was floating in
still deeper water at the foot of the rift. Here, however, the Iroquois
was not slow in finding that something unusual retarded their advance,
and, looking back; he first learned that he was resisted by the efforts
of his companions.

That second nature which grows up through habit instantly told the young
Iroquois that he was alone with enemies. Dashing the water aside, he
sprang at the throat of Chingachgook, and the two Indians, relinquishing
their hold of the canoe, seized each other like tigers. In the midst
of the darkness of that gloomy night, and floating in an element so
dangerous to man when engaged in deadly strife, they appeared to forget
everything but their fell animosity and their mutual desire to conquer.

Jasper had now complete command of the canoe, which flew off like
a feather impelled by the breath under the violent reaction of the
struggles of the two combatants. The first impulse of the youth was to
swim to the aid of the Delaware, but the importance of securing the
boat presented itself with tenfold force, while he listened to the
heavy breathings of the warriors as they throttled each other, and he
proceeded as fast as possible towards the western shore. This he soon
reached; and after a short search he succeeded in discovering the
remainder of the party and in procuring his clothes. A few words
sufficed to explain the situation in which he had left the Delaware and
the manner in which the canoe had been obtained.

When those who had been left behind had heard the explanations of
Jasper, a profound stillness reigned among them, each listening intently
in the vain hope of catching some clue to the result of the fearful
struggle that had just taken place, if it were not still going on in the
water. Nothing was audible beyond the steady roar of the rushing river;
it being a part of the policy of their enemies on the opposite shore to
observe the most deathlike stillness.

"Take this paddle, Jasper," said Pathfinder calmly, though the listeners
thought his voice sounded more melancholy than usual, "and follow with
your own canoe. It is unsafe for us to remain here longer."

"But the Serpent?"

"The Great Sarpent is in the hands of his own Deity, and will live or
die, according to the intentions of Providence. We can do him no good,
and may risk too much by remaining here in idleness, like women talking
over their distresses. This darkness is very precious."

A loud, long, piercing yell came from the shore, and cut short the words
of the guide.

"What is the meaning of that uproar, Master Pathfinder?" demanded Cap.
"It sounds more like the outcries of devils than anything that can come
from the throats of Christians and men."

"Christians they are not, and do not pretend to be, and do not wish to
be; and in calling them devils you have scarcely misnamed them. That
yell is one of rejoicing, and it is as conquerors they have given it.
The body of the Sarpent, no doubt, dead or alive, is in their power.

"And we!" exclaimed Jasper, who felt a pang of generous regret, as the
idea that he might have averted the calamity presented itself to his
mind, had he not deserted his comrade.

"We can do the chief no good, lad, and must quit this spot as fast as
possible."

"Without one attempt to rescue him?--without even knowing whether he be
dead or living?"

"Jasper is right," said Mabel, who could speak, though her voice sounded
huskily and smothered; "I have no fears, uncle, and will stay here until
we know what has become of our friend."

"This seems reasonable, Pathfinder," put in Cap. "Your true seaman
cannot well desert a messmate; and I am glad to find that motives so
correct exist among those fresh-water people."

"Tut! tut!" returned the impatient guide, forcing the canoe into the
stream as he spoke; "ye know nothing and ye fear nothing. If ye value
your lives, think of reaching the garrison, and leave the Delaware in
the hands of Providence. Ah's me! the deer that goes too often to the
lick meets the hunter at last!"



CHAPTER VII.

     And is this--Yarrow?--this the stream
        Of which my fancy cherish'd
     So faithfully a waking dream?
         An image that hath perish'd?
     Oh that some minstrel's harp were near,
        To utter notes of gladness,
     And chase this silence from the air,
        That fills my heart with sadness.
     WORDSWORTH.


THE scene was not without its sublimity, and the ardent, generous-minded
Mabel felt her blood thrill in her veins and her cheeks flush, as
the canoe shot into the strength of the stream, to quit the spot. The
darkness of the night had lessened, by the dispersion of the clouds;
but the overhanging woods rendered the shore so obscure, that the boats
floated down the current in a belt of gloom that effectually secured
them from detection. Still, there was necessarily a strong feeling of
insecurity in all on board them; and even Jasper, who by this time began
to tremble, in behalf of the girl, at every unusual sound that arose
from the forest, kept casting uneasy glances around him as he drifted on
in company. The paddle was used lightly, and only with exceeding care;
for the slightest sound in the breathing stillness of that hour and
place might apprise the watchful ears of the Iroquois of their position.

All these accessories added to the impressive grandeur of her situation,
and contributed to render the moment much the most exciting which
had ever occurred in the brief existence of Mabel Dunham. Spirited,
accustomed to self-reliance, and sustained by the pride of considering
herself a soldier's daughter, she could hardly be said to be under the
influence of fear, yet her heart often beat quicker than common, her
fine blue eye lighted with an exhibition of a resolution that was wasted
in the darkness, and her quickened feelings came in aid of the real
sublimity that belonged to the scene and to the incidents of the night.

"Mabel!" said the suppressed voice of Jasper, as the two canoes floated
so near each other that the hand of the young man held them together,
"you have no dread? You trust freely to our care and willingness to
protect you?"

"I am a soldier's daughter, as you know, Jasper Western, and ought to be
ashamed to confess fear."

"Rely on me--on us all. Your uncle, Pathfinder, the Delaware, were the
poor fellow here, I myself, will risk everything rather than harm should
reach you."

"I believe you, Jasper," returned the girl, her hand unconsciously
playing in the water. "I know that my uncle loves me, and will never
think of himself until he has first thought of me; and I believe you are
all my father's friends, and would willingly assist his child. But I am
not so feeble and weak-minded as you may think; for, though only a girl
from the towns, and, like most of that class, a little disposed to see
danger where there is none, I promise you, Jasper, no foolish fears of
mine shall stand in the way of your doing your duty."

"The Sergeant's daughter is right, and she is worthy of being honest
Thomas Dunham's child," put in the Pathfinder. "Ah's me, pretty one!
many is the time that your father and I have scouted and marched
together on the flanks and rear of the enemy, in nights darker than
this, and that, too, when we did not know but the next moment would lead
us into a bloody ambushment. I was at his side when he got the wound in
his shoulder; and the honest fellow will tell you, when you meet, the
manner in which we contrived to cross the river which lay in our rear,
in order to save his scalp."

"He has told me," said Mabel, with more energy perhaps than her
situation rendered prudent. "I have his letters, in which he has
mentioned all that, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the
service. God will remember it, Pathfinder; and there is no gratitude
that you can ask of the daughter which she will not cheerfully repay for
her father's life."

"Ay, that is the way with all your gentle and pure-hearted creatures.
I have seen some of you before, and have heard of others. The Sergeant
himself has talked to me of his own young days, and of your mother,
and of the manner in which he courted her, and of all the crossings and
disappointments, until he succeeded at last."

"My mother did not live long to repay him for what he did to win her,"
said Mabel, with a trembling lip.

"So he tells me. The honest Sergeant has kept nothing back; for, being
so many years my senior, he has looked on me, in our many scoutings
together, as a sort of son."

"Perhaps, Pathfinder," observed Jasper, with a huskiness in his voice
that defeated the attempt at pleasantry, "he would be glad to have you
for one in reality."

"And if he did, Eau-douce, where would be the sin of it? He knows what I
am on a trail or a scout, and he has seen me often face to face with the
Frenchers. I have sometimes thought, lad, that we all ought to seek for
wives; for the man that lives altogether in the woods, and in company
with his enemies or his prey, gets to lose some of the feeling of kind
in the end. It is not easy to dwell always in the presence of God and
not feel the power of His goodness. I have attended church-sarvice in
the garrisons, and tried hard, as becomes a true soldier, to join in
the prayers; for, though no enlisted sarvant of the king, I fight
his battles and sarve his cause, and so I have endeavored to worship
garrison-fashion, but never could raise within me the solemn feelings
and true affection that I feel when alone with God in the forest. There
I seem to stand face to face with my Master; all around me is fresh and
beautiful, as it came from His hand; and there is no nicety or doctrine
to chill the feelings. No no; the woods are the true temple after all,
for there the thoughts are free to mount higher even than the clouds."

"You speak the truth, Master Pathfinder," said Cap, "and a truth that
all who live much in solitude know. What, for instance, is the reason
that seafaring men in general are so religious and conscientious in all
they do, but the fact that they are so often alone with Providence, and
have so little to do with the wickedness of the land. Many and many is
the time that I have stood my watch, under the equator perhaps, or in
the Southern Ocean, when the nights are lighted up with the fires of
heaven; and that is the time, I can tell you, my hearties, to bring a
man to his bearings in the way of his sins. I have rattled down mine
again and again under such circumstances, until the shrouds and lanyards
of conscience have fairly creaked with the strain. I agree with you,
Master Pathfinder, therefore, in saying, if you want a truly religious
man, go to sea, or go into the woods."

"Uncle, I thought seamen had little credit generally for their respect
for religion?"

"All d----d slander, girl; for all the essentials of Christianity the
seaman beats the landsman hand-over-hand."

"I will not answer for all this, Master Cap," returned Pathfinder; "but
I daresay some of it may be true. I want no thunder and lightning to
remind me of my God, nor am I as apt to bethink on most of all His
goodness in trouble and tribulations as on a calm, solemn, quiet day in
a forest, when His voice is heard in the creaking of a dead branch or in
the song of a bird, as much in my ears at least as it is ever heard in
uproar and gales. How is it with you, Eau-douce? you face the tempests
as well as Master Cap, and ought to know something of the feelings of
storms."

"I fear that I am too young and too inexperienced to be able to say much
on such a subject," modestly answered Jasper.

"But you have your feelings!" said Mabel quickly. "You cannot--no one
can live among such scenes without feeling how much they ought to trust
in God!"

"I shall not belie my training so much as to say I do not sometimes
think of these things, but I fear it is not so often or so much as I
ought."

"Fresh water," resumed Cap pithily; "you are not to expect too much of
the young man, Mabel. I think they call you sometimes by a name which
would insinuate all this: Eau-de-vie, is it not?"

"Eau-douce," quietly replied Jasper, who from sailing on the lake had
acquired a knowledge of French, as well as of several of the Indian
dialects. "It is a name the Iroquois have given me to distinguish me
from some of my companions who once sailed upon the sea, and are fond of
filling the ears of the natives with stories of their great salt-water
lakes."

"And why shouldn't they? I daresay they do the savages no harm. Ay, ay,
Eau-deuce; that must mean the white brandy, which may well enough be
called the deuce, for deuced stuff it is!"

"The signification of Eau-douce is sweet-water, and it is the manner
in which the French express fresh-water," rejoined Jasper, a little
nettled.

"And how the devil do they make water out of Eau-in-deuce, when it means
brandy in Eau-de-vie? Besides, among seamen, Eau always means brandy;
and Eau-de-vie, brandy of a high proof. I think nothing of your
ignorance, young man; for it is natural to your situation, and cannot
be helped. If you will return with me, and make a v'y'ge or two on the
Atlantic, it will serve you a good turn the remainder of your days; and
Mabel there, and all the other young women near the coast, will think
all the better of you should you live to be as old as one of the trees
in this forest."

"Nay, nay," interrupted the single-hearted and generous guide; "Jasper
wants not for friends in this region, I can assure you; and though
seeing the world, according to his habits, may do him good as well as
another, we shall think none the worse of him if he never quits us.
Eau-douce or Eau-de-vie, he is a brave, true-hearted youth, and I always
sleep as soundly when he is on the watch as if I was up and stirring
myself; ay, and for that matter, sounder too. The Sergeant's daughter
here doesn't believe it necessary for the lad to go to sea in order to
make a man of him, or one who is worthy to be respected and esteemed."

Mabel made no reply to this appeal, and she even looked towards the
western shore, although the darkness rendered the natural movements
unnecessary to conceal her face. But Jasper felt that there was a
necessity for his saying something, the pride of youth and manhood
revolting at the idea of his being in a condition not to command the
respect of his fellows or the smiles of his equals of the other sex.
Still he was unwilling to utter aught that might be considered harsh
to the uncle of Mabel; and his self-command was perhaps more creditable
than his modesty and spirit.

"I pretend not to things I don't possess," he said, "and lay no claim to
any knowledge of the ocean or of navigation. We steer by the stars
and the compass on these lakes, running from headland to headland; and
having little need of figures and calculations, make no use of them. But
we have our claims notwithstanding, as I have often heard from those who
have passed years on the ocean. In the first place, we have always
the land aboard, and much of the time on a lee-shore, and that I have
frequently heard makes hardy sailors. Our gales are sudden and severe,
and we are compelled to run for our ports at all hours."

"You have your leads," interrupted Cap.

"They are of little use, and are seldom cast."

"The deep-seas."

"I have heard of such things, but confess I never saw one."

"Oh! deuce, with a vengeance. A trader, and no deep-sea! Why, boy, you
cannot pretend to be anything of a mariner. Who the devil ever heard of
a seaman without his deep-sea?"

"I do not pretend to any particular skill, Master Cap."

"Except in shooting falls, Jasper, except in shooting falls and rifts,"
said Pathfinder, coming to the rescue; "in which business even you,
Master Cap, must allow he has some handiness. In my judgment, every man
is to be esteemed or condemned according to his gifts; and if Master
Cap is useless in running the Oswego Falls, I try to remember that he is
useful when out of sight of land; and if Jasper be useless when out of
sight of land, I do not forget that he has a true eye and steady hand
when running the falls."

"But Jasper is not useless--would not be useless when out of sight of
land," said Mabel, with a spirit and energy that caused her clear sweet
voice to be startling amid the solemn stillness of that extraordinary
scene. "No one can be useless there who can do so much here, is what I
mean; though, I daresay, he is not as well acquainted with ships as my
uncle."

"Ay, bolster each other up in your ignorance," returned Cap with a
sneer. "We seamen are so much out-numbered when ashore that it is seldom
we get our dues; but when you want to be defended, or trade is to be
carried on, there is outcry enough for us."

"But, uncle, landsmen do not come to attack our coasts; so that seamen
only meet seamen."

"So much for ignorance! Where are all the enemies that have landed in
this country, French and English, let me inquire, niece?"

"Sure enough, where are they?" ejaculated Pathfinder. "None can tell
better than we who dwell in the woods, Master Cap. I have often followed
their line of march by bones bleaching in the rain, and have found their
trail by graves, years after they and their pride had vanished together.
Generals and privates, they lay scattered throughout the land, so many
proofs of what men are when led on by their love of great names and the
wish to be more than their fellows."

"I must say, Master Pathfinder, that you sometimes utter opinions
that are a little remarkable for a man who lives by the rifle; seldom
snuffing the air but he smells gunpowder, or turning out of his berth
but to bear down on an enemy."

"If you think I pass my days in warfare against my kind, you know
neither me nor my history. The man that lives in the woods and on the
frontiers must take the chances of the things among which he dwells. For
this I am not accountable, being but an humble and powerless hunter and
scout and guide. My real calling is to hunt for the army, on its marches
and in times of peace; although I am more especially engaged in the
service of one officer, who is now absent in the settlements, where I
never follow him. No, no; bloodshed and warfare are not my real gifts,
but peace and mercy. Still, I must face the enemy as well as another;
and as for a Mingo, I look upon him as man looks on a snake, a creatur'
to be put beneath the heel whenever a fitting occasion offers."

"Well, well; I have mistaken your calling, which I had thought
as regularly warlike as that of a ship's gunner. There is my
brother-in-law, now; he has been a soldier since he was sixteen, and he
looks upon his trade as every way as respectable as that of a seafaring
man, a point I hardly think it worth while to dispute with him."

"My father has been taught to believe that it is honorable to carry
arms," said Mabel, "for his father was a soldier before him."

"Yes, yes," resumed the guide; "most of the Sergeant's gifts are
martial, and he looks at most things in this world over the barrel of
his musket. One of his notions, now, is to prefer a king's piece to a
regular, double-sighted, long-barrelled rifle. Such conceits will come
over men from long habit; and prejudice is, perhaps, the commonest
failing of human natur'."

While the desultory conversation just related had been carried on in
subdued voices, the canoes were dropping slowly down with the current
within the deep shadows of the western shore, the paddles being used
merely to preserve the desired direction and proper positions. The
strength of the stream varied materially, the water being seemingly
still in places, while in other reaches it flowed at a rate exceeding
two or even three miles in the hour. On the rifts it even dashed forward
with a velocity that was appalling to the unpractised eye. Jasper was of
opinion that they might drift down with the current to the mouth of the
river in two hours from the time they left the shore, and he and the
Pathfinder had agreed on the expediency of suffering the canoes to float
of themselves for a time, or at least until they had passed the first
dangers of their new movement. The dialogue had been carried on in
voices, too, guardedly low; for though the quiet of deep solitude
reigned in that vast and nearly boundless forest, nature was speaking
with her thousand tongues in the eloquent language of night in a
wilderness. The air sighed through ten thousand trees, the water
rippled, and at places even roared along the shores; and now and then
was heard the creaking of a branch or a trunk, as it rubbed against
some object similar to itself, under the vibrations of a nicely balanced
body. All living sounds had ceased. Once, it is true, the Pathfinder
fancied he heard the howl of a distant wolf, of which a few prowled
through these woods; but it was a transient and doubtful cry, that might
possibly have been attributed to the imagination. When he desired his
companions, however, to cease talking, his vigilant ear had caught the
peculiar sound which is made by the parting of a dried branch of a tree
and which, if his senses did not deceive him, came from the western
shore. All who are accustomed to that particular sound will understand
how readily the ear receives it, and how easy it is to distinguish the
tread which breaks the branch from every other noise of the forest.

"There is the footstep of a man on the bank," said Pathfinder to Jasper,
speaking in neither a whisper nor yet in a voice loud enough to be
heard at any distance. "Can the accursed Iroquois have crossed the river
already, with their arms, and without a boat?"

"It may be the Delaware. He would follow us, of course down this bank,
and would know where to look for us. Let me draw closer into the shore,
and reconnoitre."

"Go boy but be light with the paddle, and on no account venture ashore
on an onsartainty."

"Is this prudent?" demanded Mabel, with an impetuosity that rendered her
incautious in modulating her sweet voice.

"Very imprudent, if you speak so loud, fair one. I like your voice,
which is soft and pleasing, after the listening so long to the tones of
men; but it must not be heard too much, or too freely, just now. Your
father, the honest Sergeant, will tell you, when you meet him, that
silence is a double virtue on a trail. Go, Jasper, and do justice to
your own character for prudence."

Ten anxious minutes succeeded the disappearance of the canoe of Jasper,
which glided away from that of the Pathfinder so noiselessly, that
it had been swallowed up in the gloom before Mabel allowed herself to
believe the young man would really venture alone on a service which
struck her imagination as singularly dangerous. During this time, the
party continued to float with the current, no one speaking, and, it
might almost be said, no one breathing, so strong was the general desire
to catch the minutest sound that should come from the shore. But the
same solemn, we might, indeed, say sublime, quiet reigned as before; the
washing of the water, as it piled up against some slight obstruction,
and the sighing of the trees, alone interrupting the slumbers of the
forest. At the end of the period mentioned, the snapping of dried
branches was again faintly heard, and the Pathfinder fancied that the
sound of smothered voices reached him.

"I may be mistaken," he said, "for the thoughts often fancy what the
heart wishes; but these were notes like the low tones of the Delaware."

"Do the dead of the savages ever walk?" demanded Cap.

"Ay, and run too, in their happy hunting-grounds, but nowhere else. A
red-skin finishes with the 'arth, after the breath quits the body. It
is not one of his gifts to linger around his wigwam when his hour has
passed."

"I see some object on the water," whispered Mabel, whose eye had not
ceased to dwell on the body of gloom, with close intensity, since the
disappearance of Jasper.

"It is the canoe," returned the guide, greatly relieved. "All must be
safe, or we should have heard from the lad."

In another minute the two canoes, which became visible to those they
carried only as they drew near each other, again floated side by side,
and the form of Jasper was recognized at the stern of his own boat. The
figure of a second man was seated in the bow; and, as the young sailor
so wielded his paddle as to bring the face of his companion near the
eyes of the Pathfinder and Mabel, they both recognized the person of the
Delaware.

"Chingachgook--my brother!" said the guide in the dialect of the other's
people, a tremor shaking his voice that betrayed the strength of his
feelings. "Chief of the Mohicans! My heart is very glad. Often have we
passed through blood and strife together, but I was afraid it was never
to be so again."

"Hugh! The Mingos are squaws! Three of their scalps hang at my girdle.
They do not know how to strike the Great Serpent of the Delawares.
Their hearts have no blood; and their thoughts are on their return path,
across the waters of the Great Lake."

"Have you been among them, chief? and what has become of the warrior who
was in the river?"

"He has turned into a fish, and lies at the bottom with the eels! Let
his brothers bait their hooks for him. Pathfinder, I have counted the
enemy, and have touched their rifles."

"Ah, I thought he would be venturesome!" exclaimed the guide in English.
"The risky fellow has been in the midst of them, and has brought us back
their whole history. Speak, Chingachgook, and I will make our friends as
knowing as ourselves."

The Delaware now related in a low earnest manner the substance of all
his discoveries, since he was last seen struggling with his foe in the
river. Of the fate of his antagonist he said no more, it not being usual
for a warrior to boast in his more direct and useful narratives. As
soon as he had conquered in that fearful strife, however, he swam to
the eastern shore, landed with caution, and wound his way in amongst the
Iroquois, concealed by the darkness, undetected, and, in the main, even
unsuspected. Once, indeed, he had been questioned; but answering that he
was Arrowhead, no further inquiries were made. By the passing remarks,
he soon ascertained that the party was out expressly to intercept Mabel
and her uncle, concerning whose rank, however, they had evidently been
deceived. He also ascertained enough to justify the suspicion that
Arrowhead had betrayed them to their enemies, for some motive that it
was not now easy to reach, as he had not yet received the reward of his
services.

Pathfinder communicated no more of this intelligence to his companions
than he thought might relieve their apprehensions, intimating, at the
same time, that now was the moment for exertion, the Iroquois not having
yet entirely recovered from the confusion created by their losses.

"We shall find them at the rift, I make no manner of doubt," continued
he; "and there it will be our fate to pass them, or to fall into their
hands. The distance to the garrison will then be so short, that I have
been thinking of a plan of landing with Mabel myself, that I may take
her in, by some of the by-ways, and leave the canoes to their chances in
the rapids."

"It will never succeed, Pathfinder," eagerly interrupted Jasper. "Mabel
is not strong enough to tramp the woods in a night like this. Put her in
my skiff, and I will lose my life, or carry her through the rift safely,
dark as it is."

"No doubt you will, lad; no one doubts your willingness to do anything
to serve the Sergeant's daughter; but it must be the eye of Providence,
and not your own, that will take you safely through the Oswego rift in a
night like this."

"And who will lead her safely to the garrison if she land? Is not the
night as dark on shore as on the water? or do you think I know less of
my calling than you know of yours?"

"Spiritedly said, lad; but if I should lose my way in the dark--and
I believe no man can say truly that such a thing ever yet happened to
me--but, if I _should_ lose my way, no other harm would come of it than
to pass a night in the forest; whereas a false turn of the paddle, or
a broad sheer of the canoe, would put you and the young woman into the
river, out of which it is more than probable the Sergeant's daughter
would never come alive."

"I will leave it to Mabel herself; I am certain that she will feel more
secure in the canoe."

"I have great confidence in you both," answered the girl; "and have no
doubts that either will do all he can to prove to my father how much he
values him; but I confess I should not like to quit the canoe, with the
certainty we have of there being enemies like those we have seen in the
forest. But my uncle can decide for me in this matter."

"I have no liking for the woods," said Cap, "while one has a clear drift
like this on the river. Besides, Master Pathfinder, to say nothing of
the savages, you overlook the sharks."

"Sharks! Who ever heard of sharks in the wilderness?"

"Ay! Sharks, or bears, or wolves--no matter what you call a thing, so it
has the mind and power to bite."

"Lord, lord, man! Do you dread any creatur' that is to be found in the
American forest? A catamount is a skeary animal, I will allow, but then
it is nothing in the hands of a practysed hunter. Talk of the Mingos and
their devilries if you will; but do not raise a false alarm about bears
and wolves."

"Ay, ay, Master Pathfinder, this is all well enough for you, who
probably know the name of every creature you would meet. Use is
everything, and it makes a man bold when he might otherwise be bashful.
I have known seamen in the low latitudes swim for hours at a time among
sharks fifteen or twenty feet long."

"This is extraordinary!" exclaimed Jasper, who had not yet acquired that
material part of his trade, the ability to spin a yarn. "I have always
heard that it was certain death to venture in the water among sharks."

"I forgot to say, that the lads always took capstan-bars, or gunners'
handspikes, or crows with them, to rap the beasts over the noses if they
got to be troublesome. No, no, I have no liking for bears and wolves,
though a whale, in my eye, is very much the same sort of fish as a red
herring after it is dried and salted. Mabel and I had better stick to
the canoe."

"Mabel would do well to change canoes," added Jasper. "This of mine is
empty, and even Pathfinder will allow that my eye is surer than his own
on the water."

"That I will, cheerfully, boy. The water belongs to your gifts, and no
one will deny that you have improved them to the utmost. You are right
enough in believing that the Sergeant's daughter will be safer in your
canoe than in this; and though I would gladly keep her near myself, I
have her welfare too much at heart not to give her honest advice. Bring
your canoe close alongside, Jasper, and I will give you what you must
consider as a precious treasure."

"I do so consider it," returned the youth, not losing a moment in
complying with the request; when Mabel passed from one canoe to the
other taking her seat on the effects which had hitherto composed its
sole cargo.

As soon as this arrangement was made, the canoes separated a short
distance, and the paddles were used, though with great care to avoid
making any noise. The conversation gradually ceased; and as the dreaded
rift was approached, all became impressed with the gravity of the
moment. That their enemies would endeavor to reach this point before
them was almost certain; and it seemed so little probable any one
should attempt to pass it, in the profound obscurity which reigned, that
Pathfinder was confident parties were on both sides of the river, in the
hope of intercepting them when they might land. He would not have made
the proposal he did had he not felt sure of his own ability to convert
this very anticipation of success into a means of defeating the plans of
the Iroquois. As the arrangement now stood, however, everything depended
on the skill of those who guided the canoes; for should either hit a
rock, if not split asunder, it would almost certainly be upset, and then
would come not only all the hazards of the river itself, but, for Mabel,
the certainty of falling into the hands of her pursuers. The utmost
circumspection consequently became necessary, and each one was too much
engrossed with his own thoughts to feel a disposition to utter more than
was called for by the exigencies of the case.

At the canoes stole silently along, the roar of the rift became audible,
and it required all the fortitude of Cap to keep his seat, while these
boding sounds were approached, amid a darkness which scarcely permitted
a view of the outlines of the wooded shore and of the gloomy vault
above his head. He retained a vivid impression of the falls, and his
imagination was not now idle in swelling the dangers of the rift to a
level with those of the headlong descent he had that day made, and even
to increase them, under the influence of doubt and uncertainty. In
this, however, the old mariner was mistaken, for the Oswego Rift and the
Oswego Falls are very different in their characters and violence; the
former being no more than a rapid, that glances among shallows and
rocks, while the latter really deserved the name it bore, as has been
already shown.

Mabel certainly felt distrust and apprehension; but her entire situation
was so novel, and her reliance on her guide so great, that she retained
a self-command which might not have existed had she clearer perceptions
of the truth, or been better acquainted with the helplessness of men
when placed in opposition to the power and majesty of Nature.

"Is that the spot you have mentioned?" she said to

Jasper, when the roar of the rift first came distinctly on her ears.

"It is; and I beg you to have confidence in me. We are not old
acquaintances, Mabel; but we live many days in one, in this wilderness.
I think, already, that I have known you years!"

"And I do not feel as if you were a stranger to me, Jasper. I have every
reliance on your skill, as well as on your disposition to serve me."

"We shall see, we shall see. Pathfinder is striking the rapids too near
the centre of the river; the bed of the water is closer to the eastern
shore; but I cannot make him hear me now. Hold firmly to the canoe,
Mabel, and fear nothing."

At the next moment the swift current had sucked them into the rift, and
for three or four minutes the awe-struck, rather than the alarmed, girl
saw nothing around her but sheets of glancing foam, heard nothing but
the roar of waters. Twenty times did the canoe appear about to dash
against some curling and bright wave that showed itself even amid that
obscurity; and as often did it glide away again unharmed, impelled by
the vigorous arm of him who governed its movements. Once, and once only,
did Jasper seem to lose command of his frail bark, during which brief
space it fairly whirled entirely round; but by a desperate effort he
brought it again under control, recovered the lost channel, and was soon
rewarded for all his anxiety by finding himself floating quietly in
the deep water below the rapids, secure from every danger, and without
having taken in enough of the element to serve for a draught.

"All is over, Mabel," the young man cried cheerfully. "The danger is
past, and you may now indeed hope to meet your father this very night."

"God be praised! Jasper, we shall owe this great happiness to you."

"The Pathfinder may claim a full share in the merit; but what has become
of the other canoe?"

"I see something near us on the water; is it not the boat of our
friends?"

A few strokes of the paddle brought Jasper to the side of the object in
question: it was the other canoe, empty and bottom upwards. No sooner
did the young man ascertain this fact, than he began to search for the
swimmers, and, to his great joy, Cap was soon discovered drifting down
with the current; the old seaman preferring the chances of drowning to
those of landing among savages. He was hauled into the canoe, though not
without difficulty, and then the search ended; for Jasper was persuaded
that the Pathfinder would wade to the shore, the water being shallow, in
preference to abandoning his beloved rifle.

The remainder of the passage was short, though made amid darkness and
doubt. After a short pause, a dull roaring sound was heard, which
at times resembled the mutterings of distant thunder, and then
again brought with it the washing of waters. Jasper announced to his
companions that they now heard the surf of the lake. Low curved spits
of land lay before them, into the bay formed by one of which the canoe
glided, and then it shot up noiselessly upon a gravelly beach. The
transition that followed was so hurried and great, that Mabel scarcely
knew what passed. In the course of a few minutes, however, sentinels had
been passed, a gate was opened, and the agitated girl found herself in
the arms of a parent who was almost a stranger to her.



CHAPTER VIII.

     A land of love, and a land of light,
     Withouten sun, or moon, or night:
     Where the river swa'd a living stream,
     And the light a pure celestial beam:
     The land of vision, it would seem
     A still, an everlasting dream.
     _Queen's Wake._


The rest that succeeds fatigue, and which attends a newly awakened sense
of security, is generally sweet and deep. Such was the fact with Mabel,
who did not rise from her humble pallet--such a bed as a sergeant's
daughter might claim in a remote frontier post--until long after the
garrison had obeyed the usual summons of the drums, and had assembled at
the morning parade. Sergeant Dunham, on whose shoulders fell the task
of attending to these ordinary and daily duties, had got through all his
morning avocations, and was beginning to think of his breakfast,
before his child left her room, and came into the fresh air, equally
bewildered, delighted, and grateful, at the novelty and security of her
new situation.

At the time of which we are writing, Oswego was one of the extreme
frontier posts of the British possessions on this continent. It had
not been long occupied, and was garrisoned by a battalion of a regiment
which had been originally Scotch, but into which many Americans had been
received since its arrival in this country; all innovation that had led
the way to Mabel's father filling the humble but responsible situation
of the oldest sergeant. A few young officers also, who were natives of
the colonies, were to be found in the corps. The fort itself, like
most works of that character, was better adapted to resist an attack of
savages than to withstand a regular siege; but the great difficulty
of transporting heavy artillery and other necessaries rendered the
occurrence of the latter a probability so remote as scarcely to enter
into the estimate of the engineers who had planned the defences. There
were bastions of earth and logs, a dry ditch, a stockade, a parade of
considerable extent, and barracks of logs, that answered the double
purpose of dwellings and fortifications. A few light field-pieces stood
in the area of the fort, ready to be conveyed to any point where they
might be wanted, and one or two heavy iron guns looked out from the
summits of the advanced angles, as so many admonitions to the audacious
to respect their power.

When Mabel, quitting the convenient, but comparatively retired hut where
her father had been permitted to place her, issued into the pure air
of the morning, she found herself at the foot of a bastion, which lay
invitingly before her, with a promise of giving a _coup d'oeil_ of all
that had been concealed in the darkness of the preceding night. Tripping
up the grassy ascent, the light-hearted as well as light-footed girl
found herself at once on a point where the sight, at a few varying
glances, could take in all the external novelties of her new situation.

To the southward lay the forest, through which she had been journeying
so many weary days, and which had proved so full of dangers. It was
separated from the stockade by a belt of open land, that had been
principally cleared of its woods to form the martial constructions
around her. This glacis, for such in fact was its military uses, might
have covered a hundred acres; but with it every sign of civilization
ceased. All beyond was forest; that dense, interminable forest which
Mabel could now picture to herself, through her recollections, with its
hidden glassy lakes, its dark rolling stream, and its world of nature.

Turning from this view, our heroine felt her cheek fanned by a fresh and
grateful breeze, such as she had not experienced since quitting the far
distant coast. Here a new scene presented itself: although expected, it
was not without a start, and a low exclamation indicative of pleasure,
that the eager eyes of the girl drank in its beauties. To the north, and
east, and west, in every direction, in short, over one entire half
of the novel panorama, lay a field of rolling waters. The element was
neither of that glassy green which distinguishes the American waters
in general, nor yet of the deep blue of the ocean, the color being of a
slightly amber hue, which scarcely affected its limpidity. No land was
to be seen, with the exception of the adjacent coast, which stretched to
the right and left in an unbroken outline of forest with wide bays and
low headlands or points; still, much of the shore was rocky, and into
its caverns the sluggish waters occasionally rolled, producing a
hollow sound, which resembled the concussions of a distant gun. No sail
whitened the surface, no whale or other fish gambolled on its bosom, no
sign of use or service rewarded the longest and most minute gaze at its
boundless expanse. It was a scene, on one side, of apparently endless
forests, while a waste of seemingly interminable water spread itself on
the other. Nature appeared to have delighted in producing grand effects,
by setting two of her principal agents in bold relief to each other,
neglecting details; the eye turning from the broad carpet of leaves to
the still broader field of fluid, from the endless but gentle heavings
of the lake to the holy calm and poetical solitude of the forest, with
wonder and delight.

Mabel Dunham, though unsophisticated, like most of her countrywomen
of that period, and ingenuous and frank as any warm-hearted and
sincere-minded girl well could be, was not altogether without a feeling
for the poetry of this beautiful earth of ours. Although she could
scarcely be said to be educated at all, for few of her sex at that
day and in this country received much more than the rudiments of plain
English instruction, still she had been taught much more than was usual
for young women in her own station in life; and, in one sense certainly,
she did credit to her teaching. The widow of a field-officer, who
formerly belonged to the same regiment as her father, had taken the
child in charge at the death of its mother; and under the care of this
lady Mabel had acquired some tastes and many ideas which otherwise might
always have remained strangers to her. Her situation in the family had
been less that of a domestic than of a humble companion, and the results
were quite apparent in her attire, her language, her sentiments, and
even in her feelings, though neither, perhaps, rose to the level of
those which would properly characterize a lady. She had lost the less
refined habits and manners of one in her original position, without
having quite reached a point that disqualified her for the situation in
life that the accidents of birth and fortune would probably compel her
to fill. All else that was distinctive and peculiar in her belonged to
natural character.

With such antecedents it will occasion the reader no wonder if he
learns that Mabel viewed the novel scene before her with a pleasure
far superior to that produced by vulgar surprise. She felt its ordinary
beauties as most would have felt them, but she had also a feeling for
its sublimity--for that softened solitude, that calm grandeur, and
eloquent repose, which ever pervades broad views of natural objects yet
undisturbed by the labors and struggles of man.

"How beautiful!" she exclaimed, unconscious of speaking, as she stood on
the solitary bastion, facing the air from the lake, and experiencing the
genial influence of its freshness pervading both her body and her mind.
"How very beautiful! and yet how singular!"

The words, and the train of her ideas, were interrupted by a touch of
a finger on her shoulder, and turning, in the expectation of seeing her
father, Mabel found Pathfinder at her side. He was leaning quietly
on his long rifle, and laughing in his quiet manner, while, with an
outstretched arm, he swept over the whole panorama of land and water.

"Here you have both our domains," said he,--"Jasper's and mine. The lake
is for him, and the woods are for me. The lad sometimes boasts of the
breadth of his dominions; but I tell him my trees make as broad a plain
on the face of this 'arth as all his water. Well, Mabel, you are fit for
either; for I do not see that fear of the Mingos, or night-marches, can
destroy your pretty looks."

"It is a new character for the Pathfinder to appear in, to compliment a
silly girl."

"Not silly, Mabel; no, not in the least silly. The Sergeant's daughter
would do discredit to her worthy father, were she to do or say anything
that could be called silly."

"Then she must take care and not put too much faith in treacherous,
flattering words. But, Pathfinder, I rejoice to see you among us again;
for, though Jasper did not seem to feel much uneasiness, I was afraid
some accident might have happened to you and your friend on that
frightful rift."

"The lad knows us both, and was sartain that we should not drown, which
is scarcely one of my gifts. It would have been hard swimming of a
sartainty, with a long-barrelled rifle in the hand; and what between the
game, and the savages and the French, Killdeer and I have gone through
too much in company to part very easily. No, no; we waded ashore, the
rift being shallow enough for that with small exceptions, and we landed
with our arms in our hands. We had to take our time for it, on account
of the Iroquois, I will own; but, as soon as the skulking vagabonds saw
the lights that the Sergeant sent down to your canoe, we well understood
they would decamp, since a visit might have been expected from some
of the garrison. So it was only sitting patiently on the stones for an
hour, and all the danger was over. Patience is the greatest of virtues
in a woodsman."

"I rejoice to hear this, for fatigue itself could scarcely make me
sleep, for thinking of what might befall you."

"Lord bless your tender little heart, Mabel! but this is the way with
all you gentle ones. I must say, on my part, however, that I was right
glad to see the lanterns come down to the waterside, which I knew to be
a sure sign of _your_ safety. We hunters and guides are rude beings; but
we have our feelings and our idees, as well as any general in the
army. Both Jasper and I would have died before you should have come to
harm--we would."

"I thank you for all you did for me, Pathfinder; from the bottom of my
heart, I thank you; and, depend on it, my father shall know it. I
have already told him much, but have still a duty to perform on this
subject."

"Tush, Mabel! The Sergeant knows what the woods be, and what men--true
red men--be, too. There is little need to tell him anything about it.
Well, now you have met your father, do you find the honest old soldier
the sort of person you expected to find?"

"He is my own dear father, and received me as a soldier and a father
should receive a child. Have you known him long, Pathfinder?"

"That is as people count time. I was just twelve when the Sergeant took
me on my first scouting, and that is now more than twenty years ago.
We had a tramping time of it; and, as it was before your day, you would
have had no father, had not the rifle been one of my natural gifts."

"Explain yourself."

"It is too simple for many words. We were ambushed, and the Sergeant got
a bad hurt, and would have lost his scalp, but for a sort of inbred turn
I took to the weapon. We brought him off, however, and a handsomer head
of hair, for his time of life, is not to be found in the rijiment than
the Sergeant carries about with him this blessed day."

"You saved my father's life, Pathfinder!" exclaimed Mabel,
unconsciously, though warmly, taking one of his hard, sinewy hands into
both her own. "God bless you for this, too, among your other good acts!"

"Nay, I did not say that much, though I believe I did save his scalp.
A man might live without a scalp, and so I cannot say I saved his life.
Jasper may say that much consarning you; for without his eye and arm
the canoe would never have passed the rift in safety on a night like
the last. The gifts of the lad are for the water, while mine are for the
hunt and the trail. He is yonder, in the cove there, looking after the
canoes, and keeping his eye on his beloved little craft. To my eye,
there is no likelier youth in these parts than Jasper Western."

For the first time since she had left her room, Mabel now turned her
eyes beneath her, and got a view of what might be called the foreground
of the remarkable picture she had been studying with so much pleasure.
The Oswego threw its dark waters into the lake, between banks of some
height; that on its eastern side being bolder and projecting farther
north than that on its western. The fort was on the latter, and
immediately beneath it were a few huts of logs, which, as they could
not interfere with the defence of the place, had been erected along the
strand for the purpose of receiving and containing such stores as were
landed, or were intended to be embarked, in the communications between
the different ports on the shores of Ontario. Two low, curved, gravelly
points had been formed with surprising regularity by the counteracting
forces of the northerly winds and the swift current, and, inclining from
the storms of the lake, formed two coves within the river: that on the
western side was the most deeply indented; and, as it also had the most
water, it formed a sort of picturesque little port for the post. It was
along the narrow strand that lay between the low height of the fort and
the water of this cove, that the rude buildings just mentioned had been
erected.

Several skiffs, bateaux, and canoes were hauled up on the shore, and
in the cove itself lay the little craft from which Jasper obtained his
claim to be considered a sailor. She was cutter-rigged, might have been
of forty tons burthen, was so neatly constructed and painted as to
have something of the air of a vessel of war, though entirely without
quarters, and rigged and sparred with so scrupulous a regard to
proportions and beauty, as well as fitness and judgment, as to give her
an appearance that even Mabel at once distinguished to be gallant and
trim. Her mould was admirable, for a wright of great skill had sent
her drafts from England, at the express request of the officer who had
caused her to be constructed; her paint dark, warlike, and neat; and the
long coach-whip pennant that she wore at once proclaimed her to be the
property of the king. Her name was the _Scud_.

"That, then, is the vessel of Jasper!" said Mabel, who associated the
master of the little craft very naturally with the cutter itself. "Are
there many others on this lake?"

"The Frenchers have three: one of which, they tell me, is a real ship,
such as are used on the ocean; another a brig; and a third is a cutter,
like the _Scud_ here, which they call the _Squirrel_, in their own
tongue, however; and which seems to have a natural hatred of our own
pretty boat, for Jasper seldom goes out that the _Squirrel_ is not at
his heels."

"And is Jasper one to run from a Frenchman, though he appears in the
shape of a squirrel, and that, too, on the water?"

"Of what use would valor be without the means of turning it to account?
Jasper is a brave boy, as all on this frontier know; but he has no gun
except a little howitzer, and then his crew consists only of two men
besides himself, and a boy. I was with him in one of his trampooses, and
the youngster was risky enough, for he brought us so near the enemy
that rifles began to talk; but the Frenchers carry cannon and ports, and
never show their faces outside of Frontenac, without having some twenty
men, besides their _Squirrel_, in their cutter. No, no; this _Scud_ was
built for flying, and the major says he will not put her in a fighting
humor by giving her men and arms, lest she should take him at his word,
and get her wings clipped. I know little of these things, for my gifts
are not at all in that way; but I see the reason of the thing--I see its
reason, though Jasper does not."

"Ah! Here is my uncle, none the worse for his swim, coming to look at
this inland sea."

Sure enough, Cap, who had announced his approach by a couple of lusty
hems, now made his appearance on the bastion, where, after nodding to
his niece and her companion, he made a deliberate survey of the expanse
of water before him. In order to effect this at his ease, the mariner
mounted on one of the old iron guns, folded his arms across his breast,
and balanced his body, as if he felt the motion of a vessel. To complete
the picture, he had a short pipe in his mouth.

"Well, Master Cap," asked the Pathfinder innocently, for he did not
detect the expression of contempt that was gradually settling on the
features of the other; "is it not a beautiful sheet, and fit to be named
a sea?"

"This, then, is what you call your lake?" demanded Cap, sweeping the
northern horizon with his pipe. "I say, is this really your lake?"

"Sartain; and, if the judgment of one who has lived on the shores of
many others can be taken, a very good lake it is."

"Just as I expected. A pond in dimensions, and a scuttle-butt in taste.
It is all in vain to travel inland, in the hope of seeing anything
either full-grown or useful. I knew it would turn out just in this way."

"What is the matter with Ontario, Master Cap? It is large, and fair to
look at, and pleasant enough to drink, for those who can't get at the
water of the springs."

"Do you call this large?" asked Cap, again sweeping the air with the
pipe. "I will just ask you what there is large about it? Didn't Jasper
himself confess that it was only some twenty leagues from shore to
shore?"

"But, uncle," interposed Mabel, "no land is to be seen, except here on
our own coast. To me it looks exactly like the ocean."

"This bit of a pond look like the ocean! Well, Magnet, that from a girl
who has had real seamen in her family is downright nonsense. What is
there about it, pray, that has even the outline of a sea on it?"

"Why, there is water--water--water--nothing but water, for miles on
miles--far as the eye can see."

"And isn't there water--water--water--nothing but water for miles on
miles in your rivers, that you have been canoeing through, too?--Ay, and
'as far as the eye can see,' in the bargain?"

"Yes, uncle, but the rivers have their banks, and there are trees along
them, and they are narrow."

"And isn't this a bank where we stand? Don't these soldiers call this
the bank of the lake? And aren't there trees in thousands? And aren't
twenty leagues narrow enough of all conscience? Who the devil ever heard
of the banks of the ocean, unless it might be the banks that are under
water?"

"But, uncle, we cannot see across this lake, as we can see across a
river."

"There you are out, Magnet. Aren't the Amazon and Oronoco and La Plata
rivers, and can you see across them? Hark'e Pathfinder, I very much
doubt if this stripe of water here be even a lake; for to me it appears
to be only a river. You are by no means particular about your geography,
I find, up here in the woods."

"There _you_ are out, Master Cap. There is a river, and a noble one too,
at each end of it; but this is old Ontario before you; and, though it is
not my gift to live on a lake, to my judgment there are few better than
this."

"And, uncle, if we stood on the beach at Rockaway, what more should we
see than we now behold? There is a shore on one side, or banks there,
and trees too, as well as those which are here."

"This is perverseness, Magnet, and young girls should steer clear of
anything like obstinacy. In the first place, the ocean has coasts, but
no banks, except the Grand Banks, as I tell you, which are out of sight
of land; and you will not pretend that this bank is out of sight of
land, or even under water?"

As Mabel could not very plausibly set up this extravagant opinion, Cap
pursued the subject, his countenance beginning to discover the triumph
of a successful disputant.

"And then them trees bear no comparison to these trees. The coasts of
the ocean have farms and cities and country-seats, and, in some parts of
the world, castles and monasteries and lighthouses--ay, ay--lighthouses,
in particular, on them; not one of all which things is to be seen here.
No, no, Master Pathfinder; I never heard of an ocean that hadn't more or
less lighthouses on it; whereas, hereaway there is not even a beacon."

"There is what is better, there is what is better; a forest and noble
trees, a fit temple of God."

"Ay, your forest may do for a lake; but of what use would an ocean be
if the earth all around it were forest? Ships would be unnecessary, as
timber might be floated in rafts, and there would be an end of trade,
and what would a world be without trade? I am of that philosopher's
opinion who says human nature was invented for the purposes of trade.
Magnet, I am astonished that you should think this water even looks like
sea-water! Now, I daresay that there isn't such a thing as a whale in
all your lake, Master Pathfinder?"

"I never heard of one, I will confess; but I am no judge of animals
that live in the water, unless it be the fishes of the rivers and the
brooks."

"Nor a grampus, nor a porpoise even? not so much as a poor devil of a
shark?"

"I will not take it on myself to say there is either. My gifts are not
in that way, I tell you, Master Cap."

"Nor herring, nor albatross, nor flying-fish?" continued Cap, who kept
his eye fastened on the guide, in order to see how far he might venture.
"No such thing as a fish that can fly, I daresay?"

"A fish that can fly! Master Cap, Master Cap, do not think, because we
are mere borderers, that we have no idees of natur', and what she has
been pleased to do. I know there are squirrels that can fly--"

"A squirrel fly!--The devil, Master Pathfinder! Do you suppose that you
have got a boy on his first v'y'ge up here among you?"

"I know nothing of your v'y'ges, Master Cap, though I suppose them to
have been many; for as for what belongs to natur' in the woods, what I
have seen I may tell, and not fear the face of man."

"And do you wish me to understand that you have seen a squirrel fly?"

"If you wish to understand the power of God, Master Cap, you will do
well to believe that, and many other things of a like natur', for you
may be quite sartain it is true."

"And yet, Pathfinder," said Mabel, looking so prettily and sweetly even
while she played with the guide's infirmity, that he forgave her in his
heart, "you, who speak so reverently of the power of the Deity, appear
to doubt that a fish can fly."

"I have not said it, I have not said it; and if Master Cap is ready to
testify to the fact, unlikely as it seems, I am willing to try to think
it true. I think it every man's duty to believe in the power of God,
however difficult it may be."

"And why isn't my fish as likely to have wings as your squirrel?"
demanded Cap, with more logic than was his wont. "That fishes do and can
fly is as true as it is reasonable."

"Nay, that is the only difficulty in believing the story," rejoined the
guide. "It seems unreasonable to give an animal that lives in the water
wings, which seemingly can be of no use to it."

"And do you suppose that the fishes are such asses as to fly about under
water, when they are once fairly fitted out with wings?"

"Nay, I know nothing of the matter; but that fish should fly in the air
seems more contrary to natur' still, than that they should fly in their
own element--that in which they were born and brought up, as one might
say."

"So much for contracted ideas, Magnet. The fish fly out of water to run
away from their enemies in the water; and there you see not only the
fact, but the reason for it."

"Then I suppose it must be true," said the guide quietly. "How long are
their flights?"

"Not quite as far as those of pigeons, perhaps; but far enough to make
an offing. As for those squirrels of yours, we'll say no more about
them, friend Pathfinder, as I suppose they were mentioned just as a
make-weight to the fish, in favor of the woods. But what is this thing
anchored here under the hill?"

"That is the cutter of Jasper, uncle," said Mabel hurriedly; "and a very
pretty vessel I think it is. Its name, too, is the _Scud_."

"Ay, it will do well enough for a lake, perhaps, but it's no great
affair. The lad has got a standing bowsprit, and who ever saw a cutter
with a standing bowsprit before?"

"But may there not be some good reason for it, on a lake like this,
uncle?"

"Sure enough--I must remember this is not the ocean, though it does look
so much like it."

"Ah, uncle! Then Ontario does look like the ocean, after all?"

"In your eyes, I mean, and those of Pathfinder; not in the least in
mine, Magnet. Now you might set me down out yonder, in the middle of
this bit of a pond, and that, too, in the darkest night that ever fell
from the heavens, and in the smallest canoe, and I could tell you it was
only a lake. For that matter, the _Dorothy_" (the name of his vessel)
"would find it out as quick as I could myself. I do not believe that
brig would make more than a couple of short stretches, at the most,
before she would perceive the difference between Ontario and the old
Atlantic. I once took her down into one of the large South American
bays, and she behaved herself as awkwardly as a booby would in a church
with the congregation in a hurry. And Jasper sails that boat? I must
have a cruise with the lad, Magnet, before I quit you, just for the name
of the thing. It would never do to say I got in sight of this pond, and
went away without taking a trip on it."

"Well well, you needn't wait long for that," returned Pathfinder; "for
the Sergeant is about to embark with a party to relieve a post among the
Thousand Islands; and as I heard him say he intended that Mabel should
go along, you can join the company too."

"Is this true, Magnet?"

"I believe it is," returned the girl, a flush so imperceptible as to
escape the observation of her companions glowing on her cheeks; "though
I have had so little opportunity to talk with my dear father that I
am not quite certain. Here he comes, however, and you can inquire of
himself."

Notwithstanding his humble rank, there was something in the mien and
character of Sergeant Dunham that commanded respect: of a tall, imposing
figure, grave and saturnine disposition, and accurate and precise in his
acts and manner of thinking, even Cap, dogmatical and supercilious as
he usually was with landsmen, did not presume to take the same liberties
with the old soldier as he did with his other friends. It was often
remarked that Sergeant Dunham received more true respect from Duncan
of Lundie, the Scotch laird who commanded the post, than most of the
subalterns; for experience and tried services were of quite as much
value in the eyes of the veteran major as birth and money. While the
Sergeant never even hoped to rise any higher, he so far respected
himself and his present station as always to act in a way to command
attention; and the habit of mixing so much with inferiors, whose
passions and dispositions he felt it necessary to restrain by distance
and dignity, had so far colored his whole deportment, that few were
altogether free from its influence. While the captains treated him
kindly and as an old comrade, the lieutenants seldom ventured to dissent
from his military opinions; and the ensigns, it was remarked, actually
manifested a species of respect that amounted to something very like
deference. It is no wonder, then, that the announcement of Mabel put a
sudden termination to the singular dialogue we have just related, though
it had been often observed that the Pathfinder was the only man on that
frontier, beneath the condition of a gentleman, who presumed to treat
the Sergeant at all as an equal, or even with the cordial familiarity of
a friend.

"Good morrow, brother Cap," said the Sergeant giving the military
salute, as he walked, in a grave, stately manner, on the bastion. "My
morning duty has made me seem forgetful of you and Mabel; but we have
now an hour or two to spare, and to get acquainted. Do you not perceive,
brother, a strong likeness on the girl to her we have so long lost?"

"Mabel is the image of her mother, Sergeant, as I have always said, with
a little of your firmer figure; though, for that matter, the Caps were
never wanting in spring and activity."

Mabel cast a timid glance at the stern, rigid countenance of her father,
of whom she had ever thought, as the warm-hearted dwell on the affection
of their absent parents; and, as she saw that the muscles of his face
were working, notwithstanding the stiffness and method of his manner,
her very heart yearned to throw herself on his bosom and to weep at
will. But he was so much colder in externals, so much more formal and
distant than she had expected to find him, that she would not have dared
to hazard the freedom, even had they been alone.

"You have taken a long and troublesome journey, brother, on my account;
and we will try to make you comfortable while you stay among us."

"I hear you are likely to receive orders to lift your anchor, Sergeant,
and to shift your berth into a part of the world where they say there
are a thousand islands."

"Pathfinder, this is some of your forgetfulness?"

"Nay, nay, Sergeant, I forgot nothing; but it did not seem to me
necessary to hide your intentions so very closely from your own flesh
and blood."

"All military movements ought to be made with as little conversation
as possible," returned the Sergeant, tapping the guide's shoulder in a
friendly, but reproachful manner. "You have passed too much of your life
in front of the French not to know the value of silence. But no matter;
the thing must soon be known, and there is no great use in trying now
to conceal it. We shall embark a relief party shortly for a post on the
lake, though I do not say it is for the Thousand Islands, and I may have
to go with it; in which case I intend to take Mabel to make my broth
for me; and I hope, brother, you will not despise a soldier's fare for a
month or so."

"That will depend on the manner of marching. I have no love for woods
and swamps."

"We shall sail in the _Scud_; and, indeed, the whole service, which
is no stranger to us, is likely enough to please one accustomed to the
water."

"Ay, to salt-water if you will, but not to lake-water. If you have no
person to handle that bit of a cutter for you, I have no objection to
ship for the v'y'ge, notwithstanding; though I shall look on the whole
affair as so much time thrown away, for I consider it an imposition to
call sailing about this pond going to sea."

"Jasper is every way able to manage the _Scud_, brother Cap; and in that
light I cannot say that we have need of your services, though we shall
be glad of your company. You cannot return to the settlement until
a party is sent in, and that is not likely to happen until after my
return. Well, Pathfinder, this is the first time I ever knew men on the
trail of the Mingos and you not at their head."

"To be honest with you, Sergeant," returned the guide, not without a
little awkwardness of manner, and a perceptible difference in the hue
of a face that had become so uniformly red by exposure, "I have not felt
that it was my gift this morning. In the first place, I very well know
that the soldiers of the 55th are not the lads to overtake Iroquois in
the woods; and the knaves did not wait to be surrounded when they knew
that Jasper had reached the garrison. Then a man may take a little
rest after a summer of hard work, and no impeachment of his goodwill.
Besides, the Sarpent is out with them; and if the miscreants are to be
found at all, you may trust to his inmity and sight: the first being
stronger, and the last nearly, if not quite as good as my own. He loves
the skulking vagabonds as little as myself; and, for that matter, I
may say that my own feelings towards a Mingo are not much more than the
gifts of a Delaware grafted on a Christian stock. No, no, I thought I
would leave the honor this time, if honor there is to be, to the young
ensign that commands, who, if he don't lose his scalp, may boast of his
campaign in his letters to his mother when he gets in. I thought I would
play idler once in my life."

"And no one has a better right, if long and faithful service entitles a
man to a furlough," returned the Sergeant kindly. "Mabel will think none
the worse of you for preferring her company to the trail of the savages;
and, I daresay, will be happy to give you a part of her breakfast if
you are inclined to eat. You must not think, girl, however, that the
Pathfinder is in the habit of letting prowlers around the fort beat a
retreat without hearing the crack of his rifle."

"If I thought she did, Sergeant, though not much given to showy and
parade evolutions, I would shoulder Killdeer and quit the garrison
before her pretty eyes had time to frown. No, no; Mabel knows me better,
though we are but new acquaintances, for there has been no want of
Mingos to enliven the short march we have already made in company."

"It would need a great deal of testimony, Pathfinder, to make me think
ill of you in any way, and more than all in the way you mention,"
returned Mabel, coloring with the sincere earnestness with which she
endeavored to remove any suspicion to the contrary from his mind. "Both
father and daughter, I believe, owe you their lives, and believe me,
that neither will ever forget it."

"Thank you, Mabel, thank you with all my heart. But I will not take
advantage of your ignorance neither, girl, and therefore shall say, I
do not think the Mingos would have hurt a hair of your head, had they
succeeded by their devilries and contrivances in getting you into their
hands. My scalp, and Jasper's, and Master Cap's there, and the Sarpent's
too, would sartainly have been smoked; but as for the Sergeant's
daughter, I do not think they would have hurt a hair of her head."

"And why should I suppose that enemies, known to spare neither women
nor children, would have shown more mercy to me than to another? I feel,
Pathfinder, that I owe you my life."

"I say nay, Mabel; they wouldn't have had the heart to hurt you. No, not
even a fiery Mingo devil would have had the heart to hurt a hair of
your head. Bad as I suspect the vampires to be, I do not suspect them of
anything so wicked as that. They might have wished you, nay, forced you
to become the wife of one of their chiefs, and that would be torment
enough to a Christian young woman; but beyond that I do not think even
the Mingos themselves would have gone."

"Well, then, I shall owe my escape from this great misfortune to you,"
said Mabel, taking his hard hand into her own frankly and cordially,
and certainly in a way to delight the honest guide. "To me it would be a
lighter evil to be killed than to become the wife of an Indian."

"That is her gift, Sergeant," exclaimed Pathfinder, turning to his old
comrade with gratification written on every lineament of his honest
countenance, "and it will have its way. I tell the Sarpent that no
Christianizing will ever make even a Delaware a white man; nor any
whooping and yelling convert a pale-face into a red-skin. That is the
gift of a young woman born of Christian parents, and it ought to be
maintained."

"You are right, Pathfinder; and so far as Mabel Dunham is concerned, it
_shall_ be maintained. But it is time to break your fasts; and if you
will follow me, brother Cap, I will show you how we poor soldiers live
here on a distant frontier."



CHAPTER IX.

     Now, my co-mates and partners in exile,
     Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
     Than that of painted pomp?  Are not these woods
     More free from peril than the envious court?
     Here feel we but the penalty of Adam.
     _As You Like It._


Sergeant Dunham made no empty vaunt when he gave the promise conveyed
in the closing words of the last chapter. Notwithstanding the remote
frontier position of the post they who lived at it enjoyed a table that,
in many respects, kings and princes might have envied. At the Period of
our tale, and, indeed, for half a century later, the whole of that vast
region which has been called the West, or the new countries since the
war of the revolution, lay a comparatively unpeopled desert, teeming
with all the living productions of nature that properly belonged to the
climate, man and the domestic animals excepted. The few Indians
that roamed its forests then could produce no visible effects on the
abundance of the game; and the scattered garrisons, or occasional
hunters, that here and there were to be met with on that vast surface,
had no other influence than the bee on the buckwheat field, or the
humming-bird on the flower.

The marvels that have descended to our own times, in the way of
tradition, concerning the quantities of beasts, birds, and fishes
that were then to be met with, on the shores of the great lakes in
particular, are known to be sustained by the experience of living
men, else might we hesitate about relating them; but having been
eye-witnesses of some of these prodigies, our office shall be discharged
with the confidence that certainty can impart. Oswego was particularly
well placed to keep the larder of an epicure amply supplied. Fish of
various sorts abounded in its river, and the sportsman had only to cast
his line to haul in a bass or some other member of the finny tribe,
which then peopled the waters, as the air above the swamps of this
fruitful latitude are known to be filled with insects. Among others was
the salmon of the lakes, a variety of that well-known species, that is
scarcely inferior to the delicious salmon of northern Europe. Of the
different migratory birds that frequent forests and waters, there was
the same affluence, hundreds of acres of geese and ducks being often
seen at a time in the great bays that indent the shores of the lake.
Deer, bears, rabbits, and squirrels, with divers other quadrupeds, among
which was sometimes included the elk, or moose, helped to complete the
sum of the natural supplies on which all the posts depended, more or
less, to relieve the unavoidable privations of their remote frontier
positions.

In a place where viands that would elsewhere be deemed great luxuries
were so abundant, no one was excluded from their enjoyment. The meanest
individual at Oswego habitually feasted on game that would have formed
the boast of a Parisian table; and it was no more than a healthful
commentary on the caprices of taste, and of the waywardness of human
desires, that the very diet which in other scenes would have been deemed
the subject of envy and repinings got to pall on the appetite. The
coarse and regular food of the army, which it became necessary to
husband on account of the difficulty of transportation, rose in the
estimation of the common soldier; and at any time he would cheerfully
desert his venison, and ducks, and pigeons, and salmon, to banquet on
the sweets of pickled pork, stringy turnips, and half-cooked cabbage.

The table of Sergeant Dunham, as a matter of course, partook of the
abundance and luxuries of the frontier, as well as of its privations. A
delicious broiled salmon smoked on a homely platter, hot venison steaks
sent up their appetizing odors, and several dishes of cold meats, all of
which were composed of game, had been set before the guests, in honor
of the newly arrived visitors, and in vindication of the old soldier's
hospitality.

"You do not seem to be on short allowance in this quarter of the
world, Sergeant," said Cap, after he had got fairly initiated into
the mysteries of the different dishes; "your salmon might satisfy a
Scotsman."

"It fails to do it, notwithstanding, brother Cap; for among two or three
hundred of the fellows that we have in this garrison there are not half
a dozen who will not swear that the fish is unfit to be eaten. Even some
of the lads, who never tasted venison except as poachers at home, turn
up their noses at the fattest haunches that we get here."

"Ay, that is Christian natur'," put in Pathfinder; "and I must say it
is none to its credit. Now, a red-skin never repines, but is always
thankful for the food he gets, whether it be fat or lean, venison or
bear, wild turkey's breast or wild goose's wing. To the shame of us
white men be it said, that we look upon blessings without satisfaction,
and consider trifling evils as matters of great account."

"It is so with the 55th, as I can answer, though I cannot say as much
for their Christianity," returned the Sergeant. "Even the major himself,
old Duncan of Lundie, will sometimes swear that an oatmeal cake is
better fare than the Oswego bass, and sigh for a swallow of Highland
water, when, if so minded, he has the whole of Ontario to quench his
thirst in."

"Has Major Duncan a wife and children?" asked Mabel, whose thoughts
naturally turned towards her own sex in her new situation.

"Not he, girl; though they do say that he has a betrothed at home. The
lady, it seems, is willing to wait, rather than suffer the hardships of
service in this wild region; all of which, brother Cap, is not according
to my notions of a woman's duties. Your sister thought differently."

"I hope, Sergeant, you do not think of Mabel for a soldier's wife,"
returned Cap gravely. "Our family has done its share in that way
already, and it's high time that the sea was again remembered."

"I do not think of finding a husband for the girl in the 55th, or any
other regiment, I can promise you, brother; though I do think it getting
to be time that the child were respectably married."

"Father!"

"'Tis not their gifts, Sergeant, to talk of these matters in so open a
manner," said the guide; "for I've seen it verified by experience,
that he who would follow the trail of a virgin's good-will must not go
shouting out his thoughts behind her. So, if you please, we will talk of
something else."

"Well, then, brother Cap, I hope that bit of a cold roasted pig is to
your mind; you seem to fancy the food."

"Ay, ay; give me civilized grub if I must eat," returned the
pertinacious seaman. "Venison is well enough for your inland sailors,
but we of the ocean like a little of that which we understand."

Here Pathfinder laid down his knife and fork, and indulged in a hearty
laugh, though in his always silent manner; then he asked, with a little
curiosity in his manner,--

"Don't, you miss the skin, Master Cap? don't you miss the skin?"

"It would have been better for its jacket, I think myself, Pathfinder;
but I suppose it is a fashion of the woods to serve up shoats in this
style."

"Well, well, a man may go round the 'arth and not know everything. If
you had had the skinning of that pig, Master Cap, it would have left you
sore hands. The cratur' is a hedgehog!"

"Blast me, if I thought it wholesome natural pork either!" returned Cap.
"But then I believed even a pig might lose some of its good qualities up
hereaway in the woods."

"If the skinning of it, brother, does not fall to my duty. Pathfinder, I
hope you didn't find Mabel disobedient on the march?"

"Not she, not she. If Mabel is only half as well satisfied with Jasper
and Pathfinder as the Pathfinder and Jasper are satisfied with her,
Sergeant, we shall be friends for the remainder of our days."

As the guide spoke, he turned his eyes towards the blushing girl, with
a sort of innocent desire to know her opinion; and then, with an inborn
delicacy, which proved he was far superior to the vulgar desire to
invade the sanctity of feminine feeling, he looked at his plate, and
seemed to regret his own boldness.

"Well, well, we must remember that women are not men, my friend,"
resumed the Sergeant, "and make proper allowances for nature and
education. A recruit is not a veteran. Any man knows that it takes
longer to make a good soldier than it takes to make anything else."

"This is new doctrine, Sergeant," said Cap with some spirit. "We old
seamen are apt to think that six soldiers, ay, and capital soldiers too,
might be made while one sailor is getting his education."

"Ay, brother Cap, I've seen something of the opinions which seafaring
men have of themselves," returned the brother-in-law, with a smile as
bland as comported with his saturnine features; "for I was many years
one of the garrison in a seaport. You and I have conversed on the
subject before and I'm afraid we shall never agree. But if you wish to
know what the difference is between a real soldier and man in what I
should call a state of nature, you have only to look at a battalion of
the 55th on parade this afternoon, and then, when you get back to York,
examine one of the militia regiments making its greatest efforts."

"Well, to my eye, Sergeant, there is very little difference, not more
than you'll find between a brig and a snow. To me they seem alike: all
scarlet, and feathers, and powder, and pipeclay."

"So much, sir, for the judgment of a sailor," returned the Sergeant with
dignity; "but perhaps you are not aware that it requires a year to teach
a true soldier how to eat?"

"So much the worse for him. The militia know how to eat at starting; for
I have often heard that, on their marches, they commonly eat all before
them, even if they do nothing else."

"They have their gifts, I suppose, like other men," observed Pathfinder,
with a view to preserve the peace, which was evidently in some danger of
being broken by the obstinate predilection of each of the disputants in
favor of his own calling; "and when a man has his gift from Providence,
it is commonly idle to endeavor to bear up against it. The 55th,
Sergeant, is a judicous regiment in the way of eating, as I know from
having been so long in its company, though I daresay militia corps could
be found that would outdo them in feats of that natur' too."

"Uncle;" said Mabel, "if you have breakfasted, I will thank you to go
out upon the bastion with me again. We have neither of us half seen
the lake, and it would be hardly seemly for a young woman to be walking
about the fort, the first day of her arrival, quite alone."

Cap understood the motive of Mabel; and having, at the bottom, a hearty
friendship for his brother-in-law, he was willing enough to defer the
argument until they had been longer together, for the idea of abandoning
it altogether never crossed the mind of one so dogmatical and obstinate.
He accordingly accompanied his niece, leaving Sergeant Dunham and his
friend, the Pathfinder, alone together. As soon as his adversary had
beat a retreat, the Sergeant, who did not quite so well understand the
manoeuvre of his daughter, turned to his companion, and, with a smile
which was not without triumph, he remarked,--

"The army, Pathfinder, has never yet done itself justice in the way of
asserting its rights; and though modesty becomes a man, whether he is in
a red coat or a black one, or, for that matter, in his shirt-sleeves,
I don't like to let a good opportunity slip of saying a word in
its behalf. Well, my friend," laying his own hand on one of the
Pathfinder's, and giving it a hearty squeeze, "how do you like the
girl?"

"You have reason to be proud of her, Sergeant. I have seen many of her
sex, and some that were great and beautiful; but never before did I meet
with one in whom I thought Providence had so well balanced the different
gifts."

"And the good opinion, I can tell you, Pathfinder, is mutual. She
told me last night all about your coolness, and spirit, and
kindness,--particularly the last, for kindness counts for more than
half with females, my friend,--and the first inspection seems to give
satisfaction on both sides. Brush up the uniform, and pay a little more
attention to the outside, Pathfinder, and you will have the girl heart
and hand."

"Nay, nay, Sergeant, I've forgotten nothing that you have told me, and
grudge no reasonable pains to make myself as pleasant in the eyes of
Mabel as she is getting to be in mine. I cleaned and brightened up
Killdeer this morning as soon as the sun rose; and, in my judgment, the
piece never looked better than it does at this very moment."

"That is according to your hunting notions, Pathfinder; but firearms
should sparkle and glitter in the sun, and I never yet could see any
beauty in a clouded barrel."

"Lord Howe thought otherwise, Sergeant; and he was accounted a good
soldier."

"Very true; his lordship had all the barrels of his regiment darkened,
and what good came of it? You can see his 'scutcheon hanging in the
English church at Albany. No, no, my worthy friend, a soldier should
be a soldier, and at no time ought he to be ashamed or afraid to carry
about him the signs and symbols of his honorable trade. Had you much
discourse with Mabel, Pathfinder, as you came along in the canoe?"

"There was not much opportunity, Sergeant, and then I found myself so
much beneath her in idees, that I was afraid to speak of much beyond
what belonged to my own gifts."

"Therein you are partly right and partly wrong, my friend. Women love
trifling discourse, though they like to have most of it to themselves.
Now you know I'm a man that do not loosen my tongue at every giddy
thought; and yet there were days when I could see that Mabel's mother
thought none the worse of me because I descended a little from my
manhood. It is true, I was twenty-two years younger then than I am
to-day; and, moreover, instead of being the oldest sergeant in the
regiment, I was the youngest. Dignity is commanding and useful, and
there is no getting on without it, as respects the men; but if you
would be thoroughly esteemed by a woman, it is necessary to condescend a
little on occasions."

"Ah's me, Sergeant, I sometimes fear it will never do."

"Why do you think so discouragingly of a matter on which I thought both
our minds were made up?"

"We did agree, if Mabel should prove what you told me she was, and if
the girl could fancy a rude hunter and guide, that I should quit some
of my wandering ways, and try to humanize my mind down to a wife
and children. But since I have seen the girl, I will own that many
misgivings have come over me."

"How's this?" interrupted the Sergeant sternly; "did I not understand
you to say that you were pleased?--and is Mabel a young woman to
disappoint expectation?"

"Ah, Sergeant, it is not Mabel that I distrust, but myself. I am but
a poor ignorant woodsman, after all; and perhaps I'm not, in truth, as
good as even you and I may think me."

"If you doubt your own judgment of yourself, Pathfinder, I beg you will
not doubt mine. Am I not accustomed to judge men's character? and am I
often deceived? Ask Major Duncan, sir, if you desire any assurances in
this particular."

"But, Sergeant, we have long been friends; have fi't side by side a
dozen times, and have done each other many services. When this is the
case, men are apt to think over kindly of each other; and I fear me that
the daughter may not be so likely to view a plain ignorant hunter as
favorably as the father does."

"Tut, tut, Pathfinder! You don't know yourself, man, and may put all
faith in my judgment. In the first place you have experience; and, as
all girls must want that, no prudent young woman would overlook such
a qualification. Then you are not one of the coxcombs that strut about
when they first join a regiment; but a man who has seen service, and
who carries the marks of it on his person and countenance. I daresay
you have been under fire some thirty or forty times, counting all the
skirmishes and ambushes that you've seen."

"All of that, Sergeant, all of that; but what will it avail in gaining
the good-will of a tender-hearted young female?"

"It will gain the day. Experience in the field is as good in love as in
war. But you are as honest-hearted and as loyal a subject as the king
can boast of--God bless him!"

"That may be too; but I'm afeared I'm too rude and too old and too wild
like to suit the fancy of such a young and delicate girl as Mabel, who
has been unused to our wilderness ways, and may think the settlements
better suited to her gifts and inclinations."

"These are new misgivings for you, my friend; and I wonder they were
never paraded before."

"Because I never knew my own worthlessness, perhaps, until I saw Mabel.
I have travelled with some as fair, and have guided them through the
forest, and seen them in their perils and in their gladness; but they
were always too much above me to make me think of them as more than
so many feeble ones I was bound to protect and defend. The case is now
different. Mabel and I are so nearly alike, that I feel weighed down
with a load that is hard to bear, at finding us so unlike. I do wish,
Sergeant, that I was ten years younger, more comely to look at, and
better suited to please a handsome young woman's fancy."

"Cheer up, my brave friend, and trust to a father's knowledge of
womankind. Mabel half loves you already, and a fortnight's intercourse
and kindness, down among the islands yonder will close ranks with the
other half. The girl as much as told me this herself last night."

"Can this be so, Sergeant?" said the guide, whose meek and modest nature
shrank from viewing himself in colors so favorable. "Can this be truly
so? I am but a poor hunter and Mabel, I see, is fit to be an officer's
lady. Do you think the girl will consent to quit all her beloved
settlement usages, and her visitings and church-goings, to dwell with
a plain guide and hunter up hereaway in the woods? Will she not in the
end, crave her old ways, and a better man?"

"A better man, Pathfinder, would be hard to find," returned the father.
"As for town usages, they are soon forgotten in the freedom of the
forest, and Mabel has just spirit enough to dwell on a frontier. I've
not planned this marriage, my friend, without thinking it over, as a
general does his campaign. At first, I thought of bringing you into the
regiment, that you might succeed me when I retire, which must be sooner
or later; but on reflection, Pathfinder, I think you are scarcely fitted
for the office. Still, if not a soldier in all the meanings of the word,
you are a soldier in its best meaning, and I know that you have the
good-will of every officer in the corps. As long as I live, Mabel can
dwell with me, and you will always have a home when you return from your
scoutings and marches."

"This is very pleasant to think of, Sergeant, if the girl can only come
into our wishes with good-will. But, ah's me! It does not seem that
one like myself can ever be agreeable in her handsome eyes. If I were
younger, and more comely, now, as Jasper Western is, for instance, there
might be a chance--yes, then, indeed, there might be some chance."

"That for Jasper Eau-douce, and every younker of them in or about the
fort!" returned the Sergeant, snapping his fingers. "If not actually a
younger, you are a younger-looking, ay, and a better-looking man than
the _Scud's_ master--"

"Anan?" said Pathfinder, looking up at his companion with an expression
of doubt, as if he did not understand his meaning.

"I say if not actually younger in days and years, you look more hardy
and like whipcord than Jasper, or any of them; and there will be more
of you, thirty years hence, than of all of them put together. A good
conscience will keep one like you a mere boy all his life."

"Jasper has as clear a conscience as any youth I know, Sergeant, and is
as likely to wear on that account as any in the colony."

"Then you are my friend," squeezing the other's hand, "my tried, sworn,
and constant friend."

"Yes, we have been friends, Sergeant, near twenty years before Mabel was
born."

"True enough; before Mabel was born, we were well-tried friends; and the
hussy would never dream of refusing to marry a man who was her father's
friend before she was born."

"We don't know, Sergeant, we don't know. Like loves like. The young
prefer the young for companions, and the old the old."

"Not for wives, Pathfinder; I never knew an old man, now, who had an
objection to a young wife. Then you are respected and esteemed by every
officer in the fort, as I have said already, and it will please her
fancy to like a man that every one else likes."

"I hope I have no enemies but the Mingos," returned the guide, stroking
down his hair meekly and speaking thoughtfully. "I've tried to do right,
and that ought to make friends, though it sometimes fails."

"And you may be said to keep the best company; for even old Duncan of
Lundie is glad to see you, and you pass hours in his society. Of all the
guides, he confides most in you."

"Ay, even greater than he is have marched by my side for days, and have
conversed with me as if I were their brother; but, Sergeant, I have
never been puffed up by their company, for I know that the woods often
bring men to a level who would not be so in the settlements."

"And you are known to be the greatest rifle shot that ever pulled
trigger in all this region."

"If Mabel could fancy a man for that, I might have no great reason to
despair; and yet, Sergeant, I sometimes think that it is all as much
owing to Killdeer as to any skill of my own. It is sartainly a wonderful
piece, and might do as much in the hands of another."

"That is your own humble opinion of yourself, Pathfinder; but we have
seen too many fail with the same weapon, and you succeed too often with
the rifles of other men, to allow me to agree with you. We will get up
a shooting match in a day or two, when you can show your skill, and when
Mabel will form some judgment concerning your true character."

"Will that be fair, Sergeant? Everybody knows that Killdeer seldom
misses; and ought we to make a trial of this sort when we all know what
must be the result?"

"Tut, tut, man! I foresee I must do half this courting for you. For
one who is always inside of the smoke in a skirmish, you are the
faintest-hearted suitor I ever met with. Remember, Mabel comes of a bold
stock; and the girl will be as likely to admire a man as her mother was
before her."

Here the Sergeant arose, and proceeded to attend to his never-ceasing
duties, without apology; the terms on which the guide stood with all in
the garrison rendering this freedom quite a matter of course.

The reader will have gathered from the conversation just related, one of
the plans that Sergeant Dunham had in view in causing his daughter to
be brought to the frontier. Although necessarily much weaned from the
caresses and blandishments that had rendered his child so dear to him
during the first year or two of his widowerhood, he had still a strong
but somewhat latent love for her. Accustomed to command and to obey,
without being questioned himself or questioning others, concerning the
reasonableness of the mandates, he was perhaps too much disposed to
believe that his daughter would marry the man he might select, while he
was far from being disposed to do violence to her wishes. The fact was;
few knew the Pathfinder intimately without secretly believing him to be
one of extraordinary qualities. Ever the same, simple-minded, faithful,
utterly without fear, and yet prudent, foremost in all warrantable
enterprises, or what the opinion of the day considered as such, and
never engaged in anything to call a blush to his cheek or censure on
his acts, it was not possible to live much with this being and not feel
respect and admiration for him which had no reference to his position
in life. The most surprising peculiarity about the man himself was the
entire indifference with which he regarded all distinctions which did
not depend on personal merit. He was respectful to his superiors from
habit; but had often been known to correct their mistakes and to reprove
their vices with a fearlessness that proved how essentially he regarded
the more material points, and with a natural discrimination that
appeared to set education at defiance. In short, a disbeliever in the
ability of man to distinguish between good and evil without the aid
of instruction, would have been staggered by the character of this
extraordinary inhabitant of the frontier. His feelings appeared to
possess the freshness and nature of the forest in which he passed so
much of his time; and no casuist could have made clearer decisions in
matters relating to right and wrong; and yet he was not without his
prejudices, which, though few, and colored by the character and usages
of the individual, were deep-rooted, and almost formed a part of his
nature. But the most striking feature about the moral organization of
Pathfinder was his beautiful and unerring sense of justice. This noble
trait--and without it no man can be truly great, with it no man
other than respectable--probably had its unseen influence on all who
associated with him; for the common and unprincipled brawler of the camp
had been known to return from an expedition made in his company rebuked
by his sentiments, softened by his language, and improved by his
example. As might have been expected, with so elevated a quality his
fidelity was like the immovable rock; treachery in him was classed among
the things which are impossible; and as he seldom retired before his
enemies, so was he never known, under any circumstances that admitted of
an alternative, to abandon a friend. The affinities of such a character
were, as a matter of course, those of like for like. His associates and
intimates, though more or less determined by chance, were generally of
the highest order as to moral propensities; for he appeared to possess
a species of instinctive discrimination, which led him, insensibly to
himself, most probably, to cling closest to those whose characters would
best reward his friendship. In short, it was said of the Pathfinder, by
one accustomed to study his fellows, that he was a fair example of
what a just-minded and pure man might be, while untempted by unruly or
ambitious desires, and left to follow the bias of his feelings, amid the
solitary grandeur and ennobling influences of a sublime nature; neither
led aside by the inducements which influence all to do evil amid the
incentives of civilization, nor forgetful of the Almighty Being whose
spirit pervades the wilderness as well as the towns.

Such was the man whom Sergeant Dunham had selected as the husband of
Mabel. In making this choice, he had not been as much governed by a
clear and judicious view of the merits of the individual, perhaps, as
by his own likings; still no one knew the Pathfinder so intimately as
himself without always conceding to the honest guide a high place in his
esteem on account of these very virtues. That his daughter could find
any serious objections to the match the old soldier did not apprehend;
while, on the other hand, he saw many advantages to himself in dim
perspective, connected with the decline of his days, and an evening of
life passed among descendants who were equally dear to him through
both parents. He had first made the proposition to his friend, who had
listened to it kindly, but who, the Sergeant was now pleased to find,
already betrayed a willingness to come into his own views that was
proportioned to the doubts and misgivings proceeding from his humble
distrust of himself.



CHAPTER X.

     Think not I love him, though I ask for him;
     'Tis but a peevish boy:--yet he talks well--
     But what care I for words?


A week passed in the usual routine of a garrison. Mabel was becoming
used to a situation that, at first she had found not only novel, but
a little irksome; and the officers and men in their turn, gradually
familiarized to the presence of a young and blooming girl, whose attire
and carriage had that air of modest gentility about them which she
had obtained in the family of her patroness, annoyed her less by their
ill-concealed admiration, while they gratified her by the respect which,
she was fain to think, they paid her on account of her father; but
which, in truth, was more to be attributed to her own modest but
spirited deportment, than to any deference for the worthy Sergeant.

Acquaintances made in a forest, or in any circumstances of unusual
excitement, soon attain their limits. Mabel found one week's residence
at Oswego sufficient to determine her as to those with whom she might be
intimate and those whom she ought to avoid. The sort of neutral position
occupied by her father, who was not an officer, while he was so much
more than a common soldier, by keeping her aloof from the two great
classes of military life, lessened the number of those whom she was
compelled to know, and made the duty of decision comparatively easy.
Still she soon discovered that there were a few, even among those that
could aspire to a seat at the Commandant's table, who were disposed to
overlook the halbert for the novelty of a well-turned figure and of a
pretty, winning face; and by the end of the first two or three days she
had admirers even among the gentlemen. The Quartermaster, in particular,
a middle-aged soldier, who had more than once tried the blessings of
matrimony already, but was now a widower, was evidently disposed to
increase his intimacy with the Sergeant, though their duties often
brought them together; and the youngsters among his messmates did not
fail to note that this man of method, who was a Scotsman of the name
of Muir, was much more frequent in his visits to the quarters of his
subordinate than had formerly been his wont. A laugh, or a joke, in
honor of the "Sergeant's daughter," however, limited their strictures;
though "Mabel Dunham" was soon a toast that even the ensign, or the
lieutenant, did not disdain to give.

At the end of the week, Duncan of Lundie sent for Sergeant Dunham, after
evening roll-call, on business of a nature that, it was understood,
required a personal conference. The old veteran dwelt in a movable hut,
which, being placed on trucks, he could order to be wheeled about at
pleasure, sometimes living in one part of the area within the fort, and
sometimes in another. On the present occasion, he had made a halt near
the centre; and there he was found by his subordinate, who was
admitted to his presence without any delay or dancing attendance in an
ante-chamber. In point of fact, there was very little difference in the
quality of the accommodations allowed to the officers and those allowed
to the men, the former being merely granted the most room.

"Walk in, Sergeant, walk in, my good friend," said old Lundie heartily,
as his inferior stood in a respectful attitude at the door of a sort of
library and bedroom into which he had been ushered;--"walk in, and take
a seat on that stool. I have sent for you, man; to discuss anything but
rosters and pay-rolls this evening. It is now many years since we have
been comrades, and 'auld lang syne' should count for something, even
between a major and his orderly, a Scot and a Yankee. Sit ye down, man,
and just put yourself at your ease. It has been a fine day, Sergeant."

"It has indeed, Major Duncan," returned the other, who, though he
complied so far as to take the seat, was much too practised not to
understand the degree of respect it was necessary to maintain in his
manner; "a very fine day, sir, it has been and we may look for more of
them at this season."

"I hope so with all my heart. The crops look well as it is, man, and
you'll be finding that the 55th make almost as good farmers as soldiers.
I never saw better potatoes in Scotland than we are likely to have in
that new patch of ours."

"They promise a good yield, Major Duncan; and, in that light, a more
comfortable winter than the last."

"Life is progressive, Sergeant, in its comforts as well as in its need
of them. We grow old, and I begin to think it time to retire and settle
in life. I feel that my working days are nearly over."

"The king, God bless him! sir, has much good service in your honor yet."

"It may be so, Sergeant Dunham, especially if he should happen to have a
spare lieutenant-colonelcy left."

"The 55th will be honored the day that commission is given to Duncan of
Lundie, sir."

"And Duncan of Lundie will be honored the day he receives it. But,
Sergeant, if you have never had a lieutenant-colonelcy, you have had a
good wife, and that is the next thing to rank in making a man happy."

"I have been married, Major Duncan; but it is now a long time since I
have had no drawback on the love I bear his majesty and my duty."

"What, man! not even the love you bear that active little round-limbed,
rosy-cheeked daughter that I have seen in the fort these last few days!
Out upon you, Sergeant! old fellow as I am, I could almost love that
little lassie myself, and send the lieutenant-colonelcy to the devil."

"We all know where Major Duncan's heart is, and that is in Scotland,
where a beautiful lady is ready and willing to make him happy, as soon
as his own sense of duty shall permit."

"Ay, hope is ever a far-off thing, Sergeant," returned the superior, a
shade of melancholy passing over his hard Scottish features as he spoke;
"and bonnie Scotland is a far-off country. Well, if we have no heather
and oatmeal in this region, we have venison for the killing of it and
salmon as plenty as at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Is it true, Sergeant, that
the men complain of having been over-venisoned and over-pigeoned of
late?"


"Not for some weeks, Major Duncan, for neither deer nor birds are so
plenty at this season as they have been. They begin to throw their
remarks about concerning the salmon, but I trust we shall get through
the summer without any serious disturbance on the score of food. The
Scotch in the battalion do, indeed, talk more than is prudent of their
want of oatmeal, grumbling occasionally of our wheaten bread."

"Ah, that is human nature, Sergeant! pure, unadulterated Scotch human
nature. A cake, man, to say the truth, is an agreeable morsel, and I
often see the time when I pine for a bite myself."

"If the feeling gets to be troublesome, Major Duncan,--in the men, I
mean, sir, for I would not think of saying so disrespectful a thing to
your honor,--but if the men ever pine seriously for their natural food,
I would humbly recommend that some oatmeal be imported, or prepared in
this country for them, and I think we shall hear no more of it. A very
little would answer for a cure, sir."

"You are a wag, Sergeant; but hang me if I am sure you are not right.
There may be sweeter things in this world, after all, than oatmeal. You
have a sweet daughter, Dunham, for one."

"The girl is like her mother, Major Duncan, and will pass inspection,"
said the Sergeant proudly. "Neither was brought up on anything better
than good American flour. The girl will pass inspection, sir."

"That would she, I'll answer for it. Well, I may as well come to the
point at once, man, and bring up my reserve into the front of the
battle. Here is Davy Muir, the quartermaster, disposed to make your
daughter his wife, and he has just got me to open the matter to you,
being fearful of compromising his own dignity; and I may as well add
that half the youngsters in the fort toast her, and talk of her from
morning till night."

"She is much honored, sir," returned the father stiffly; "but I trust
the gentlemen will find something more worthy of them to talk about ere
long. I hope to see her the wife of an honest man before many weeks,
sir."

"Yes, Davy is an honest man, and that is more than can be said for all
in the quartermaster's department, I'm thinking, Sergeant," returned
Lundie, with a slight smile. "Well, then may I tell the Cupid-stricken
youth that the matter is as good as settled?"

"I thank your honor; but Mabel is betrothed to another."

"The devil she is! That will produce a stir in the fort; though I'm not
sorry to hear it either, for, to be frank with you, Sergeant, I'm no
great admirer of unequal matches."

"I think with your honor, and have no desire to see my daughter an
officer's lady. If she can get as high as her mother was before her, it
ought to satisfy any reasonable woman."

"And may I ask, Sergeant, who is the lucky man that you intend to call
son-in-law?"

"The Pathfinder, your honor."

"Pathfinder!"

"The same, Major Duncan; and in naming him to you, I give you his whole
history. No one is better known on this frontier than my honest, brave,
true-hearted friend."

"All that is true enough; but is he, after all, the sort of person to
make a girl of twenty happy?"

"Why not, your honor? The man is at the head of his calling. There is no
other guide or scout connected with the army who has half the reputation
of Pathfinder, or who deserves to have it half as well."

"Very true, Sergeant; but is the reputation of a scout exactly the sort
of renown to captivate a girl's fancy?"

"Talking of girls' fancies, sir, is in my humble opinion much like
talking of a recruit's judgment. If we were to take the movements of the
awkward squad, sir, as a guide, we should never form a decent line in
battalion, Major Duncan."

"But your daughter has nothing awkward about her: for a genteeler girl
of her class could not be found in old Albion itself. Is she of your way
of thinking in this matter?--though I suppose she must be, as you say
she is betrothed."

"We have not yet conversed on the subject, your honor; but I consider
her mind as good as made up, from several little circumstances which
might be named."

"And what are these circumstances, Sergeant?" asked the Major, who
began to take more interest than he had at first felt on the subject.
"I confess a little curiosity to know something about a woman's mind,
being, as you know, a bachelor myself."

"Why, your honor, when I speak of the Pathfinder to the girl, she always
looks me full in the face; chimes in with everything I say in his favor,
and has a frank open way with her, which says as much as if she half
considered him already as a husband."

"Hum! and these signs, you think, Dunham, are faithful tokens of your
daughter's feelings?"

"I do, your honor, for they strike me as natural. When I find a man,
sir, who looks me full in the face, while he praises an officer,--for,
begging your honor's pardon, the men will sometimes pass their
strictures on their betters,--and when I find a man looking me in the
eyes as he praises his captain, I always set it down that the fellow is
honest, and means what he says."

"Is there not some material difference in the age of the intended
bridegroom and that of his pretty bride, Sergeant?"

"You are quite right, sir; Pathfinder is well advanced towards forty,
and Mabel has every prospect of happiness that a young woman can derive
from the certainty of possessing an experienced husband. I was quite
forty myself, your honor, when I married her mother."

"But will your daughter be as likely to admire a green hunting-shirt,
such as that our worthy guide wears, with a fox-skin cap, as the smart
uniform of the 55th?"

"Perhaps not, sir; and therefore she will have the merit of self-denial,
which always makes a young woman wiser and better."

"And are you not afraid that she may be left a widow while still a young
woman? what between wild beasts, and wilder savages, Pathfinder may be
said to carry his life in his hand."

"'Every bullet has its billet,' Lundie," for so the Major was fond of
being called in his moments of condescension, and when not engaged in
military affairs; "and no man in the 55th can call himself beyond or
above the chances of sudden death. In that particular, Mabel would
gain nothing by a change. Besides, sir, if I may speak freely on such
a subject, I much doubt if ever Pathfinder dies in battle, or by any of
the sudden chances of the wilderness."

"And why so, Sergeant?" asked the Major. "He is a soldier, so far as
danger is concerned, and one that is much more than usually exposed;
and, being free of his person, why should he expect to escape when
others do not?"

"I do not believe, your honor, that the Pathfinder considers his own
chances better than any one's else, but the man will never die by
a bullet. I have seen him so often handling his rifle with as much
composure as if it were a shepherd's crook, in the midst of the heaviest
showers of bullets, and under so many extraordinary circumstances, that
I do not think Providence means he should ever fall in that manner. And
yet, if there be a man in his Majesty's dominions who really deserves
such a death, it is Pathfinder."

"We never know, Sergeant," returned Lundie, with a countenance grave
with thought; "and the less we say about it, perhaps, the better. But
will your daughter--Mabel, I think, you call her--will Mabel be as
willing to accept one who, after all, is a mere hanger-on of the army,
as to take one from the service itself? There is no hope of promotion
for the guide, Sergeant."

"He is at the head of his corps already, your honor. In short, Mabel
has made up her mind on this subject; and, as your honor has had the
condescension to speak to me about Mr. Muir, I trust you will be kind
enough to say that the girl is as good as billeted for life."

"Well, well, this is your own matter, and, now--Sergeant Dunham!"

"Your honor," said the other, rising, and giving the customary salute.

"You have been told it is my intention to send you down among the
Thousand Islands for the next month. All the old subalterns have had
their tours of duty in that quarter--all that I like to trust at least;
and it has at length come to your turn. Lieutenant Muir, it is true,
claims his right; but, being quartermaster, I do not like to break up
well-established arrangements. Are the men drafted?"

"Everything is ready, your honor. The draft is made, and I understood
that the canoe which got in last night brought a message to say that the
party already below is looking out for the relief."

"It did; and you must sail the day after to-morrow, if not to-morrow
night. It will be wise, perhaps, to sail in the dark."

"So Jasper thinks, Major Duncan; and I know no one more to be depended
on in such an affair than young Jasper Western."

"Young Jasper Eau-douce!" said Lundie, a slight smile gathering around
his usually stern mouth. "Will that lad be of your party, Sergeant?"

"Your honor will remember that the _Scud_ never quits port without him."

"True; but all general rules have their exceptions. Have I not seen a
seafaring person about the fort within the last few days?"

"No doubt, your honor; it is Master Cap, a brother-in-law of mine, who
brought my daughter from below."

"Why not put him in the _Scud_ for this cruise, Sergeant, and leave
Jasper behind? Your brother-in-law would like the variety of a
fresh-water cruise, and you would enjoy more of his company."

"I intended to ask your honor's permission to take him along; but he
must go as a volunteer. Jasper is too brave a lad to be turned out of
his command without a reason, Major Duncan; and I'm afraid brother Cap
despises fresh water too much to do duty on it."

"Quite right, Sergeant, and I leave all this to your own discretion.
Eau-douce must retain his command, on second thoughts. You intend that
Pathfinder shall also be of the party?"

"If your honor approves of it. There will be service for both the
guides, the Indian as well as the white man."

"I think you are right. Well, Sergeant, I wish you good luck in the
enterprise; and remember the post is to be destroyed and abandoned when
your command is withdrawn. It will have done its work by that time, or
we shall have failed entirely, and it is too ticklish a position to be
maintained unnecessarily. You can retire."

Sergeant Dunham gave the customary salute, turned on his heels as if
they had been pivots, and had got the door nearly drawn to after him,
when he was suddenly recalled.

"I had forgotten, Sergeant, the younger officers have begged for
a shooting match, and to-morrow has been named for the day. All
competitors will be admitted, and the prizes will be a silver-mounted
powder horn, a leathern flask ditto," reading from a piece of paper, "as
I see by the professional jargon of this bill, and a silk calash for a
lady. The latter is to enable the victor to show his gallantry by making
an offering of it to her he best loves."

"All very agreeable, your honor, at least to him that succeeds. Is the
Pathfinder to be permitted to enter?"

"I do not well see how he can be excluded, if he choose to come forward.
Latterly, I have observed that he takes no share in these sports,
probably from a conviction of his own unequalled skill."

"That's it, Major Duncan; the honest fellow knows there is not a man
on the frontier who can equal him, and he does not wish to spoil the
pleasure of others. I think we may trust to his delicacy in anything,
sir. Perhaps it may be as well to let him have his own way?"

"In this instance we must, Sergeant. Whether he will be as successful in
all others remains to be seen. I wish you good evening, Dunham."

The Sergeant now withdrew, leaving Duncan of Lundie to his own thoughts:
that they were not altogether disagreeable was to be inferred from the
smiles which occasionally covered a countenance hard and martial in
its usual expression, though there were moments in which all its severe
sobriety prevailed. Half an hour might have passed, when a tap at the
door was answered by a direction to enter. A middle-aged man, in the
dress of an officer, but whose uniform wanted the usual smartness of the
profession, made his appearance, and was saluted as "Mr. Muir."

"I have come sir, at your bidding, to know my fortune," said the
Quartermaster, in a strong Scotch accent, as soon as he had taken the
seat which was proffered to him. "To say the truth to you, Major Duncan,
this girl is making as much havoc in the garrison as the French did
before Ty: I never witnessed so general a rout in so short a time!"

"Surely, Davy, you don't mean to persuade me that your young and
unsophisticated heart is in such a flame, after one week's ignition?
Why, man, this is worse than the affair in Scotland, where it was said
the heat within was so intense that it just burnt a hole through your
own precious body, and left a place for all the lassies to peer in at,
to see what the combustible material was worth."

"Ye'll have your own way, Major Duncan; and your father and mother would
have theirs before ye, even if the enemy were in the camp. I see
nothing so extraordinar' in young people following the bent of their
inclinations and wishes."

"But you've followed yours so often, Davy, that I should think by this
time it had lost the edge of novelty. Including that informal affair in
Scotland, when you were a lad, you've been married four times already."

"Only three, Major, as I hope to get another wife. I've not yet had my
number: no, no; only three."

"I'm thinking, Davy, you don't include the first affair I mentioned;
that in which there was no parson."

"And why should I Major? The courts decided that it was no marriage; and
what more could a man want? The woman took advantage of a slight amorous
propensity that may be a weakness in my disposition, perhaps, and
inveigled me into a contract which was found to be illegal."

"If I remember right, Muir, there were thought to be two sides to that
question, in the time of it?"

"It would be but an indifferent question, my dear Major, that hadn't two
sides to it; and I've known many that had three. But the poor woman's
dead, and there was no issue; so nothing came of it after all. Then, I
was particularly unfortunate with my second wife; I say second, Major,
out of deference to you, and on the mere supposition that the first was
a marriage at all; but first or second, I was particularly unfortunate
with Jeannie Graham, who died in the first lustrum, leaving neither
chick nor chiel behind her. I do think, if Jeannie had survived, I never
should have turned my thoughts towards another wife."

"But as she did not, you married twice after her death; and are desirous
of doing so a third time."

"The truth can never justly be gainsaid, Major Duncan, and I am always
ready to avow it. I'm thinking, Lundie, you are melancholar this fine
evening?"

"No, Muir, not melancholy absolutely; but a little thoughtful, I
confess. I was looking back to my boyish days, when I, the laird's son,
and you, the parson's, roamed about our native hills, happy and careless
boys, taking little heed to the future; and then have followed some
thoughts, that may be a little painful, concerning that future as it has
turned out to be."

"Surely, Lundie, ye do not complain of yer portion of it. You've risen
to be a major, and will soon be a lieutenant-colonel, if letters tell
the truth; while I am just one step higher than when your honored father
gave me my first commission, and a poor deevil of a quartermaster."

"And the four wives?"

"Three, Lundie; three only that were legal, even under our own liberal
and sanctified laws."

"Well, then, let it be three. Ye know, Davy," said Major Duncan,
insensibly dropping into the pronunciation and dialect of his youth, as
is much the practice with educated Scotchmen as they warm with a subject
that comes near the heart,--"ye know, Davy, that my own choice has long
been made, and in how anxious and hope-wearied a manner I've waited for
that happy hour when I can call the woman I've so long loved a wife; and
here have you, without fortune, name, birth, or merit--I mean particular
merit--"

"Na, na; dinna say that, Lundie. The Muirs are of gude bluid."

"Well, then, without aught but bluid, ye've wived four times--"

"I tall ye but thrice, Lundie. Ye'll weaken auld friendship if ye call
it four."

"Put it at yer own number, Davy; and it's far more than yer share. Our
lives have been very different, on the score of matrimony, at least; you
must allow that, my old friend."

"And which do you think has been the gainer, Major, speaking as frankly
thegither as we did when lads?"

"Nay, I've nothing to conceal. My days have passed in hope deferred,
while yours have passed in--"

"Not in hope realized, I give you mine honor, Major Duncan," interrupted
the Quartermaster. "Each new experiment I have thought might prove an
advantage; but disappointment seems the lot of man. Ah! this is a vain
world of ours, Lundie, it must be owned; and in nothing vainer than in
matrimony."

"And yet you are ready to put your neck into the noose for the fifth
time?"

"I desire to say, it will be but the fourth, Major Duncan," said the
Quartermaster positively; then, instantly changing the expression of
his face to one of boyish rapture, he added, "But this Mabel Dunham is
a _rara avis!_ Our Scotch lassies are fair and pleasant; but it must be
owned these colonials are of surpassing comeliness."

"You will do well to recollect your commission and blood, Davy. I
believe all four of your wives--"

"I wish my dear Lundie, ye'd be more accurate in yer arithmetic. Three
times one make three."

"All three, then, were what might be termed gentlewomen?"

"That's just it, Major. Three were gentlewomen, as you say, and the
connections were suitable."

"And the fourth being the daughter of my father's gardener, the
connection was unsuitable. But have you no fear that marrying the child
of a non-commissioned officer, who is in the same corps with yourself,
will have the effect to lessen your consequence in the regiment?"

"That's just been my weakness through life, Major Duncan; for I've
always married without regard to consequences. Every man has his
besetting sin, and matrimony, I fear, is mine. And now that we have
discussed what may be called the principles of the connection, I
will just ask if you did me the favor to speak to the Sergeant on the
trifling affair?"

"I did, David; and am sorry to say, for your hopes, that I see no great
chance of your succeeding."

"Not succeeding! An officer, and a quartermaster in the bargain, and not
succeed with a sergeant's daughter!"

"It's just that, Davy."

"And why not, Lundie? Will ye have the goodness to answer just that?"

"The girl is betrothed. Hand plighted, word passed, love pledged,--no,
hang me if I believe that either; but she is betrothed."

"Well, that's an obstacle, it must be avowed, Major, though it counts
for little if the heart is free."

"Quite true; and I think it probable the heart is free in this case; for
the intended husband appears to be the choice of the father rather than
of the daughter."

"And who may it be, Major?" asked the Quartermaster, who viewed the
whole matter with the philosophy and coolness acquired by use. "I do not
recollect any plausible suitor that is likely to stand in my way."

"No, you are the only _plausible_ suitor on the frontier, Davy. The
happy man is Pathfinder."

"Pathfinder, Major Duncan!"

"No more, nor any less, David Muir. Pathfinder is the man; but it may
relieve your jealousy a little to know that, in my judgment at least, it
is a match of the father's rather than of the daughter's seeking."

"I thought as much!" exclaimed the Quartermaster, drawing a long
breath, like one who felt relieved; "it's quite impossible that with my
experience in human nature--"

"Particularly hu-woman's nature, David."

"Ye will have yer joke, Lundie, let who will suffer. But I did not think
it possible I could be deceived as to the young woman's inclinations,
which I think I may boldly pronounce to be altogether above the
condition of Pathfinder. As for the individual himself--why, time will
show."

"Now, tell me frankly, Davy Muir," said Lundie, stepping short in
his walk, and looking the other earnestly in the face with a comical
expression of surprise, that rendered the veteran's countenance
ridiculously earnest,--"do you really suppose a girl like the daughter
of Sergeant Dunham can take a serious fancy to a man of your years and
appearance, and experience, I might add?"

"Hout, awa', Lundie! ye dinna know the sax, and that's the reason yer
unmarried in yer forty-fifth year. It's a fearfu' time ye've been a
bachelor, Major!"

"And what may be your age, Lieutenant Muir, if I may presume to ask so
delicate a question?"

"Forty-seven; I'll no' deny it, Lundie; and if I get Mabel, there'll be
just a wife for every twa lustrums. But I didna think Sergeant Dunham
would be so humble minded as to dream of giving that sweet lass of his
to one like the Pathfinder."

"There's no dream about it, Davy; the man is as serious as a soldier
about to be flogged."

"Well, well, Major, we are auld friends,"--both ran into the Scotch or
avoided it, as they approached or drew away from their younger days, in
the dialogue,--"and ought to know how to take and give a joke, off duty.
It is possible the worthy man has not understood my hints, or he never
would have thought of such a thing. The difference between an officer's
consort and a guide's woman is as vast as that between the antiquity of
Scotland and the antiquity of America. I'm auld blood, too, Lundie."

"Take my word for it Davy, your antiquity will do you no good in this
affair; and as for your blood, it is not older than your bones. Well,
well, man, ye know the Sergeant's answer; and so ye perceive that my
influence, on which ye counted so much, can do nought for ye. Let us
take a glass thegither, Davy, for auld acquaintance sake; and then ye'll
be doing well to remember the party that marches the morrow, and to
forget Mabel Dunham as fast as ever you can."

"Ah, Major! I have always found it easier to forget a wife than to
forget a sweetheart. When a couple are fairly married, all is settled
but the death, as one may say, which must finally part us all; and it
seems to me awfu' irreverent to disturb the departed; whereas there
is so much anxiety and hope and felicity in expectation like, with the
lassie, that it keeps thought alive."

"That is just my idea of your situation, Davy; for I never supposed you
expected any more felicity with either of your wives. Now, I've heard
of fellows who were so stupid as to look forward to happiness with their
wives even beyond the grave. I drink to your success, or to your speedy
recovery from this attack, Lieutenant; and I admonish you to be more
cautious in future, as some of these violent cases may yet carry you
off."

"Many thanks, dear Major; and a speedy termination to an old courtship,
of which I know something. This is real mountain dew, Lundie, and it
warms the heart like a gleam of bonnie Scotland. As for the men you've
just mentioned, they could have had but one wife a piece; for where
there are several, the deeds of the women themselves may carry them
different ways. I think a reasonable husband ought to be satisfied with
passing his allotted time with any particular wife in this world, and
not to go about moping for things unattainable. I'm infinitely obliged
to you, Major Duncan, for this and all your other acts of friendship;
and if you could but add another, I should think you had not altogether
forgotten the play-fellow of your boyhood."

"Well, Davy, if the request be reasonable, and such as a superior ought
to grant, out with it, man."

"If ye could only contrive a little service for me, down among the
Thousand Isles, for a fortnight or so, I think this matter might be
settled to the satisfaction of all parties. Just remember, Lundie, the
lassie is the only marriageable white female on this frontier."

"There is always duty for one in your line at a post, however small;
but this below can be done by the Sergeant as well as by the
Quartermaster-general, and better too."

"But not better than by a regimental officer. There is great waste, in
common, among the orderlies."

"I'll think of it, Muir," said the Major, laughing, "and you shall have
my answer in the morning. Here will be a fine occasion, man, the morrow,
to show yourself off before the lady; you are expert with the rifle, and
prizes are to be won. Make up your mind to display your skill, and who
knows what may yet happen before the _Scud_ sails."

"I'm thinking most of the young men will try their hands in this sport,
Major!"

"That will they, and some of the old ones too, if you appear. To keep
you in countenance, I'll try a shot or two myself, Davy; and you know I
have some name that way."

"It might, indeed, do good. The female heart, Major Duncan, is
susceptible in many different modes, and sometimes in a way that the
rules of philosophy might reject. Some require a suitor to sit down
before them, as it might be, in a regular siege, and only capitulate
when the place can hold out no longer; others, again, like to be carried
by storm; while there are hussies who can only be caught by leading
them into an ambush. The first is the most creditable and officer-like
process, perhaps; but I must say I think the last the most pleasing."

"An opinion formed from experience, out of all question. And what of the
storming parties?"

"They may do for younger men, Lundie," returned the Quartermaster,
rising and winking, a liberty that he often took with his commanding
officer on the score of a long intimacy; "every period of life has its
necessities, and at forty-seven it's just as well to trust a little to
the head. I wish you a very good even, Major Duncan, and freedom from
gout, with a sweet and refreshing sleep."

"The same to yourself, Mr. Muir, with many thanks. Remember the passage
of arms for the morrow."

The Quartermaster withdrew, leaving Lundie in his library to reflect on
what had just passed. Use had so accustomed Major Duncan to Lieutenant
Muir and all his traits and humors, that the conduct of the latter
did not strike the former with the same force as it will probably the
reader. In truth, while all men act under one common law that is termed
nature, the varieties in their dispositions, modes of judging, feelings,
and selfishness are infinite.



CHAPTER XI.

     Compel the hawke to sit that is unmann'd,
     Or make the hound, untaught, to draw the deere,
     Or bring the free against his will in band,
     Or move the sad a pleasant tale to heere,
     Your time is lost, and you no whit the neere!
     So love ne learnes, of force the heart to knit:
     She serves but those that feel sweet fancies' fit.
     _Mirror for Magistrates._


It is not often that hope is rewarded by fruition so completely as the
wishes of the young men of the garrison were met by the state of the
weather on the succeeding day. The heats of summer were little felt
at Oswego at the period of which we are writing; for the shade of the
forest, added to the refreshing breezes from the lake, so far reduced
the influence of the sun as to render the nights always cool and the
days seldom oppressive.

It was now September, a month in which the strong gales of the coast
often appear to force themselves across the country as far as the great
lakes, where the inland sailor sometimes feels that genial influence
which characterizes the winds of the ocean invigorating his frame,
cheering his spirits, and arousing his moral force. Such a day was that
on which the garrison of Oswego assembled to witness what its commander
had jocularly called a "passage of arms." Lundie was a scholar in
military matters at least, and it was one of his sources of honest pride
to direct the reading and thoughts of the young men under his orders
to the more intellectual parts of their profession. For one in his
situation, his library was both good and extensive, and its books were
freely lent to all who desired to use them. Among other whims that had
found their way into the garrison through these means, was a relish for
the sort of amusement in which it was now about to indulge; and around
which some chronicles of the days of chivalry had induced them to
throw a parade and romance not unsuited to the characters and habits of
soldiers, or to the insulated and wild post occupied by this particular
garrison. While so earnestly bent on pleasure, however, they on whom
that duty devolved did not neglect the safety of the garrison. One
standing on the ramparts of the fort, and gazing on the waste of
glittering water that bounded the view all along the northern horizon,
and on the slumbering and seemingly boundless forest which filled the
other half of the panorama, would have fancied the spot the very abode
of peacefulness and security; but Duncan of Lundie too well knew that
the woods might, at any moment, give up their hundreds, bent on
the destruction of the fort and all it contained; and that even the
treacherous lake offered a highway of easy approach by which his more
civilized and scarcely less wily foes, the French, could come upon him
at an unguarded moment. Parties were sent out under old and vigilant
officers, men who cared little for the sports of the day, to scour the
forest; and one entire company held the fort, under arms, with orders
to maintain a vigilance as strict as if an enemy of superior force was
known to be near. With these precautions, the remainder of the officers
and men abandoned themselves, without apprehension, to the business of
the morning.

The spot selected for the sports was a sort of esplanade, a little west
of the fort, and on the immediate bank of the lake. It had been
cleared of its trees and stumps, that it might answer the purpose of
a parade-ground, as it possessed the advantages of having its rear
protected by the water, and one of its flanks by the works. Men drilling
on it could be attacked, consequently, on two sides only; and as the
cleared space beyond it, in the direction of the west and south, was
large, any assailants would be compelled to quit the cover of the woods
before they could make an approach sufficiently near to render them
dangerous.

Although the regular arms of the regiment were muskets, some fifty
rifles were produced on the present occasion. Every officer had one as a
part of his private provision for amusement; many belonged to the scouts
and friendly Indians, of whom more or less were always hanging about the
fort; and there was a public provision of them for the use of those who
followed the game with the express object of obtaining supplies. Among
those who carried the weapon were some five or six, who had reputation
for knowing how to use it particularly well--so well, indeed, as to
have given them a celebrity on the frontier; twice that number who were
believed to be much better than common; and many who would have been
thought expert in almost any situation but the precise one in which they
now happened to be placed.

The distance was a hundred yards, and the weapon was to be used without
a rest; the target, a board, with the customary circular lines in white
paint, having the bull's-eye in the centre. The first trials in skill
commenced with challenges among the more ignoble of the competitors to
display their steadiness and dexterity in idle competition. None but
the common men engaged in this strife, which had little to interest the
spectators, among whom no officer had yet appeared.

Most of the soldiers were Scotch, the regiment having been raised at
Stirling and its vicinity not many years before, though, as in the case
of Sergeant Dunham, many Americans had joined it since its arrival in
the colonies. As a matter of course, the provincials were generally the
most expert marksmen; and after a desultory trial of half an hour it was
necessarily conceded that a youth who had been born in the colony of New
York, and who coming of Dutch extraction, was the most expert of all who
had yet tried their skill. It was just as this opinion prevailed that
the oldest captain, accompanied by most of the gentlemen and ladies
of the fort, appeared on the parade. A train of some twenty females of
humbler condition followed, among whom was seen the well-turned form,
intelligent, blooming, animated countenance, and neat, becoming attire
of Mabel Dunham.

Of females who were officially recognized as belonging to the class of
ladies, there were but three in the fort, all of whom were officers'
wives; Mabel being strictly, as had been stated by the Quartermaster,
the only real candidate for matrimony among her sex.

Some little preparation had been made for the proper reception of the
females, who were placed on a low staging of planks near the immediate
bank of the lake. In this vicinity the prizes were suspended from a
post. Great care was taken to reserve the front seat of the stage for
the three ladies and their children; while Mabel and those who belonged
to the non-commissioned officers of the regiment, occupied the second.
The wives and daughters of the privates were huddled together in the
rear, some standing and some sitting, as they could find room. Mabel,
who had already been admitted to the society of the officers' wives, on
the footing of a humble companion, was a good deal noticed by the ladies
in front, who had a proper appreciation of modest self-respect and
gentle refinement, though they were all fully aware of the value of
rank, more particularly in a garrison.

As soon as this important portion of the spectators had got into their
places, Lundie gave orders for the trial of skill to proceed in the
manner that had been prescribed in his previous orders. Some eight or
ten of the best marksmen of the garrison now took possession of the
stand, and began to fire in succession. Among them were officers and
men indiscriminately placed, nor were the casual visitors in the fort
excluded from the competition.

As might have been expected of men whose amusements and comfortable
subsistence equally depended on skill in the use of their weapons,
it was soon found that they were all sufficiently expert to hit the
bull's-eye, or the white spot in the centre of the target. Others who
succeeded them, it is true, were less sure, their bullets striking in
the different circles that surrounded the centre of the target without
touching it.

According to the rules of the day, none could proceed to the second
trial who had failed in the first, and the adjutant of the place, who
acted as master of the ceremonies, or marshal of the day, called upon
the successful adventurers by name to get ready for the next effort,
while he gave notice that those who failed to present themselves for the
shot at the bull's-eye would necessarily be excluded from all the
higher trials. Just at this moment Lundie, the Quartermaster, and Jasper
Eau-douce appeared in the group at the stand, while the Pathfinder
walked leisurely on the ground without his beloved rifle, for him a
measure so unusual, as to be understood by all present as a proof that
he did not consider himself a competitor for the honors of the day.
All made way for Major Duncan, who, as he approached the stand in a
good-humored way, took his station, levelled his rifle carelessly, and
fired. The bullet missed the required mark by several inches.

"Major Duncan is excluded from the other trials!" proclaimed the
Adjutant, in a voice so strong and confident that all the elder officers
and the sergeants well understood that this failure was preconcerted,
while all the younger gentlemen and the privates felt new encouragement
to proceed on account of the evident impartiality with which the laws of
the sports were administered.

"Now, Master Eau-douce, comes your turn," said Muir; "and if you do not
beat the Major, I shall say that your hand is better skilled with the
oar than with the rifle."

Jasper's handsome face flushed, he stepped upon the stand, cast a hasty
glance at Mabel, whose pretty form he ascertained was bending eagerly
forward as if to note the result, dropped the barrel of his rifle with
but little apparent care into the palm of his left hand, raised the
muzzle for a single instant with exceeding steadiness, and fired. The
bullet passed directly through the centre of the bull's-eye, much the
best shot of the morning, since the others had merely touched the paint.

"Well performed, Master Jasper," said Muir, as soon as the result was
declared; "and a shot that might have done credit to an older head and a
more experienced eye. I'm thinking, notwithstanding, there was some of
a youngster's luck in it; for ye were no' partic'lar in the aim ye took.
Ye may be quick, Eau-douce, in the movement, but yer not philosophic nor
scientific in yer management of the weepon. Now, Sergeant Dunham, I'll
thank you to request the ladies to give a closer attention than common;
for I'm about to make that use of the rifle which may be called the
intellectual. Jasper would have killed, I allow; but then there would
not have been half the satisfaction in receiving such a shot as in
receiving one that is discharged scientifically."

All this time the Quartermaster was preparing himself for the scientific
trial; but he delayed his aim until he saw that the eye of Mabel, in
common with those of her companions, was fastened on him in curiosity.
As the others left him room, out of respect to his rank, no one stood
near the competitor but his commanding officer, to whom he now said in
his familiar manner,--

"Ye see, Lundie, that something is to be gained by exciting a female's
curiosity. It's an active sentiment is curiosity, and properly improved
may lead to gentler innovations in the end."

"Very true, Davy; but ye keep us all waiting while ye make your
preparations; and here is Pathfinder drawing near to catch a lesson from
your greater experience."

"Well Pathfinder, and so _you_ have come to get an idea too, concerning
the philosophy of shooting? I do not wish to hide my light under a
bushel, and yer welcome to all ye'll learn. Do ye no' mean to try a shot
yersel', man?"

"Why should I, Quartermaster, why should I? I want none of the prizes;
and as for honor, I have had enough of that, if it's any honor to shoot
better than yourself. I'm not a woman to wear a calash."

"Very true; but ye might find a woman that is precious in your eyes to
wear it for ye, as----"

"Come, Davy," interrupted the Major, "your shot or a retreat. The
Adjutant is getting impatient."

"The Quartermaster's department and the Adjutant's department are seldom
compliable, Lundie; but I'm ready. Stand a little aside, Pathfinder, and
give the ladies an opportunity."

Lieutenant Muir now took his attitude with a good deal of studied
elegance, raised his rifle slowly, lowered it, raised it again, repeated
the manoeuvres, and fired.

"Missed the target altogether!" shouted the man whose duty it was to
mark the bullets, and who had little relish for the Quartermaster's
tedious science. "Missed the target!"

"It cannot be!" cried Muir, his face flushing equally with indignation
and shame; "it cannot be, Adjutant; for I never did so awkward a thing
in my life. I appeal to the ladies for a juster judgment."

"The ladies shut their eyes when you fired!" exclaimed the regimental
wags. "Your preparations alarmed them."

"I will na believe such calumny of the leddies, nor sic' a reproach on
my own skill," returned the Quartermaster, growing more and more Scotch
as he warmed with his feelings; "it's a conspiracy to rob a meritorious
man of his dues."

"It's a dead miss, Muir," said the laughing Lundie; "and ye'll jist sit
down quietly with the disgrace."

"No, no, Major," Pathfinder at length observed; "the Quartermaster
_is_ a good shot for a slow one and a measured distance, though nothing
extr'ornary for real service. He has covered Jasper's bullet, as will be
seen, if any one will take the trouble to examine the target."

The respect for Pathfinder's skill and for his quickness and accuracy
of sight was so profound and general, that, the instant he made this
declaration, the spectators began to distrust their own opinions, and a
dozen rushed to the target in order to ascertain the fact. There, sure
enough, it was found that the Quartermaster's bullet had gone through
the hole made by Jasper's, and that, too, so accurately as to require
a minute examination to be certain of the circumstance; which, however,
was soon clearly established, by discovering one bullet over the other
in the stump against which the target was placed.

"I told ye, ladies, ye were about to witness the influence of science on
gunnery," said the Quartermaster, advancing towards the staging occupied
by the females. "Major Duncan derides the idea of mathematics entering
into target-shooting; but I tell him philosophy colors, and enlarges,
and improves, and dilates, and explains everything that belongs to human
life, whether it be a shooting-match or a sermon. In a word, philosophy
is philosophy, and that is saying all that the subject requires."

"I trust you exclude love from the catalogue," observed the wife of a
captain who knew the history of the Quartermaster's marriages, and who
had a woman's malice against the monopolizer of her sex; "it seems that
philosophy has little in common with love."

"You wouldn't say that, madam, if your heart had experienced many
trials. It's the man or the woman that has had many occasions to improve
the affections that can best speak of such matters; and, believe me,
of all love, philosophical is the most lasting, as it is the most
rational."

"You would then recommend experience as an improvement on the passion?"

"Your quick mind has conceived the idea at a glance. The happiest
marriages are those in which youth and beauty and confidence on one
side, rely on the sagacity, moderation, and prudence of years--middle
age, I mean, madam, for I'll no' deny that there is such a thing as a
husband's being too old for a wife. Here is Sergeant Dunham's charming
daughter, now, to approve of such sentiments, I'm certain; her character
for discretion being already well established in the garrison, short as
has been her residence among us."

"Sergeant Dunham's daughter is scarcely a fitting interlocutor in a
discourse between you and me, Lieutenant Muir," rejoined the captain's
lady, with careful respect for her own dignity; "and yonder is the
Pathfinder about to take his chance, by way of changing the subject."

"I protest, Major Duncan, I protest," cried Muir hurrying back towards
the stand, with both arms elevated by way of enforcing his words,--"I
protest in the strongest terms, gentlemen, against Pathfinder's being
admitted into these sports with Killdeer, which is a piece, to say
nothing of long habit that is altogether out of proportion for a trial
of skill against Government rifles."

"Killdeer is taking its rest, Quartermaster," returned Pathfinder
calmly, "and no one here thinks of disturbing it. I did not think,
myself, of pulling a trigger to-day; but Sergeant Dunham has been
persuading me that I shall not do proper honor to his handsome daughter,
who came in under my care, if I am backward on such an occasion. I'm
using Jasper's rifle, Quartermaster, as you may see, and that is no
better than your own."

Lieutenant Muir was now obliged to acquiesce, and every eye turned
towards the Pathfinder, as he took the required station. The air and
attitude of this celebrated guide and hunter were extremely fine, as
he raised his tall form and levelled the piece, showing perfect
self-command, and a through knowledge of the power of the human frame
as well as of the weapon. Pathfinder was not what is usually termed
a handsome man, though his appearance excited so much confidence and
commanded respect. Tall, and even muscular, his frame might have been
esteemed nearly perfect, were it not for the total absence of everything
like flesh. Whipcord was scarcely more rigid than his arms and legs, or,
at need, more pliable; but the outlines of his person were rather
too angular for the proportion that the eye most approves. Still, his
motions, being natural, were graceful, and, being calm and regulated,
they gave him an air and dignity that associated well with the idea,
which was so prevalent, of his services and peculiar merits. His honest,
open features were burnt to a bright red, that comported well with the
notion of exposure and hardships, while his sinewy hands denoted force,
and a species of use removed from the stiffening and deforming effects
of labor. Although no one perceived any of those gentler or more
insinuating qualities which are apt to win upon a woman's affections,
as he raised his rifle not a female eye was fastened on him without a
silent approbation of the freedom of his movements and the manliness of
his air. Thought was scarcely quicker than his aim; and, as the smoke
floated above his head, the butt-end of the rifle was seen on the
ground, the hand of the Pathfinder was leaning on the barrel, and his
honest countenance was illuminated by his usual silent, hearty laugh.

"If one dared to hint at such a thing," cried Major Duncan, "I should
say that the Pathfinder had also missed the target."

"No, no, Major," returned the guide confidently; "that _would_ be a
risky declaration. I didn't load the piece, and can't say what was in
it; but if it was lead, you will find the bullet driving down those of
the Quartermaster and Jasper, else is not my name Pathfinder."

A shout from the target announced the truth of this assertion.

"That's not all, that's not all, boys," called out the guide, who was
now slowly advancing towards the stage occupied by the females; "if you
find the target touched at all, I'll own to a miss. The Quartermaster
cut the wood, but you'll find no wood cut by that last messenger."

"Very true, Pathfinder, very true," answered Muir, who was lingering
near Mabel, though ashamed to address her particularly in the presence
of the officers' wives. "The Quartermaster did cut the wood, and by that
means he opened a passage for your bullet, which went through the hole
he had made."

"Well, Quartermaster, there goes the nail and we'll see who can drive
it closer, you or I; for, though I did not think of showing what a
rifle can do to-day, now my hand is in, I'll turn my back to no man that
carries King George's commission. Chingachgook is outlying, or he
might force me into some of the niceties of the art; but, as for you,
Quartermaster, if the nail don't stop you, the potato will."

"You're over boastful this morning, Pathfinder; but you'll find you've
no green boy fresh from the settlements and the towns to deal with, I
will assure ye!"

"I know that well, Quartermaster; I know that well, and shall not deny
your experience. You've lived many years on the frontiers, and I've
heard of you in the colonies, and among the Indians, too, quite a human
life ago."

"Na, na," interrupted Muir in his broadest Scotch, "this is injustice,
man. I've no' lived so very long, neither."

"I'll do you justice, Lieutenant, even if you get the best in the potato
trial. I say you've passed a good human life, for a soldier, in places
where the rifle is daily used, and I know you are a creditable and
ingenious marksman; but then you are not a true rifle-shooter. As for
boasting, I hope I'm not a vain talker about my own exploits; but a
man's gifts are his gifts, and it's flying in the face of Providence to
deny them. The Sergeant's daughter, here, shall judge between us, if you
have the stomach to submit to so pretty a judge."

The Pathfinder had named Mabel as the arbiter because he admired her,
and because, in his eyes, rank had little or no value; but Lieutenant
Muir shrank at such a reference in the presence of the wives of the
officers. He would gladly keep himself constantly before the eyes and
the imagination of the object of his wishes; but he was still too much
under the influence of old prejudices, and perhaps too wary, to appear
openly as her suitor, unless he saw something very like a certainty of
success. On the discretion of Major Duncan he had a full reliance, and
he apprehended no betrayal from that quarter; but he was quite aware,
should it ever get abroad that he had been refused by the child of a
non-commissioned officer, he would find great difficulty in making
his approaches to any other woman of a condition to which he might
reasonably aspire. Notwithstanding these doubts and misgivings, Mabel
looked so prettily, blushed so charmingly, smiled so sweetly, and
altogether presented so winning a picture of youth, spirit, modesty, and
beauty, that he found it exceedingly tempting to be kept so prominently
before her imagination, and to be able to address her freely.

"You shall have it your own way, Pathfinder," he answered, as soon as
his doubts had settled down into determination; "let the Sergeant's
daughter--his charming daughter, I should have termed her--be the umpire
then; and to her we will both dedicate the prize, that one or the other
must certainly win. Pathfinder must be humored, ladies, as you perceive,
else, no doubt, we should have had the honor to submit ourselves to one
of your charming society."

A call for the competitors now drew the Quartermaster and his adversary
away, and in a few moments the second trial of skill commenced. A common
wrought nail was driven lightly into the target, its head having been
first touched with paint, and the marksman was required to hit it, or
he lost his chances in the succeeding trials. No one was permitted to
enter, on this occasion, who had already failed in the essay against the
bull's-eye.

There might have been half a dozen aspirants for the honors of this
trial; one or two, who had barely succeeded in touching the spot of
paint in the previous strife, preferring to rest their reputations
there, feeling certain that they could not succeed in the greater effort
that was now exacted of them. The first three adventurers failed, all
coming very near the mark, but neither touching it. The fourth person
who presented himself was the Quartermaster, who, after going through
his usual attitudes, so far succeeded as to carry away a small portion
of the head of the nail, planting his bullet by the side of its point.
This was not considered an extraordinary shot, though it brought the
adventurer within the category.

"You've saved your bacon, Quartermaster, as they say in the settlements
of their creaturs," cried Pathfinder, laughing; "but it would take a
long time to build a house with a hammer no better than yours. Jasper,
here, will show you how a nail is to be started, or the lad has lost
some of his steadiness of hand and sartainty of eye. You would have
done better yourself, Lieutenant, had you not been so much bent on
soldierizing your figure. Shooting is a natural gift, and is to be
exercised in a natural way."

"We shall see, Pathfinder; I call that a pretty attempt at a nail; and
I doubt if the 55th has another hammer, as you call it, that can do just
the same thing over again."

"Jasper is not in the 55th, but there goes his rap."

As the Pathfinder spoke, the bullet of Eau-douce hit the nail square,
and drove it into the target, within an inch of the head.

"Be all ready to clench it, boys!" cried out Pathfinder, stepping into
his friend's tracks the instant they were vacant. "Never mind a new
nail; I can see that, though the paint is gone, and what I can see I can
hit, at a hundred yards, though it were only a mosquito's eye. Be ready
to clench!"

The rifle cracked, the bullet sped its way, and the head of the nail was
buried in the wood, covered by the piece of flattened lead.

"Well, Jasper, lad," continued Pathfinder, dropping the butt-end of
his rifle to the ground, and resuming the discourse, as if he thought
nothing of his own exploit, "you improve daily. A few more tramps on
land in my company, and the best marksman on the frontiers will
have occasion to look keenly when he takes his stand ag'in you. The
Quartermaster is respectable, but he will never get any farther; whereas
you, Jasper, have the gift, and may one day defy any who pull trigger."

"Hoot, hoot!" exclaimed Muir; "do you call hitting the head of the nail
respectable only, when it's the perfection of the art? Any one the least
refined and elevated in sentiment knows that the delicate touches denote
the master; whereas your sledge-hammer blows come from the rude and
uninstructed. If 'a miss is as good as a mile,' a hit ought to be
better, Pathfinder, whether it wound or kill."

"The surest way of settling this rivalry will be to make another trial,"
observed Lundie, "and that will be of the potato. You're Scotch, Mr.
Muir, and might fare better were it a cake or a thistle; but frontier
law has declared for the American fruit, and the potato it shall be."

As Major Duncan manifested some impatience of manner, Muir had too much
tact to delay the sports any longer with his discursive remarks, but
judiciously prepared himself for the next appeal. To say the truth, the
Quartermaster had little or no faith in his own success in the trial of
skill that was to follow, nor would he have been so free in presenting
himself as a competitor at all had he anticipated it would have been
made; but Major Duncan, who was somewhat of a humorist in his own
quiet Scotch way, had secretly ordered it to be introduced expressly to
mortify him; for, a laird himself, Lundie did not relish the notion
that one who might claim to be a gentleman should bring discredit on
his caste by forming an unequal alliance. As soon as everything was
prepared, Muir was summoned to the stand, and the potato was held in
readiness to be thrown. As the sort of feat we are about to offer to the
reader, however, may be new to him, a word in explanation will render
the matter more clear. A potato of large size was selected, and given
to one who stood at the distance of twenty yards from the stand. At the
word "heave!" which was given by the marksman, the vegetable was
thrown with a gentle toss into the air, and it was the business of the
adventurer to cause a ball to pass through it before it reached the
ground.

The Quartermaster, in a hundred experiments, had once succeeded in
accomplishing this difficult feat; but he now essayed to perform it
again, with a sort of blind hope that was fated to be disappointed. The
potato was thrown in the usual manner, the rifle was discharged, but the
flying target was untouched.

"To the right-about, and fall out, Quartermaster," said Lundie, smiling
at the success of the artifice. "The honor of the silken calash will lie
between Jasper Eau-douce and Pathfinder."

"And how is the trial to end, Major?" inquired the latter. "Are we to
have the two-potato trial, or is it to be settled by centre and skin?"

"By centre and skin, if there is any perceptible difference; otherwise
the double shot must follow."

"This is an awful moment to me, Pathfinder," observed Jasper, as he
moved towards the stand, his face actually losing its color in intensity
of feeling.

Pathfinder gazed earnestly at the young man; and then, begging Major
Duncan to have patience for a moment, he led his friend out of the
hearing of all near him before he spoke.

"You seem to take this matter to heart, Jasper?" the hunter remarked,
keeping his eyes fastened on those of the youth.

"I must own, Pathfinder, that my feelings were never before so much
bound up in success."

"And do you so much crave to outdo me, an old and tried friend?--and
that, as it might be, in my own way? Shooting is my gift, boy, and no
common hand can equal mine."

"I know it--I know it, Pathfinder; but yet--"

"But what, Jasper, boy?--speak freely; you talk to a friend."

The young man compressed his lips, dashed a hand across his eye, and
flushed and paled alternately, like a girl confessing her love. Then,
squeezing the other's hand, he said calmly, like one whose manhood has
overcome all other sensations, "I would lose an arm, Pathfinder, to be
able to make an offering of that calash to Mabel Dunham."

The hunter dropped his eyes to the ground, and as he walked slowly back
towards the stand, he seemed to ponder deeply on what he had just heard.

"You never could succeed in the double trial, Jasper!" he suddenly
remarked.

"Of that I am certain, and it troubles me."

"What a creature is mortal man! He pines for things which are not of
his gift and treats the bounties of Providence lightly. No matter, no
matter. Take your station, Jasper, for the Major is waiting; and
harken, lad,--I must touch the skin, for I could not show my face in the
garrison with less than that."

"I suppose I must submit to my fate," returned Jasper, flushing and
losing his color as before; "but I will make the effort, if I die."

"What a thing is mortal man!" repeated Pathfinder, falling back to allow
his friend room to take his arm; "he overlooks his own gifts, and craves
those of another!"

The potato was thrown, Jasper fired, and the shout that followed
preceded the announcement of the fact that he had driven his bullet
through its centre, or so nearly so as to merit that award.

"Here is a competitor worthy of you, Pathfinder," cried Major Duncan
with delight, as the former took his station; "and we may look to some
fine shooting in the double trial."

"What a thing is mortal man!" repeated the hunter, scarcely seeming to
notice what was passing around him, so much were his thoughts absorbed
in his own reflections. "Toss!"

The potato was tossed, the rifle cracked,--it was remarked just as
the little black ball seemed stationary in the air, for the
marksman evidently took unusual heed to his aim,--and then a look of
disappointment and wonder succeeded among those who caught the falling
target.

"Two holes in one?" called out the Major.

"The skin, the skin!" was the answer; "only the skin!"

"How's this, Pathfinder? Is Jasper Eau-douce to carry off the honors of
the day?"

"The calash is his," returned the other, shaking his head and walking
quietly away from the stand. "What a creature is mortal man! never
satisfied with his own gifts, but for ever craving that which Providence
denies!"

As Pathfinder had not buried his bullet in the potato, but had cut
through the skin, the prize was immediately adjudged to Jasper. The
calash was in the hands of the latter when the Quartermaster approached,
and with a polite air of cordiality he wished his successful rival joy
of his victory.

"But now you've got the calash, lad, it's of no use to you," he added;
"it will never make a sail, nor even an ensign. I'm thinking, Eau-douce,
you'd no' be sorry to see its value in good siller of the king?"

"Money cannot buy it, Lieutenant," returned Jasper, whose eye lighted
with all the fire of success and joy. "I would rather have won this
calash than have obtained fifty new suits of sails for the _Scud!_"

"Hoot, hoot, lad! you are going mad like all the rest of them. I'd even
venture to offer half a guinea for the trifle rather than it should
lie kicking about in the cabin of your cutter, and in the end become an
ornament for the head of a squaw."

Although Jasper did not know that the wary Quartermaster had not
offered half the actual cost of the prize, he heard the proposition with
indifference. Shaking his head in the negative, he advanced towards
the stage, where his approach excited a little commotion, the officers'
ladies, one and all, having determined to accept the present, should
the gallantry of the young sailor induce him to offer it. But Jasper's
diffidence, no less than admiration for another, would have prevented
him from aspiring to the honor of complimenting any whom he thought so
much his superiors.

"Mabel," said he, "this prize is for you, unless--"

"Unless what, Jasper?" answered the girl, losing her own bashfulness in
the natural and generous wish to relieve his embarrassment, though both
reddened in a way to betray strong feeling.

"Unless you may think too indifferently of it, because it is offered by
one who may have no right to believe his gift will be accepted."

"I do accept it, Jasper; and it shall be a sign of the danger I have
passed in your company, and of the gratitude I feel for your care of
me--your care, and that of the Pathfinder."

"Never mind me, never mind me!" exclaimed the latter; "this is Jasper's
luck, and Jasper's gift: give him full credit for both. My turn may come
another day; mine and the Quartermaster's, who seems to grudge the boy
the calash; though what _he_ can want of it I cannot understand, for he
has no wife."

"And has Jasper Eau-douce a wife? Or have you a wife yoursel',
Pathfinder? I may want it to help to get a wife, or as a memorial that I
have had a wife, or as proof how much I admire the sex, or because it is
a female garment, or for some other equally respectable motive. It's not
the unreflecting that are the most prized by the thoughtful, and there
is no surer sign that a man made a good husband to his first consort,
let me tell you all, than to see him speedily looking round for a
competent successor. The affections are good gifts from Providence, and
they that have loved one faithfully prove how much of this bounty has
been lavished upon them by loving another as soon as possible."

"It may be so, it may be so. I am no practitioner in such things, and
cannot gainsay it. But Mabel here, the Sergeant's daughter, will give
you full credit for the words. Come, Jasper, although our hands are out,
let us see what the other lads can do with the rifle."

Pathfinder and his companions retired, for the sports were about
to proceed. The ladies, however, were not so much engrossed with
rifle-shooting as to neglect the calash. It passed from hand to hand;
the silk was felt, the fashion criticized, and the work examined, and
divers opinions were privately ventured concerning the fitness of so
handsome a thing passing into the possession of a non-commissioned
officer's child.

"Perhaps you will be disposed to sell that calash, Mabel, when it has
been a short time in your possession?" inquired the captain's lady.
"Wear it, I should think, you never can."

"I may not wear it, madam," returned our heroine modestly; "but I should
not like to part with it either."

"I daresay Sergeant Dunham keeps you above the necessity of selling your
clothes, child; but, at the same time, it is money thrown away to keep
an article of dress you can never wear."

"I should be unwilling to part with the gift of a friend."

"But the young man himself will think all the better of you for your
prudence after the triumph of the day is forgotten. It is a pretty and a
becoming calash, and ought not to be thrown away."

"I've no intention to throw it away, ma'am; and, if you please, would
rather keep it."

"As you will, child; girls of your age often overlook the real
advantages. Remember, however, if you do determine to dispose of the
thing, that it is bespoke, and that I will not take it if you ever even
put it on your own head."

"Yes, ma'am," said Mabel, in the meekest voice imaginable, though her
eyes looked like diamonds, and her cheeks reddened to the tints of
two roses, as she placed the forbidden garment over her well-turned
shoulders, where she kept it a minute, as if to try its fitness, and
then quietly removed it again.

The remainder of the sports offered nothing of interest. The shooting
was reasonably good; but the trials were all of a scale lower than those
related, and the competitors were soon left to themselves. The ladies
and most of the officers withdrew, and the remainder of the females soon
followed their example. Mabel was returning along the low flat rocks
that line the shore of the lake, dangling her pretty calash from a
prettier finger, when Pathfinder met her. He carried the rifle which
he had used that day; but his manner had less of the frank ease of the
hunter about it than usual, while his eye seemed roving and uneasy.
After a few unmeaning words concerning the noble sheet of water before
them, he turned towards his companion with strong interest in his
countenance, and said,--

"Jasper earned that calash for you, Mabel, without much trial of his
gifts."

"It was fairly done, Pathfinder."

"No doubt, no doubt. The bullet passed neatly through the potato, and no
man could have done more; though others might have done as much."

"But no one did as much!" exclaimed Mabel, with an animation that she
instantly regretted; for she saw by the pained look of the guide that he
was mortified equally by the remark and by the feeling with which it was
uttered.

"It is true, it is true, Mabel, no one did as much then; but--yet there
is no reason I should deny my gifts which come from Providence--yes,
yes; no one did as much there, but you shall know what _can_ be done
here. Do you observe the gulls that are flying over our heads?"

"Certainly, Pathfinder; there are too many to escape notice."

"Here, where they cross each other in sailing about," he added, cocking
and raising his rifle; "the two--the two. Now look!"

The piece was presented quick as thought, as two of the birds came in
a line, though distant from each other many yards; the report followed,
and the bullet passed through the bodies of both victims. No sooner had
the gulls fallen into the lake, than Pathfinder dropped the butt-end
of the rifle, and laughed in his own peculiar manner, every shade of
dissatisfaction and mortified pride having left his honest face.

"That is something, Mabel, that is something; although I have no calash
to give you! But ask Jasper himself; I'll leave it all to Jasper, for a
truer tongue and heart are not in America."

"Then it was not Jasper's fault that he gained the prize?"

"Not it. He did his best, and he did well. For one that has water gifts,
rather than land gifts, Jasper is uncommonly expert, and a better backer
no one need wish, ashore or afloat. But it was my fault, Mabel, that he
got the calash; though it makes no difference--it makes no difference,
for the thing has gone to the right person."

"I believe I understand you, Pathfinder," said Mabel, blushing in spite
of herself, "and I look upon the calash as the joint gift of yourself
and Jasper."

"That would not be doing justice to the lad, neither. He won the
garment, and had a right to give it away. The most you may think,
Mabel, is to believe that, had I won it, it would have gone to the same
person."

"I will remember that, Pathfinder, and take care that others know your
skill, as it has been proved upon the poor gulls in my presence."

"Lord bless you, Mabel! there is no more need of your talking in favor
of my shooting on this frontier, than of your talking about the water
in the lake or the sun in the heavens. Everybody knows what I can do in
that way, and your words would be thrown away, as much as French would
be thrown away on an American bear."

"Then you think that Jasper knew you were giving him this advantage,
of which he had so unhandsomely availed himself?" said Mabel, the color
which had imparted so much lustre to her eyes gradually leaving her
face, which became grave and thoughtful.

"I do not say that, but very far from it. We all forget things that we
have known, when eager after our wishes. Jasper is satisfied that I can
pass one bullet through two potatoes, as I sent my bullet through the
gulls; and he knows no other man on the frontier can do the same thing.
But with the calash before his eyes, and the hope of giving it to you,
the lad was inclined to think better of himself, just at that moment,
perhaps, than he ought. No, no, there's nothing mean or distrustful
about Jasper Eau-douce, though it is a gift natural to all young men to
wish to appear well in the eyes of handsome young women."

"I'll try to forget all, but the kindness you've both shown to a poor
motherless girl," said Mabel, struggling to keep down emotions she
scarcely knew how to account for herself. "Believe me, Pathfinder, I can
never forget all you have already done for me--you and Jasper; and this
new proof of your regard is not thrown away. Here, here is a brooch that
is of silver, and I offer it as a token that I owe you life or liberty."

"What shall I do with this, Mabel?" asked the bewildered hunter, holding
the simple trinket in his hand. "I have neither buckle nor button
about me, for I wear nothing but leathern strings, and them of good
deer-skins. It's pretty to the eye, but it is prettier far on the spot
it came from than it can be about me."

"Nay, put it in your hunting-shirt; it will become it well. Remember,
Pathfinder, that it is a token of friendship between us, and a sign that
I can never forget you or your services."

Mabel then smiled an adieu; and, bounding up the bank, she was soon lost
to view behind the mound of the fort.



CHAPTER XII.

     Lo! dusky masses steal in dubious sight,
       Along the leaguer'd wall, and bristling bank,
     Of the arm'd river; while with straggling light,
       The stars peep through the vapor, dim and dank.
     BYRON.


A few hours later Mabel Dunham was on the bastion that overlooked the
river and the lake, seemingly in deep thought. The evening was calm and
soft, and the question had arisen whether the party for the Thousand
Islands would be able to get out that night or not, on account of the
total absence of wind. The stores, arms, and ammunition were already
shipped, and even Mabel's effects were on board; but the small draft of
men that was to go was still ashore, there being no apparent prospect of
the cutter's getting under way. Jasper had warped the _Scud_ out of
the cove, and so far up the stream as to enable him to pass through the
outlet of the river whenever he chose; but there he still lay, riding
at single anchor. The drafted men were lounging about the shore of the
cove, undecided whether or not to pull off.

The sports of the morning had left a quiet in the garrison which was
in harmony with the whole of the beautiful scene, and Mabel felt its
influence on her feelings, though probably too little accustomed to
speculate on such sensations to be aware of the cause. Everything near
appeared lovely and soothing, while the solemn grandeur of the silent
forest and placid expanse of the lake lent a sublimity that other scenes
might have wanted. For the first time, Mabel felt the hold that the
towns and civilization had gained on her habits sensibly weakened; and
the warm-hearted girl began to think that a life passed amid objects
such as those around her might be happy. How far the experience of the
last days came in aid of the calm and holy eventide, and contributed
towards producing that young conviction, may be suspected, rather than
affirmed, in this early portion of our legend.

"A charming sunset, Mabel!" said the hearty voice of her uncle, so close
to the ear of our heroine as to cause her to start,--"a charming sunset,
girl, for a fresh-water concern, though we should think but little of it
at sea."

"And is not nature the same on shore or at sea--on a lake like this or
on the ocean? Does not the sun shine on all alike, dear uncle; and can
we not feel gratitude for the blessings of Providence as strongly on
this remote frontier as in our own Manhattan?"

"The girl has fallen in with some of her mother's books. Is not nature
the same, indeed! Now, Mabel, do you imagine that the nature of a
soldier is the same as that of a seafaring man? You've relations in both
callings, and ought to be able to answer."

"But uncle, I mean human nature."

"So do I, girl; the human nature of a seaman, and the human nature of
one of these fellows of the 55th, not even excepting your own father.
Here have they had a shooting-match--target-firing I should
call it--this day, and what a different thing has it been from a
target-firing afloat! There we should have sprung our broadside, sported
with round shot, at an object half a mile off, at the very nearest; and
the potatoes, if there happened to be any on board, as very likely would
not have been the case, would have been left in the cook's coppers.
It may be an honorable calling, that of a soldier, Mabel; but an
experienced hand sees many follies and weaknesses in one of these forts.
As for that bit of a lake, you know my opinion of it already, and I wish
to disparage nothing. No real seafarer disparages anything; but, d---me,
if I regard this here Ontario, as they call it, as more than so much
water in a ship's scuttle-butt. Now, look you here, Mabel, if you wish
to understand the difference between the ocean and a lake, I can make
you comprehend it with a single look: this is what one may call a calm,
seeing that there is no wind; though, to own the truth, I do not think
the calms are as calm as them we get outside--"

"Uncle, there is not a breath of air. I do not think it possible for the
leaves to be more immovably still than those of the entire forest are at
this very moment."

"Leaves! what are leaves, child? there are no leaves at sea. If you wish
to know whether it is a dead calm or not, try a mould candle,--your dips
flaring too much,--and then you may be certain whether there is or is
not any wind. If you were in a latitude where the air was so still that
you found a difficulty in stirring it to draw it in in breathing, you
might fancy it a calm. People are often on a short allowance of air in
the calm latitudes. Here, again, look at that water! It is like milk in
a pan, with no more motion now than there is in a full hogshead before
the bung is started. On the ocean the water is never still, let the air
be as quiet as it may."

"The water of the ocean never still, Uncle Cap? not even in a calm?"

"Bless your heart, no, child! The ocean breathes like a living being,
and its bosom is always heaving, as the poetizers call it, though there
be no more air than is to be found in a siphon. No man ever saw the
ocean still like this lake; but it heaves and sets as if it had lungs."

"And this lake is not absolutely still, for you perceive there is a
little ripple on the shore, and you may even hear the surf plunging at
moments against the rocks."

"All d----d poetry! Lake Ontario is no more the Atlantic than a Powles
Hook periagila is a first-rate. That Jasper, notwithstanding, is a fine
lad, and wants instruction only to make a man of him."

"Do you think him ignorant, uncle?" answered Mabel, prettily adjusting
her hair, in order to do which she was obliged, or fancied she was
obliged, to turn away her face. "To me Jasper Eau-douce appears to know
more than most of the young men of his class. He has read but little,
for books are not plenty in this part of the world; but he has thought
much, as least so it seems to me, for one so young."

"He is ignorant, as all must be who navigate an inland water like this.
No, no, Mabel; we both owe something to Jasper and the Pathfinder, and I
have been thinking how I can best serve them, for I hold ingratitude to
be the vice of a hog; for treat the animal to your own dinner, and he
would eat you for the dessert."

"Very true, dear uncle; we ought indeed to do all we can to express our
proper sense of the services of both these brave men."

"Spoken like your mother's daughter, girl, and in a way to do credit to
the Cap family. Now, I've hit upon a traverse that will just suit all
parties; and, as soon as we get back from this little expedition down
the lake among them there Thousand Islands, and I am ready to return, it
is my intention to propose it."

"Dearest uncle! this is so considerate in you, and will be so just! May
I ask what your intentions are?"

"I see no reason for keeping them a secret from you, Mabel, though
nothing need be said to your father about them; for the Sergeant has his
prejudices, and might throw difficulties in the way. Neither Jasper nor
his friend Pathfinder can ever make anything hereabouts, and I propose
to take both with me down to the coast, and get them fairly afloat.
Jasper would find his sea-legs in a fortnight, and a twelvemonth's
v'y'ge would make him a man. Although Pathfinder might take more time,
or never get to be rated able, yet one could make something of him too,
particularly as a look-out, for he has unusually good eyes."

"Uncle, do you think either would consent to this?" said Mabel smiling.

"Do I suppose them simpletons? What rational being would neglect his own
advancement? Let Jasper alone to push his way, and the lad may yet die
the master of some square-rigged craft."

"And would he be any the happier for it, dear uncle? How much better
is it to be the master of a square-rigged craft than to be master of a
round-rigged craft?"

"Pooh, pooh, Magnet! You are just fit to read lectures about ships
before some hysterical society; you don't know what you are talking
about; leave these things to me, and they'll be properly managed. Ah!
Here is the Pathfinder himself, and I may just as well drop him a
hint of my benevolent intentions as regards himself. Hope is a great
encourager of our exertions."

Cap nodded his head, and then ceased to speak, while the hunter
approached, not with his usual frank and easy manner, but in a way
to show that he was slightly embarrassed, if not distrustful of his
reception.

"Uncle and niece make a family party," said Pathfinder, when near the
two, "and a stranger may not prove a welcome companion?"

"You are no stranger, Master Pathfinder," returned Cap, "and no one can
be more welcome than yourself. We were talking of you but a moment ago,
and when friends speak of an absent man, he can guess what they have
said."

"I ask no secrets. Every man has his enemies, and I have mine, though I
count neither you, Master Cap, nor pretty Mabel here among the number.
As for the Mingos, I will say nothing, though they have no just cause to
hate me."

"That I'll answer for, Pathfinder! for you strike my fancy as being
well-disposed and upright. There is a method, however, of getting away
from the enmity of even these Mingos; and if you choose to take it, no
one will more willingly point it out than myself, without a charge for
my advice either."

"I wish no enemies, Saltwater," for so the Pathfinder had begun to call
Cap, having, insensibly to himself, adopted the term, by translating
the name given him by the Indians in and about the fort,--"I wish no
enemies. I'm as ready to bury the hatchet with the Mingos as with the
French, though you know that it depends on One greater than either of us
so to turn the heart as to leave a man without enemies."

"By lifting your anchor, and accompanying me down to the coast, friend
Pathfinder, when we get back from this short cruise on which we are
bound, you will find yourself beyond the sound of the war-whoop, and
safe enough from any Indian bullet."

"And what should I do on the salt water? Hunt in your towns? Follow
the trails of people going and coming from market, and ambush dogs and
poultry? You are no friend to my happiness, Master Cap, if you would
lead me out of the shades of the woods to put me in the sun of the
clearings."

"I did not propose to leave you in the settlements, Pathfinder, but to
carry you out to sea, where a man can only be said to breathe freely.
Mabel will tell you that such was my intention, before a word was said
on the subject."

"And what does Mabel think would come of such a change? She knows that a
man has his gifts, and that it is as useless to pretend to others as to
withstand them that come from Providence. I am a hunter, and a scout,
or a guide, Saltwater, and it is not in me to fly so much in the face of
Heaven as to try to become anything else. Am I right, Mabel, or are you
so much a woman as to wish to see a natur' altered?"

"I would wish to see no change in you, Pathfinder," Mabel answered, with
a cordial sincerity and frankness that went directly to the hunter's
heart; "and much as my uncle admires the sea, and great as is all the
good that he thinks may come of it, I could not wish to see the best and
noblest hunter of the woods transformed into an admiral. Remain what you
are, my brave friend, and you need fear nothing short of the anger of
God."

"Do you hear this, Saltwater? do you hear what the Sergeant's daughter
is saying, and she is much too upright, and fair-minded, and pretty, not
to think what she says. So long as she is satisfied with me as I am,
I shall not fly in the face of the gifts of Providence, by striving to
become anything else. I may seem useless here in a garrison; but when
we get down among the Thousand Islands, there may be an opportunity to
prove that a sure rifle is sometimes a Godsend."

"You are then to be of our party?" said Mabel, smiling so frankly and so
sweetly on the guide that he would have followed her to the end of the
earth. "I shall be the only female, with the exception of one soldier's
wife, and shall feel none the less secure, Pathfinder, because you will
be among our protectors."

"The Sergeant would do that, Mabel, though you were not of his kin.
No one will overlook you. I should think your uncle here would like an
expedition of this sort, where we shall go with sails, and have a look
at an inland sea?"

"Your inland sea is no great matter, Master Pathfinder, and I expect
nothing from it. I confess, however, I should like to know the object of
the cruise; for one does not wish to be idle, and my brother-in-law, the
Sergeant, is as close-mouthed as a freemason. Do you know, Mabel, what
all this means?"

"Not in the least, uncle. I dare not ask my father any questions about
his duty, for he thinks it is not a woman's business; and all I can say
is, that we are to sail as soon as the wind will permit, and that we are
to be absent a month."

"Perhaps Master Pathfinder can give me a useful hint; for a v'y'ge
without an object is never pleasant to an old sailor."

"There is no great secret, Saltwater, concerning our port and object,
though it is forbidden to talk much about either in the garrison. I am
no soldier, however, and can use my tongue as I please, though as little
given as another to idle conversation, I hope; still, as we sail so
soon, and you are both to be of the party, you may as well be told
where you are to be carried. You know that there are such things as the
Thousand Islands, I suppose, Master Cap?"

"Ay, what are so called hereaway, though I take it for granted that they
are not real islands, such as we fall in with on the ocean; and that the
thousand means some such matter as two or three."

"My eyes are good, and yet have I often been foiled in trying to count
them very islands."

"Ay, ay, I've known people who couldn't count beyond a certain number.
Your real land-birds never know their own roosts, even in a landfall
at sea. How many times have I seen the beach, and houses, and churches,
when the passengers have not been able to see anything but water! I have
no idea that a man can get fairly out of sight of land on fresh water.
The thing appears to me to be irrational and impossible."

"You don't know the lakes, Master Cap, or you would not say that. Before
we get to the Thousand Islands, you will have other notions of what
natur' has done in this wilderness."

"I have my doubts whether you have such a thing as a real island in all
this region."

"We'll show you hundreds of them; not exactly a thousand, perhaps, but
so many that eye cannot see them all, nor tongue count them."

"I'll engage, when the truth comes to be known, they'll turn out to be
nothing but peninsulas, or promontories; or continents; though these are
matters, I daresay, of which you know little or nothing. But, islands or
no islands, what is the object of the cruise, Master Pathfinder?"

"There can be no harm in giving you some idea of what we are going to
do. Being so old a sailor, Master Cap, you've heard, no doubt, of such a
port as Frontenac?"

"Who hasn't? I will not say I've ever been inside the harbor, but I've
frequently been off the place."

"Then you are about to go upon ground with which you are acquainted.
These great lakes, you must know, make a chain, the water passing out of
one into the other, until it reaches Erie, which is a sheet off here to
the westward, as large as Ontario itself. Well, out of Erie the water
comes, until it reaches a low mountain like, over the edge of which it
passes."

"I should like to know how the devil it can do that?"

"Why, easy enough, Master Cap," returned Pathfinder, laughing, "seeing
that it has only to fall down hill. Had I said the water went _up_ the
mountain, there would have been natur' ag'in it; but we hold it no great
matter for water to run down hill--that is, _fresh_ water."

"Ay, ay, but you speak of the water of a lake's coming down the side of
a mountain; it's in the teeth of reason, if reason has any teeth."

"Well, well, we will not dispute the point; but what I've seen I've
seen. After getting into Ontario, all the water of _all_ the lakes
passes down into the sea by a river; and in the narrow part of the
sheet, where it is neither river nor lake, lie the islands spoken of.
Now Frontenac is a post of the Frenchers above these same islands; and,
as they hold the garrison below, their stores and ammunition are sent up
the river to Frontenac, to be forwarded along the shores of this and the
other lakes, in order to enable the enemy to play his devilries among
the savages, and to take Christian scalps."

"And will our presence prevent these horrible acts?" demanded Mabel,
with interest.

"It may or it may not, as Providence wills. Lundie, as they call him,
he who commands this garrison, sent a party down to take a station among
the islands, to cut off some of the French boats; and this expedition of
ours will be the second relief. As yet they've not done much, though two
bateaux loaded with Indian goods have been taken; but a runner came in
last week, and brought such tidings that the Major is about to make a
last effort to circumvent the knaves. Jasper knows the way, and we shall
be in good hands, for the Sergeant is prudent, and of the first quality
at an ambushment; yes, he is both prudent and alert."

"Is this all?" said Cap contemptuously; "by the preparations and
equipments, I had thought there was a forced trade in the wind, and that
an honest penny might be turned by taking an adventure. I suppose there
are no shares in your fresh-water prize-money?"

"Anan?"

"I take it for granted the king gets all in these soldiering parties,
and ambushments, as you call them."

"I know nothing about that, Master Cap. I take my share of the lead and
powder if any falls into our hands, and say nothing to the king about
it. If any one fares better, it is not I; though it is time I did begin
to think of a house and furniture and a home."

Although the Pathfinder did not dare to look at Mabel while he made this
direct allusion to his change of life, he would have given the world
to know whether she was listening, and what was the expression of her
countenance. Mabel little suspected the nature of the allusion, however;
and her countenance was perfectly unembarrassed as she turned her eyes
towards the river, where the appearance of some movement on board the
_Scud_ began to be visible.

"Jasper is bringing the cutter out," observed the guide, whose look was
drawn in the same direction by the fall of some heavy article on the
deck. "The lad sees the signs of wind, no doubt, and wishes to be ready
for it."

"Ay, now we shall have an opportunity of learning seamanship," returned
Cap, with a sneer. "There is a nicety in getting a craft under her
canvas that shows the thoroughbred mariner as much as anything else.
It's like a soldier buttoning his coat, and one can see whether he
begins at the top or the bottom."

"I will not say that Jasper is equal to your seafarers below," observed
Pathfinder, across whose upright mind an unworthy feeling of envy or of
jealousy never passed; "but he is a bold boy, and manages his cutter as
skillfully as any man can desire, on this lake at least. You didn't
find him backwards at the Oswego Falls, Master Cap, where fresh water
contrives to tumble down hill with little difficulty."

Cap made no other answer than a dissatisfied ejaculation, and then a
general silence followed, all on the bastion studying the movements
of the cutter with the interest that was natural to their own future
connection with the vessel. It was still a dead calm, the surface of the
lake literally glittering with the last rays of the sun. The _Scud_ had
been warped up to a kedge that lay a hundred yards above the points
of the outlet, where she had room to manoeuvre in the river which then
formed the harbor of Oswego. But the total want of air prevented any
such attempt, and it was soon evident that the light vessel was to be
taken through the passage under her sweeps. Not a sail was loosened;
but as soon as the kedge was tripped, the heavy fall of the sweeps was
heard, when the cutter, with her head up stream, began to sheer towards
the centre of the current; on reaching which, the efforts of the men
ceased, and she drifted towards the outlet. In the narrow pass itself
her movement was rapid, and in less than five minutes the _Scud_ was
floating outside of the two low gravelly points which intercepted the
waves of the lake. No anchor was let go, but the vessel continued to set
off from the land, until her dark hull was seen resting on the glossy
surface of the lake, full a quarter of a mile beyond the low bluff which
formed the eastern extremity of what might be called the outer harbor
or roadstead. Here the influence of the river current ceased, and she
became, virtually, stationary.

"She seems very beautiful to me, uncle," said Mabel, whose gaze had not
been averted from the cutter for a single moment while it had thus been
changing its position; "I daresay you can find faults in her appearance,
and in the way she is managed; but to my ignorance both are perfect."

"Ay, ay; she drops down with a current well enough, girl, and so would a
chip. But when you come to niceties, all old tar like myself has no need
of spectacles to find fault."

"Well, Master Cap," put in the guide, who seldom heard anything to
Jasper's prejudice without manifesting a disposition to interfere, "I've
heard old and experienced saltwater mariners confess that the _Scud_ is
as pretty a craft as floats. I know nothing of such matters myself; but
one may have his own notions about a ship, even though they be wrong
notions; and it would take more than one witness to persuade me Jasper
does not keep his boat in good order."

"I do not say that the cutter is downright lubberly, Master Pathfinder;
but she has faults, and great faults."

"And what are they, uncle? If he knew them, Jasper would be glad to mend
them."

"What are they? Why, fifty; ay, for that matter a hundred. Very material
and manifest faults."

"Do name them, sir, and Pathfinder will mention them to his friend."

"Name them! it is no easy matter to call off the stars, for the simple
reason that they are so numerous. Name them, indeed! Why, my pretty
niece, Miss Magnet, what do you think of that main-boom now? To my
ignorant eyes, it is topped at least a foot too high; and then the
pennant is foul; and--and--ay, d---me, if there isn't a topsail gasket
adrift; and it wouldn't surprise me at all if there should be a round
turn in that hawser, if the kedge were to be let go this instant. Faults
indeed! No seaman could look at her a moment without seeing that she is
as full of faults as a servant who has asked for his discharge."

"This may be very true, uncle, though I much question if Jasper knows of
them. I do not think he would suffer these things, Pathfinder, if they
were once pointed out to him."

"Let Jasper manage his own cutter, Mabel. His gift lies that-a-way, and
I'll answer for it, no one can teach him how to keep the _Scud_ out
of the hands of the Frontenackers or their devilish Mingo friends. Who
cares for round turns in kedges, and for hawsers that are topped too
high, Master Cap, so long as the craft sails well, and keeps clear of
the Frenchers? I will trust Jasper against all the seafarers of the
coast, up here on the lakes; but I do not say he has any gift for the
ocean, for there he has never been tried."

Cap smiled condescendingly, but he did not think it necessary to push
his criticisms any further just as that moment. By this time the cutter
had begun to drift at the mercy of the currents of the lake, her head
turning in all directions, though slowly, and not in a way to attract
particular attention. Just at this moment the jib was loosened and
hoisted, and presently the canvas swelled towards the land, though
no evidences of air were yet to be seen on the surface of the water.
Slight, however, as was the impulsion, the light hull yielded; and in
another minute the _Scud_ was seen standing across the current of
the river with a movement so easy and moderate as to be scarcely
perceptible. When out of the stream, she struck an eddy and shot up
towards the land, under the eminence where the fort stood, when Jasper
dropped his kedge.

"Not lubberly done," muttered Cap in a sort of soliloquy,--"not over
lubberly, though he should have put his helm a-starboard instead of
a-port; for a vessel ought always to come-to with her head off shore,
whether she is a league from the land or only a cable's length, since it
has a careful look, and looks are something in this world."

"Jasper is a handy lad," suddenly observed Sergeant Dunham at his
brother-in-law's elbow; "and we place great reliance on his skill in
our expeditions. But come, one and all, we have but half an hour more of
daylight to embark in, and the boats will be ready for us by the time we
are ready for them."

On this intimation the whole party separated, each to find those trifles
which had not been shipped already. A few taps of the drum gave the
necessary signal to the soldiers, and in a minute all were in motion.



CHAPTER XIII.

     The goblin now the fool alarms,
     Hags meet to mumble o'er their charms,
     The night-mare rides the dreaming ass,
     And fairies trip it on the grass.
     COTTON.


The embarkation of so small a party was a matter of no great delay or
embarrassment. The whole force confided to the care of Sergeant Dunham
consisted of but ten privates and two non-commissioned officers,
though it was soon positively known that Mr. Muir was to accompany the
expedition. The Quartermaster, however, went as a volunteer, while some
duty connected with his own department, as had been arranged between
him and his commander, was the avowed object. To these must be added the
Pathfinder and Cap, with Jasper and his subordinates, one of whom was a
boy. The party, consequently, consisted of less than twenty men, and a
lad of fourteen. Mabel and the wife of a common soldier were the only
females.

Sergeant Dunham carried off his command in a large bateau, and then
returned for his final orders, and to see that his brother-in-law and
daughter were properly attended to. Having pointed out to Cap the boat
that he and Mabel were to use, he ascended the hill to seek his last
interview with Lundie.

It was nearly dark when Mabel found herself in the boat that was to
carry her off to the cutter. So very smooth was the surface of the lake,
that it was not found necessary to bring the bateaux into the river
to receive their freights; but the beach outside being totally without
surf, and the water as tranquil as that of a pond, everybody embarked
there. When the boat left the land, Mabel would not have known that she
was afloat on so broad a sheet of water by any movement which is usual
to such circumstances. The oars had barely time to give a dozen strokes,
when the boat lay at the cutter's side.

Jasper was in readiness to receive his passengers; and, as the deck of
the _Scud_ was but two or three feet above the water, no difficulty was
experienced in getting on board of her. As soon as this was effected,
the young man pointed out to Mabel and her companion the accommodations
prepared for their reception. The little vessel contained four
apartments below, all between decks having been expressly constructed
with a view to the transportation of officers and men, with their wives
and families. First in rank was what was called the after-cabin, a small
apartment that contained four berths, and which enjoyed the advantage of
possessing small windows, for the admission of air and light. This was
uniformly devoted to females whenever any were on board; and as Mabel
and her companion were alone, they had ample accommodation. The main
cabin was larger, and lighted from above. It was now appropriated to
the Quartermaster, the Sergeant, Cap, and Jasper; the Pathfinder
roaming through any part of the cutter he pleased, the female apartment
excepted. The corporals and common soldiers occupied the space beneath
the main hatch, which had a deck for such a purpose, while the crew
were berthed, as usual, in the forecastle. Although the cutter did not
measure quite fifty tons, the draft of officers and men was so light,
that there was ample room for all on board, there being space enough to
accommodate treble the number, if necessary.

As soon as Mabel had taken possession of her own really comfortable
cabin, in doing which she could not abstain from indulging in the
pleasant reflection that some of Jasper's favor had been especially
manifested in her behalf, she went on deck again. Here all was
momentarily in motion; the men were roving to and fro, in quest of their
knapsacks and other effects; but method and habit soon reduced things
to order, when the stillness on board became even imposing, for it was
connected with the idea of future adventure and ominous preparation.

Darkness was now beginning to render objects on shore indistinct, the
whole of the land forming one shapeless black outline of even forest
summits, to be distinguished from the impending heavens only by the
greater light of the sky. The stars, however, soon began to appear
in the latter, one after another, in their usual mild, placid lustre,
bringing with them that sense of quiet which ordinarily accompanies
night. There was something soothing, as well as exciting, in such a
scene; and Mabel, who was seated on the quarter-deck, sensibly felt both
influences. The Pathfinder was standing near her, leaning, as usual, on
his long rifle, and she fancied that, through the growing darkness of
the hour, she could trace even stronger lines of thought than usual in
his rugged countenance.

"To you, Pathfinder, expeditions like this can be no great novelty,"
said she; "though I am surprised to find how silent and thoughtful the
men appear to be."

"We learn this by making war ag'in Indians. Your militia are great
talkers and little doers in general; but the soldier who has often met
the Mingos learns to know the value of a prudent tongue. A silent army,
in the woods, is doubly strong; and a noisy one, doubly weak. If tongues
made soldiers, the women of a camp would generally carry the day."

"But we are neither an army, nor in the woods. There can be no danger of
Mingos in the _Scud_."

"No one is safe from a Mingo, who does not understand his very natur';
and even then he must act up to his own knowledge, and that closely. Ask
Jasper how he got command of this very cutter."

"And how _did_ he get command?" inquired Mabel, with an earnestness
and interest that quite delighted her simple-minded and true-hearted
companion, who was never better pleased than when he had an opportunity
of saying aught in favor of a friend. "It is honorable to him that he
has reached this station while yet so young."

"That is it; but he deserved it all, and more. A frigate wouldn't have
been too much to pay for so much spirit and coolness, had there been
such a thing on Ontario, as there is not, hows'ever, or likely to be."

"But Jasper--you have not yet told me how he got the command of the
schooner."

"It is a long story, Mabel, and one your father, the Sergeant, can tell
much better than I; for he was present, while I was off on a distant
scouting. Jasper is not good at a story, I will own that; I have heard
him questioned about this affair, and he never made a good tale of
it, although every body knows it was a good thing. The _Scud_ had near
fallen into the hands of the French and the Mingos, when Jasper saved
her, in a way which none but a quick-witted mind and a bold heart would
have attempted. The Sergeant will tell the tale better than I can, and I
wish you to question him some day, when nothing better offers."

Mabel determined to ask her father to repeat the incidents of the affair
that very night; for it struck her young fancy that nothing better could
well offer than to listen to the praises of one who was a bad historian
of his own exploits.

"Will the _Scud_ remain with us when we reach the island?" she asked,
after a little hesitation about the propriety of the question; "or shall
we be left to ourselves?"

"That's as may be: Jasper does not often keep the cutter idle when
anything is to be done; and we may expect activity on his part. My
gifts, however, run so little towards the water and vessels generally,
unless it be among rapids and falls and in canoes, that I pretend to
know nothing about it. We shall have all right under Jasper, I make no
doubt, who can find a trail on Ontario as well as a Delaware can find
one on the land."

"And our own Delaware, Pathfinder--the Big Serpent--why is he not with
us to-night?"

"Your question would have been more natural had you said, Why are _you_
here, Pathfinder? The Sarpent is in his place, while I am not in mine.
He is out, with two or three more, scouting the lake shores, and will
join us down among the islands, with the tidings he may gather. The
Sergeant is too good a soldier to forget his rear while he is facing the
enemy in front. It's a thousand pities, Mabel, your father wasn't born
a general, as some of the English are who come among us; for I feel
sartain he wouldn't leave a Frencher in the Canadas a week, could he
have his own way with them."

"Shall we have enemies to face in front?" asked Mabel, smiling, and for
the first time feeling a slight apprehension about the dangers of the
expedition. "Are we likely to have an engagement?"

"If we have, Mabel, there will be men enough ready and willing to stand
between you and harm. But you are a soldier's daughter, and, we all
know, have the spirit of one. Don't let the fear of a battle keep your
pretty eyes from sleeping."

"I do feel braver out here in the woods, Pathfinder, than I ever felt
before amid the weaknesses of the towns, although I have always tried to
remember what I owe to my dear father."

"Ay, your mother was so before you. 'You will find Mabel, like her
mother, no screamer, or a faint-hearted girl, to trouble a man in his
need; but one who would encourage her mate, and help to keep his heart
up when sorest prest by danger,' said the Sergeant to me, before I ever
laid eyes on that sweet countenance of yours,--he did!"

"And why should my father have told you this, Pathfinder?" the girl
demanded a little earnestly. "Perhaps he fancied you would think the
better of me if you did not believe me a silly coward, as so many of my
sex love to make themselves appear."

Deception, unless it were at the expense of his enemies in the
field,--nay, concealment of even a thought,--was so little in accordance
with the Pathfinder's very nature, that he was not a little embarrassed
by this simple question. In such a strait he involuntarily took refuge
in a middle course, not revealing that which he fancied ought not to be
told, nor yet absolutely concealing it.

"You must know, Mabel," said he, "that the Sergeant and I are old
friends, and have stood side by side--or, if not actually side by side,
I a little in advance, as became a scout, and your father with his own
men, as better suited a soldier of the king--on many a hard fi't and
bloody day. It's the way of us skirmishers to think little of the fight
when the rifle has done cracking; and at night, around our fires, or
on our marches, we talk of the things we love, just as you young women
convarse about your fancies and opinions when you get together to laugh
over your idees. Now it was natural that the Sergeant, having such a
daughter as you, should love her better than anything else, and that
he should talk of her oftener than of anything else,--while I, having
neither daughter, nor sister, nor mother, nor kith, nor kin, nor
anything but the Delawares to love, I naturally chimed in, as it were,
and got to love you, Mabel, before I ever saw you--yes, I did--just by
talking about you so much."

"And now you _have_ seen me," returned the smiling girl, whose unmoved
and natural manner proved how little she was thinking of anything more
than parental or fraternal regard, "you are beginning to see the folly
of forming friendships for people before you know anything about them,
except by hearsay."

"It wasn't friendship--it isn't friendship, Mabel, that I feel for you.
I am the friend of the Delawares, and have been so from boyhood; but my
feelings for them, or for the best of them, are not the same as those I
got from the Sergeant for you; and, especially, now that I begin to know
you better. I'm sometimes afeared it isn't wholesome for one who is much
occupied in a very manly calling, like that of a guide or scout, or
a soldier even, to form friendships for women,--young women in
particular,--as they seem to me to lessen the love of enterprise, and to
turn the feelings away from their gifts and natural occupations."

"You surely do not mean, Pathfinder, that a friendship for a girl like
me would make you less bold, and more unwilling to meet the French than
you were before?"

"Not so, not so. With you in danger, for instance, I fear I might become
foolhardy; but before we became so intimate, as I may say, I loved to
think of my scoutings, and of my marches, and outlyings, and fights, and
other adventures: but now my mind cares less about them; I think more of
the barracks, and of evenings passed in discourse, of feelings in which
there are no wranglings and bloodshed, and of young women, and of their
laughs and their cheerful, soft voices, their pleasant looks and their
winning ways. I sometimes tell the Sergeant that he and his daughter
will be the spoiling of one of the best and most experienced scouts on
the lines."

"Not they, Pathfinder; they will try to make that which is already so
excellent, perfect. You do not know us, if you think that either wishes
to see you in the least changed. Remain as at present, the same honest,
upright, conscientious, fearless, intelligent, trustworthy guide that
you are, and neither my dear father nor myself can ever think of you
differently from what we now do."

It was too dark for Mabel to note the workings of the countenance of her
listener; but her own sweet face was turned towards him, as she spoke
with an energy equal to her frankness, in a way to show how little
embarrassed were her thoughts, and how sincere were her words.
Her countenance was a little flushed, it is true; but it was with
earnestness and truth of feeling, though no nerve thrilled, no limb
trembled, no pulsation quickened. In short, her manner and appearance
were those of a sincere-minded and frank girl, making such a declaration
of good-will and regard for one of the other sex as she felt that his
services and good qualities merited, without any of the emotion that
invariably accompanies the consciousness of an inclination which might
lead to softer disclosures.

The Pathfinder was too unpractised, however, to enter into distinctions
of this kind, and his humble nature was encouraged by the directness and
strength of the words he had just heard. Unwilling, if not unable, to
say any more, he walked away, and stood leaning on his rifle and looking
up at the stars for full ten minutes in profound silence.

In the meanwhile the interview on the bastion, to which we have already
alluded, took place between Lundie and the Sergeant.

"Have the men's knapsacks been examined?" demanded Major Duncan, after
he had cast his eye at a written report, handed to him by the Sergeant,
but which it was too dark to read.

"All, your honor; and all are right."

"The ammunition--arms?"

"All in order, Major Duncan, and fit for any service."

"You have the men named in my own draft, Dunham?"

"Without an exception, sir. Better men could not be found in the
regiment."

"You have need of the best of our men, Sergeant. This experiment has
now been tried three times; always under one of the ensigns, who have
flattered me with success, but have as often failed. After so much
preparation and expense, I do not like to abandon the project entirely;
but this will be the last effort; and the result will mainly depend on
you and on the Pathfinder."

"You may count on us both, Major Duncan. The duty you have given us is
not above our habits and experience, and I think it will be well done. I
know that the Pathfinder will not be wanting."

"On that, indeed, it will be safe to rely. He is a most extraordinary
man, Dunham--one who long puzzled me; but who, now that I understand
him, commands as much of my respect as any general in his majesty's
service."

"I was in hopes, sir, that you would come to look at the proposed
marriage with Mabel as a thing I ought to wish and forward."

"As for that, Sergeant, time will show," returned Lundie, smiling;
though here, too, the obscurity concealed the nicer shades of
expression; "one woman is sometimes more difficult to manage than
a whole regiment of men. By the way, you know that your would-be
son-in-law, the Quartermaster, will be of the party; and I trust you
will at least give him an equal chance in the trial for your daughter's
smiles."

"If respect for his rank, sir, did not cause me to do this, your honor's
wish would be sufficient."

"I thank you, Sergeant. We have served much together, and ought to value
each other in our several stations. Understand me, however, I ask no
more for Davy Muir than a clear field and no favor. In love, as in war,
each man must gain his own victories. Are you certain that the rations
have been properly calculated?"

"I'll answer for it, Major Duncan; but if they were not, we cannot
suffer with two such hunters as Pathfinder and the Serpent in company."

"That will never do, Dunham," interrupted Lundie sharply; "and it comes
of your American birth and American training. No thorough soldier ever
relies on anything but his commissary for supplies; and I beg that no
part of my regiment may be the first to set an example to the contrary."

"You have only to command, Major Duncan, to be obeyed; and yet, if I
might presume, sir--"

"Speak freely, Sergeant; you are talking with a friend."

"I was merely about to say that I find even the Scotch soldiers like
venison and birds quite as well as pork, when they are difficult to be
had."

"That may be very true; but likes and dislikes have nothing to do
with system. An army can rely on nothing but its commissaries. The
irregularity of the provincials has played the devil with the king's
service too often to be winked at any longer."

"General Braddock, your honor, might have been advised by Colonel
Washington."

"Out upon your Washington! You're all provincials together, man, and
uphold each other as if you were of a sworn confederacy."

"I believe his majesty has no more loyal subjects than the Americans,
your honor."

"In that, Dunham, I'm thinking you're right; and I have been a little
too warm, perhaps. I do not consider _you_ a provincial, however,
Sergeant; for though born in America, a better soldier never shouldered
a musket."

"And Colonel Washington, your honor?"

"Well!--and Colonel Washington may be a useful subject too. He is the
American prodigy; and I suppose I may as well give him all the credit
you ask. You have no doubt of the skill of this Jasper Eau-douce?"

"The boy has been tried, sir, and found equal to all that can be
required of him."

"He has a French name, and has passed much of his boyhood in the French
colonies; has he French blood in his veins, Sergeant?"

"Not a drop, your honor. Jasper's father was an old comrade of my
own, and his mother came of an honest and loyal family in this very
province."

"How came he then so much among the French, and whence his name? He
speaks the language of the Canadas, too, I find."

"That is easily explained, Major Duncan. The boy was left under the care
of one of our mariners in the old war, and he took to the water like
a duck. Your honor knows that we have no ports on Ontario that can be
named as such, and he naturally passed most of his time on the other
side of the lake, where the French have had a few vessels these fifty
years. He learned to speak their language, as a matter of course, and
got his name from the Indians and Canadians, who are fond of calling men
by their qualities, as it might be."

"A French master is but a poor instructor for a British sailor,
notwithstanding."

"I beg your pardon, sir: Jasper Eau-douce was brought up under a real
English seaman, one that had sailed under the king's pennant, and may be
called a thorough-bred; that is to say, a subject born in the colonies,
but none the worse at his trade, I hope, Major Duncan, for that."

"Perhaps not, Sergeant, perhaps not; nor any better. This Jasper behaved
well, too, when I gave him the command of the _Scud_; no lad could have
conducted himself more loyally or better."

"Or more bravely, Major Duncan. I am sorry to see, sir, that you have
doubts as to the fidelity of Jasper."

"It is the duty of the soldier who is entrusted with the care of a
distant and important post like this, Dunham, never to relax in his
vigilance. We have two of the most artful enemies that the world has
ever produced, in their several ways, to contend with,--the Indians and
the French,--and nothing should be overlooked that can lead to injury."

"I hope your honor considers me fit to be entrusted with any particular
reason that may exist for doubting Jasper, since you have seen fit to
entrust me with this command."

"It is not that I doubt you, Dunham, that I hesitate to reveal all I may
happen to know; but from a strong reluctance to circulate an evil report
concerning one of whom I have hitherto thought well. You must think well
of the Pathfinder, or you would not wish to give him your daughter?"

"For the Pathfinder's honesty I will answer with my life, sir," returned
the Sergeant firmly, and not without a dignity of manner that struck his
superior. "Such a man doesn't know how to be false."

"I believe you are right, Dunham; and yet this last information
has unsettled all my old opinions. I have received an anonymous
communication, Sergeant, advising me to be on my guard against Jasper
Western, or Jasper Eau-douce, as he is called, who, it alleges, has been
bought by the enemy, and giving me reason to expect that further and
more precise information will soon be sent."

"Letters without signatures to them, sir, are scarcely to be regarded in
war."

"Or in peace, Dunham. No one can entertain a lower opinion of the writer
of an anonymous letter, in ordinary matters, than myself; the very act
denotes cowardice, meanness, and baseness; and it usually is a token of
falsehood, as well as of other vices. But in matters of war it is not
exactly the same thing. Besides, several suspicious circumstances have
been pointed out to me."

"Such as is fit for an orderly to hear, your honor?"

"Certainly, one in whom I confide as much as in yourself Dunham. It is
said, for instance, that your daughter and her party were permitted to
escape the Iroquois, when they came in, merely to give Jasper credit
with me. I am told that the gentry at Frontenac will care more for the
capture of the _Scud_, with Sergeant Dunham and a party of men, together
with the defeat of our favorite plan, than for the capture of a girl and
the scalp of her uncle."

"I understand the hint, sir, but I do not give it credit. Jasper can
hardly be true, and Pathfinder false; and, as for the last, I would as
soon distrust your honor as distrust him."

"It would seem so, Sergeant; it would indeed seem so. But Jasper is not
the Pathfinder, after all; and I will own, Dunham, I should put more
faith in the lad if he didn't speak French."

"It's no recommendation in my eyes, I assure your honor; but the boy
learned it by compulsion, as it were, and ought not to be condemned too
hastily for the circumstance, by your honor's leave."

"It's a d----d lingo, and never did any one good--at least no British
subject; for I suppose the French themselves must talk together in some
language or other. I should have much more faith in this Jasper, did
he know nothing of their language. This letter has made me uneasy; and,
were there another to whom I could trust the cutter, I would devise
some means to detain him here. I have spoken to you already of a
brother-in-law, who goes with you, Sergeant, and who is a sailor?"

"A real seafaring man, your honor, and somewhat prejudiced against fresh
water. I doubt if he could be induced to risk his character on a lake,
and I'm certain he never could find the station."

"The last is probably true, and then, the man cannot know enough of
this treacherous lake to be fit for the employment. You will have to be
doubly vigilant, Dunham. I give you full powers; and should you detect
this Jasper in any treachery, make him a sacrifice at once to offended
justice."

"Being in the service of the crown, your honor, he is amenable to
martial law."

"Very true; then iron him, from his head to his heels, and send him up
here in his own cutter. That brother-in-law of yours must be able to
find the way back, after he has once travelled the road."

"I make no doubt, Major Duncan, we shall be able to do all that will
be necessary should Jasper turn out as you seem to anticipate; though I
think I would risk my life on his truth."

"I like your confidence--it speaks well for the fellow; but that
infernal letter! there is such an air of truth about it; nay, there is
so much truth in it, touching other matters."

"I think your honor said it wanted the name at the bottom; a great
omission for an honest man to make."

"Quite right, Dunham, and no one but a rascal, and a cowardly rascal in
the bargain, would write an anonymous letter on private affairs. It
is different, however, in war; despatches are feigned, and artifice is
generally allowed to be justifiable."

"Military manly artifices, sir, if you will; such as ambushes,
surprises, feints, false attacks, and even spies; but I never heard of
a true soldier who could wish to undermine the character of an honest
young man by such means as these."

"I have met with many strange events, and some stranger people, in the
course of my experience. But fare you well, Sergeant; I must detain you
no longer. You are now on your guard, and I recommend to you untiring
vigilance. I think Muir means shortly to retire; and, should you
fully succeed in this enterprise, my influence will not be wanting in
endeavoring to put you in the vacancy, to which you have many claims."

"I humbly thank your honor," coolly returned the Sergeant, who had been
encouraged in this manner any time for the twenty preceding years, "and
hope I shall never disgrace my station, whatever it may be. I am what
nature and Providence have made me, and hope I'm satisfied."

"You have not forgotten the howitzer?"

"Jasper took it on board this morning, sir."

"Be wary, and do not trust that man unnecessarily. Make a confidant of
Pathfinder at once; he may be of service in detecting any villainy
that may be stirring. His simple honesty will favor his observation by
concealing it. He _must_ be true."

"For him, sir, my own head shall answer, or even my rank in the
regiment. I have seen him too often tried to doubt him."

"Of all wretched sensations, Dunham, distrust, where one is compelled
to confide, is the most painful. You have bethought you of the spare
flints?"

"A sergeant is a safe commander for all such details, your honor."

"Well, then, give me your hand, Dunham. God bless you! and may you be
successful! Muir means to retire,--by the way, let the man have an equal
chance with your daughter, for it may facilitate future operations about
the promotion. One would retire more cheerfully with such a companion
as Mabel, than in cheerless widowhood, and with nothing but oneself to
love,--and such a self, too, as Davy's!"

"I hope, sir, my child will make a prudent choice, and I think her mind
is already pretty much made up in favor of Pathfinder. Still she shall
have fair play, though disobedience is the next crime to mutiny."

"Have all the ammunition carefully examined and dried as soon as
you arrive; the damp of the lake may affect it. And now, once more,
farewell, Sergeant. Beware of that Jasper, and consult with Muir in any
difficulty. I shall expect you to return, triumphant, this day month."

"God bless your honor! If anything should happen to me, I trust to you,
Major Duncan, to care for an old soldier's character."

"Rely on me, Dunham--you will rely on a friend. Be vigilant: remember
you will be in the very jaws of the lion;--pshaw! of no lion neither;
but of treacherous tigers: in their very jaws, and beyond support. Have
the flints counted and examined in the morning--and--farewell, Dunham,
farewell!"

The Sergeant took the extended hand of his superior with proper respect,
and they finally parted; Lundie hastening into his own movable abode,
while the other left the fort, descended to the beach, and got into a
boat.

It is not to be supposed that Sergeant Dunham, after he had parted from
his commanding officer, was likely to forget the injunctions he had
received. He thought highly of Jasper in general; but distrust had been
insinuated between his former confidence and the obligations of duty;
and, as he now felt that everything depended on his own vigilance, by
the time the boat reached the side of the _Scud_ he was in a proper
humor to let no suspicious circumstance go unheeded, or any unusual
movement in the young sailor pass without its comment. As a matter of
course, he viewed things in the light suited to his peculiar mood;
and his precautions, as well as his distrust, partook of the habits,
opinions, and education of the man.

The _Scud's_ kedge was lifted as soon as the boat with the Sergeant, who
was the last person expected, was seen to quit the shore, and the head
of the cutter was cast to the eastward by means of the sweeps. A few
vigorous strokes of the latter, in which the soldiers aided, now sent
the light craft into the line or the current that flowed from the river,
when she was suffered to drift into the offing again. As yet there was
no wind, the light and almost imperceptible air from the lake, that had
existed previously to the setting of the sun, having entirely failed.

All this time an unusual quiet prevailed in the cutter. It appeared as
if those on board of her felt that they were entering upon an uncertain
enterprise, in the obscurity of night; and that their duty, the hour,
and the manner of their departure lent a solemnity to their movements.
Discipline also came in aid of these feelings. Most were silent; and
those who did speak spoke seldom and in low voices. In this manner the
cutter set slowly out into the lake, until she had got as far as the
river current would carry her, when she became stationary, waiting for
the usual land-breeze. An interval of half an hour followed, during the
whole of which time the _Scud_ lay as motionless as a log, floating on
the water. While the little changes just mentioned were occurring in
the situation of the vessel, notwithstanding the general quiet that
prevailed, all conversation had not been repressed; for Sergeant Dunham,
having first ascertained that both his daughter and her female companion
were on the quarter-deck, led the Pathfinder to the after-cabin, where,
closing the door with great caution, and otherwise making certain that
he was beyond the reach of eavesdroppers, he commenced as follows:--

"It is now many years, my friend, since you began to experience the
hardships and dangers of the woods in my company."

"It is, Sergeant; yes it is. I sometimes fear I am too old for Mabel,
who was not born until you and I had fought the Frenchers as comrades."

"No fear on that account, Pathfinder. I was near your age before I
prevailed on the mind of her mother; and Mabel is a steady, thoughtful
girl, one that will regard character more than anything else. A lad like
Jasper Eau-douce, for instance, will have no chance with her, though he
is both young and comely."

"Does Jasper think of marrying?" inquired the guide, simply but
earnestly.

"I should hope not--at least, not until he has satisfied every one of
his fitness to possess a wife."

"Jasper is a gallant boy, and one of great gifts in his way; he may
claim a wife as well as another."

"To be frank with you, Pathfinder, I brought you here to talk about this
very youngster. Major Duncan has received some information which has led
him to suspect that Eau-douce is false, and in the pay of the enemy; I
wish to hear your opinion on the subject."

"Anan?"

"I say, the Major suspects Jasper of being a traitor--a French spy--or,
what is worse, of being bought to betray us. He has received a letter
to this effect, and has been charging me to keep an eye on the boy's
movements; for he fears we shall meet with enemies when we least suspect
it, and by his means."

"Duncan of Lundie has told you this, Sergeant Dunham?"

"He has indeed, Pathfinder; and, though I have been loath to believe
anything to the injury of Jasper, I have a feeling which tells me I
ought to distrust him. Do you believe in presentiments, my friend?

"In what, Sergeant?"

"Presentiments,--a sort of secret foreknowledge of events that are
about to happen. The Scotch of our regiment are great sticklers for such
things; and my opinion of Jasper is changing so fast, that I begin to
fear there must be some truth in their doctrines."

"But you've been talking with Duncan of Lundie concerning Jasper, and
his words have raised misgivings."

"Not it, not so in the least; for, while conversing with the Major, my
feelings were altogether the other way; and I endeavored to convince
him all I could that he did the boy injustice. But there is no use
in holding out against a presentiment, I find; and I fear there is
something in the suspicion after all."

"I know nothing of presentiments, Sergeant; but I have known Jasper
Eau-douce since he was a boy, and I have as much faith in his honesty as
I have in my own, or that of the Sarpent himself."

"But the Serpent, Pathfinder, has his tricks and ambushes in war as well
as another."

"Ay, them are his nat'ral gifts, and are such as belong to his people.
Neither red-skin nor pale-face can deny natur'; but Chingachgook is not
a man to feel a presentiment against."

"That I believe; nor should I have thought ill of Jasper this
very morning. It seems to me, Pathfinder, since I've taken up this
presentiment, that the lad does not bustle about his deck naturally, as
he used to do; but that he is silent and moody and thoughtful, like a
man who has a load on his conscience."

"Jasper is never noisy; and he tells me noisy ships are generally
ill-worked ships. Master Cap agrees in this too. No, no; I will believe
naught against Jasper until I see it. Send for your brother, Sergeant,
and let us question him in this matter; for to sleep with distrust of
one's friend in the heart is like sleeping with lead there. I have no
faith in your presentiments."

The Sergeant, although he scarcely knew himself with what object,
complied, and Cap was summoned to join in the consultation. As
Pathfinder was more collected than his companion, and felt so strong a
conviction of the good faith of the party accused, he assumed the office
of spokesman.

"We have asked you to come down, Master Cap," he commenced, "in order
to inquire if you have remarked anything out of the common way in the
movements of Eau-douce this evening."

"His movements are common enough, I daresay, for fresh water, Master
Pathfinder, though we should think most of his proceedings irregular
down on the coast."

"Yes, yes; we know you will never agree with the lad about the manner
the cutter ought to be managed; but it is on another point we wish your
opinion."

The Pathfinder then explained to Cap the nature of the suspicions which
the Sergeant entertained, and the reasons why they had been excited, so
far as the latter had been communicated by Major Duncan.

"The youngster talks French, does he?" said Cap.

"They say he speaks it better than common," returned the Sergeant
gravely. "Pathfinder knows this to be true."

"I'll not gainsay it," answered the guide; "at least, they tell me such
is the fact. But this would prove nothing ag'in a Mississauga, and,
least of all, ag'in one like Jasper. I speak the Mingo dialect myself,
having learnt it while a prisoner among the reptyles; but who will say
I am their friend? Not that I am an enemy, either, according to
Indian notions; though I am their enemy, I will admit, agreeable to
Christianity."

"Ay Pathfinder; but Jasper did not get his French as a prisoner: he
took it in his boyhood, when the mind is easily impressed, and gets its
permanent notions; when nature has a presentiment, as it were, which way
the character is likely to incline."

"A very just remark," added Cap, "for that is the time of life when we
all learn the catechism, and other moral improvements. The Sergeant's
observation shows that he understands human nature, and I agree with him
perfectly; it _is_ a damnable thing for a youngster, up here, on this
bit of fresh water, to talk French. If it were down on the Atlantic,
now, where a seafaring man has occasion sometimes to converse with a
pilot, or a linguister, in that language, I should not think so much of
it,--though we always look with suspicion, even there, at a shipmate who
knows too much of the tongue; but up here, on Ontario, I hold it to be a
most suspicious circumstance."

"But Jasper must talk in French to the people on the other shore," said
Pathfinder, "or hold his tongue, as there are none but French to speak
to."

"You don't mean to tell me, Pathfinder, that France lies hereaway, on
the opposite coast?" cried Cap, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in the
direction of the Canadas; "that one side of this bit of fresh water is
York, and the other France?"

"I mean to tell you this is York, and that is Upper Canada; and that
English and Dutch and Indian are spoken in the first, and French and
Indian in the last. Even the Mingos have got many of the French words in
their dialect, and it is no improvement, neither."

"Very true: and what sort of people are the Mingos, my friend?" inquired
the Sergeant, touching the other on his shoulder, by way of enforcing a
remark, the inherent truth of which sensibly increased its value in the
eyes of the speaker: "no one knows them better than yourself, and I ask
you what sort of a tribe are they?"

"Jasper is no Mingo, Sergeant."

"He speaks French, and he might as well be, in that particular. Brother
Cap, can you recollect no movement of this unfortunate young man, in the
way of his calling, that would seem to denote treachery?"

"Not distinctly, Sergeant, though he has gone to work wrong-end foremost
half his time. It is true that one of his hands coiled a rope against
the sun, and he called it _querling_ a rope, too, when I asked him
what he was about; but I am not certain that anything was meant by it;
though, I daresay, the French coil half their running rigging the wrong
way, and may call it 'querling it down,' too, for that matter. Then
Jasper himself belayed the end of the jib-halyards to a stretcher in the
rigging, instead of bringing it to the mast, where they belong, at least
among British sailors."

"I daresay Jasper may have got some Canada notions about working his
craft, from being so much on the other side," Pathfinder interposed;
"but catching an idee, or a word, isn't treachery and bad faith. I
sometimes get an idee from the Mingos themselves; but my heart has
always been with the Delawares. No, no, Jasper is true; and the king
might trust him with his crown, just as he would trust his eldest son,
who, as he is to wear it one day, ought to be the last man to wish to
steal it."

"Fine talking, fine talking!" said Cap; "all fine talking, Master
Pathfinder, but d----d little logic. In the first place, the king's
majesty cannot lend his crown, it being contrary to the laws of the
realm, which require him to wear it at all times, in order that his
sacred person may be known, just as the silver oar is necessary to a
sheriff's officer afloat. In the next place, it's high treason, by law,
for the eldest son of his majesty ever to covet the crown, or to have a
child, except in lawful wedlock, as either would derange the succession.
Thus you see, friend Pathfinder that in order to reason truly, one must
get under way, as it might be, on the right tack. Law is reason, and
reason is philosophy, and philosophy is a steady drag; whence it follows
that crowns are regulated by law, reason, and philosophy."

"I know little of all this; Master Cap; but nothing short of seeing and
feeling will make me think Jasper Western a traitor."

"There you are wrong again, Pathfinder; for there is a way of proving a
thing much more conclusively than either seeing or feeling, or by both
together; and that is by a circumstance."

"It may be so in the settlements; but it is not so here on the lines."

"It is so in nature, which is monarch over all. There was a
circumstance, just after we came on board this evening, that is
extremely suspicious, and which may be set down at once as a makeweight
against this lad. Jasper bent on the king's ensign with his own hands;
and, while he pretended to be looking at Mabel and the soldier's wife,
giving directions about showing them below here, and a that, he got the
flag union down!"

"That might have been accident," returned the Sergeant, "for such a
thing has happened to myself; besides, the halyards lead to a pulley,
and the flag would have come right, or not, according to the manner in
which the lad hoisted it."

"A pulley!" exclaimed Cap, with strong disgust; "I wish,
Sergeant Dunham, I could prevail on you to use proper terms. An
ensign-halyard-block is no more a pulley than your halberd is a
boarding-pike. It is true that by hoisting on one part, another part
would go uppermost; but I look upon that affair of the ensign, now you
have mentioned your suspicions, as a circumstance, and shall bear it in
mind. I trust supper is not to be overlooked, however, even if we have a
hold full of traitors."

"It will be duly attended to, brother Cap; but I shall count on you for
aid in managing the _Scud_, should anything occur to induce me to arrest
Jasper."

"I'll not fail you, Sergeant; and in such an event you'll probably learn
what this cutter can really perform; for, as yet, I fancy it is pretty
much matter of guesswork."

"Well, for my part," said Pathfinder, drawing a heavy sigh, "I shall
cling to the hope of Jasper's innocence, and recommend plain dealing, by
asking the lad himself, without further delay, whether he is or is not
a traitor. I'll put Jasper Western against all the presentiments and
circumstances in the colony."

"That will never do," rejoined the Sergeant. "The responsibility of this
affair rests with me, and I request and enjoin that nothing be said to
any one without my knowledge. We will all keep watchful eyes about us,
and take proper note of circumstances."

"Ay, ay! circumstances are the things after all," returned Cap. "One
circumstance is worth fifty facts. That I know to be the law of the
realm. Many a man has been hanged on circumstances."

The conversation now ceased, and, after a short delay, the whole party
returned to the deck, each individual disposed to view the conduct of
the suspected Jasper in the manner most suited to his own habits and
character.



CHAPTER XIV.

     Even such a man, so faint, so spiritless,
     So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone,
     Drew Priam's Curtain in the dead of night,
     And would have told him, half his Troy was burned.
     SHAKESPEARE.


All this time matters were elsewhere passing in their usual train.
Jasper, like the weather and his vessel, seemed to be waiting for the
land-breeze; while the soldiers, accustomed to early rising, had, to a
man, sought their pallets in the main hold. None remained on deck
but the people of the cutter, Mr. Muir, and the two females. The
Quartermaster was endeavoring to render himself agreeable to Mabel,
while our heroine herself, little affected by his assiduities, which
she ascribed partly to the habitual gallantry of a soldier, and partly,
perhaps, to her own pretty face, was enjoying the peculiarities of a
scene and situation which, to her, were full of the charms of novelty.

The sails had been hoisted, but as yet not a breath of air was in
motion; and so still and placid was the lake, that not the smallest
motion was perceptible in the cutter. She had drifted in the
river-current to a distance a little exceeding a quarter of a mile from
the land, and there she lay, beautiful in her symmetry and form, but
like a fixture. Young Jasper was on the quarter-deck, near enough to
hear occasionally the conversation which passed; but too diffident of
his own claim, and too intent on his duties, to attempt to mingle in it.
The fine blue eyes of Mabel followed his motions in curious expectation,
and more than once the Quartermaster had to repeat his compliments
before she heard them, so intent was she on the little occurrences of
the vessel, and, we might add, so indifferent to the eloquence of her
companion. At length, even Mr. Muir became silent, and there was a deep
stillness on the water. Presently an oar-blade fell in a boat beneath
the fort, and the sound reached the cutter as distinctly as if it had
been produced on her deck. Then came a murmur, like a sigh of the night,
a fluttering of the canvas, the creaking of the boom, and the flap of
the jib. These well-known sounds were followed by a slight heel in the
cutter, and by the bellying of all the sails.

"Here's the wind, Anderson," called out Jasper to the oldest of his
sailors; "take the helm."

This brief order was obeyed; the helm was put up, the cutter's bows fell
off, and in a few minutes the water was heard murmuring under her head,
as the _Scud_ glanced through the lake at the rate of five miles in the
hour. All this passed in profound silence, when Jasper again gave the
order to "ease off the sheets a little and keep her along the land."

It was at this instant that the party from the after-cabin reappeared on
the quarter-deck.

"You've no inclination, Jasper lad, to trust yourself too near our
neighbours the French," observed Muir, who took that occasion to
recommence the discourse. "Well, well, your prudence will never be
questioned by me, for I like the Canadas as little as you can possibly
like them yourself."

"I hug this shore, Mr. Muir, on account of the wind. The land-breeze is
always freshest close in, provided you are not so near as to make a
lee of the trees. We have Mexico Bay to cross; and that, on the present
course, will give us quite offing enough."

"I'm right glad it's not the Bay of Mexico," put in Cap, "which is a
part of the world I would rather not visit in one of your inland craft.
Does your cutter bear a weather helm, master Eau-douce?"

"She is easy on her rudder, master Cap; but likes looking up at the
breeze as well as another, when in lively motion."

"I suppose you have such things as reefs, though you can hardly have
occasion to use them?"

Mabel's bright eye detected the smile that gleamed for an instant on
Jasper's handsome face; but no one else saw that momentary exhibition of
surprise and contempt.

"We have reefs, and often have occasion to use them," quietly returned
the young man. "Before we get in, Master Cap, an opportunity may offer
to show you the manner in which we do so; for there is easterly weather
brewing, and the wind cannot chop, even on the ocean itself, more
readily than it flies round on Lake Ontario."

"So much for knowing no better! I have seen the wind in the Atlantic
fly round like a coach-wheel, in a way to keep your sails shaking for
an hour, and the ship would become perfectly motionless from not knowing
which way to turn."

"We have no such sudden changes here, certainly," Jasper mildly
answered; "though we think ourselves liable to unexpected shifts of
wind. I hope, however, to carry this land-breeze as far as the first
islands; after which there will be less danger of our being seen and
followed by any of the look-out boats from Frontenac."

"Do you think the French keep spies out on the broad lake, Jasper?"
inquired the Pathfinder.

"We know they do; one was off Oswego during the night of Monday last.
A bark canoe came close in with the eastern point, and landed an Indian
and an officer. Had you been outlying that night, as usual, we should
have secured one, if not both of them."

It was too dark to betray the color that deepened on the weather-burnt
features of the guide; for he felt the consciousness of having lingered
in the fort that night, listening to the sweet tones of Mabel's voice as
she sang ballads to her father, and gazing at the countenance which,
to him, was radiant with charms. Probity in thought and deed being the
distinguishing quality of this extraordinary man's mind, while he felt
that a sort of disgrace ought to attach to his idleness on the occasion
mentioned, the last thought that could occur would be to attempt to
palliate or deny his negligence.

"I confess it, Jasper, I confess it," said he humbly. "Had I been out
that night,--and I now recollect no sufficient reason why I was not,--it
might, indeed, have turned out as you say."

"It was the evening you passed with us, Pathfinder," Mabel innocently
remarked; "surely one who lives so much of his time in the forest, in
front of the enemy, may be excused for giving a few hours of his time to
an old friend and his daughter."

"Nay, nay, I've done little else but idle since we reached the
garrison," returned the other, sighing; "and it is well that the lad
should tell me of it: the idler needs a rebuke--yes, he needs a rebuke."

"Rebuke, Pathfinder! I never dreamt of saying anything disagreeable, and
least of all would I think of rebuking you, because a solitary spy and
an Indian or two have escaped us. Now I know where you were, I think
your absence the most natural thing in the world."

"I think nothing of what you said, Jasper, since it was deserved. We are
all human, and all do wrong."

"This is unkind, Pathfinder."

"Give me your hand, lad, give me your hand. It wasn't you that gave the
lesson; it was conscience."

"Well, well," interrupted Cap; "now this latter matter is settled to the
satisfaction of all parties, perhaps you will tell us how it happened to
be known that there were spies near us so lately. This looks amazingly
like a circumstance."

As the mariner uttered the last sentence, he pressed a foot slily on
that of the Sergeant, and nudged the guide with his elbow, winking at
the same time, though this sign was lost in the obscurity.

"It is known, because their trail was found next day by the Serpent,
and it was that of a military boot and a moccasin. One of our hunters,
moreover, saw the canoe crossing towards Frontenac next morning."

"Did the trail lead near the garrison, Jasper?" Pathfinder asked in
a manner so meek and subdued that it resembled the tone of a rebuked
schoolboy. "Did the trail lead near the garrison, lad?"

"We thought not; though, of course, it did not cross the river. It was
followed down to the eastern point, at the river's mouth, where what
was doing in port, might be seen; but it did not cross, as we could
discover."

"And why didn't you get under weigh, Master Jasper," Cap demanded, "and
give chase? On Tuesday morning it blew a good breeze; one in which this
cutter might have run nine knots."

"That may do on the ocean, Master Cap," put in Pathfinder, "but it would
not do here. Water leaves no trail, and a Mingo and a Frenchman are a
match for the devil in a pursuit."

"Who wants a trail when the chase can be seen from the deck, as Jasper
here said was the case with this canoe? and it mattered nothing if there
were twenty of your Mingos and Frenchmen, with a good British-built
bottom in their wake. I'll engage, Master Eau-douce, had you given me
a call that said Tuesday morning, that we should have overhauled the
blackguards."

"I daresay, Master Cap, that the advice of as old a seaman as you might
have done no harm to as young a sailor as myself, but it is a long and a
hopeless chase that has a bark canoe in it."

"You would have had only to press it hard, to drive it ashore."

"Ashore, master Cap! You do not understand our lake navigation at all,
if you suppose it an easy matter to force a bark canoe ashore. As soon
as they find themselves pressed, these bubbles paddle right into the
wind's eye, and before you know it, you find yourself a mile or two dead
under their lee."

"You don't wish me to believe, Master Jasper, that any one is so
heedless of drowning as to put off into this lake in one of them
eggshells when there is any wind?"

"I have often crossed Ontario in a bark canoe, even when there has been
a good deal of sea on. Well managed, they are the driest boats of which
we have any knowledge."

Cap now led his brother-in-law and Pathfinder aside, when he assured him
that the admission of Jasper concerning the spies was "a circumstance,"
and "a strong circumstance," and as such it deserved his deliberate
investigation; while his account of the canoes was so improbable as
to wear the appearance of brow-beating the listeners. Jasper spoke
confidently of the character of the two individuals who had landed, and
this Cap deemed pretty strong proof that he knew more about them than
was to be gathered from a mere trail. As for moccasins, he said that
they were worn in that part of the world by white men as well as by
Indians; he had purchased a pair himself; and boots, it was notorious,
did not particularly make a soldier. Although much of this logic was
thrown away on the Sergeant, still it produced some effect. He thought
it a little singular himself, that there should have been spies detected
so near the fort and he know nothing of it; nor did he believe that this
was a branch of knowledge that fell particularly within the sphere of
Jasper. It was true that the _Scud_ had, once or twice, been sent across
the lake to land men of this character, or to bring them off; but
then the part played by Jasper, to his own certain knowledge, was very
secondary, the master of the cutter remaining as ignorant as any one
else of the purport of the visits of those whom he had carried to and
fro; nor did he see why he alone, of all present, should know anything
of the late visit. Pathfinder viewed the matter differently. With his
habitual diffidence, he reproached himself with a neglect of duty, and
that knowledge, of which the want struck him as a fault in one whose
business it was to possess it, appeared a merit in the young man. He
saw nothing extraordinary in Jasper's knowing the facts he had related;
while he did feel it was unusual, not to say disgraceful, that he
himself now heard of them for the first time.

"As for moccasins, Master Cap," said he, when a short pause invited him
to speak, "they may be worn by pale-faces as well as by red-skins, it
is true, though they never leave the same trail on the foot of one as
on the foot of the other. Any one who is used to the woods can tell the
footstep of an Indian from the footstep of a white man, whether it be
made by a boot or a moccasin. It will need better evidence than this to
persuade me into the belief that Jasper is false."

"You will allow, Pathfinder, that there are such things in the world as
traitors?" put in Cap logically.

"I never knew an honest-minded Mingo,--one that you could put faith in,
if he had a temptation to deceive you. Cheating seems to be their
gift, and I sometimes think they ought to be pitied for it, rather than
persecuted."

"Then why not believe that this Jasper may have the same weakness? A man
is a man, and human nature is sometimes but a poor concern, as I know by
experience."

This was the opening of another long and desultory conversation, in
which the probability of Jasper's guilt or innocence was argued _pro_
and _con_, until both the Sergeant and his brother-in-law had nearly
reasoned themselves into settled convictions in favor of the first,
while their companion grew sturdier and sturdier in his defence of
the accused, and still more fixed in his opinion of his being unjustly
charged with treachery. In this there was nothing out of the common
course of things; for there is no more certain way of arriving at any
particular notion, than by undertaking to defend it; and among the most
obstinate of our opinions may be classed those which are derived from
discussions in which we affect to search for truth, while in reality we
are only fortifying prejudice.

By this time the Sergeant had reached a state of mind that disposed him
to view every act of the young sailor with distrust, and he soon got to
coincide with his relative in deeming the peculiar knowledge of Jasper,
in reference to the spies, a branch of information that certainly did
not come within the circle of his regular duties, as "a circumstance."

While this matter was thus discussed near the taffrail, Mabel sat
silently by the companion-way, Mr. Muir having gone below to look after
his personal comforts, and Jasper standing a little aloof, with his arms
crossed, and his eyes wandering from the sails to the clouds, from the
clouds to the dusky outline of the shore, from the shore to the lake,
and from the lake back again to the sails. Our heroine, too, began to
commune with her own thoughts. The excitement of the late journey, the
incidents which marked the day of her arrival at the fort, the meeting
with a father who was virtually a stranger to her, the novelty of her
late situation in the garrison, and her present voyage, formed a vista
for the mind's eye to look back through, which seemed lengthened into
months. She could with difficulty believe that she had so recently left
the town, with all the usages of civilized life; and she wondered in
particular that the incidents which had occurred during the descent of
the Oswego had made so little impression on her mind. Too inexperienced
to know that events, when crowded, have the effect of time, or that the
quick succession of novelties that pass before us in travelling elevates
objects, in a measure, to the dignity of events, she drew upon her
memory for days and dates, in order to make certain that she had known
Jasper, and the Pathfinder, and her own father, but little more than a
fortnight. Mabel was a girl of heart rather than of imagination, though
by no means deficient in the last, and she could not easily account for
the strength of her feelings in connection with those who were so lately
strangers to her; for she was not sufficiently accustomed to analyze
her sensations to understand the nature of the influences that have just
been mentioned. As yet, however, her pure mind was free from the blight
of distrust, and she had no suspicion of the views of either of her
suitors; and one of the last thoughts that could have voluntarily
disturbed her confidence would have been to suppose it possible either
of her companions was a traitor to his king and country.

America, at the time of which we are writing, was remarkable for its
attachment to the German family that then sat on the British throne;
for, as is the fact with all provinces, the virtues and qualities that
are proclaimed near the centre of power, as incense and policy, get
to be a part of political faith with the credulous and ignorant at a
distance. This truth is just as apparent to-day, in connection with
the prodigies of the republic, as it then was in connection with those
distant rulers, whose merits it was always safe to applaud, and whose
demerits it was treason to reveal. It is a consequence of this mental
dependence, that public opinion is so much placed at the mercy of the
designing; and the world, in the midst of its idle boasts of knowledge
and improvement, is left to receive its truths, on all such points as
touch the interests of the powerful and managing, through such a medium,
and such a medium only, as may serve the particular views of those who
pull the wires. Pressed upon by the subjects of France, who were then
encircling the British colonies with a belt of forts and settlements
that completely secured the savages for allies, it would have been
difficult to say whether the Americans loved the English more than
they hated the French; and those who then lived probably would have
considered the alliance which took place between the cis-Atlantic
subjects and the ancient rivals of the British crown, some twenty
years later, as an event entirely without the circle of probabilities.
Disaffection was a rare offence; and, most of all, would treason, that
should favor France or Frenchmen, have been odious in the eyes of the
provincials. The last thing that Mabel would suspect of Jasper was the
very crime with which he now stood secretly charged; and if others near
her endured the pains of distrust, she, at least, was filled with the
generous confidence of a woman. As yet no whisper had reached her ear
to disturb the feeling of reliance with which she had early regarded the
young sailor, and her own mind would have been the last to suggest
such a thought of itself. The pictures of the past and of the
present, therefore, that exhibited themselves so rapidly to her active
imagination, were unclouded with a shade that might affect any in whom
she felt an interest; and ere she had mused, in the manner related, a
quarter of an hour, the whole scene around her was filled with unalloyed
satisfaction.

The season and the night, to represent them truly, were of a nature to
stimulate the sensations which youth, health, and happiness are wont to
associate with novelty. The weather was warm, as is not always the case
in that region even in summer, while the air that came off the land, in
breathing currents, brought with it the coolness and fragrance of the
forest. The wind was far from being fresh, though there was enough of
it to drive the _Scud_ merrily ahead, and, perhaps, to keep attention
alive, in the uncertainty that more or less accompanies darkness.
Jasper, however, appeared to regard it with complacency, as was apparent
by what he said in a short dialogue that now occurred between him and
Mabel.

"At this rate, Eau-douce,"--for so Mabel had already learned to style
the young sailor,--said our heroine, "we cannot be long in reaching our
place of destination."

"Has your father then told you what that is, Mabel?"

"He has told me nothing; my father is too much of a soldier, and too
little used to have a family around him, to talk of such matters. Is it
forbidden to say whither we are bound?"

"It cannot be far, while we steer in this direction, for sixty or
seventy miles will take us into the St. Lawrence, which the French might
make too hot for us; and no voyage on this lake can be very long."

"So says my uncle Cap; but to me, Jasper, Ontario and the ocean appear
very much the same."

"You have then been on the ocean; while I, who pretend to be a sailor,
have never yet seen salt water. You must have a great contempt for such
a mariner as myself, in your heart, Mabel Dunham?"

"Then I have no such thing in my heart, Jasper Eau-douce. What right
have I, a girl without experience or knowledge, to despise any, much
less one like you, who are trusted by the Major, and who command a
vessel like this? I have never been on the ocean, though I have seen it;
and, I repeat, I see no difference between this lake and the Atlantic."

"Nor in them that sail on both? I was afraid, Mabel, your uncle had said
so much against us fresh-water sailors, that you had begun to look upon
us as little better than pretenders?"

"Give yourself no uneasiness on that account, Jasper; for I know my
uncle, and he says as many things against those who live ashore, when
at York, as he now says against those who sail on fresh water. No, no,
neither my father nor myself think anything of such opinions. My uncle
Cap, if he spoke openly, would be found to have even a worse notion of a
soldier than of a sailor who never saw the sea."

"But your father, Mabel, has a better opinion of soldiers than of any
one else? he wishes you to be the wife of a soldier?"

"Jasper Eau-douce!--I the wife of a soldier! My father wishes it! Why
should he wish any such thing? What soldier is there in the garrison
that I could marry--that he could _wish me_ to marry?"

"One may love a calling so well as to fancy it will cover a thousand
imperfections."

"But one is not likely to love his own calling so well as to cause him
to overlook everything else. You say my father wishes me to marry a
soldier; and yet there is no soldier at Oswego that he would be likely
to give me to. I am in an awkward position; for while I am not good
enough to be the wife of one of the gentlemen of the garrison, I think
even you will admit, Jasper, I am too good to be the wife of one of the
common soldiers."

As Mabel spoke thus frankly she blushed, she knew not why, though
the obscurity concealed the fact from her companion; and she laughed
faintly, like one who felt that the subject, however embarrassing it
might be, deserved to be treated fairly. Jasper, it would seem, viewed
her position differently from herself.

"It is true Mabel," said he, "you are not what is called a lady, in the
common meaning of the word."

"Not in any meaning, Jasper," the generous girl eagerly interrupted:
"on that head, I have no vanities, I hope. Providence has made me the
daughter of a sergeant, and I am content to remain in the station in
which I was born."

"But all do not remain in the stations in which they were born, Mabel;
for some rise above them, and some fall below them. Many sergeants have
become officers--even generals; and why may not sergeants' daughters
become officers' ladies?"

"In the case of Sergeant Dunham's daughter, I know no better reason
than the fact that no officer is likely to wish to make her his wife,"
returned Mabel, laughing.

"_You_ may think so; but there are some in the 55th that know better.
There is certainly one officer in that regiment, Mabel, who does wish to
make you his wife."

Quick as the flashing lightning, the rapid thoughts of Mabel Dunham
glanced over the five or six subalterns of the corps, who, by age and
inclinations, would be the most likely to form such a wish; and we
should do injustice to her habits, perhaps, were we not to say that
a lively sensation of pleasure rose momentarily in her bosom, at the
thought of being raised above a station which, whatever might be her
professions of contentment, she felt that she had been too well educated
to fill with perfect satisfaction. But this emotion was as transient as
it was sudden; for Mabel Dunham was a girl of too much pure and womanly
feeling to view the marriage tie through anything so worldly as the
mere advantages of station. The passing emotion was a thrill produced by
factitious habits, while the more settled opinion which remained was the
offspring of nature and principles.

"I know no officer in the 55th, or any other regiment, who would be
likely to do so foolish a thing; nor do I think I myself would do so
foolish a thing as to marry an officer."

"Foolish, Mabel!"

"Yes, foolish, Jasper. You know, as well as I can know, what the world
would think of such matters; and I should be sorry, very sorry, to find
that my husband ever regretted that he had so far yielded to a fancy for
a face or a figure as to have married the daughter of one so much his
inferior as a sergeant."

"_Your_ husband, Mabel, will not be so likely to think of the father as
to think of the daughter."

The girl was talking with spirit, though feeling evidently entered into
her part of the discourse; but she paused for nearly a minute after
Jasper had made the last observation before she uttered another word.
Then she continued, in a manner less playful, and one critically
attentive might have fancied in a manner slightly melancholy,--

"Parent and child ought so to live as not to have two hearts, or two
modes of feeling and thinking. A common interest in all things I should
think as necessary to happiness in man and wife, as between the other
members of the same family. Most of all, ought neither the man nor the
woman to have any unusual cause for unhappiness, the world furnishing so
many of itself."

"Am I to understand, then, Mabel, you would refuse to marry an officer,
merely because he was an officer?"

"Have you a right to ask such a question, Jasper?" said Mabel smiling.

"No other right than what a strong desire to see you happy can give,
which, after all, may be very little. My anxiety has been increased,
from happening to know that it is your father's intention to persuade
you to marry Lieutenant Muir."

"My dear, dear father can entertain no notion so ridiculous--no notion
so cruel!"

"Would it, then, be cruel to wish you the wife of a quartermaster?"

"I have told you what I think on that subject, and cannot make my words
stronger. Having answered you so frankly, Jasper, I have a right to ask
how you know that my father thinks of any such thing?"

"That he has chosen a husband for you, I know from his own mouth; for
he has told me this much during our frequent conversations while he has
been superintending the shipment of the stores; and that Mr. Muir is to
offer for you, I know from the officer himself, who has told me as
much. By putting the two things together, I have come to the opinion
mentioned."

"May not my dear father, Jasper,"--Mabel's face glowed like fire
while she spoke, though her words escaped her slowly, and by a sort
of involuntary impulse,--"may not my dear father have been thinking of
another? It does not follow, from what you say, that Mr. Muir was in his
mind."

"Is it not probable, Mabel, from all that has passed? What brings the
Quartermaster here? He has never found it necessary before to accompany
the parties that have gone below. He thinks of you for his wife; and
your father has made up his own mind that you shall be so. You must see,
Mabel, that Mr. Muir follows _you?_"

Mabel made no answer. Her feminine instinct had, indeed, told her that
she was an object of admiration with the Quartermaster; though she had
hardly supposed to the extent that Jasper believed; and she, too, had
even gathered from the discourse of her father that he thought seriously
of having her disposed of in marriage; but by no process of reasoning
could she ever have arrived at the inference that Mr. Muir was to be the
man. She did not believe it now, though she was far from suspecting the
truth. Indeed, it was her own opinion that these casual remarks of her
father, which had struck her, had proceeded from a general wish to
have her settled, rather than from any desire to see her united to any
particular individual. These thoughts, however, she kept secret; for
self-respect and feminine reserve showed her the impropriety of making
them the subject of discussion with her present companion. By way of
changing the conversation, therefore, after the pause had lasted long
enough to be embarrassing to both parties, she said, "Of one thing
you may be certain, Jasper,--and that is all I wish to say on the
subject,--Lieutenant Muir, though he were a colonel, will never be the
husband of Mabel Dunham. And now, tell me of your voyage;--when will it
end?"

"That is uncertain. Once afloat, we are at the mercy of the winds and
waves. Pathfinder will tell you that he who begins to chase the deer in
the morning cannot tell where he will sleep at night."

"But we are not chasing a deer, nor is it morning: so Pathfinder's moral
is thrown away."

"Although we are not chasing a deer, we are after that which may be as
hard to catch. I can tell you no more than I have said already; for it
is our duty to be close-mouthed, whether anything depends on it or not.
I am afraid, however, I shall not keep you long enough in the _Scud_ to
show you what she can do at need."

"I think a woman unwise who ever marries a sailor," said Mabel abruptly,
and almost involuntarily.

"This is a strange opinion; why do you hold it?"

"Because a sailor's wife is certain to have a rival in his vessel. My
uncle Cap, too, says that a sailor should never marry."

"He means salt-water sailors," returned Jasper, laughing. "If he thinks
wives not good enough for those who sail on the ocean, he will fancy
them just suited to those who sail on the lakes. I hope, Mabel, you do
not take your opinions of us fresh-water mariners from all that Master
Cap says."

"Sail, ho!" exclaimed the very individual of whom they were conversing;
"or boat, ho! would be nearer the truth."

Jasper ran forward; and, sure enough, a small object was discernible
about a hundred yards ahead of the cutter, and nearly on her lee bow. At
the first glance, he saw it was a bark canoe; for, though the darkness
prevented hues from being distinguished, the eye that had become
accustomed to the night might discern forms at some little distance;
and the eye which, like Jasper's, had long been familiar with things
aquatic, could not be at a loss in discovering the outlines necessary to
come to the conclusion he did.

"This may be an enemy," the young man remarked; "and it may be well to
overhaul him."

"He is paddling with all his might, lad," observed the Pathfinder, "and
means to cross your bows and get to windward, when you might as well
chase a full-grown buck on snow-shoes!"

"Let her luff," cried Jasper to the man at the helm. "Luff up, till she
shakes. There, steady, and hold all that."

The helmsman complied; and, as the _Scud_ was now dashing the water
aside merrily, a minute or two put the canoe so far to leeward as to
render escape impracticable. Jasper now sprang to the helm himself and,
by judicious and careful handling, he got so near his chase that it was
secured by a boat-hook. On receiving an order, the two persons who were
in the canoe left it, and no sooner had they reached the deck of the
cutter than they were found to be Arrowhead and his wife.



CHAPTER XV.

     What pearl is it that rich men cannot buy,
     That learning is too proud to gather up;
     But which the poor and the despised of all
     Seek and obtain, and often find unsought?
     Tell me--and I will tell thee what is truth.
     COWPER.


The meeting with the Indian and his wife excited no surprise in the
majority of those who witnessed the occurrence; but Mabel, and all who
knew of the manner in which this chief had been separated from the party
of Cap, simultaneously entertained suspicions, which it was far
easier to feel than to follow out by any plausible clue to certainty.
Pathfinder, who alone could converse freely with the prisoners, for
such they might now be considered, took Arrowhead aside, and held a long
conversation with him, concerning the reasons of the latter for having
deserted his charge and the manner in which he had been since employed.

The Tuscarora met these inquiries, and he gave his answers with the
stoicism of an Indian. As respects the separation, his excuses were very
simply made, and they seemed to be sufficiently plausible. When he found
that the party was discovered in its place of concealment, he naturally
sought his own safety, which he secured by plunging into the woods. In a
word, he had run away in order to save his life.

"This is well," returned Pathfinder, affecting to believe the other's
apologies; "my brother did very wisely; but his woman followed?"

"Do not the pale-faces' women follow their husbands? Would not
Pathfinder have looked back to see if one he loved was coming?"

This appeal was made to the guide while he was in a most fortunate
frame of mind to admit its force; for Mabel and her blandishments and
constancy were becoming images familiar to his thoughts. The Tuscarora,
though he could not trace the reason, saw that his excuse was admitted,
and he stood with quiet dignity awaiting the next inquiry.

"This is reasonable and natural," returned Pathfinder; "this is natural,
and may be so. A woman would be likely to follow the man to whom she
had plighted faith, and husband and wife are one flesh. Your words are
honest, Tuscarora," changing the language to the dialect of the other.
"Your words are honest, and very pleasant and just. But why has my
brother been so long from the fort? His friends have thought of him
often, but have never seen him."

"If the doe follows the buck, ought not the buck to follow the doe?"
answered the Tuscarora, smiling, as he laid a finger significantly on
the shoulder of his interrogator. "Arrowhead's wife followed Arrowhead;
it was right in Arrowhead to follow his wife. She lost her way, and they
made her cook in a strange wigwam."

"I understand you, Tuscarora. The woman fell into the hands of the
Mingos, and you kept upon their trail."

"Pathfinder can see a reason as easily as he can see the moss on the
trees. It is so."

"And how long have you got the woman back, and in what manner has it
been done?"

"Two suns. The Dew-of-June was not long in coming when her husband
whispered to her the path."

"Well, well, all this seems natural, and according to matrimony. But,
Tuscarora, how did you get that canoe, and why are you paddling towards
the St. Lawrence instead of the garrison?"

"Arrowhead can tell his own from that of another. This canoe is mine; I
found it on the shore near the fort."

"That sounds reasonable, too, for the canoe does belong to the man,
and an Indian would make few words about taking it. Still, it is
extraordinary that we saw nothing of the fellow and his wife, for the
canoe must have left the river before we did ourselves."

This idea, which passed rapidly through the mind of the guide, was now
put to the Indian in the shape of a question.

"Pathfinder knows that a warrior can have shame. The father would have
asked me for his daughter, and I could not give her to him. I sent the
Dew-of-June for the canoe, and no one spoke to the woman. A Tuscarora
woman would not be free in speaking to strange men."

All this, too, was plausible, and in conformity with Indian character
and customs. As was usual, Arrowhead had received one half of his
compensation previously to quitting the Mohawk; and his refraining to
demand the residue was a proof of that conscientious consideration of
mutual rights that quite as often distinguishes the morality of a savage
as that of a Christian. To one as upright as Pathfinder, Arrowhead had
conducted himself with delicacy and propriety, though it would have been
more in accordance with his own frank nature to have met the father, and
abided by the simple truth. Still, accustomed to the ways of Indians, he
saw nothing out of the ordinary track of things in the course the other
had taken.

"This runs like water flowing down hill, Arrowhead," he answered, after
a little reflection, "and truth obliges me to own it. It was the gift of
a red-skin to act in this way, though I do not think it was the gift of
a pale-face. You would not look upon the grief of the girl's father?"

Arrowhead made a quiet inclination of the body as if to assent.

"One thing more my brother will tell me," continued Pathfinder, "and
there will be no cloud between his wigwam and the strong-house of the
Yengeese. If he can blow away this bit of fog with his breath, his
friends will look at him as he sits by his own fire, and he can look at
them as they lay aside their arms, and forget that they are warriors.
Why was the head of Arrowhead's canoe looking towards the St. Lawrence,
where there are none but enemies to be found?"

"Why were the Pathfinder and his friends looking the same way?" asked
the Tuscarora calmly. "A Tuscarora may look in the same direction as a
Yengeese."

"Why, to own the truth, Arrowhead, we are out scouting like; that is,
sailing--in other words, we are on the king's business, and we have a
right to be here, though we may not have a right to say _why_ we are
here."

"Arrowhead saw the big canoe, and he loves to look on the face of
Eau-douce. He was going towards the sun at evening in order to seek his
wigwam; but, finding that the young sailor was going the other way, he
turned that he might look in the same direction. Eau-douce and Arrowhead
were together on the last trail."

"This may all be true, Tuscarora, and you are welcome. You shall eat of
our venison, and then we must separate. The setting sun is behind us,
and both of us move quick: my brother will get too far from that which
he seeks, unless he turns round."

Pathfinder now returned to the others, and repeated the result of
his examination. He appeared himself to believe that the account of
Arrowhead might be true, though he admitted that caution would be
prudent with one he disliked; but his auditors, Jasper excepted, seemed
less disposed to put faith in the explanations.

"This chap must be ironed at once, brother Dunham," said Cap, as soon
as Pathfinder finished his narration; "he must be turned over to the
master-at-arms, if there is any such officer on fresh water, and a
court-martial ought to be ordered as soon as we reach port."

"I think it wisest to detain the fellow," the Sergeant answered; "but
irons are unnecessary so long as he remains in the cutter. In the
morning the matter shall be inquired into."

Arrowhead was now summoned and told the decision. The Indian listened
gravely, and made no objections. On the contrary, he submitted with the
calm and reserved dignity with which the American aborigines are known
to yield to fate; and he stood apart, an attentive but calm observer of
what was passing. Jasper caused the cutter's sails to be filled, and the
_Scud_ resumed her course.

It was now getting near the hour to set the watch, and when it was usual
to retire for the night. Most of the party went below, leaving no one on
deck but Cap, the Sergeant, Jasper, and two of the crew. Arrowhead and
his wife also remained, the former standing aloof in proud reserve,
and the latter exhibiting, by her attitude and passiveness, the meek
humility that characterizes an Indian woman.

"You will find a place for your wife below, Arrowhead, where my daughter
will attend to her wants," said the Sergeant kindly, who was himself on
the point of quitting the deck; "yonder is a sail where you may sleep
yourself."

"I thank my father. The Tuscaroras are not poor. The woman will look for
my blankets in the canoe."

"As you wish, my friend. We think it necessary to detain you; but not
necessary to confine or to maltreat you. Send your squaw into the canoe
for the blankets and you may follow her yourself, and hand us up the
paddles. As there may be some sleepy heads in the _Scud_, Eau-douce,"
added the Sergeant in a lower tone, "it may be well to secure the
paddles."

Jasper assented, and Arrowhead and his wife, with whom resistance
appeared to be out of the question, silently complied with the
directions. A few expressions of sharp rebuke passed from the Indian
to his wife, while both were employed in the canoe, which the latter
received with submissive quiet, immediately repairing an error she had
made by laying aside the blanket she had taken and searching for another
that was more to her tyrant's mind.

"Come, bear a hand, Arrowhead," said the Sergeant, who stood on the
gunwale overlooking the movements of the two, which were proceeding too
slowly for the impatience of a drowsy man; "it is getting late; and we
soldiers have such a thing as reveille--early to bed and early to rise."

"Arrowhead is coming," was the answer, as the Tuscarora stepped towards
the head of his canoe.

One blow of his keen knife severed the rope which held the boat, and
then the cutter glanced ahead, leaving the light bubble of bark, which
instantly lost its way, almost stationary. So suddenly and dexterously
was this manoeuvre performed, that the canoe was on the lee quarter of
the _Scud_ before the Sergeant was aware of the artifice, and quite in
her wake ere he had time to announce it to his companions.

"Hard-a-lee!" shouted Jasper, letting fly the jib-sheet with his own
hands, when the cutter came swiftly up to the breeze, with all her
canvas flapping, or was running into the wind's eye, as seamen term
it, until the light craft was a hundred feet to windward of her former
position. Quick and dexterous as was this movement, and ready as had
been the expedient, it was not quicker or more ready than that of the
Tuscarora. With an intelligence that denoted some familiarity with
vessels, he had seized his paddle and was already skimming the
water, aided by the efforts of his wife. The direction he took was
south-westerly, or on a line that led him equally towards the wind and
the shore, while it also kept him so far aloof from the cutter as to
avoid the danger of the latter falling on board of him when she filled
on the other tack. Swiftly as the _Scud_ had shot into the wind, and far
as she had forced ahead, Jasper knew it was necessary to cast her ere
she had lost all her way; and it was not two minutes from the time the
helm had been put down before the lively little craft was aback forward,
and rapidly falling off, in order to allow her sails to fill on the
opposite tack.

"He will escape!" said Jasper the instant he caught a glimpse of the
relative bearings of the cutter and the canoe. "The cunning knave is
paddling dead to windward, and the _Scud_ can never overtake him!"

"You have a canoe!" exclaimed the Sergeant, manifesting the eagerness of
a boy to join in the pursuit; "let us launch it, and give chase!"

"It will be useless. If Pathfinder had been on deck, there might have
been a chance; but there is none now. To launch the canoe would have
taken three or four minutes, and the time lost would be sufficient for
the purposes of Arrowhead."

Both Cap and the Sergeant saw the truth of this, which would have been
nearly self-evident even to one unaccustomed to vessels. The shore was
distant less than half a mile, and the canoe was already glancing into
its shadows, at a rate to show that it would reach the land before its
pursuers could probably get half the distance. The helm of the _Scud_
was reluctantly put up again, and the cutter wore short round on her
heel, coming up to her course on the other tack, as if acting on
an instinct. All this was done by Jasper in profound silence, his
assistants understanding what was necessary, and lending their aid in a
sort of mechanical imitation. While these manoeuvres were in the course
of execution, Cap took the Sergeant by a button, and led him towards the
cabin-door, where he was out of ear-shot, and began to unlock his stores
of thought.

"Hark'e, brother Dunham," said he, with an ominous face, "this is a
matter that requires mature thought and much circumspection."

"The life of a soldier, brother Cap, is one of constant thought and
circumspection. On this frontier, were we to overlook either, our scalps
might be taken from our heads in the first nap."

"But I consider this capture of Arrowhead as a circumstance; and I might
add his escape as another. This Jasper Freshwater must look to it."

"They are both circumstances truly, brother; but they tell different
ways. If it is a circumstance against the lad that the Indian has
escaped, it is a circumstance in his favor that he was first taken."

"Ay, ay, but two circumstances do not contradict each other like two
negatives. If you will follow the advice of an old seaman, Sergeant, not
a moment is to be lost in taking the steps necessary for the security of
the vessel and all on board of her. The cutter is now slipping through
the water at the rate of six knots, and as the distances are so short
on this bit of a pond, we may all find ourselves in a French port before
morning, and in a French prison before night."

"This may be true enough. What would you advise me to do, brother?"

"In my opinion you should put this Master Freshwater under arrest on the
spot; send him below under the charge of a sentinel, and transfer the
command of the cutter to me. All this you have power to perform, the
craft belonging to the army, and you being the commanding officer of the
troops present."

Sergeant Dunham deliberated more than an hour on the propriety of this
proposal; for, though sufficiently prompt when his mind was really made
up, he was habitually thoughtful and wary. The habit of superintending
the personal police of the garrison had made him acquainted with
character, and he had long been disposed to think well of Jasper. Still
that subtle poison, suspicion, had entered his soul; and so much were
the artifices and intrigues of the French dreaded, that, especially
warned as he had been by his commander, it is not to be wondered that
the recollection of years of good conduct should vanish under the
influence of a distrust so keen, and seemingly so plausible. In this
embarrassment the Sergeant consulted the Quartermaster, whose opinion,
as his superior, he felt bound to respect, though at the moment
independent of his control. It is an unfortunate occurrence for one who
is in a dilemma to ask advice of another who is desirous of standing
well in his favor, the party consulted being almost certain to try
to think in the manner which will be the most agreeable to the party
consulting. In the present instance it was equally unfortunate, as
respects a candid consideration of the subject, that Cap, instead of the
Sergeant himself, made the statement of the case; for the earnest old
sailor was not backward in letting his listener perceive to which side
he was desirous that the Quartermaster should lean. Lieutenant Muir was
much too politic to offend the uncle and father of the woman he hoped
and expected to win, had he really thought the case admitted of doubt;
but, in the manner in which the facts were submitted to him, he was
seriously inclined to think that it would be well to put the control
of the _Scud_ temporarily into the management of Cap, as a precaution
against treachery. This opinion then decided the Sergeant, who forthwith
set about the execution of the necessary measures.

Without entering into any explanations, Sergeant Dunham simply informed
Jasper that he felt it to be his duty to deprive him temporarily of the
command of the cutter, and to confer it on his own brother-in-law. A
natural and involuntary burst of surprise, which escaped the young man,
was met by a quiet remark, reminding him that military service was
often of a nature that required concealment, and a declaration that the
present duty was of such a character that this particular arrangement
had become indispensable. Although Jasper's astonishment remained
undiminished,--the Sergeant cautiously abstaining from making any
allusion to his suspicions,--the young man was accustomed to obey with
military submission; and he quietly acquiesced, with his own mouth
directing the little crew to receive their further orders from Cap until
another change should be effected. When, however, he was told the case
required that not only he himself, but his principal assistant, who, on
account of his long acquaintance with the lake, was usually termed the
pilot, were to remain below, there was an alteration in his countenance
and manner that denoted strong feeling, though it was so well mastered
as to leave even the distrustful Cap in doubt as to its meaning. As a
matter of course, however, when distrust exists, it was not long before
the worst construction was put upon it.

As soon as Jasper and the pilot were below, the sentinel at the hatch
received private orders to pay particular attention to both; to allow
neither to come on deck again without giving instant notice to the
person who might then be in charge of the cutter, and to insist on his
return below as soon as possible. This precaution, however, was uncalled
for; Jasper and his assistant both throwing themselves silently on their
pallets, which neither quitted again that night.

"And now, Sergeant," said Cap, as soon as he found himself master of
the deck, "you will just have the goodness to give me the courses and
distance, that I may see the boat keeps her head the right way."

"I know nothing of either, brother Cap," returned Dunham, not a little
embarrassed at the question. "We must make the best of our way to the
station among the Thousand Islands, 'where we shall land, relieve
the party that is already out, and get information for our future
government.' That's it, nearly word for word, as it stands in the
written orders."

"But you can muster a chart--something in the way of bearings and
distances, that I may see the road?"

"I do not think Jasper ever had anything of the sort to go by."

"No chart, Sergeant Dunham!"

"Not a scrap of a pen even. Our sailors navigate this lake without any
aid from maps."

"The devil they do! They must be regular Yahoos. And do you suppose,
Sergeant Dunham, that I can find one island out of a thousand without
knowing its name or its position, without even a course or a distance?"

"As for the _name_, brother Cap, you need not be particular, for not one
of the whole thousand _has_ a name, and so a mistake can never be made
on that score. As for the position, never having been there myself,
I can tell you nothing about it, nor do I think its position of any
particular consequence, provided we find the spot. Perhaps one of the
hands on deck can tell us the way."

"Hold on, Sergeant--hold on a moment, if you please, Sergeant Dunham.
If I am to command this craft, it must be done, if you please, without
holding any councils of war with the cook and cabin-boy. A ship-master
is a ship-master, and he must have an opinion of his own, even if it be
a wrong one. I suppose you know service well enough to understand that
it is better in a commander to go wrong than to go nowhere. At all
events, the Lord High Admiral couldn't command a yawl with dignity, if
he consulted the cockswain every time he wished to go ashore. No sir, if
I sink, I sink! but, d---me, I'll go down ship-shape and with dignity."

"But, brother Cap, I have no wish to go down anywhere, unless it be to
the station among the Thousand Islands whither we are bound."

"Well, well, Sergeant, rather than ask advice--that is, direct,
barefaced advice--of a foremast hand, or any other than a quarter-deck
officer, I would go round to the whole thousand, and examine them one by
one until we got the right haven. But there is such a thing as coming at
an opinion without manifesting ignorance, and I will manage to rouse all
there is out of these hands, and make them think all the while that I
am cramming them with my own experience! We are sometimes obliged to use
the glass at sea when there is nothing in sight, or to heave the lead
long before we strike soundings. When a youngster, sailed two v'y'ges
with a man who navigated his ship pretty much by the latter sort of
information, which sometimes answers."

"I know we are steering in the right direction at present," returned
the Sergeant; "but in the course of a few hours we shall be up with a
headland, where we must feel our way with more caution."

"Leave me to pump the man at the wheel, brother, and you shall see that
I will make him suck in a very few minutes."

Cap and the Sergeant now walked aft, until they stood by the sailor who
was at the helm, Cap maintaining an air of security and tranquillity,
like one who was entirely confident of his own powers.

"This is a wholesome air, my lad," Cap observed, in the manner that a
superior on board a vessel sometimes condescends to use to a favored
inferior. "Of course you have it in this fashion off the land every
night?"

"At this season of the year, sir," the man returned, touching his hat,
out of respect, to his new commander and Sergeant Dunham's connection.

"The same thing, I take it, among the Thousand Islands? The wind will
stand, of course, though we shall then have land on every side of us."

"When we get farther east, sir, the wind will probably shift, for there
can then be no particular land-breeze."

"Ay, ay; so much for your fresh water! It has always some trick that is
opposed to nature. Now, down among the West India Islands, one is just
as certain of having a land-breeze as he is of having a sea-breeze. In
that respect there is no difference, though it's quite in rule it should
be different up here on this bit of fresh water. Of course, my lad, you
know all about these said Thousand Islands?"

"Lord bless you, Master Cap, nobody knows all about them or anything
about them. They are a puzzle to the oldest sailor on the lake, and we
don't pretend to know even their names. For that matter, most of them
have no more names than a child that dies before it is christened."

"Are you a Roman Catholic?" demanded the Sergeant sharply.

"No, sir, nor anything else. I'm a generalizer about religion, never
troubling that which don't trouble me."

"Hum! a generalizer; that is, no doubt, one of the new sects that
afflict the country," muttered Mr. Dunham, whose grandfather had been
a New Jersey Quaker, his father a Presbyterian, and who had joined the
Church of England himself after he entered the army.

"I take it, John--" resumed Cap. "Your name is Jack, I believe?"

"No, sir; I am called Robert."

"Ay, Robert, it's very much the same thing, Jack or Bob; we use the two
indifferently. I say, Bob, it's good holding ground, is it, down at this
same station for which we are bound?"

"Bless you, sir! I know no more about it than one of the Mohawks, or a
soldier of the 55th."

"Did you never anchor there?"

"Never, sir. Master Eau-douce always makes fast to the shore."

"But in running in for the town, you kept the lead going, out of
question, and must have tallowed as usual."

"Tallow!--and town, too! Bless your heart, Master Cap! there is no more
town than there is on your chin, and not half as much tallow!"

The Sergeant smiled grimly, but his brother-in-law did not detect this
proof of humor.

"No church tower, nor light, nor fort, ha? There is a garrison, as you
call it hereaway, at least?"

"Ask Sergeant Dunham, sir, if you wish to know that. All the garrison is
on board the _Scud_."

"But in running in, Bob, which of the channels do you think the best?
the one you went last, or--or--or--ay, or the other?"

"I can't say, sir; I know nothing of either."

"You didn't go to sleep, fellow, at the wheel, did you?"

"Not at the wheel, sir, but down in the fore-peak in my berth. Eau-douce
sent us below, soldiers and all, with the exception of the pilot, and we
know no more of the road than if we had never been over it. This he has
always done in going in and coming out; and, for the life of me, I could
tell you nothing of the channel, or the course, after we are once fairly
up with the islands. No one knows anything of either but Jasper and the
pilot."

"Here is a circumstance for you, Sergeant," said Cap, leading his
brother-in-law a little aside; "there is no one on board to pump, for
they all suck from ignorance at the first stroke of the brake. How the
devil am I to find the way to this station for which we are bound?"

"Sure enough, brother Cap, your question is more easily put than
answered. Is there no such thing as figuring it out by navigation? I
thought you salt-water mariners were able to do as small a thing as
that. I have often read of their discovering islands, surely."

"That you have, brother, that you have; and this discovery would be the
greatest of them all; for it would not only be discovering one island,
but one island out of a thousand."

"Still, the sailors of the lake have a method of finding the places they
wish to go to."

"If I have understood you, Sergeant, this station or blockhouse is
particularly private."

"It is, indeed, the utmost care having been taken to prevent a knowledge
of its position from reaching the enemy."

"And you expect me, a stranger on your lake, to find this place without
chart, course, distance, latitude, longitude, or soundings,--ay, d---me,
or tallow! Allow me to ask if you think a mariner runs by his nose, like
one of Pathfinder's hounds?"

"Well, brother, you may yet learn something by questioning the young man
at the helm; I can hardly think that he is as ignorant as he pretends to
be."

"Hum!--this looks like another circumstance. For that matter, the case
is getting to be so full of circumstances that one hardly knows how to
foot up the evidence. But we will soon see how much the lad knows."

Cap and the Sergeant now returned to their station near the helm, and
the former renewed his inquiries.

"Do you happen to know what may be the latitude and longitude of this
said island, my lad?" he asked.

"The what, sir?"

"Why, the latitude or longitude--one or both; I'm not particular which,
as I merely inquire in order to see how they bring up young men on this
bit of fresh water."

"I'm not particular about either myself, sir, and so I do not happen to
know what you mean."

"Not what I mean! You know what latitude is?"

"Not I, sir!" returned the man, hesitating. "Though I believe it is
French for the upper lakes."

"Whe-e-e-w-!" whistled Cap, drawing out his breath like the broken stop
of an organ; "latitude, French for upper lakes! Hark'e, young man, do
you know what longitude means?"

"I believe I do, sir; that is, five feet six, the regulation height for
soldiers in the king's service."

"There's the longitude found out for you, Sergeant, in the rattling of
a brace-block! You have some notion about a degree, and minutes and
seconds, I hope?"

"Yes, sir; degree means my betters; and minutes and seconds are for
the short or long log-lines. We all know these things as well as the
salt-water people."

"D---me, brother Dunham, if I think even Faith can get along on this
lake, much as they say it can do with mountains. Well, my lad, you
understand the azimuth, and measuring distances, and how to box the
compass."

"As for the first, sir, I can't say I do. The distances we all know, as
we measure them from point to point; and as for boxing the compass, I
will turn my back to no admiral in his Majesty's fleet. Nothe, nothe
and by east, nothe, nothe-east, nothe-east and by nothe, nothe-east,
nothe-east and by east, east-nothe-east, east and by nothe-east--"

"That will do, that will do. You'll bring about a shift of wind if you
go on in this manner. I see very plainly, Sergeant," walking away again,
and dropping his voice, "we've nothing to hope for from that chap. I'll
stand on two hours longer on this tack, when we'll heave-to and get the
soundings, after which we will be governed by circumstances."

To this the Sergeant made no objections; and as the wind grew lighter,
as usual with the advance of night, and there were no immediate
obstacles to the navigation, he made a bed of a sail on deck, and was
soon lost in the sound sleep of a soldier. Cap continued to walk the
deck, for he was one whose iron frame set fatigue at defiance, and not
once that night did he close his eyes.

It was broad daylight when Sergeant Dunham awoke, and the exclamation
of surprise that escaped him, as he rose to his feet and began to look
about him, was stronger than it was usual for one so drilled to suffer
to be heard. He found the weather entirely changed, the view bounded
by driving mist that limited the visible horizon to a circle of about a
mile in diameter, the lake raging and covered with foam, and the _Scud_
lying-to. A brief conversation with his brother-in-law let him into the
secrets of all these sudden changes.

According to the account of Master Cap, the wind had died away to a calm
about midnight, or just as he was thinking of heaving-to, to sound, for
islands ahead were beginning to be seen. At one A.M. it began to blow
from the north-east, accompanied by a drizzle, and he stood off to the
northward and westward, knowing that the coast of New York lay in the
opposite direction. At half-past one he stowed the flying-jib, reefed
the mainsail, and took the bonnet off the jib. At two he was compelled
to get a second reef aft; and by half-past two he had put a balance-reef
in the sail, and was lying-to.

"I can't say but the boat behaves well, Sergeant," the old sailor added,
"but it blows forty-two pounders. I had no idea there were any such
currents of air up here on this bit of fresh water, though I care
not the knotting of a yarn for it, as your lake has now somewhat of a
natural look; and if this d----d water had a savor of salt about it, one
might be comfortable."

"How long have you been heading in this direction, brother Cap?"
inquired the prudent soldier; "and at what rate may we be going through
the water?"

"Why, two or three hours, mayhap, and she went like a horse for the
first pair of them. Oh, we've a fine offing now! for, to own the truth,
little relishing the neighborhood of them said islands, although they
are to windward, I took the helm myself, and run her off free for some
league or two. We are well to leeward of them, I'll engage--I say to
leeward; for though one might wish to be well to windward of one island,
or even half a dozen, when it comes to a thousand, the better way is
to give it up at once, and to slide down under their lee as fast as
possible. No, no; there they are up yonder in the dingle; and there they
may stay, for anything Charles Cap cares."

"As the north shore lies only some five or six leagues from us, brother,
and I know there is a large bay in that quarter, might it not be well to
consult some of the crew concerning our position, if, indeed, we do not
call up Jasper Eau-douce, and tell him to carry us back to Oswego? For
it is quite impossible we should ever reach the station with this wind
directly in our teeth."

"There are several serious professional reasons, Sergeant, against all
your propositions. In the first place, an admission of ignorance on
the part of a commander would destroy discipline. No matter, brother;
I understand your shake of the head, but nothing capsizes discipline so
much as to confess ignorance. I once knew a master of a vessel who went
a week on a wrong course rather than allow he had made a mistake; and
it was surprising how much he rose in the opinions of his people, just
because they could not understand him."

"That may do on salt water, brother Cap, but it will hardly do on fresh.
Rather than wreck my command on the Canada shore, I shall feel it a duty
to take Jasper out of arrest."

"And make a haven in Frontenac. No, Sergeant; the _Scud_ is in good
hands, and will now learn something of seamanship. We have a fine
offing, and no one but a madman would think of going upon a coast in
a gale like this. I shall ware every watch, and then we shall be safe
against all dangers but those of the drift, which, in a light low craft
like this, without top-hamper, will be next to nothing. Leave it all
to me, Sergeant, and I pledge you the character of Charles Cap that all
will go well."

Sergeant Dunham was fain to yield. He had great confidence in his
connection's professional skill, and hoped that he would take such care
of the cutter as would amply justify his opinion of him. On the other
hand, as distrust, like care, grows by what it feeds on, he entertained
so much apprehension of treachery, that he was quite willing any one but
Jasper should just then have the control of the fate of the whole party.
Truth, moreover, compels us to admit another motive. The particular
duty on which he was now sent of right should have been confided to
a commissioned officer; and Major Duncan had excited a good deal of
discontent among the subalterns of the garrison, by having confided it
to one of the Sergeant's humble station. To return without having even
reached the point of destination, therefore, the latter felt would be
a failure from which he was not likely soon to recover, and the measure
would at once be the means of placing a superior in his shoes.



CHAPTER XVI.

     Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
     Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
     Calm or convulsed--in breeze, or gale, or storm,
     Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
     Dark-heaving;--boundless, endless, and sublime--
     The image of eternity; the throne
     Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
     The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
     Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
     BYRON.


As the day advanced, that portion of the inmates of the vessel which had
the liberty of doing so appeared on deck. As yet the sea was not very
high, from which it was inferred that the cutter was still under the lee
of the islands; but it was apparent to all who understood the lake that
they were about to experience one of the heavy autumnal gales of
that region. Land was nowhere visible; and the horizon on every side
exhibited that gloomy void, which lends to all views on vast bodies of
water the sublimity of mystery. The swells, or, as landsmen term them,
the waves, were short and curling, breaking of necessity sooner than
the longer seas of the ocean; while the element itself, instead of
presenting that beautiful hue which rivals the deep tint of the southern
sky, looked green and angry, though wanting in the lustre that is
derived from the rays of the sun.

The soldiers were soon satisfied with the prospect, and one by one they
disappeared, until none were left on deck but the crew, the Sergeant,
Cap, Pathfinder, the Quartermaster, and Mabel. There was a shade on the
brow of the last, who had been made acquainted with the real state of
things, and who had fruitlessly ventured an appeal in favor of Jasper's
restoration to the command. A night's rest and a night's reflection
appeared also to have confirmed the Pathfinder in his opinion of the
young man's innocence; and he, too, had made a warm appeal on behalf of
his friend, though with the same want of success.

Several hours passed away, the wind gradually getting heavier and the
sea rising, until the motion of the cutter compelled Mabel and the
Quartermaster to retreat also. Cap wore several times; and it was now
evident that the _Scud_ was drifting into the broader and deeper parts
of the lake, the seas raging down upon her in a way that none but a
vessel of superior mould and build could have long ridden and withstood.
All this, however, gave Cap no uneasiness; but, like the hunter that
pricks his ears at the sound of the horn, or the war-horse that paws and
snorts with pleasure at the roll of the drum, the whole scene awakened
all that was man within him; and instead of the captious, supercilious,
and dogmatic critic, quarrelling with trifles and exaggerating
immaterial things, he began to exhibit the qualities of the hardy and
experienced seaman which he truly was. The hands soon imbibed a respect
for his skill; and, though they wondered at the disappearance of their
old commander and the pilot, for which no reason had been publicly
given, they soon yielded an implicit and cheerful obedience to the new
one.

"This bit of fresh water, after all, brother Dunham, has some spirit, I
find," cried Cap about noon, rubbing his hands in pure satisfaction at
finding himself once more wrestling with the elements. "The wind
seems to be an honest old-fashioned gale, and the seas have a fanciful
resemblance to those of the Gulf Stream. I like this, Sergeant, I like
this, and shall get to respect your lake, if it hold out twenty-four
hours longer in the fashion in which it has begun."

"Land, ho!" shouted the man who was stationed on the forecastle.

Cap hurried forward; and there, sure enough, the land was visible
through the drizzle, at the distance of about half a mile, the cutter
heading directly towards it. The first impulse of the old seaman was
to give an order to "stand by, to ware off shore;" but the cool-headed
soldier restrained him.

"By going a little nearer," said the Sergeant, "some of us may recognize
the place. Most of us know the American shore in this part of the lake;
and it will be something gained to learn our position."

"Very true, very true; if, indeed, there is any chance of that we will
hold on. What is this off here, a little on our weather-bow? It looks
like a low headland."

"The garrison, by Jove!" exclaimed the other, whose trained eye sooner
recognized the military outlines than the less instructed senses of his
connection.

The Sergeant was not mistaken. There was the fort, sure enough, though
it looked dim and indistinct through the fine rain, as if it were seen
in the dusk of evening or the haze of morning. The low, sodded, and
verdant ramparts, the sombre palisades, now darker than ever with water,
the roof of a house or two, the tall, solitary flagstaff, with its
halyards blown steadily out into a curve that appeared traced in
immovable lines in the air, were all soon to be seen though no sign of
animated life could be discovered. Even the sentinel was housed; and at
first it was believed that no eye would detect the presence of their
own vessel. But the unceasing vigilance of a border garrison did not
slumber: one of the look-outs probably made the interesting discovery;
a man or two were seen on some elevated stands, and then the entire
ramparts next the lake were dotted with human beings.

The whole scene was one in which sublimity was singularly relieved by
the picturesque. The raging of the tempest had a character of duration
that rendered it easy to imagine it might be a permanent feature of
the spot. The roar of the wind was without intermission, and the raging
water answered to its dull but grand strains with hissing spray, a
menacing wash, and sullen surges. The drizzle made a medium for the eye
which closely resembled that of a thin mist, softening and rendering
mysterious the images it revealed, while the genial feeling that is
apt to accompany a gale of wind on water contributed to aid the milder
influences of the moment. The dark interminable forest hove up out
of the obscurity, grand, sombre, and impressive, while the solitary,
peculiar, and picturesque glimpses of life that were caught in and about
the fort, formed a refuge for the eye to retreat to when oppressed with
the more imposing objects of nature.

"They see us," said the Sergeant, "and think we have returned on account
of the gale, and have fallen to leeward of the port. Yes, there is Major
Duncan himself on the north-eastern bastion; I know him by his height,
and by the officers around him."

"Sergeant, it would be worth standing a little jeering, if we could
fetch into the river, and come safely to an anchor. In that case, too,
we might land this Master Eau-douce, and purify the boat."

"It would indeed; but, as poor a sailor as I am, I well know it cannot
be done. Nothing that sails the lake can turn to windward against this
gale; and there is no anchorage outside in weather like this."

"I know it, I see it, Sergeant; and pleasant as is that sight to you
landsmen, we must leave it. For myself, I am never so happy in heavy
weather as when I am certain that the land is behind me."

The _Scud_ had now forged so near in, that it became indispensable to
lay her head off shore again, and the necessary orders were given. The
storm-staysail was set forward, the gaff lowered, the helm put up, and
the light craft, that seemed to sport with the elements like a duck,
fell off a little, drew ahead swiftly, obeyed her rudder, and was soon
flying away on the top of the surges, dead before the gale. While
making this rapid flight, though the land still remained in view on
her larboard beam, the fort and the groups of anxious spectators on
its rampart were swallowed up in the mist. Then followed the evolutions
necessary to bring the head of the cutter up to the wind, when she again
began to wallow her weary way towards the north shore.

Hours now passed before any further change was made, the wind increasing
in force, until even the dogmatical Cap fairly admitted it was blowing
a thorough gale of wind. About sunset the _Scud_ wore again to keep her
off the north shore during the hours of darkness; and at midnight her
temporary master, who, by questioning the crew in an indirect manner,
had obtained some general knowledge of the size and shape of the lake,
believed himself to be about midway between the two shores. The height
and length of the seas aided this impression; and it must be added
that Cap by this time began to feel a respect for fresh water which
twenty-four hours earlier he would have derided as impossible. Just as
the night turned, the fury of the wind became so great that he found it
impossible to bear up against it, the water falling on the deck of the
little craft in such masses as to cause it to shake to the centre, and,
though a vessel of singularly lively qualities, to threaten to bury it
beneath its weight. The people of the _Scud_ averred that never before
had they been out in such a tempest, which was true; for, possessing
a perfect knowledge of all the rivers and headlands and havens, Jasper
would have carried the cutter in shore long ere this, and placed her in
safety in some secure anchorage. But Cap still disdained to consult the
young master, who continued below, determining to act like a mariner of
the broad ocean.

It was one in the morning when the storm-staysail was again got on the
_Scud_, the head of the mainsail lowered, and the cutter put before the
wind. Although the canvas now exposed was merely a rag in surface, the
little craft nobly justified the use of the name she bore. For eight
hours did she scud in truth; and it was almost with the velocity of the
gulls that wheeled wildly over her in the tempest, apparently afraid
to alight in the boiling caldron of the lake. The dawn of day brought
little change; for no other horizon became visible than the little
circle of drizzling sky and water already described, in which it seemed
as if the elements were rioting in a sort of chaotic confusion. During
this time the crew and passengers of the cutter were of necessity
passive. Jasper and the pilot remained below; but, the motion of the
vessel having become easier, nearly all the rest were on deck. The
morning meal had been taken in silence, and eye met eye, as if their
owners asked each other, in dumb show, what was to be the end of this
strife in the elements. Cap, however, was perfectly composed, and his
face brightened, his step grew firmer, and his whole air more assured,
as the storm increased, making larger demands on his professional skill
and personal spirit. He stood on the forecastle, his arms crossed,
balancing his body with a seaman's instinct, while his eyes watched the
caps of the seas, as they broke and glanced past the reeling cutter,
itself in such swift motion, as if they were the scud flying athwart the
sky. At this sublime instant one of the hands gave the unexpected cry of
"A sail!"

There was so much of the wild and solitary character of the wilderness
about Ontario, that one scarcely expected to meet with a vessel on its
waters. The _Scud_ herself, to those who were in her, resembled a
man threading the forest alone, and the meeting was like that of two
solitary hunters beneath the broad canopy of leaves that then covered so
many millions of acres on the continent of America. The peculiar state
of the weather served to increase the romantic, almost supernatural
appearance of the passage. Cap alone regarded it with practised eyes,
and even he felt his iron nerves thrill under the sensations that were
awakened by the wild features of the scene.

The strange vessel was about two cables' length ahead of the _Scud_,
standing by the wind athwart her bows, and steering a course to render
it probable that the latter would pass within a few yards of her.
She was a full-rigged ship; and, seen through the misty medium of the
tempest, the most experienced eye could detect no imperfection in her
gear or construction. The only canvas she had set was a close-reefed
main-topsail, and two small storm-staysails, one forward and the other
aft. Still the power of the wind pressed so hard upon her as to bear her
down nearly to her beam-ends, whenever the hull was not righted by the
buoyancy of some wave under her lee. Her spars were all in their places,
and by her motion through the water, which might have equalled four
knots in the hour, it was apparent that she steered a little free.

"The fellow must know his position well," said Cap, as the cutter flew
down towards the ship with a velocity almost equalling that of the gale,
"for he is standing boldly to the southward, where he expects to find
anchorage or a haven. No man in his senses would run off free in that
fashion, that was not driven to scudding, like ourselves, who did not
perfectly understand where he was going."

"We have made an awful run, captain," returned the man to whom this
remark had been addressed. "That is the French king's ship, Lee-my-calm
(_Le Montcalm_), and she is standing in for the Niagara, where her owner
has a garrison and a port. We've made an awful run of it!"

"Ay, bad luck to him! Frenchman-like, he skulks into port the moment he
sees an English bottom."

"It might be well for us if we could follow him," returned the man,
shaking his head despondingly, "for we are getting into the end of a bay
up here at the head of the lake, and it is uncertain whether we ever get
out of it again!"

"Pooh, man, pooh! We have plenty of sea room, and a good English hull
beneath us. We are no Johnny Crapauds to hide ourselves behind a point
or a fort on account of a puff of wind. Mind your helm, sir!"

The order was given on account of the menacing appearance of the
approaching passage. The _Scud_ was now heading directly for the
fore-foot of the Frenchman; and, the distance between the two vessels
having diminished to a hundred yards, it was momentarily questionable if
there was room to pass.

"Port, sir, port," shouted Cap. "Port your helm and pass astern!"

The crew of the Frenchman were seen assembling to windward, and a few
muskets were pointed, as if to order the people of the _Scud_ to keep
off. Gesticulations were observed, but the sea was too wild and menacing
to admit of the ordinary expedients of war. The water was dripping from
the muzzles of two or three light guns on board the ship, but no one
thought of loosening them for service in such a tempest. Her black
sides, as they emerged from a wave, glistened and seemed to frown; but
the wind howled through her rigging, whistling the thousand notes of
a ship; and the hails and cries that escape a Frenchman with so much
readiness were inaudible.

"Let him halloo himself hoarse!" growled Cap. "This is no weather to
whisper secrets in. Port, sir, port!"

The man at the helm obeyed, and the next send of the sea drove the
_Scud_ down upon the quarter of the ship, so near her that the old
mariner himself recoiled a step, in a vague expectation that, at the
next surge ahead, she would drive bows foremost directly into the planks
of the other vessel. But this was not to be: rising from the crouching
posture she had taken, like a panther about to leap, the cutter dashed
onward, and at the next instant she was glancing past the stern of her
enemy, just clearing the end of her spanker-boom with her own lower
yard.

The young Frenchman who commanded the _Montcalm_ leaped on the taffrail;
and, with that high-toned courtesy which relieves even the worst acts of
his countrymen, he raised his cap and smiled a salutation as the _Scud_
shot past. There were _bonhomie_ and good taste in this act of courtesy,
when circumstances allowed of no other communications; but they were
lost on Cap, who, with an instinct quite as true to his race, shook his
fist menacingly, and muttered to himself,--

"Ay, ay, it's d----d lucky for you I've no armament on board here,
or I'd send you in to get new cabin-windows fitted. Sergeant, he's a
humbug."

"'Twas civil, brother Cap," returned the other, lowering his hand from
the military salute which his pride as a soldier had induced him to
return,--"'twas civil, and that's as much as you can expect from a
Frenchman. What he really meant by it no one can say."

"He is not heading up to this sea without an object, neither. Well,
let him run in, if he can get there, we will keep the lake, like hearty
English mariners."

This sounded gloriously, but Cap eyed with envy the glittering black
mass of the _Montcalm's_ hull, her waving topsail, and the misty
tracery of her spars, as she grew less and less distinct, and finally
disappeared in the drizzle, in a form as shadowy as that of some unreal
image. Gladly would he have followed in her wake had he dared; for, to
own the truth, the prospect of another stormy night in the midst of
the wild waters that were raging around him brought little consolation.
Still he had too much professional pride to betray his uneasiness, and
those under his care relied on his knowledge and resources, with the
implicit and blind confidence that the ignorant are apt to feel.

A few hours succeeded, and darkness came again to increase the perils of
the _Scud_. A lull in the gale, however, had induced Cap to come by
the wind once more, and throughout the night the cutter was lying-to as
before, head-reaching as a matter of course, and occasionally wearing to
keep off the land. It is unnecessary to dwell on the incidents of this
night, which resembled those of any other gale of wind. There were the
pitching of the vessel, the hissing of the waters, the dashing of spray,
the shocks that menaced annihilation to the little craft as she plunged
into the seas, the undying howl of the wind, and the fearful drift.
The last was the most serious danger; for, though exceedingly weatherly
under her canvas, and totally without top-hamper, the _Scud_ was so
light, that the combing of the swells would seem at times to wash
her down to leeward with a velocity as great as that of the surges
themselves.

During this night Cap slept soundly, and for several hours. The day was
just dawning when he felt himself shaken by the shoulder; and arousing
himself, he found the Pathfinder standing at his side. During the gale
the guide had appeared little on deck, for his natural modesty told him
that seamen alone should interfere with the management of the vessel;
and he was willing to show the same reliance on those who had charge
of the _Scud_, as he expected those who followed through the forest
to manifest in his own skill; but he now thought himself justified
in interfering, which he did in his own unsophisticated and peculiar
manner.

"Sleep is sweet, Master Cap," said he, as soon as the eyes of the
latter were fairly open, and his consciousness had sufficiently
returned,--"sleep is sweet, as I know from experience, but life is
sweeter still. Look about you, and say if this is exactly the moment for
a commander to be off his feet."

"How now? how now, Master Pathfinder?" growled Cap, in the first moments
of his awakened faculties. "Are you, too, getting on the side of the
grumblers? When ashore I admired your sagacity in running through the
worst shoals without a compass; and since we have been afloat, your
meekness and submission have been as pleasant as your confidence on your
own ground. I little expected such a summons from you."

"As for myself, Master Cap, I feel I have my gifts, and I believe
they'll interfere with those of no other man; but the case may be
different with Mabel Dunham. She has her gifts, too, it is true; but
they are not rude like ours, but gentle and womanish, as they ought to
be. It's on her account that I speak, and not on my own."

"Ay, ay, I begin to understand. The girl is a good girl, my worthy
friend; but she is a soldier's daughter and a sailor's niece, and ought
not to be too tame or too tender in a gale. Does she show any fear?"

"Not she! not she! Mabel is a woman, but she is reasonable and silent.
Not a word have I heard from her concerning our doings; though I do
think, Master Cap, she would like it better if Jasper Eau-douce were put
into his proper place, and things were restored to their old situation,
like. This is human natur'."

"I'll warrant it--girl-like, and Dunham-like, too. Anything is better
than an old uncle, and everybody knows more than an old seaman. _This_
is human natur', Master Pathfinder, and d---me if I'm the man to sheer a
fathom, starboard or port, for all the human natur' that can be found
in a minx of twenty--ay, or" (lowering his voice a little) "for all that
can be paraded in his Majesty's 55th regiment of foot. I've not been
at sea forty years, to come up on this bit of fresh water to be taught
human natur'. How this gale holds out! It blows as hard at this moment
as if Boreas had just clapped his hand upon the bellows. And what is
all this to leeward?" (rubbing his eyes)--"land! as sure as my name is
Cap--and high land, too."

The Pathfinder made no immediate answer; but, shaking his head, he
watched the expression of his companion's face, with a look of strong
anxiety in his own.

"Land, as certain as this is the _Scud!_" repeated Cap; "a lee shore,
and that, too, within a league of us, with as pretty a line of breakers
as one could find on the beach of all Long Island!"

"And is that encouraging? or is it disheartening?" inquired the
Pathfinder.

"Ha! encouraging--disheartening!--why, neither. No, no, there is
nothing encouraging about it; and as for disheartening, nothing ought to
dishearten a seaman. You never get disheartened or afraid in the woods,
my friend?"

"I'll not say that, I'll not say that. When the danger is great, it is
my gift to see it, and know it, and to try to avoid it; else would
my scalp long since have been drying in a Mingo wigwam. On this lake,
however, I can see no trail, and I feel it my duty to submit; though
I think we ought to remember there is such a person as Mabel Dunham on
board. But here comes her father, and he will naturally feel for his own
child."

"We are seriously situated, I believe, brother Cap," said the Sergeant,
when he had reached the spot, "by what I can gather from the two hands
on the forecastle? They tell me the cutter cannot carry any more sail,
and her drift is so great we shall go ashore in an hour or two. I hope
their fears have deceived them?"

Cap made no reply; but he gazed at the land with a rueful face, and then
looked to windward with an expression of ferocity, as if he would gladly
have quarrelled with the weather.

"It may be well, brother," the Sergeant continued, "to send for Jasper
and consult him as to what is to be done. There are no French here to
dread; and, under all circumstances, the boy will save us from drowning
if possible."

"Ay, ay, 'tis these cursed circumstances that have done all the
mischief. But let the fellow come; let him come; a few well-managed
questions will bring the truth out of him, I'll warrant you."

This acquiescence on the part of the dogmatical Cap was no sooner
obtained, than Jasper was sent for. The young man instantly made
his appearance, his whole air, countenance, and mien expressive
of mortification, humility, and, as his observers fancied, rebuked
deception. When he first stepped on deck, Jasper cast one hurried,
anxious glance around, as if curious to know the situation of the
cutter; and that glance sufficed, it would seem, to let him into the
secret of all her perils. At first he looked to windward, as is usual
with every seaman; then he turned round the horizon, until his eye
caught a view of the high lands to leeward, when the whole truth burst
upon him at once.

"I've sent for you, Master Jasper," said Cap, folding his arms, and
balancing his body with the dignity of the forecastle, "in order to
learn something about the haven to leeward. We take it for granted you
do not bear malice so hard as to wish to drown us all, especially the
women; and I suppose you will be man enough to help us run the cutter
into some safe berth until this bit of a gale has done blowing!"

"I would die myself rather than harm should come to Mabel Dunham," the
young man earnestly answered.

"I knew it! I knew it!" cried the Pathfinder, clapping his hand kindly
on Jasper's shoulder. "The lad is as true as the best compass that ever
ran a boundary, or brought a man off from a blind trail. It is a mortal
sin to believe otherwise."

"Humph!" ejaculated Cap; "especially the women! As if _they_ were in any
particular danger. Never mind, young man; we shall understand each other
by talking like two plain seamen. Do you know of any port under our
lee?"

"None. There is a large bay at this end of the lake; but it is unknown
to us all, and not easy of entrance."

"And this coast to leeward--it has nothing particular to recommend it, I
suppose?"

"It is a wilderness until you reach the mouth of the Niagara in one
direction, and Frontenac in the other. North and west, they tell me,
there is nothing but forest and prairies for a thousand miles."

"Thank God! then, there can be no French. Are there many savages,
hereaway, on the land?"

"The Indians are to be found in all directions; though they are nowhere
very numerous. By accident, we might find a party at any point on the
shore; or we might pass months there without seeing one."

"We must take our chance, then, as to the blackguards; but, to be frank
with you, Master Western, if this little unpleasant matter about the
French had not come to pass, what would you now do with the cutter?"

"I am a much younger sailor than yourself, Master Cap," said Jasper
modestly, "and am hardly fitted to advise you."

"Ay, ay, we all know that. In a common case, perhaps not. But this is an
uncommon case, and a circumstance; and on this bit of fresh water it has
what may be called its peculiarities; and so, everything considered,
you may be fitted to advise even your own father. At all events, you
can speak, and I can judge of your opinions, agreeably to my own
experience."

"I think, sir, before two hours are over, the cutter will have to
anchor."

"Anchor!--not out here in the lake?"

"No, sir; but in yonder, near the land."

"You do not mean to say, Master Eau-douce, you would anchor on a lee
shore in a gale of wind?"

"If I would save my vessel, that is exactly what I would do, Master
Cap."

"Whe-e-e-w!--this is fresh water, with a vengeance! Hark'e, young man,
I've been a seafaring animal, boy and man, forty-one years, and I never
yet heard of such a thing. I'd throw my ground-tackle overboard before I
would be guilty of so lubberly an act!"

"That is what we do on this lake," modestly replied Jasper, "when we are
hard pressed. I daresay we might do better, had we been better taught."

"That you might, indeed! No; no man induces me to commit such a sin
against my own bringing up. I should never dare show my face inside
of Sandy Hook again, had I committed so know-nothing an exploit. Why,
Pathfinder, here, has more seamanship in him than that comes to. You can
go below again, Master Eau-douce."

Jasper quietly bowed and withdrew; still, as he passed down the ladder,
the spectators observed that he cast a lingering anxious look at the
horizon to windward and the land to leeward, and then disappeared with
concern strongly expressed in every lineament of his face.



CHAPTER XVII.

     His still refuted quirks he still repeats;
     New-raised objections with new quibbles meets,
     Till sinking in the quicksand he defends,
     He dies disputing, and the contest ends.
     COWPER.


As the soldier's wife was sick in her berth, Mabel Dunham was the only
person in the outer cabin when Jasper returned to it; for, by an act of
grace in the Sergeant, he had been permitted to resume his proper place
in this part of the vessel. We should be ascribing too much simplicity
of character to our heroine, if we said that she had felt no distrust of
the young man in consequence of his arrest; but we should also be doing
injustice to her warmth of feeling and generosity of disposition, if we
did not add, that this distrust was insignificant and transient. As
he now took his seat near her, his whole countenance clouded with the
uneasiness he felt concerning the situation of the cutter, everything
like suspicion was banished from her mind, and she saw in him only an
injured man.

"You let this affair weigh too heavily on your mind, Jasper," said she
eagerly, or with that forgetfulness of self with which the youthful of
her sex are wont to betray their feelings when a strong and generous
interest has attained the ascendency; "no one who knows you can, or
does, believe you guilty. Pathfinder says he will pledge his life for
you."

"Then you, Mabel," returned the youth, his eyes flashing fire, "do not
look upon me as the traitor your father seems to believe me to be?"

"My dear father is a soldier, and is obliged to act as one. My father's
daughter is not, and will think of you as she ought to think of a man
who has done so much to serve her already."

"Mabel, I'm not used to talking with one like you, or saying all I think
and feel with any. I never had a sister, and my mother died when I was a
child, so that I know little what your sex most likes to hear--"

Mabel would have given the world to know what lay behind the teeming
word at which Jasper hesitated; but the indefinable and controlling
sense of womanly diffidence made her suppress her curiosity. She waited
in silence for him to explain his own meaning.

"I wish to say, Mabel," the young man continued, after a pause which
he found sufficiently embarrassing, "that I am unused to the ways and
opinions of one like you, and that you must imagine all I would add."

Mabel had imagination enough to fancy anything, but there are ideas and
feelings that her sex prefer to have expressed before they yield them
all their own sympathies, and she had a vague consciousness that these
of Jasper might properly be enumerated in the class. With a readiness
that belonged to her sex, therefore, she preferred changing the
discourse to permitting it to proceed any further in a manner so awkward
and so unsatisfactory.

"Tell me one thing, Jasper, and I shall be content," said she, speaking
now with a firmness which denoted confidence, not only in herself, but
in her companion: "you do not deserve this cruel suspicion which rests
upon you?"

"I do not, Mabel!" answered Jasper, looking into her full blue eyes with
an openness and simplicity that might have shaken stronger distrust. "As
I hope for mercy hereafter, I do not!"

"I knew it--I could have sworn it!" returned the girl warmly. "And yet
my father means well;--but do not let this matter disturb you, Jasper."

"There is so much more to apprehend from another quarter just now, that
I scarcely think of it."

"Jasper!"

"I do not wish to alarm you, Mabel; but if your uncle could be persuaded
to change his notions about handling the _Scud_: and yet he is so
much more experienced than I am, that he ought, perhaps, to place more
reliance on his own judgment than on mine."

"Do you think the cutter in any danger?" demanded Mabel, quick as
thought.

"I fear so; at least she would have been thought in great danger by us
of the lake; perhaps an old seaman of the ocean may have means of his
own to take care of her."

"Jasper, all agree in giving you credit for skill in managing the
_Scud_. You know the lake, you know the cutter; you _must_ be the best
judge of our real situation."

"My concern for you, Mabel, may make me more cowardly than common;
but, to be frank, I see but one method of keeping the cutter from being
wrecked in the course of the next two or three hours, and that your
uncle refuses to take. After all, this may be my ignorance; for, as he
says, Ontario is merely fresh water."

"You cannot believe this will make any difference. Think of my dear
father, Jasper! Think of yourself; of all the lives that depend on a
timely word from you to save them."

"I think of you, Mabel, and that is more, much more, than all the rest
put together!" returned the young man, with a strength of expression
and an earnestness of look that uttered infinitely more than the words
themselves.

Mabel's heart beat quickly, and a gleam of grateful satisfaction shot
across her blushing features; but the alarm was too vivid and too
serious to admit of much relief from happier thoughts. She did not
attempt to repress a look of gratitude, and then she returned to the
feeling which was naturally uppermost.

"My uncle's obstinacy must not be permitted to occasion this disaster.
Go once more on deck, Jasper; and ask my father to come into the cabin."

While the young man was complying with this request, Mabel sat listening
to the howling of the storm and the dashing of the water against
the cutter, in a dread to which she had hitherto been a stranger.
Constitutionally an excellent sailor, as the term is used among
passengers, she had not hitherto bethought her of any danger, and had
passed her time since the commencement of the gale in such womanly
employments as her situation allowed; but now that alarm was seriously
awakened, she did not fail to perceive that never before had she been on
the water in such a tempest. The minute or two which elapsed before the
Sergeant came appeared an hour, and she scarcely breathed when she saw
him and Jasper descending the ladder in company. Quick as language could
express her meaning, she acquainted her father with Jasper's opinion of
their situation; and entreated him, if he loved her, or had any regard
for his own life, or for those of his men, to interfere with her uncle,
and to induce him to yield the control of the cutter again to its proper
commander.

"Jasper is true, father," added she earnestly; "and if false, he could
have no motive in wrecking us in this distant part of the lake at the
risk of all our lives, his own included. I will pledge my own life for
his truth."

"Ay, this is well enough for a young woman who is frightened," answered
the more phlegmatic parent; "but it might not be so excusable in one
in command of an expedition. Jasper may think the chance of drowning
in getting ashore fully repaid by the chance of escaping as soon as he
reaches the land."

"Sergeant Dunham!"

"Father!"

These exclamations were made simultaneously, but they were uttered in
tones expressive of different feelings. In Jasper, surprise was the
emotion uppermost; in Mabel reproach. The old soldier, however, was too
much accustomed to deal frankly with subordinates to heed either; and
after a moment's thought, he continued as if neither had spoken. "Nor
is brother Cap a man likely to submit to be taught his duty on board a
vessel."

"But, father, when all our lives are in the utmost jeopardy!"

"So much the worse. The fair-weather commander is no great matter; it
is when things go wrong that the best officer shows himself in his true
colors. Charles Cap will not be likely to quit the helm because the ship
is in danger. Besides, Jasper Eau-douce, he says your proposal in itself
has a suspicious air about it, and sounds more like treachery than
reason."

"He may think so; but let him send for the pilot and hear his opinion.
It is well known that I have not seen the man since yesterday evening."

"This does sound reasonably, and the experiment shall be tried. Follow
me on deck then, that all may be honest and above-board."

Jasper obeyed, and so keen was the interest of Mabel, that she
too ventured as far as the companion-way, where her garments were
sufficiently protected against the violence of the wind and her person
from the spray. Here maiden modesty induced her to remain, though an
absorbed witness of what was passing.

The pilot soon appeared, and there was no mistaking the look of concern
that he cast around at the scene as soon as he was in the open air. Some
rumors of the situation of the _Scud_ had found their way below, it is
true; but in this instance rumor had lessened instead of magnifying the
danger. He was allowed a few minutes to look about him, and then the
question was put as to the course which he thought it prudent to follow.

"I see no means of saving the cutter but to anchor," he answered simply,
and without hesitation.

"What! out here in the lake?" inquired Cap, as he had previously done of
Jasper.

"No: but closer in; just at the outer line of the breakers."

The effect of this communication was to leave no doubt in the mind of
Cap that there was a secret arrangement between her commander and the
pilot to cast away the _Scud_; most probably with the hope of effecting
their escape. He consequently treated the opinion of the latter with the
indifference he had manifested towards that of the former.

"I tell you, brother Dunham," said he, in answer to the remonstrances
of the Sergeant against his turning a deaf ear to this double
representation, "that no seaman would give such an opinion honestly. To
anchor on a lee shore in a gale of wind would be an act of madness that
I could never excuse to the underwriters, under any circumstances,
so long as a rag can be set; but to anchor close to breakers would be
insanity."

"His Majesty underwrites the _Scud_, brother, and I am responsible
for the lives of my command. These men are better acquainted with Lake
Ontario than we can possibly be, and I do think their telling the same
tale entitles them to some credit."

"Uncle!" said Mabel earnestly; but a gesture from Jasper induced the
girl to restrain her feelings.

"We are drifting down upon the breakers so rapidly," said the young man,
"that little need be said on the subject. Half an hour must settle
the matter, one way or the other; but I warn Master Cap that the
surest-footed man among us will not be able to keep his feet an instant
on the deck of this low craft, should she fairly get within them. Indeed
I make little doubt that we shall fill and founder before the second
line of rollers is passed."

"And how would anchoring help the matter?" demanded Cap furiously, as if
he felt that Jasper was responsible for the effects of the gale, as well
as for the opinion he had just given.

"It would at least do no harm," Eau-douce mildly replied. "By bringing
the cutter head to sea we should lessen her drift; and even if we
dragged through the breakers, it would be with the least possible
danger. I hope, Master Cap, you will allow the pilot and myself to
_prepare_ for anchoring, since the precaution may do good, and can do no
harm."

"Overhaul your ranges, if you will, and get your anchors clear, with
all my heart. We are now in a situation that cannot be much affected
by anything of that sort. Sergeant, a word with you aft here, if you
please."

Cap led his brother-in-law out of ear-shot; and then, with more of human
feeling in his voice and manner than he was apt to exhibit, he opened
his heart on the subject of their real situation.

"This is a melancholy affair for poor Mabel," said he, blowing his
nose, and speaking with a slight tremor. "You and I, Sergeant, are old
fellows, and used to being near death, if not to actually dying; our
trades fit us for such scenes; but poor Mabel!--she is an affectionate
and kind-hearted girl, and I had hoped to see her comfortably settled,
and a mother, before my time came. Well, well! we must take the bad with
the good in every v'y'ge; and the only serious objection that an old
seafaring man can with propriety make to such an event is, that it
should happen on this bit of d----d fresh water."

Sergeant Dunham was a brave man, and had shown his spirit in scenes that
looked much more appalling than this; but on all such occasions he had
been able to act his part against his foes, while here he was pressed
upon by an enemy whom he had no means of resisting. For himself he cared
far less than for his daughter, feeling some of that self-reliance which
seldom deserts a man of firmness who is in vigorous health, and who has
been accustomed to personal exertions in moments of jeopardy; but as
respects Mabel he saw no means of escape, and, with a father's fondness,
he at once determined that, if either was doomed to perish, he and his
daughter must perish together.

"Do you think this must come to pass?" he asked of Cap firmly, but with
strong feeling.

"Twenty minutes will carry us into the breakers; and look for yourself,
Sergeant: what chance will even the stoutest man among us have in that
caldron to leeward?"

The prospect was, indeed, little calculated to encourage hope. By this
time the _Scud_ was within a mile of the shore, on which the gale
was blowing at right angles, with a violence that forbade the idea of
showing any additional canvas with a view to claw off. The small portion
of the mainsail actually set, and which merely served to keep the head
of the _Scud_ so near the wind as to prevent the waves from breaking
over her, quivered under the gusts, as if at each moment the stout
threads which held the complicated fabric together were about to be torn
asunder. The drizzle had ceased; but the air, for a hundred feet above
the surface of the lake, was filled with dazzling spray, which had an
appearance not unlike that of a brilliant mist, while above all the sun
was shining gloriously in a cloudless sky. Jasper had noted the omen,
and had foretold that it announced a speedy termination to the gale,
though the next hour or two must decide their fate. Between the cutter
and the shore the view was still more wild and appalling. The breakers
extended nearly half a mile; while the water within their line was white
with foam, the air above them was so far filled with vapor and spray as
to render the land beyond hazy and indistinct. Still it could be
seen that the latter was high,--not a usual thing for the shores
of Ontario,--and that it was covered with the verdant mantle of the
interminable forest.

While the Sergeant and Cap were gazing at this scene in silence, Jasper
and his people were actively engaged on the forecastle. No sooner had
the young man received permission to resume his old employment, than,
appealing to some of the soldiers for aid, he mustered five or six
assistants, and set about in earnest the performance of a duty which had
been too long delayed. On these narrow waters anchors are never stowed
in-board, or cables that are intended for service unbent, and Jasper was
saved much of the labor that would have been necessary in a vessel at
sea. The two bowers were soon ready to be let go, ranges of the cables
were overhauled, and then the party paused to look about them. No
changes for the better had occurred, but the cutter was falling slowly
in, and each instant rendered it more certain that she could not gain an
inch to windward.

One long, earnest survey of the lake ended, Jasper gave new orders in a
similar manner to prove how much he thought that the time pressed. Two
kedges were got on deck, and hawsers were bent to them; the inner ends
of the hawsers were bent, in their turns, to the crowns of the anchors,
and everything was got ready to throw them overboard at the proper
moment. These preparations completed, Jasper's manner changed from the
excitement of exertion to a look of calm but settled concern. He quitted
the forecastle, where the seas were dashing inboard at every plunge of
the vessel, the duty just mentioned having been executed with the bodies
of the crew frequently buried in the water, and walked to a drier part
of the deck, aft. Here he was met by the Pathfinder, who was standing
near Mabel and the Quartermaster. Most of those on board, with the
exception of the individuals who have already been particularly
mentioned, were below, some seeking relief from physical suffering on
their pallets, and others tardily bethinking them of their sins. For
the first time, most probably, since her keel had dipped into the limpid
waters of Ontario, the voice of prayer was, heard on board the _Scud_.

"Jasper," commenced his friend, the guide, "I have been of no use this
morning, for my gifts are of little account, as you know, in a vessel
like this; but, should it please God to let the Sergeant's daughter
reach the shore alive, my acquaintance with the forest may still carry
her through in safety to the garrison."

"'Tis a fearful distance thither, Pathfinder!" Mabel rejoined, the party
being so near together that all which was said by one was overheard by
the others. "I am afraid none of us could live to reach the fort."

"It would be a risky path, Mabel, and a crooked one; though some of your
sex have undergone even more than that in this wilderness. But, Jasper,
either you or I, or both of us, must man this bark canoe; Mabel's only
chance will lie in getting through the breakers in that."

"I would willingly man anything to save Mabel," answered Jasper, with a
melancholy smile; "but no human hand, Pathfinder, could carry that
canoe through yonder breakers in a gale like this. I have hopes from
anchoring, after all; for once before have we saved the _Scud_ in an
extremity nearly as great as this."

"If we are to anchor, Jasper," the Sergeant inquired, "why not do it at
once? Every foot we lose in drifting now would come into the distance we
shall probably drag when the anchors are let go."

Jasper drew nearer to the Sergeant, and took his hand, pressing
it earnestly, and in a way to denote strong, almost uncontrollable
feelings.

"Sergeant Dunham," said he solemnly, "you are a good man, though you
have treated me harshly in this business. You love your daughter?"

"That you cannot doubt, Eau-douce," returned the Sergeant huskily.

"Will you give her--give us all--the only chance for life that is left?"

"What would you have me do, boy, what would you have me do? I have acted
according to my judgment hitherto,--what would you have me do?"

"Support me against Master Cap for five minutes, and all that man can do
towards saving the _Scud_ shall be done."

The Sergeant hesitated, for he was too much of a disciplinarian to
fly in the face of regular orders. He disliked the appearance of
vacillation, too; and then he had a profound respect for his kinsman's
seamanship. While he was deliberating, Cap came from the post he had
some time occupied, which was at the side of the man at the helm, and
drew nigh the group.

"Master Eau-douce," said he, as soon as near enough to be heard, "I have
come to inquire if you know any spot near by where this cutter can
be beached? The moment has arrived when we are driven to this hard
alternative."

That instant of indecision on the part of Cap secured the triumph of
Jasper. Looking at the Sergeant, the young man received a nod that
assured him of all he asked, and he lost not one of those moments that
were getting to be so very precious.

"Shall I take the helm," he inquired of Cap, "and see if we can reach a
creek that lies to leeward?"

"Do so, do so," said the other, hemming to clear his throat; for he
felt oppressed by a responsibility that weighed all the heavier on his
shoulders on account of his ignorance. "Do so, Eau-douce, since, to be
frank with you, I can see nothing better to be done. We must beach or
swamp."

Jasper required no more; springing aft, he soon had the tiller in his
own hands. The pilot was prepared for what was to follow; and, at a sign
from his young commander, the rag of sail that had so long been set was
taken in. At that moment, Jasper, watching his time, put the helm up;
the head of a staysail was loosened forward, and the light cutter, as if
conscious she was now under the control of familiar hands, fell off, and
was soon in the trough of the sea. This perilous instant was passed in
safety, and at the next moment the little vessel appeared flying down
toward the breakers at a rate that threatened instant destruction. The
distances had become so short, that five or six minutes sufficed for all
that Jasper wished, and he put the helm down again, when the bows of
the _Scud_ came up to the wind, notwithstanding the turbulence of the
waters, as gracefully as the duck varies its line of direction on the
glassy pond. A sign from Jasper set all in motion on the forecastle, and
a kedge was thrown from each bow. The fearful nature of the drift was
now apparent even to Mabel's eyes, for the two hawsers ran out like
tow-lines. As soon as they straightened to a slight strain, both anchors
were let go, and cable was given to each, nearly to the better-ends. It
was not a difficult task to snub so light a craft with ground-tackle
of a quality better than common; and in less than ten minutes from the
moment when Jasper went to the helm, the _Scud_ was riding, head to
sea, with the two cables stretched ahead in lines that resembled bars of
iron.

"This is not well done, Master Jasper!" angrily exclaimed Cap, as soon
as he perceived the trick which had been played him; "this is not
well done, sir. I order you to cut, and to beach the cutter without a
moment's delay."

No one, however, seemed disposed to comply with this order; for so long
as Eau-douce saw fit to command, his own people were disposed to obey.
Finding that the men remained passive, Cap, who believed they were
in the utmost peril, turned fiercely to Jasper, and renewed his
remonstrances.

"You did not head for your pretended creek," added he, after dealing
in some objurgatory remarks that we do not deem it necessary to record,
"but steered for that bluff, where every soul on board would have been
drowned, had we gone ashore."

"And you wish to cut, and put every soul ashore at that very spot!"
Jasper retorted, a little drily.

"Throw a lead-line overboard, and ascertain the drift!" Cap now roared
to the people forward. A sign from Jasper sustaining this order, it was
instantly obeyed. All on deck watched, with nearly breathless interest,
the result of the experiment. The lead was no sooner on the bottom, than
the line tended forward, and in about two minutes it was seen that the
cutter had drifted her length dead in towards the bluff. Jasper looked
gravely, for he well knew nothing would hold the vessel did she get
within the vortex of the breakers, the first line of which was appearing
and disappearing about a cable's length directly under their stern.

"Traitor!" exclaimed Cap, shaking a finger at the young commander,
though passion choked the rest. "You must answer for this with your
life!" he added after a short pause. "If I were at the head of this
expedition, Sergeant, I would hang him at the end of the main-boom, lest
he escape drowning."

"Moderate your feelings, brother; be more moderate, I beseech you;
Jasper appears to have done all for the best, and matters may not be so
bad as you believe them."

"Why did he not run for the creek he mentioned?--why has he brought
us here, dead to windward of that bluff, and to a spot where even the
breakers are only of half the ordinary width, as if in a hurry to drown
all on board?"

"I headed for the bluff, for the precise reason that the breakers are so
narrow at this spot," answered Jasper mildly, though his gorge had risen
at the language the other held.

"Do you mean to tell an old seaman like me that this cutter could live
in those breakers?"

"I do not, sir. I think she would fill and swamp if driven into the
first line of them; I am certain she would never reach the shore on her
bottom, if fairly entered. I hope to keep her clear of them altogether."

"With a drift of her length in a minute?"

"The backing of the anchors does not yet fairly tell, nor do I even hope
that _they_ will entirely bring her up."

"On what, then, do you rely? To moor a craft, head and stern, by faith,
hope, and charity?"

"No, sir, I trust to the under-tow. I headed for the bluff because I
knew that it was stronger at that point than at any other, and because
we could get nearer in with the land without entering the breakers."

This was said with spirit, though without any particular show of
resentment. Its effect on Cap was marked, the feeling that was uppermost
being evidently that of surprise.

"Under-tow!" he repeated; "who the devil ever heard of saving a vessel
from going ashore by the under-tow?"

"This may never happen on the ocean, sir," Jasper answered modestly;
"but we have known it to happen here."

"The lad is right, brother," put in the Sergeant; "for, though I do not
well understand it, I have often heard the sailors of the lake speak of
such a thing. We shall do well to trust to Jasper in this strait."

Cap grumbled and swore; but, as there was no remedy, he was compelled to
acquiesce. Jasper, being now called on to explain what he meant by the
under-tow, gave this account of the matter. The water that was driven up
on the shore by the gale was necessarily compelled to find its level by
returning to the lake by some secret channels. This could not be done on
the surface, where both wind and waves were constantly urging it towards
the land, and it necessarily formed a sort of lower eddy, by means of
which it flowed back again to its ancient and proper bed. This inferior
current had received the name of the under-tow, and, as it would
necessarily act on the bottom of a vessel which drew as much water
as the _Scud_, Jasper trusted to the aid of this reaction to keep his
cables from parting. In short, the upper and lower currents would, in a
manner, counteract each other.

Simple and ingenious as was this theory, however, as yet there was
little evidence of its being reduced to practice. The drift continued;
though, as the kedges and hawsers with which the anchors were backed
took the strains, it became sensibly less. At length the man at the lead
announced the joyful intelligence that the anchors had ceased to drag,
and that the vessel had brought up! At this precise moment the first
line of breakers was about a hundred feet astern of the _Scud_, even
appearing to approach much nearer as the foam vanished and returned on
the raging surges. Jasper sprang forward, and, casting a glance over
the bows, he smiled in triumph, as he pointed exultingly to the cables.
Instead of resembling bars of iron in rigidity, as before, they were
curving downwards, and to a seaman's senses it was evident that the
cutter rose and fell on the seas as they came in with the ease of a
ship in a tides-way, when the power of the wind is relieved by the
counteracting pressure of the water.

"'Tis the under-tow!" he exclaimed with delight, fairly bounding along
the deck to steady the helm, in order that the cutter might ride still
easier. "Providence has placed us directly in its current, and there is
no longer any danger."

"Ay, ay, Providence is a good seaman," growled Cap, "and often helps
lubbers out of difficulty. Under-tow or upper-tow, the gale has
abated; and, fortunately for us all, the anchors have met with good
holding-ground. Then this d----d fresh water has an unnatural way with
it."

Men are seldom inclined to quarrel with good fortune, but it is in
distress that they grow clamorous and critical. Most on board were
disposed to believe that they had been saved from shipwreck by the skill
and knowledge of Jasper, without regarding the opinions of Cap, whose
remarks were now little heeded.

There was half an hour of uncertainty and doubt, it is true, during
which period the lead was anxiously watched; and then a feeling of
security came over all, and the weary slept without dreaming of instant
death.



CHAPTER XVIII.

    It is to be all made of sighs and tears;
    It is to be all made of faith and service;
    It is to be all made of phantasy;
    All made of passion, and all made of wishes;
    All adoration, duty, and observance;
    All humbleness, all patience, and impatience;
    All purity, all trial, all observance.
    SHAKESPEARE.


It was near noon when the gale broke; and then its force abated as
suddenly as its violence had arisen. In less than two hours after the
wind fell, the surface of the lake, though still agitated, was no
longer glittering with foam; and in double that time, the entire sheet
presented the ordinary scene of disturbed water, that was unbroken by
the violence of a tempest. Still the waves came rolling incessantly
towards the shore, and the lines of breakers remained, though the spray
had ceased to fly; the combing of the swells was more moderate, and all
that there was of violence proceeded from the impulsion of wind which
had abated.

As it was impossible to make head against the sea that was still up,
with the light opposing air that blew from the eastward, all thoughts
of getting under way that afternoon were abandoned. Jasper, who had now
quietly resumed the command of the _Scud_, busied himself, however, in
heaving-up the anchors, which were lifted in succession; the kedges
that backed them were weighed, and everything was got in readiness for
a prompt departure, as soon as the state of the weather would allow.
In the meantime, they who had no concern with these duties sought such
means of amusement as their peculiar circumstances allowed.

As is common with those who are unused to the confinement of a vessel,
Mabel cast wistful eyes towards the shore; nor was it long before she
expressed a wish that it were possible to land. The Pathfinder was near
her at the time, and he assured her that nothing would be easier, as
they had a bark canoe on deck, which was the best possible mode of
conveyance to go through a surf. After the usual doubts and misgivings,
the Sergeant was appealed to; his opinion proved to be favorable, and
preparations to carry the whim into effect were immediately made.

The party which was to land consisted of Sergeant Dunham, his daughter,
and the Pathfinder. Accustomed to the canoe, Mabel took her seat in the
centre with great steadiness, her father was placed in the bows, while
the guide assumed the office of conductor, by steering in the stern.
There was little need of impelling the canoe by means of the paddle, for
the rollers sent it forward at moments with a violence that set every
effort to govern its movements at defiance. More than once, before
the shore was reached, Mabel repented of her temerity, but Pathfinder
encouraged her, and really manifested so much self-possession, coolness,
and strength of arm himself, that even a female might have hesitated
about owning all her apprehensions. Our heroine was no coward; and while
she felt the novelty of her situation, in landing through a surf, she
also experienced a fair proportion of its wild delight. At moments,
indeed, her heart was in her mouth, as the bubble of a boat floated on
the very crest of a foaming breaker, appearing to skim the water like
a swallow, and then she flushed and laughed, as, left by the glancing
element, they appeared to linger behind as if ashamed of having
been outdone in the headlong race. A few minutes sufficed for this
excitement; for though the distance between the cutter and the land
considerably exceeded a quarter of a mile, the intermediate space was
passed in a very few minutes.

On landing, the Sergeant kissed his daughter kindly, for he was so much
of a soldier as always to feel more at home on _terra firma_ than when
afloat; and, taking his gun, he announced his intention to pass an hour
in quest of game.

"Pathfinder will remain near you, girl, and no doubt he will tell you
some of the traditions of this part of the world, or some of his own
experiences with the Mingos."

The guide laughed, promised to have a care of Mabel, and in a few
minutes the father had ascended a steep acclivity and disappeared in the
forest. The others took another direction, which, after a few minutes
of a sharp ascent also, brought them to a small naked point on the
promontory, where the eye overlooked an extensive and very peculiar
panorama. Here Mabel seated herself on a fragment of fallen rock to
recover her breath and strength, while her companion, on whose sinews
no personal exertion seemed to make any impression, stood at her side,
leaning in his own and not ungraceful manner on his long rifle. Several
minutes passed, and neither spoke; Mabel, in particular, being lost in
admiration of the view.

The position the two had obtained was sufficiently elevated to command a
wide reach of the lake, which stretched away towards the north-east in a
boundless sheet, glittering beneath the rays of an afternoon's sun, and
yet betraying the remains of that agitation which it had endured while
tossed by the late tempest. The land set bounds to its limits in a huge
crescent, disappearing in distance towards the south-east and the north.
Far as the eye could reach, nothing but forest was visible, not even
a solitary sign of civilization breaking in upon the uniform and grand
magnificence of nature. The gale had driven the _Scud_ beyond the line
of those forts with which the French were then endeavoring to gird
the English North American possessions; for, following the channels of
communication between the great lakes, their posts were on the banks
of the Niagara, while our adventurers had reached a point many leagues
westward of that celebrated strait. The cutter rode at single
anchor, without the breakers, resembling some well-imagined and
accurately-executed toy, intended rather for a glass case than for
struggles with the elements which she had so lately gone through, while
the canoe lay on the narrow beach, just out of reach of the waves that
came booming upon the land, a speck upon the shingles.

"We are very far here from human habitations!" exclaimed Mabel, when,
after a long survey of the scene, its principal peculiarities forced
themselves on her active and ever brilliant imagination; "this is indeed
being on a frontier."

"Have they more sightly scenes than this nearer the sea and around
their large towns?" demanded Pathfinder, with an interest he was apt to
discover in such a subject.

"I will not say that: there is more to remind one of his fellow-beings
there than here; less, perhaps, to remind one of God."

"Ay, Mabel, that is what my own feelings say. I am but a poor hunter, I
know, untaught and unlarned; but God is as near me, in this my home, as
he is near the king in his royal palace."

"Who can doubt it?" returned Mabel, looking from the view up into the
hard-featured but honest face of her companion, though not without
surprise at the energy of his manner. "One feels nearer to God in such
a spot, I think, than when the mind is distracted by the objects of the
towns."

"You say all I wish to say myself, Mabel, but in so much plainer speech,
that you make me ashamed of wishing to let others know what I feel on
such matters. I have coasted this lake in search of skins afore the war,
and have been here already; not at this very spot, for we landed yonder,
where you may see the blasted oak that stands above the cluster of
hemlocks--"

"How, Pathfinder, can you remember all these trifles so accurately?"

"These are our streets and houses, our churches and palaces. Remember
them, indeed! I once made an appointment with the Big Sarpent, to meet
at twelve o'clock at noon, near the foot of a certain pine, at the end
of six months, when neither of us was within three hundred miles of
the spot. The tree stood, and stands still, unless the judgment of
Providence has lighted on that too, in the midst of the forest, fifty
miles from any settlement, but in a most extraordinary neighborhood for
beaver."

"And did you meet at that very spot and hour?"

"Does the sun rise and set? When I reached the tree, I found the Sarpent
leaning against its trunk with torn leggings and muddied moecassins. The
Delaware had got into a swamp, and it worried him not a little to find
his way out of it; but as the sun which comes over the eastern hills
in the morning goes down behind the western at night, so was he true to
time and place. No fear of Chingachgook when there is either a friend or
an enemy in the case. He is equally sartain with each."

"And where is the Delaware now? why is he not with us to-day?"

"He is scouting on the Mingo trail, where I ought to have been too, but
for a great human infirmity."

"You seem above, beyond, superior to all infirmity, Pathfinder; I never
yet met with a man who appeared to be so little liable to the weaknesses
of nature."

"If you mean in the way of health and strength, Mabel, Providence
has been kind to me; though I fancy the open air, long hunts, active
scoutings, forest fare, and the sleep of a good conscience, may always
keep the doctors at a distance. But I am human after all; yes, I find
I'm very human in some of my feelings."

Mabel looked surprised, and it would be no more than delineating the
character of her sex, if we added that her sweet countenance expressed a
good deal of curiosity, too, though her tongue was more discreet.

"There is something bewitching in this wild life of yours, Pathfinder,"
she exclaimed, a tinge of enthusiasm mantling her cheeks. "I find I'm
fast getting to be a frontier girl, and am coming to love all this grand
silence of the woods. The towns seem tame to me; and, as my father will
probably pass the remainder of his days here, where he has already lived
so long, I begin to feel that I should be happy to continue with him,
and not to return to the seashore."

"The woods are never silent, Mabel, to such as understand their meaning.
Days at a time have I travelled them alone, without feeling the want
of company; and, as for conversation, for such as can comprehend their
language, there is no want of rational and instructive discourse."

"I believe you are happier when alone, Pathfinder, than when mingling
with your fellow-creatures."

"I will not say that, I will not say exactly that. I have seen the time
when I have thought that God was sufficient for me in the forest, and
that I have craved no more than His bounty and His care. But other
feelings have got uppermost, and I suppose natur' will have its way. All
other creatur's mate, Mabel, and it was intended man should do so too."

"And have you never bethought you of seeking a wife, Pathfinder,
to share your fortunes?" inquired the girl, with the directness and
simplicity that the pure of heart and the undesigning are the most apt
to manifest, and with that feeling of affection which is inbred in
her sex. "To me it seems you only want a home to return to from your
wanderings to render your life completely happy. Were I a man, it would
be my delight to roam through these forests at will, or to sail over
this beautiful lake."

"I understand you, Mabel; and God bless you for thinking of the welfare
of men as humble as we are. We have our pleasures, it is true, as well
as our gifts, but we might be happier; yes, I do think we might be
happier."

"Happier! in what way, Pathfinder? In this pure air, with these cool and
shaded forests to wander through, this lovely lake to gaze at and sail
upon, with clear consciences, and abundance for all their real
wants, men ought to be nothing less than as perfectly happy as their
infirmities will allow."

"Every creatur' has its gifts, Mabel, and men have theirs," answered the
guide, looking stealthily at his beautiful companion, whose cheeks had
flushed and eyes brightened under the ardor of feelings excited by the
novelty of her striking situation; "and all must obey them. Do you see
yonder pigeon that is just alightin' on the beach--here in a line with
the fallen chestnut?"

"Certainly; it is the only thing stirring with life in it, besides
ourselves, that is to be seen in this vast solitude."

"Not so, Mabel, not so; Providence makes nothing that lives to live
quite alone. Here is its mate, just rising on the wing; it has been
feeding near the other beach, but it will not long be separated from its
companion."

"I understand you, Pathfinder," returned Mabel, smiling sweetly, though
as calmly as if the discourse was with her father. "But a hunter may
find a mate, even in this wild region. The Indian girls are affectionate
and true, I know; for such was the wife of Arrowhead, to a husband who
oftener frowned than smiled."

"That would never do, Mabel, and good would never come of it. Kind must
cling to kind, and country to country, if one would find happiness.
If, indeed, I could meet with one like you, who would consent to be a
hunter's wife, and who would not scorn my ignorance and rudeness, then,
indeed, would all the toil of the past appear like the sporting of the
young deer, and all the future like sunshine."

"One like me! A girl of my years and indiscretion would hardly make a
fit companion for the boldest scout and surest hunter on the lines."

"Ah, Mabel! I fear me that I have been improving a red-skin's gifts with
a pale-face's natur'? Such a character would insure a wife in an Indian
village."

"Surely, surely, Pathfinder, you would not think of choosing one so
ignorant, so frivolous, so vain, and so inexperienced as I for your
wife?" Mabel would have added, "and as young;" but an instinctive
feeling of delicacy repressed the words.

"And why not, Mabel? If you are ignorant of frontier usages, you know
more than all of us of pleasant anecdotes and town customs: as for
frivolous, I know not what it means; but if it signifies beauty, ah's
me! I fear it is no fault in my eyes. Vain you are not, as is seen by
the kind manner in which you listen to all my idle tales about scoutings
and trails; and as for experience, that will come with years. Besides,
Mabel, I fear men think little of these matters when they are about to
take wives: I do."

"Pathfinder, your words,--your looks:--surely all this is meant in
trifling; you speak in pleasantry?"

"To me it is always agreeable to be near you, Mabel; and I should sleep
sounder this blessed night than I have done for a week past, could I
think that you find such discourse as pleasant as I do."

We shall not say that Mabel Dunham had not believed herself a favorite
with the guide. This her quick feminine sagacity had early discovered;
and perhaps she had occasionally thought there had mingled with his
regard and friendship some of that manly tenderness which the ruder sex
must be coarse, indeed, not to show on occasions to the gentler; but the
idea that he seriously sought her for his wife had never before crossed
the mind of the spirited and ingenuous girl. Now, however, a gleam of
something like the truth broke in upon her imagination, less induced
by the words of her companion, perhaps, than by his manner. Looking
earnestly into the rugged, honest countenance of the scout, Mabel's own
features became concerned and grave; and when she spoke again, it
was with a gentleness of manner that attracted him to her even more
powerfully than the words themselves were calculated to repel.

"You and I should understand each other, Pathfinder," said she with an
earnest sincerity; "nor should there be any cloud between us. You are
too upright and frank to meet with anything but sincerity and frankness
in return. Surely, surely, all this means nothing,--has no other
connection with your feelings than such a friendship as one of your
wisdom and character would naturally feel for a girl like me?"

"I believe it's all nat'ral, Mabel, yes; I do: the Sergeant tells me
he had such feelings towards your own mother, and I think I've seen
something like it in the young people I have from time to time guided
through the wilderness. Yes, yes, I daresay it's all nat'ral enough, and
that makes it come so easy, and is a great comfort to me."

"Pathfinder, your words make me uneasy. Speak plainer, or change the
subject for ever. You do not, cannot mean that--you cannot wish me to
understand"--even the tongue of the spirited Mabel faltered, and she
shrank, with maiden shame, from adding what she wished so earnestly to
say. Rallying her courage, however, and determined to know all as
soon and as plainly as possible, after a moment's hesitation, she
continued,--"I mean, Pathfinder, that you do not wish me to understand
that you seriously think of me as a wife?"

"I do, Mabel; that's it, that's just it; and you have put the matter
in a much better point of view than I with my forest gifts and frontier
ways would ever be able to do. The Sergeant and I have concluded on
the matter, if it is agreeable to you, as he thinks is likely to be the
case; though I doubt my own power to please one who deserves the best
husband America can produce."

Mabel's countenance changed from uneasiness to surprise; and then, by a
transition still quicker, from surprise to pain.

"My father!" she exclaimed,--"my dear father has thought of my becoming
your wife, Pathfinder?"

"Yes, he has, Mabel, he has, indeed. He has even thought such a thing
might be agreeable to you, and has almost encouraged me to fancy it
might be true."

"But you yourself,--you certainly can care nothing whether this singular
expectation shall ever be realized or not?"

"Anan?"

"I mean, Pathfinder, that you have talked of this match more to oblige
my father than anything else; that your feelings are no way concerned,
let my answer be what it may?"

The scout looked earnestly into the beautiful face of Mabel, which had
flushed with the ardor and novelty of her sensations, and it was not
possible to mistake the intense admiration that betrayed itself in every
lineament of his ingenuous countenance.

"I have often thought myself happy, Mabel, when ranging the woods on a
successful hunt, breathing the pure air of the hills, and filled with
vigor and health; but I now know that it has all been idleness and
vanity compared with the delight it would give me to know that you
thought better of me than you think of most others."

"Better of you!--I do, indeed, think better of you, Pathfinder, than of
most others: I am not certain that I do not think better of you than of
any other; for your truth, honesty, simplicity, justice, and courage are
scarcely equalled by any of earth."

"Ah, Mabel, these are sweet and encouraging words from you! and the
Sergeant, after all, was not so near wrong as I feared."

"Nay, Pathfinder, in the name of all that is sacred and just, do not let
us misunderstand each other in a matter of so much importance. While I
esteem, respect, nay, reverence you, almost as much as I reverence
my own dear father, it is impossible that I should ever become your
wife--that I--"

The change in her companion's countenance was so sudden and so great,
that the moment the effect of what she had uttered became visible in the
face of the Pathfinder, Mabel arrested her own words, notwithstanding
her strong desire to be explicit, the reluctance with which she could
at any time cause pain being sufficient of itself to induce the pause.
Neither spoke for some time, the shade of disappointment that crossed
the rugged lineaments of the hunter amounting so nearly to anguish as to
frighten his companion, while the sensation of choking became so strong
in the Pathfinder that he fairly griped his throat, like one who sought
physical relief for physical suffering. The convulsive manner in which
his fingers worked actually struck the alarmed girl with a feeling of
awe.

"Nay, Pathfinder," Mabel eagerly added, the instant she could command
her voice,--"I may have said more than I mean; for all things of this
nature are possible, and women, they say, are never sure of their own
minds. What I wish you to understand is, that it is not likely that you
and I should ever think of each other as man and wife ought to think of
each other."

"I do not--I shall never think in that way again, Mabel," gasped forth
the Pathfinder, who appeared to utter his words like one just raised
above the pressure of some suffocating substance. "No, no, I shall never
think of you, or any one else, again in that way."

"Pathfinder, dear Pathfinder, understand me; do not attach more meaning
to my words than I do myself: a match like that would be unwise,
unnatural, perhaps."

"Yes, unnat'ral--ag'in natur'; and so I told the Sergeant, but he
_would_ have it otherwise."

"Pathfinder! oh, this is worse than I could have imagined! Take my hand,
excellent Pathfinder, and let me see that you do not hate me. For God's
sake, smile upon me again."

"Hate you, Mabel! Smile upon you! Ah's me!"

"Nay, give me your hand; your hardy, true, and manly hand--both, both,
Pathfinder! for I shall not be easy until I feel certain that we are
friends again, and that all this has been a mistake."

"Mabel!" said the guide, looking wistfully into the face of the generous
and impetuous girl, as she held his two hard and sunburnt hands in her
own pretty and delicate fingers, and laughing in his own silent and
peculiar manner, while anguish gleamed over lineaments which
seemed incapable of deception, even while agitated with emotions so
conflicting,--"Mabel! the Sergeant was wrong."

The pent-up feelings could endure no more, and the tears rolled down the
cheeks of the scout like rain. His fingers again worked convulsively at
his throat; and his breast heaved, as if it possessed a tenant of which
it would be rid, by any effort, however desperate.

"Pathfinder! Pathfinder!" Mabel almost shrieked; "anything but this,
anything but this! Speak to me, Pathfinder! Smile again, say one kind
word, anything to prove you can forgive me."

"The Sergeant was wrong!" exclaimed the guide, laughing amid his agony,
in a way to terrify his companion by the unnatural mixture of anguish
and light-heartedness. "I knew it, I knew it, and said it; yes, the
Sergeant was wrong after all."

"We can be friends, though we cannot be man and wife," continued Mabel,
almost as much disturbed as her companion, scarcely knowing what she
said; "we can always be friends, and always will."

"I thought the Sergeant was mistaken," resumed the Pathfinder, when a
great effort had enabled him to command himself, "for I did not think my
gifts were such as would please the fancy of a town-bred girl. It would
have been better, Mabel, had he not over-persuaded me into a different
notion; and it might have been better, too, had you not been so pleasant
and confiding like; yes, it would."

"If I thought any error of mine had raised false expectations in you,
Pathfinder, however unintentionally on my part, I should never forgive
myself; for, believe me, I would rather endure pain in my own feelings
than you should suffer."

"That's just it, Mabel, that's just it. These speeches and opinions,
spoken in so soft a voice, and in a way I'm so unused to in the woods,
have done the mischief. But I now see plainly, and begin to understand
the difference between us better, and will strive to keep down thought,
and to go abroad again as I used to do, looking for the game and the
inimy. Ah's me, Mabel! I have indeed been on a false trail since we
met."

"In a little while you will forget all this, and think of me as a
friend, who owes you her life."

"This may be the way in the towns, but I doubt if it's nat'ral to the
woods. With us, when the eye sees a lovely sight, it is apt to keep it
long in view, or when the mind takes in an upright and proper feeling,
it is loath to part with it."

"You will forget it all, when you come seriously to recollect that I am
altogether unsuited to be your wife."

"So I told the Sergeant; but he would have it otherwise. I knew you
was too young and beautiful for one of middle age, like myself, and who
never was comely to look at even in youth; and then your ways have not
been my ways; nor would a hunter's cabin be a fitting place for one who
was edicated among chiefs, as it were. If I were younger and comelier
though, like Jasper Eau-douce--"

"Never mind Jasper Eau-douce," interrupted Mabel impatiently; "we can
talk of something else."

"Jasper is a worthy lad, Mabel; ay, and a comely," returned the
guileless guide, looking earnestly at the girl, as if he distrusted her
judgment in speaking slightingly of his friend. "Were I only half as
comely as Jasper Western, my misgivings in this affair would not have
been so great, and they might not have been so true."

"We will not talk of Jasper Western," repeated Mabel, the color mounting
to her temples; "he may be good enough in a gale, or on the lake, but he
is not good enough to talk of here."

"I fear me, Mabel, he is better than the man who is likely to be your
husband, though the Sergeant says that never can take place. But the
Sergeant was wrong once, and he may be wrong twice."

"And who is likely to be my husband, Pathfinder! This is scarcely less
strange than what has just passed between us."

"I know it is nat'ral for like to seek like, and for them that have
consorted much with officers' ladies to wish to be officers' ladies
themselves. But, Mabel; I may speak plainly to you, I know; and I hope
my words will not give you pain; for, now I understand what it is to
be disappointed in such feelings, I wouldn't wish to cause even a
Mingo sorrow on this head. But happiness is not always to be found in a
marquee, any more than in a tent; and though the officers' quarters may
look more tempting than the rest of the barracks, there is often great
misery between husband and wife inside of their doors."

"I do not doubt it in the least, Pathfinder; and, did it rest with me to
decide, I would sooner follow you to some cabin in the woods, and share
your fortune, whether it might be better or worse, than go inside the
door of any officer I know, with an intention of remaining there as its
master's wife."

"Mabel, this is not what Lundie hopes, or Lundie thinks."

"And what care I for Lundie? He is major of the 55th, and may command
his men to wheel and march about as he pleases; but he cannot compel me
to wed the greatest or the meanest of his mess. Besides, what can you
know of Lundie's wishes on such a subject?"

"From Lundie's own mouth. The Sergeant had told him that he wished
me for a son-in-law; and the Major, being an old and a true friend,
conversed with me on the subject. He put it to me plainly, whether it
would not be more ginerous in me to let an officer succeed, than to
strive to make you share a hunter's fortune. I owned the truth, I did;
and that was, that I thought it might; but when he told me that the
Quartermaster would be his choice, I would not abide by the conditions.
No, no, Mabel; I know Davy Muir well, and though he may make you a lady,
he can never make you a happy woman, or himself a gentleman."

"My father has been very wrong if he has said or done aught to cause you
sorrow, Pathfinder; and so great is my respect for you, so sincere my
friendship, that were it not for one--I mean that no person need fear
Lieutenant Muir's influence with me--I would rather remain as I am to my
dying day than become a lady at the cost of being his wife."

"I do not think you would say that which you do not feel, Mabel,"
returned Pathfinder earnestly.

"Not at such a moment, on such a subject, and least of all to you. No;
Lieutenant Muir may find wives where he can--my name shall never be on
his catalogue."

"Thank you, thank you for that, Mabel, for, though there is no longer
any hope for me, I could never be happy were you to take to the
Quartermaster. I feared the commission might count for something, I
did; and I know the man. It is not jealousy that makes me speak in
this manner, but truth, for I know the man. Now, were you to fancy a
desarving youth, one like Jasper Western, for instance--"

"Why always mention Jasper Eau-douce, Pathfinder? he can have no concern
with our friendship; let us talk of yourself, and of the manner in which
you intend to pass the winter."

"Ah's me!--I'm little worth at the best, Mabel, unless it may be on a
trail or with the rifle; and less worth now that I have discovered the
Sergeant's mistake. There is no need, therefore, of talking of me. It
has been very pleasant to me to be near you so long, and even to fancy
that the Sergeant was right; but that is all over now. I shall go down
the lake with Jasper, and then there will be business to occupy us, and
that will keep useless thoughts out of the mind."

"And you will forget this--forget me--no, not forget me, either,
Pathfinder; but you will resume your old pursuits, and cease to think a
girl of sufficient importance to disturb your peace?"

"I never knowed it afore, Mabel; but girls are of more account in this
life than I could have believed. Now, afore I knowed you, the new-born
babe did not sleep more sweetly than I used; my head was no sooner on
the root, or the stone, or mayhap on the skin, than all was lost to the
senses, unless it might be to go over in the night the business of
the day in a dream like; and there I lay till the moment came to be
stirring, and the swallows were not more certain to be on the wing with
the light, than I to be afoot at the moment I wished to be. All this
seemed a gift, and might be calculated on even in the midst of a Mingo
camp; for I've been outlying in my time, in the very villages of the
vagabonds."

"And all this will return to you, Pathfinder, for one so upright and
sincere will never waste his happiness on a mere fancy. You will dream
again of your hunts, of the deer you have slain, and of the beaver you
have taken."

"Ah's me, Mabel, I wish never to dream again! Before we met, I had a
sort of pleasure in following up the hounds, in fancy, as it might
be; and even in striking a trail of the Iroquois--nay, I've been in
skrimmages and ambushments, in thought like, and found satisfaction in
it, according to my gifts; but all those things have lost their charms
since I've made acquaintance with you. Now, I think no longer of
anything rude in my dreams; but the very last night we stayed in the
garrison I imagined I had a cabin in a grove of sugar maples, and at
the root of every tree was a Mabel Dunham, while the birds among the
branches sang ballads instead of the notes that natur' gave, and even
the deer stopped to listen. I tried to shoot a fa'n, but Killdeer missed
fire, and the creatur' laughed in my face, as pleasantly as a young girl
laughs in her merriment, and then it bounded away, looking back as if
expecting me to follow."

"No more of this, Pathfinder; we'll talk no more of these things," said
Mabel, dashing the tears from her eyes: for the simple, earnest manner
in which this hardy woodsman betrayed the deep hold she had taken of his
feelings nearly proved too much for her own generous heart. "Now, let
us look for my father; he cannot be distant, as I heard his gun quite
near."

"The Sergeant was wrong--yes, he was wrong, and it's of no avail to
attempt to make the dove consort with the wolf."

"Here comes my dear father," interrupted Mabel. "Let us look cheerful
and happy, Pathfinder, as such good friends ought to look, and keep each
other's secrets."

A pause succeeded; the Sergeant's foot was heard crushing the dried
twigs hard by, and then his form appeared shoving aside the bushes of
a copse just near. As he issued into the open ground, the old soldier
scrutinized his daughter and her companion, and speaking good-naturedly,
he said, "Mabel, child, you are young and light of foot--look for a bird
that I've shot that fell just beyond the thicket of young hemlocks on
the shore; and, as Jasper is showing signs of an intention of getting
under way, you need not take the trouble to clamber up this hill again,
but we will meet you on the beach in a few minutes."

Mabel obeyed, bounding down the hill with the elastic step of youth and
health. But, notwithstanding the lightness of her steps, the heart of
the girl was heavy, and no sooner was she hid from observation by the
thicket, than she threw herself on the root of a tree and wept as if her
heart would break. The Sergeant watched her until she disappeared, with
a father's pride, and then turned to his companion with a smile as kind
and as familiar as his habits would allow him to use towards any.

"She has her mother's lightness and activity, my friend, with somewhat
of her father's force," said he. "Her mother was not quite so handsome,
I think myself; but the Dunhams were always thought comely, whether men
or women. Well, Pathfinder, I take it for granted you've not overlooked
the opportunity, but have spoken plainly to the girl? women like
frankness in matters of this sort."

"I believe Mabel and I understand each other at last, Sergeant,"
returned the other, looking another way to avoid the soldier's face.

"So much the better. Some people fancy that a little doubt and
uncertainty makes love all the livelier; but I am one of those who think
the plainer the tongue speaks the easier the mind will comprehend. Was
Mabel surprised?"

"I fear she was, Sergeant; I fear she was taken quite by surprise--yes,
I do."

"Well, well, surprises in love are like an ambush in war, and quite as
lawful; though it is not so easy to tell when a woman is surprised, as
to tell when it happens to an enemy. Mabel did not run away, my worthy
friend, did she?"

"No, Sergeant, Mabel did not try to escape; _that_ I can say with a
clear conscience."

"I hope the girl was too willing, neither! Her mother was shy and coy
for a month, at least; but frankness, after all, is a recommendation in
a man or woman."

"That it is, that it is; and judgment, too."

"You are not to look for too much judgment in a young creature of
twenty, Pathfinder, but it will come with experience. A mistake in you
or me, for instance, might not be so easily overlooked; but in a girl
of Mabel's years, one is not to strain at a gnat lest they swallow a
camel."

The reader will remember that Sergeant Dunham was not a Hebrew scholar.

The muscles of the listener's face twitched as the Sergeant was thus
delivering his sentiments, though the former had now recovered a portion
of that stoicism which formed so large a part of his character, and
which he had probably imbibed from long association with the Indians.
His eyes rose and fell, and once a gleam shot athwart his hard features
as if he were about to indulge in his peculiar laugh; but the joyous
feeling, if it really existed, was as quickly lost in a look allied to
anguish. It was this unusual mixture of wild and keen mental agony with
native, simple joyousness, which had most struck Mabel, who, in the
interview just related, had a dozen times been on the point of believing
that her suitor's heart was only lightly touched, as images of
happiness and humor gleamed over a mind that was almost infantile in
its simplicity and nature; an impression, however, which was soon driven
away by the discovery of emotions so painful and so deep, that they
seemed to harrow the very soul.

"You say true, Sergeant," Pathfinder answered; "a mistake in one like
you is a more serious matter."

"You will find Mabel sincere and honest in the end; give her but a
little time."

"Ah's me, Sergeant!"

"A man of your merits would make an impression on a rock, give him time,
Pathfinder."

"Sergeant Dunham, we are old fellow-campaigners--that is, as campaigns
are carried on here in the wilderness; and we have done so many kind
acts to each other that we can afford to be candid--what has caused you
to believe that a girl like Mabel could ever fancy one so rude as I am?"

"What?--why, a variety of reasons, and good reasons too, my friend.
Those same acts of kindness, perhaps, and the campaigns you mention;
moreover, you are my sworn and tried comrade."

"All this sounds well, so far as you and I are consarned; but they do
not touch the case of your pretty daughter. She may think these very
campaigns have destroyed the little comeliness I may once have had; and
I am not quite sartain that being an old friend of her father would lead
any young maiden's mind into a particular affection for a suitor. Like
loves like, I tell you, Sergeant; and my gifts are not altogether the
gifts of Mabel Dunham."

"These are some of your old modest qualms, Pathfinder, and will do you
no credit with the girl. Women distrust men who distrust themselves,
and take to men who distrust nothing. Modesty is a capital thing in a
recruit, I grant you; or in a young subaltern who has just joined, for
it prevents his railing at the non-commissioned officers before he knows
what to rail at; I'm not sure it is out of place in a commissary or a
parson, but it's the devil and all when it gets possession of a real
soldier or a lover. Have as little to do with it as possible, if you
would win a woman's heart. As for your doctrine that like loves like,
it is as wrong as possible in matters of this sort. If like loved
like, women would love one another, and men also. No, no, like loves
dislike,"--the Sergeant was merely a scholar of the camp,--"and you have
nothing to fear from Mabel on that score. Look at Lieutenant Muir;
the man has had five wives already, they tell me, and there is no more
modesty in him than there is in a cat-o'-nine-tails."

"Lieutenant Muir will never be the husband of Mabel Dunham, let him
ruffle his feathers as much as he may."

"That is a sensible remark of yours, Pathfinder; for my mind is made up
that you shall be my son-in-law. If I were an officer myself, Mr. Muir
might have some chance; but time has placed one door between my child
and myself, and I don't intend there shall be that of a marquee also."

"Sergeant, we must let Mabel follow her own fancy; she is young and
light of heart, and God forbid that any wish of mine should lay the
weight of a feather on a mind that is all gaiety now, or take one note
of happiness from her laughter!"

"Have you conversed freely with the girl?" the Sergeant demanded
quickly, and with some asperity of manner.

Pathfinder was too honest to deny a truth plain as that which the answer
required, and yet too honorable to betray Mabel, and expose her to the
resentment of one whom he well knew to be stern in his anger.

"We have laid open our minds," he said; "and though Mabel's is one that
any man might love to look at, I find little there, Sergeant, to make me
think any better of myself."

"The girl has not dared to refuse you--to refuse her father's best
friend?"

Pathfinder turned his face away to conceal the look of anguish that
consciousness told him was passing athwart it, but he continued the
discourse in his own quiet, manly tones.

"Mabel is too kind to refuse anything, or to utter harsh words to a dog.
I have not put the question in a way to be downright refused, Sergeant."

"And did you expect my daughter to jump into your arms before you asked
her? She would not have been her mother's child had she done any such
thing, nor do I think she would have been mine. The Dunhams like plain
dealing as well as the king's majesty; but they are no jumpers. Leave
me to manage this matter for you, Pathfinder, and there shall be no
unnecessary delay. I'll speak to Mabel myself this very evening, using
your name as principal in the affair."

"I'd rather not, I'd rather not, Sergeant. Leave the matter to Mabel
and me, and I think all will come right in the ind. Young girls are like
timorsome birds; they do not over-relish being hurried or spoken harshly
to nither. Leave the matter to Mabel and me."

"On one condition I will, my friend; and that is, that you will promise
me, on the honor of a scout, that you will put the matter plainly to
Mabel the first suitable opportunity, and no mincing of words."

"I will ask her, Sergeant, on condition that you promise not to meddle
in the affair--yes, I will promise to ask Mabel whether she will marry
me, even though she laugh in my face at my doing so, on that condition."

Sergeant Dunham gave the desired promise very cheerfully; for he had
completely wrought himself up into the belief that the man he so much
esteemed himself must be acceptable to his daughter. He had married
a woman much younger than himself, and he saw no unfitness in the
respective years of the intended couple. Mabel was educated so much
above him, too, that he was not aware of the difference which actually
existed between the parent and child in this respect. It followed
that Sergeant Dunham was not altogether qualified to appreciate his
daughter's tastes, or to form a very probable conjecture what would be
the direction taken by those feelings which oftener depend on impulses
and passion than on reason. Still, the worthy soldier was not so wrong
in his estimate of the Pathfinder's chances as might at first appear.
Knowing all the sterling qualities of the man, his truth, integrity
of purpose, courage, self-devotion, disinterestedness, it was far from
unreasonable to suppose that qualities like these would produce a deep
impression on any female heart; and the father erred principally in
fancying that the daughter might know as it might be by intuition what
he himself had acquired by years of intercourse and adventure.

As Pathfinder and his military friend descended the hill to the shore of
the lake, the discourse did not flag. The latter continued to persuade
the former that his diffidence alone prevented complete success with
Mabel, and that he had only to persevere in order to prevail. Pathfinder
was much too modest by nature, and had been too plainly, though so
delicately, discouraged in the recent interview to believe all he heard;
still the father used so many arguments which seemed plausible, and it
was so grateful to fancy that the daughter might yet be his, that the
reader is not to be surprised when he is told that this unsophisticated
being did not view Mabel's recent conduct in precisely the light in
which he may be inclined to view it himself. He did not credit all that
the Sergeant told him, it is true; but he began to think virgin coyness
and ignorance of her own feelings might have induced Mabel to use the
language she had.

"The Quartermaster is no favorite," said Pathfinder in answer to one of
his companion's remarks. "Mabel will never look on him as more than one
who has had four or five wives already."

"Which is more than his share. A man may marry twice without offence to
good morals and decency, I allow! but four times is an aggravation."

"I should think even marrying once what Master Cap calls a
circumstance," put in Pathfinder, laughing in his quiet way, for by this
time his spirits had recovered some of their buoyancy.

"It is, indeed, my friend, and a most solemn circumstance too. If it
were not that Mabel is to be your wife, I would advise you to remain
single. But here is the girl herself, and discretion is the word."

"Ah's me, Sergeant, I fear you are mistaken!"



CHAPTER XIX.

     Thus was this place
     A happy rural seat of various view.
     MILTON.


Mabel was in waiting on the beach, and the canoe was soon launched.
Pathfinder carried the party out through the surf in the same skillful
manner that he had brought it in; and though Mabel's color heightened
with excitement, and her heart seemed often ready to leap out of her
mouth again, they reached the side of the _Scud_ without having received
even a drop of spray.

Ontario is like a quick-tempered man, sudden to be angered, and as soon
appeased. The sea had already fallen; and though the breakers bounded
the shore, far as the eye could reach, it was merely in lines of
brightness, that appeared and vanished like the returning waves produced
by a stone which had been dropped into a pool. The cable of the _Scud_
was scarcely seen above the water, and Jasper had already hoisted his
sails, in readiness to depart as soon as the expected breeze from the
shore should fill the canvas.

It was just sunset as the cutter's mainsail flapped and its stem began
to sever the water. The air was light and southerly, and the head of the
vessel was kept looking up along the south shore, it being the intention
to get to the eastward again as fast as possible. The night that
succeeded was quiet; and the rest of those who slept deep and tranquil.

Some difficulty occurred concerning the command of the vessel, but
the matter had been finally settled by an amicable compromise. As
the distrust of Jasper was far from being appeased, Cap retained a
supervisory power, while the young man was allowed to work the craft,
subject, at all times, to the control and interference of the old
seaman. To this Jasper consented, in preference to exposing Mabel any
longer to the dangers of their present situation; for, now that the
violence of the elements had ceased, he well knew that the _Montcalm_
would be in search of them. He had the discretion, however, not to
reveal his apprehensions on this head; for it happened that the very
means he deemed the best to escape the enemy were those which would
be most likely to awaken new suspicions of his honesty in the minds
of those who held the power to defeat his intentions. In other words,
Jasper believed that the gallant young Frenchman, who commanded the ship
of the enemy, would quit his anchorage under the fort at Niagara, and
stand up the lake, as soon as the wind abated, in order to ascertain the
fate of the _Scud_, keeping midway between the two shores as the best
means of commanding a broad view; and that, on his part, it would be
expedient to hug one coast or the other, not only to avoid a meeting,
but as affording a chance of passing without detection by blending his
sails and spars with objects on the land. He preferred the south because
it was the weather shore, and because he thought it was that which the
enemy would the least expect him to take, though it necessarily led near
his settlements, and in front of one of the strongest posts he held in
that part of the world.

Of all this, however, Cap was happily ignorant, and the Sergeant's mind
was too much occupied with the details of his military trust to enter
into these niceties, which so properly belonged to another profession.
No opposition was made, therefore, and before morning Jasper had
apparently dropped quietly into all his former authority, issuing his
orders freely, and meeting with obedience without hesitation or cavil.

The appearance of day brought all on board on deck again; and, as is
usual with adventurers on the water, the opening horizon was curiously
examined, as objects started out of the obscurity, and the panorama
brightened under the growing light. East, west, and north nothing was
visible but water glittering in the rising sun; but southward stretched
the endless belt of woods that then held Ontario in a setting of forest
verdure. Suddenly an opening appeared ahead, and then the massive walls
of a chateau-looking house, with outworks, bastions, blockhouses, and
palisadoes, frowned on a headland that bordered the outlet of a broad
stream. Just as the fort became visible, a little cloud rose over
it, and the white ensign of France was seen fluttering from a lofty
flagstaff.

Cap gave an ejaculation as he witnessed this ungrateful exhibition, and
he cast a quick suspicious glance at his brother-in-law.

"The dirty tablecloth hung up to air, as my name is Charles Cap!" he
muttered; "and we hugging this d----d shore as if it were our wife and
children met on the return from an India v'y'ge! Hark'e, Jasper, are
you in search of a cargo of frogs, that you keep so near in to this New
France?"

"I hug the land, sir, in the hope of passing the enemy's ship without
being seen, for I think she must be somewhere down here to leeward."

"Ay, ay, this sounds well, and I hope it may turn out as you say. I
trust there is no under-tow here?"

"We are on a weather shore, now," said Jasper, smiling; "and I think you
will admit, Master Cap, that a strong under-tow makes an easy cable: we
owe all our lives to the under-tow of this very lake."

"French flummery!" growled Cap, though he did not care to be heard by
Jasper. "Give me a fair, honest, English-Yankee-American tow, above
board, and above water too, if I must have a tow at all, and none of
your sneaking drift that is below the surface, where one can neither
see nor feel. I daresay, if the truth could be come at, that this late
escape of ours was all a contrived affair."

"We have now a good opportunity, at least, to reconnoitre the enemy's
post at Niagara, brother, for such I take this fort to be," put in
the Sergeant. "Let us be all eyes in passing, and remember that we are
almost in face of the enemy."

This advice of the Sergeant needed nothing to enforce it; for the
interest and novelty of passing a spot occupied by human beings were of
themselves sufficient to attract deep attention in that scene of a vast
but deserted nature. The wind was now fresh enough to urge the _Scud_
through the water with considerable velocity, and Jasper eased her helm
as she opened the river, and luffed nearly into the mouth of that noble
strait, or river, as it is termed. A dull, distant, heavy roar came down
through the opening in the banks, swelling on the currents of the air,
like the deeper notes of some immense organ, and occasionally seeming to
cause the earth itself to tremble.

"That sounds like surf on some long unbroken coast!" exclaimed Cap, as a
swell, deeper than common, came to his ears.

"Ay, that is such surf as we have in this quarter of the world,"
Pathfinder answered. "There is no under-tow there, Master Cap; but all
the water that strikes the rocks stays there, so far as going back again
is consarned. That is old Niagara that you hear, or this noble stream
tumbling down a mountain."

"No one will have the impudence to pretend that this fine broad river
falls over yonder hills?"

"It does, Master Cap, it does; and all for the want of stairs, or a road
to come down by. This is natur', as we have it up hereaway, though I
daresay you beat us down on the ocean. Ah's me, Mabel! a pleasant hour
it would be if we could walk on the shore some ten or fifteen miles up
this stream, and gaze on all that God has done there."

"You have, then, seen these renowned falls, Pathfinder?" the girl
eagerly inquired.

"I have--yes, I have; and an awful sight I witnessed at that same time.
The Sarpent and I were out scouting about the garrison there, when he
told me that the traditions of his people gave an account of a mighty
cataract in this neighborhood, and he asked me to vary from the line
of march a little to look at the wonder. I had heard some marvels
consarning the spot from the soldiers of the 60th, which is my nat'ral
corps like, and not the 55th, with which I have sojourned so much of
late; but there are so many terrible liars in all rijiments that I
hardly believed half they had told me. Well, we went; and though we
expected to be led by our ears, and to hear some of that awful roaring
that we hear to-day, we were disappointed, for natur' was not then
speaking in thunder, as she is this morning. Thus it is in the forest,
Master Cap; there being moments when God seems to be walking abroad in
power, and then, again, there is a calm over all, as if His spirit lay
in quiet along the 'arth. Well, we came suddenly upon the stream, a
short distance above the fall, and a young Delaware, who was in our
company, found a bark canoe, and he would push into the current to reach
an island that lies in the very centre of the confusion and strife.
We told him of his folly, we did; and we reasoned with him on the
wickedness of tempting Providence by seeking danger that led to no ind;
but the youth among the Delawares are very much the same as the youth
among the soldiers, risky and vain. All we could say did not change his
mind, and the lad had his way. To me it seems, Mabel, that whenever
a thing is really grand and potent, it has a quiet majesty about it,
altogether unlike the frothy and flustering manner of smaller matters,
and so it was with them rapids. The canoe was no sooner fairly in them,
than down it went, as it might be, as one sails through the air on the
'arth, and no skill of the young Delaware could resist the stream. And
yet he struggled manfully for life, using the paddle to the last, like
the deer that is swimming to cast the hounds. At first he shot across
the current so swiftly, that we thought he would prevail; but he had
miscalculated his distance, and when the truth really struck him, he
turned the head upstream, and struggled in a way that was fearful to
look at. I could have pitied him even had he been a Mingo. For a few
moments his efforts were so frantic that he actually prevailed over
the power of the cataract; but natur' has its limits, and one faltering
stroke of the paddle set him back, and then he lost ground, foot by
foot, inch by inch, until he got near the spot where the river looked
even and green, and as if it were made of millions of threads of water,
all bent over some huge rock, when he shot backwards like an arrow and
disappeared, the bow of the canoe tipping just enough to let us see what
had become of him. I met a Mohawk some years later who had witnessed the
whole affair from the bed of the stream below, and he told me that the
Delaware continued to paddle in the air until he was lost in the mists
of the falls."

"And what became of the poor wretch?" demanded Mabel, who had been
strongly interested by the natural eloquence of the speaker.

"He went to the happy hunting-grounds of his people, no doubt; for
though he was risky and vain, he was also just and brave. Yes, he
died foolishly, but the Manitou of the red-skins has compassion on his
creatur's as well as the God of a Christian."

A gun at this moment was discharged from a blockhouse near the fort; and
the shot, one of light weight, came whistling over the cutter's mast,
an admonition to approach no nearer. Jasper was at the helm, and he kept
away, smiling at the same time as if he felt no anger at the rudeness of
the salutation. The _Scud_ was now in the current, and her outward
set soon carried her far enough to leeward to avoid the danger of a
repetition of the shot, and then she quietly continued her course along
the land. As soon as the river was fairly opened, Jasper ascertained
that the _Montcalm_ was not at anchor in it; and a man sent aloft came
down with the report that the horizon showed no sail. The hope was now
strong that the artifice of Jasper had succeeded, and that the French
commander had missed them by keeping the middle of the lake as he
steered towards its head.

All that day the wind hung to the southward, and the cutter continued
her course about a league from the land, running six or eight knots the
hour in perfectly smooth water. Although the scene had one feature
of monotony, the outline of unbroken forest, it was not without its
interest and pleasures. Various headlands presented themselves, and the
cutter, in running from one to another, stretched across bays so deep as
almost to deserve the name of gulfs. But nowhere did the eye meet with
the evidences of civilization; rivers occasionally poured their tribute
into the great reservoir of the lake, but their banks could be traced
inland for miles by the same outlines of trees; and even large bays,
that lay embosomed in woods, communicating with Ontario only by narrow
outlets, appeared and disappeared, without bringing with them a single
trace of a human habitation.

Of all on board, the Pathfinder viewed the scene with the most unmingled
delight. His eyes feasted on the endless line of forest, and more than
once that day, notwithstanding he found it so grateful to be near Mabel,
listening to her pleasant voice, and echoing, in feelings at least, her
joyous laugh, did his soul pine to be wandering beneath the high arches
of the maples, oaks, and lindens, where his habits had induced him
to fancy lasting and true joys were only to be found. Cap viewed the
prospect differently; more than once he expressed his disgust at there
being no lighthouses, church-towers, beacons, or roadsteads with their
shipping. Such another coast, he protested, the world did not contain;
and, taking the Sergeant aside, he gravely assured him that the region
could never come to anything, as the havens were neglected, the rivers
had a deserted and useless look, and that even the breeze had a smell of
the forest about it, which spoke ill of its properties.

But the humors of the different individuals in her did not stay the
speed of the _Scud_: when the sun was setting, she was already a hundred
miles on her route towards Oswego, into which river Sergeant Dunham now
thought it his duty to go, in order to receive any communications that
Major Duncan might please to make. With a view to effect this purpose,
Jasper continued to hug the shore all night; and though the wind began
to fail him towards morning, it lasted long enough to carry the cutter
up to a point that was known to be but a league or two from the fort.
Here the breeze came out light at the northward, and the cutter hauled a
little from the land, in order to obtain a safe offing should it come on
to blow, or should the weather again get to be easterly.

When the day dawned, the cutter had the mouth of the Oswego well under
the lee, distant about two miles; and just as the morning gun from the
fort was fired, Jasper gave the order to ease off the sheets, and to
bear up for his port. At that moment a cry from the forecastle drew all
eyes towards the point on the eastern side of the outlet, and there,
just without the range of shot from the light guns of the works, with
her canvas reduced to barely enough to keep her stationary, lay the
_Montcalm_, evidently in waiting for their appearance.

To pass her was impossible, for by filling her sails the French ship
could have intercepted them in a few minutes; and the circumstances
called for a prompt decision. After a short consultation, the Sergeant
again changed his plan, determining to make the best of his way towards
the station for which he had been originally destined, trusting to the
speed of the _Scud_ to throw the enemy so far astern as to leave no clue
to her movements.

The cutter accordingly hauled upon a wind with the least possible delay,
with everything set that would draw. Guns were fired from the fort,
ensigns shown, and the ramparts were again crowded. But sympathy was all
the aid that Lundie could lend to his party; and the _Montcalm_, also
firing four or five guns of defiance, and throwing abroad several of the
banners of France, was soon in chase under a cloud of canvas.

For several hours the two vessels were pressing through the water as
fast as possible, making short stretches to windward, apparently with a
view to keep the port under their lee, the one to enter it if possible,
and the other to intercept it in the attempt.

At meridian the French ship was hull down, dead to leeward, the
disparity of sailing on a wind being very great, and some islands were
near by, behind which Jasper said it would be possible for the cutter
to conceal her future movements. Although Cap and the Sergeant, and
particularly Lieutenant Muir, to judge by his language, still felt a
good deal of distrust of the young man, and Frontenac was not distant,
this advice was followed; for time pressed, and the Quartermaster
discreetly observed that Jasper could not well betray them without
running openly into the enemy's harbor, a step they could at any time
prevent, since the only cruiser of force the French possessed at
the moment was under their lee and not in a situation to do them any
immediate injury.

Left to himself, Jasper Western soon proved how much was really in him.
He weathered upon the islands, passed them, and on coming out to the
eastward, kept broad away, with nothing in sight in his wake or to
leeward. By sunset again the cutter was up with the first of the islands
that lie in the outlet of the lake; and ere it was dark she was running
through the narrow channels on her way to the long-sought station. At
nine o'clock, however, Cap insisted that they should anchor; for the
maze of islands became so complicated and obscure, that he feared,
at every opening, the party would find themselves under the guns of
a French fort. Jasper consented cheerfully, it being a part of his
standing instructions to approach the station under such circumstances
as would prevent the men from obtaining any very accurate notions of its
position, lest a deserter might betray the little garrison to the enemy.

The _Scud_ was brought to in a small retired bay, where it would have
been difficult to find her by daylight, and where she was perfectly
concealed at night, when all but a solitary sentinel on deck sought
their rest. Cap had been so harassed during the previous eight-and-forty
hours, that his slumbers were long and deep; nor did he awake from
his first nap until the day was just beginning to dawn. His eyes were
scarcely open, however, when his nautical instinct told him that the
cutter was under way. Springing up, he found the _Scud_ threading the
islands again, with no one on deck but Jasper and the pilot, unless the
sentinel be excepted, who had not in the least interfered with movements
that he had every reason to believe were as regular as they were
necessary.

"How's this, Master Western?" demanded Cap, with sufficient fierceness
for the occasion; "are you running us into Frontenac at last, and we all
asleep below, like so many mariners waiting for the 'sentry go'?"

"This is according to orders, Master Cap, Major Duncan having commanded
me never to approach the station unless at a moment when the people were
below; for he does not wish there should be more pilots in those waters
than the king has need of."

"Whe-e-e-w! a pretty job I should have made of running down among these
bushes and rocks with no one on deck! Why, a regular York branch could
make nothing of such a channel."

"I always thought, sir," said Jasper, smiling, "you would have done
better had you left the cutter in my hands until she had safely reached
her place of destination."

"We should have done it, Jasper, we should have done it, had it not
been for a circumstance; these circumstances are serious matters, and no
prudent man will overlook them."

"Well, sir, I hope there is now an end of them. We shall arrive in
less than an hour if the wind holds, and then you'll be safe from any
circumstances that I can contrive."

"Humph!"

Cap was obliged to acquiesce; and, as everything around him had the
appearance of Jasper's being sincere, there was not much difficulty in
making up his mind to submit. It would not have been easy indeed for a
person the most sensitive on the subject of circumstances to fancy that
the _Scud_ was anywhere in the vicinity of a port so long established
and so well known on the frontiers as Frontenac. The islands might not
have been literally a thousand in number, but they were so numerous and
small as to baffle calculation, though occasionally one of larger size
than common was passed. Jasper had quitted what might have been termed
the main channel, and was winding his way, with a good stiff breeze and
a favorable current, through passes that were sometimes so narrow that
there appeared to be barely room sufficient for the _Scud's_ spars to
clear the trees, while at other moments he shot across little bays, and
buried the cutter again amid rocks, forests, and bushes. The water was
so transparent that there was no occasion for the lead, and being of
very equal depth, little risk was actually run, though Cap, with his
maritime habits, was in a constant fever lest they should strike.

"I give it up, I give it up, Pathfinder!" the old seaman at length
exclaimed, when the little vessel emerged in safety from the twentieth
of these narrow inlets through which she had been so boldly carried;
"this is defying the very nature of seamanship, and sending all its laws
and rules to the d---l!"

"Nay, nay, Saltwater, 'tis the perfection of the art. You perceive that
Jasper never falters, but, like a hound with a true nose, he runs with
his head high as if he had a strong scent. My life on it, the lad brings
us out right in the ind, as he would have done in the beginning had we
given him leave."

"No pilot, no lead, no beacons, buoys, or lighthouses, no--"

"Trail," interrupted Pathfinder; "for that to me is the most mysterious
part of the business. Water leaves no trail, as every one knows; and yet
here is Jasper moving ahead as boldly as if he had before his eyes the
prints of the moccasins on leaves as plainly as we can see the sun in
the heaven."

"D---me, if I believe there is even any compass!"

"Stand by to haul down the jib," called out Jasper, who merely smiled at
the remarks of his companion. "Haul down--starboard your helm--starboard
hard--so--meet her--gently there with the helm--touch her lightly--now
jump ashore with the fast, lad--no, heave; there are some of our people
ready to take it."

All this passed so quickly as barely to allow the spectator time to note
the different evolutions, ere the _Scud_ had been thrown into the wind
until her mainsail shivered, next cast a little by the use of the rudder
only, and then she set bodily alongside of a natural rocky quay, where
she was immediately secured by good fasts run to the shore. In a word,
the station was reached, and the men of the 55th were greeted by their
expecting comrades, with the satisfaction which a relief usually brings.

Mabel sprang up on the shore with a delight which she did not care to
express; and her father led his men after her with an alacrity which
proved how wearied he had become of the cutter. The station, as the
place was familiarly termed by the soldiers of the 55th, was indeed a
spot to raise expectations of enjoyment among those who had been cooped
up so long in a vessel of the dimensions of the _Scud_. None of the
islands were high, though all lay at a sufficient elevation above the
water to render them perfectly healthy and secure. Each had more or less
of wood; and the greater number at that distant day were clothed with
the virgin forest. The one selected by the troops for their purpose
was small, containing about twenty acres of land, and by some of the
accidents of the wilderness it had been partly stripped of its trees,
probably centuries before the period of which we are writing, and a
little grassy glade covered nearly half its surface.

The shores of Station Island were completely fringed with bushes, and
great care had been taken to preserve them, as they answered as a screen
to conceal the persons and things collected within their circle. Favored
by this shelter, as well as by that of several thickets of trees and
different copses, some six or eight low huts had been erected to be used
as quarters for the officer and his men, to contain stores, and to serve
the purposes of kitchen, hospital, etc. These huts were built of logs in
the usual manner, had been roofed by bark brought from a distance, lest
the signs of labor should attract attention, and, as they had now
been inhabited some months, were as comfortable as dwellings of that
description usually ever get to be.

At the eastern extremity of the island, however, was a small,
densely-wooded peninsula, with a thicket of underbrush so closely matted
as nearly to prevent the possibility of seeing across it, so long as
the leaves remained on the branches. Near the narrow neck that connected
this acre with the rest of the island, a small blockhouse had been
erected, with some attention to its means of resistance. The logs were
bullet-proof, squared and jointed with a care to leave no defenceless
points; the windows were loopholes, the door massive and small, and the
roof, like the rest of the structure, was framed of hewn timber, covered
properly with bark to exclude the rain. The lower apartment as usual
contained stores and provisions; here indeed the party kept all their
supplies; the second story was intended for a dwelling, as well as for
the citadel, and a low garret was subdivided into two or three rooms,
and could hold the pallets of some ten or fifteen persons. All the
arrangements were exceedingly simple and cheap, but they were sufficient
to protect the soldiers against the effects of a surprise. As the whole
building was considerably less than forty feet high, its summit was
concealed by the tops of the trees, except from the eyes of those who
had reached the interior of the island. On that side the view was open
from the upper loops, though bushes even there, more or less, concealed
the base of the wooden tower.

The object being purely defence, care had been taken to place the
blockhouse so near an opening in the limestone rock that formed the base
of the island as to admit of a bucket being dropped into the water, in
order to obtain that great essential in the event of a siege. In order
to facilitate this operation, and to enfilade the base of the building,
the upper stories projected several feet beyond the lower in the manner
usual to blockhouses, and pieces of wood filled the apertures cut in the
log flooring, which were intended as loops and traps. The communications
between the different stories were by means of ladders. If we add that
these blockhouses were intended as citadels for garrisons or settlements
to retreat to, in the cases of attacks, the general reader will obtain a
sufficiently correct idea of the arrangements it is our wish to explain.

But the situation of the island itself formed its principal merit as a
military position. Lying in the midst of twenty others, it was not
an easy matter to find it; since boats might pass quite near, and, by
glimpses caught through the openings, this particular island would be
taken for a part of some other. Indeed, the channels between the islands
which lay around the one we have been describing were so narrow that it
was even difficult to say which portions of the land were connected,
or which separated, even as one stood in the centre, with the express
desire of ascertaining the truth. The little bay in particular, which
Jasper used as a harbor, was so embowered with bushes and shut in with
islands, that, the sails of the cutter being lowered, her own people on
one occasion had searched for hours before they could find the _Scud_,
in their return from a short excursion among the adjacent channels in
quest of fish. In short, the place was admirably adapted to its present
objects, and its natural advantages had been as ingeniously improved as
economy and the limited means of a frontier post would very well allow.

The hour which succeeded the arrival of the _Scud_ was one of hurried
excitement. The party in possession had done nothing worthy of being
mentioned, and, wearied with their seclusion, they were all eager to
return to Oswego. The Sergeant and the officer he came to relieve had no
sooner gone through the little ceremonies of transferring the command,
than the latter hurried on board the _Scud_ with his whole party; and
Jasper, who would gladly have passed the day on the island, was required
to get under way forthwith, the wind promising a quick passage up the
river and across the lake. Before separating, however, Lieutenant Muir,
Cap, and the Sergeant had a private conference with the ensign who had
been relieved, in which the last was made acquainted with the suspicions
that existed against the fidelity of the young sailor. Promising due
caution, the officer embarked, and in less than three hours from the
time when she had arrived the cutter was again in motion.

Mabel had taken possession of a hut; and with female readiness and
skill she made all the simple little domestic arrangements of which the
circumstances would admit, not only for her own comfort, but for that of
her father. To save labor, a mess-table was prepared in a hut set apart
for that purpose, where all the heads of the detachment were to eat, the
soldier's wife performing the necessary labor. The hut of the Sergeant,
which was the best on the island, being thus freed from any of the
vulgar offices of a household, admitted of such a display of womanly
taste, that, for the first time since her arrival on the frontier,
Mabel felt proud of her home. As soon as these important duties were
discharged, she strolled out on the island, taking a path which led
through the pretty glade, and which conducted to the only point not
covered with bushes. Here she stood gazing at the limpid water, which
lay with scarcely a ruffle on it at her feet, musing on the novel
situation in which she was placed, and permitting a pleasing and deep
excitement to steal over her feelings, as she remembered the scenes
through which she had so lately passed, and conjectured those which
still lay veiled in the future.

"You're a beautiful fixture, in a beautiful spot, Mistress Mabel," said
David Muir, suddenly appearing at her elbow; "and I'll no' engage you're
not just the handsomest of the two."

"I will not say, Mr. Muir, that compliments on my person are altogether
unwelcome, for I should not gain credit for speaking the truth,
perhaps," answered Mabel with spirit; "but I will say that if you would
condescend to address to me some remarks of a different nature, I may
be led to believe you think I have sufficient faculties to understand
them."

"Hoot! your mind, beautiful Mabel, is polished just like the barrel of
a soldier's musket, and your conversation is only too discreet and wise
for a poor d---l who has been chewing birch up here these four years on
the lines, instead of receiving it in an application that has the virtue
of imparting knowledge. But you are no' sorry, I take it, young lady,
that you've got your pretty foot on _terra firma_ once more."

"I thought so two hours since, Mr. Muir; but the _Scud_ looks so
beautiful as she sails through these vistas of trees, that I almost
regret I am no longer one of her passengers."

As Mabel ceased speaking, she waved her handkerchief in return to a
salutation from Jasper, who kept his eyes fastened on her form until the
white sails of the cutter had swept round a point, and were nearly lost
behind its green fringe of leaves.

"There they go, and I'll no' say 'joy go with them;' but may they have
the luck to return safely, for without them we shall be in danger
of passing the winter on this island; unless, indeed, we have the
alternative of the castle at Quebec. Yon Jasper Eau-douce is a vagrant
sort of a lad, and they have reports of him in the garrison that it
pains my very heart to hear. Your worthy father, and almost as worthy
uncle, have none of the best opinion of him."

"I am sorry to hear it, Mr. Muir; I doubt not that time will remove all
their distrust."

"If time would only remove mine, pretty Mabel," rejoined the
Quartermaster in a wheedling tone, "I should feel no envy of the
commander-in-chief. I think if I were in a condition to retire, the
Sergeant would just step into my shoes."

"If my dear father is worthy to step into your shoes, Mr. Muir,"
returned the girl, with malicious pleasure, "I'm sure that the
qualification is mutual, and that you are every way worthy to step into
his."

"The deuce is in the child! you would not reduce me to the rank of a
non-commissioned officer, Mabel?"

"No, indeed, sir; I was not thinking of the army at all as you spoke of
retiring. My thoughts were more egotistical, and I was thinking how
much you reminded me of my dear father, by your experience, wisdom, and
suitableness to take his place as the head of a family."

"As its bridegroom, pretty Mabel, but not as its parent or natural
chief. I see how it is with you, loving your repartee, and brilliant
with wit. Well, I like spirit in a young woman, so it be not the spirit
of a scold. This Pathfinder is all extraordinair, Mabel, if truth may be
said of the man."

"Truth should be said of him or nothing. Pathfinder is my friend--my
very particular friend, Mr. Muir, and no evil can be said of him in my
presence that I shall not deny."

"I shall say nothing evil of him, I can assure you, Mabel; but, at the
same time, I doubt if much good can be said in his favor."

"He is at least expert with the rifle," returned Mabel, smiling. "That
you cannot deny."

"Let him have all the credit of his exploits in that way if you please;
but he is as illiterate as a Mohawk."

"He may not understand Latin, but his knowledge of Iroquois is greater
than that of most men, and it is the more useful language of the two in
this part of the world."

"If Lundie himself were to call on me for an opinion which I admire
more, your person or your wit, beautiful and caustic Mabel, I should be
at a loss to answer. My admiration is so nearly divided between them,
that I often fancy this is the one that bears off the palm, and then the
other! Ah! the late Mrs. Muir was a paragon in that way also."

"The latest Mrs. Muir, did you say, sir?" asked Mabel, looking up
innocently at her companion.

"Hoot, hoot! That is some of Pathfinder's scandal. Now I daresay that
the fellow has been trying to persuade you, Mabel, that I have had more
than one wife already."

"In that case his time would have been thrown away, sir, as everybody
knows that you have been so unfortunate as to have had four."

"Only three, as sure as my name is David Muir. The fourth is pure
scandal--or rather, pretty Mabel, she is yet _in petto_, as they say at
Rome; and that means, in matters of love, in the heart, my dear."

"Well, I'm glad I'm not that fourth person, _in petto_, or in anything
else, as I should not like to be a scandal."

"No fear of that, charming Mabel; for were you the fourth, all the
others would be forgotten, and your wonderful beauty and merit would at
once elevate you to be the first. No fear of your being the fourth in
any thing."

"There is consolation in that assurance, Mr. Muir," said Mabel,
laughing, "whatever there may be in your other assurance; for I confess
I should prefer being even a fourth-rate beauty to being a fourth wife."

So saying she tripped away, leaving the Quartermaster to meditate on his
success. Mabel had been induced to use her female means of defence thus
freely, partly because her suitor had of late been so pointed as to
stand in need of a pretty strong repulse, and partly on account of his
innuendoes against Jasper and the Pathfinder. Though full of spirit
and quick of intellect, she was not naturally pert; but on the present
occasion she thought circumstances called for more than usual decision.
When she left her companion, therefore, she believed she was now finally
released from attentions which she thought as ill-bestowed as they were
certainly disagreeable. Not so, however, with David Muir; accustomed to
rebuffs, and familiar with the virtue of perseverance, he saw no reason
to despair, though the half-menacing, half-self-satisfied manner in
which he shook his head towards the retreating girl might have betrayed
designs as sinister as they were determined. While he was thus occupied,
the Pathfinder approached, and got within a few feet of him unseen.

"'Twill never do, Quartermaster, 'twill never do," commenced the latter,
laughing in his noiseless way; "she is young and active, and none but a
quick foot can overtake her. They tell me you are her suitor, if you are
not her follower."

"And I hear the same of yourself, man, though the presumption would be
so great that I scarcely can think it true."

"I fear you're right, I do; yes, I fear you're right;--when I consider
myself, what I am, how little I know, and how rude my life has been, I
altogether distrust my claim, even to think a moment of one so tutored,
and gay, and light of heart, and delicate--"

"You forget handsome," coarsely interrupted Muir.

"And handsome, too, I fear," returned the meek and self-abased guide;
"I might have said handsome at once, among her other qualities; for the
young fa'n, just as it learns to bound, is not more pleasant to the eye
of the hunter than Mabel is lovely in mine. I do indeed fear that all
the thoughts I have harbored about her are vain and presumptuous."

"If you think this, my friend, of your own accord and natural modesty,
as it might be, my duty to you as an old fellow-campaigner compels me to
say--"

"Quartermaster," interrupted the other, regarding his companion keenly,
"you and I have lived together much behind the ramparts of forts, but
very little in the open woods or in front of the enemy."

"Garrison or tent, it all passes for part of the same campaign, you
know, Pathfinder; and then my duty keeps me much within sight of
the storehouses, greatly contrary to my inclinations, as ye may well
suppose, having yourself the ardor of battle in your temperament. But
had ye heard what Mabel had just been saying of you, ye'd no
think another minute of making yourself agreeable to the saucy and
uncompromising hussy."

Pathfinder looked earnestly at the lieutenant, for it was impossible he
should not feel an interest in what might be Mabel's opinion; but he had
too much of the innate and true feeling of a gentleman to ask to hear
what another had said of him. Muir, however, was not to be foiled by
this self-denial and self-respect; for, believing he had a man of great
truth and simplicity to deal with, he determined to practise on his
credulity, as one means of getting rid of his rivalry. He therefore
pursued the subject, as soon as he perceived that his companion's
self-denial was stronger than his curiosity.

"You ought to know her opinion, Pathfinder," he continued; "and I think
every man ought to hear what his friends and acquaintances say of him:
and so, by way of proving my own regard for your character and feelings,
I'll just tell you in as few words as possible. You know that Mabel has
a wicked, malicious way with them eyes of her own, when she has a mind
to be hard upon one's feelings."

"To me her eyes, Lieutenant Muir, have always seemed winning and soft,
though I will acknowledge that they sometimes laugh; yes, I have known
them to laugh, and that right heartily, and with downright goodwill."

"Well, it was just that then; her eyes were laughing with all their
might, as it were; and in the midst of all her fun, she broke out with
an exclamation to this effect:--I hope 'twill no' hurt your sensibility,
Pathfinder?"

"I will not say Quartermaster, I will not say. Mabel's opinion of me is
of no more account than that of most others."

"Then I'll no' tell ye, but just keep discretion on the subject; and why
should a man be telling another what his friends say of him, especially
when they happen to say that which may not be pleasant to hear? I'll not
add another word to this present communication."

"I cannot make you speak, Quartermaster, if you are not so minded, and
perhaps it is better for me not to know Mabel's opinion, as you seem to
think it is not in my favor. Ah's me! if we could be what we wish to be,
instead of being only what we are, there would be a great difference in
our characters and knowledge and appearance. One may be rude and coarse
and ignorant, and yet happy, if he does not know it; but it is hard to
see our own failings in the strongest light, just as we wish to hear the
least about them."

"That's just the _rationale_, as the French say, of the matter; and so I
was telling Mabel, when she ran away and left me. You noticed the manner
in which she skipped off as you approached?"

"It was very observable," answered Pathfinder, drawing a long breath
and clenching the barrel of his rifle as if the fingers would bury
themselves in the iron.

"It was more than observable--it was flagrant; that's just the word, and
the dictionary wouldn't supply a better, after an hour's search.
Well, you must know, Pathfinder,--for I cannot reasonably deny you the
gratification of hearing this,--so you must know the minx bounded off
in that manner in preference to hearing what I had to say in your
justification."

"And what could you find to say in my behalf, Quartermaster?"

"Why, d'ye understand, my friend, I was ruled by circumstances, and
no' ventured indiscreetly into generalities, but was preparing to meet
particulars, as it might be, with particulars. If you were thought wild,
half-savage, or of a frontier formation, I could tell her, ye know, that
it came of the frontier, wild and half-savage life ye'd led; and all
her objections must cease at once, or there would be a sort of a
misunderstanding with Providence."

"And did you tell her this, Quartermaster?"

"I'll no' swear to the exact words, but the idea was prevalent in my
mind, ye'll understand. The girl was impatient, and would not hear the
half I had to say; but away she skipped, as ye saw with your own eyes,
Pathfinder, as if her opinion were fully made up, and she cared to
listen no longer. I fear her mind may be said to have come to its
conclusion?"

"I fear it has indeed, Quartermaster, and her father, after all, is
mistaken. Yes, yes; the Sergeant has fallen into a grievous error."

"Well, man, why need ye lament, and undo all the grand reputation ye've
been so many weary years making? Shoulder the rifle that ye use so well,
and off into the woods with ye, for there's not the female breathing
that is worth a heavy heart for a minute, as I know from experience.
Tak' the word of one who knows the sax, and has had two wives, that
women, after all, are very much the sort of creatures we do not imagine
them to be. Now, if you would really mortify Mabel, here is as glorious
an occasion as any rejected lover could desire."

"The last wish I have, Lieutenant, would be to mortify Mabel."

"Well, ye'll come to that in the end, notwithstanding; for it's
human nature to desire to give unpleasant feelings to them that give
unpleasant feelings to us. But a better occasion never offered to make
your friends love you, than is to be had at this very moment, and that
is the certain means of causing one's enemies to envy us."

"Quartermaster, Mabel is not my inimy; and if she was, the last thing I
could desire would be to give her an uneasy moment."

"Ye say so, Pathfinder, ye say so, and I daresay ye think so; but reason
and nature are both against you, as ye'll find in the end. Ye've
heard the saying 'love me, love my dog:' well, now, that means, read
backwards, 'don't love me, don't love my dog.' Now, listen to what is
in your power to do. You know we occupy an exceedingly precarious and
uncertain position here, almost in the jaws of the lion, as it were?"

"Do you mean the Frenchers by the lion, and this island as his jaws,
Lieutenant?"

"Metaphorically only, my friend, for the French are no lions, and this
island is not a jaw--unless, indeed, it may prove to be, what I greatly
fear may come true, the jaw-bone of an ass."

Here the Quartermaster indulged in a sneering laugh, that proclaimed
anything but respect and admiration for his friend Lundie's sagacity in
selecting that particular spot for his operations.

"The post is as well chosen as any I ever put foot in," said Pathfinder,
looking around him as one surveys a picture.

"I'll no' deny it, I'll no' deny it. Lundie is a great soldier, in
a small way; and his father was a great laird, with the same
qualification. I was born on the estate, and have followed the Major
so long that I've got to reverence all he says and does: that's just my
weakness, ye'll know, Pathfinder. Well, this post may be the post of an
ass, or of a Solomon, as men fancy; but it's most critically placed,
as is apparent by all Lundie's precautions and injunctions. There are
savages out scouting through these Thousand Islands and over the forest,
searching for this very spot, as is known to Lundie himself, on certain
information; and the greatest service you can render the 55th is to
discover their trails and lead them off on a false scent. Unhappily
Sergeant Dunham has taken up the notion that the danger is to be
apprehended from up-stream, because Frontenac lies above us; whereas all
experience tells us that Indians come on the side which is most contrary
to reason, and, consequently, are to be expected from below. Take your
canoe, therefore, and go down-stream among the islands, that we may have
notice if any danger approaches from that quarter."

"The Big Sarpent is on the look-out in that quarter; and as he knows the
station well, no doubt he will give us timely notice, should any wish to
sarcumvent us in that direction."

"He is but an Indian, after all, Pathfinder; and this is an affair
that calls for the knowledge of a white man. Lundie will be eternally
grateful to the man who shall help this little enterprise to come off
with flying colors. To tell you the truth, my friend, he is conscious it
should never have been attempted; but he has too much of the old laird's
obstinacy about him to own an error, though it be as manifest as the
morning star."

The Quartermaster then continued to reason with his companion, in order
to induce him to quit the island without delay, using such arguments
as first suggested themselves, sometimes contradicting himself, and not
unfrequently urging at one moment a motive that at the next was directly
opposed by another. The Pathfinder, simple as he was, detected these
flaws in the Lieutenant's philosophy, though he was far from suspecting
that they proceeded from a desire to clear the coast of Mabel's suitor.
He did not exactly suspect the secret objects of Muir, but he was far
from being blind to his sophistry. The result was that the two parted,
after a long dialogue, unconvinced, and distrustful of each other's
motives, though the distrust of the guide, like all that was connected
with the man, partook of his own upright, disinterested, and ingenuous
nature.

A conference that took place soon after between Sergeant Dunham and the
Lieutenant led to more consequences. When it was ended, secret orders
were issued to the men, the blockhouse was taken possession of, the huts
were occupied, and one accustomed to the movements of soldiers might
have detected that an expedition was in the wind. In fact, just as the
sun was setting, the Sergeant, who had been much occupied at what was
called the harbor, came into his own hut, followed by Pathfinder and
Cap; and as he took his seat at the neat table which Mabel had prepared
for him, he opened the budget of his intelligence.

"You are likely to be of some use here, my child," the old soldier
commenced, "as this tidy and well-ordered supper can testify; and I
trust, when the proper moment arrives, you will show yourself to be the
descendant of those who know how to face their enemies."

"You do not expect me, dear father, to play Joan of Arc, and to lead the
men to battle?"

"Play whom, child? Did you ever hear of the person Mabel mentions,
Pathfinder?"

"Not I, Sergeant; but what of that? I am ignorant and unedicated, and
it is too great a pleasure to me to listen to her voice, and take in her
words, to be particular about persons."

"I know her," said Cap decidedly; "she sailed a privateer out of Morlaix
in the last war; and good cruises she made of them."

Mabel blushed at having inadvertently made an allusion that went beyond
her father's reading, to say nothing of her uncle's dogmatism, and,
perhaps, a little at the Pathfinder's simple, ingenuous earnestness; but
she did not forbear the less to smile.

"Why, father, I am not expected to fall in with the men, and to help
defend the island?"

"And yet women have often done such things in this quarter of the world,
girl, as our friend, the Pathfinder here, will tell you. But lest you
should be surprised at not seeing us when you awake in the morning, it
is proper that I now tell you we intend to march in the course of this
very night."

"_We_, father! and leave me and Jennie on this island alone?"

"No, my daughter; not quite as unmilitary as that. We shall leave
Lieutenant Muir, brother Cap, Corporal M'Nab, and three men to compose
the garrison during our absence. Jennie will remain with you in this
hut, and brother Cap will occupy my place."

"And Mr. Muir?" said Mabel, half unconscious of what she uttered, though
she foresaw a great deal of unpleasant persecution in the arrangement.

"Why, he can make love to you, if you like it, girl; for he is an
amorous youth, and, having already disposed of four wives, is impatient
to show how much he honors their memories by taking a fifth."

"The Quartermaster tells me," said Pathfinder innocently, "that when a
man's feelings have been harassed by so many losses, there is no wiser
way to soothe them than by ploughing up the soil anew, in such a manner
as to leave no traces of what have gone over it before."

"Ay, that is just the difference between ploughing and harrowing,"
returned the Sergeant, with a grim smile. "But let him tell Mabel his
mind, and there will be an end of his suit. I very well know that _my_
daughter will never be the wife of Lieutenant Muir."

This was said in a way that was tantamount to declaring that no daughter
of his ever _should_ become the wife of the person in question. Mabel
had colored, trembled, half laughed, and looked uneasy; but, rallying
her spirit, she said, in a voice so cheerful as completely to conceal
her agitation, "But, father, we might better wait until Mr. Muir
manifests a wish that your daughter would have him, or rather a wish to
have your daughter, lest we get the fable of sour grapes thrown into our
faces."

"And what is that fable, Mabel?" eagerly demanded Pathfinder, who was
anything but learned in the ordinary lore of white men. "Tell it to us,
in your own pretty way; I daresay the Sergeant never heard it."

Mabel repeated the well-known fable, and, as her suitor had desired,
in her own pretty way, which was a way to keep his eyes riveted on her
face, and the whole of his honest countenance covered with a smile.

"That was like a fox!" cried Pathfinder, when she had ceased; "ay, and
like a Mingo, too, cunning and cruel; that is the way with both the
riptyles. As to grapes, they are sour enough in this part of the
country, even to them that can get at them, though I daresay there are
seasons and times and places where they are sourer to them that can't. I
should judge, now, my scalp is very sour in Mingo eyes."

"The sour grapes will be the other way, child, and it is Mr. Muir who
will make the complaint. You would never marry that man, Mabel?"

"Not she," put in Cap; "a fellow who is only half a soldier after all.
The story of them there grapes is quite a circumstance."

"I think little of marrying any one, dear father and dear uncle, and
would rather talk about it less, if you please. But, did I think of
marrying at all, I do believe a man whose affections have already been
tried by three or four wives would scarcely be my choice."

The Sergeant nodded at the guide, as much as to say, You see how the
land lies; and then he had sufficient consideration for his daughter's
feelings to change the subject.

"Neither you nor Mabel, brother Cap," he resumed, "can have any legal
authority with the little garrison I leave behind on the island; but you
may counsel and influence. Strictly speaking, Corporal M'Nab will be the
commanding officer, and I have endeavored to impress him with a sense
of his dignity, lest he might give way too much to the superior rank of
Lieutenant Muir, who, being a volunteer, can have no right to interfere
with the duty. I wish you to sustain the Corporal, brother Cap; for
should the Quartermaster once break through the regulations of the
expedition, he may pretend to command me, as well as M'Nab."

"More particularly, should Mabel really cut him adrift while you are
absent. Of course, Sergeant, you'll leave everything that is
afloat under my care? The most d----ble confusion has grown out of
misunderstandings between commanders-in-chief, ashore and afloat."

"In one sense, brother, though in a general way, the Corporal is
commander-in-chief. The Corporal must command; but you can counsel
freely, particularly in all matters relating to the boats, of which I
shall leave one behind to secure your retreat, should there be occasion.
I know the Corporal well; he is a brave man and a good soldier; and one
that may be relied on, if the Santa Cruz can be kept from him. But then
he is a Scotchman, and will be liable to the Quartermaster's influence,
against which I desire both you and Mabel to be on your guard."

"But why leave us behind, dear father? I have come thus far to be a
comfort to you, and why not go farther?"

"You are a good girl, Mabel, and very like the Dunhams. But you must
halt here. We shall leave the island to-morrow, before the day dawns,
in order not to be seen by any prying eyes coming from our cover, and
we shall take the two largest boats, leaving you the other and one bark
canoe. We are about to go into the channel used by the French, where
we shall lie in wait, perhaps a week, to intercept their supply-boats,
which are about to pass up on their way to Frontenac, loaded, in
particular, with a heavy amount of Indian goods."

"Have you looked well to your papers, brother?" Cap anxiously demanded.
"Of course you know a capture on the high seas is piracy, unless your
boat is regularly commissioned, either as a public or a private armed
cruiser."

"I have the honor to hold the Colonel's appointment as sergeant-major
of the 55th," returned the other, drawing himself up with dignity, "and
that will be sufficient even for the French king. If not, I have Major
Duncan's written orders."

"No papers, then, for a warlike cruiser?"

"They must suffice, brother, as I have no other. It is of vast
importance to his Majesty's interests, in this part of the world, that
the boats in question should be captured and carried into Oswego. They
contain the blankets, trinkets, rifles, ammunition, in short, all the
stores with which the French bribe their accursed savage allies to
commit their unholy acts, setting at nought our holy religion and its
precepts, the laws of humanity, and all that is sacred and dear among
men. By cutting off these supplies we shall derange their plans, and
gain time on them; for the articles cannot be sent across the ocean
again this autumn."

"But, father, does not his Majesty employ Indians also?" asked Mabel,
with some curiosity.

"Certainly, girl, and he has a right to employ them--God bless him! It's
a very different thing whether an Englishman or a Frenchman employs a
savage, as everybody can understand."

"But, father, I cannot see that this alters the case. If it be wrong in
a Frenchman to hire savages to fight his enemies, it would seem to be
equally wrong in an Englishman. _You_ will admit this, Pathfinder?"

"It's reasonable, it's reasonable; and I have never been one of them
that has raised a cry ag'in the Frenchers for doing the very thing we
do ourselves. Still it is worse to consort with a Mingo than to consort
with a Delaware. If any of that just tribe were left, I should think it
no sin to send them out ag'in the foe."

"And yet they scalp and slay young and old, women and children!"

"They have their gifts, Mabel, and are not to be blamed for following
them; natur' is natur', though the different tribes have different ways
of showing it. For my part I am white, and endeavor to maintain white
feelings."

"This is all unintelligible to me," answered Mabel. "What is right in
King George, it would seem, ought to be right in King Louis."

As all parties, Mabel excepted, seemed satisfied with the course the
discussion had taken, no one appeared to think it necessary to pursue
the subject. Supper was no sooner ended than the Sergeant dismissed
his guests, and then held a long and confidential dialogue with his
daughter. He was little addicted to giving way to the gentler emotions,
but the novelty of his present situation awakened feelings that he was
unused to experience. The soldier or the sailor, so long as he acts
under the immediate supervision of a superior, thinks little of the
risks he runs, but the moment he feels the responsibility of command,
all the hazards of his undertaking begin to associate themselves in his
mind: with the chances of success or failure. While he dwells less
on his own personal danger, perhaps, than when that is the principal
consideration, he has more lively general perceptions of all the risks,
and submits more to the influence of the feelings which doubt creates.
Such was now the case with Sergeant Dunham, who, instead of looking
forward to victory as certain, according to his usual habits, began to
feel the possibility that he might be parting with his child for ever.

Never before had Mabel struck him as so beautiful as she appeared that
night. Possibly she never had displayed so many engaging qualities to
her father; for concern on his account had begun to be active in her
breast; and then her sympathies met with unusual encouragement through
those which had been stirred up in the sterner bosom of the veteran.
She had never been entirely at her ease with her parent, the great
superiority of her education creating a sort of chasm, which had been
widened by the military severity of manner he had acquired by dealing so
long with beings who could only be kept in subjection by an unremitted
discipline. On the present occasion, however, the conversation between
the father and daughter became more confidential than usual, until Mabel
rejoiced to find that it was gradually becoming endearing, a state of
feeling that the warm-hearted girl had silently pined for in vain ever
since her arrival.

"Then mother was about my height?" Mabel said, as she held one of her
father's hands in both her own, looking up into his face with humid
eyes. "I had thought her taller."

"That is the way with most children who get a habit of thinking of their
parents with respect, until they fancy them larger and more commanding
than they actually are. Your mother, Mabel, was as near your height as
one woman could be to another."

"And her eyes, father?"

"Her eyes were like thine, child, too; blue and soft, and inviting like,
though hardly so laughing."

"Mine will never laugh again, dearest father, if you do not take care of
yourself in this expedition."

"Thank you, Mabel--hem--thank you, child; but I must do my duty. I wish
I had seen you comfortably married before we left Oswego; my mind would
be easier."

"Married!--to whom, father?"

"You know the man I wish you to love. You may meet with many gayer, and
many dressed in finer clother; but with none with so true a heart and
just a mind."

"None father?"

"I know of none; in these particulars Pathfinder has few equals at
least."

"But I need not marry at all. You are single, and I can remain to take
care of you."

"God bless you, Mabel! I know you would, and I do not say that the
feeling is not right, for I suppose it is; and yet I believe there is
another that is more so."

"What can be more right than to honor one's parents?"

"It is just as right to honor one's husband, my dear child."

"But I have no husband, father."

"Then take one as soon as possible, that you may have a husband to
honor. I cannot live for ever, Mabel, but must drop off in the course of
nature ere long, if I am not carried off in the course of war. You are
young, and may yet live long; and it is proper that you should have a
male protector, who can see you safe through life, and take care of you
in age, as you now wish to take care of me."

"And do you think, father," said Mabel, playing with his sinewy fingers
with her own little hands, and looking down at them, as if they were
subjects of intense interest, though her lips curled in a slight smile
as the words came from them,--"and do you think, father, that Pathfinder
is just the man to do this? Is he not, within ten or twelve years, as
old as yourself?"

"What of that? His life has been one of moderation and exercise, and
years are less to be counted, girl, than constitution. Do you know
another more likely to be your protector?"

Mabel did not; at least another who had expressed a desire to that
effect, whatever might have been her hopes and her wishes.

"Nay, father, we are not talking of another, but of the Pathfinder,"
she answered evasively. "If he were younger, I think it would be more
natural for me to think of him for a husband."

"'Tis all in the constitution, I tell you, child; Pathfinder is a
younger man than half our subalterns."

"He is certainly younger than one, sir--Lieutenant Muir."

Mabel's laugh was joyous and light-hearted, as if just then she felt no
care.

"That he is--young enough to be his grandson; he is younger in years,
too. God forbid, Mabel, that you should ever become an officer's lady,
at least until you are an officer's daughter!"

"There will be little fear of that, father, if I marry Pathfinder,"
returned the girl, looking up archly in the Sergeant's face again.

"Not by the king's commission, perhaps, though the man is even now the
friend and companion of generals. I think I could die happy, Mabel, if
you were his wife."

"Father!"

"'Tis a sad thing to go into battle with the weight of an unprotected
daughter laid upon the heart."

"I would give the world to lighten yours of its load, my dear sir."

"It might be done," said the Sergeant, looking fondly at his child;
"though I could not wish to put a burthen on yours in order to do so."

The voice was deep and tremulous, and never before had Mabel witnessed
such a show of affection in her parent. The habitual sternness of the
man lent an interest to his emotions which they might otherwise have
wanted, and the daughter's heart yearned to relieve the father's mind.

"Father, speak plainly!" she cried, almost convulsively.

"Nay, Mabel, it might not be right; your wishes and mine may be very
different."

"I have no wishes--know nothing of what you mean. Would you speak of my
future marriage?"

"If I could see you promised to Pathfinder--know that you were pledged
to become his wife, let my own fate be what it might, I think I could
die happy. But I will ask no pledge of you, my child; I will not force
you to do what you might repent. Kiss me, Mabel, and go to your bed."

Had Sergeant Dunham exacted of Mabel the pledge that he really so much
desired, he would have encountered a resistance that he might have found
it difficult to overcome; but, by letting nature have its course,
he enlisted a powerful ally on his side, and the warm-hearted,
generous-minded Mabel was ready to concede to her affections much more
than she would ever have yielded to menace. At that touching moment she
thought only of her parent, who was about to quit her, perhaps for ever;
and all of that ardent love for him, which had possibly been as much fed
by the imagination as by anything else, but which had received a little
check by the restrained intercourse of the last fortnight, now returned
with a force that was increased by pure and intense feeling. Her father
seemed all in all to her, and to render him happy there was no proper
sacrifice which she was not ready to make. One painful, rapid, almost
wild gleam of thought shot across the brain of the girl, and her
resolution wavered; but endeavoring to trace the foundation of the
pleasing hope on which it was based, she found nothing positive to
support it. Trained like a woman to subdue her most ardent feelings, her
thoughts reverted to her father, and to the blessings that awaited the
child who yielded to a parent's wishes.

"Father," she said quietly, almost with a holy calm, "God blesses the
dutiful daughter."

"He will, Mabel; we have the Good Book for that."

"I will marry whomever you desire."

"Nay, nay, Mabel, you may have a choice of your own--"

"I have no choice; that is, none have asked me to have a choice,
but Pathfinder and Mr. Muir; and between _them_, neither of us would
hesitate. No, father; I will marry whomever you may choose."

"Thou knowest my choice, beloved child; none other can make thee as
happy as the noble-hearted guide."

"Well, then, if he wish it, if he ask me again--for, father, you would
not have me offer myself, or that any one should do that office for me,"
and the blood stole across the pallid cheeks of Mabel as she spoke, for
high and generous resolutions had driven back the stream of life to her
heart; "no one must speak to him of it; but if he seek me again, and,
knowing all that a true girl ought to tell the man she marries, he then
wishes to make me his wife, I will be his."

"Bless you, my Mabel! God in heaven bless you, and reward you as a pious
daughter deserves to be rewarded!"

"Yes, father, put your mind at peace; go on this expedition with a
light heart, and trust in God. For me you will have now no care. In
the spring--I must have a little time, father--but in the spring I will
marry Pathfinder, if that noble-hearted hunter shall then desire it."

"Mabel, he loves you as I loved your mother. I have seen him weep like a
child when speaking of his feelings towards you."

"Yes, I believe it; I've seen enough to satisfy me that he thinks better
of me than I deserve; and certainly the man is not living for whom I
have more respect than for Pathfinder; not even for you, dear father."

"That is as it should be, child, and the union will be blessed. May I
not tell Pathfinder this?"

"I would rather you would not, father. Let it come of itself, come
naturally." The smile that illuminated Mabel's handsome face was
angelic, as even her parent thought, though one better practised
in detecting the passing emotions, as they betray themselves in the
countenance, might have traced something wild and unnatural in it. "No,
no, _we_ must let things take their course; father, you have my solemn
promise."

"That will do, that will do, Mabel, now kiss me. God bless and protect
you, girl! you are a good daughter."

Mabel threw herself into her father's arms--it was the first time in her
life--and sobbed on his bosom like an infant. The stern soldier's heart
was melted, and the tears of the two mingled; but Sergeant Dunham soon
started, as if ashamed of himself, and, gently forcing his daughter from
him, he bade her good-night, and sought his pallet. Mabel went sobbing
to the rude corner that had been prepared for her reception; and in
a few minutes the hut was undisturbed by any sound, save the heavy
breathing of the veteran.



CHAPTER XX.

     Wandering, I found on my ruinous walk,
       By the dial stone, aged and green,
     One rose of the wilderness, left on its stalk,
       To mark where a garden had been.
     CAMPBELL.


It was not only broad daylight when Mabel awoke, but the sun had
actually been up some time. Her sleep had been tranquil, for she rested
on an approving conscience, and fatigue contributed to render it sweet;
and no sound of those who had been so early in motion had interfered
with her rest. Springing to her feet and rapidly dressing herself, the
girl was soon breathing the fragrance of the morning in the open air.
For the first time she was sensibly struck with the singular beauties,
as well as with the profound retirement, of her present situation. The
day proved to be one of those of the autumnal glory, so common to a
climate that is more abused than appreciated, and its influence
was every way inspiriting and genial. Mabel was benefitted by this
circumstance; for, as she fancied, her heart was heavy on account of the
dangers to which a father, whom she now began to love as women love when
confidence is created, was exposed.

But the island seemed absolutely deserted. The previous night, the
bustle of the arrival had given the spot an appearance of life which was
now entirely gone; and our heroine had turned her eyes nearly around on
every object in sight, before she caught a view of a single human being
to remove the sense of utter solitude. Then, indeed, she beheld all who
were left behind, collected in a group around a fire which might be said
to belong to the camp. The person of her uncle, to whom she was so
much accustomed, reassured Mabel; and she examined the remainder with a
curiosity natural to her situation. Besides Cap and the Quartermaster,
there were the Corporal, the three soldiers, and the woman who was
cooking. The huts were silent and empty; and the low but tower-like
summit of the blockhouse rose above the bushes, by which it was
half concealed, in picturesque beauty. The sun was just casting its
brightness into the open places of the glade, and the vault over her
head was impending in the soft sublimity of the blue void. Not a cloud
was visible, and she secretly fancied the circumstance might be taken as
a harbinger of peace and security.

Perceiving that all the others were occupied with that great concern of
human nature, a breakfast, Mabel walked, unobserved, towards an end of
the island where she was completely shut out of view by the trees and
bushes. Here she got a stand on the very edge of the water, by forcing
aside the low branches, and stood watching the barely perceptible flow
and re-flow of the miniature waves which laved the shore; a sort of
physical echo to the agitation that prevailed on the lake fifty miles
above her. The glimpses of natural scenery that offered were very soft
and pleasing; and our heroine, who had a quick eye for all that was
lovely in nature, was not slow in selecting the most striking bits of
landscape. She gazed through the different vistas formed by the openings
between the islands, and thought she had never looked on aught more
lovely.

While thus occupied, Mabel was suddenly alarmed by fancying that she
caught a glimpse of a human form among the bushes that lined the shore
of the island which lay directly before her. The distance across the
water was not a hundred yards; and, though she might be mistaken, and
her fancy was wandering when the form passed before her sight, still
she did not think she could be deceived. Aware that her sex would be no
protection against a rifle bullet, should an Iroquois get a view of her,
the girl instinctively drew back, taking care to conceal her person as
much as possible by the leaves, while she kept her own look riveted on
the opposite shore, vainly waiting for some time in the expectation of
the stranger. She was about to quit her post in the bushes and hasten to
her uncle, in order to acquaint him of her suspicions, when she saw
the branch of an alder thrust beyond the fringe of bushes on the other
island, and waved towards her significantly, and as she fancied in
token of amity. This was a breathless and a trying moment to one as
inexperienced in frontier warfare as our heroine and yet she felt the
great necessity that existed for preserving her recollection, and of
acting with steadiness and discretion.

It was one of the peculiarities of the exposure to which those who
dwelt on the frontiers of America were liable, to bring out the moral
qualities of the women to a degree which they must themselves, under
other circumstances, have believed they were incapable of manifesting;
and Mabel well knew that the borderers loved to dwell in their legends
on the presence of mind, fortitude, and spirit that their wives and
sisters had displayed under circumstances the most trying. Her emulation
had been awakened by what she had heard on such subjects; and it at once
struck her that now was the moment for her to show that she was truly
Sergeant Dunham's child. The motion of the branch was such as she
believed indicated amity; and, after a moment's hesitation, she broke
off a twig, fastened it to a stick and, thrusting it through an opening,
waved it in return, imitating as closely as possible the manner of the
other.

This dumb show lasted two or three minutes on both sides, when Mabel
perceived that the bushes opposite were cautiously pushed aside, and a
human face appeared at an opening. A glance sufficed to let Mabel see
that it was the countenance of a red-skin, as well as that of a woman.
A second and a better look satisfied her that it was the face of the
Dew-of-June, the wife of Arrowhead. During the time she had travelled in
company with this woman, Mabel had been won by the gentleness of manner,
the meek simplicity, and the mingled awe and affection with which she
regarded her husband. Once or twice in the course of the journey she
fancied the Tuscarora had manifested towards herself an unpleasant
degree of attention; and on those occasions it had struck her that his
wife exhibited sorrow and mortification. As Mabel, however, had more
than compensated for any pain she might in this way unintentionally have
caused her companion, by her own kindness of manner and attentions, the
woman had shown much attachment to her, and they had parted, with a deep
conviction on the mind of our heroine that in the Dew-of-June she had
lost a friend.

It is useless to attempt to analyze all the ways by which the human
heart is led into confidence. Such a feeling, however, had the young
Tuscarora woman awakened in the breast of our heroine; and the latter,
under the impression that this extraordinary visit was intended for her
own good, felt every disposition to have a closer communication. She no
longer hesitated about showing herself clear of the bushes, and was
not sorry to see the Dew-of-June imitate her confidence, by stepping
fearlessly out of her own cover. The two girls, for the Tuscarora,
though married, was even younger than Mabel, now openly exchanged signs
of friendship, and the latter beckoned to her friend to approach, though
she knew not the manner herself in which this object could be effected.
But the Dew-of-June was not slow in letting it be seen that it was in
her power; for, disappearing in a moment, she soon showed herself again
in the end of a bark canoe, the bows of which she had drawn to the edge
of the bushes, and of which the body still lay in a sort of covered
creek. Mabel was about to invite her to cross, when her own name was
called aloud in the stentorian voice of her uncle. Making a hurried
gesture for the Tuscarora girl to conceal herself, Mabel sprang from the
bushes and tripped up the glade towards the sound, and perceived that
the whole party had just seated themselves at breakfast; Cap having
barely put his appetite under sufficient restraint to summon her to join
them. That this was the most favorable instant for the interview flashed
on the mind of Mabel; and, excusing herself on the plea of not being
prepared for the meal, she bounded back to the thicket, and soon renewed
her communications with the young Indian woman.

Dew-of-June was quick of comprehension; and with half a dozen noiseless
strokes of the paddles, her canoe was concealed in the bushes of Station
Island. In another minute, Mabel held her hand, and was leading her
through the grove towards her own hut. Fortunately the latter was so
placed as to be completely hid from the sight of those at the fire, and
they both entered it unseen. Hastily explaining to her guest, in the
best manner she could, the necessity of quitting her for a short time,
Mabel, first placing the Dew-of-June in her own room, with a full
certainty that she would not quit it until told to do so, went to the
fire and took her seat among the rest, with all the composure it was in
her power to command.

"Late come, late served, Mabel," said her uncle, between mouthfuls of
broiled salmon; for though the cookery might be very unsophisticated on
that remote frontier, the viands were generally delicious,--"late come,
late served; it is a good rule, and keeps laggards up to their work."

"I am no laggard, Uncle; for I have been stirring nearly an hour, and
exploring our island."

"It's little you'll make o' that, Mistress Mabel," put in Muir; "that's
little by nature. Lundie--or it might be better to style him Major
Duncan in this presence" (this was said in consideration of the
corporal and the common men, though they were taking their meal a little
apart)--"has not added an empire to his Majesty's dominions in getting
possession of this island, which is likely to equal that of the
celebrated Sancho in revenues and profits--Sancho, of whom, doubtless,
Master Cap, you'll often have been reading in your leisure hours, more
especially in calms and moments of inactivity."

"I know the spot you mean, Quartermaster; Sancho's Island--coral rock,
of new formation, and as bad a landfall, in a dark night and blowing
weather, as a sinner could wish to keep clear of. It's a famous place
for cocoanuts and bitter water, that Sancho's Island."

"It's no' very famous for dinners," returned Muir, repressing the smile
which was struggling to his lips out of respect to Mabel; "nor do I
think there'll be much to choose between its revenue and that of this
spot. In my judgment, Master Cap, this is a very unmilitary position,
and I look to some calamity befalling it, sooner or later."

"It is to be hoped not until our turn of duty is over," observed Mabel.
"I have no wish to study the French language."

"We might think ourselves happy, did it not prove to be the Iroquois. I
have reasoned with Major Duncan on the occupation of this position, but
'a wilfu' man maun ha' his way.' My first object in accompanying this
party was to endeavor to make myself acceptable and useful to your
beautiful niece, Master Cap; and the second was to take such an account
of the stores that belong to my particular department as shall leave no
question open to controversy, concerning the manner of expenditure, when
they shall have disappeared by means of the enemy."

"Do you look upon matters as so serious?" demanded Cap, actually
suspending his mastication of a bit of venison--for he passed
alternately from fish to flesh and back again--in the interest he took
in the answer. "Is the danger pressing?"

"I'll no' say just that; and I'll no' say just the contrary. There is
always danger in war, and there is more of it at the advanced posts than
at the main encampment. It ought, therefore, to occasion no surprise
were we to be visited by the French at any moment."

"And what the devil is to be done in that case? Six men and two women
would make but a poor job in defending such a place as this, should the
enemy invade us; as, no doubt, Frenchman-like, they would take very good
care to come strong-handed."

"That we may depend on--some very formidable force at the very lowest. A
military disposition might be made in defence of the island, out of all
question, and according to the art of war, though we would probably fail
in the force necessary to carry out the design in any very creditable
manner. In the first place, a detachment should be sent off to the
shore, with orders to annoy the enemy in landing; a strong party ought
instantly to be thrown into the blockhouse, as the citadel, for on that
all the different detachments would naturally fall back for support, as
the French advanced; and an entrenched camp might be laid out around
the stronghold, as it would be very unmilitary indeed to let the foe
get near enough to the foot of the walls to mine them. Chevaux-de-frise
would keep the cavalry in check; and as for the artillery, redoubts
should be thrown up under cover of yon woods. Strong skirmishing
parties, moreover, would be exceedingly serviceable in retarding the
march of the enemy; and these different huts, if properly piqueted
and ditched, would be converted into very eligible positions for that
object."

"Whe-e-e-w-, Quartermaster! And who the d---l is to find all the men to
carry out such a plan?"

"The king, out of all question, Master Cap. It is his quarrel, and it's
just he should bear the burthen o' it."

"And we are only six! This is fine talking, with a vengeance. You could
be sent down to the shore to oppose the landing, Mabel might skirmish
with her tongue at least, the soldier's wife might act chevaux-de-frise
to entangle the cavalry, the corporal should command the entrenched
camp, his three men could occupy the five huts, and I would take the
blockhouse. Whe-e-e-w! you describe well, Lieutenant; and should have
been a limner instead of a soldier."

"Na, I've been very literal and upright in my exposition of matters.
That there is no greater force here to carry out the plan is a fault of
his Majesty's ministers, and none of mine."

"But should our enemy really appear," asked Mabel, with more interest
than she might have shown, had she not remembered the guest in the hut,
"what course ought we to pursue?"

"My advice would be to attempt to achieve that, pretty Mabel, which
rendered Xenophon so justly celebrated."

"I think you mean a retreat, though I half guess at your allusion."

"You've imagined my meaning from the possession of a strong native
sense, young lady. I am aware that your worthy father has pointed out to
the Corporal certain modes and methods by which he fancies this island
could be held, in case the French should discover its position; but the
excellent Sergeant, though your father, and as good a man in his duties
as ever wielded a spontoon, is not the great Lord Stair, or even
the Duke of Marlborough. I'll not deny the Sergeant's merits in his
particular sphere; though I cannot exaggerate qualities, however
excellent, into those of men who may be in some trifling degree his
superiors. Sergeant Dunham has taken counsel of his heart, instead of
his head, in resolving to issue such orders; but, if the fort fall, the
blame will lie on him that ordered it to be occupied, and not on him
whose duty it was to defend it. Whatever may be the determination of the
latter, should the French and their allies land, a good commander never
neglects the preparations necessary to effect a retreat; and I would
advise Master Cap, who is the admiral of our navy, to have a boat in
readiness to evacuate the island, if need comes to need. The largest
boat that we have left carries a very ample sail; and by hauling
it round here, and mooring it under those bushes, there will be a
convenient place for a hurried embarkation; and then you'll perceive,
pretty Mabel, that it is scarcely fifty yards before we shall be in a
channel between two other islands, and hid from the sight of those who
may happen to be on this."

"All that you say is very true, Mr. Muir; but may not the French come
from that quarter themselves? If it is so good for a retreat, it is
equally good for an advance."

"They'll no' have the sense to do so discreet a thing," returned Muir,
looking furtively and a little uneasily around him; "they'll no' have
sufficient discretion. Your French are a head-over-heels nation, and
usually come forward in a random way; so we may look for them, if they
come at all, on the other side of the island."

The discourse now became exceedingly desultory, touching principally,
however, on the probabilities of an invasion, and the best means of
meeting it.

To most of this Mabel paid but little attention; though she felt some
surprise that Lieutenant Muir, an officer whose character for courage
stood well, should openly recommend an abandonment of what appeared to
her to be doubly a duty, her father's character being connected with the
defence of the island. Her mind, however, was so much occupied with her
guest, that, seizing the first favorable moment, she left the table, and
was soon in her own hut again. Carefully fastening the door, and seeing
that the simple curtain was drawn before the single little window, Mabel
next led the Dew-of-June, or June, as she was familiarly termed by
those who spoke to her in English, into the outer room, making signs of
affection and confidence.

"I am glad to see you, June," said Mabel, with one of her sweetest
smiles, and in her own winning voice,--"very glad to see you. What has
brought you hither, and how did you discover the island?"

"Speak slow," said June, returning smile for smile, and pressing the
little hand she held with one of her own that was scarcely larger,
though it had been hardened by labor; "more slow--too quick."

Mabel repeated her questions, endeavoring to repress the impetuosity
of her feelings; and she succeeded in speaking so distinctly as to be
understood.

"June, friend," returned the Indian woman.

"I believe you, June--from my soul I believe you; what has this to do
with your visit?"

"Friend come to see friend," answered June, again smiling openly in the
other's face.

"There is some other reason, June, else would you never run this risk,
and alone. You are alone, June?"

"June wid you, no one else. June come alone, paddle canoe."

"I hope so, I think so--nay, I know so. You would not be treacherous
with me, June?"

"What treacherous?"

"You would not betray me, would not give me to the French, to the
Iroquois, to Arrowhead?"

June shook her head earnestly.

"You would not sell my scalp?"

Here June passed her arm fondly around the slender waist of Mabel and
pressed her to her heart with a tenderness and affection that brought
tears into the eyes of our heroine. It was done in the fond caressing
manner of a woman, and it was scarcely possible that it should not
obtain credit for sincerity with a young and ingenuous person of the
same sex. Mabel returned the pressure, and then held the other off at
the length of her arm, looked her steadily in the face, and continued
her inquiries.

"If June has something to tell her friend, let her speak plainly," she
said. "My ears are open."

"June 'fraid Arrowhead kill her."

"But Arrowhead will never know it." Mabel's blood mounted to her
temples as she said this; for she felt that she was urging a wife to be
treacherous to her husband. "That is, Mabel will not tell him."

"He bury tomahawk in June's head."

"That must never be, dear June; I would rather you should say no more
than run this risk."

"Blockhouse good place to sleep, good place to stay."

"Do you mean that I may save my life by keeping in the blockhouse, June?
Surely, surely, Arrowhead will not hurt you for telling me that. He
cannot wish me any great harm, for I never injured him."

"Arrowhead wish no harm to handsome pale-face," returned June, averting
her face; and, though she always spoke in the soft, gentle voice of an
Indian girl, now permitting its notes to fall so low as to cause them to
sound melancholy and timid. "Arrowhead love pale-face girl."

Mabel blushed, she knew not why, and for a moment her questions were
repressed by a feeling of inherent delicacy. But it was necessary to
know more, for her apprehensions had been keenly awakened, and she
resumed her inquiries.

"Arrowhead can have no reason to love or to hate _me_," she said. "Is he
near you?"

"Husband always near wife, here," said June, laying her hand on her
heart.

"Excellent creature! But tell me, June, ought I to keep in the
blockhouse to-day--this morning--now?"

"Blockhouse very good; good for women. Blockhouse got no scalp."

"I fear I understand you only too well, June. Do you wish to see my
father?"

"No here; gone away."

"You cannot know that, June; you see the island is full of his
soldiers."

"No full; gone away,"--here June held up four of her fingers,--"so many
red-coats."

"And Pathfinder? would you not like to see the Pathfinder? He can talk
to you in the Iroquois tongue."

"Tongue gone wid him," said June, laughing; "keep tongue in his mout'."

There was something so sweet and contagious in the infantile laugh of
an Indian girl, that Mabel could not refrain from joining in it, much as
her fears were aroused by all that had passed.

"You appear to know, or to think you know, all about us, June. But if
Pathfinder be gone, Eau-douce can speak French too. You know Eau-douce;
shall I run and bring him to talk with you?"

"Eau-douce gone too, all but heart; that there." As June said this,
she laughed again; looked in different directions, as if unwilling to
confuse the other, and laid her hand on Mabel's bosom.

Our heroine had often heard of the wonderful sagacity of the Indians,
and of the surprising manner in which they noted all things, while they
appeared to regard none; but she was scarcely prepared for the direction
the discourse had so singularly taken. Willing to change it, and at the
same time truly anxious to learn how great the danger that impended over
them might really be, she rose from the camp-stool on which she had been
seated; and, by assuming an attitude of less affectionate confidence,
she hoped to hear more of that she really desired to learn, and to avoid
allusions to that which she found so embarrassing.

"You know how much or how little you ought to tell me, June," she said;
"and I hope you love me well enough to give me the information I ought
to hear. My dear uncle, too, is on the island, and you are, or ought
to be, his friend as well as mine; and both of us will remember your
conduct when we get back to Oswego."

"Maybe, never get back; who know?" This was said doubtingly, or as
one who lays down an uncertain proposition, and not with a taunt, or a
desire to alarm.

"No one knows what will happen but God. Our lives are in His hands.
Still, I think you are to be His instrument in saving us."

This passed June's comprehension, and she only looked her ignorance; for
it was evident she wished to be of use.

"Blockhouse very good," she repeated, as soon as her countenance ceased
to express uncertainty, laying strong emphasis on the last two words.

"Well, I understand this, June, and will sleep in it to-night. Of course
I am to tell my uncle what you have said?"

The Dew-of-June started, and she discovered a very manifest uneasiness
at the interrogatory.

"No, no, no, no!" she answered, with a volubility and vehemence that was
imitated from the French of the Canadas; "no good to tell Saltwater. He
much talk and long tongue. Thinks woods all water, understand not'ing.
Tell Arrowhead, and June die."

"You do my dear uncle injustice, for he would be as little likely to
betray you as any one."

"No understand. Saltwater got tongue, but no eyes, no ears, no
nose--not'ing but tongue, tongue, tongue!"

Although Mabel did not exactly coincide in this opinion, she saw that
Cap had not the confidence of the young Indian woman, and that it
was idle to expect she would consent to his being admitted to their
interview.

"You appear to think you know our situation pretty well, June," Mabel
continued; "have you been on the island before this visit?"

"Just come."

"How then do you know that what you say is true? My father, the
Pathfinder, and Eau-douce may all be here within sound of my voice, if I
choose to call them."

"All gone," said June positively, smiling good-humoredly at the same
time.

"Nay, this is more than you can say certainly, not having been over the
island to examine it."

"Got good eyes; see boat with men go away--see ship with Eau-douce."

"Then you have been some time watching us: I think, however, you have
not counted them that remain."

June laughed, held up her four fingers again, and then pointed to her
two thumbs; passing a finger over the first, she repeated the
words "red-coats;" and touching the last, she added, "Saltwater,"
"Quartermaster." All this was being very accurate, and Mabel began
to entertain serious doubts as to the propriety of her permitting her
visitor to depart without her becoming more explicit. Still it was
so repugnant to her feelings to abuse the confidence this gentle and
affectionate creature had evidently reposed in her, that Mabel had no
sooner admitted the thought of summoning her uncle, than she rejected
it as unworthy of herself and unjust to her friend. To aid this good
resolution, too, there was the certainty that June would reveal nothing,
but take refuge in a stubborn silence, if any attempt were made to
coerce her.

"You think, then, June," Mabel continued, as soon as these thoughts had
passed through her mind, "that I had better live in the blockhouse?"

"Good place for woman. Blockhouse got no scalp. Logs t'ick."

"You speak confidently, June; as if you had been in it, and had measured
its walls."

June laughed; and she looked knowing, though she said nothing.

"Does any one but yourself know how to find this island? Have any of the
Iroquois seen it?"

June looked sad, and she cast her eyes warily about her, as if
distrusting a listener.

"Tuscarora, everywhere--Oswego, here, Frontenac, Mohawk--everywhere. If
he see June, kill her."

"But we thought that no one knew of this island, and that we had no
reason to fear our enemies while on it."

"Much eye, Iroquois."

"Eyes will not always do, June, This spot is hid from ordinary sight,
and few of even our own people know how to find it."

"One man can tell; some Yengeese talk French."

Mabel felt a chill at her heart. All the suspicions against Jasper,
which she had hitherto disdained entertaining, crowded in a body on her
thoughts; and the sensation that they brought was so sickening, that for
an instant she imagined she was about to faint. Arousing herself, and
remembering her promise to her father, she arose and walked up and down
the hut for a minute, fancying that Jasper's delinquencies were naught
to her, though her inmost heart yearned with the desire to think him
innocent.

"I understand your meaning, June," she then said; "you wish me to know
that some one has treacherously told your people where and how to find
the island?"

June laughed, for in her eyes artifice in war was oftener a merit than
a crime; but she was too true to her tribe herself to say more than the
occasion required. Her object was to save Mabel, and Mabel only; and
she saw no sufficient reason for "travelling out of the record," as the
lawyers express it, in order to do anything else.

"Pale-face know now," she added. "Blockhouse good for girl, no matter
for men and warriors."

"But it is much matter with me, June; for one of those men is my uncle,
whom I love, and the others are my countrymen and friends. I must tell
them what has passed."

"Then June be kill," returned the young Indian quietly, though she
evidently spoke with concern.

"No; they shall not know that you have been here. Still, they must be on
their guard, and we can all go into the blockhouse."

"Arrowhead know, see everything, and June be kill. June come to tell
young pale-face friend, not to tell men. Every warrior watch his own
scalp. June woman, and tell woman; no tell men."

Mabel was greatly distressed at this declaration of her wild friend, for
it was now evident the young creature understood that her communication
was to go no further. She was ignorant how far these people consider the
point of honor interested in her keeping the secret; and most of all
was she unable to say how far any indiscretion of her own might actually
commit June and endanger her life. All these considerations flashed on
her mind, and reflection only rendered their influence more painful.
June, too, manifestly viewed the matter gravely; for she began to gather
up the different little articles she had dropped in taking Mabel's hand,
and was preparing to depart. To attempt detaining her was out of the
question; and to part from her, after all she had hazarded to serve her,
was repugnant to all the just and kind feelings of our heroine's nature.

"June," said she eagerly, folding her arms round the gentle but
uneducated being, "we are friends. From me you have nothing to fear, for
no one shall know of your visit. If you could give me some signal just
before the danger comes, some sign by which to know when to go into the
blockhouse, how to take care of myself."

June paused, for she had been in earnest in her intention to depart; and
then she said quietly, "Bring June pigeon."

"A pigeon! Where shall I find a pigeon to bring you?"

"Next hut; bring old one; June go to canoe."

"I think I understand you, June; but had I not better lead you back to
the bushes, lest you meet some of the men?"

"Go out first; count men, one, two, t'ree, four, five, six"--here June
held up her fingers, and laughed--"all out of the way--good; all but
one, call him one side. Then sing, and fetch pigeon."

Mabel smiled at the readiness and ingenuity of the girl, and prepared to
execute her requests. At the door, however, she stopped, and looked back
entreatingly at the Indian woman. "Is there no hope of your telling me
more, June?" she said.

"Know all now, blockhouse good, pigeon tell, Arrowhead kill."

The last words sufficed; for Mabel could not urge further
communications, when her companion herself told her that the penalty of
her revelations might be death by the hand of her husband. Throwing open
the door, she made a sign of adieu to June, and went out of the hut.
Mabel resorted to the simple expedient of the young Indian girl to
ascertain the situation of the different individuals on the island.
Instead of looking about her with the intention of recognizing faces and
dresses, she merely counted them; and found that three still remained at
the fire, while two had gone to the boat, one of whom was Mr. Muir. The
sixth man was her uncle; and he was coolly arranging some fishing-tackle
at no great distance from the fire. The woman was just entering her own
hut; and this accounted for the whole party. Mabel now, affecting
to have dropped something, returned nearly to the hut she had left,
warbling an air, stooped as if to pick up some object from the ground,
and hurried towards the hut June had mentioned. This was a dilapidated
structure, and it had been converted by the soldiers of the last
detachment into a sort of storehouse for their live stock. Among other
things, it contained a few dozen pigeons, which were regaling on a pile
of wheat that had been brought off from one of the farms plundered on
the Canada shore. Mabel had not much difficulty in catching one of these
pigeons, although they fluttered and flew about the hut with a noise
like that of drums; and, concealing it in her dress, she stole back
towards her own hut with the prize. It was empty; and, without doing
more than cast a glance in at the door, the eager girl hurried down to
the shore. She had no difficulty in escaping observation, for the trees
and bushes made a complete cover to her person. At the canoe she
found June, who took the pigeon, placed it in a basket of her own
manufacturing, and, repeating the words, "blockhouse good," she glided
out of the bushes and across the narrow passage, as noiselessly as she
had come. Mabel waited some time to catch a signal of leave-taking or
amity after her friend had landed, but none was given. The adjacent
islands, without exception, were as quiet as if no one had ever
disturbed the sublime repose of nature, and nowhere could any sign or
symptom be discovered, as Mabel then thought, that might denote the
proximity of the sort of danger of which June had given notice.

On returning, however, from the shore, Mabel was struck with a little
circumstance, that, in an ordinary situation, would have attracted no
attention, but which, now that her suspicions had been aroused, did not
pass before her uneasy eye unnoticed. A small piece of red bunting, such
as is used in the ensigns of ships, was fluttering at the lower branch
of a small tree, fastened in a way to permit it to blow out, or to droop
like a vessel's pennant.

Now that Mabel's fears were awakened, June herself could not have
manifested greater quickness in analyzing facts that she believed might
affect the safety of the party. She saw at a glance that this bit of
cloth could be observed from an adjacent island; that it lay so near the
line between her own hut and the canoe as to leave no doubt that June
had passed near it, if not directly under it; and that it might be a
signal to communicate some important fact connected with the mode of
attack to those who were probably lying in ambush near them. Tearing
the little strip of bunting from the tree, Mabel hastened on, scarcely
knowing what her duty next required of her. June might be false to her,
but her manner, her looks, her affection, and her disposition as Mabel
had known it in the journey, forbade the idea. Then came the allusion to
Arrowhead's admiration of the pale-face beauties, some dim recollections
of the looks of the Tuscarora, and a painful consciousness that few
wives could view with kindness one who had estranged a husband's
affections. None of these images were distinct and clear, but they
rather gleamed over the mind of our heroine than rested in it, and they
quickened her pulses, as they did her step, without bringing with them
the prompt and clear decisions that usually followed her reflections.
She had hurried onwards towards the hut occupied by the soldier's wife,
intending to remove at once to the blockhouse with the woman, though
she could persuade no other to follow, when her impatient walk was
interrupted by the voice of Muir.

"Whither so fast, pretty Mabel?" he cried; "and why so given to
solitude? The worthy Sergeant will deride my breeding, if he hear that
his daughter passes the mornings alone and unattended to, though he
well knows it is my ardent wish to be her slave and companion from the
beginning of the year to its end."

"Surely, Mr. Muir, you must have some authority here?" Mabel suddenly
arrested her steps to say. "One of your rank would be listened to, at
least, by a corporal?"

"I don't know that, I don't know that," interrupted Muir, with an
impatience and appearance of alarm that might have excited Mabel's
attention at another moment. "Command is command; discipline,
discipline; and authority, authority. Your good father would be sore
grieved did he find me interfering to sully or carry off the laurels
he is about to win; and I cannot command the Corporal without equally
commanding the Sergeant. The wisest way will be for me to remain in the
obscurity of a private individual in this enterprise; and it is so that
all parties, from Lundie down, understand the transaction."

"This I know, and it may be well, nor would I give my dear father any
cause of complaint; but you may influence the Corporal to his own good."

"I'll no' say that," returned Muir in his sly Scotch way; "it would be
far safer to promise to influence him to his injury. Mankind, pretty
Mabel, have their peculiarities; and to influence a fellow-being to his
own good is one of the most difficult tasks of human nature, while the
opposite is just the easiest. You'll no' forget this, my dear, but bear
it in mind for your edification and government. But what is that you're
twisting round your slender finger as you may be said to twist hearts?"

"It is nothing but a bit of cloth--a sort of flag--a trifle that is
hardly worth our attention at this grave moment. If--"

"A trifle! It's no' so trifling as ye may imagine, Mistress Mabel,"
taking the bit of bunting from her, and stretching it at full length
with both his arms extended, while his face grew grave and his eye
watchful. "Ye'll no' ha' been finding this, Mabel Dunham, in the
breakfast?"

Mabel simply acquainted him with the spot where and the manner in which
she had found the bit of cloth. While she was speaking, the eye of the
Quartermaster was not quiet for a moment, glancing from the rag to the
face of our heroine, then back again to the rag. That his suspicions
were awakened was easy to be seen, nor was he long in letting it be
known what direction they had taken.

"We are not in a part of the world where our ensigns and gauds ought to
be spread abroad to the wind, Mabel Dunham!" he said, with an ominous
shake of the head.

"I thought as much myself, Mr. Muir, and brought away the little flag
lest it might be the means of betraying our presence here to the enemy,
even though nothing is intended by its display. Ought not my uncle to be
made acquainted with the circumstance?"

"I no' see the necessity for that, pretty Mabel; for, as you justly
say, it is a circumstance, and circumstances sometimes worry the worthy
mariner. But this flag, if flag it can be called, belongs to a seaman's
craft. You may perceive that it is made of what is called bunting, and
that is a description of cloth used only by vessels for such purposes,
_our_ colors being of silk, as you may understand, or painted canvas.
It's surprisingly like the fly of the _Scud's_ ensign. And now I
recollect me to have observed that a piece had been cut from that very
flag."

Mabel felt her heart sink, but she had sufficient self-command not to
attempt an answer.

"It must be looked to," Muir continued, "and, after all, I think it may
be well to hold a short consultation with Master Cap, than whom a more
loyal subject does not exist in the British empire."

"I have thought the warning so serious," Mabel rejoined, "that I am
about to remove to the blockhouse, and to take the woman with me."

"I do not see the prudence of that, Mabel. The blockhouse will be the
first spot assailed should there really be an attack; and it's no' well
provided for a siege, that must be allowed. If I might advise in so
delicate a contingency, I would recommend your taking refuge in the
boat, which, as you may now perceive, is most favorably placed to
retreat by that channel opposite, where all in it would be hid by the
islands in one or two minutes. Water leaves no trail, as Pathfinder well
expresses it; and there appears to be so many different passages in that
quarter that escape would be more than probable. I've always been
of opinion that Lundie hazarded too much in occupying a post so far
advanced and so much exposed as this."

"It's too late to regret it now, Mr. Muir, and we have only to consult
our own security."

"And the king's honor, pretty Mabel. Yes, his Majesty's arms and his
glorious name are not to be overlooked on any occasion."

"Then I think it might be better if we all turned our eyes towards the
place that has been built to maintain them instead of the boat," said
Mabel, smiling; "and so, Mr. Muir, I am for the blockhouse, intending
to await there the return of my father and his party. He would be sadly
grieved at finding we had fled when he got back successful himself, and
filled with the confidence of our having been as faithful to our duties
as he has been to his own."

"Nay, nay, for heaven's sake, do not misunderstand me, Mabel!" Muir
interrupted, with some alarm of manner; "I am far from intimating that
any but you females ought to take refuge in the boat. The duty of us men
is sufficiently plain, no doubt, and my resolution has been formed from
the first to stand or fall by the blockhouse."

"And did you imagine, Mr. Muir, that two females could row that heavy
boat in a way to escape the bark canoe of an Indian?"

"Ah, my pretty Mabel, love is seldom logical, and its fears and
misgivings are apt to warp the faculties. I only saw your sweet person
in the possession of the means of safety, and overlooked the want of
ability to use them; but you'll not be so cruel, lovely creature, as to
impute to me as a fault my intense anxiety on your own account."

Mabel had heard enough: her mind was too much occupied with what had
passed that morning, and with her fears, to wish to linger longer to
listen to love speeches, which in her most joyous and buoyant moments
she would have found unpleasant. She took a hasty leave of her
companion, and was about to trip away towards the hilt of the other
woman, when Muir arrested the movement by laying a hand on her arm.

"One word, Mabel," said he, "before you leave me. This little flag may,
or it may not, have a particular meaning; if it has, now that we are
aware of its being shown, may it not be better to put it back
again, while we watch vigilantly for some answer that may betray the
conspiracy; and if it mean nothing, why, nothing will follow."

"This may be all right, Mr. Muir, though, if the whole is accidental,
the flag might be the occasion of the fort's being discovered."

Mabel stayed to utter no more; but she was soon out of sight,
running into the hut towards which she had been first proceeding. The
Quartermaster remained on the very spot and in the precise attitude in
which she had left him for quite a minute, first looking at the bounding
figure of the girl and then at the bit of bunting, which he still held
before him in a way to denote indecision. His irresolution lasted but
for this minute, however; for he was soon beneath the tree, where he
fastened the mimic flag to a branch again, though, from his ignorance
of the precise spot from which it had been taken by Mabel, he left it
fluttering from a part of the oak where it was still more exposed than
before to the eyes of any passenger on the river, though less in view
from the island itself.



CHAPTER XXI.

     Each one has had his supping mess,
     The cheese is put into the press,
     The pans and bowls, clean scalded all,
     Reared up against the milk-house wall.
     COTTON.


It seemed strange to Mabel Dunham, as she passed along on her way to
find her female companion, that others should be so composed, while she
herself felt as if the responsibilities of life and death rested on her
shoulders. It is true that distrust of June's motives mingled with her
forebodings; but when she came to recall the affectionate and natural
manner of the young Indian girl, and all the evidences of good faith and
sincerity she had seen in her conduct during the familiar intercourse
of their journey, she rejected the idea with the unwillingness of a
generous disposition to believe ill of others. She saw, however, that
she could not put her companions properly on their guard without letting
them into the secret of her conference with June; and she found herself
compelled to act cautiously and with a forethought to which she was
unaccustomed, more especially in a matter of so much moment.

The soldier's wife was told to transport the necessaries into the
blockhouse, and admonished not to be far from it at any time during the
day. Mabel did not explain her reasons. She merely stated that she had
detected some signs in walking about the island, which induced her to
apprehend that the enemy had more knowledge of its position than had
been previously believed, and that they two at least, would do well
to be in readiness to seek a refuge at the shortest notice. It was
not difficult to arouse the apprehension of this person, who, though a
stout-hearted Scotchwoman, was ready enough to listen to anything that
confirmed her dread of Indian cruelties. As soon as Mabel believed that
her companion was sufficiently frightened to make her wary, she threw
out some hints touching the inexpediency of letting the soldiers know
the extent of their own fears. This was done with a view to prevent
discussions and inquiries that might embarrass our heroine: she
determining to render her uncle, the Corporal, and his men more
cautious, by adopting a different course. Unfortunately, the British
army could not have furnished a worse person for the particular
duty that he was now required to discharge than Corporal M'Nab, the
individual who had been left in command during the absence of Sergeant
Dunham. On the one hand, he was resolute, prompt, familiar with all
the details of a soldier's life, and used to war; on the other, he was
supercilious as regards the provincials, opinionated on every subject
connected with the narrow limits of his professional practice, much
disposed to fancy the British empire the centre of all that is excellent
in the world, and Scotland the focus of, at least, all moral excellence
in that empire. In short, he was an epitome, though on a scale suited to
his rank, of those very qualities which were so peculiar to the servants
of the Crown that were sent into the colonies, as these servants
estimated themselves in comparison with the natives of the country; or,
in other words, he considered the American as an animal inferior to
the parent stock, and viewed all his notions of military service, in
particular, as undigested and absurd. A more impracticable subject,
therefore, could not well have offered for the purpose of Mabel, and yet
she felt obliged to lose no time in putting her plan in execution.

"My father has left you a responsible command, Corporal," she said, as
soon as she could catch M'Nab a little apart; "for should the island
fall into the hands of the enemy, not only should we be captured,
but the party that is now out would in all probability become their
prisoners also."

"It needs no journey from Scotland to this place to know the facts
needful to be o' that way of thinking." returned M'Nab drily.

"I do not doubt your understanding it as well as myself, Mr. M'Nab,
but I'm fearful that you veterans, accustomed as you are to dangers and
battles, are a little apt to overlook some of the precautions that may
be necessary in a situation as peculiar as ours."

"They say Scotland is no conquered country, young woman, but I'm
thinking there must be some mistak' in the matter, as we, her children,
are so drowsy-headed and apt to be o'ertaken when we least expect it."

"Nay, my good friend, you mistake my meaning. In the first place, I'm
not thinking of Scotland at all, but of this island; and then I am far
from doubting your vigilance when you think it necessary to practise it;
but my great fear is that there may be danger to which your courage will
make you indifferent."

"My courage, Mistress Dunham, is doubtless of a very pool quality, being
nothing but Scottish courage; your father's is Yankee, and were he here
among us we should see different preparations, beyond a doubt. Well,
times are getting wrang, when foreigners hold commissions and carry
halberds in Scottish corps; and I no wonder that battles are lost, and
campaigns go wrang end foremost."

Mabel was almost in despair; but the quiet warning of June was still
too vividly impressed on her mind to allow her to yield the matter. She
changed her mode of operating, therefore, still clinging to the hope of
getting the whole party within the blockhouse, without being compelled
to betray the source whence she obtained her notices of the necessity of
vigilance.

"I daresay you are right, Corporal M'Nab," she observed; "for I've often
heard of the heroes of your country, who have been among the first of
the civilized world, if what they tell me of them is true."

"Have you read the history of Scotland, Mistress Dunham?" demanded the
Corporal, looking up at his pretty companion, for the first time with
something like a smile on his hard, repulsive countenance.

"I have read a little of it, Corporal, but I've heard much more. The
lady who brought me up had Scottish blood in her veins, and was fond of
the subject."

"I'll warrant ye, the Sergeant no' troubled himself to expatiate on the
renown of the country where his regiment was raised?"

"My father has other things to think of, and the little I know was got
from the lady I have mentioned."

"She'll no' be forgetting to tall ye o' Wallace?"

"Of him I've even read a good deal."

"And o' Bruce, and the affair of Bannockburn?"

"Of that too, as well as of Culloden Muir."

The last of these battles was then a recent event, it having actually
been fought within the recollection of our heroine, whose notions of it,
however, were so confused that she scarcely appreciated the effect her
allusion might produce on her companion. She knew it had been a victory,
and had often heard the guests of her patroness mention it with triumph;
and she fancied their feelings would find a sympathetic chord in those
of every British soldier. Unfortunately, M'Nab had fought throughout
that luckless day on the side of the Pretender; and a deep scar that
garnished his face had been left there by the sabre of a German soldier
in the service of the House of Hanover. He fancied that his wound bled
afresh at Mabel's allusion; and it is certain that the blood rushed
to his face in a torrent, as if it would pour out of his skin at the
cicatrix.

"Hoot! hoot awa'!" he fairly shouted, "with your Culloden and Sherriff
muirs, young woman; ye'll no' be understanding the subject at all,
and will manifest not only wisdom but modesty in speaking o' your ain
country and its many failings. King George has some loyal subjects in
the colonies, na doubt, but 'twill be a lang time before he sees or
hears any guid of them."

Mabel was surprised at the Corporal's heat, for she had not the smallest
idea where the shoe pinched; but she was determined not to give up the
point.

"I've always heard that the Scotch had two of the good qualities of
soldiers," she said, "courage and circumspection; and I feel persuaded
that Corporal M'Nab will sustain the national renown."

"Ask yer own father, Mistress Dunham; he is acquaint' with Corporal
M'Nab, and will no' be backward to point out his demerits. We have been
in battle thegither, and he is my superior officer, and has a sort o'
official right to give the characters of his subordinates."

"My father thinks well of you, M'Nab, or he would not have left you in
charge of this island and all it contains, his own daughter included.
Among other things, I well know that he calculates largely on your
prudence. He expects the blockhouse in particular to be strictly
attended to."

"If he wishes to defend the honor of the 55th behind logs, he ought to
have remained in command himsel'; for, to speak frankly, it goes against
a Scotchman's bluid and opinions to be beaten out of the field even
before he is attacked. We are broadsword men, and love to stand foot to
foot with the foe. This American mode of fighting, that is getting into
so much favor, will destroy the reputation of his Majesty's army, if it
no' destroy its spirit."

"No true soldier despises caution. Even Major Duncan himself, than whom
there is none braver, is celebrated for his care of his men."

"Lundie has his weakness, and is fast forgetting the broadsword and open
heaths in his tree and rifle practice. But, Mistress Dunham, tak' the
word of an old soldier, who has seen his fifty-fifth year, when he talls
ye that there is no surer method to encourage your enemy than to seem
to fear him; and that there is no danger in this Indian warfare that the
fancies and imaginations of your Americans have not enlarged upon, until
they see a savage in every bush. We Scots come from a naked region,
and have no need and less relish for covers, and so ye'll be seeing,
Mistress Dunham--"

The Corporal gave a spring into the air, fell forward on his face, and
rolled over on his back, the whole passing so suddenly that Mabel had
scarcely heard the sharp crack of the rifle that had sent a bullet
through his body. Our heroine did not shriek--did not even tremble; for
the occurrence was too sudden, too awful, and too unexpected for that
exhibition of weakness; on the contrary, she stepped hastily forward,
with a natural impulse to aid her companion. There was just enough of
life left in M'Nab to betray his entire consciousness of all that had
passed. His countenance had the wild look of one who had been overtaken
by death by surprise; and Mabel, in her cooler moments, fancied that it
showed the tardy repentance of a willful and obstinate sinner.

"Ye'll be getting into the blockhouse as fast as possible," M'Nab
whispered, as Mabel leaned over him to catch his dying words.

Then came over our heroine the full consciousness of her situation and
of the necessity of exertion. She cast a rapid glance at the body at
her feet, saw that it had ceased to breathe, and fled. It was but a
few minutes' run to the blockhouse, the door of which Mabel had barely
gained when it was closed violently in her face by Jennie, the soldier's
wife, who in blind terror thought only of her own safety. The reports
of five or six rifles were heard while Mabel was calling out for
admittance; and the additional terror they produced prevented the woman
within from undoing quickly the very fastenings she had been so expert
in applying. After a minute's delay, however, Mabel found the door
reluctantly yielding to her constant pressure, and she forced her
slender body through the opening the instant it was large enough
to allow of its passage. By this time Mabel's heart ceased to beat
tulmultuously and she gained sufficient self-command to act collectedly.
Instead of yielding to the almost convulsive efforts of her companion
to close the door again, she held it open long enough to ascertain that
none of her own party was in sight, or likely on the instant to endeavor
to gain admission: then she allowed the opening to be shut. Her orders
and proceedings now became more calm and rational. But a single bar was
crossed, and Jennie was directed to stand in readiness to remove even
that at any application from a friend. She then ascended the ladder to
the room above, where by means of a loophole she was enabled to get
as good a view of the island as the surrounding bushes would allow.
Admonishing her associate below to be firm and steady, she made as
careful an examination of the environs as her situation permitted.

To her great surprise, Mabel could not at first see a living soul on
the island, friend or enemy. Neither Frenchman nor Indian was visible,
though a small straggling white cloud that was floating before the wind
told her in which quarter she ought to look for them. The rifles had
been discharged from the direction of the island whence June had come,
though whether the enemy were on that island, or had actually landed on
her own, Mabel could not say. Going to the loop that commanded a view of
the spot where M'Nab lay, her blood curdled at perceiving all three of
his soldiers lying apparently lifeless at his side. These men had rushed
to a common centre at the first alarm, and had been shot down almost
simultaneously by the invisible foe whom the Corporal had affected to
despise.

Neither Cap nor Lieutenant Muir was to be seen. With a beating heart,
Mabel examined every opening through the trees, and ascended even to the
upper story or garret of the blockhouse, where she got a full view of
the whole island, so far as its covers would allow, but with no better
success. She had expected to see the body of her uncle lying on the
grass like those of the soldiers, but it was nowhere visible. Turning
towards the spot where the boat lay, Mabel saw that it was still
fastened to the shore; and then she supposed that by some accident Muir
had been prevented from effecting his retreat in that quarter. In short,
the island lay in the quiet of the grave, the bodies of the soldiers
rendering the scone as fearful as it was extraordinary.

"For God's holy sake, Mistress Mabel," called out the woman from below;
for, though her fear had become too ungovernable to allow her to keep
silence, our heroine's superior refinement, more than the regimental
station of her father, still controlled her mode of address,--"Mistress
Mabel, tell me if any of our friends are living! I think I hear
groans that grow fainter and fainter, and fear that they will all be
tomahawked!"

Mabel now remembered that one of the soldiers was this woman's husband,
and she trembled at what might be the immediate effect of her sorrow,
should his death become suddenly known to her. The groans, too, gave a
little hope, though she feared they might come from her uncle, who lay
out of view.

"We are in His holy keeping, Jennie," she answered. "We must trust in
Providence, while we neglect none of its benevolent means of protecting
ourselves. Be careful with the door; on no account open it without my
directions."

"Oh, tell me, Mistress Mabel, if you can anywhere see Sandy! If I could
only let him know that I'm in safety, the guid man would be easier in
his mind, whether free or a prisoner."

Sandy was Jennie's husband, and he lay dead in plain view of the loop
from which our heroine was then looking.

"You no' tell me if you're seeing of Sandy," the woman repeated from
below, impatient at Mabel's silence.

"There are some of our people gathered about the body of M'Nab," was the
answer; for it seemed sacrilegious in her eyes to tell a direct untruth
under the awful circumstances in which she was placed.

"Is Sandy amang them?" demanded the woman, in a voice that sounded
appalling by its hoarseness and energy.

"He may be certainly; for I see one, two, three, four, and all in the
scarlet coats of the regiment."

"Sandy!" called out the woman frantically; "why d'ye no' care for
yoursal', Sandy? Come hither the instant, man, and share your wife's
fortunes in weal or woe. It's no' a moment for your silly discipline and
vain-glorious notions of honor! Sandy! Sandy!"

Mabel heard the bar turn, and then the door creaked on its hinges.
Expectation, not to say terror, held her in suspense at the loop, and
she soon beheld Jennie rushing through the bushes in the direction of
the cluster of the dead. It took the woman but an instant to reach the
fatal spot. So sudden and unexpected had been the blow, that she in
her terror did not appear to comprehend its weight. Some wild and
half-frantic notion of a deception troubled her fancy, and she imagined
that the men were trifling with her fears. She took her husband's hand,
and it was still warm, while she thought a covert smile was struggling
on his lip.

"Why will ye fool life away, Sandy?" she cried, pulling at the arm.
"Ye'll all be murdered by these accursed Indians, and you no' takin'
to the block like trusty soldiers! Awa'! awa'! and no' be losing the
precious moments."

In her desperate efforts, the woman pulled the body of her husband in
a way to cause the head to turn completely over, when the small hole in
the temple, caused by the entrance of a rifle bullet, and a few drops
of blood trickling over the skin, revealed the meaning of her husband's
silence. As the horrid truth flashed in its full extent on her mind, the
woman clasped her hands, gave a shriek that pierced the glades of
every island near, and fell at length on the dead body of the soldier.
Thrilling, heartreaching, appalling as was that shriek, it was melody to
the cry that followed it so quickly as to blend the sounds. The terrific
war-whoop arose out of the covers of the island, and some twenty
savages, horrible in their paint and the other devices of Indian
ingenuity, rushed forward, eager to secure the coveted scalps. Arrowhead
was foremost, and it was his tomahawk that brained the insensible
Jennie; and her reeking hair was hanging at his girdle as a trophy
in less than two minutes after she had quitted the blockhouse. His
companions were equally active, and M'Nab and his soldiers no longer
presented the quiet aspect of men who slumbered. They were left in their
gore, unequivocally butchered corpses.

All this passed in much less time than has been required to relate
it, and all this did Mabel witness. She had stood riveted to the spot,
gazing on the whole horrible scene, as if enchained by some charm, nor
did the idea of self or of her own danger once obtrude itself on her
thoughts. But no sooner did she perceive the place where the men had
fallen covered with savages, exulting in the success of their surprise,
than it occurred to her that Jennie had left the blockhouse door
unbarred. Her heart beat violently, for that defence alone stood between
her and immediate death, and she sprang toward the ladder with the
intention of descending to make sure of it. Her foot had not yet reached
the floor of the second story, however, when she heard the door grating
on its hinges, and she gave herself up for lost. Sinking on her knees,
the terrified but courageous girl endeavored to prepare herself for
death, and to raise her thoughts to God. The instinct of life, however,
was too strong for prayer, and while her lips moved, the jealous senses
watched every sound beneath. When her ears heard the bars, which went on
pivots secured to the centre of the door, turning into their fastenings,
not one, as she herself had directed, with a view to admit her uncle
should he apply, but all three, she started again to her feet, all
spiritual contemplations vanishing in her actual temporal condition, and
it seemed as if all her faculties were absorbed in the sense of hearing.

The thoughts are active in a moment so fearful. At first Mabel fancied
that her uncle had entered the blockhouse, and she was about to descend
the ladder and throw herself into his arms; then the idea that it might
be an Indian, who had barred the door to shut out intruders while he
plundered at leisure, arrested the movement. The profound stillness
below was unlike the bold, restless movements of Cap, and it seemed to
savor more of the artifices of an enemy. If a friend at all, it could
only be her uncle or the Quartermaster; for the horrible conviction now
presented itself to our heroine that to these two and herself were the
whole party suddenly reduced, if, indeed, the two latter survived.
This consideration held Mabel in check, and for full two minutes more
a breathless silence reigned in the building. During this time the girl
stood at the foot of the upper ladder, the trap which led to the lower
opening on the opposite side of the floor; the eyes of Mabel were
riveted on this spot, for she now began to expect to see at each instant
the horrible sight of a savage face at the hole. This apprehension soon
became so intense, that she looked about her for a place of concealment.
The procrastination of the catastrophe she now fully expected, though
it were only for a moment, afforded a relief. The room contained several
barrels; and behind two of these Mabel crouched, placing her eyes at an
opening by which she could still watch the trap. She made another effort
to pray; but the moment was too horrible for that relief. She thought,
too, that she heard a low rustling, as if one were ascending the lower
ladder with an effort at caution so great as to betray itself by its own
excess; then followed a creaking that she was certain came from one of
the steps of the ladder, which had made the same noise under her own
light weight as she ascended. This was one of those instants into which
are compressed the sensations of years of ordinary existence. Life,
death, eternity, and extreme bodily pain were all standing out in bold
relief from the plane of every-day occurrences; and she might have been
taken at that moment for a beautiful pallid representation of herself,
equally without motion and without vitality. But while such was the
outward appearance of the form, never had there been a time in her brief
career when Mabel heard more acutely, saw more clearly, or felt more
vividly. As yet, nothing was visible at the trap, but her ears, rendered
exquisitely sensitive by intense feeling, distinctly acquainted her
that some one was within a few inches of the opening in the floor. Next
followed the evidence of her eyes, which beheld the dark hair of an
Indian rising so slowly through the passage that the movements of the
head might be likened to that of the minute-hand of a clock; then came
the dark skin and wild features, until the whole of the swarthy face had
risen above the floor. The human countenance seldom appears to advantage
when partially concealed; and Mabel imagined many additional horrors as
she first saw the black, roving eyes and the expression of wildness as
the savage countenance was revealed, as it might be, inch by inch; but
when the entire head was raised above the floor, a second and a better
look assured our heroine that she saw the gentle, anxious, and even
handsome face of June.



CHAPTER XXII.

     Spectre though I be,
     I am not sent to scare thee or deceive;
     But in reward of thy fidelity.
     WORDSWORTH.


It would be difficult to say which evinced the most satisfaction, when
Mabel sprang to her feet and appeared in the centre of the room, our
heroine, on finding that her visitor was the wife of Arrowhead, and
not Arrowhead himself, or June, at discovering that her advice had
been followed, and that the blockhouse contained the person she had so
anxiously and almost hopelessly sought. They embraced each other, and
the unsophisticated Tuscarora woman laughed in her sweet accents as she
held her friend at arm's length, and made certain of her presence.

"Blockhouse good," said the young Indian; "got no scalp."

"It is indeed good, June," Mabel answered, with a shudder, veiling her
eyes at the same time, as if to shut out a view of the horrors she had
so lately witnessed. "Tell me, for God's sake, if you know what has
become of my dear uncle! I have looked in all directions without being
able to see him."

"No here in blockhouse?" June asked, with some curiosity.

"Indeed he is not: I am quite alone in this place; Jennie, the woman who
was with me, having rushed out to join her husband, and perishing for
her imprudence."

"June know, June see; very bad, Arrowhead no feel for any wife; no feel
for his own."

"Ah, June, your life, at least, is safe!"

"Don't know; Arrowhead kill me, if he know all."

"God bless and protect you, June! He _will_ bless and protect you for
this humanity. Tell me what is to be done, and if my poor uncle is still
living?"

"Don't know. Saltwater has boat; maybe he go on river."

"The boat is still on the shore, but neither my uncle nor the
Quartermaster is anywhere to be seen."

"No kill, or June would see. Hide away! Red man hide; no shame for
pale-face."

"It is not the shame that I fear for them, but the opportunity. Your
attack was awfully sudden, June!"

"Tuscarora!" returned the other, smiling with exultation at the
dexterity of her husband. "Arrowhead great warrior!"

"You are too good and gentle for this sort of life, June; you cannot be
happy in such scenes?"

June's countenance grew clouded, and Mabel fancied there was some of the
savage fire of a chief in her frown as she answered,--

"Yengeese too greedy, take away all hunting-grounds; chase Six Nation
from morning to night; wicked king, wicked people. Pale-face very bad."

Mabel knew that, even in that distant day, there was much truth in this
opinion, though she was too well instructed not to understand that the
monarch, in this, as in a thousand other cases, was blamed for acts of
which he was most probably ignorant. She felt the justice of the rebuke,
therefore, too much to attempt an answer, and her thoughts naturally
reverted to her own situation.

"And what am I to do, June?" she demanded. "It cannot be long before
your people will assault this building."

"Blockhouse good--got no scalp."

"But they will soon discover that it has got no garrison too, if they do
not know it already. You yourself told me the number of people that were
on the island, and doubtless you learned it from Arrowhead."

"Arrowhead know," answered June, holding up six fingers, to indicate the
number of the men. "All red men know. Four lose scalp already; two got
'em yet."

"Do not speak of it, June; the horrid thought curdles my blood. Your
people cannot know that I am alone in the blockhouse, but may fancy my
uncle and the Quartermaster with me, and may set fire to the building,
in order to dislodge them. They tell me that fire is the great danger to
such places."

"No burn blockhouse," said June quietly.

"You cannot know that, my good June, and I have no means to keep them
off."

"No burn blockhouse. Blockhouse good; got no scalp."

"But tell me why, June; I fear they will burn it."

"Blockhouse wet--much rain--logs green--no burn easy. Red man know
it--fine t'ing--then no burn it to tell Yengeese that Iroquois been
here. Fader come back, miss blockhouse, no found. No, no; Indian too
much cunning; no touch anything."

"I understand you, June, and hope your prediction may be true; for, as
regards my dear father, should he escape--perhaps he is already dead or
captured, June?"

"No touch fader--don't know where he gone--water got no trail--red man
can't follow. No burn blockhouse--blockhouse good; got no scalp."

"Do you think it possible for me to remain here safely until my father
returns?"

"Don't know; daughter tell best when fader come back." Mabel felt uneasy
at the glance of June's dark eye as she uttered this; for the unpleasant
surmise arose that her companion was endeavoring to discover a fact
that might be useful to her own people, while it would lead to the
destruction of her parent and his party. She was about to make an
evasive answer, when a heavy push at the outer door suddenly drew all
her thoughts to the immediate danger.

"They come!" she exclaimed. "Perhaps, June, it is my uncle or the
Quartermaster. I cannot keep out even Mr. Muir at a moment like this."

"Why no look? plenty loophole, made purpose."

Mabel took the hint, and, going to one of the downward loops, that had
been cut through the logs in the part that overhung the basement, she
cautiously raised the little block that ordinarily filled the small
hole, and caught a glance at what was passing at the door. The start and
changing countenance told her companion that some of her own people were
below.

"Red man," said June, lifting a finger in admonition to be prudent.

"Four; and horrible in their paint and bloody trophies. Arrowhead is
among them."

June had moved to a corner, where several spare rifles had been
deposited, and had already taken one into her hand, when the name of
her husband appeared to arrest her movements. It was but for an instant,
however, for she immediately went to the loop, and was about to thrust
the muzzle of the piece through it, when a feeling of natural aversion
induced Mabel to seize her arm.

"No, no, no, June!" said the latter; "not against your own husband,
though my life be the penalty."

"No hurt Arrowhead," returned June, with a slight shudder, "no hurt red
man at all. No fire at 'em; only scare."

Mabel now comprehended the intention of June, and no longer opposed it.
The latter thrust the muzzle of the rifle through the loophole; and,
taking care to make noise enough to attract attraction, she pulled the
trigger. The piece had no sooner been discharged than Mabel reproached
her friend for the very act that was intended to serve her.

"You declared it was not your intention to fire," she said, "and you may
have destroyed your own husband."

"All run away before I fire," returned June, laughing, and going to
another loop to watch the movements of her friends, laughing still
heartier. "See! get cover--every warrior. Think Saltwater and
Quartermaster here. Take good care now."

"Heaven be praised! And now, June, I may hope for a little time to
compose my thoughts to prayer, that I may not die like Jennie, thinking
only of life and the things of the world."

June laid aside the rifle, and came and seated herself near the box on
which Mabel had sunk, under that physical reaction which accompanies joy
as well as sorrow. She looked steadily in our heroine's face, and
the latter thought that her countenance had an expression of severity
mingled with its concern.

"Arrowhead great warrior," said the Tuscarora's wife. "All the girls of
tribe look at him much. The pale-face beauty has eyes too?"

"June!--what do these words--that look--imply? what would you say?"

"Why you so 'fraid June shoot Arrowhead?"

"Would it not have been horrible to see a wife destroy her own husband?
No, June, rather would I have died myself."

"Very sure, dat all?"

"That was all, June, as God is my judge!--and surely that was enough.
No, no! there have been sufficient horrors to-day, without increasing
them by an act like this. What other motive can you suspect?"

"Don't know. Poor Tuscarora girl very foolish. Arrowhead great chief,
and look all round him. Talk of pale-face beauty in his sleep. Great
chief like many wives."

"Can a chief possess more than one wife, June, among your people?"

"Have as many as he can keep. Great hunter marry often. Arrowhead got
only June now; but he look too much, see too much, talk too much of
pale-face girl."

Mabel was conscious of this fact, which had distressed her not a
little, in the course of their journey; but it shocked her to hear this
allusion, coming, as it did, from the mouth of the wife herself. She
knew that habit and opinions made great differences in such matters;
but, in addition to the pain and mortification she experienced at being
the unwilling rival of a wife, she felt an apprehension that jealousy
would be but an equivocal guarantee for her personal safety in her
present situation. A closer look at June, however, reassured her;
for, while it was easy to trace in the unpractised features of this
unsophisticated being the pain of blighted affections, no distrust could
have tortured the earnest expression of her honest countenance into that
of treachery or hate.

"You will not betray me, June?" Mabel said, pressing the other's hand,
and yielding to an impulse of generous confidence. "You will not give up
one of your own sex to the tomahawk?"

"No tomahawk touch you. Arrowhead no let 'em. If June must have
sister-wife, love to have you."

"No, June; my religion, my feelings, both forbid it; and, if I could be
the wife of an Indian at all, I would never take the place that is yours
in a wigwam."

June made no answer, but she looked gratified, and even grateful. She
knew that few, perhaps no Indian girl within the circle of Arrowhead's
acquaintance, could compare with herself in personal attractions; and,
though it might suit her husband to marry a dozen wives, she knew of no
one, beside Mabel, whose influence she could really dread. So keen
an interest, however, had she taken in the beauty, winning manners,
kindness, and feminine gentleness of our heroine, that when jealousy
came to chill these feelings, it had rather lent strength to that
interest; and, under its wayward influence, had actually been one of
the strongest of the incentives that had induced her to risk so much in
order to save her imaginary rival from the consequences of the attack
that she so well knew was about to take place. In a word, June, with a
wife's keenness of perception, had detected Arrowhead's admiration of
Mabel; and, instead of feeling that harrowing jealousy that might have
rendered her rival hateful, as would have been apt to be the case with
a woman unaccustomed to defer to the superior rights of the lordly sex,
she had studied the looks and character of the pale-face beauty, until,
meeting with nothing to repel her own feelings, but everything to
encourage them, she had got to entertain an admiration and love for her,
which, though certainly very different, was scarcely less strong than
that of her husband's. Arrowhead himself had sent her to warn Mabel of
the coming danger, though he was ignorant that she had stolen upon the
island in the rear of the assailants, and was now intrenched in the
citadel along with the object of their joint care. On the contrary, he
supposed, as his wife had said, that Cap and Muir were in the blockhouse
with Mabel, and that the attempt to repel him and his companions had
been made by the men.

"June sorry the Lily"--for so the Indian, in her poetical language, had
named our heroine--"June sorry the Lily no marry Arrowhead. His wigwam
big, and a great chief must get wives enough to fill it."

"I thank you, June, for this preference, which is not according to
the notion of us white women," returned Mabel, smiling in spite of the
fearful situation in which she was placed; "but I may not, probably
never shall, marry at all."

"Must have good husband," said June; "marry Eau-douce, if don't like
Arrowhead."

"June! this is not a fit subject for a girl who scarcely knows if she
is to live another hour or not. I would obtain some signs of my dear
uncle's being alive and safe, if possible."

"June go see."

"Can you?--will you?--would it be safe for you to be seen on the island?
is your presence known to the warriors, and would they be pleased to
find a woman on the war-path with them?"

All this Mabel asked in rapid connection, fearing that the answer might
not be as she wished. She had thought it extraordinary that June should
be of the party, and, improbable as it seemed, she had fancied that the
woman had covertly followed the Iroquois in her own canoe, and had got
in their advance, merely to give her the notice which had probably saved
her life. But in all this she was mistaken, as June, in her imperfect
manner, now found means to let her know.

Arrowhead, though a chief, was in disgrace with his own people, and
was acting with the Iroquois temporarily, though with a perfect
understanding. He had a wigwam, it is true, but was seldom in it;
feigning friendship for the English, he had passed the summer ostensibly
in their service, while he was, in truth, acting for the French, and his
wife journeyed with him in his many migrations, most of the distances
being passed over in canoes. In a word, her presence was no secret, her
husband seldom moving without her. Enough of this to embolden Mabel to
wish that her friend might go out, to ascertain the fate of her uncle,
did June succeed in letting the other know; and it was soon settled
between them that the Indian woman should quit the blockhouse with that
object the moment a favorable opportunity offered.

They first examined the island, as thoroughly as their position would
allow, from the different loops, and found that its conquerors were
preparing for a feast, having seized upon the provisions of the English
and rifled the huts. Most of the stores were in the blockhouse; but
enough were found outside to reward the Indians for an attack that had
been attended by so little risk. A party had already removed the dead
bodies, and Mabel saw that their arms were collected in a pile near the
spot chosen for the banquet. June suggested that, by some signs which
she understood, the dead themselves were carried into a thicket and
either buried or concealed from view. None of the more prominent objects
on the island, however, were disturbed, it being the desire of the
conquerors to lure the party of the Sergeant into an ambush on its
return. June made her companion observe a man in a tree, a look-out, as
she said, to give timely notice of the approach of any boat, although,
the departure of the expedition being so recent, nothing but some
unexpected event would be likely to bring it back so soon. There did
not appear to be any intention to attack the blockhouse immediately; but
every indication, as understood by June, rather showed that it was the
intention of the Indians to keep it besieged until the return of the
Sergeant's party, lest, the signs of an assault should give a warning
to eyes as practised as those of Pathfinder. The boat, however, had been
secured, and was removed to the spot where the canoes of the Indians
were hid in the bushes.

June now announced her intention to join her friends, the moment being
particularly favorable for her to quit the blockhouse. Mabel felt some
distrust as they descended the ladder; but at the next instant she
was ashamed of the feeling, as unjust to her companion and unworthy of
herself, and by the time they both stood on the ground her confidence
was restored. The process of unbarring the door was conducted with the
utmost caution, and when the last bar was ready to be turned June took
her station near the spot where the opening must necessarily be. The bar
was just turned free of the brackets, the door was opened merely wide
enough to allow her body to pass, and June glided through the space.
Mabel closed the door again, with a convulsive movement; and as the bar
turned into its place, her heart beat audibly. She then felt secure; and
the two other bars were turned down in a more deliberate manner. When
all was fast again, she ascended to the first floor, where alone she
could get a glimpse of what was going on without.

Long and painfully melancholy hours passed, during which Mabel had no
intelligence from June. She heard the yells of the savages, for liquor
had carried them beyond the bounds of precaution; and occasionally
caught glimpses of their mad orgies through the loops; and at all times
was conscious of their fearful presence by sounds and sights that would
have chilled the blood of one who had not so lately witnessed scenes so
much more terrible. Toward the middle of the day, she fancied she saw a
white man on the island, though his dress and wild appearance at first
made her take him for a newly-arrived savage. A view of his face,
although it was swarthy naturally, and much darkened by exposure, left
no doubt that her conjecture was true; and she felt as if there was now
one of a species more like her own present, and one to whom she might
appeal for succor in the last emergency. Mabel little knew, alas!
how small was the influence exercised by the whites over their savage
allies, when the latter had begun to taste of blood; or how slight,
indeed, was the disposition to divert them from their cruelties.

The day seemed a month by Mabel's computation, and the only part of it
that did not drag were the minutes spent in prayer. She had recourse to
this relief from time to time; and at each effort she found her spirit
firmer, her mind more tranquil, and her resignation more confirmed. She
understood the reasoning of June, and believed it highly probable that
the blockhouse would be left unmolested until the return of her father,
in order to entice him into an ambuscade, and she felt much less
apprehension of immediate danger in consequence; but the future offered
little ground of hope, and her thoughts had already begun to calculate
the chances of her captivity. At such moments, Arrowhead and his
offensive admiration filled a prominent place in the background: for
our heroine well knew that the Indians usually carried off to their
villages, for the purposes of adoption, such captives as they did not
slay; and that many instances had occurred in which individuals of her
sex had passed the remainder of their lives in the wigwams of their
conquerors. Such thoughts as these invariably drove her to her knees and
to her prayers.

While the light lasted the situation of our heroine was sufficiently
alarming; but as the shades of evening gradually gathered over the
island, it became fearfully appalling. By this time the savages had
wrought themselves up to the point of fury, for they had possessed
themselves of all the liquor of the English; and their outcries and
gesticulations were those of men truly possessed by evil spirits.
All the efforts of their French leader to restrain them were entirely
fruitless, and he had wisely withdrawn to an adjacent island, where
he had a sort of bivouac, that he might keep at a safe distance from
friends so apt to run into excesses. Before quitting the spot,
however, this officer, at great risk to his own life, had succeeded in
extinguishing the fire, and in securing the ordinary means to relight
it. This precaution he took lest the Indians should burn the blockhouse,
the preservation of which was necessary to the success of his future
plans. He would gladly have removed all the arms also, but this he found
impracticable, the warriors clinging to their knives and tomahawks with
the tenacity of men who regarded a point of honor as long as a faculty
was left; and to carry off the rifles, and leave behind him the very
weapons that were generally used on such occasions, would have been
an idle expedient. The extinguishing of the fire proved to be the most
prudent measure; for no sooner was the officer's back turned than one of
the warriors in fact proposed to fire the blockhouse. Arrowhead had also
withdrawn from the group of drunkards as soon as he found that they were
losing their senses, and had taken possession of a hut, where he had
thrown himself on the straw, and sought the rest that two wakeful and
watchful nights had rendered necessary. It followed that no one was
left among the Indians to care for Mabel, if, indeed, any knew of her
existence at all; and the proposal of the drunkard was received with
yells of delight by eight or ten more as much intoxicated and habitually
as brutal as himself.

This was the fearful moment for Mabel. The Indians, in their present
condition, were reckless of any rifles that the blockhouse might hold,
though they did retain dim recollections of its containing living
beings, an additional incentive to their enterprise; and they approached
its base whooping and leaping like demons. As yet they were excited, not
overcome by the liquor they had drunk. The first attempt was made at the
door, against which they ran in a body; but the solid structure, which
was built entirely of logs, defied their efforts. The rush of a hundred
men with the same object would have been useless. This Mabel, however,
did not know; and her heart seemed to leap into her mouth as she heard
the heavy shock at each renewed effort. At length, when she found
that the door resisted these assaults as if it were of stone, neither
trembling nor yielding, and only betraying its not being a part of the
wall by rattling a little on its heavy hinges, her courage revived,
and she seized the first moment of a cessation to look down through
the loop, in order, if possible, to learn the extent of her danger. A
silence, for which it was not easy to account, stimulated her curiosity;
for nothing is so alarming to those who are conscious of the presence of
imminent danger, as to be unable to trace its approach.

Mabel found that two or three of the Iroquois had been raking the
embers, where they had found a few small coals, and with these they were
endeavoring to light a fire. The interest with which they labored,
the hope of destroying, and the force of habit, enabled them to act
intelligently and in unison, so long as their fell object was kept in
view. A white man would have abandoned the attempt to light a fire in
despair, with coals that came out of the ashes resembling sparks; but
these children of the forest had many expedients that were unknown to
civilization. By the aid of a few dry leaves, which they alone knew
where to seek, a blaze was finally kindled, and then the addition of a
few light sticks made sure of the advantage that had been obtained.
When Mabel stooped down over the loop, the Indians were making a pile of
brush against the door, and as she remained gazing at their proceedings,
she saw the twigs ignite, the flame dart from branch to branch, until
the whole pile was cracking and snapping under a bright blaze. The
Indians now gave a yell of triumph, and returned to their companions,
well assured that the work of destruction was commenced. Mabel remained
looking down, scarcely able to tear herself away from the spot, so
intense and engrossing was the interest she felt in the progress of the
fire. As the pile kindled throughout, however, the flames mounted, until
they flashed so near her eyes as to compel her to retreat. Just as she
reached the opposite side of the room, to which she had retired in her
alarm, a forked stream shot up through the loophole, the lid of which
she had left open, and illuminated the rude apartment, with Mabel and
her desolation. Our heroine now naturally enough supposed that her hour
was come; for the door, the only means of retreat, had been blocked
up by the brush and fire, with hellish ingenuity, and she addressed
herself, as she believed, for the last time to her Maker in prayer. Her
eyes were closed, and for more than a minute her spirit was abstracted;
but the interests of the world too strongly divided her feelings to be
altogether suppressed; and when they involuntarily opened again, she
perceived that the streak of flame was no longer flaring in the room,
though the wood around the little aperture had kindled, and the blaze
was slowly mounting under the impulsion of a current of air that sucked
inward. A barrel of water stood in a corner; and Mabel, acting more by
instinct than by reason, caught up a vessel, filled it, and, pouring it
on the wood with a trembling hand, succeeded in extinguishing the fire
at that particular spot. The smoke prevented her from looking down
again for a couple of minutes; but when she did her heart beat high
with delight and hope at finding that the pile of blazing brush had been
overturned and scattered, and that water had been thrown on the logs of
the door, which were still smoking though no longer burning.

"Who is there?" said Mabel, with her mouth at the loop. "What friendly
hand has a merciful Providence sent to my succor?"

A light footstep was audible below, and one of those gentle pushes at
the door was heard, which just moved the massive beams on the hinges.

"Who wishes to enter? Is it you, dear, dear uncle?"

"Saltwater no here. St. Lawrence sweet water," was the answer. "Open
quick; want to come in."

The step of Mabel was never lighter, or her movements more quick and
natural, than while she was descending the ladder and turning the bars,
for all her motions were earnest and active. This time she thought only
of her escape, and she opened the door with a rapidity which did not
admit of caution. Her first impulse was to rush into the open air,
in the blind hope of quitting the blockhouse; but June repulsed the
attempt, and entering, she coolly barred the door again before she would
notice Mabel's eager efforts to embrace her.

"Bless you! bless you, June!" cried our heroine most fervently; "you are
sent by Providence to be my guardian angel!"

"No hug so tight," answered the Tuscarora woman. "Pale-face woman all
cry, or all laugh. Let June fasten door."

Mabel became more rational, and in a few minutes the two were again in
the upper room, seated as before, hand in hand, all feeling of distrust
between them being banished.

"Now tell me, June," Mabel commenced as soon as she had given and
received one warm embrace, "have you seen or heard aught of my poor
uncle?"

"Don't know. No one see him; no one hear him; no one know anyt'ing.
Saltwater run into river, I t'ink, for I no find him. Quartermaster gone
too. I look, and look, and look; but no see' em, one, t'other, nowhere."

"Blessed be God! They must have escaped, though the means are not known
to us. I thought I saw a Frenchman on the island, June."

"Yes: French captain come, but he go away too. Plenty of Indian on
island."

"Oh, June, June, are there no means to prevent my beloved father from
falling into the hands of his enemies?"

"Don't know; t'ink dat warriors wait in ambush, and Yengeese must lose
scalp."

"Surely, surely, June, you, who have done so much for the daughter, will
not refuse to help the father?"

"Don't know fader, don't love fader. June help her own people, help
Arrowhead--husband love scalp."

"June, this is not yourself. I cannot, will not believe that you wish to
see our men murdered!"

June turned her dark eyes quietly on Mabel; and for a moment her look
was stern, though it was soon changed into one of melancholy compassion.

"Lily, Yengeese girl?" she said, as one asks a question.

"Certainly, and as a Yengeese girl I would save my countrymen from
slaughter."

"Very good, if can. June no Yengeese, June Tuscarora--got Tuscarora
husband--Tuscarora heart--Tuscarora feeling--all over Tuscarora. Lily
wouldn't run and tell French that her fader was coming to gain victory?"

"Perhaps not," returned Mabel, pressing a hand on a brain that felt
bewildered,--"perhaps not; but you serve me, aid me--have saved me,
June! Why have you done this, if you only feel as a Tuscarora?"

"Don't only feel as Tuscarora; feel as girl, feel as squaw. Love pretty
Lily, and put it in my bosom."

Mabel melted into tears, and she pressed the affectionate creature to
her heart. It was near a minute before she could renew the discourse,
but then she succeeded in speaking more calmly and with greater
coherence.

"Let me know the worst, June," said she. "To-night your people are
feasting; what do they intend to do to-morrow?"

"Don't know; afraid to see Arrowhead, afraid to ask question; t'ink hide
away till Yengeese come back."

"Will they not attempt anything against the blockhouse? You have seen
what they can threaten if they will."

"Too much rum. Arrowhead sleep, or no dare; French captain gone away, or
no dare. All go to sleep now."

"And you think I am safe for this night, at least?"

"Too much rum. If Lily like June, might do much for her people."

"I am like you, June, if a wish to serve my countrymen can make a
resemblance with one as courageous as yourself."

"No, no, no!" muttered June in a low voice; "no got heart, and June no
let you, if had. June's moder prisoner once, and warriors got drunk;
moder tomahawked 'em all. Such de way red skin women do when people in
danger and want scalp."

"You say what is true," returned Mabel, shuddering, and unconsciously
dropping June's hand. "I cannot do that. I have neither the strength,
the courage, nor the will to dip my hands in blood."

"T'ink that too; then stay where you be--blockhouse good--got no scalp."

"You believe, then, that I am safe here, at least until my father and
his people return?"

"Know so. No dare touch blockhouse in morning. Hark! all still
now--drink rum till head fall down, and sleep like log."

"Might I not escape? Are there not several canoes on the island? Might I
not get one, and go and give my father notice of what has happened?"

"Know how to paddle?" demanded June, glancing her eye furtively at her
companion.

"Not so well as yourself, perhaps; but enough to get out of sight before
morning."

"What do then?--couldn't paddle six--ten--eight mile!"

"I do not know; I would do much to warn my father, and the excellent
Pathfinder, and all the rest, of the danger they are in."

"Like Pathfinder?"

"All like him who know him--you would like him, nay, love him, if you
only knew his heart!"

"No like him at all. Too good rifle--too good eye--too much shoot
Iroquois and June's people. Must get his scalp if can."

"And I must save it if I can, June. In this respect, then, we are
opposed to each other. I will go and find a canoe the instant they are
all asleep, and quit the island."

"No can--June won't let you. Call Arrowhead."

"June! you would not betray me--you could not give me up after all you
have done for me?"

"Just so," returned June, making a backward gesture with her hand, and
speaking with a warmth and earnestness Mabel had never witnessed in her
before. "Call Arrowhead in loud voice. One call from wife wake a warrior
up. June no let Lily help enemy--no let Indian hurt Lily."

"I understand you, June, and feel the nature and justice of your
sentiments; and, after all, it were better that I should remain here,
for I have most probably overrated my strength. But tell me one thing:
if my uncle comes in the night, and asks to be admitted, you will let me
open the door of the blockhouse that he may enter?"

"Sartain--he prisoner here, and June like prisoner better than scalp;
scalp good for honor, prisoner good for feeling. But Saltwater hide so
close, he don't know where he be himself."

Here June laughed in her girlish, mirthful way, for to her scenes of
violence were too familiar to leave impressions sufficiently deep
to change her natural character. A long and discursive dialogue now
followed, in which Mabel endeavored to obtain clearer notions of her
actual situation, under a faint hope that she might possibly be enabled
to turn some of the facts she thus learned to advantage. June answered
all her interrogatories simply, but with a caution which showed she
fully distinguished between that which was immaterial and that which
might endanger the safety or embarrass the future operations of her
friends. The substance of the information she gave may be summed up as
follows.

Arrowhead had long been in communication with the French, though this
was the first occasion on which he had entirely thrown aside the mask.
He no longer intended to trust himself among the English, for he had
discovered traces of distrust, particularly in Pathfinder; and, with
Indian bravado, he now rather wished to blazon than to conceal his
treachery. He had led the party of warriors in the attack on the island,
subject, however, to the supervision of the Frenchman who has been
mentioned, though June declined saying whether he had been the means
of discovering the position of a place which had been thought to be so
concealed from the enemy or not. On this point she would say nothing;
but she admitted that she and her husband had been watching the
departure of the _Scud_ at the time they were overtaken and captured
by the cutter. The French had obtained their information of the precise
position of the station but very recently; and Mabel felt a pang when
she thought that there were covert allusions of the Indian woman which
would convey the meaning that the intelligence had come from a pale-face
in the employment of Duncan of Lundie. This was intimated, however,
rather than said; and when Mabel had time to reflect on her companion's
words, she found room to hope that she had misunderstood her, and
that Jasper Western would yet come out of the affair freed from every
injurious imputation.

June did not hesitate to confess that she had been sent to the island to
ascertain the precise number and the occupations of those who had been
left on it, though she also betrayed in her _naive_ way that the wish
to serve Mabel had induced her principally to consent to come. In
consequence of her report, and information otherwise obtained, the enemy
was aware of precisely the force that could be brought against them.
They also knew the number of men who had gone with Sergeant Dunham,
and were acquainted with the object he had in view, though they were
ignorant of the spot where he expected to meet the French boats. It
would have been a pleasant sight to witness the eager desire of each of
these two sincere females to ascertain all that might be of consequence
to their respective friends; and yet the native delicacy with which each
refrained from pressing the other to make revelations which would have
been improper, as well as the sensitive, almost intuitive, feeling with
which each avoided saying aught that might prove injurious to her
own nation. As respects each other, there was perfect confidence; as
regarded their respective people, entire fidelity. June was quite as
anxious as Mabel could be on any other point to know where the Sergeant
had gone and when he was expected to return; but she abstained from
putting the question, with a delicacy that would have done honor to the
highest civilization; nor did she once frame any other inquiry in a way
to lead indirectly to a betrayal of the much-desired information on that
particular point: though when Mabel of her own accord touched on any
matter that might by possibility throw a light on the subject, she
listened with an intentness which almost suspended respiration.

In this manner the hours passed away unheeded, for both were too much
interested to think of rest. Nature asserted her rights, however,
towards morning; and Mabel was persuaded to lie down on one of the straw
beds provided for the soldiers, where she soon fell into a deep sleep.
June lay near her and a quiet reigned on the whole island as profound as
if the dominion of the forest had never been invaded by man.

When Mabel awoke the light of the sun was streaming in through the
loopholes, and she found that the day was considerably advanced. June
still lay near her, sleeping as tranquilly as if she reposed on--we
will not say "down," for the superior civilization of our own times
repudiates the simile--but on a French mattress, and as profoundly as
if she had never experienced concern. The movements of Mabel,
notwithstanding, soon awakened one so accustomed to vigilance; and then
the two took a survey of what was passing around them by means of the
friendly apertures.



CHAPTER XXIII.

     What had the Eternall Maker need of thee,
     The world in his continuall course to keepe,
     That doest all things deface? ne lettest see
     The beautie of his worke?  Indeede in sleepe,
     The slouth full body that doth love to steepe
     His lustlesse limbs, and drowne his baser mind,
     Doth praise thee oft, and oft from Stygian deepe,
     Calles thee his goddesse, in his errour blind,
     And great dame Nature's hand-maide, chearing every kinde.
     _Faerie Queene._


The tranquillity of the previous night was not contradicted by the
movements of the day. Although Mabel and June went to every loophole,
not a sign of the presence of a living being on the island was at first
to be seen, themselves excepted. There was a smothered fire on the spot
where M'Nab and his comrades had cooked, as if the smoke which curled
upwards from it was intended as a lure to the absent; and all around the
huts had been restored to former order and arrangement. Mabel started
involuntarily when her eye at length fell on a group of three men,
dressed in the scarlet of the 55th, seated on the grass in lounging
attitudes, as if they chatted in listless security; and her blood
curdled as, on a second look, she traced the bloodless faces and glassy
eyes of the dead. They were very near the blockhouse, so near indeed
as to have been overlooked at the first eager inquiry, and there was
a mocking levity in their postures and gestures, for their limbs were
stiffening in different attitudes, intended to resemble life, at which
the soul revolted. Still, horrible as these objects were to those near
enough to discover the frightful discrepancy between their assumed and
their real characters, the arrangement had been made with so much art
that it would have deceived a negligent observer at the distance of a
hundred yards. After carefully examining the shores of the island, June
pointed out to her companion the fourth soldier, seated, with his feet
hanging over the water, his back fastened to a sapling, and holding a
fishing-rod in his hand. The scalpless heads were covered with the
caps, and all appearance of blood had been carefully washed from each
countenance.

Mabel sickened at this sight, which not only did so much violence to all
her notions of propriety, but which was in itself so revolting and so
opposed to natural feeling. She withdrew to a seat, and hid her face in
her apron for several minutes, until a low call from June again drew her
to a loophole. The latter then pointed out the body of Jennie seemingly
standing in the door of a hut, leaning forward as if to look at the
group of men, her cap fluttering in the wind, and her hand grasping
a broom. The distance was too great to distinguish the features very
accurately; but Mabel fancied that the jaw had been depressed, as if to
distort the mouth into a sort of horrible laugh.

"June! June!" she exclaimed; "this exceeds all I have ever heard, or
imagined as possible, in the treachery and artifices of your people."

"Tuscarora very cunning," said June, in a way to show that she rather
approved of than condemned the uses to which the dead bodies had been
applied. "Do soldier no harm now; do Iroquois good; got the scalp first;
now make bodies work. By and by, burn 'em."

This speech told Mabel how far she was separated from her friend in
character; and it was several minutes before she could again address
her. But this temporary aversion was lost on June, who set about
preparing their simple breakfast, in a way to show how insensible she
was to feelings in others which her own habits taught her to discard.
Mabel ate sparingly, and her companion, as if nothing had happened. Then
they had leisure again for their thoughts, and for further surveys of
the island. Our heroine, though devoured with a feverish desire to be
always at the loops, seldom went that she did not immediately quit them
in disgust, though compelled by her apprehensions to return again in
a few minutes, called by the rustling of leaves, or the sighing of the
wind. It was, indeed, a solemn thing to look out upon that deserted
spot, peopled by the dead in the panoply of the living, and thrown into
the attitudes and acts of careless merriment and rude enjoyment. The
effect on our heroine was much as if she had found herself an observer
of the revelries of demons.

Throughout the livelong day not an Indian nor a Frenchman was to be
seen, and night closed over the frightful but silent masquerade, with
the steady and unalterable progress with which the earth obeys her
laws, indifferent to the petty actors and petty scenes that are in daily
bustle and daily occurrence on her bosom. The night was far more quiet
than that which had preceded it, and Mabel slept with an increasing
confidence; for she now felt satisfied that her own fate would not
be decided until the return of her father. The following day he was
expected, however, and when our heroine awoke, she ran eagerly to the
loops in order to ascertain the state of the weather and the aspect of
the skies, as well as the condition of the island. There lounged the
fearful group on the grass; the fisherman still hung over the water,
seemingly intent on his sport; and the distorted countenance of Jennie
glared from out the hut in horrible contortions. But the weather had
changed; the wind blew fresh from the southward, and though the air was
bland, it was filled with the elements of storm.

"This grows more and more difficult to bear, June," Mabel said, when she
left the window. "I could even prefer to see the enemy than to look any
longer on this fearful array of the dead."

"Hush! Here they come. June thought hear a cry like a warrior's shout
when he take a scalp."

"What mean you? There is no more butchery!--there can be no more."

"Saltwater!" exclaimed June, laughing, as she stood peeping through a
loophole.

"My dear uncle! Thank God! he then lives! Oh, June, June, _you_ will not
let them harm _him?_"

"June, poor squaw. What warrior t'ink of what she say? Arrowhead bring
him here."

By this time Mabel was at a loop; and, sure enough, there were Cap and
the Quartermaster in the hands of the Indians, eight or ten of whom
were conducting them to the foot of the block, for, by this capture, the
enemy now well knew that there could be no man in the building. Mabel
scarcely breathed until the whole party stood ranged directly before
the door, when she was rejoiced to see that the French officer was among
them. A low conversation followed, in which both the white leader and
Arrowhead spoke earnestly to their captives, when the Quartermaster
called out to her in a voice loud enough to be heard.

"Pretty Mabel! Pretty Mabel!" said he; "Look out of one of the
loopholes, and pity our condition. We are threatened with instant death
unless you open the door to the conquerors. Relent, then or we'll no' be
wearing our scalps half an hour from this blessed moment."

Mabel thought there were mockery and levity in this appeal, and its
manner rather fortified than weakened her resolution to hold the place
as long as possible.

"Speak to me, uncle," said she, with her mouth at a loop, "and tell me
what I ought to do."

"Thank God! thank God!" ejaculated Cap; "the sound of your sweet voice,
Magnet, lightens my heart of a heavy load, for I feared you had shared
the fate of poor Jennie. My breast has felt the last four-and-twenty
hours as if a ton of kentledge had been stowed in it. You ask me what
you ought to do, child, and I do not know how to advise you, though you
are my own sister's daughter! The most I can say just now, my poor girl,
is most heartily to curse the day you or I ever saw this bit of fresh
water."

"But, uncle, is your life in danger--do _you_ think I ought to open the
door?"

"A round turn and two half-hitches make a fast belay; and I would
counsel no one who is out of the hands of these devils to unbar or
unfasten anything in order to fall into them. As to the Quartermaster
and myself, we are both elderly men, and not of much account to mankind
in general, as honest Pathfinder would say; and it can make no great
odds to him whether he balances the purser's books this year or the
next; and as for myself, why, if I were on the seaboard, I should know
what to do, but up here, in this watery wilderness, I can only say, that
if I were behind that bit of a bulwark, it would take a good deal of
Indian logic to rouse me out of it."

"You'll no' be minding all your uncle says, pretty Mabel," put in Muir,
"for distress is obviously fast unsettling his faculties, and he is far
from calculating all the necessities of the emergency. We are in the
hands here of very considerate and gentlemanly pairsons, it must be
acknowledged, and one has little occasion to apprehend disagreeable
violence. The casualties that have occurred are the common incidents of
war, and can no' change our sentiments of the enemy, for they are far
from indicating that any injustice will be done the prisoners. I'm sure
that neither Master Cap nor myself has any cause of complaint since we
have given ourselves up to Master Arrowhead, who reminds me of a Roman
or a Spartan by his virtues and moderation; but ye'll be remembering
that usages differ, and that our scalps may be lawful sacrifices to
appease the manes of fallen foes, unless you save them by capitulation."

"I shall do wiser to keep within the blockhouse until the fate of the
island is settled," returned Mabel. "Our enemies can feel no concern
on account of one like me, knowing that I can do them no harm, and I
greatly prefer to remain here as more befitting my sex and years."

"If nothing but your convenience were concerned, Mabel, we should all
cheerfully acquiesce in your wishes, but these gentlemen fancy that the
work will aid their operations, and they have a strong desire to possess
it. To be frank with you, finding myself and your uncle in a very
peculiar situation, I acknowledge that, to avert consequences, I have
assumed the power that belongs to his Majesty's commission, and entered
into a verbal capitulation, by which I have engaged to give up the
blockhouse and the whole island. It is the fortune of war, and must be
submitted to; so open the door, pretty Mabel, forthwith, and confide
yourself to the care of those who know how to treat beauty and virtue
in distress. There's no courtier in Scotland more complaisant than this
chief, or who is more familiar with the laws of decorum."

"No leave blockhouse," muttered June, who stood at Mabel's side,
attentive to all that passed. "Blockhouse good--got no scalp."

Our heroine might have yielded but for this appeal; for it began to
appear to her that the wisest course would be to conciliate the enemy by
concessions instead of exasperating them by resistance. They must know
that Muir and her uncle were in their power; that there was no man in
the building, and she fancied they might proceed to batter down the
door, or cut their way through the logs with axes, if she obstinately
refused to give them peaceable admission, since there was no longer
any reason to dread the rifle. But the words of June induced her to
hesitate, and the earnest pressure of the hand and entreating looks of
her companion strengthened a resolution that was faltering.

"No prisoner yet," whispered June; "let 'em make prisoner before 'ey
take prisoner--talk big; June manage 'em."

Mabel now began to parley more resolutely with Muir, for her uncle
seemed disposed to quiet his conscience by holding his tongue, and she
plainly intimated that it was not her intention to yield the building.

"You forget the capitulation, Mistress Mabel," said Muir; "the honor of
one of his Majesty's servants is concerned, and the honor of his Majesty
through his servant. You will remember the finesse and delicacy that
belong to military honor?"

"I know enough, Mr. Muir, to understand that you have no command in this
expedition, and therefore can have no right to yield the blockhouse; and
I remember, moreover, to have heard my dear father say that a prisoner
loses all his authority for the time being."

"Rank sophistry, pretty Mabel, and treason to the king, as well as
dishonoring his commission and discrediting his name. You'll no' be
persevering in your intentions, when your better judgment has
had leisure to reflect and to make conclusions on matters and
circumstances."

"Ay," put in Cap, "this is a circumstance, and be d----d to it!"

"No mind what'e uncle say," ejaculated June, who was occupied in a far
corner of the room. "Blockhouse good--got no scalp."

"I shall remain as I am, Mr. Muir, until I get some tidings of my
father. He will return in the course of the next ten days."

"Ah, Mabel, this artifice will no' deceive the enemy, who, by means that
would be unintelligible, did not our suspicions rest on an unhappy young
man with too much plausibility, are familiar with all our doings
and plans, and well know that the sun will not set before the worthy
Sergeant and his companions will be in their power. Aweel! Submission to
Providence is truly a Christian virtue!"

"Mr. Muir, you appear to be deceived in the strength of this work, and
to fancy it weaker than it is. Do you desire to see what I can do in the
way of defence, if so disposed?"

"I dinna mind if I do," answered the Quartermaster, who always grew
Scotch as he grew interested.

"What do you think of that, then? Look at the loop of the upper story!"

As soon as Mabel had spoken, all eyes were turned upward, and beheld the
muzzle of a rifle cautiously thrust through a hole, June having resorted
again to a _ruse_ which had already proved so successful. The result did
not disappoint expectation. No sooner did the Indians catch a sight of
the fatal weapon than they leaped aside, and in less than a minute every
man among them had sought a cover. The French officer kept his eye on
the barrel of the piece in order to ascertain that it was not pointed
in his particular direction, and he coolly took a pinch of snuff. As
neither Muir nor Cap had anything to apprehend from the quarter in which
the others were menaced, they kept their ground.

"Be wise, my pretty Mabel, be wise!" exclaimed the former; "and no' be
provoking useless contention. In the name of all the kings of Albin,
who have ye closeted with you in that wooden tower that seemeth so
bloody-minded? There is necromancy about this matter, and all our
characters may be involved in the explanation."

"What do you think of the Pathfinder, Master Muir, for a garrison to
so strong a post?" cried Mabel, resorting to an equivocation which the
circumstances rendered very excusable. "What will your French and Indian
companions think of the aim of the Pathfinder's rifle?"

"Bear gently on the unfortunate, pretty Mabel, and do not confound the
king's servants--may Heaven bless him and all his royal lineage!--with
the king's enemies. If Pathfinder be indeed in the blockhouse, let him
speak, and we will hold our negotiations directly with him. He knows
us as friends, and we fear no evil at his hands, and least of all
to myself; for a generous mind is apt to render rivalry in a certain
interest a sure ground of respect and amity, since admiration of the
same woman proves a community of feeling and tastes."

The reliance on Pathfinder's friendship did not extend beyond the
Quartermaster and Cap, however, for even the French officer, who had
hitherto stood his ground so well, shrank back at the sound of the
terrible name. So unwilling, indeed, did this individual, a man of iron
nerves, and one long accustomed to the dangers of the peculiar warfare
in which he was engaged, appear to remain exposed to the assaults of
Killdeer, whose reputation throughout all that frontier was as well
established as that of Marlborough in Europe, that he did not disdain to
seek a cover, insisting that his two prisoners should follow him. Mabel
was too glad to be rid of her enemies to lament the departure of her
friends, though she kissed her hand to Cap through the loop, and called
out to him in terms of affection as he moved slowly and unwillingly
away.

The enemy now seemed disposed to abandon all attempts on the blockhouse
for the present; and June, who had ascended to a trap in the roof,
whence the best view was to be obtained, reported that the whole party
had assembled to eat, on a distant and sheltered part of the island,
where Muir and Cap were quietly sharing in the good things which were
going, as if they had no concern on their minds. This information
greatly relieved Mabel, and she began to turn her thoughts again to the
means of effecting her own escape, or at least of letting her father
know of the danger that awaited him. The Sergeant was expected to return
that afternoon, and she knew that a moment gained or lost might decide
his fate.

Three or four hours flew by. The island was again buried in a profound
quiet, the day was wearing away, and yet Mabel had decided on nothing.
June was in the basement, preparing their frugal meal, and Mabel herself
had ascended to the roof, which was provided with a trap that allowed
her to go out on the top of the building, whence she commanded the best
view of surrounding objects that the island possessed; still it was
limited, and much obstructed by the tops of trees. The anxious girl
did not dare to trust her person in sight, knowing well that the
unrestrained passions of some savage might induce him to send a bullet
through her brain. She merely kept her head out of the trap, therefore,
whence, in the course of the afternoon, she made as many surveys of the
different channels about the island as "Anne, sister Anne," took of the
environs of the castle of Blue Beard.

The sun had actually set; no intelligence had been received from the
boats, and Mabel ascended to the roof to take a last look, hoping that
the party would arrive in the darkness; which would at least prevent the
Indians from rendering their ambuscade so fatal as it might otherwise
prove, and which possibly might enable her to give some more
intelligible signal, by means of fire, than it would otherwise be in her
power to do. Her eye had turned carefully round the whole horizon, and
she was just on the point of drawing in her person, when an object
that struck her as new caught her attention. The islands lay grouped so
closely, that six or eight different channels or passages between them
were in view; and in one of the most covered, concealed in a great
measure by the bushes of the shore, lay what a second look assured
her was a bark canoe. It contained a human being beyond a question.
Confident that if an enemy her signal could do no harm, and; if a
friend, that it might do good, the eager girl waved a little flag
towards the stranger, which she had prepared for her father, taking care
that it should not be seen from the island.

Mabel had repeated her signal eight or ten times in vain, and she began
to despair of its being noticed, when a sign was given in return by the
wave of a paddle, and the man so far discovered himself as to let her
see it was Chingachgook. Here, then, at last, was a friend; one, too,
who was able, and she doubted not would be willing to aid her. From that
instant her courage and her spirits revived. The Mohican had seen her;
must have recognized her, as he knew that she was of the party; and
no doubt, as soon as it was sufficiently dark, he would take the steps
necessary to release her. That he was aware of the presence of the
enemy was apparent by the great caution he observed, and she had every
reliance on his prudence and address. The principal difficulty now
existed with June; for Mabel had seen too much of her fidelity to her
own people, relieved as it was by sympathy for herself, to believe she
would consent to a hostile Indian's entering the blockhouse, or
indeed to her leaving it, with a view to defeat Arrowhead's plans. The
half-hour which succeeded the discovery of the presence of the Great
Serpent was the most painful of Mabel Dunham's life. She saw the means
of effecting all she wished, as it might be within reach of her hand,
and yet it eluded her grasp. She knew June's decision and coolness,
notwithstanding all her gentleness and womanly feeling; and at last
she came reluctantly to the conclusion that there was no other way of
attaining her end than by deceiving her tried companion and protector.
It was revolting to one so sincere and natural, so pure of heart, and so
much disposed to ingenuousness as Mabel Dunham, to practise deception
on a friend like June; but her own father's life was at stake, her
companion would receive no positive injury, and she had feelings and
interests directly touching herself which would have removed greater
scruples.

As soon as it was dark, Mabel's heart began to beat with increased
violence; and she adopted and changed her plan of proceeding at least a
dozen times in a single hour. June was always the source of her greatest
embarrassment; for she did not well see, first, how she was to ascertain
when Chingachgook was at the door, where she doubted not he would soon
appear; and, secondly, how she was to admit him, without giving the
alarm to her watchful companion. Time pressed, however; for the Mohican
might come and go away again, unless she was ready to receive him. It
would be too hazardous to the Delaware to remain long on the island; and
it became absolutely necessary to determine on some course, even at the
risk of choosing one that was indiscreet. After running over various
projects in her mind, therefore, Mabel came to her companion, and said,
with as much calmness as she could assume,--

"Are you not afraid, June, now your people believe Pathfinder is in the
blockhouse, that they will come and try to set it on fire?"

"No t'ink such t'ing. No burn blockhouse. Blockhouse good; got no
scalp."

"June, we cannot know. They hid because they believed what I told them
of Pathfinder's being with us."

"Believe fear. Fear come quick, go quick. Fear make run away; wit make
come back. Fear make warrior fool, as well as young girl."

Here June laughed, as her sex is apt to laugh when anything particularly
ludicrous crosses their youthful fancies.

"I feel uneasy, June; and wish you yourself would go up again to the
roof and look out upon the island, to make certain that nothing is
plotting against us; you know the signs of what your people intend to do
better than I."

"June go, Lily wish; but very well know that Indian sleep; wait for 'e
fader. Warrior eat, drink, sleep, all time, when don't fight and go on
war-trail. Den never sleep, eat, drink--never feel. Warrior sleep now."

"God send it may be so! but go up, dear June, and look well about you.
Danger may come when we least expect it."

June arose, and prepared to ascend to the roof; but she paused, with her
foot on the first round of the ladder. Mabel's heart beat so violently
that she was fearful its throbs would be heard; and she fancied that
some gleamings of her real intentions had crossed the mind of her
friend. She was right in part, the Indian woman having actually stopped
to consider whether there was any indiscretion in what she was about to
do. At first the suspicion that Mabel intended to escape flashed across
her mind; then she rejected it, on the ground that the pale-face had no
means of getting off the island, and that the blockhouse was much the
most secure place she could find. The next thought was, that Mabel had
detected some sign of the near approach of her father. This idea, too,
lasted but an instant; for June entertained some such opinion of her
companion's ability to understand symptoms of this sort--symptoms that
had escaped her own sagacity--as a woman of high fashion entertains of
the accomplishments of her maid. Nothing else in the same way offering,
she began slowly to mount the ladder.

Just as she reached the upper floor, a lucky thought suggested itself to
our heroine; and, by expressing it in a hurried but natural manner, she
gained a great advantage in executing her projected scheme.

"I will go down," she said, "and listen by the door, June, while you are
on the roof; and we will thus be on our guard, at the same time, above
and below."

Though June thought this savored of unnecessary caution, well knowing
that no one could enter the building unless aided from within, nor any
serious danger menace them from the exterior without giving sufficient
warning, she attributed the proposition to Mabel's ignorance and alarm;
and, as it was made apparently with frankness, it was received without
distrust. By these means our heroine was enabled to descend to the door,
as her friend ascended to the roof. The distance between the two was now
too great to admit of conversation; and for three or four minutes one
was occupied in looking about her as well as the darkness would allow,
and the other in listening at the door with as much intentness as if all
her senses were absorbed in the single faculty of hearing.

June discovered nothing from her elevated stand; the obscurity indeed
almost forbade the hope of such a result; but it would not be easy to
describe the sensation with which Mabel thought she perceived a slight
and guarded push against the door. Fearful that all might not be as
she wished, and anxious to let Chingachgook know that she was near, she
began, though in tremulous and low notes, to sing. So profound was the
stillness of the moment that the sound of the unsteady warbling ascended
to the roof and in a minute June began to descend. A slight tap at the
door was heard immediately after. Mabel was bewildered, for there was
no time to lose. Hope proved stronger than fear; and with unsteady hands
she commenced unbarring the door. The moccasin of June was heard on
the floor above her when only a single bar was turned. The second was
released as her form reached half-way down the lower ladder.

"What you do?" exclaimed June angrily. "Run away--mad--leave blockhouse;
blockhouse good." The hands of both were on the last bar, and it would
have been cleared from the fastenings but for a vigorous shove from
without, which jammed the wood. A short struggle ensued, though both
were disinclined to violence. June would probably have prevailed, had
not another and a more vigorous push from without forced the bar past
the trifling impediment that held it, when the door opened. The form of
a man was seen to enter; and both the females rushed up the ladder, as
if equally afraid of the consequences. The stranger secured the door;
and, first examining the lower room with great care, he cautiously
ascended the ladder. June, as soon as it became dark, had closed the
loops of the principal floor, and lighted a candle. By means of this dim
taper, then, the two females stood in expectation, waiting to ascertain
the person of their visitor, whose wary ascent of the ladder was
distinctly audible, though sufficiently deliberate. It would not be easy
to say which was the more astonished on finding, when the stranger had
got through the trap, that Pathfinder stood before them.

"God be praised!" Mabel exclaimed, for the idea that the blockhouse
would be impregnable with such a garrison at once crossed her mind. "O
Pathfinder! what has become of my father?"

"The Sergeant is safe as yet, and victorious; though it is not in the
gift of man to say what will be the ind of it. Is not that the wife of
Arrowhead skulking in the corner there?"

"Speak not of her reproachfully, Pathfinder; I owe her my life, my
present security. Tell me what has happened to my father's party--why
you are here; and I will relate all the horrible events that have passed
upon this island."

"Few words will do the last, Mabel; for one used to Indian devilries
needs but little explanations on such a subject. Everything turned
out as we had hoped with the expedition; for the Sarpent was on the
look-out, and he met us with all the information heart could desire. We
ambushed three boats, druv' the Frenchers out of them, got possession
and sunk them, according to orders, in the deepest part of the channel;
and the savages of Upper Canada will fare badly for Indian goods this
winter. Both powder and ball, too, will be scarcer among them than keen
hunters and active warriors may relish. We did not lose a man or have
even a skin barked; nor do I think the inimy suffered to speak of. In
short, Mabel, it has been just such an expedition as Lundie likes; much
harm to the foe, and little harm to ourselves."

"Ah, Pathfinder, I fear, when Major Duncan comes to hear the whole
of the sad tale, he will find reason to regret he ever undertook the
affair."

"I know what you mean, I know what you mean; but by telling my story
straight you will understand it better. As soon as the Sergeant found
himself successful, he sent me and the Sarpent off in canoes to tell
you how matters had turned out, and he is following with the two boats,
which, being so much heavier, cannot arrive before morning. I parted
from Chingachgook this forenoon, it being agreed that he should come up
one set of channels, and I another, to see that the path was clear. I've
not seen the chief since."

Mabel now explained the manner in which she had discovered the Mohican,
and her expectation that he would yet come to the blockhouse.

"Not he, not he! A regular scout will never get behind walls or logs so
long as he can keep the open air and find useful employment. I should
not have come myself, Mabel, but I promised the Sergeant to comfort you
and to look after your safety. Ah's me! I reconnoitred the island with
a heavy heart this forenoon; and there was a bitter hour when I fancied
you might be among the slain."

"By what lucky accident were you prevented from paddling up boldly to
the island and from falling into the hands of the enemy?"

"By such an accident, Mabel, as Providence employs to tell the hound
where to find the deer and the deer how to throw off the hound. No, no!
these artifices and devilries with dead bodies may deceive the soldiers
of the 55th and the king's officers; but they are all lost upon men who
have passed their days in the forest. I came down the channel in face of
the pretended fisherman; and, though the riptyles have set up the poor
wretch with art, it was not ingenious enough to take in a practysed eye.
The rod was held too high, for the 55th have learned to fish at Oswego,
if they never knew how before; and then the man was too quiet for one
who got neither prey nor bite. But we never come in upon a post blindly;
and I have lain outside a garrison a whole night, because they had
changed their sentries and their mode of standing guard. Neither the
Sarpent nor myself would be likely to be taken in by these clumsy
contrivances, which were most probably intended for the Scotch, who are
cunning enough in some particulars, though anything but witches when
Indian sarcumventions are in the wind."

"Do you think my father and his men may yet be deceived?" said Mabel
quickly.

"Not if I can prevent it, Mabel. You say the Sarpent is on the look-out
too; so there is a double chance of our succeeding in letting him know
his danger; though it is by no means sartain by which channel the party
may come."

"Pathfinder," said our heroine solemnly, for the frightful scenes she
had witnessed had clothed death with unusual horrors,--"Pathfinder, you
have professed love for me, a wish to make me your wife?"

"I did ventur' to speak on that subject, Mabel, and the Sergeant has
even lately said that you are kindly disposed; but I am not a man to
persecute the thing I love."

"Hear me, Pathfinder, I respect you, honor you, revere you; save my
father from this dreadful death, and I can worship you. Here is my hand,
as a solemn pledge for my faith, when you come to claim it."

"Bless you, bless you, Mabel; this is more than I desarve--more, I
fear, than I shall know how to profit by as I ought. It was not wanting,
however, to make me sarve the Sergeant. We are old comrades, and owe
each other a life; though I fear me, Mabel, being a father's comrade is
not always the best recommendation with a daughter."

"You want no other recommendation than your own acts--your courage, your
fidelity. All that you do and say, Pathfinder, my reason approves, and
the heart will, nay, it _shall_ follow."

"This is a happiness I little expected this night; but we are in God's
hands, and He will protect us in His own way. These are sweet words,
Mabel; but they were not wanting to make me do all that man can do in
the present circumstances; they will not lessen my endeavors, neither."

"Now we understand each other, Pathfinder," Mabel added hoarsely, "let
us not lose one of the precious moments, which may be of incalculable
value. Can we not get into your canoe and go and meet my father?"

"That is not the course I advise. I don't know by which channel the
Sergeant will come, and there are twenty; rely on it, the Sarpent will
be winding his way through them all. No, no! my advice is to remain
here. The logs of this blockhouse are still green, and it will not
be easy to set them on fire; and I can make good the place, bating a
burning, ag'in a tribe. The Iroquois nation cannot dislodge me from this
fortress, so long as we can keep the flames off it. The Sergeant is now
'camped on some island, and will not come in until morning. If we
hold the block, we can give him timely warning, by firing rifles, for
instance; and should he determine to attack the savages, as a man of his
temper will be very likely to do, the possession of this building will
be of great account in the affair. No, no! my judgment says remain, if
the object be to sarve the Sergeant, though escape for our two selves
will be no very difficult matter."

"Stay," murmured Mabel, "stay, for God's sake, Pathfinder! Anything,
everything to save my father!"

"Yes, that is natur'. I am glad to hear you say this, Mabel, for I own a
wish to see the Sergeant fairly supported. As the matter now stands,
he has gained himself credit; and, could he once drive off these
miscreants, and make an honorable retreat, laying the huts and block
in ashes, no doubt, Lundie would remember it and sarve him accordingly.
Yes, yes, Mabel, we must not only save the Sergeant's life, but we must
save his reputation."

"No blame can rest on my father on account of the surprise of this
island."

"There's no telling, there's no telling; military glory is a most
unsartain thing. I've seen the Delawares routed, when they desarved more
credit than at other times when they've carried the day. A man is wrong
to set his head on success of any sort, and worst of all on success in
war. I know little of the settlements, or of the notions that men hold
in them; but up hereaway even the Indians rate a warrior's character
according to his luck. The principal thing with a soldier is never to be
whipt; nor do I think mankind stops long to consider how the day was won
or lost. For my part, Mabel, I make it a rule when facing the inimy
to give him as good as I can send, and to try to be moderate after a
defeat, little need be said on that score, as a flogging is one of the
most humbling things in natur'. The parsons preach about humility in the
garrison; but if humility would make Christians, the king's troops ought
to be saints, for they've done little as yet this war but take lessons
from the French, beginning at Fort du Quesne and ending at Ty."

"My father could not have suspected that the position of the island was
known to the enemy," resumed Mabel, whose thoughts were running on the
probable effect of the recent events on the Sergeant.

"That is true; nor do I well see how the Frenchers found it out. The
spot is well chosen, and it is not an easy matter, even for one who
has travelled the road to and from it, to find it again. There has been
treachery, I fear; yes, yes, there must have been treachery."

"Oh, Pathfinder! can this be?"

"Nothing is easier, Mabel, for treachery comes as nat'ral to some men as
eating. Now when I find a man all fair words I look close to his deeds;
for when the heart is right, and really intends to do good, it is
generally satisfied to let the conduct speak instead of the tongue."

"Jasper Western is not one of these," said Mabel impetuously. "No youth
can be more sincere in his manner, or less apt to make the tongue act
for the head."

"Jasper Western! tongue and heart are both right with that lad, depend
on it, Mabel; and the notion taken up by Lundie, and the Quartermaster,
and the Sergeant, and your uncle too, is as wrong as it would be to
think that the sun shone by night and the stars shone by day. No, no;
I'll answer for Eau-douce's honesty with my own scalp, or, at need, with
my own rifle."

"Bless you, bless you, Pathfinder!" exclaimed Mabel, extending her own
hand and pressing the iron fingers of her companion, under a state of
feeling that far surpassed her own consciousness of its strength. "You
are all that is generous, all that is noble! God will reward you for
it."

"Ah, Mabel, I fear me, if this be true, I should not covet such a wife
as yourself; but would leave you to be sued for by some gentleman of the
garrison, as your desarts require."

"We will not talk of this any more to-night," Mabel answered in a voice
so smothered as to seem nearly choked. "We must think less of ourselves
just now, Pathfinder, and more of our friends. But I rejoice from
my soul that you believe Jasper innocent. Now let us talk of other
things--ought we not to release June?"

"I've been thinking about the woman; for it will not be safe to shut our
eyes and leave hers open, on this side of the blockhouse door. If we put
her in the upper room, and take away the ladder, she'll be a prisoner at
least."

"I cannot treat one thus who has saved my life. It would be better to
let her depart, for I think she is too much my friend to do anything to
harm me."

"You do not know the race, Mabel, you do not know the race. It's true
she's not a full-blooded Mingo, but she consorts with the vagabonds, and
must have larned some of their tricks. What is that?"

"It sounds like oars; some boat is passing through the channel."

Pathfinder closed the trap that led to the lower room, to prevent June
from escaping, extinguished the candle, and went hastily to a loop,
Mabel looking over his shoulder in breathless curiosity. These several
movements consumed a minute or two; and by the time the eye of the scout
had got a dim view of things without, two boats had swept past and shot
up to the shore, at a spot some fifty yards beyond the block, where
there was a regular landing. The obscurity prevented more from being
seen; and Pathfinder whispered to Mabel that the new-comers were as
likely to be foes as friends, for he did not think her father could
possibly have arrived so soon. A number of men were now seen to quit the
boats, and then followed three hearty English cheers, leaving no further
doubts of the character of the party. Pathfinder sprang to the trap,
raised it, glided down the ladder, and began to unbar the door, with
an earnestness that proved how critical he deemed the moment. Mabel had
followed, but she rather impeded than aided his exertions, and but a
single bar was turned when a heavy discharge of rifles was heard. They
were still standing in breathless suspense, as the war-whoop rang in all
the surrounding thickets. The door now opened, and both Pathfinder
and Mabel rushed into the open air. All human sounds had ceased. After
listening half a minute, however, Pathfinder thought he heard a few
stifled groans near the boats; but the wind blew so fresh, and the
rustling of the leaves mingled so much with the murmurs of the passing
air, that he was far from certain. But Mabel was borne away by her
feelings, and she rushed by him, taking the way towards the boats.

"This will not do, Mabel," said the scout in an earnest but low voice,
seizing her by an arm; "this will never do. Sartain death would follow,
and that without sarving any one. We must return to the block."

"Father! my poor, dear, murdered father!" said the girl wildly, though
habitual caution, even at that trying moment, induced her to speak low.
"Pathfinder, if you love me, let me go to my dear father."

"This will not do, Mabel. It is singular that no one speaks; no one
returns the fire from the boats; and I have left Killdeer in the block!
But of what use would a rifle be when no one is to be seen?"

At that moment the quick eye of Pathfinder, which, while he held Mabel
firmly in his grasp, had never ceased to roam over the dim scene, caught
an indistinct view of five or six dark crouching forms, endeavoring to
steal past him, doubtless with the intention of intercepting the retreat
to the blockhouse. Catching up Mabel, and putting her under an arm, as
if she were an infant, the sinewy frame of the woodsman was exerted to
the utmost, and he succeeded in entering the building. The tramp of
his pursuers seemed immediately at his heels. Dropping his burden, he
turned, closed the door, and had fastened one bar, as a rush against the
solid mass threatened to force it from the hinges. To secure the other
bars was the work of an instant.

Mabel now ascended to the first floor, while Pathfinder remained as a
sentinel below. Our heroine was in that state in which the body exerts
itself, apparently without the control of the mind. She relighted the
candle mechanically, as her companion had desired, and returned with it
below, where he was waiting her reappearance. No sooner was Pathfinder
in possession of the light than he examined the place carefully, to make
certain no one was concealed in the fortress, ascending to each floor
in succession, after assuring himself that he left no enemy in his rear.
The result was the conviction that the blockhouse now contained no one
but Mabel and himself, June having escaped. When perfectly convinced on
this material point, Pathfinder rejoined our heroine in the principal
apartment, setting down the light and examining the priming of Killdeer
before he seated himself.

"Our worst fears are realized!" said Mabel, to whom the hurry and
excitement of the last five minutes appeared to contain the emotions of
a life. "My beloved father and all his party are slain or captured!"

"We don't know that--morning will tell us all. I do not think the affair
so settled as that, or we should hear the vagabond Mingos yelling out
their triumph around the blockhouse. Of one thing we may be sartain; if
the inimy has really got the better, he will not be long in calling
upon us to surrender. The squaw will let him into the secret of our
situation; and, as they well know the place cannot be fired by daylight,
so long as Killdeer continues to desarve his reputation, you may depend
on it that they will not be backward in making their attempt while
darkness helps them."

"Surely I hear a groan!"

"'Tis fancy, Mabel; when the mind gets to be skeary, especially a
woman's mind, she often concaits things that have no reality. I've known
them that imagined there was truth in dreams."

"Nay, I am _not_ deceived; there is surely one below, and in pain."

Pathfinder was compelled to own that the quick senses of Mabel had not
deceived her. He cautioned her, however, to repress her feelings; and
reminded her that the savages were in the practice of resorting to every
artifice to attain their ends, and that nothing was more likely
than that the groans were feigned with a view to lure them from the
blockhouse, or, at least, to induce them to open the door.

"No, no, no!" said Mabel hurriedly; "there is no artifice in those
sounds, and they come from anguish of body, if not of spirit. They are
fearfully natural."

"Well, we shall soon know whether a friend is there or not. Hide the
light again, Mabel, and I will speak the person from a loop."

Not a little precaution was necessary, according to Pathfinder's
judgment and experience, in performing even this simple act; for he had
known the careless slain by their want of proper attention to what might
have seemed to the ignorant supererogatory means of safety. He did not
place his mouth to the loop itself, but so near it that he could be
heard without raising his voice, and the same precaution was observed as
regards his ear.

"Who is below?" Pathfinder demanded, when his arrangements were made
to his mind. "Is any one in suffering? If a friend, speak boldly, and
depend on our aid."

"Pathfinder!" answered a voice that both Mabel and the person addressed
at once knew to be the Sergeant's,--"Pathfinder, in the name of God,
tell me what has become of my daughter."

"Father, I am here, unhurt, safe! and oh that I could think the same of
you!"

The ejaculation of thanksgiving that followed was distinctly audible to
the two, but it was clearly mingled with, a groan of pain.

"My worst forebodings are realized!" said Mabel with a sort of desperate
calmness. "Pathfinder, my father must be brought within the block,
though we hazard everything to do it."

"This is natur', and it is the law of God. But, Mabel, be calm, and
endivor to be cool. All that can be effected for the Sergeant by human
invention shall be done. I only ask you to be cool."

"I am, I am, Pathfinder. Never in my life was I more calm, more
collected, than at this moment. But remember how perilous may be every
instant; for Heaven's sake, what we do, let us do without delay."

Pathfinder was struck with the firmness of Mabel's tones, and perhaps he
was a little deceived by the forced tranquillity and self-possession
she had assumed. At all events, he did not deem any further explanations
necessary, but descended forthwith, and began to unbar the door. This
delicate process was conducted with the usual caution, but, as he warily
permitted the mass of timber to swing back on the hinges, he felt a
pressure against it, that had nearly induced him to close it again.
But, catching a glimpse of the cause through the crack, the door was
permitted to swing back, when the body of Sergeant Dunham, which was
propped against it, fell partly within the block. To draw in the legs
and secure the fastenings occupied the Pathfinder but a moment. Then
there existed no obstacle to their giving their undivided care to the
wounded man.

Mabel, in this trying scene, conducted herself with the sort of
unnatural energy that her sex, when aroused, is apt to manifest. She
got the light, administered water to the parched lips of her father, and
assisted Pathfinder in forming a bed of straw for his body and a pillow
of clothes for his head. All this was done earnestly, and almost without
speaking; nor did Mabel shed a tear, until she heard the blessings of
her father murmured on her head for this tenderness and care. All
this time Mabel had merely conjectured the condition of her parent.
Pathfinder, however, had shown greater attention to the physical danger
of the Sergeant. He had ascertained that a rifle-ball had passed through
the body of the wounded man; and he was sufficiently familiar with
injuries of this nature to be certain that the chances of his surviving
the hurt were very trifling, if any.



CHAPTER XXIV.

     Then drink my tears, while yet they fall--
     Would that my bosom's blood were balm;
     And--well thou knowest--I'd shed it all,
     To give thy brow one minute's calm.
     MOORE.


The eyes of Sergeant Dunham had not ceased to follow the form of his
beautiful daughter from the moment that the light appeared. He next
examined the door of the block, to ascertain its security; for he was
left on the ground below, there being no available means of raising him
to the upper floor. Then he sought the face of Mabel; for as life wanes
fast the affections resume their force, and we begin to value that most
which we feel we are about to lose for ever.

"God be praised, my child! you, at least, have escaped their murderous
rifles," he said; for he spoke with strength, and seemingly with no
additional pain. "Give me the history of this sad business, Pathfinder."

"Ah's me, Sergeant! It _has_ been sad, as you say. That there has been
treachery, and the position of the island has been betrayed, is now as
sartain, in my judgment, as that we still hold the block. But--"

"Major Duncan was right," interrupted Dunham, laying a hand on the
other's arm.

"Not in the sense you mean, Sergeant--no, not in that p'int of view;
never! At least, not in my opinion. I know that natur' is weak--human
natur', I mean--and that we should none of us vaunt of our gifts,
whether red or white; but I do not think a truer-hearted lad lives on
the lines than Jasper Western."

"Bless you! bless you for that, Pathfinder!" burst forth from Mabel's
very soul, while a flood of tears gave vent to emotions that were so
varied while they were so violent. "Oh, bless you, Pathfinder, bless
you! The brave should never desert the brave--the honest should sustain
the honest."

The father's eyes were fastened anxiously on the face of his daughter,
until the latter hid her countenance in her apron to conceal her tears;
and then they turned with inquiry to the hard features of the guide. The
latter merely wore their usual expression of frankness, sincerity, and
uprightness; and the Sergeant motioned to him to proceed.

"You know the spot where the Sarpent and I left you, Sergeant,"
Pathfinder resumed; "and I need say nothing of all that happened afore.
It is now too late to regret what is gone and passed; but I do think if
I had stayed with the boats this would not have come to pass. Other men
may be as good guides--I make no doubt they are; but then natur' bestows
its gifts, and some must be better than other some. I daresay poor
Gilbert, who took my place, has suffered for his mistake."

"He fell at my elbow," the Sergeant answered in a low melancholy tone.
"We have, indeed, all suffered for our mistakes."

"No, no, Sergeant, I meant no condemnation on you; for men were never
better commanded than yourn, in this very expedition. I never beheld
a prettier flanking; and the way in which you carried your own boat up
ag'in their howitzer might have teached Lundie himself a lesson."

The eyes of the Sergeant brightened, and his face even wore an
expression of military triumph, though it was of a degree that suited
the humble sphere in which he had been an actor.

"'Twas not badly done, my friend," said he; "and we carried their log
breastwork by storm."

"'Twas nobly done, Sergeant; though, I fear, when all the truth comes to
be known, it will be found that these vagabonds have got their howitzer
back ag'in. Well, well, put a stout heart upon it, and try to forget
all that is disagreeable, and to remember only the pleasant part of the
matter. That is your truest philosophy; ay, and truest religion too. If
the inimy has got the howitzer ag'in, they've only got what belonged to
them afore, and what we couldn't help. They haven't got the blockhouse
yet, nor are they likely to get it, unless they fire it in the dark.
Well, Sergeant, the Sarpent and I separated about ten miles down the
river; for we thought it wisest not to come upon even a friendly camp
without the usual caution. What has become of Chingachgook I cannot
say; though Mabel tells me he is not far off, and I make no question the
noble-hearted Delaware is doing his duty, although he is not now visible
to our eyes. Mark my word, Sergeant, before this matter is over we shall
hear of him at some critical time and that in a discreet and creditable
manner. Ah, the Sarpent is indeed a wise and virtuous chief! and any
white man might covet his gifts, though his rifle is not quite as sure
as Killdeer, it must be owned. Well, as I came near the island I missed
the smoke, and that put me on my guard; for I knew that the men of the
55th were not cunning enough to conceal that sign, notwithstanding all
that has been told them of its danger. This made me more careful, until
I came in sight of this mockfisherman, as I've just told Mabel; and then
the whole of their infernal arts was as plain before me as if I saw it
on a map. I need not tell you, Sergeant, that my first thoughts were of
Mabel; and that, finding she was in the block, I came here, in order to
live or die in her company."

The father turned a gratified look upon his child; and Mabel felt a
sinking of the heart that at such a moment she could not have thought
possible, when she wished to believe all her concern centred in the
situation of her parent. As the latter held out his hand, she took it
in her own and kissed it. Then, kneeling at his side, she wept as if her
heart would break.

"Mabel," said he steadily, "the will of God must be done. It is useless
to attempt deceiving either you or myself; my time has come, and it is a
consolation to me to die like a soldier. Lundie will do me justice; for
our good friend Pathfinder will tell him what has been done, and how all
came to pass. You do not forget our last conversation?"

"Nay, father, my time has probably come too," exclaimed Mabel, who felt
just then as if it would be a relief to die. "I cannot hope to escape;
and Pathfinder would do well to leave us, and return to the garrison
with the sad news while he can."

"Mabel Dunham," said Pathfinder reproachfully, though he took her hand
with kindness, "I have not desarved this. I know I am wild, and uncouth,
and ungainly--"

"Pathfinder!"

"Well, well, we'll forget it; you did not mean it, you could not think
it. It is useless now to talk of escaping, for the Sergeant cannot be
moved; and the blockhouse must be defended, cost what it will. Maybe
Lundie will get the tidings of our disaster, and send a party to raise
the siege."

"Pathfinder--Mabel!" said the Sergeant, who had been writhing with pain
until the cold sweat stood on his forehead; "come both to my side. You
understand each other, I hope?"

"Father, say nothing of that; it is all as you wish."

"Thank God! Give me your hand, Mabel--here, Pathfinder, take it. I can
do no more than give you the girl in this way. I know you will make her
a kind husband. Do not wait on account of my death; but there will be a
chaplain in the fort before the season closes, and let him marry you
at once. My brother, if living, will wish to go back to his vessel, and
then the child will have no protector. Mabel, your husband will have
been my friend, and that will be some consolation to you, I hope."

"Trust this matter to me, Sergeant," put in Pathfinder; "leave it all
in my hands as your dying request; and, depend on it, all will go as it
should."

"I do, I do put all confidence in you, my trusty friend, and empower you
to act as I could act myself in every particular. Mabel, child,--hand
me the water,--you will never repent this night. Bless you, my daughter!
God bless, and have you in His holy keeping!"

This tenderness was inexpressibly touching to one of Mabel's feelings;
and she felt at that moment as if her future union with Pathfinder had
received a solemnization that no ceremony of the Church could render
more holy. Still, a weight, as that of a mountain, lay upon her heart,
and she thought it would be happiness to die. Then followed a short
pause, when the Sergeant, in broken sentences, briefly related what had
passed since he parted with Pathfinder and the Delaware. The wind had
come more favorable; and, instead of encamping on an island agreeably
to the original intention, he had determined to continue, and reach the
station that night. Their approach would have been unseen, and a portion
of the calamity avoided, he thought, had they not grounded on the point
of a neighboring island, where, no doubt, the noise made by the men
in getting off the boat gave notice of their approach, and enabled the
enemy to be in readiness to receive them. They had landed without
the slightest suspicion of danger, though surprised at not finding
a sentinel, and had actually left their arms in the boat, with the
intention of first securing their knapsacks and provisions. The fire had
been so close, that, notwithstanding the obscurity, it was very deadly.
Every man had fallen, though two or three subsequently arose and
disappeared. Four or five of the soldiers had been killed, or so nearly
so as to survive but a few minutes; though, for some unknown reason, the
enemy did not make the usual rush for the scalps. Sergeant Dunham fell
with the others; and he had heard the voice of Mabel, as she rushed from
the blockhouse. This frantic appeal aroused all his parental feelings,
and had enabled him to crawl as far as the door of the building, where
he had raised himself against the logs in the manner already mentioned.

After this simple explanation was made, the Sergeant was so weak as to
need repose, and his companions, while they ministered to his wants,
suffered some time to pass in silence. Pathfinder took the occasion to
reconnoitre from the loops and the roof, and he examined the condition
of the rifles, of which there were a dozen kept in the building, the
soldiers having used their regimental muskets in the expedition. But
Mabel never left her father's side for an instant; and when, by his
breathing, she fancied he slept, she bent her knees and prayed.

The half-hour that succeeded was awfully solemn and still. The moccasin
of Pathfinder was barely heard overhead, and occasionally the sound
of the breech of a rifle fell upon the floor, for he was busied in
examining the pieces, with a view to ascertain the state of their
charges and their primings. Beyond this, nothing was so loud as
the breathing of the wounded man. Mabel's heart yearned to be in
communication with the father she was so soon to lose, and yet she would
not disturb his apparent repose. But Dunham slept not; he was in that
state when the world suddenly loses its attractions, its illusions, and
its power; and the unknown future fills the mind with its conjectures,
its revelations, and its immensity. He had been a moral man for one
of his mode of life, but he had thought little of this all-important
moment. Had the din of battle been ringing in his ears, his martial
ardor might have endured to the end; but there, in the silence of that
nearly untenanted blockhouse, with no sound to enliven him, no appeal
to keep alive factitious sentiment, no hope of victory to impel, things
began to appear in their true colors, and this state of being to be
estimated at its just value. He would have given treasures for religious
consolation, and yet he knew not where to turn to seek it. He thought
of Pathfinder, but he distrusted his knowledge. He thought of Mabel,
but for the parent to appeal to the child for such succor appeared
like reversing the order of nature. Then it was that he felt the full
responsibility of the parental character, and had some clear glimpse
of the manner in which he himself had discharged the trust towards an
orphan child. While thoughts like these were rising in his mind, Mabel,
who watched the slightest change in his breathing, heard a guarded knock
at the door. Supposing it might be Chingachgook, she rose, undid two of
the bars, and held the third in her hand, as she asked who was there.
The answer was in her uncle's voice, and he implored her to give him
instant admission. Without an instant of hesitation, she turned the bar,
and Cap entered. He had barely passed the opening, when Mabel closed
the door again, and secured it as before, for practice had rendered her
expert in this portion of her duties.

The sturdy seaman, when he had made sure of the state of his
brother-in-law, and that Mabel, as well as himself, was safe, was
softened nearly to tears. His own appearance he explained by saying that
he had been carelessly guarded, under the impression that he and the
Quartermaster were sleeping under the fumes of liquor with which
they had been plied with a view to keep them quiet in the expected
engagement. Muir had been left asleep, or seeming to sleep; but Cap
had run into the bushes on the alarm of the attack, and having found
Pathfinder's canoe, had only succeeded, at that moment, in getting to
the blockhouse, whither he had come with the kind intent of escaping
with his niece by water. It is scarcely necessary to say that he changed
his plan when he ascertained the state of the Sergeant, and the apparent
security of his present quarters.

"If the worst comes to the worst, Master Pathfinder," said he, "we must
strike, and that will entitle us to receive quarter. We owe it to our
manhood to hold out a reasonable time, and to ourselves to haul down the
ensign in season to make saving conditions. I wished Master Muir to
do the same thing when we were captured by these chaps you call
vagabonds--and rightly are they named, for viler vagabonds do not walk
the earth--"

"You've found out their characters?" interrupted Pathfinder, who was
always as ready to chime in with abuse of the Mingos as with the praises
of his friends. "Now, had you fallen into the hands of the Delawares,
you would have learned the difference."

"Well, to me they seem much of a muchness; blackguards fore and aft,
always excepting our friend the Serpent, who is a gentleman for an
Indian. But, when these savages made the assault on us, killing Corporal
M'Nab and his men as if they had been so many rabbits, Lieutenant Muir
and myself took refuge in one of the holes of this here island, of which
there are so many among the rocks, and there we remained stowed away
like two leaguers in a ship's hold, until we gave out for want of grub.
A man may say that grub is the foundation of human nature. I desired the
Quartermaster to make terms, for we could have defended ourselves for an
hour or two in the place, bad as it was; but he declined, on the ground
that the knaves wouldn't keep faith if any of them were hurt, and
so there was no use in asking them to. I consented to strike, on two
principles; one, that we might be said to have struck already, for
running below is generally thought to be giving up the ship; and the
other, that we had an enemy in our stomachs that was more formidable in
his attacks than the enemy on deck. Hunger is a d----ble circumstance,
as any man who has lived on it eight-and-forty hours will acknowledge."

"Uncle," said Mabel in a mournful voice and with an expostulatory
manner, "my poor father is sadly, sadly hurt!"

"True, Magnet, true; I will sit by him, and do my best at consolation.
Are the bars well fastened, girl? for on such an occasion the mind
should be tranquil and undisturbed."

"We are safe, I believe, from all but this heavy blow of Providence."

"Well, then, Magnet, do you go up to the floor above and try to compose
yourself, while Pathfinder runs aloft and takes a look-out from the
cross-trees. Your father may wish to say something to me in private,
and it may be well to leave us alone. These are solemn scenes, and
inexperienced people, like myself, do not always wish what they say to
be overheard."

Although the idea of her uncle's affording religious consolation by the
side of a death-bed certainly never obtruded itself on the imagination
of Mabel, she thought there might be a propriety in the request with
which she was unacquainted, and she complied accordingly. Pathfinder had
already ascended to the roof to make his survey, and the brothers-in-law
were left alone. Cap took a seat by the side of the Sergeant, and
bethought him seriously of the grave duty he had before him. A silence
of several minutes succeeded, during which brief space the mariner was
digesting the substance of his intended discourse.

"I must say, Sergeant Dunham," Cap at length commenced in his peculiar
manner, "that there has been mismanagement somewhere in this unhappy
expedition; and, the present being an occasion when truth ought to be
spoken, and nothing but the truth, I feel it my duty to be say as much
in plain language. In short, Sergeant, on this point there cannot well
be two opinions; for, seaman as I am, and no soldier, I can see several
errors myself, that it needs no great education to detect."

"What would you have, brother Cap?" returned the other in a feeble
voice; "what is done is done; and it is now too late to remedy it."

"Very true, brother Dunham, but not to repent of it; the Good Book tells
us it is never too late to repent; and I've always heard that this is
the precious moment. If you've anything on your mind, Sergeant, hoist
it out freely; for, you know, you trust it to a friend. You were my own
sister's husband, and poor little Magnet is my own sister's daughter;
and, living or dead, I shall always look upon you as a brother. It's a
thousand pities that you didn't lie off and on with the boats, and send
a canoe ahead to reconnoitre; in which case your command would have been
saved, and this disaster would not have befallen us all. Well, Sergeant,
we are _all_ mortal; that is some consolation, I make no doubt; and if
you go before a little, why, we must follow. Yes, that _must_ give you
consolation."

"I know all this, brother Cap; and hope I'm prepared to meet a soldier's
fate--there is poor Mabel--"

"Ay, ay, that's a heavy drag, I know; but you wouldn't take her with you
if you could, Sergeant; and so the better way is to make as light of
the separation as you can. Mabel is a good girl, and so was her mother
before her; she was my sister, and it shall be my care to see that her
daughter gets a good husband, if our lives and scalps are spared; for
I suppose no one would care about entering into a family that has no
scalps."

"Brother, my child is betrothed; she will become the wife of
Pathfinder."

"Well, brother Dunham, every man has his opinions and his manner of
viewing things; and, to my notion, this match will be anything but
agreeable to Mabel. I have no objection to the age of the man; I'm not
one of them that thinks it necessary to be a boy to make a girl happy,
but, on the whole, I prefer a man of about fifty for a husband; still
there ought not to be any circumstance between the parties to make them
unhappy. Circumstances play the devil with matrimony, and I set it down
as one that Pathfinder don't know as much as my niece. You've seen but
little of the girl, Sergeant, and have not got the run of her knowledge;
but let her pay it out freely, as she will do when she gets to be
thoroughly acquainted, and you'll fall in with but few schoolmasters
that can keep their luffs in her company."

"She's a good child--a dear, good child," muttered the Sergeant, his
eyes filling with tears; "and it is my misfortune that I have seen so
little of her."

"She is indeed a good girl, and knows altogether too much for poor
Pathfinder, who is a reasonable man and an experienced man in his
own way; but who has no more idea of the main chance than you have of
spherical trigonometry, Sergeant."

"Ah, brother Cap, had Pathfinder been with us in the boats this sad
affair might not have happened!"

"That is quite likely; for his worst enemy will allow that the man is
a good guide; but then, Sergeant, if the truth must be spoken, you
have managed this expedition in a loose way altogether. You should have
hove-to off your haven, and sent in a boat to reconnoitre, as I told
you before. That is a matter to be repented of, and I tell it to you,
because truth, in such a case, ought to be spoken."

"My errors are dearly paid for, brother; and poor Mabel, I fear, will
be the sufferer. I think, however, that the calamity would not have
happened had there not been treason. I fear me, brother, that Jasper
Eau-douce has played us false."

"That is just my notion; for this fresh-water life must sooner or later
undermine any man's morals. Lieutenant Muir and myself talked this
matter over while we lay in a bit of a hole out here, on this island;
and we both came to the conclusion that nothing short of Jasper's
treachery could have brought us all into this infernal scrape. Well,
Sergeant, you had better compose your mind, and think of other matters;
for, when a vessel is about to enter a strange port, it is more prudent
to think of the anchorage inside than to be under-running all the events
that have turned up during the v'y'ge. There's the log-book expressly to
note all these matters in; and what stands there must form the column of
figures that's to be posted up for or against us. How now, Pathfinder!
is there anything in the wind, that you come down the ladder like an
Indian in the wake of a scalp?"

The guide raised a finger for silence and then beckoned to Cap to ascend
the first ladder, and to allow Mabel to take his place at the side of
the Sergeant.

"We must be prudent, and we must be bold too," said he in a low voice.
"The riptyles are in earnest in their intention to fire the block; for
they know there is now nothing to be gained by letting it stand. I hear
the voice of that vagabond Arrowhead among them, and he is urging
them to set about their devilry this very night. We must be stirring,
Saltwater, and doing too. Luckily there are four or five barrels
of water in the block, and these are something towards a siege. My
reckoning is wrong, too, or we shall yet reap some advantage from that
honest fellow's, the Sarpent, being at liberty."

Cap did not wait for a second invitation; but, stealing away, he was
soon in the upper room with Pathfinder, while Mabel took his post at the
side of her father's humble bed. Pathfinder had opened a loop, having
so far concealed the light that it would not expose him to a treacherous
shot; and, expecting a summons, he stood with his face near the hole,
ready to answer. The stillness that succeeded was at length broken by
the voice of Muir.

"Master Pathfinder," called out the Scotchman, "a friend summons you to
a parley. Come freely to one of the loops; for you've nothing to fear so
long as you are in converse with an officer of the 55th."

"What is your will, Quartermaster? what is your will? I know the 55th,
and believe it to be a brave regiment; though I rather incline to the
60th as my favorite, and to the Delawares more than to either; but what
would you have, Quartermaster? It must be a pressing errand that brings
you under the loops of a blockhouse at this hour of the night, with the
sartainty of Killdeer being inside of it."

"Oh, you'll no' harm a friend, Pathfinder, I'm certain; and that's my
security. You're a man of judgment, and have gained too great a name
on this frontier for bravery to feel the necessity of foolhardiness to
obtain a character. You'll very well understand, my good friend, there
is as much credit to be gained by submitting gracefully, when resistance
becomes impossible, as by obstinately holding out contrary to the rules
of war. The enemy is too strong for us, my brave comrade, and I come
to counsel you to give up the block, on condition of being treated as a
prisoner of war."

"I thank you for this advice, Quartermaster, which is the more
acceptable as it costs nothing; but I do not think it belongs to my
gifts to yield a place like this while food and water last."

"Well, I'd be the last, Pathfinder, to recommend anything against so
brave a resolution, did I see the means of maintaining it. But ye'll
remember that Master Cap has fallen."

"Not he, not he!" roared the individual in question through another
loop; "and so far from that, Lieutenant, he has risen to the height of
this here fortification, and has no mind to put his head of hair into
the hands of such barbers again, so long as he can help it. I look upon
this blockhouse as a circumstance, and have no mind to throw it away."

"If that is a living voice," returned Muir, "I am glad to hear it; for
we all thought the man had fallen in the late fearful confusion. But,
Master Pathfinder, although ye're enjoying the society of our friend
Cap,--and a great pleasure do I know it to be, by the experience of
two days and a night passed in a hole in the earth,--we've lost that of
Sergeant Dunham, who has fallen, with all the brave men he led in the
late expedition. Lundie would have it so, though it would have been more
discreet and becoming to send a commissioned officer in command. Dunham
was a brave man, notwithstanding, and shall have justice done his
memory. In short, we have all acted for the best, and that is as much as
could be said in favor of Prince Eugene, the Duke of Marlborough, or the
great Earl of Stair himself."

"You're wrong ag'in, Quartermaster, you're wrong ag'in," answered
Pathfinder, resorting to a ruse to magnify his force. "The Sergeant
is safe in the block too, where one might say the whole family is
collected."

"Well I rejoice to hear it, for we had certainly counted the Sergeant
among the slain. If pretty Mabel is in the block still, let her not
delay an instant, for heaven's sake, in quitting it, for the enemy is
about to put it to the trial by fire. Ye know the potency of that dread
element, and will be acting more like the discreet and experienced
warrior ye're universally allowed to be, in yielding a place you canna'
defend, than in drawing down ruin on yourself and companions."

"I know the potency of fire, as you call it, Quartermaster; and am not
to be told, at this late hour, that it can be used for something else
besides cooking a dinner. But I make no doubt you've heard of the
potency of Killdeer, and the man who attempts to lay a pile of brush
against these logs will get a taste of his power. As for arrows, it is
not in their gift to set this building on fire, for we've no shingles
on our roof, but good solid logs and green bark, and plenty of water
besides. The roof is so flat, too, as you know yourself, Quartermaster,
that we can walk on it, and so no danger on that score while water
lasts. I'm peaceable enough if let alone; but he who endivors to burn
this block over my head will find the fire squinched in his own blood."

"This is idle and romantic talk, Pathfinder, and ye'll no maintain it
yourself when ye come to meditate on the realities. I hope ye'll no'
gainsay the loyalty or the courage of the 55th, and I feel convinced
that a council of war would decide on the propriety of a surrender
forthwith. Na, na, Pathfinder, foolhardiness is na mair like the bravery
o' Wallace or Bruce than Albany on the Hudson is like the old town of
Edinbro'."

"As each of us seems to have made up his mind, Quartermaster, more words
are useless. If the riptyles near you are disposed to set about their
hellish job, let them begin at once. They can burn wood, and I'll burn
powder. If I were an Indian at the stake, I suppose I could brag as well
as the rest of them; but, my gifts and natur' being both white, my turn
is rather for doing than talking. You've said quite enough, considering
you carry the king's commission; and should we all be consumed, none of
us will bear you any malice."

"Pathfinder, ye'll no' be exposing Mabel, pretty Mabel Dunham, to sic' a
calamity!"

"Mabel Dunham is by the side of her wounded father, and God will care
for the safety of a pious child. Not a hair of her head shall fall,
while my arm and sight remain true; and though _you_ may trust the
Mingos, Master Muir, I put no faith in them. You've a knavish Tuscarora
in your company there, who has art and malice enough to spoil the
character of any tribe with which he consorts, though he found the
Mingos ready ruined to his hands, I fear. But enough said; now let each
party go to the use of his means and his gifts."

Throughout this dialogue Pathfinder had kept his body covered, lest a
treacherous shot should be aimed at the loop; and he now directed Cap
to ascend to the roof in order to be in readiness to meet the first
assault. Although the latter used sufficient diligence, he found no less
than ten blazing arrows sticking to the bark, while the air was filled
with the yells and whoops of the enemy. A rapid discharge of rifles
followed, and the bullets came pattering against the logs, in a way to
show that the struggle had indeed seriously commenced.

These were sounds, however, that appalled neither Pathfinder nor Cap,
while Mabel was too much absorbed in her affliction to feel alarm. She
had good sense enough, too, to understand the nature of the defences,
and fully to appreciate their importance. As for her father, the
familiar noises revived him; and it pained his child, at such a moment,
to see that his glassy eye began to kindle, and that the blood returned
to a cheek it had deserted, as he listened to the uproar. It was now
Mabel first perceived that his reason began slightly to wander.

"Order up the light companies," he muttered, "and let the grenadiers
charge! Do they dare to attack us in our fort? Why does not the
artillery open on them?"

At that instant the heavy report of a gun burst on the night; and the
crashing of rending wood was heard, as a heavy shot tore the logs in
the room above, and the whole block shook with the force of a shell that
lodged in the work. The Pathfinder narrowly escaped the passage of this
formidable missile as it entered; but when it exploded, Mabel could not
suppress a shriek, for she supposed all over her head, whether animate
or inanimate, destroyed. To increase her horror, her father shouted in a
frantic voice to "charge!"

"Mabel," said Pathfinder, with his head at the trap, "this is true Mingo
work--more noise than injury. The vagabonds have got the howitzer
we took from the French, and have discharged it ag'in the block; but
fortunately they have fired off the only shell we had, and there is an
ind of its use for the present. There is some confusion among the stores
up in this loft, but no one is hurt. Your uncle is still on the roof;
and, as for myself, I've run the gauntlet of too many rifles to be
skeary about such a thing as a howitzer, and that in Indian hands."

Mabel murmured her thanks, and tried to give all her attention to her
father, whose efforts to rise were only counteracted by his debility.
During the fearful minutes that succeeded, she was so much occupied with
the care of the invalid that she scarcely heeded the clamor that reigned
around her. Indeed, the uproar was so great, that, had not her thoughts
been otherwise employed, confusion of faculties rather than alarm would
probably have been the consequence.

Cap preserved his coolness admirably. He had a profound and increasing
respect for the power of the savages, and even for the majesty of fresh
water, it is true; but his apprehensions of the former proceeded more
from his dread of being scalped and tortured than from any unmanly fear
of death; and, as he was now on the deck of a house, if not on the deck
of a ship, and knew that there was little danger of boarders, he
moved about with a fearlessness and a rash exposure of his person that
Pathfinder, had he been aware of the fact, would have been the first to
condemn. Instead of keeping his body covered, agreeably to the usages of
Indian warfare, he was seen on every part of the roof, dashing the water
right and left, with the apparent steadiness and unconcern he would have
manifested had he been a sail trimmer exercising his art in a battle
afloat. His appearance was one of the causes of the extraordinary clamor
among the assailants; who, unused to see their enemies so reckless,
opened upon him with their tongues, like a pack that has the fox in
view. Still he appeared to possess a charmed life; for, though the
bullets whistled around him on every side, and his clothes were several
times torn, nothing cut his skin. When the shell passed through the logs
below, the old sailor dropped his bucket, waved his hat, and gave three
cheers; in which heroic act he was employed as the dangerous missile
exploded. This characteristic feat probably saved his life; for from
that instant the Indians ceased to fire at him, and even to shoot their
flaming arrows at the block, having taken up the notion simultaneously,
and by common consent, that the "Saltwater" was mad; and it was a
singular effect of their magnanimity never to lift a hand against those
whom they imagined devoid of reason.

The conduct of Pathfinder was very different. Everything he did was
regulated by the most exact calculation, the result of long experience
and habitual thoughtfulness. His person was kept carefully out of a line
with the loops, and the spot that he selected for his look-out was one
quite removed from danger. This celebrated guide had often been known to
lead forlorn hopes: he had once stood at the stake, suffering under the
cruelties and taunts of savage ingenuity and savage ferocity without
quailing; and legends of his exploits, coolness, and daring were to be
heard all along that extensive frontier, or wherever men dwelt and men
contended. But on this occasion, one who did not know his history and
character might have thought his exceeding care and studied attention
to self-preservation proceeded from an unworthy motive. But such a judge
would not have understood his subject; the Pathfinder bethought him of
Mabel, and of what might possibly be the consequences to that poor
girl should any casualty befall himself. But the recollection rather
quickened his intellect than changed his customary prudence. He was,
in fact, one of those who was so unaccustomed to fear, that he never
bethought him of the constructions others might put upon his conduct.
But while in moments of danger he acted with the wisdom of the serpent,
it was also with the simplicity of a child.

For the first ten minutes of the assault, Pathfinder never raised the
breech of his rifle from the floor, except when he changed his own
position, for he well knew that the bullets of the enemy were thrown
away upon the massive logs of the work; and as he had been at the
capture of the howitzer he felt certain that the savages had no other
shell than the one found in it when the piece was taken. There existed
no reason, therefore, to dread the fire of the assailants, except as
a casual bullet might find a passage through a loophole. One or two
of these accidents did occur, but the balls entered at an angle that
deprived them of all chance of doing any injury so long as the Indians
kept near the block; and if discharged from a distance, there was
scarcely the possibility of one in a hundred's striking the apertures.
But when Pathfinder heard the sound of mocassined feet and the rustling
of brush at the foot of the building, he knew that the attempt to build
a fire against the logs was about to be renewed. He now summoned Cap
from the roof, where, indeed, all the danger had ceased, and directed
him to stand in readiness with his water at a hole immediately over the
spot assailed.

One less trained than our hero would have been in a hurry to repel
this dangerous attempt also, and might have resorted to his means
prematurely; not so with Pathfinder. His aim was not only to extinguish
the fire, about which he felt little apprehension, but to give the enemy
a lesson that would render him wary during the remainder of the night.
In order to effect the latter purpose, it became necessary to wait until
the light of the intended conflagration should direct his aim, when
he well knew that a very slight effort of his skill would suffice. The
Iroquois were permitted to collect their heap of dried brush, to pile
it against the block, to light it, and to return to their covers without
molestation. All that Pathfinder would suffer Cap to do, was to roll
a barrel filled with water to the hole immediately over the spot, in
readiness to be used at the proper instant. That moment, however, did
not arrive, in his judgment, until the blaze illuminated the surrounding
bushes, and there had been time for his quick and practised eye to
detect the forms of three or four lurking savages, who were watching the
progress of the flames, with the cool indifference of men accustomed to
look on human misery with apathy. Then, indeed, he spoke.

"Are you ready, friend Cap?" he asked. "The heat begins to strike
through the crevices; and although these green logs are not of the fiery
natur' of an ill-tempered man, they may be kindled into a blaze if one
provokes them too much. Are you ready with the barrel? See that it has
the right cut, and that none of the water is wasted."

"All ready!" answered Cap, in the manner in which a seaman replies to
such a demand.

"Then wait for the word. Never be over-impatient in a critical time, nor
fool-risky in a battle. Wait for the word."

While the Pathfinder was giving these directions, he was also making
his own preparations; for he saw it was time to act. Killdeer was
deliberately raised, pointed, and discharged. The whole process occupied
about half a minute, and as the rifle was drawn in the eye of the
marksman was applied to the hole.

"There is one riptyle the less," Pathfinder muttered to himself; "I've
seen that vagabond afore, and know him to be a marciless devil. Well,
well! the man acted according to his gifts, and he has been rewarded
according to his gifts. One more of the knaves, and that will sarve the
turn for to-night. When daylight appears, we may have hotter work."

All this time another rifle was being got ready; and as Pathfinder
ceased, a second savage fell. This indeed sufficed; for, indisposed to
wait for a third visitation from the same hand, the whole band, which
had been crouching in the bushes around the block, ignorant of who was
and who was not exposed to view, leaped from their covers and fled to
different places for safety.

"Now, pour away, Master Cap," said Pathfinder; "I've made my mark on the
blackguards; and we shall have no more fires lighted to-night."

"Scaldings!" cried Cap, upsetting the barrel, with a care that at once
and completely extinguished the flames.

This ended the singular conflict; and the remainder of the night passed
in peace. Pathfinder and Cap watched alternately, though neither can be
said to have slept. Sleep indeed scarcely seemed necessary to them, for
both were accustomed to protracted watchings; and there were seasons and
times when the former appeared to be literally insensible to the demands
of hunger and thirst and callous to the effects of fatigue.

Mabel watched by her father's pallet, and began to feel how much our
happiness in this world depends even on things that are imaginary.
Hitherto she had virtually lived without a father, the connection with
her remaining parent being ideal rather than positive; but now that she
was about to lose him, she thought for the moment that the world would
be a void after his death, and that she could never be acquainted with
happiness again.



CHAPTER XXV.

     There was a roaring in the wind all night;
     The rain came heavily, and fell in floods;
     But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
     The birds are singing in the distant woods.
     WORDSWORTH.


As the light returned, Pathfinder and Cap ascended again to the roof,
with a view to reconnoitre the state of things once more on the island.
This part of the blockhouse had a low battlement around it, which
afforded a considerable protection to those who stood in its centre; the
intention having been to enable marksmen to lie behind it and to
fire over its top. By making proper use, therefore, of these slight
defences,--slight as to height, though abundantly ample as far as they
went,--the two look-outs commanded a pretty good view of the island, its
covers excepted, and of most of the channels that led to the spot.

The gale was still blowing very fresh at south; and there were places in
the river where its surface looked green and angry, though the wind
had hardly sweep enough to raise the water into foam. The shape of the
little island was nearly oval, and its greater length was from east to
west. By keeping in the channels that washed it, in consequence of their
several courses and of the direction of the gale, it would have
been possible for a vessel to range past the island on either of its
principal sides, and always to keep the wind very nearly abeam. These
were the facts first noticed by Cap, and explained to his companion; for
the hopes of both now rested on the chances of relief sent from Oswego.
At this instant, while they stood gazing anxiously about them, Cap cried
out, in his lusty, hearty manner,

"Sail, ho!"

Pathfinder turned quickly in the direction of his companion's face;
and there, sure enough, was just visible the object of the old sailor's
exclamation. The elevation enabled the two to overlook the low land of
several of the adjacent islands; and the canvas of a vessel was seen
through the bushes that fringed the shore of one that lay to the
southward and westward. The stranger was under what seamen call low
sail; but so great was the power of the wind, that her white outlines
were seen flying past the openings of the verdure with the velocity of a
fast-travelling horse--resembling a cloud driving in the heavens.

"That cannot be Jasper," said Pathfinder in disappointment; for he did
not recognize the cutter of his friend in the swift-passing object.
"No, no, the lad is behind the hour; and that is some craft which the
Frenchers have sent to aid their friends, the accursed Mingos."

"This time you are out in your reckoning, friend Pathfinder, if you
never were before," returned Cap in a manner that had lost none of
its dogmatism by the critical circumstances in which they were placed.
"Fresh water or salt, that is the head of the _Scud's_ mainsail, for it
is cut with a smaller gore than common; and then you can see that the
gaff has been fished--quite neatly done, I admit, but fished."

"I can see none of this, I confess," answered Pathfinder, to whom even
the terms of his companion were Greek.

"No! Well, I own that surprises me, for I thought your eyes could see
anything! Now to me nothing is plainer than that gore and that fish; and
I must say, my honest friend, that in your place I should apprehend that
my sight was beginning to fail."

"If Jasper is truly coming, I shall apprehend but little. We can make
good the block against the whole Mingo nation for the next eight or
ten hours; and with Eau-douce to cover the retreat, I shall despair of
nothing. God send that the lad may not run alongside of the bank, and
fall into an ambushment, as befell the Sergeant!"

"Ay, there's the danger. There ought to have been signals concerted,
and an anchorage-ground buoyed out, and even a quarantine station or
a lazaretto would have been useful, could we have made these Minks-ho
respect the laws. If the lad fetches up, as you say, anywhere in the
neighborhood of this island, we may look upon the cutter as lost. And,
after all, Master Pathfinder, ought we not to set down this same Jasper
as a secret ally of the French, rather than as a friend of our own? I
know the Sergeant views the matter in that light; and I must say this
whole affair looks like treason."

"We shall soon know, we shall soon know, Master Cap; for there, indeed,
comes the cutter clear of the other island, and five minutes must settle
the matter. It would be no more than fair, however, if we could give the
boy some sign in the way of warning. It is not right that he should fall
into the trap without a notice that it has been laid."

Anxiety and suspense, notwithstanding, prevented either from attempting
to make any signal. It was not easy, truly, to see how it could be done;
for the _Scud_ came foaming through the channel, on the weather side of
the island, at a rate that scarcely admitted of the necessary time. Nor
was any one visible on her deck to make signs to; even her helm seemed
deserted, though her course was as steady as her progress was rapid.

Cap stood in silent admiration of a spectacle so unusual. But, as the
_Scud_ drew nearer, his practised eye detected the helm in play by means
of tiller-ropes, though the person who steered was concealed. As
the cutter had weatherboards of some little height, the mystery was
explained, no doubt remaining that her people lay behind the latter, in
order to be protected from the rifles of the enemy. As this fact
showed that no force beyond that of the small crew could be on board,
Pathfinder received his companion's explanation with an ominous shake of
the head.

"This proves that the Sarpent has not reached Oswego," said he, "and
that we are not to expect succor from the garrison. I hope Lundie has
not taken it into his head to displace the lad, for Jasper Western would
be a host of himself in such a strait. We three, Master Cap, ought to
make a manful warfare: you, as a seaman, to keep up the intercourse with
the cutter; Jasper, as a laker who knows all that is necessary to be
done on the water; and I, with gifts that are as good as any among the
Mingos, let me be what I may in other particulars. I say we ought to
make a manful fight in Mabel's behalf."

"That we ought, and that we will," answered Cap heartily; for he began
to have more confidence in the security of his scalp now that he saw the
sun again. "I set down the arrival of the _Scud_ as one circumstance,
and the chances of Oh-deuce's honesty as another. This Jasper is a
young man of prudence, you find; for he keeps a good offing, and seems
determined to know how matters stand on the island before he ventures to
bring up."

"I have it! I have it!" exclaimed Pathfinder, with exultation. "There
lies the canoe of the Sarpent on the cutter's deck; and the chief has
got on board, and no doubt has given a true account of our condition;
for, unlike a Mingo, a Delaware is sartain to get a story right, or to
hold his tongue."

"That canoe may not belong to the cutter," said the captious seaman.
"Oh-deuce had one on board when he sailed."

"Very true, friend Cap; but if you know your sails and masts by your
gores and fishes, I know my canoes and my paths by frontier knowledge.
If you can see new cloth in a sail, I can see new bark in a canoe. That
is the boat of the Sarpent, and the noble fellow has struck off for the
garrison as soon as he found the block besieged, has fallen in with the
_Scud_, and, after telling his story, has brought the cutter down here
to see what can be done. The Lord grant that Jasper Western be still on
board her!"

"Yes, yes; it might not be amiss; for, traitor or loyal, the lad has a
handy way with him in a gale, it must be owned."

"And in coming over waterfalls!" said Pathfinder, nudging the ribs
of his companion with an elbow, and laughing in his silent but hearty
manner. "We will give the boy his due, though he scalps us all with his
own hand."

The _Scud_ was now so near, that Cap made no reply. The scene, just at
that instant, was so peculiar, that it merits a particular description,
which may also aid the reader in forming a more accurate nature of the
picture we wish to draw.

The gale was still blowing violently. Many of the smaller trees bowed
their tops, as if ready to descend to the earth, while the rushing
of the wind through the branches of the groves resembled the roar of
distant chariots.

The air was filled with leaves, which, at that late season, were readily
driven from their stems, and flew from island to island like flights of
birds. With this exception, the spot seemed silent as the grave. That
the savages still remained, was to be inferred from the fact that their
canoes, together with the boats of the 55th, lay in a group in the
little cove that had been selected as a harbor. Otherwise, not a sign of
their presence was to be detected. Though taken entirely by surprise by
the cutter, the sudden return of which was altogether unlooked-for, so
uniform and inbred were their habits of caution while on the war-path,
that the instant an alarm was given every man had taken to his cover
with the instinct and cunning of a fox seeking his hole. The same
stillness reigned in the blockhouse; for though Pathfinder and Cap could
command a view of the channel, they took the precaution necessary to lie
concealed. The unusual absence of anything like animal life on board
the _Scud_, too, was still more remarkable. As the Indians witnessed her
apparently undirected movements, a feeling of awe gained a footing among
them, and some of the boldest of their party began to distrust the issue
of an expedition that had commenced so prosperously. Even Arrowhead,
accustomed as he was to intercourse with the whites on both sides of
the lakes, fancied there was something ominous in the appearance of this
unmanned vessel, and he would gladly at that moment have been landed
again on the main.

In the meantime the progress of the cutter was steady and rapid. She
held her way mid-channel, now inclining to the gusts, and now rising
again, like the philosopher that bends to the calamities of life to
resume his erect attitude as they pass away, but always piling the water
beneath her bows in foam. Although she was under so very short canvas,
her velocity was great, and there could not have elapsed ten minutes
between the time when her sails were first seen glancing past the trees
and bushes in the distance and the moment when she was abreast of
the blockhouse. Cap and Pathfinder leaned forward, as the cutter came
beneath their eyrie, eager to get a better view of her deck, when, to
the delight of both, Jasper Eau-douce sprang upon his feet and gave
three hearty cheers. Regardless of all risk, Cap leaped upon the rampart
of logs and returned the greeting, cheer for cheer. Happily, the policy
of the enemy saved the latter; for they still lay quiet, not a rifle
being discharged. On the other hand, Pathfinder kept in view the useful,
utterly disregarding the mere dramatic part of warfare. The moment he
beheld his friend Jasper, he called out to him with stentorian lungs,--

"Stand by us, lad, and the day's our own! Give 'em a grist in yonder
bushes, and you'll put 'em up like partridges."

Part of this reached Jasper's ears, but most was borne off to leeward on
the wings of the wind. By the time this was said, the _Scud_ had driven
past, and in the next moment she was hid from view by the grove in which
the blockhouse was partially concealed.

Two anxious minutes succeeded; but, at the expiration of that brief
space, the sails were again gleaming through the trees, Jasper having
wore, jibed, and hauled up under the lee of the island on the other
tack. The wind was free enough, as has been already explained, to admit
of this manoeuvre; and the cutter, catching the current under her lee
bow, was breasted up to her course in a way that showed she would come
out to windward of the island again without any difficulty. This
whole evolution was made with the greatest facility, not a sheet being
touched, the sails trimming themselves, the rudder alone controlling
the admirable machine. The object appeared to be a reconnoissance. When,
however, the _Scud_ had made the circuit of the entire island, and had
again got her weatherly position in the channel by which she had first
approached, her helm was put down, and she tacked. The noise of the
mainsail flapping when it filled, loose-reefed as it was, sounded like
the report of a gun, and Cap trembled lest the seams should open.

"His Majesty gives good canvas, it must be owned," muttered the old
seaman; "and it must be owned, too, that boy handles his boat as if he
were thoroughly bred! D---me, Master Pathfinder, if I believe, after all
that has been reported in the matter, that this Mister Oh-deuce got his
trade on this bit of fresh water."

"He did; yes, he did. He never saw the ocean, and has come by his
calling altogether up here on Ontario. I have often thought he has a
nat'ral gift in the way of schooners and sloops, and have respected him
accordingly. As for treason and lying and black-hearted vices, friend
Cap, Jasper Western is as free as the most virtuousest of the Delaware
warriors; and if you crave to see a truly honest man, you must go among
that tribe to discover him."

"There he comes round!" exclaimed the delighted Cap, the _Scud_ at this
moment filling on her original tack; "and now we shall see what the boy
would be at; he cannot mean to keep running up and down these passages,
like a girl footing it through a country-dance."

The _Scud_ now kept so much away, that for a moment the two observers on
the blockhouse feared Jasper meant to come-to; and the savages, in
their lairs, gleamed out upon her with the sort of exultation that
the crouching tiger may be supposed to feel as he sees his unconscious
victim approach his bed. But Jasper had no such intention: familiar with
the shore, and acquainted with the depth of water on every part of the
island, he well knew that the _Scud_ might be run against the bank with
impunity, and he ventured fearlessly so near, that, as he passed through
the little cove, he swept the two boats of the soldiers from their
fastenings and forced them out into the channel, towing them with the
cutter. As all the canoes were fastened to the two Dunham boats, by this
bold and successful attempt the savages were at once deprived of the
means of quitting the island, unless by swimming, and they appeared to
be instantly aware of the very important fact. Rising in a body, they
filled the air with yells, and poured in a harmless fire. While up in
this unguarded manner, two rifles were discharged by their adversaries.
One came from the summit of the block, and an Iroquois fell dead in his
tracks, shot through the brain. The other came from the _Scud_. The last
was the piece of the Delaware, but, less true than that of his friend,
it only maimed an enemy for life. The people of the _Scud_ shouted, and
the savages sank again, to a man, as if it might be into the earth.

"That was the Sarpent's voice," said Pathfinder, as soon as the second
piece was discharged. "I know the crack of his rifle as well as I do
that of Killdeer. 'Tis a good barrel, though not sartain death. Well,
well, with Chingachgook and Jasper on the water, and you and I in the
block, friend Cap, it will be hard if we don't teach these Mingo scamps
the rationality of a fight."

All this time the _Scud_ was in motion. As soon as he had reached the
end of the island, Jasper sent his prizes adrift; and they went down
before the wind until they stranded on a point half a mile to leeward.
He then wore, and came stemming the current again, through the other
passage. Those on the summit of the block could now perceive that
something was in agitation on the deck of the _Scud_; and, to their
great delight, just as the cutter came abreast of the principal cove,
on the spot where most of the enemy lay, the howitzer which composed her
sole armament was unmasked, and a shower of case-shot was sent hissing
into the bushes. A bevy of quail would not have risen quicker than this
unexpected discharge of iron hail put up the Iroquois; when a second
savage fell by a messenger sent from Killdeer, and another went
limping away by a visit from the rifle of Chingachgook. New covers were
immediately found, however; and each party seemed to prepare for the
renewal of the strife in another form. But the appearance of June,
bearing a white flag, and accompanied by the French officer and Muir,
stayed the hands of all, and was the forerunner of another parley. The
negotiation that followed was held beneath the blockhouse; and so near
it as at once to put those who were uncovered completely at the mercy
of Pathfinder's unerring aim. Jasper anchored directly abeam; and
the howitzer, too, was kept trained upon the negotiators: so that the
besieged and their friends, with the exception of the man who held the
match, had no hesitation about exposing their persons. Chingachgook
alone lay in ambush; more, however, from habit than distrust.

"You've triumphed, Pathfinder," called out the Quartermaster, "and
Captain Sanglier has come himself to offer terms. You'll no' be denying
a brave enemy honorable retreat, when he has fought ye fairly, and done
all the credit he could to king and country. Ye are too loyal a subject
yourself to visit loyalty and fidelity with a heavy judgment. I am
authorized to offer, on the part of the enemy, an evacuation of the
island, a mutual exchange of prisoners, and a restoration of scalps. In
the absence of baggage and artillery, little more can be done."

As the conversation was necessarily carried on in a high key, both on
account of the wind and of the distance, all that was said was heard
equally by those in the block and those in the cutter.

"What do you say to that, Jasper?" called out Pathfinder. "You hear the
proposal. Shall we let the vagabonds go? Or shall we mark them, as they
mark their sheep in the settlements, that we may know them again?"

"What has befallen Mabel Dunham?" demanded the young man, with a frown
on his handsome face, that was visible even to those on the block. "If
a hair of her head has been touched, it will go hard with the whole
Iroquois tribe."

"Nay, nay, she is safe below, nursing a dying parent, as becomes her
sex. We owe no grudge on account of the Sergeant's hurt, which comes of
lawful warfare; and as for Mabel--"

"She is here!" exclaimed the girl herself, who had mounted to the roof
the moment she found the direction things were taking,--"she is here!
And, in the name of our holy religion, and of that God whom we profess
to worship in common, let there be no more bloodshed! Enough has been
spilt already; and if these men will go away, Pathfinder--if they will
depart peaceably, Jasper--oh, do not detain one of them! My poor father
is approaching his end, and it were better that he should draw his last
breath in peace with the world. Go, go, Frenchmen and Indians! We are no
longer your enemies, and will harm none of you."

"Tut, tut, Magnet!" put in Cap; "this sounds religious, perhaps, or like
a book of poetry; but it does not sound like common sense. The enemy
is just ready to strike; Jasper is anchored with his broadside to bear,
and, no doubt, with springs on his cables; Pathfinder's eye and hand
are as true as the needle; and we shall get prize-money, head-money, and
honor in the bargain, if you will not interfere for the next half-hour."

"Well," said Pathfinder, "I incline to Mabel's way of thinking. There
_has_ been enough blood shed to answer our purpose and to sarve the
king; and as for honor, in that meaning, it will do better for young
ensigns and recruits than for cool-headed, obsarvant Christian men.
There is honor in doing what's right, and unhonor in doing what's wrong;
and I think it wrong to take the life even of a Mingo, without a useful
end in view, I do; and right to hear reason at all times. So, Lieutenant
Muir, let us know what your friends the Frenchers and Indians have to
say for themselves."

"My friends!" said Muir, starting; "you'll no' be calling the king's
enemies my friends, Pathfinder, because the fortune of war has thrown
me into their hands? Some of the greatest warriors, both of ancient and
modern times, have been prisoners of war; and yon is Master Cap, who can
testify whether we did not do all that men could devise to escape the
calamity."

"Ay, ay," drily answered Cap; "escape is the proper word. We ran below
and hid ourselves, and so discreetly, that we might have remained in the
hole to this hour, had it not been for the necessity of re-stowing the
bread lockers. You burrowed on that occasion, Quartermaster, as handily
as a fox; and how the d---l you knew so well where to find the spot is a
matter of wonder to me. A regular skulk on board ship does not trail aft
more readily when the jib is to be stowed, than you went into that same
hole."

"And did ye no' follow? There are moments in a man's life when reason
ascends to instinct--"

"And men descend into holes," interrupted Cap, laughing in his
boisterous way, while Pathfinder chimed in, in his peculiar manner.
Even Jasper, though still filled with concern for Mabel, was obliged
to smile. "They say the d---l wouldn't make a sailor if he didn't look
aloft; and now it seems he'll not make a soldier if he doesn't look
below!"

This burst of merriment, though it was anything but agreeable to Muir,
contributed largely towards keeping the peace. Cap fancied he had said
a thing much better than common; and that disposed him to yield his own
opinion on the main point, so long as he got the good opinion of his
companions on his novel claim to be a wit. After a short discussion, all
the savages on the island were collected in a body, without arms, at
the distance of a hundred yards from the block, and under the gun of
the _Scud_; while Pathfinder descended to the door of the blockhouse and
settled the terms on which the island was to be finally evacuated by the
enemy. Considering all the circumstances, the conditions were not very
discreditable to either party. The Indians were compelled to give up
all their arms, even to their knives and tomahawks, as a measure of
precaution, their force being still quadruple that of their foes. The
French officer, Monsieur Sanglier, as he was usually styled, and chose
to call himself, remonstrated against this act as one likely to reflect
more discredit on his command than any other part of the affair; but
Pathfinder, who had witnessed one or two Indian massacres, and knew
how valueless pledges became when put in opposition to interest where a
savage was concerned, was obdurate. The second stipulation was of nearly
the same importance. It compelled Captain Sanglier to give up all his
prisoners, who had been kept well guarded in the very hole or cave in
which Cap and Muir had taken refuge. When these men were produced, four
of them were found to be unhurt; they had fallen merely to save
their lives, a common artifice in that species of warfare; and of the
remainder, two were so slightly injured as not to be unfit for service.
As they brought their muskets with them, this addition to his force
immediately put Pathfinder at his ease; for, having collected all the
arms of the enemy in the blockhouse, he directed these men to take
possession of the building, stationing a regular sentinel at the door.
The remainder of the soldiers were dead, the badly wounded having been
instantly despatched in order to obtain the much-coveted scalps.

As soon as Jasper was made acquainted with the terms, and the
preliminaries had been so far observed as to render it safe for him to
be absent, he got the _Scud_ under weigh; and, running down to the point
where the boats had stranded, he took them in tow again, and, making
a few stretches, brought them into the leeward passage. Here all the
savages instantly embarked, when Jasper took the boats in tow a third
time, and, running off before the wind, he soon set them adrift full
a mile to leeward of the island. The Indians were furnished with but
a single oar in each boat to steer with, the young sailor well knowing
that by keeping before the wind they would land on the shores of Canada
in the course of the morning.

Captain Sanglier, Arrowhead, and June alone remained, when this
disposition had been made of the rest of the party: the former having
certain papers to draw up and sign with Lieutenant Muir, who in his eyes
possessed the virtues which are attached to a commission; and the latter
preferring, for reasons of his own, not to depart in company with his
late friends, the Iroquois. Canoes were detained for the departure of
these three, when the proper moment should arrive.

In the meantime, or while the _Scud_ was running down with the boats in
tow, Pathfinder and Cap, aided by proper assistants, busied themselves
with preparing a breakfast; most of the party not having eaten for
four-and-twenty hours. The brief space that passed in this manner before
the _Scud_ came-to again was little interrupted by discourse, though
Pathfinder found leisure to pay a visit to the Sergeant, to say a few
friendly words to Mabel, and to give such directions as he thought might
smooth the passage of the dying man. As for Mabel herself, he insisted
on her taking some light refreshment; and, there no longer existing any
motive for keeping it there, he had the guard removed from the block,
in order that the daughter might have no impediment to her attentions
to her father. These little arrangements completed, our hero returned
to the fire, around which he found all the remainder of the party
assembled, including Jasper.



CHAPTER XXVI.

     You saw but sorrow in its waning form;
     A working sea remaining from a storm,
     Where now the weary waves roll o'er the deep,
     And faintly murmur ere they fall asleep.
     DRYDEN.


Men accustomed to a warfare like that we have been describing are not
apt to be much under the influence of the tender feelings while still
in the field. Notwithstanding their habits, however, more than one heart
was with Mabel in the block, while the incidents we are about to relate
were in the course of occurrence; and even the indispensable meal was
less relished by the hardiest of the soldiers than it might have been
had not the Sergeant been so near his end.

As Pathfinder returned from the block, he was met by Muir, who led
him aside in order to hold a private discourse. The manner of the
Quartermaster had that air of supererogatory courtesy about it
which almost invariably denotes artifice; for, while physiognomy and
phrenology are but lame sciences at the best, and perhaps lead to
as many false as right conclusions, we hold that there is no more
infallible evidence of insincerity of purpose, short of overt acts, than
a face that smiles when there is no occasion, and the tongue that is out
of measure smooth. Muir had much of this manner in common, mingled with
an apparent frankness that his Scottish intonation of voice, Scottish
accent, and Scottish modes of expression were singularly adapted to
sustain. He owed his preferment, indeed, to a long-exercised deference
to Lundie and his family; for, while the Major himself was much too
acute to be the dupe of one so much his inferior in real talents and
attainments, most persons are accustomed to make liberal concessions
to the flatterer, even while they distrust his truth and are perfectly
aware of his motives. On the present occasion, the contest in skill was
between two men as completely the opposites of each other in all the
leading essentials of character as very well could be. Pathfinder was
as simple as the Quartermaster was practised; he was as sincere as the
other was false, and as direct as the last was tortuous. Both were cool
and calculating, and both were brave, though in different modes and
degrees; Muir never exposing his person except for effect, while the
guide included fear among the rational passions, or as a sensation to be
deferred to only when good might come of it.

"My dearest friend," Muir commenced,--"for ye'll be dearer to us all, by
seventy and sevenfold, after your late conduct than ever ye were,--ye've
just established yourself in this late transaction. It's true that
they'll not be making ye a commissioned officer, for that species of
prefairment is not much in your line, nor much in your wishes, I'm
thinking; but as a guide, and a counsellor, and a loyal subject, and
an expert marksman, yer renown may be said to be full. I doubt if the
commander-in-chief will carry away with him from America as much credit
as will fall to yer share, and ye ought just to set down in content and
enjoy yoursal' for the remainder of yer days. Get married, man, without
delay, and look to your precious happiness; for ye've no occasion to
look any longer to your glory. Take Mabel Dunham, for Heaven's sake, to
your bosom, and ye'll have both a bonnie bride and a bonnie reputation."

"Why, Quartermaster, this is a new piece of advice to come from your
mouth. They've told me I had a rival in you."

"And ye had, man, and a formidible one, too, I can tell you,--one that
has never yet courted in vain, and yet one that has courted five times.
Lundie twits me with four, and I deny the charge; but he little thinks
the truth would outdo even his arithmetic. Yes, yes, ye had a rival,
Pathfinder; but ye've one no longer in me. Ye've my hearty wishes for
yer success with Mabel; and were the honest Sergeant likely to survive,
ye might rely on my good word with him, too, for a certainty."

"I feel your friendship, Quartermaster, I feel your friendship, though I
have no great need of any favor with Sergeant Dunham, who has long been
my friend. I believe we may look upon the matter to be as sartain as
most things in war-time; for, Mabel and her father consenting, the whole
55th couldn't very well put a stop to it. Ah's me! The poor father will
scarcely live to see what his heart has so long been set upon."

"But he'll have the consolation of knowing it will come to pass, in
dying. Oh, it's a great relief, Pathfinder, for the parting spirit to
feel certain that the beloved ones left behind will be well provided
for after its departure. All the Mistress Muirs have duly expressed that
sentiment with their dying breaths."

"All your wives, Quartermaster, have been likely to feel this
consolation."

"Out upon ye, man! I'd no' thought ye such a wag. Well, well; pleasant
words make no heart-burnings between auld fri'nds. If I cannot espouse
Mabel, ye'll no object to my esteeming her, and speaking well of her,
and of yoursal', too, on all suitable occasions and in all companies.
But, Pathfinder, ye'll easily understan' that a poor deevil who loses
such a bride will probably stand in need of some consolation?"

"Quite likely, quite likely, Quartermaster," returned the simple-minded
guide; "I know the loss of Mabel would be found heavy to be borne by
myself. It may bear hard on your feelings to see us married; but the
death of the Sergeant will be likely to put it off, and you'll have time
to think more manfully of it, you will."

"I'll bear up against it; yes, I'll bear up against it, though my
heart-strings crack! And ye might help me, man, by giving me something
to do. Ye'll understand that this expedition has been of a very peculiar
nature; for here am I, bearing the king's commission, just a volunteer,
as it might be; while a mere orderly has had the command. I've submitted
for various reasons, though my blood has boiled to be in authority,
while ye war' battling, for the honor of the country and his Majesty's
rights--"

"Quartermaster," interrupted the guide, "you fell so early into the
enemy's hands that your conscience ought to be easily satisfied on that
score; so take my advice, and say nothing about it."

"That's just my opinion, Pathfinder; we'll all say nothing about it.
Sergeant Dunham is _hors de combat_--"

"Anan?" said the guide.

"Why, the Sergeant can command no longer, and it will hardly do to leave
a corporal at the head of a victorious party like this; for flowers that
will bloom in a garden will die on a heath; and I was just thinking I
would claim the authority that belongs to one who holds a lieutenant's
commission. As for the men, they'll no dare to raise any objaction;
and as for yoursal', my dear friend, now that ye've so much honor, and
Mabel, and the consciousness of having done yer duty, which is more
precious than all, I expect to find an ally rather than one to oppose
the plan."

"As for commanding the soldiers of the 55th, Lieutenant, it is your
right, I suppose, and no one here will be likely to gainsay it; though
you've been a prisoner of war, and there are men who might stand out
ag'in giving up their authority to a prisoner released by their own
deeds. Still no one here will be likely to say anything hostile to your
wishes."

"That's just it, Pathfinder; and when I come to draw up the report of
our success against the boats, and the defence of the block, together
with the general operations, including the capitulation, ye'll no' find
any omission of your claims and merits."

"Tut for my claims and merits, Quartermaster! Lundie knows what I am in
the forest and what I am in the fort; and the General knows better than
he. No fear of me; tell your own story, only taking care to do justice
by Mabel's father, who, in one sense, is the commanding officer at this
very moment."

Muir expressed his entire satisfaction with this arrangement, as well as
his determination to do justice by all, when the two went to the group
assembled round the fire. Here the Quartermaster began, for the first
time since leaving Oswego, to assume some of the authority that might
properly be supposed to belong to his rank. Taking the remaining
corporal aside, he distinctly told that functionary that he must in
future be regarded as one holding the king's commission, and directed
him to acquaint his subordinates with the new state of things. This
change in the dynasty was effected without any of the usual symptoms of
a revolution; for, as all well understood the Lieutenant's legal claims
to command, no one felt disposed to dispute his orders. For reasons best
known to themselves, Lundie and the Quartermaster had originally made a
different disposition; and now, for reasons of his own, the latter had
seen fit to change it. This was reasoning enough for soldiers, though
the hurt received by Sergeant Dunham would have sufficiently explained
the circumstance had an explanation been required.

All this time Captain Sanglier was looking after his own breakfast
with the resignation of a philosopher, the coolness of a veteran, the
ingenuity and science of a Frenchman, and the voracity of an ostrich.
This person had now been in the colony some thirty years, having left
France in some such situation in his own army as Muir filled in the
55th. An iron constitution, perfect obduracy of feeling, a certain
address well suited to manage savages, and an indomitable courage, had
early pointed him out to the commander-in-chief as a suitable agent to
be employed in directing the military operations of his Indian allies.
In this capacity, then, he had risen to the titular rank of captain; and
with his promotion had acquired a portion of the habits and opinions
of his associates with a facility and an adaptation of self which are
thought in America to be peculiar to his countrymen. He had often led
parties of the Iroquois in their predatory expeditions; and his
conduct on such occasions exhibited the contradictory results of both
alleviating the misery produced by this species of warfare, and
of augmenting it by the broader views and greater resources of
civilization. In other words, he planned enterprises that, in their
importance and consequences, much exceeded the usual policy of the
Indians, and then stepped in to lessen some of the evils of his own
creating. In short, he was an adventurer whom circumstances had thrown
into a situation where the callous qualities of men of his class might
readily show themselves for good or for evil; and he was not of a
character to baffle fortune by any ill-timed squeamishness on the score
of early impressions, or to trifle with her liberality by unnecessarily
provoking her frowns through wanton cruelty. Still, as his name was
unavoidably connected with many of the excesses committed by his
parties, he was generally considered in the American provinces a wretch
who delighted in bloodshed, and who found his greatest happiness in
tormenting the helpless and the innocent; and the name of Sanglier,
which was a sobriquet of his own adopting, or of Flint Heart, as he was
usually termed on the borders, had got to be as terrible to the women
and children of that part of the country as those of Butler and Brandt
became at a later day.

The meeting between Pathfinder and Sanglier bore some resemblance to
that celebrated interview between Wellington and Blucher which has
been so often and graphically told. It took place at the fire; and the
parties stood earnestly regarding each other for more than a minute
without speaking. Each felt that in the other he saw a formidable
foe; and each felt, while he ought to treat the other with the manly
liberality due to a warrior, that there was little in common between
them in the way of character as well as of interests. One served for
money and preferment; the other, because his life had been cast in the
wilderness, and the land of his birth needed his arm and experience.
The desire of rising above his present situation never disturbed the
tranquillity of Pathfinder; nor had he ever known an ambitious thought,
as ambition usually betrays itself, until he became acquainted with
Mabel. Since then, indeed, distrust of himself, reverence for her, and
the wish to place her in a situation above that which he then filled,
had caused him some uneasy moments; but the directness and simplicity of
his character had early afforded the required relief; and he soon came
to feel that the woman who would not hesitate to accept him for her
husband would not scruple to share his fortunes, however humble. He
respected Sanglier as a brave warrior; and he had far too much of that
liberality which is the result of practical knowledge to believe half of
what he had heard to his prejudice, for the most bigoted and illiberal
on every subject are usually those who know nothing about it; but he
could not approve of his selfishness, cold-blooded calculations, and
least of all of the manner in which he forgot his "white gifts," to
adopt those that were purely "red." On the other hand, Pathfinder was a
riddle to Captain Sanglier. The latter could not comprehend the other's
motives; he had often heard of his disinterestedness, justice, and
truth; and in several instances they had led him into grave errors, on
that principle by which a frank and open-mouthed diplomatist is said to
keep his secrets better than one that is close-mouthed and wily.

After the two heroes had gazed at each other in the manner mentioned,
Monsieur Sanglier touched his cap; for the rudeness of a border life had
not entirely destroyed the courtesy of manner he had acquired in youth,
nor extinguished that appearance of _bonhomie_ which seems inbred in a
Frenchman.

"Monsieur le Pathfinder," said he, with a very decided accent, though
with a friendly smile, "_un militaire_ honor _le courage, et la
loyaute_. You speak Iroquois?"

"Ay, I understand the language of the riptyles, and can get along with
it if there's occasion," returned the literal and truth-telling guide;
"but it's neither a tongue nor a tribe to my taste. Wherever you find
the Mingo blood, in my opinion, Master Flinty-heart, you find a knave.
Well, I've seen you often, though it was in battle; and I must say it
was always in the van. You must know most of our bullets by sight?"

"Nevvair, sair, your own; _une balle_ from your honorable hand be
sairtaine deat'. You kill my best warrior on some island."

"That may be, that may be; though I daresay, if the truth was known,
they would turn out to be great rascals. No offence to you, Master
Flinty-heart, but you keep desperate evil company."

"Yes, sair," returned the Frenchman, who, bent on saying that which was
courteous himself, and comprehending with difficulty, was disposed to
think he received a compliment, "you too good. But _un brave_ always
_comme ca_. What that mean? ha! what that _jeune homme_ do?"

The hand and eye of Captain Sanglier directed the look of Pathfinder to
the opposite side of the fire, where Jasper, just at that moment, had
been rudely seized by two of the soldiers, who were binding his arms
under the direction of Muir.

"What does that mean, indeed?" cried the guide, stepping forward and
shoving the two subordinates away with a power of muscle that would not
be denied. "Who has the heart to do this to Jasper Eau-douce? And who
has the boldness to do it before my eyes?"

"It is by my orders, Pathfinder," answered the Quartermaster, "and
I command it on my own responsibility. Ye'll no' tak' on yourself
to dispute the legality of orders given by one who bears the king's
commission to the king's soldiers?"

"I'd dispute the king's words, if they came from the king's own mouth,
did he say that Jasper desarves this. Has not the lad just saved all our
scalps, taken us from defeat, and given us victory? No, no, Lieutenant;
if this is the first use that you make of your authority, I, for one,
will not respect it."

"This savors a little of insubordination," answered Muir; "but we can
bear much from Pathfinder. It is true this Jasper has _seemed_ to serve
us in this affair, but we ought not to overlook past transactions. Did
not Major Duncan himself denounce him to Sergeant Dunham before we left
the post? Have we not seen sufficient with our own eyes to make sure of
having been betrayed? And is it not natural, and almost necessary, to
believe that this young man has been the traitor? Ah, Pathfinder! Ye'll
no' be making yourself a great statesman or a great captain if you put
too much faith in appearances. Lord bless me! Lord bless me! If I do
not believe, could the truth be come at, as you often say yourself,
Pathfinder, that hypocrisy is a more common vice than even envy, and
that's the bane of human nature."

Captain Sanglier shrugged his shoulders; then he looked earnestly from
Jasper towards the Quartermaster, and from the Quartermaster towards
Jasper.

"I care not for your envy, or your hypocrisy, or even for your human
natur'," returned Pathfinder. "Jasper Eau-douce is my friend; Jasper
Eau-douce is a brave lad, and an honest lad, and a loyal lad; and no man
of the 55th shall lay hands on him, short of Lundie's own orders, while
I'm in the way to prevent it. You may have authority over your soldiers;
but you have none over Jasper and me, Master Muir."

"_Bon!_" ejaculated Sanglier, the sound partaking equally of the
energies of the throat and of the nose.

"Will ye no' hearken to reason, Pathfinder? Ye'll no' be forgetting our
suspicions and judgments; and here is another circumstance to augment
and aggravate them all. Ye can see this little bit of bunting; well,
where should it be found but by Mabel Dunham, on the branch of a tree on
this very island, just an hour or so before the attack of the enemy; and
if ye'll be at the trouble to look at the fly of the _Scud's_ ensign,
ye'll just say that the cloth has been cut from out it. Circumstantial
evidence was never stronger."

"_Ma foi, c'est un peu fort, ceci,_" growled Sanglier between his teeth.

"Talk to me of no ensigns and signals when I know the heart," continued
the Pathfinder. "Jasper has the gift of honesty; and it is too rare a
gift to be trifled with, like a Mingo's conscience. No, no; off hands,
or we shall see which can make the stoutest battle; you and your men of
the 55th, or the Sarpent here, and Killdeer, with Jasper and his crew.
You overrate your force, Lieutenant Muir, as much as you underrate
Eau-douce's truth."

"_Tres bon!_"

"Well, if I must speak plainly, Pathfinder, I e'en must. Captain
Sanglier here and Arrowhead, this brave Tuscarora, have both informed me
that this unfortunate boy is the traitor. After such testimony you can
no longer oppose my right to correct him, as well as the necessity of
the act."

"_Scelerat,_" muttered the Frenchman.

"Captain Sanglier is a brave soldier, and will not gainsay the conduct
of an honest sailor," put in Jasper. "Is there any traitor here, Captain
Flinty-heart?"

"Ay," added Muir, "let him speak out then, since ye wish it, unhappy
youth! That the truth may be known. I only hope that ye may escape the
last punishment when a court will be sitting on your misdeeds. How is
it, Captain; do ye, or do ye not, see a traitor amang us?"

"_Oui_--yes, sair--_bien sur_."

"Too much lie!" said Arrowhead in a voice of thunder, striking the
breast of Muir with the back of his own hand in a sort of ungovernable
gesture; "where my warriors?--where Yengeese scalp? Too much lie!"

Muir wanted not for personal courage, nor for a certain sense of
personal honor. The violence which had been intended only for a gesture
he mistook for a blow; for conscience was suddenly aroused within him,
and he stepped back a pace, extending his hand towards a gun. His face
was livid with rage, and his countenance expressed the fell intention
of his heart. But Arrowhead was too quick for him; with a wild glance of
the eye the Tuscarora looked about him; then thrust a hand beneath his
own girdle, drew forth a concealed knife, and, in the twinkling of an
eye, buried it in the body of the Quartermaster to the handle. As the
latter fell at his feet, gazing into his face with the vacant stare of
one surprised by death, Sanglier took a pinch of snuff, and said in a
calm voice,--

"_Voila l'affaire finie; mais,_" shrugging his shoulders, "_ce n'est
qu'un scelerat de moins._"

The act was too sudden to be prevented; and when Arrowhead, uttering
a yell, bounded into the bushes, the white men were too confounded to
follow. Chingachgook, however, was more collected; and the bushes had
scarcely closed on the passing body of the Tuscarora than they were
again opened by that of the Delaware in full pursuit.

Jasper Western spoke French fluently, and the words and manner of
Sanglier struck him.

"Speak, Monsieur," said he in English; "_am_ I the traitor?"

"_Le voila_," answered the cool Frenchman, "dat is our _espion_--our
_agent_--our friend--_ma foi_--_c'etait un grand scelerat_--_voici_."

While speaking, Sanglier bent over the dead body, and thrust his hand
into a pocket of the Quartermaster, out of which he drew a purse.
Emptying the contents on the ground, several double-louis rolled towards
the soldiers, who were not slow in picking them up. Casting the purse
from him in contempt, the soldier of fortune turned towards the soup he
had been preparing with so much care, and, finding it to his liking,
he began to break his fast with an air of indifference that the most
stoical Indian warrior might have envied.



CHAPTER XXVII.

     The only amaranthian flower on earth
     Is virtue; the only lasting treasure, truth.
     COWPER.


The reader must imagine some of the occurrences that followed the sudden
death of Muir. While his body was in the hands of his soldiers, who
laid it decently aside, and covered it with a greatcoat, Chingachgook
silently resumed his place at the fire, and both Sanglier and Pathfinder
remarked that he carried a fresh and bleeding scalp at his girdle. No
one asked any questions; and the former, although perfectly satisfied
that Arrowhead had fallen, manifested neither curiosity nor feeling. He
continued calmly eating his soup, as if the meal had been tranquil as
usual. There was something of pride and of an assumed indifference to
fate, imitated from the Indians, in all this; but there was more that
really resulted from practice, habitual self-command, and constitutional
hardihood. With Pathfinder the case was a little different in
feeling, though much the same in appearance. He disliked Muir, whose
smooth-tongued courtesy was little in accordance with his own frank and
ingenuous nature; but he had been shocked at his unexpected and violent
death, though accustomed to similar scenes, and he had been surprised
at the exposure of his treachery. With a view to ascertain the extent
of the latter, as soon as the body was removed, he began to question
the Captain on the subject. The latter, having no particular motive
for secrecy now that his agent was dead, in the course of the breakfast
revealed the following circumstances, which will serve to clear up some
of the minor incidents of our tale.

Soon after the 55th appeared on the frontiers, Muir had volunteered his
services to the enemy. In making his offers, he boasted of his intimacy
with Lundie, and of the means it afforded of furnishing more accurate
and important information than usual. His terms had been accepted, and
Monsieur Sanglier had several interviews with him in the vicinity of the
fort at Oswego, and had actually passed one entire night secreted in the
garrison. Arrowhead, however, was the usual channel of communication;
and the anonymous letter to Major Duncan had been originally written by
Muir, transmitted to Frontenac, copied, and sent back by the Tuscarora,
who was returning from that errand when captured by the _Scud_. It is
scarcely necessary to add that Jasper was to be sacrificed in order to
conceal the Quartermaster's treason, and that the position of the
island had been betrayed to the enemy by the latter. An extraordinary
compensation--that which was found in his purse--had induced him to
accompany the party under Sergeant Dunham, in order to give the signals
that were to bring on the attack. The disposition of Muir towards the
sex was a natural weakness, and he would have married Mabel, or any one
else who would accept his hand; but his admiration of her was in a great
degree feigned, in order that he might have an excuse for accompanying
the party without sharing in the responsibility of its defeat, or
incurring the risk of having no other strong and seemingly sufficient
motive. Much of this was known to Captain Sanglier, particularly the
part in connection with Mabel, and he did not fail to let his auditors
into the whole secret, frequently laughing in a sarcastic manner, as he
revealed the different expedients of the luckless Quartermaster.

"_Touchez-la_," said the cold-blooded partisan, holding out his sinewy
hand to Pathfinder, when he ended his explanations; "you be _honnete_,
and dat is _beaucoup_. We tak' de spy as we tak' _la medicine_, for de
good; _mais, je les deteste! Touchez-la._"

"I'll shake your hand, Captain, I will; for you're a lawful and nat'ral
inimy," returned Pathfinder, "and a manful one; but the body of the
Quartermaster shall never disgrace English ground. I did intend to carry
it back to Lundie that he might play his bagpipes over it, but now it
shall lie here on the spot where he acted his villainy, and have his own
treason for a headstone. Captain Flinty-heart, I suppose this consorting
with traitors is a part of a soldier's regular business; but, I tell you
honestly, it is not to my liking, and I'd rather it should be you than
I who had this affair on his conscience. What an awful sinner! To plot,
right and left, ag'in country, friends, and the Lord! Jasper, boy, a
word with you aside, for a single minute."

Pathfinder now led the young man apart; and, squeezing his hand, with
the tears in his own eyes, he continued:

"You know me, Eau-douce, and I know you," said he, "and this news has
not changed my opinion of you in any manner. I never believed their
tales, though it looked solemn at one minute, I will own; yes, it did
look solemn, and it made me feel solemn too. I never suspected you for
a minute, for I know your gifts don't lie that-a-way; but, I must own, I
didn't suspect the Quartermaster neither."

"And he holding his Majesty's commission, Pathfinder!"

"It isn't so much that, Jasper Western, it isn't so much that. He held
a commission from God to act right, and to deal fairly with his
fellow-creaturs, and he has failed awfully in his duty."

"To think of his pretending love for one like Mabel, too, when he felt
none."

"That was bad, sartainly; the fellow must have had Mingo blood in his
veins. The man that deals unfairly by a woman can be but a mongrel, lad;
for the Lord has made them helpless on purpose that we may gain their
love by kindness and sarvices. Here is the Sergeant, poor man, on his
dying bed; he has given me his daughter for a wife, and Mabel, dear
girl, she has consented to it; and it makes me feel that I have two
welfares to look after, two natur's to care for, and two hearts to
gladden. Ah's me, Jasper! I sometimes feel that I'm not good enough for
that sweet child!"

Eau-douce had nearly gasped for breath when he first heard this
intelligence; and, though he succeeded in suppressing any other outward
signs of agitation, his cheek was blanched nearly to the paleness of
death. Still he found means to answer not only with firmness, but with
energy,--

"Say not so, Pathfinder; you are good enough for a queen."

"Ay, ay, boy, according to your idees of my goodness; that is to say, I
can kill a deer, or even a Mingo at need, with any man on the lines; or
I can follow a forest-path with as true an eye, or read the stars,
when others do not understand them. No doubt, no doubt, Mabel will have
venison enough, and fish enough, and pigeons enough; but will she
have knowledge enough, and will she have idees enough, and pleasant
conversation enough, when life comes to drag a little, and each of us
begins to pass for our true value?"

"If you pass for your value, Pathfinder, the greatest lady in the
land would be happy with you. On that head you have no reason to feel
afraid."

"Now, Jasper, I dare to say _you_ think so, nay, I _know_ you do; for
it is nat'ral, and according to friendship, for people to look
over-favorably at them they love. Yes, yes; if I had to marry you, boy,
I should give myself no consarn about my being well looked upon, for
you have always shown a disposition to see me and all I do with friendly
eyes. But a young gal, after all, must wish to marry a man that is
nearer to her own age and fancies, than to have one old enough to be her
father, and rude enough to frighten her. I wonder, Jasper, that Mabel
never took a fancy to you, now, rather than setting her mind on me."

"Take, a fancy to me, Pathfinder!" returned the young man, endeavoring
to clear his voice without betraying himself; "what is there about me to
please such a girl as Mabel Dunham? I have all that you find fault with
in yourself, with none of that excellence that makes even the generals
respect you."

"Well, well, it's all chance, say what we will about it. Here have
I journeyed and guided through the woods female after female, and
consorted with them in the garrisons, and never have I even felt an
inclination for any, until I saw Mabel Dunham. It's true the poor
Sergeant first set me to thinking about his daughter; but after we got a
little acquainted like, I'd no need of being spoken to, to think of her
night and day. I'm tough, Jasper; yes, I'm very tough; and I'm risolute
enough, as you all know; and yet I do think it would quite break me
down, now, to lose Mabel Dunham!"

"We will talk no more of it, Pathfinder," said Jasper, returning his
friend's squeeze of the hand, and moving back towards the fire, though
slowly, and in the manner of one who cared little where he went; "we
will talk no more of it. You are worthy of Mabel, and Mabel is worthy of
you--you like Mabel, and Mabel likes you--her father has chosen you
for her husband, and no one has a right to interfere. As for the
Quartermaster, his feigning love for Mabel is worse even than his
treason to the king."

By this time they were so near the fire that it was necessary to change
the conversation. Luckily, at that instant, Cap, who had been in the
block in company with his dying brother-in-law, and who knew nothing
of what had passed since the capitulation, now appeared, walking with
a meditative and melancholy air towards the group. Much of that hearty
dogmatism, that imparted even to his ordinary air and demeanor
an appearance of something like contempt for all around him, had
disappeared, and he seemed thoughtful, if not meek.

"This death, gentlemen," said he, when he had got sufficiently near,
"is a melancholy business, make the best of it. Now, here is Sergeant
Dunham, a very good soldier, I make no question, about to slip his
cable; and yet he holds on to the better end of it, as if he was
determined it should never run out of the hawse-hole; and all because he
loves his daughter, it seems to me. For my part, when a friend is really
under the necessity of making a long journey, I always wish him well and
happily off."

"You wouldn't kill the Sergeant before his time?" Pathfinder
reproachfully answered. "Life is sweet, even to the aged; and, for that
matter, I've known some that seemed to set much store by it when it got
to be of the least value."

Nothing had been further from Cap's real thoughts than the wish to
hasten his brother-in-law's end. He had found himself embarrassed with
the duties of smoothing a deathbed, and all he had meant was to express
a sincere desire that the Sergeant were happily rid of doubt and
suffering. A little shocked, therefore, at the interpretation that had
been put on his words, he rejoined with some of the asperity of the
man, though rebuked by a consciousness of not having done his own wishes
justice. "You are too old and too sensible a person, Pathfinder," said
he, "to fetch a man up with a surge, when he is paying out his ideas in
distress, as it might be. Sergeant Dunham is both my brother-in-law and
my friend,--that is to say, as intimate a friend as a soldier well can
be with a seafaring man,--and I respect and honor him accordingly. I
make no doubt, moreover, that he has lived such a life as becomes a
man, and there can be no great harm, after all, in wishing any one well
berthed in heaven. Well! we are mortal, the best of us, that you'll not
deny; and it ought to be a lesson not to feel pride in our strength and
beauty. Where is the Quartermaster, Pathfinder? It is proper he should
come and have a parting word with the poor Sergeant, who is only going a
little before us."

"You have spoken more truth, Master Cap, than you've been knowing to,
all this time. You might have gone further, notwithstanding, and said
that we are mortal, the _worst_ of us; which is quite as true, and a
good deal more wholesome, than saying that we are mortal, the _best_
of us. As for the Quartermaster's coming to speak a parting word to
the Sergeant, it is quite out of the question, seeing that he has gone
ahead, and that too with little parting notice to himself, or to any one
else."

"You are not quite so clear as common in your language, Pathfinder. I
know that we ought all to have solemn thoughts on these occasions, but I
see no use in speaking in parables."

"If my words are not plain, the idee is. In short, Master Cap, while
Sergeant Dunham has been preparing himself for a long journey, like a
conscientious and honest man as he is, deliberately, the Quartermaster
has started, in a hurry, before him; and, although it is a matter on
which it does not become me to be very positive, I give it as my opinion
that they travel such different roads that they will never meet."

"Explain yourself, my friend," said the bewildered seaman, looking
around him in search of Muir, whose absence began to excite his
distrust. "I see nothing of the Quartermaster; but I think him too much
of a man to run away, now that the victory is gained. If the fight were
ahead instead of in our wake, the case would be altered."

"There lies all that is left of him, beneath that greatcoat," returned
the guide, who then briefly related the manner of the Lieutenant's
death. "The Tuscarora was as venemous in his blow as a rattler, though
he failed to give the warning," continued Pathfinder. "I've seen many a
desperate fight, and several of these sudden outbreaks of savage temper;
but never before did I see a human soul quit the body more unexpectedly,
or at a worse moment for the hopes of the dying man. His breath was
stopped with the lie on his lips, and the spirit might be said to have
passed away in the very ardor of wickedness."

Cap listened with a gaping mouth; and he gave two or three violent hems,
as the other concluded, like one who distrusted his own respiration.

"This is an uncertain and uncomfortable life of yours, Master
Pathfinder, what between the fresh water and the savages," said he; "and
the sooner I get quit of it, the higher will be my opinion of myself.
Now you mention it, I will say that the man ran for that berth in the
rocks, when the enemy first bore down upon us, with a sort of instinct
that I thought surprising in an officer; but I was in too great a hurry
to follow, to log the whole matter accurately. God bless me! God bless
me!--a traitor, do you say, and ready to sell his country, and to a
rascally Frenchman too?"

"To sell anything; country, soul, body, Mabel, and all our scalps; and
no ways particular, I'll engage, as to the purchaser. The countrymen of
Captain Flinty-heart here were the paymasters this time."

"Just like 'em; ever ready to buy when they can't thrash, and to run
when they can do neither."

Monsieur Sanglier lifted his cap with ironical gravity, and acknowledged
the compliment with an expression of polite contempt that was altogether
lost on its insensible subject. But Pathfinder had too much native
courtesy, and was far too just-minded, to allow the attack to go
unnoticed.

"Well, well," he interposed, "to my mind there is no great difference
'atween an Englishman and a Frenchman, after all. They talk different
tongues, and live under different kings, I will allow; but both are
human, and feel like human beings, when there is occasion for it."

Captain Flinty-heart, as Pathfinder called him, made another obeisance;
but this time the smile was friendly, and not ironical; for he felt that
the intention was good, whatever might have been the mode of expressing
it. Too philosophical, however, to heed what a man like Cap might say or
think, he finished his breakfast, without allowing his attention to be
again diverted from that important pursuit.

"My business here was principally with the Quartermaster," Cap
continued, as soon as he had done regarding the prisoner's pantomime.
"The Sergeant must be near his end, and I have thought he might wish to
say something to his successor in authority before he finally departed.
It is too late, it would seem; and, as you say, Pathfinder, the
Lieutenant has truly gone before."

"That he has, though on a different path. As for authority, I suppose
the Corporal has now a right to command what's left of the 55th;
though a small and worried, not to say frightened, party it is. But, if
anything needs to be done, the chances are greatly in favor of my being
called on to do it. I suppose, however, we have only to bury our dead;
set fire to the block and the huts, for they stand in the inimy's
territory by position, if not by law, and must not be left for their
convenience. Our using them again is out of the question; for, now
the Frenchers know where the island is to be found, it would be like
thrusting the hand into a wolf-trap with our eyes wide open. This part
of the work the Sarpent and I will see to, for we are as practysed in
retreats as in advances."

"All that is very well, my good friend. And now for my poor
brother-in-law: though he is a soldier, we cannot let him slip without a
word of consolation and a leave-taking, in my judgment. This has been
an unlucky affair on every tack; though I suppose it is what one had a
right to expect, considering the state of the times and the nature of
the navigation. We must make the best of it, and try to help the
worthy man to unmoor, without straining his messengers. Death is a
circumstance, after all, Master Pathfinder, and one of a very general
character too, seeing that we must all submit to it, sooner or later."

"You say truth, you say truth; and for that reason I hold it to be
wise to be always ready. I've often thought, Saltwater, that he is the
happiest who has the least to leave behind him when the summons comes.
Now, here am I, a hunter and a scout and a guide, although I do not own
a foot of land on 'arth, yet do I enjoy and possess more than the great
Albany Patroon. With the heavens over my head to keep me in mind of the
last great hunt, and the dried leaves beneath my feet, I tramp over
the ground as freely as if I was its lord and owner; and what more need
heart desire? I do not say that I love nothing that belongs to 'arth;
for I do, though not much, unless it might be Mabel Dunham, that I
can't carry with me. I have some pups at the higher fort that I vally
considerable, though they are too noisy for warfare, and so we are
compelled to live separate for awhile; and then I think it would grieve
me to part with Killdeer; but I see no reason why we should not be
buried in the same grave, for we are as near as can be of the same
length--six feet to a hair's breadth; but, bating these, and a pipe that
the Sarpent gave me, and a few tokens received from travellers, all of
which might be put in a pouch and laid under my head, when the order
comes to march I shall be ready at a minute's warning; and, let me tell
you, Master Cap, that's what I call a circumstance too."

"'Tis just so with me," answered the sailor, as the two walked towards
the block, too much occupied with their respective morality to remember
at the moment the melancholy errand they were on; "that's just my way of
feeling and reasoning. How often have I felt, when near shipwreck, the
relief of not owning the craft! 'If she goes,' I have said to myself,
'why, my life goes with her, but not my property, and there's great
comfort in that.' I've discovered, in the course of boxing about the
world from the Horn to Cape North, not to speak of this run on a bit of
fresh water, that if a man has a few dollars, and puts them in a chest
under lock and key, he is pretty certain to fasten up his heart in the
same till; and so I carry pretty much all I own in a belt round my
body, in order, as I say, to keep the vitals in the right place. D---me,
Pathfinder, if I think a man without a heart any better than a fish with
a hole in his air-bag."

"I don't know how that may be, Master Cap; but a man without a
conscience is but a poor creatur', take my word for it, as any one will
discover who has to do with a Mingo. I trouble myself but little with
dollars or half-joes, for these are the favoryte coin in this part of
the world; but I can easily believe, by what I've seen of mankind, that
if a man _has_ a chest filled with either, he may be said to lock up his
heart in the same box. I once hunted for two summers, during the last
peace, and I collected so much peltry that I found my right feelings
giving way to a craving after property; and if I have consarn in
marrying Mabel, it is that I may get to love such things too well, in
order to make her comfortable."

"You're a philosopher, that's clear, Pathfinder; and I don't know but
you're a Christian."

"I should be out of humor with the man that gainsayed the last, Master
Cap. I have not been Christianized by the Moravians, like so many of the
Delawares, it is true; but I hold to Christianity and white gifts. With
me, it is as on-creditable for a white man not to be a Christian as it
is for a red-skin not to believe in his happy hunting-grounds; indeed,
after allowing for difference in traditions, and in some variations
about the manner in which the spirit will be occupied after death, I
hold that a good Delaware is a good Christian, though he never saw a
Moravian; and a good Christian a good Delaware, so far as natur 'is
consarned. The Sarpent and I talk these matters over often, for he has a
hankerin' after Christianity--"

"The d---l he has!" interrupted Cap. "And what does he intend to do in a
church with all the scalps he takes?"

"Don't run away with a false idee, friend Cap, don't run away with a
false idee. These things are only skin-deep, and all depend on edication
and nat'ral gifts. Look around you at mankind, and tell me why you see a
red warrior here, a black one there, and white armies in another place?
All this, and a great deal more of the same kind that I could point out,
has been ordered for some special purpose; and it is not for us to fly
in the face of facts and deny their truth. No, no; each color has its
gifts, and its laws, and its traditions; and one is not to condemn
another because he does not exactly comprehend it."

"You must have read a great deal, Pathfinder, to see things so clear as
this," returned Cap, not a little mystified by his companion's simple
creed. "It's all as plain as day to me now, though I must say I never
fell in with these opinions before. What denomination do you belong to,
my friend?"

"Anan?"

"What sect do you hold out for? What particular church do you fetch up
in?"

"Look about you, and judge for yourself. I'm in church now; I eat in
church, drink in church, sleep in church. The 'arth is the temple of the
Lord, and I wait on Him hourly, daily, without ceasing, I humbly hope.
No, no, I'll not deny my blood and color; but am Christian born, and
shall die in the same faith. The Moravians tried me hard; and one of
the King's chaplains has had his say too, though that's a class no ways
strenuous on such matters; and a missionary sent from Rome talked much
with me, as I guided him through the forest, during the last peace; but
I've had one answer for them all--I'm a Christian already, and want to
be neither Moravian, nor Churchman, nor Papist. No, no, I'll not deny my
birth and blood."

"I think a word from you might lighten the Sergeant over the shoals of
death, Master Pathfinder. He has no one with him but poor Mabel; and
she, you know, besides being his daughter, is but a girl and a child
after all."

"Mabel is feeble in body, friend Cap; but in matters of this natur' I
doubt if she may not be stronger than most men. But Sergeant Dunham is
my friend, and he is your brother-in-law; so, now the press of fighting
and maintaining our rights is over, it is fitting we should both go
and witness his departure. I've stood by many a dying man, Master Cap,"
continued Pathfinder, who had a besetting propensity to enlarge on his
experience, stopping and holding his companion by a button,--"I've stood
by many a dying man's side, and seen his last gasp, and heard his last
breath; for, when the hurry and tumult of the battle is over, it is good
to bethink us of the misfortunate, and it is remarkable to witness how
differently human natur' feels at such solemn moments. Some go their
way as stupid and ignorant as if God had never given them reason and an
accountable state; while others quit us rejoicing, like men who leave
heavy burthens behind them. I think that the mind sees clearly at
such moments, my friend, and that past deeds stand thick before the
recollection."

"I'll engage they do, Pathfinder. I have witnessed something of this
myself, and hope I'm the better man for it. I remember once that
I thought my own time had come, and the log was overhauled with a
diligence I did not think myself capable of until that moment. I've not
been a very great sinner, friend Pathfinder; that is to say, never on a
large scale; though I daresay, if the truth were spoken, a considerable
amount of small matters might be raked up against me, as well as against
another man; but then, I've never committed piracy, nor high treason,
nor arson, nor any of them sort of things. As to smuggling, and the like
of that, why, I'm a seafaring man, and I suppose all callings have their
weak spots. I daresay your trade is not altogether without blemish,
honorable and useful as it seems to be?"

"Many of the scouts and guides are desperate knaves; and, like the
Quartermaster here, some of them take pay of both sides. I hope I'm not
one of them, though all occupations lead to temptations. Thrice have I
been sorely tried in my life, and once I yielded a little, though I
hope it was not in a matter to disturb a man's conscience in his last
moments. The first time was when I found in the woods a pack of skins
that I knowed belonged to a Frencher who was hunting on our side of the
lines, where he had no business to be; twenty-six as handsome beavers
as ever gladdened human eyes. Well, that was a sore temptation; for I
thought the law would have been almost with me, although it was in peace
times. But then, I remembered that such laws wasn't made for us hunters,
and bethought me that the poor man might have built great expectations
for the next winter on the sale of his skins; and I left them where
they lay. Most of our people said I did wrong; but the manner in which I
slept that night convinced me that I had done right. The next trial was
when I found the rifle that is sartainly the only one in this part of
the world that can be calculated on as surely as Killdeer, and knowed
that by taking it, or even hiding it, I might at once rise to be the
first shot in all these parts. I was then young, and by no means so
expart as I have since got to be, and youth is ambitious and striving;
but, God be praised! I mastered that feeling; and, friend Cap, what is
almost as good, I mastered my rival in as fair a shooting-match as was
ever witnessed in a garrison; he with his piece, and I with Killdeer,
and before the General in person too!" Here Pathfinder stopped to laugh,
his triumph still glittering in his eyes and glowing on his sunburnt and
browned cheek. "Well, the next conflict with the devil was the hardest
of them all; and that was when I came suddenly upon a camp of six
Mingos asleep in the woods, with their guns and horns piled in away that
enabled me to get possession of them without waking a miscreant of them
all. What an opportunity that would have been for the Sarpent, who would
have despatched them, one after another, with his knife, and had their
six scalps at his girdle, in about the time it takes me to tell you the
story. Oh, he's a valiant warrior, that Chingachgook, and as honest as
he's brave, and as good as he's honest!"

"And what may _you_ have done in this matter, Master Pathfinder?"
demanded Cap, who began to be interested in the result; "it seems to me
you had made either a very lucky, or a very unlucky landfall."

"'Twas lucky, and 'twas unlucky, if you can understand that. 'Twas
unlucky, for it proved a desperate trial; and yet 'twas lucky, all
things considered, in the ind. I did not touch a hair of their heads,
for a white man has no nat'ral gifts to take scalps; nor did I even make
sure of one of their rifles. I distrusted myself, knowing that a Mingo
is no favorite in my own eyes."

"As for the scalps, I think you were right enough, my worthy friend; but
as for the armament and the stores, they would have been condemned by
any prize-court in Christendom."

"That they would, that they would; but then the Mingos would have gone
clear, seeing that a white man can no more attack an unarmed than a
sleeping inimy. No, no, I did myself, and my color, and my religion
too, greater justice. I waited till their nap was over, and they well
on their war-path again; and, by ambushing them here and flanking
them there, I peppered the blackguards intrinsically like" (Pathfinder
occasionally caught a fine word from his associates, and used it a
little vaguely), "that only one ever got back to his village, and he
came into his wigwam limping. Luckily, as it turned out, the great
Delaware had only halted to jerk some venison, and was following on my
trail; and when he got up he had five of the scoundrels' scalps hanging
where they ought to be; so, you see, nothing was lost by doing right,
either in the way of honor or in that of profit."

Cap grunted an assent, though the distinctions in his companion's
morality, it must be owned, were not exactly clear to his understanding.
The two had occasionally moved towards the block as they conversed, and
then stopped again as some matter of more interest than common brought
them to a halt. They were now so near the building, however, that
neither thought of pursuing the subject any further; but each prepared
himself for the final scene with Sergeant Dunham.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

     Thou barraine ground, whom winter's wrath hath wasted,
        Art made a mirror to behold my plight:
     Whilome thy fresh spring flower'd: and after hasted
        Thy summer prowde, with daffodillies dight;
     And now is come thy winter's stormy state,
     Thy mantle mar'd wherein thou maskedst late.
     SPENSER.


Although the soldier may regard danger and even death with indifference
in the tumult of battle, when the passage of the soul is delayed to
moments of tranquillity and reflection the change commonly brings with
it the usual train of solemn reflections; of regrets for the past, and
of doubts and anticipations for the future. Many a man has died with a
heroic expression on his lips, but with heaviness and distrust at his
heart; for, whatever may be the varieties of our religious creeds, let
us depend on the mediation of Christ, the dogmas of Mahomet, or the
elaborated allegories of the East, there is a conviction, common to
all men, that death is but the stepping-stone between this and a more
elevated state of being. Sergeant Dunham was a brave man; but he was
departing for a country in which resolution could avail him nothing; and
as he felt himself gradually loosened from the grasp of the world, his
thoughts and feelings took the natural direction; for if it be true that
death is the great leveller, in nothing is it more true than that it
reduces all to the same views of the vanity of life.

Pathfinder, though a man of peculiar habits and opinions, was always
thoughtful, and disposed to view the things around him with a shade of
philosophy, as well as with seriousness. In him, therefore, the scene
in the blockhouse awakened no very novel feelings. But the case was
different with Cap: rude, opinionated, dogmatical, and boisterous, the
old sailor was little accustomed to view even death with any approach to
the gravity which its importance demands; and notwithstanding all that
had passed, and his real regard for his brother-in-law, he now entered
the room of the dying man with much of that callous unconcern which
was the fruit of long training in a school that, while it gives so many
lessons in the sublimest truths, generally wastes its admonitions on
scholars who are little disposed to profit by them.

The first proof that Cap gave of his not entering so fully as those
around him into the solemnity of the moment, was by commencing a
narration of the events which had just led to the deaths of Muir and
Arrowhead. "Both tripped their anchors in a hurry, brother Dunham," he
concluded; "and you have the consolation of knowing that others have
gone before you in the great journey, and they, too, men whom you've no
particular reason to love; which to me, were I placed in your situation,
would be a source of very great satisfaction. My mother always said,
Master Pathfinder, that dying people's spirits should not be damped, but
that they ought to be encouraged by all proper and prudent means; and
this news will give the poor fellow a great lift, if he feels towards
them savages any way as I feel myself."

June arose at this intelligence, and stole from the blockhouse with
a noiseless step. Dunham listened with a vacant stare, for life had
already lost so many of its ties that he had really forgotten Arrowhead,
and cared nothing for Muir; but he inquired, in a feeble voice, for
Eau-douce. The young man was immediately summoned, and soon made his
appearance. The Sergeant gazed at him kindly, and the expression of his
eyes was that of regret for the injury he had done him in thought. The
party in the blockhouse now consisted of Pathfinder, Cap, Mabel, Jasper,
and the dying man. With the exception of the daughter, all stood around
the Sergeant's pallet, in attendance in his last moments. Mabel kneeled
at his side, now pressing a clammy hand to her head, now applying
moisture to the parched lips of her father.

"Your case will shortly be ourn, Sergeant," said Pathfinder, who could
hardly be said to be awestruck by the scene, for he had witnessed the
approach and victories of death too often for that; but who felt the
full difference between his triumphs in the excitement of battle and in
the quiet of the domestic circle; "and I make no question we shall meet
ag'in hereafter. Arrowhead has gone his way, 'tis true; but it can never
be the way of a just Indian. You've seen the last of him, for his path
cannot be the path of the just. Reason is ag'in the thought in his case,
as it is also, in my judgment, ag'in it too in the case of Lieutenant
Muir. You have done your duty in life; and when a man does that, he may
start on the longest journey with a light heart and an actyve foot."

"I hope so, my friend: I've tried to do my duty."

"Ay, ay," put in Cap; "intention is half the battle; and though you
would have done better had you hove-to in the offing and sent a craft in
to feel how the land lay, things might have turned out differently: no
one here doubts that you meant all for the best, and no one anywhere
else, I should think, from what I've seen of this world and read of
t'other."

"I did; yes. I meant all for the best."

"Father! Oh, my beloved father!"

"Magnet is taken aback by this blow, Master Pathfinder, and can say or
do but little to carry her father over the shoals; so we must try all
the harder to serve him a friendly turn ourselves."

"Did you speak, Mabel?" Dunham asked, turning his eyes in the direction
of his daughter, for he was already too feeble to turn his body.

"Yes, father; rely on nothing you have done yourself for mercy and
salvation; trust altogether in the blessed mediation of the Son of God!"

"The chaplain has told us something like this, brother. The dear child
may be right."

"Ay, ay, that's doctrine, out of question. He will be our Judge, and
keeps the log-book of our acts, and will foot them all up at the last
day, and then say who has done well and who has done ill. I do believe
Mabel is right; but then you need not be concerned, as no doubt the
account has been fairly kept."

"Uncle!--Dearest father! this is a vain illusion! Oh, place all your
trust in the mediation of our Holy Redeemer! Have you not often felt
your own insufficiency to effect your own wishes in the commonest
things? And how can you imagine yourself, by your own acts, equal to
raise up a frail and sinful nature sufficiently to be received into
the presence of perfect purity? There is no hope for any but in the
mediation of Christ!"

"This is what the Moravians used to tell us," said Pathfinder to Cap in
a low voice; "rely on it, Mabel is right."

"Right enough, friend Pathfinder, in the distances, but wrong in the
course. I'm afraid the child will get the Sergeant adrift, at the very
moment when we had him in the best of the water and in the plainest part
of the channel."

"Leave it to Mabel, leave it to Mabel; she knows better than any of us,
and can do no harm."

"I have heard this before," Dunham at length replied. "Ah, Mabel! it is
strange for the parent to lean on the child at a moment like this!"

"Put your trust in God, father; lean on His holy and compassionate Son.
Pray, dearest, dearest father; pray for His omnipotent support."

"I am not used to prayer. Brother, Pathfinder--Jasper, can you help me
to words?"

Cap scarcely knew what prayer meant, and he had no answer to give.
Pathfinder prayed often, daily, if not hourly; but it was mentally, in
his own simple modes of thinking, and without the aid of words at all.
In this strait, therefore, he was as useless as the mariner, and had
no reply to make. As for Jasper Eau-douce, though he would gladly
have endeavored to move a mountain to relieve Mabel, this was asking
assistance it exceeded his power to give; and he shrank back with the
shame that is only too apt to overcome the young and vigorous, when
called on to perform an act that tacitly confesses their real weakness
and dependence on a superior power.

"Father," said Mabel, wiping her eyes, and endeavoring to compose
features that were pallid, and actually quivering with emotion, "I will
pray with you, for you, for _myself_; for us _all_. The petition of the
feeblest and humblest is never unheeded."

There was something sublime, as well as much that was supremely
touching, in this act of filial piety. The quiet but earnest manner
in which this young creature prepared herself to perform the duty; the
self-abandonment with which she forgot her sex's timidity and sex's
shame, in order to sustain her parent at that trying moment; the
loftiness of purpose with which she directed all her powers to the
immense object before her, with a woman's devotion and a woman's
superiority to trifles, when her affections make the appeal; and the
holy calm into which her grief was compressed, rendered her, for the
moment, an object of something very like awe and veneration to her
companions.

Mabel had been religiously educated; equally without exaggeration and
without self-sufficiency. Her reliance on God was cheerful and full of
hope, while it was of the humblest and most dependent nature. She
had been accustomed from childhood to address herself to the Deity in
prayer; taking example from the Divine mandate of Christ Himself, who
commanded His followers to abstain from vain repetitions, and who has
left behind Him a petition which is unequalled for sublimity, as if
expressly to rebuke the disposition of man to set up his own loose and
random thoughts as the most acceptable sacrifice. The sect in which
she had been reared has furnished to its followers some of the most
beautiful compositions in the language, as a suitable vehicle for its
devotion and solicitations. Accustomed to this mode of public and even
private prayer, the mind of our heroine had naturally fallen into its
train of lofty thought; her task had become improved by its study, and
her language elevated and enriched by its phrases. When she kneeled at
the bedside of her father, the very reverence of her attitude and manner
prepared the spectators for what was to come; and as her affectionate
heart prompted her tongue, and memory came in aid of both, the petition
and praises that she offered up were of a character which might
have worthily led the spirits of angels. Although the words were not
slavishly borrowed, the expressions partook of the simple dignity of the
liturgy to which she had been accustomed, and was probably as worthy
of the Being to whom they were addressed as they could well be made by
human powers. They produced their full impression on the hearers; for it
is worthy of remark, that, notwithstanding the pernicious effects of
a false taste when long submitted to, real sublimity and beauty are
so closely allied to nature that they generally find an echo in every
heart.

But when our heroine came to touch upon the situation of the dying man,
she became the most truly persuasive; for then she was the most truly
zealous and natural. The beauty of the language was preserved, but it
was sustained by the simple power of love; and her words were warmed by
a holy zeal, that approached to the grandeur of true eloquence. We might
record some of her expressions, but doubt the propriety of subjecting
such sacred themes to a too familiar analysis, and refrain.

The effect of this singular but solemn scene was different on the
different individuals present. Dunham himself was soon lost in the
subject of the prayer; and he felt some such relief as one who finds
himself staggering on the edge of a precipice, under a burthen difficult
to be borne, might be supposed to experience when he unexpectedly feels
the weight removed, in order to be placed on the shoulders of another
better able to sustain it. Cap was surprised, as well as awed; though
the effects on his mind were not very deep or very lasting. He wondered
a little at his own sensations, and had his doubts whether they were so
manly and heroic as they ought to be; but he was far too sensible of
the influence of truth, humility, religious submission, and human
dependency, to think of interposing with any of his crude objections.
Jasper knelt opposite to Mabel, covered his face, and followed her
words, with an earnest wish to aid her prayers with his own; though it
may be questioned if his thoughts did not dwell quite as much on
the soft, gentle accents of the petitioner as on the subject of her
petition.

The effect on Pathfinder was striking and visible: visible, because
he stood erect, also opposite to Mabel; and the workings of his
countenance, as usual, betrayed the workings of the spirit within.
He leaned on his rifle, and at moments the sinewy fingers grasped the
barrel with a force that seemed to compress the weapon; while, once
or twice, as Mabel's language rose in intimate association with her
thoughts, he lifted his eyes to the floor above him, as if he expected
to find some visible evidence of the presence of the dread Being to whom
the words were addressed. Then again his feelings reverted to the
fair creature who was thus pouring out her spirit, in fervent but calm
petitions, in behalf of a dying parent; for Mabel's cheek was no longer
pallid, but was flushed with a holy enthusiasm, while her blue eyes were
upturned in the light, in a way to resemble a picture by Guido. At these
moments all the honest and manly attachment of Pathfinder glowed in his
ingenuous features, and his gaze at our heroine was such as the fondest
parent might fasten on the child of his love.

Sergeant Dunham laid his hand feebly on the head of Mabel as she ceased
praying, and buried her face in his blanket.

"Bless you, my beloved child! bless you!" he rather whispered than
uttered aloud; "this is truly consolation: would that I too could pray!"

"Father, you know the Lord's Prayer; you taught it to me yourself while
I was yet an infant."

The Sergeant's face gleamed with a smile, for he _did_ remember to
have discharged that portion at least of the paternal duty, and the
consciousness of it gave him inconceivable gratification at that solemn
moment. He was then silent for several minutes, and all present believed
that he was communing with God.

"Mabel, my child!" he at length uttered, in a voice which seemed to be
reviving,--"Mabel, I'm quitting you." The spirit at its great and final
passage appears ever to consider the body as nothing. "I'm quitting you,
my child; where is your hand?"

"Here, dearest father--here are both--oh, take both!"

"Pathfinder," added the Sergeant, feeling on the opposite side of the
bed, where Jasper still knelt, and getting one of the hands of the young
man by mistake, "take it--I leave you as her father--as you and she may
please--bless you--bless you both!"

At that awful instant, no one would rudely apprise the Sergeant of his
mistake; and he died a minute or two later, holding Jasper's and Mabel's
hands covered by both his own. Our heroine was ignorant of the fact
until an exclamation of Cap's announced the death of her father; when,
raising her face, she saw the eyes of Jasper riveted on her own, and
felt the warm pressure of his hand. But a single feeling was predominant
at that instant, and Mabel withdrew to weep, scarcely conscious of what
had occurred. The Pathfinder took the arm of Eau-douce, and he left the
block.

The two friends walked in silence past the fire, along the glade, and
nearly reached the opposite shore of the island in profound silence.
Here they stopped, and Pathfinder spoke.

"'Tis all over, Jasper," said he,--"'tis all over. Ah's me! Poor
Sergeant Dunham has finished his march, and that, too, by the hand of a
venomous Mingo. Well, we never know what is to happen, and his luck may
be yourn or mine to-morrow or next day!"

"And Mabel? What is to become of Mabel, Pathfinder?"

"You heard the Sergeant's dying words; he has left his child in my care,
Jasper; and it is a most solemn trust, it is; yes,--it is a most solemn
trust."

"It's a trust, Pathfinder, of which any man would be glad to relieve
you," returned the youth, with a bitter smile.

"I've often thought it has fallen into wrong hands. I'm not consaited,
Jasper; I'm not consaited, I do think I'm not; but if Mabel Dunham is
willing to overlook all my imperfections and ignorances like, I should
be wrong to gainsay it, on account of any sartainty I may have myself
about my own want of merit."

"No one will blame you, Pathfinder, for marrying Mabel Dunham, any more
than they will blame you for wearing a precious jewel in your bosom that
a friend had freely given you."

"Do you think they'll blame Mabel, lad? I've had my misgivings about
that, too; for all persons may not be so disposed to look at me with the
same eyes as you and the Sergeant's daughter."

Jasper Eau-douce started as a man flinches at sudden bodily pain; but
he otherwise maintained his self-command. "And mankind is envious and
ill-natured, more particularly in and about the garrisons. I sometimes
wish, Jasper, that Mabel could have taken a fancy to you,--I do; and
that you had taken a fancy to her; for it often seems to me that one
like you, after all, might make her happier than I ever can."

"We will not talk about this, Pathfinder," interrupted Jasper hoarsely
and impatiently; "you will be Mabel's husband, and it is not right to
speak of any one else in that character. As for me, I shall take Master
Cap's advice, and try and make a man of myself by seeing what is to be
done on the salt water."

"You, Jasper Western!--you quit the lakes, the forests, and the lines;
and this, too, for the towns and wasty ways of the settlements, and a
little difference in the taste of the water. Haven't we the salt-licks,
if salt is necessary to you? and oughtn't man to be satisfied with what
contents the other creatur's of God? I counted on you, Jasper, I counted
on you, I did; and thought, now that Mabel and I intend to dwell in
a cabin of our own, that some day you might be tempted to choose a
companion too, and come and settle in our neighborhood. There is a
beautiful spot, about fifty miles west of the garrison, that I had
chosen in my mind for my own place of abode; and there is an excellent
harbor about ten leagues this side of it where you could run in and out
with the cutter at any leisure minute; and I'd even fancied you and your
wife in possession of the one place, and Mabel and I in possession of
t'other. We should be just a healthy hunt apart; and if the Lord ever
intends any of His creaturs to be happy on 'arth, none could be happier
than we four."

"You forget, my friend," answered Jasper, taking the guide's hand and
forcing a friendly smile, "that I have no fourth person to love and
cherish; and I much doubt if I ever shall love any other as I love you
and Mabel."

"Thank'e, boy; I thank you with all my heart; but what you call love for
Mabel is only friendship like, and a very different thing from what I
feel. Now, instead of sleeping as sound as natur' at midnight, as I used
to could, I dream nightly of Mabel Dunham. The young does sport before
me; and when I raise Killdeer, in order to take a little venison,
the animals look back, and it seems as if they all had Mabel's sweet
countenance, laughing in my face, and looking as if they said, 'Shoot me
if you dare!' Then I hear her soft voice calling out among the birds
as they sing; and no later than the last nap I took, I bethought me, in
fancy, of going over the Niagara, holding Mabel in my arms, rather than
part from her. The bitterest moments I've ever known were them in which
the devil, or some Mingo conjuror, perhaps, has just put into my head
to fancy in dreams that Mabel is lost to me by some unaccountable
calamity--either by changefulness or by violence."

"Oh, Pathfinder! If you think this so bitter in a dream, what must it be
to one who feels its reality, and knows it all to be true, true, true?
So true as to leave no hope; to leave nothing but despair!"

These words burst from Jasper as a fluid pours from the vessel that
has been suddenly broken. They were uttered involuntarily, almost
unconsciously, but with a truth and feeling that carried with them the
instant conviction of their deep sincerity. Pathfinder started, gazed at
his friend for full a minute like one bewildered, and then it was that,
in despite of all his simplicity, the truth gleamed upon him. All know
how corroborating proofs crowd upon the mind as soon as it catches a
direct clue to any hitherto unsuspected fact; how rapidly the
thoughts flow and premises tend to their just conclusions under such
circumstances. Our hero was so confiding by nature, so just, and so much
disposed to imagine that all his friends wished him the same happiness
as he wished them, that, until this unfortunate moment, a suspicion of
Jasper's attachment for Mabel had never been awakened in his bosom. He
was, however, now too experienced in the emotions which characterize the
passion; and the burst of feeling in his companion was too violent and
too natural to leave any further doubt on the subject. The feeling
that first followed this change of opinion was one of deep humility and
exquisite pain. He bethought him of Jasper's youth, his higher claims
to personal appearance, and all the general probabilities that such
a suitor would be more agreeable to Mabel than he could possibly be
himself. Then the noble rectitude of mind, for which the man was so
distinguished, asserted its power; it was sustained by his rebuked
manner of thinking of himself, and all that habitual deference for the
rights and feelings of others which appeared to be inbred in his
very nature. Taking the arm of Jasper, he led him to a log, where
he compelled the young man to seat himself by a sort of irresistible
exercise of his iron muscles, and where he placed himself at his side.

The instant his feelings had found vent, Eau-douce was both alarmed at,
and ashamed of, their violence. He would have given all he possessed on
earth could the last three minutes be recalled; but he was too frank by
disposition and too much accustomed to deal ingenuously by his friend to
think a moment of attempting further concealment, or of any evasion of
the explanation that he knew was about to be demanded. Even while
he trembled in anticipation of what was about to follow, he never
contemplated equivocation.

"Jasper," Pathfinder commenced, in a tone so solemn as to thrill on
every nerve in his listener's body, "this _has_ surprised me! You have
kinder feelings towards Mabel than I had thought; and, unless my own
mistaken vanity and consait have cruelly deceived me, I pity you, boy,
from my soul I do! Yes, I think I know how to pity any one who has set
his heart on a creature like Mabel, unless he sees a prospect of
her regarding him as he regards her. This matter must be cleared up,
Eau-douce, as the Delawares say, until there shall not be a cloud
'atween us."

"What clearing up can it want, Pathfinder? I love Mabel Dunham, and
Mabel Dunham does not love me; she prefers you for a husband; and the
wisest thing I can do is to go off at once to the salt water, and try to
forget you both."

"Forget me, Jasper! That would be a punishment I don't desarve. But how
do you know that Mabel prefars _me_? How do you know it, lad? To me it
seems impossible like!"

"Is she not to marry you, and would Mabel marry a man she does not
love?"

"She has been hard urged by the Sergeant, she has; and a dutiful child
may have found it difficult to withstand the wishes of a dying parent.
Have you ever told Mabel that you prefarred her, Jasper--that you bore
her these feelings?"

"Never, Pathfinder. I would not do you that wrong."

"I believe you, lad, I do believe you; and I think you would now go off
to the salt water, and let the scent die with you. But this must not be.
Mabel shall hear all, and she shall have her own way, if my heart breaks
in the trial, she shall. No words have ever passed 'atween you, then,
Jasper?"

"Nothing of account, nothing direct. Still, I will own all my
foolishness, Pathfinder; for I ought to own it to a generous friend
like you, and there will be an end of it. You know how young people
understand each other, or think they understand each other, without
always speaking out in plain speech, and get to know each other's
thoughts, or to think they know them, by means of a hundred little
ways."

"Not I, Jasper, not I," truly answered the guide; for, sooth to say,
his advances had never been met with any of that sweet and precious
encouragement which silently marks the course of sympathy united to
passion. "Not I, Jasper; I know nothing of all this. Mabel has always
treated me fairly, and said what she has had to say in speech as plain
as tongue could tell it."

"You have had the pleasure of hearing her say that she loved you,
Pathfinder?"

"Why, no, Jasper, not just that in words. She has told me that we never
could, never ought to be married; that _she_ was not good enough for
_me_, though she _did_ say that she honored me and respected me. But
then the Sergeant said it was always so with the youthful and timid;
that her mother did so and said so afore her; and that I ought to be
satisfied if she would consent on any terms to marry me, and therefore I
have concluded that all was right, I have."

In spite of all his friendship for the successful wooer, in spite of all
his honest, sincere wished for his happiness, we should be unfaithful
chroniclers did we not own that Jasper felt his heart bound with an
uncontrollable feeling of delight at this admission. It was not that
he saw or felt any hope connected with the circumstance; but it was
grateful to the jealous covetousness of unlimited love thus to learn
that no other ears had heard the sweet confessions that were denied its
own.

"Tell me more of this manner of talking without the use of the tongue,"
continued Pathfinder, whose countenance was becoming grave, and who now
questioned his companion like one who seemed to anticipate evil in the
reply. "I can and have conversed with Chingachgook, and with his son
Uncas too, in that mode, afore the latter fell; but I didn't know that
young girls practysed this art, and, least of all, Mabel Dunham."

"'Tis nothing, Pathfinder. I mean only a look, or a smile, or a glance
of the eye, or the trembling of an arm or a hand when the young woman
has had occasion to touch me; and because I have been weak enough to
tremble even at Mabel's breath, or her brushing me with her clothes, my
vain thoughts have misled me. I never spoke plainly to Mabel myself, and
now there is no use for it, since there is clearly no hope."

"Jasper," returned Pathfinder simply, but with a dignity that precluded
further remarks at the moment, "we will talk of the Sergeant's funeral
and of our own departure from this island. After these things are
disposed of, it will be time enough to say more of the Sergeant's
daughter. This matter must be looked into, for the father left me the
care of his child."

Jasper was glad enough to change the subject, and the friends separated,
each charged with the duty most peculiar to his own station and habits.

That afternoon all the dead were interred, the grave of Sergeant Dunham
being dug in the centre of the glade, beneath the shade of a huge
elm. Mabel wept bitterly at the ceremony, and she found relief in thus
disburthening her sorrow. The night passed tranquilly, as did the whole
of the following day, Jasper declaring that the gale was too severe to
venture on the lake. This circumstance detained Captain Sanglier also,
who did not quit the island until the morning of the third day after the
death of Dunham, when the weather had moderated, and the wind had become
fair. Then, indeed, he departed, after taking leave of the Pathfinder,
in the manner of one who believed he was in company of a distinguished
character for the last time. The two separated like those who respect
one another, while each felt that the other was all enigma to himself.



CHAPTER XXIX.

     Playful she turn'd that he might see
        The passing smile her cheek put on;
     But when she marked how mournfully
       His eyes met hers, that smile was gone.
     _Lalla Rookh._


The occurrences of the last few days had been too exciting, and had made
too many demands on the fortitude of our heroine, to leave her in the
helplessness of grief. She mourned for her father, and she occasionally
shuddered as she recalled the sudden death of Jennie, and all the
horrible scenes she had witnessed; but on the whole she had aroused
herself, and was no longer in the deep depression which usually
accompanies grief. Perhaps the overwhelming, almost stupefying sorrow
that crushed poor June, and left her for nearly twenty-four hours in a
state of stupor, assisted Mabel in conquering her own feelings, for she
had felt called on to administer consolation to the young Indian woman.
This she had done in the quiet, soothing, insinuating way in which her
sex usually exerts its influence on such occasions.

The morning of the third day was set for that on which the _Scud_ was to
sail. Jasper had made all his preparations; the different effects were
embarked, and Mabel had taken leave of June, a painful and affectionate
parting. In a word, all was ready, and every soul had left the island
but the Indian woman, Pathfinder, Jasper, and our heroine. The former
had gone into a thicket to weep, and the three last were approaching the
spot where three canoes lay, one of which was the property of June, and
the other two were in waiting to carry the others off to the _Scud_.
Pathfinder led the way, but, when he drew near the shore, instead of
taking the direction to the boats, he motioned to his companions to
follow, and proceeded to a fallen tree which lay on the margin of the
glade and out of view of those in the cutter. Seating himself on the
trunk, he signed to Mabel to take her place on one side of him and to
Jasper to occupy the other.

"Sit down here Mabel; sit down there, Eau-douce," he commenced, as soon
as he had taken his own seat. "I've something that lies heavy on my
mind, and now is the time to take it off, if it's ever to be done. Sit
down, Mabel, and let me lighten my heart, if not my conscience, while
I've the strength to do it."

The pause that succeeded lasted two or three minutes, and both the young
people wondered what was to come next; the idea that Pathfinder could
have any weight on his conscience seeming equally improbable to each.

"Mabel," our hero at length resumed, "we must talk plainly to each other
afore we join your uncle in the cutter, where the Saltwater has slept
every night since the last rally, for he says it's the only place in
which a man can be sure of keeping the hair on his head, he does. Ah's
me! What have I to do with these follies and sayings now? I try to be
pleasant, and to feel light-hearted, but the power of man can't make
water run up stream. Mabel, you know that the Sergeant, afore he left
us, had settled it 'atween us two that we were to become man and wife,
and that we were to live together and to love one another as long as the
Lord was pleased to keep us both on 'arth; yes, and afterwards too?"

Mabel's cheeks had regained a little of their ancient bloom in the
fresh air of the morning; but at this unlooked-for address they blanched
again, nearly to the pallid hue which grief had imprinted there. Still,
she looked kindly, though seriously, at Pathfinder and even endeavored
to force a smile.

"Very true, my excellent friend," she answered; "this was my poor
father's wish, and I feel certain that a whole life devoted to your
welfare and comforts could scarcely repay you for all you have done for
us."

"I fear me, Mabel, that man and wife needs be bound together by a
stronger tie than such feelings, I do. You have done nothing for me,
or nothing of any account, and yet my very heart yearns towards you,
it does; and therefore it seems likely that these feelings come from
something besides saving scalps and guiding through woods."

Mabel's cheek had begun to glow again; and though she struggled hard to
smile, her voice trembled a little as she answered.

"Had we not better postpone this conversation, Pathfinder?" she said;
"we are not alone; and nothing is so unpleasant to a listener, they say,
as family matters in which he feels no interest."

"It's because we are not alone, Mabel, or rather because Jasper is with
us, that I wish to talk of this matter. The Sergeant believed I might
make a suitable companion for you, and, though I had misgivings about
it,--yes, I had many misgivings,--he finally persuaded me into the idee,
and things came round 'atween us, as you know. But, when you promised
your father to marry me, Mabel, and gave me your hand so modestly, but
so prettily, there was one circumstance, as your uncle called it, that
you didn't know; and I've thought it right to tell you what it is,
before matters are finally settled. I've often taken a poor deer for my
dinner when good venison was not to be found; but it's as nat'ral not to
take up with the worst when the best may be had."

"You speak in a way, Pathfinder, that is difficult to be understood. If
this conversation is really necessary, I trust you will be more plain."

"Well then, Mabel, I've been thinking it was quite likely, when you gave
in to the Sergeant's wishes, that you did not know the natur' of Jasper
Western's feelings towards you?"

"Pathfinder!" and Mabel's cheek now paled to the livid hue of death;
then it flushed to the tint of crimson; and her whole frame shuddered.
Pathfinder, however, was too intent on his own object to notice this
agitation; and Eau-douce had hidden his face in his hands in time to
shut out its view.

"I've been talking with the lad; and, on comparing his dreams with my
dreams, his feelings with my feelings, and his wishes with my wishes,
I fear we think too much alike consarning you for both of us to be very
happy."

"Pathfinder, you forget; you should remember that we are betrothed!"
said Mabel hastily, and in a voice so low that it required acute
attention in the listeners to catch the syllables. Indeed the last word
was not quite intelligible to the guide, and he confessed his ignorance
by the usual,--

"Anan?"

"You forget that we are to be married; and such allusions are improper
as well as painful."

"Everything is proper that is right, Mabel; and everything is right that
leads to justice and fair dealing; though it _is painful_ enough, as you
say, as I find on trial, I do. Now, Mabel, had you known that Eau-douce
thinks of you in this way, maybe you never would have consented to be
married to one as old and as uncomely as I am."

"Why this cruel trial, Pathfinder? To what can all this lead? Jasper
Western thinks no such thing: he says nothing, he feels nothing."

"Mabel!" burst from out of the young man's lips, in a way to betray the
uncontrollable nature of his emotions, though he uttered not another
syllable.

Mabel buried her face in both her hands; and the two sat like a pair of
guilty beings, suddenly detected in the commission of some crime which
involved the happiness of a common patron. At that instant, perhaps,
Jasper himself was inclined to deny his passion, through an extreme
unwillingness to grieve his friend; while Mabel, on whom this positive
announcement of a fact that she had rather unconsciously hoped than
believed, came so unexpectedly, felt her mind momentarily bewildered;
and she scarcely knew whether to weep or to rejoice. Still she was
the first to speak; since Eau-douce could utter naught that would be
disingenuous, or that would pain his friend.

"Pathfinder," said she, "you talk wildly. Why mention this at all?"

"Well, Mabel, if I talk wildly, I _am_ half wild, you know, by natur',
I fear, as well as by habit." As he said this, he endeavored to laugh
in his usual noiseless way, but the effect produced a strange and
discordant sound; and it appeared nearly to choke him. "Yes, I _must_ be
wild; I'll not attempt to deny it."

"Dearest Pathfinder! my best, almost my only friend! You _cannot, do
not_ think I intended to say that!" interrupted Mabel, almost breathless
in her haste to relieve his mortification. "If courage, truth, nobleness
of soul and conduct, unyielding principles, and a hundred other
excellent qualities can render any man respectable, esteemed, or
beloved, your claims are inferior to those of no other human being."

"What tender and bewitching voices they have, Jasper!" resumed the
guide, now laughing freely and naturally. "Yes, natur' seems to have
made them on purpose to sing in our ears, when the music of the woods
is silent. But we must come to a right understanding, we must. I ask you
again, Mabel, if you had known that Jasper Western loves you as well as
I do, or better perhaps, though that is scarcely possible; that in his
dreams he sees your face in the water of the lake; that he talks to
you, and of you, in his sleep; fancies all that is beautiful like Mabel
Dunham, and all that is good and virtuous; believes he never knowed
happiness until he knowed you; could kiss the ground on which you have
trod, and forgets all the joys of his calling to think of you and the
delight of gazing at your beauty and in listening to your voice, would
you then have consented to marry me?"

Mabel could not have answered this question if she would; but, though
her face was buried in her hands, the tint of the rushing blood was
visible between the openings, and the suffusion seemed to impart itself
to her very fingers. Still nature asserted her power, for there was a
single instant when the astonished, almost terrified girl stole a glance
at Jasper, as if distrusting Pathfinder's history of his feelings, read
the truth of all he said in that furtive look, and instantly concealed
her face again, as if she would hide it from observation for ever.

"Take time to think, Mabel," the guide continued, "for it is a solemn
thing to accept one man for a husband while the thoughts and wishes lead
to another. Jasper and I have talked this matter over, freely and like
old friends, and, though I always knowed that we viewed most things
pretty much alike, I couldn't have thought that we regarded any
particular object with the very same eyes, as it might be, until we
opened our minds to each other about you. Now Jasper owns that the very
first time he beheld you, he thought you the sweetest and winningestest
creatur' he had ever met; that your voice sounded like murmuring water
in his ears; that he fancied his sails were your garments fluttering in
the wind; that your laugh haunted him in his sleep; and that ag'in and
ag'in has he started up affrighted, because he has fancied some one
wanted to force you out of the _Scud_, where he imagined you had taken
up your abode. Nay, the lad has even acknowledged that he often weeps at
the thought that you are likely to spend your days with another, and not
with him."

"Jasper!"

"It's solemn truth, Mabel, and it's right you should know it. Now stand
up, and choose 'atween us. I do believe Eau-douce loves you as well as
I do myself; he has tried to persuade me that he loves you better, but
that I will not allow, for I do not think it possible; but I will own
the boy loves you, heart and soul, and he has a good right to be heard.
The Sergeant left me your protector, and not your tyrant. I told him
that I would be a father to you as well as a husband, and it seems to me
no feeling father would deny his child this small privilege. Stand up,
Mabel, therefore, and speak your thoughts as freely as if I were the
Sergeant himself, seeking your good, and nothing else."

Mabel dropped her hands, arose, and stood face to face with her two
suitors, though the flush that was on her cheeks was feverish, the
evidence of excitement rather than of shame.

"What would you have, Pathfinder?" she asked; "Have I not already
promised my poor father to do all you desire?"

"Then I desire this. Here I stand, a man of the forest and of little
larning, though I fear with an ambition beyond my desarts, and I'll
do my endivors to do justice to both sides. In the first place, it is
allowed that, so far as feelings in your behalf are consarned, we love
you just the same; Jasper thinks his feelings _must_ be the strongest,
but this I cannot say in honesty, for it doesn't seem to me that it
_can_ be true, else I would frankly and freely confess it, I would. So
in this particular, Mabel, we are here before you on equal tarms. As for
myself, being the oldest, I'll first say what little can be produced in
my favor, as well as ag'in it. As a hunter, I do think there is no man
near the lines that can outdo me. If venison, or bear's meat, or even
birds and fish, should ever be scarce in our cabin, it would be more
likely to be owing to natur' and Providence than to any fault of mine.
In short, it does seem to me that the woman who depended on me would
never be likely to want for food. But I'm fearful ignorant! It's true
I speak several tongues, such as they be, while I'm very far from being
expart at my own. Then, my years are greater than your own, Mabel; and
the circumstance that I was so long the Sergeant's comrade can be no
great merit in your eyes. I wish, too, I was more comely, I do; but
we are all as natur' made us, and the last thing that a man ought to
lament, except on very special occasions, is his looks. When all is
remembered, age, looks, learning, and habits, Mabel, conscience tells me
I ought to confess that I'm altogether unfit for you, if not downright
unworthy; and I would give up the hope this minute, I would, if I didn't
feel something pulling at my heart-strings which seems hard to undo."

"Pathfinder! Noble, generous Pathfinder!" cried our heroine, seizing his
hand and kissing it with a species of holy reverence; "You do yourself
injustice--you forget my poor father and your promise--you do not know
_me_!"

"Now, here's Jasper," continued the guide, without allowing the girl's
caresses to win him from his purpose, "with _him_ the case is different.
In the way of providing, as in that of loving, there's not much to
choose 'atween us; for the lad is frugal, industrious, and careful. Then
he is quite a scholar, knows the tongue of the Frenchers, reads many
books, and some, I know, that you like to read yourself, can understand
you at all times, which, perhaps, is more than I can say for myself."

"What of all this?" interrupted Mabel impatiently; "Why speak of it
now--why speak of it at all?"

"Then the lad has a manner of letting his thoughts be known, that I
fear I can never equal. If there's anything on 'arth that would make my
tongue bold and persuading, Mabel, I do think it's yourself; and yet in
our late conversations Jasper has outdone me, even on this point, in a
way to make me ashamed of myself. He has told me how simple you were,
and how true-hearted, and kind-hearted; and how you looked down upon
vanities, for though you might be the wife of more than one officer,
as he thinks, that you cling to feeling, and would rather be true to
yourself and natur' than a colonel's lady. He fairly made my blood warm,
he did, when he spoke of your having beauty without seeming ever to have
looked upon it, and the manner in which you moved about like a young
fa'n, so nat'ral and graceful like, without knowing it; and the truth
and justice of your idees, and the warmth and generosity of your
heart--"

"Jasper!" interrupted Mabel, giving way to feelings that had gathered
an ungovernable force by being so long pent, and falling into the
young man's willing arms, weeping like a child, and almost as helpless.
"Jasper! Jasper! Why have you kept this from me?"

The answer of Eau-douce was not very intelligible, nor was the murmured
dialogue that followed remarkable for coherency. But the language of
affection is easily understood. The hour that succeeded passed like a
very few minutes of ordinary life, so far as a computation of time was
concerned; and when Mabel recollected herself, and bethought her of the
existence of others, her uncle was pacing the cutter's deck in great
impatience, and wondering why Jasper should be losing so much of a
favorable wind. Her first thought was of him, who was so likely to feel
the recent betrayal of her real emotions.

"Oh, Jasper," she exclaimed, like one suddenly self-convicted, "the
Pathfinder!"

Eau-douce fairly trembled, not with unmanly apprehension, but with the
painful conviction of the pang he had given his friend; and he looked in
all directions in the expectation of seeing his person. But Pathfinder
had withdrawn, with a tact and a delicacy that might have done credit to
the sensibility and breeding of a courtier. For several minutes the
two lovers sat, silently waiting his return, uncertain what propriety
required of them under circumstances so marked and so peculiar. At
length they beheld their friend advancing slowly towards them, with a
thoughtful and even pensive air.

"I now understand what you meant, Jasper, by speaking without a tongue
and hearing without an ear," he said when close enough to the tree to
be heard. "Yes, I understand it now, I do; and a very pleasant sort of
discourse it is, when one can hold it with Mabel Dunham. Ah's me! I told
the Sergeant I wasn't fit for her; that I was too old, too ignorant, and
too wild like; but he _would_ have it otherwise."

Jasper and Mabel sat, resembling Milton's picture of our first parents,
when the consciousness of sin first laid its leaden weight on their
souls. Neither spoke, neither even moved; though both at that moment
fancied they could part with their new-found happiness in order to
restore their friend to his peace of mind. Jasper was pale as death,
but, in Mabel, maiden modesty had caused the blood to mantle on her
cheeks, until their bloom was heightened to a richness that was scarcely
equalled in her hours of light-hearted buoyancy and joy. As the feeling
which, in her sex, always accompanies the security of love returned,
threw its softness and tenderness over her countenance, she was
singularly beautiful. Pathfinder gazed at her with an intentness he did
not endeavor to conceal, and then he fairly laughed in his own way, and
with a sort of wild exultation, as men that are untutored are wont to
express their delight. This momentary indulgence, however, was expiated
by the pang which followed the sudden consciousness that this glorious
young creature was lost to him for ever. It required a full minute for
this simple-minded being to recover from the shock of this conviction;
and then he recovered his dignity of manner, speaking with gravity,
almost with solemnity.

"I have always known, Mabel Dunham, that men have their gifts," said he;
"but I'd forgotten that it did not belong to mine to please the young,
the beautiful, and l'arned. I hope the mistake has been no very heavy
sin; and if it was, I've been heavily punished for it, I have. Nay,
Mabel, I know what you'd say, but it's unnecessary; I _feel_ it all, and
that is as good as if I _heard_ it all. I've had a bitter hour, Mabel.
I've had a very bitter hour, lad."

"Hour!" echoed Mabel, as the other first used the word; the tell-tale
blood, which had begun to ebb towards her heart, rushing again
tumultuously to her very temples; "surely not an hour, Pathfinder?"

"Hour!" exclaimed Jasper at the same instant; "No, no, my worthy friend,
it is not ten minutes since you left us!"

"Well, it may be so; though to me it has seemed to be a day. I begin to
think, however, that the happy count time by minutes, and the miserable
count it by months. But we will talk no more of this; it is all over
now, and many words about it will make you no happier, while they will
only tell me what I've lost; and quite likely how much I desarved to
lose her. No, no, Mabel, 'tis useless to interrupt me; I admit it all,
and your gainsaying it, though it be so well meant, cannot change my
mind. Well, Jasper, she is yours; and, though it's hard to think it,
I do believe you'll make her happier than I could, for your gifts are
better suited to do so, though I would have strived hard to do as much,
if I know myself, I would. I ought to have known better than to believe
the Sergeant; and I ought to have put faith in what Mabel told me at the
head of the lake, for reason and judgment might have shown me its truth;
but it is so pleasant to think what we wish, and mankind so easily
over-persuade us, when we over-persuade ourselves. But what's the use
in talking of it, as I said afore? It's true, Mabel seemed to be
consenting, though it all came from a wish to please her father, and
from being skeary about the savages--"

"Pathfinder!"

"I understand you, Mabel, and have no hard feelings, I haven't. I
sometimes think I should like to live in your neighborhood, that I might
look at your happiness; but, on the whole, it's better I should quit the
55th altogether, and go back to the 60th, which is my natyve rigiment,
as it might be. It would have been better, perhaps, had I never left it,
though my sarvices were much wanted in this quarter, and I'd been with
some of the 55th years agone; Sergeant Dunham, for instance, when he was
in another corps. Still, Jasper, I do not regret that I've known you--"

"And me, Pathfinder!" impetuously interrupted Mabel; "do you regret
having known _me_? Could I think so, I should never be at peace with
myself."

"You, Mabel!" returned the guide, taking the hand of our heroine and
looking up into her countenance with guileless simplicity, but earnest
affection; "How could I be sorry that a ray of the sun came across the
gloom of a cheerless day--that light has broken in upon darkness, though
it remained so short a time? I do not flatter myself with being able
to march quite so light-hearted as I once used to could, or to sleep as
sound, for some time to come; but I shall always remember how near I was
to being undeservedly happy, I shall. So far from blaming you, Mabel,
I only blame myself for being so vain as to think it possible I could
please such a creatur'; for sartainly you told me how it was, when we
talked it over on the mountain, and I ought to have believed you then;
for I do suppose it's nat'ral that young women should know their own
minds better than their fathers. Ah's me! It's settled now, and nothing
remains but for me to take leave of you, that you may depart; I feel
that Master Cap must be impatient, and there is danger of his coming on
shore to look for us all."

"To take leave!" exclaimed Mabel.

"Leave!" echoed Jasper; "You do not mean to quit us, my friend?"

"'Tis best, Mabel, 'tis altogether best, Eau-douce; and it's wisest. I
could live and die in your company, if I only followed feeling; but, if
I follow reason, I shall quit you here. You will go back to Oswego, and
become man and wife as soon as you arrive,--for all that is determined
with Master Cap, who hankers after the sea again, and who knows what is
to happen,--while I shall return to the wilderness and my Maker. Come,
Mabel," continued Pathfinder, rising and drawing nearer to our heroine,
with grave decorum, "kiss me; Jasper will not grudge me one kiss; then
we'll part."

"Oh, Pathfinder!" exclaimed Mabel, falling into the arms of the guide,
and kissing his cheeks again and again, with a freedom and warmth she
had been far from manifesting while held to the bosom of Jasper; "God
bless you, dearest Pathfinder! You'll come to us hereafter. We shall
see you again. When old, you will come to our dwelling, and let me be a
daughter to you?"

"Yes, that's it," returned the guide, almost gasping for breath; "I'll
try to think of it in that way. You're more befitting to be my daughter
than to be my wife, you are. Farewell, Jasper. Now we'll go to the
canoe; it's time you were on board."

The manner in which Pathfinder led the way to the shore was solemn and
calm. As soon as he reached the canoe, he again took Mabel by the hands,
held her at the length of his own arms, and gazed wistfully into her
face, until the unbidden tears rolled out of the fountains of feeling
and trickled down his rugged cheeks in streams.

"Bless me, Pathfinder," said Mabel, kneeling reverently at his feet.
"Oh, at least bless me before we part!"

That untutored but noble-minded being did as she desired; and, aiding
her to enter the canoe, seemed to tear himself away as one snaps a
strong and obstinate cord. Before he retired, however, he took Jasper by
the arm and led him a little aside, when he spoke as follows:--

"You're kind of heart and gentle by natur', Jasper; but we are both
rough and wild in comparison with that dear creatur'. Be careful of her,
and never show the roughness of man's natur' to her soft disposition.
You'll get to understand her in time; and the Lord, who governs the lake
and the forest alike, who looks upon virtue with a smile and upon vice
with a frown, keep you happy and worthy to be so!"

Pathfinder made a sign for his friend to depart, and he stood leaning on
his rifle until the canoe had reached the side of the _Scud_. Mabel wept
as if her heart would break; nor did her eyes once turn from the open
spot in the glade, where the form of the Pathfinder was to be seen,
until the cutter had passed a point that completely shut out the island.
When last in view, the sinewy frame of this extraordinary man was as
motionless as if it were a statue set up in that solitary place to
commemorate the scenes of which it had so lately been the witness.



CHAPTER XXX.

     Oh! let me only breathe the air,
        The blessed air that's breath'd by thee;
     And, whether on its wings it bear
        Healing or death, 'tis sweet to me!
     MOORE.


Pathfinder was accustomed to solitude; but, when the _Scud_ had actually
disappeared, he was almost overcome with a sense of his loneliness.
Never before had he been conscious of his isolated condition in the
world; for his feelings had gradually been accustoming themselves to the
blandishments and wants of social life; particularly as the last were
connected with the domestic affections. Now, all had vanished, as it
might be, in one moment; and he was left equally without companions
and without hope. Even Chingachgook had left him, though it was but
temporarily; still his presence was missed at the precise instant which
might be termed the most critical in our hero's life.

Pathfinder stood leaning on his rifle, in the attitude described in the
last chapter, a long time after the _Scud_ had disappeared. The rigidity
of his limbs seemed permanent; and none but a man accustomed to put his
muscles to the severest proof could have maintained that posture, with
its marble-like inflexibility, for so great a length of time. At length
he moved away from the spot; the motion of the body being preceded by a
sigh that seemed to heave up from the very depths of his bosom.

It was a peculiarity of this extraordinary being that his senses and his
limbs, for all practical purposes, were never at fault, let the mind
be preoccupied with other interests as much as it might. On the present
occasion neither of these great auxiliaries failed him; but, though
his thoughts were exclusively occupied with Mabel, her beauty, her
preference of Jasper, her tears, and her departure, he moved in a direct
line to the spot where June still remained, which was the grave of her
husband. The conversation that followed passed in the language of the
Tuscaroras, which Pathfinder spoke fluently; but, as that tongue is
understood only by the extremely learned, we shall translate it freely
into the English; preserving, as far as possible, the tone of thought
of each interlocutor, as well as the peculiarities of manner. June had
suffered her hair to fall about her face, had taken a seat on a stone
which had been dug from the excavation made by the grave, and was
hanging over the spot which contained the body of Arrowhead, unconscious
of the presence of any other. She believed, indeed, that all had left
the island but herself, and the tread of the guide's moccasined foot was
too noiseless rudely to undeceive her.

Pathfinder stood gazing at the woman for several minutes in mute
attention. The contemplation of her grief, the recollection of her
irreparable loss, and the view of her desolation produced a healthful
influence on his own feelings; his reason telling him how much deeper
lay the sources of grief in a young wife, who was suddenly and violently
deprived of her husband, than in himself.

"Dew-of-June," he said solemnly, but with an earnestness which denoted
the strength of his sympathy, "you are not alone in your sorrow. Turn,
and let your eyes look upon a friend."

"June has no longer any friend!" the woman answered. "Arrowhead has gone
to the happy hunting-grounds, and there is no one left to care for June.
The Tuscaroras would chase her from their wigwams; the Iroquois are
hateful in her eyes, and she could not look at them. No! Leave June to
starve over the grave of her husband."

"This will never do--this will never do. 'Tis ag'in reason and right.
You believe in the Manitou, June?"

"He has hid his face from June because he is angry. He has left her
alone to die."

"Listen to one who has had a long acquaintance with red natur', though
he has a white birth and white gifts. When the Manitou of a pale-face
wishes to produce good in a pale-face heart He strikes it with grief;
for it is in our sorrows, June, that we look with the truest eyes into
ourselves, and with the farthest-sighted eyes too, as respects right.
The Great Spirit wishes you well, and He has taken away the chief, lest
you should be led astray by his wily tongue, and get to be a Mingo in
your disposition, as you were already in your company."

"Arrowhead was a great chief," returned the woman proudly.

"He had his merits, he had; and he had his demerits, too. But June you
are not desarted, nor will you be soon. Let your grief out--let it out,
according to natur', and when the proper time comes I shall have more to
say to you."

Pathfinder now went to his own canoe, and he left the island. In the
course of the day June heard the crack of his rifle once or twice; and
as the sun was setting he reappeared, bringing her birds ready cooked,
and of a delicacy and flavor that might have tempted the appetite of an
epicure. This species of intercourse lasted a month, June obstinately
refusing to abandon the grave of her husband all that time, though she
still accepted the friendly offerings of her protector. Occasionally
they met and conversed, Pathfinder sounding the state of the woman's
feelings; but the interviews were short, and far from frequent. June
slept in one of the huts, and she laid down her head in security, for
she was conscious of the protection of a friend, though Pathfinder
invariably retired at night to an adjacent island, where he had built
himself a hut.

At the end of the month, however, the season was getting to be too far
advanced to render her situation pleasant to June. The trees had lost
their leaves, and the nights were becoming cold and wintry. It was time
to depart.

At this moment Chingachgook reappeared. He had a long and confidential
interview on the island with his friend. June witnessed their movements,
and she saw that her guardian was distressed. Stealing to his side, she
endeavored to soothe his sorrow with a woman's gentleness and with a
woman's instinct.

"Thank you, June, thank you!" he said; "'tis well meant, though it's
useless. But it is time to quit this place. To-morrow we shall depart.
You will go with us, for now you've got to feel reason."

June assented in the meek manner of an Indian woman, and she withdrew to
pass the remainder of her time near the grave of Arrowhead. Regardless
of the hour and the season, the young widow did not pillow her head
during the whole of that autumnal night. She sat near the spot that held
the remains of her husband, and prayed, in the manner of her people, for
his success on the endless path on which he had so lately gone, and for
their reunion in the land of the just. Humble and degraded as she would
have seemed in the eyes of the sophisticated and unreflecting, the
image of God was on her soul, and it vindicated its divine origin by
aspirations and feelings that would have surprised those who, feigning
more, feel less.

In the morning the three departed, Pathfinder earnest and intelligent
in all he did, the Great Serpent silent and imitative, and June meek,
resigned, but sorrowful. They went in two canoes, that of the woman
being abandoned: Chingachgook led the way, and Pathfinder followed,
the course being up stream. Two days they paddled westward, and as many
nights they encamped on islands. Fortunately the weather became mild,
and when they reached the lake it was found smooth and glassy as a pond.
It was the Indian summer, and the calms, and almost the blandness of
June, slept in the hazy atmosphere.

On the morning of the third day they passed the mouth of the Oswego,
where the fort and the sleeping ensign invited them in vain to enter.
Without casting a look aside, Chingachgook paddled past the dark waters
of the river, and Pathfinder still followed in silent industry. The
ramparts were crowded with spectators; but Lundie, who knew the persons
of his old friends, refused to allow them to be even hailed.

It was noon when Chingachgook entered a little bay where the _Scud_ lay
at anchor, in a sort of roadstead. A small ancient clearing was on the
shore; and near the margin of the lake was a log dwelling, recently
and completely, though rudely fitted up. There was an air of frontier
comfort and of frontier abundance around the place, though it was
necessarily wild and solitary. Jasper stood on the shore; and when
Pathfinder landed, he was the first to take him by the hand. The meeting
was simple, but very cordial. No questions were asked, it being apparent
that Chingachgook had made the necessary explanations. Pathfinder never
squeezed his friend's hand more cordially than in this interview; and he
even laughed cordially in his face as he told him how happy and well he
appeared.

"Where is she, Jasper? Where is she?" the guide at length whispered, for
at first he had seemed to be afraid to trust himself with the question.

"She is waiting for us in the house, my dear friend, where you see that
June has already hastened before us."

"June may use a lighter step to meet Mabel, but she cannot carry a
lighter heart. And so, lad, you found the chaplain at the garrison, and
all was soon settled?"

"We were married within a week after we left you, and Master Cap
departed next day. You have forgotten to inquire about your friend
Saltwater."

"Not I, not I; the Sarpent has told me all that: and then I love to hear
so much of Mabel and her happiness, I do. Did the child smile or did she
weep when the ceremony was over?"

"She did both, my friend; but--"

"Yes, that's their natur', tearful and cheerful. Ah's me! They are very
pleasant to us of the woods; and I do believe I should think all right,
whatever Mabel might do. And do you think, Jasper, that she thought of
me at all on that joyful occasion?"

"I know she did, Pathfinder; and she thinks of you and talks of you
daily, almost hourly. None love you as we do."

"I know few love me better than yourself, Jasper: Chingachgook is
perhaps, now, the only creatur' of whom I can say that. Well, there's
no use in putting it off any longer; it must be done, and may as well
be done at once; so, Jasper, lead the way, and I'll endivor to look upon
her sweet countenance once more."

Jasper did lead the way, and they were soon in the presence of Mabel.
The latter met her late suitor with a bright blush, and her limbs
trembled so, she could hardly stand; still her manner was affectionate
and frank. During the hour of Pathfinder's visit (for it lasted no
longer, though he ate in the dwelling of his friends), one who was
expert in tracing the working of the human mind might have seen a
faithful index to the feelings of Mabel in her manner to Pathfinder and
her husband. With the latter she still had a little of the reserve
that usually accompanies young wedlock; but the tones of her voice
were kinder even than common; the glance of her eye was tender, and she
seldom looked at him without the glow that tinged her cheeks betraying
the existence of feelings that habit and time had not yet soothed into
absolute tranquillity. With Pathfinder, all was earnest, sincere, even
anxious; but the tones never trembled, the eye never fell; and if the
cheek flushed, it was with the emotions that are connected with concern.

At length the moment came when Pathfinder must go his way. Chingachgook
had already abandoned the canoes, and was posted on the margin of the
woods, where a path led into the forest. Here he calmly waited to be
joined by his friend. As soon as the latter was aware of this fact, he
rose in a solemn manner and took his leave.

"I've sometimes thought that my own fate has been a little hard," he
said; "but that of this woman, Mabel, has shamed me into reason."

"June remains, and lives with me," eagerly interrupted our heroine.

"So I comprehend it. If anybody can bring her back from her grief, and
make her wish to live, you can do it, Mabel; though I've misgivings
about even your success. The poor creatur' is without a tribe, as well
as without a husband, and it's not easy to reconcile the feelings to
both losses. Ah's me!--what have I to do with other people's miseries
and marriages, as if I hadn't affliction enough of my own? Don't speak
to me, Mabel,--don't speak to me, Jasper,--let me go my way in peace,
and like a man. I've seen your happiness, and that is a great deal, and
I shall be able to bear my own sorrow all the better for it. No,--I'll
never kiss you ag'in, Mabel, I'll never kiss you ag'in. Here's my hand,
Jasper,--squeeze it, boy, squeeze it; no fear of its giving way, for
it's the hand of a man;--and now, Mabel, do you take it,--nay, you must
not do this,"--preventing Mabel from kissing it and bathing it in her
tears,--"you must not do this--"

"Pathfinder," asked Mabel, "when shall we see you again?"

"I've thought of that, too; yes, I've thought of that, I have. If the
time should ever come when I can look upon you altogether as a sister,
Mabel, or a child,--it might be better to say a child, since you're
young enough to be my daughter,--depend on it I'll come back; for
it would lighten my very heart to witness your gladness. But if I
cannot,--farewell--farewell,--the Sergeant was wrong,--yes, the Sergeant
was wrong!"

This was the last the Pathfinder ever uttered to the ears of Jasper
Western and Mabel Dunham. He turned away, as if the words choked him,
and was quickly at the side of his friend. As soon as the latter saw him
approach, he shouldered his own burthen, and glided in among the trees,
without waiting to be spoken to. Mabel, her husband, and June all
watched the form of the Pathfinder, in the hope of receiving a parting
gesture, or a stolen glance of the eye; but he did not look back.
Once or twice they thought they saw his head shake, as one trembles in
bitterness of spirit; and a toss of the hand was given, as if he knew
that he was watched; but a tread, whose vigor no sorrow could enfeeble,
soon bore him out of view, and was lost in the depths of the forest.

Neither Jasper nor his wife ever beheld the Pathfinder again. They
remained for another year on the banks of Ontario; and then the pressing
solicitations of Cap induced them to join him in New York, where Jasper
eventually became a successful and respected merchant. Thrice Mabel
received valuable presents of furs at intervals of years; and her
feelings told her whence they came, though no name accompanied the gift.
Later in life still, when the mother of several youths, she had occasion
to visit the interior; and found herself on the banks of the Mohawk,
accompanied by her sons, the eldest of whom was capable of being her
protector. On that occasion she observed a man in a singular guise,
watching her in the distance, with an intentness that induced her to
inquire into his pursuits and character. She was told he was the
most renowned hunter of that portion of the State,--it was after the
Revolution,--a being of great purity of character and of as marked
peculiarities; and that he was known in that region of country by the
name of the Leatherstocking. Further than this Mrs. Western could not
ascertain; though the distant glimpse and singular deportment of
this unknown hunter gave her a sleepless night, and cast a shade of
melancholy over her still lovely face, that lasted many a day.

As for June, the double loss of husband and tribe produced the effect
that Pathfinder had foreseen. She died in the cottage of Mabel, on the
shores of the lake; and Jasper conveyed her body to the island, where he
interred it by the side of that of Arrowhead.

Lundie lived to marry his ancient love, and retired a war-worn and
battered veteran; but his name has been rendered illustrious in our own
time by the deeds of a younger brother, who succeeded to his territorial
title, which, however, was shortly after merged in one earned by his
valor on the ocean.





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