James Fenimore Cooper
Part 10 out of 10
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.
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
"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
"Yes, father; rely on nothing you have done yourself for mercy and
salvation; trust altogether in the blessed mediation of the Son of
"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
"Put your trust in God, father; lean on His holy and compassionate
Son. Pray, dearest, dearest father; pray for His omnipotent
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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,
"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
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.
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.
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
"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
"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
"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, --
"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
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
"Pathfinder," said she, "you talk wildly. Why mention this at
"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
"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."
"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
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
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!" 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,
"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 -- "
"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
"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.
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!
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
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,
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
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
"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
"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
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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