James Fenimore Cooper
Part 5 out of 10
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"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.
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.
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"One may love a calling so well as to fancy it will cover a thousand
"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
"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."
"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
"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.
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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.
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"'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
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
"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
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