James Fenimore Cooper
Part 7 out of 10
smiled at the remarks of his companion. "Haul down -- starboard
your helm -- starboard hard -- so - meet her -- gently there with
the helm -- touch her lightly - now jump ashore with the fast, lad
-- no, heave; there are some of our people ready to take it."
All this passed so quickly as barely to allow the spectator time
to note the different evolutions, ere the _Scud_ had been thrown
into the wind until her mainsail shivered, next cast a little by
the use of the rudder only, and then she set bodily alongside of
a natural rocky quay, where she was immediately secured by good
fasts run to the shore. In a word, the station was reached, and
the men of the 55th were greeted by their expecting comrades, with
the satisfaction which a relief usually brings.
Mabel sprang up on the shore with a delight which she did not care
to express; and her father led his men after her with an alacrity
which proved how wearied he had become of the cutter. The station,
as the place was familiarly termed by the soldiers of the 55th,
was indeed a spot to raise expectations of enjoyment among those who
had been cooped up so long in a vessel of the dimensions of the
_Scud_. None of the islands were high, though all lay at a sufficient
elevation above the water to render them perfectly healthy and
secure. Each had more or less of wood; and the greater number
at that distant day were clothed with the virgin forest. The one
selected by the troops for their purpose was small, containing
about twenty acres of land, and by some of the accidents of the
wilderness it had been partly stripped of its trees, probably
centuries before the period of which we are writing, and a little
grassy glade covered nearly half its surface.
The shores of Station Island were completely fringed with bushes,
and great care had been taken to preserve them, as they answered as
a screen to conceal the persons and things collected within their
circle. Favored by this shelter, as well as by that of several
thickets of trees and different copses, some six or eight low huts
had been erected to be used as quarters for the officer and his men,
to contain stores, and to serve the purposes of kitchen, hospital,
etc. These huts were built of logs in the usual manner, had been
roofed by bark brought from a distance, lest the signs of labor
should attract attention, and, as they had now been inhabited
some months, were as comfortable as dwellings of that description
usually ever get to be.
At the eastern extremity of the island, however, was a small,
densely-wooded peninsula, with a thicket of underbrush so closely
matted as nearly to prevent the possibility of seeing across it,
so long as the leaves remained on the branches. Near the narrow
neck that connected this acre with the rest of the island, a small
blockhouse had been erected, with some attention to its means of
resistance. The logs were bullet-proof, squared and jointed with
a care to leave no defenceless points; the windows were loopholes,
the door massive and small, and the roof, like the rest of the
structure, was framed of hewn timber, covered properly with bark
to exclude the rain. The lower apartment as usual contained stores
and provisions; here indeed the party kept all their supplies;
the second story was intended for a dwelling, as well as for the
citadel, and a low garret was subdivided into two or three rooms,
and could hold the pallets of some ten or fifteen persons. All
the arrangements were exceedingly simple and cheap, but they were
sufficient to protect the soldiers against the effects of a surprise.
As the whole building was considerably less than forty feet high,
its summit was concealed by the tops of the trees, except from the
eyes of those who had reached the interior of the island. On that
side the view was open from the upper loops, though bushes even
there, more or less, concealed the base of the wooden tower.
The object being purely defence, care had been taken to place the
blockhouse so near an opening in the limestone rock that formed
the base of the island as to admit of a bucket being dropped into
the water, in order to obtain that great essential in the event of
a siege. In order to facilitate this operation, and to enfilade
the base of the building, the upper stories projected several feet
beyond the lower in the manner usual to blockhouses, and pieces of wood
filled the apertures cut in the log flooring, which were intended
as loops and traps. The communications between the different stories
were by means of ladders. If we add that these blockhouses were
intended as citadels for garrisons or settlements to retreat to, in
the cases of attacks, the general reader will obtain a sufficiently
correct idea of the arrangements it is our wish to explain.
But the situation of the island itself formed its principal merit
as a military position. Lying in the midst of twenty others, it
was not an easy matter to find it; since boats might pass quite
near, and, by glimpses caught through the openings, this particular
island would be taken for a part of some other. Indeed, the
channels between the islands which lay around the one we have been
describing were so narrow that it was even difficult to say which
portions of the land were connected, or which separated, even as
one stood in the centre, with the express desire of ascertaining
the truth. The little bay in particular, which Jasper used as
a harbor, was so embowered with bushes and shut in with islands,
that, the sails of the cutter being lowered, her own people on one
occasion had searched for hours before they could find the _Scud_,
in their return from a short excursion among the adjacent channels
in quest of fish. In short, the place was admirably adapted to its
present objects, and its natural advantages had been as ingeniously
improved as economy and the limited means of a frontier post would
very well allow.
The hour which succeeded the arrival of the _Scud_ was one of hurried
excitement. The party in possession had done nothing worthy of
being mentioned, and, wearied with their seclusion, they were all
eager to return to Oswego. The Sergeant and the officer he came
to relieve had no sooner gone through the little ceremonies of
transferring the command, than the latter hurried on board the
_Scud_ with his whole party; and Jasper, who would gladly have passed
the day on the island, was required to get under way forthwith, the
wind promising a quick passage up the river and across the lake.
Before separating, however, Lieutenant Muir, Cap, and the Sergeant
had a private conference with the ensign who had been relieved,
in which the last was made acquainted with the suspicions that
existed against the fidelity of the young sailor. Promising due
caution, the officer embarked, and in less than three hours from
the time when she had arrived the cutter was again in motion.
Mabel had taken possession of a hut; and with female readiness
and skill she made all the simple little domestic arrangements of
which the circumstances would admit, not only for her own comfort, but
for that of her father. To save labor, a mess-table was prepared
in a hut set apart for that purpose, where all the heads of the
detachment were to eat, the soldier's wife performing the necessary
labor. The hut of the Sergeant, which was the best on the island,
being thus freed from any of the vulgar offices of a household,
admitted of such a display of womanly taste, that, for the first
time since her arrival on the frontier, Mabel felt proud of her
home. As soon as these important duties were discharged, she
strolled out on the island, taking a path which led through the
pretty glade, and which conducted to the only point not covered with
bushes. Here she stood gazing at the limpid water, which lay with
scarcely a ruffle on it at her feet, musing on the novel situation
in which she was placed, and permitting a pleasing and deep excitement
to steal over her feelings, as she remembered the scenes through
which she had so lately passed, and conjectured those which still
lay veiled in the future.
"You're a beautiful fixture, in a beautiful spot, Mistress Mabel,"
said David Muir, suddenly appearing at her elbow; "and I'll no'
engage you're not just the handsomest of the two."
"I will not say, Mr. Muir, that compliments on my person are
altogether unwelcome, for I should not gain credit for speaking
the truth, perhaps," answered Mabel with spirit; "but I will say
that if you would condescend to address to me some remarks of a
different nature, I may be led to believe you think I have sufficient
faculties to understand them."
"Hoot! your mind, beautiful Mabel, is polished just like the barrel
of a soldier's musket, and your conversation is only too discreet
and wise for a poor d---l who has been chewing birch up here these
four years on the lines, instead of receiving it in an application
that has the virtue of imparting knowledge. But you are no' sorry,
I take it, young lady, that you've got your pretty foot on _terra
firma_ once more."
"I thought so two hours since, Mr. Muir; but the _Scud_ looks so
beautiful as she sails through these vistas of trees, that I almost
regret I am no longer one of her passengers."
As Mabel ceased speaking, she waved her handkerchief in return to
a salutation from Jasper, who kept his eyes fastened on her form
until the white sails of the cutter had swept round a point, and
were nearly lost behind its green fringe of leaves.
"There they go, and I'll no' say 'joy go with them;' but may they
have the luck to return safely, for without them we shall be in
danger of passing the winter on this island; unless, indeed, we
have the alternative of the castle at Quebec. Yon Jasper Eau-douce
is a vagrant sort of a lad, and they have reports of him in the
garrison that it pains my very heart to hear. Your worthy father,
and almost as worthy uncle, have none of the best opinion of him."
"I am sorry to hear it, Mr. Muir; I doubt not that time will remove
all their distrust."
"If time would only remove mine, pretty Mabel," rejoined the
Quartermaster in a wheedling tone, "I should feel no envy of the
commander-in-chief. I think if I were in a condition to retire,
the Sergeant would just step into my shoes."
"If my dear father is worthy to step into your shoes, Mr. Muir,"
returned the girl, with malicious pleasure, "I'm sure that the
qualification is mutual, and that you are every way worthy to step
"The deuce is in the child! you would not reduce me to the rank of
a non-commissioned officer, Mabel?"
"No, indeed, sir; I was not thinking of the army at all as you spoke
of retiring. My thoughts were more egotistical, and I was thinking
how much you reminded me of my dear father, by your experience,
wisdom, and suitableness to take his place as the head of a family."
"As its bridegroom, pretty Mabel, but not as its parent or natural
chief. I see how it is with you, loving your repartee, and brilliant
with wit. Well, I like spirit in a young woman, so it be not the
spirit of a scold. This Pathfinder is all extraordinair, Mabel,
if truth may be said of the man."
"Truth should be said of him or nothing. Pathfinder is my friend
-- my very particular friend, Mr. Muir, and no evil can be said of
him in my presence that I shall not deny."
"I shall say nothing evil of him, I can assure you, Mabel; but, at
the same time, I doubt if much good can be said in his favor."
"He is at least expert with the rifle," returned Mabel, smiling.
"That you cannot deny."
"Let him have all the credit of his exploits in that way if you
please; but he is as illiterate as a Mohawk."
"He may not understand Latin, but his knowledge of Iroquois is
greater than that of most men, and it is the more useful language
of the two in this part of the world."
"If Lundie himself were to call on me for an opinion which I
admire more, your person or your wit, beautiful and caustic Mabel,
I should be at a loss to answer. My admiration is so nearly divided
between them, that I often fancy this is the one that bears off the
palm, and then the other! Ah! the late Mrs. Muir was a paragon
in that way also."
"The latest Mrs. Muir, did you say, sir?" asked Mabel, looking up
innocently at her companion.
"Hoot, hoot! That is some of Pathfinder's scandal. Now I daresay
that the fellow has been trying to persuade you, Mabel, that I have
had more than one wife already."
"In that case his time would have been thrown away, sir, as everybody
knows that you have been so unfortunate as to have had four."
"Only three, as sure as my name is David Muir. The fourth is pure
scandal -- or rather, pretty Mabel, she is yet _in petto_, as they
say at Rome; and that means, in matters of love, in the heart, my
"Well, I'm glad I'm not that fourth person, _in petto_, or in
anything else, as I should not like to be a scandal."
"No fear of that, charming Mabel; for were you the fourth, all
the others would be forgotten, and your wonderful beauty and merit
would at once elevate you to be the first. No fear of your being
the fourth in any thing."
"There is consolation in that assurance, Mr. Muir," said Mabel,
laughing, "whatever there may be in your other assurance; for I
confess I should prefer being even a fourth-rate beauty to being
a fourth wife."
So saying she tripped away, leaving the Quartermaster to meditate
on his success. Mabel had been induced to use her female means of
defence thus freely, partly because her suitor had of late been so
pointed as to stand in need of a pretty strong repulse, and partly
on account of his innuendoes against Jasper and the Pathfinder.
Though full of spirit and quick of intellect, she was not naturally
pert; but on the present occasion she thought circumstances called
for more than usual decision. When she left her companion, therefore,
she believed she was now finally released from attentions which she
thought as ill-bestowed as they were certainly disagreeable. Not
so, however, with David Muir; accustomed to rebuffs, and familiar
with the virtue of perseverance, he saw no reason to despair, though
the half-menacing, half-self-satisfied manner in which he shook
his head towards the retreating girl might have betrayed designs
as sinister as they were determined. While he was thus occupied,
the Pathfinder approached, and got within a few feet of him unseen.
"'Twill never do, Quartermaster, 'twill never do," commenced the
latter, laughing in his noiseless way; "she is young and active,
and none but a quick foot can overtake her. They tell me you are
her suitor, if you are not her follower."
"And I hear the same of yourself, man, though the presumption would
be so great that I scarcely can think it true."
"I fear you're right, I do; yes, I fear you're right; --when I
consider myself, what I am, how little I know, and how rude my life
has been, I altogether distrust my claim, even to think a moment
of one so tutored, and gay, and light of heart, and delicate -- "
"You forget handsome," coarsely interrupted Muir.
"And handsome, too, I fear," returned the meek and self-abased guide;
"I might have said handsome at once, among her other qualities; for
the young fa'n, just as it learns to bound, is not more pleasant
to the eye of the hunter than Mabel is lovely in mine. I do indeed
fear that all the thoughts I have harbored about her are vain and
"If you think this, my friend, of your own accord and natural
modesty, as it might be, my duty to you as an old fellow-campaigner
compels me to say -- "
"Quartermaster," interrupted the other, regarding his companion
keenly, "you and I have lived together much behind the ramparts of
forts, but very little in the open woods or in front of the enemy."
"Garrison or tent, it all passes for part of the same campaign, you
know, Pathfinder; and then my duty keeps me much within sight of
the storehouses, greatly contrary to my inclinations, as ye may well
suppose, having yourself the ardor of battle in your temperament.
But had ye heard what Mabel had just been saying of you, ye'd no
think another minute of making yourself agreeable to the saucy and
Pathfinder looked earnestly at the lieutenant, for it was impossible
he should not feel an interest in what might be Mabel's opinion;
but he had too much of the innate and true feeling of a gentleman
to ask to hear what another had said of him. Muir, however, was not
to be foiled by this self-denial and self-respect; for, believing
he had a man of great truth and simplicity to deal with, he determined
to practise on his credulity, as one means of getting rid of his
rivalry. He therefore pursued the subject, as soon as he perceived
that his companion's self-denial was stronger than his curiosity.
"You ought to know her opinion, Pathfinder," he continued; "and
I think every man ought to hear what his friends and acquaintances
say of him: and so, by way of proving my own regard for your character
and feelings, I'll just tell you in as few words as possible. You
know that Mabel has a wicked, malicious way with them eyes of her
own, when she has a mind to be hard upon one's feelings."
"To me her eyes, Lieutenant Muir, have always seemed winning and
soft, though I will acknowledge that they sometimes laugh; yes, I
have known them to laugh, and that right heartily, and with downright
"Well, it was just that then; her eyes were laughing with all their
might, as it were; and in the midst of all her fun, she broke out
with an exclamation to this effect: - I hope 'twill no' hurt your
"I will not say Quartermaster, I will not say. Mabel's opinion of
me is of no more account than that of most others."
"Then I'll no' tell ye, but just keep discretion on the subject;
and why should a man be telling another what his friends say of him,
especially when they happen to say that which may not be pleasant
to hear? I'll not add another word to this present communication."
"I cannot make you speak, Quartermaster, if you are not so minded,
and perhaps it is better for me not to know Mabel's opinion, as
you seem to think it is not in my favor. Ah's me! if we could be
what we wish to be, instead of being only what we are, there would
be a great difference in our characters and knowledge and appearance.
One may be rude and coarse and ignorant, and yet happy, if he does
not know it; but it is hard to see our own failings in the strongest
light, just as we wish to hear the least about them."
"That's just the _rationale_, as the French say, of the matter;
and so I was telling Mabel, when she ran away and left me. You
noticed the manner in which she skipped off as you approached?"
"It was very observable," answered Pathfinder, drawing a long breath
and clenching the barrel of his rifle as if the fingers would bury
themselves in the iron.
"It was more than observable -- it was flagrant; that's just the
word, and the dictionary wouldn't supply a better, after an hour's
search. Well, you must know, Pathfinder, -- for I cannot reasonably
deny you the gratification of hearing this, -- so you must know
the minx bounded off in that manner in preference to hearing what
I had to say in your justification."
"And what could you find to say in my behalf, Quartermaster?"
"Why, d'ye understand, my friend, I was ruled by circumstances, and
no' ventured indiscreetly into generalities, but was preparing to
meet particulars, as it might be, with particulars. If you were
thought wild, half-savage, or of a frontier formation, I could tell
her, ye know, that it came of the frontier, wild and half-savage
life ye'd led; and all her objections must cease at once, or there
would be a sort of a misunderstanding with Providence."
"And did you tell her this, Quartermaster?"
"I'll no' swear to the exact words, but the idea was prevalent in
my mind, ye'll understand. The girl was impatient, and would not
hear the half I had to say; but away she skipped, as ye saw with
your own eyes, Pathfinder, as if her opinion were fully made up,
and she cared to listen no longer. I fear her mind may be said to
have come to its conclusion?"
"I fear it has indeed, Quartermaster, and her father, after all, is
mistaken. Yes, yes; the Sergeant has fallen into a grievous error."
"Well, man, why need ye lament, and undo all the grand reputation
ye've been so many weary years making? Shoulder the rifle that ye
use so well, and off into the woods with ye, for there's not the
female breathing that is worth a heavy heart for a minute, as I
know from experience. Tak' the word of one who knows the sax, and
has had two wives, that women, after all, are very much the sort of
creatures we do not imagine them to be. Now, if you would really
mortify Mabel, here is as glorious an occasion as any rejected
lover could desire."
"The last wish I have, Lieutenant, would be to mortify Mabel."
"Well, ye'll come to that in the end, notwithstanding; for it's
human nature to desire to give unpleasant feelings to them that give
unpleasant feelings to us. But a better occasion never offered to
make your friends love you, than is to be had at this very moment,
and that is the certain means of causing one's enemies to envy us."
"Quartermaster, Mabel is not my inimy; and if she was, the last
thing I could desire would be to give her an uneasy moment."
"Ye say so, Pathfinder, ye say so, and I daresay ye think so; but
reason and nature are both against you, as ye'll find in the end.
Ye've heard the saying 'love me, love my dog:' well, now, that
means, read backwards, 'don't love me, don't love my dog.' Now,
listen to what is in your power to do. You know we occupy an
exceedingly precarious and uncertain position here, almost in the
jaws of the lion, as it were?"
"Do you mean the Frenchers by the lion, and this island as his
"Metaphorically only, my friend, for the French are no lions, and
this island is not a jaw -- unless, indeed, it may prove to be,
what I greatly fear may come true, the jaw-bone of an ass."
Here the Quartermaster indulged in a sneering laugh, that proclaimed
anything but respect and admiration for his friend Lundie's sagacity
in selecting that particular spot for his operations.
"The post is as well chosen as any I ever put foot in," said
Pathfinder, looking around him as one surveys a picture.
"I'll no' deny it, I'll no' deny it. Lundie is a great soldier,
in a small way; and his father was a great laird, with the same
qualification. I was born on the estate, and have followed the
Major so long that I've got to reverence all he says and does:
that's just my weakness, ye'll know, Pathfinder. Well, this post
may be the post of an ass, or of a Solomon, as men fancy; but it's
most critically placed, as is apparent by all Lundie's precautions
and injunctions. There are savages out scouting through these
Thousand Islands and over the forest, searching for this very
spot, as is known to Lundie himself, on certain information; and
the greatest service you can render the 55th is to discover their
trails and lead them off on a false scent. Unhappily Sergeant Dunham
has taken up the notion that the danger is to be apprehended from
up-stream, because Frontenac lies above us; whereas all experience
tells us that Indians come on the side which is most contrary to
reason, and, consequently, are to be expected from below. Take
your canoe, therefore, and go down-stream among the islands, that
we may have notice if any danger approaches from that quarter."
"The Big Sarpent is on the look-out in that quarter; and as he knows
the station well, no doubt he will give us timely notice, should
any wish to sarcumvent us in that direction."
"He is but an Indian, after all, Pathfinder; and this is an affair
that calls for the knowledge of a white man. Lundie will be eternally
grateful to the man who shall help this little enterprise to come
off with flying colors. To tell you the truth, my friend, he is
conscious it should never have been attempted; but he has too much
of the old laird's obstinacy about him to own an error, though it
be as manifest as the morning star."
The Quartermaster then continued to reason with his companion, in
order to induce him to quit the island without delay, using such
arguments as first suggested themselves, sometimes contradicting
himself, and not unfrequently urging at one moment a motive that at
the next was directly opposed by another. The Pathfinder, simple
as he was, detected these flaws in the Lieutenant's philosophy,
though he was far from suspecting that they proceeded from a desire
to clear the coast of Mabel's suitor. He did not exactly suspect
the secret objects of Muir, but he was far from being blind to
his sophistry. The result was that the two parted, after a long
dialogue, unconvinced, and distrustful of each other's motives,
though the distrust of the guide, like all that was connected with
the man, partook of his own upright, disinterested, and ingenuous
A conference that took place soon after between Sergeant Dunham
and the Lieutenant led to more consequences. When it was ended,
secret orders were issued to the men, the blockhouse was taken
possession of, the huts were occupied, and one accustomed to the
movements of soldiers might have detected that an expedition was
in the wind. In fact, just as the sun was setting, the Sergeant,
who had been much occupied at what was called the harbor, came
into his own hut, followed by Pathfinder and Cap; and as he took
his seat at the neat table which Mabel had prepared for him, he
opened the budget of his intelligence.
"You are likely to be of some use here, my child," the old soldier
commenced, "as this tidy and well-ordered supper can testify; and
I trust, when the proper moment arrives, you will show yourself to
be the descendant of those who know how to face their enemies."
"You do not expect me, dear father, to play Joan of Arc, and to
lead the men to battle?"
"Play whom, child? Did you ever hear of the person Mabel mentions,
"Not I, Sergeant; but what of that? I am ignorant and unedicated,
and it is too great a pleasure to me to listen to her voice, and
take in her words, to be particular about persons."
"I know her," said Cap decidedly; "she sailed a privateer out of
Morlaix in the last war; and good cruises she made of them."
Mabel blushed at having inadvertently made an allusion that went
beyond her father's reading, to say nothing of her uncle's dogmatism,
and, perhaps, a little at the Pathfinder's simple, ingenuous
earnestness; but she did not forbear the less to smile.
"Why, father, I am not expected to fall in with the men, and to
help defend the island?"
"And yet women have often done such things in this quarter of the
world, girl, as our friend, the Pathfinder here, will tell you.
But lest you should be surprised at not seeing us when you awake
in the morning, it is proper that I now tell you we intend to march
in the course of this very night."
"_We_, father! and leave me and Jennie on this island alone?"
"No, my daughter; not quite as unmilitary as that. We shall leave
Lieutenant Muir, brother Cap, Corporal M'Nab, and three men to
compose the garrison during our absence. Jennie will remain with
you in this hut, and brother Cap will occupy my place."
"And Mr. Muir?" said Mabel, half unconscious of what she uttered,
though she foresaw a great deal of unpleasant persecution in the
"Why, he can make love to you, if you like it, girl; for he is
an amorous youth, and, having already disposed of four wives, is
impatient to show how much he honors their memories by taking a
"The Quartermaster tells me," said Pathfinder innocently, "that
when a man's feelings have been harassed by so many losses, there
is no wiser way to soothe them than by ploughing up the soil anew,
in such a manner as to leave no traces of what have gone over it
"Ay, that is just the difference between ploughing and harrowing,"
returned the Sergeant, with a grim smile. "But let him tell Mabel
his mind, and there will be an end of his suit. I very well know
that _my_ daughter will never be the wife of Lieutenant Muir."
This was said in a way that was tantamount to declaring that
no daughter of his ever _should_ become the wife of the person in
question. Mabel had colored, trembled, half laughed, and looked
uneasy; but, rallying her spirit, she said, in a voice so cheerful
as completely to conceal her agitation, "But, father, we might
better wait until Mr. Muir manifests a wish that your daughter
would have him, or rather a wish to have your daughter, lest we
get the fable of sour grapes thrown into our faces."
"And what is that fable, Mabel?" eagerly demanded Pathfinder, who
was anything but learned in the ordinary lore of white men. "Tell
it to us, in your own pretty way; I daresay the Sergeant never
Mabel repeated the well-known fable, and, as her suitor had desired,
in her own pretty way, which was a way to keep his eyes riveted
on her face, and the whole of his honest countenance covered with
"That was like a fox!" cried Pathfinder, when she had ceased; "ay,
and like a Mingo, too, cunning and cruel; that is the way with both
the riptyles. As to grapes, they are sour enough in this part of
the country, even to them that can get at them, though I daresay
there are seasons and times and places where they are sourer to
them that can't. I should judge, now, my scalp is very sour in
"The sour grapes will be the other way, child, and it is Mr. Muir
who will make the complaint. You would never marry that man,
"Not she," put in Cap; "a fellow who is only half a soldier after
all. The story of them there grapes is quite a circumstance."
"I think little of marrying any one, dear father and dear uncle,
and would rather talk about it less, if you please. But, did I
think of marrying at all, I do believe a man whose affections have
already been tried by three or four wives would scarcely be my
The Sergeant nodded at the guide, as much as to say, You see how
the land lies; and then he had sufficient consideration for his
daughter's feelings to change the subject.
"Neither you nor Mabel, brother Cap," he resumed, "can have any
legal authority with the little garrison I leave behind on the
island; but you may counsel and influence. Strictly speaking,
Corporal M'Nab will be the commanding officer, and I have endeavored
to impress him with a sense of his dignity, lest he might give
way too much to the superior rank of Lieutenant Muir, who, being
a volunteer, can have no right to interfere with the duty. I wish
you to sustain the Corporal, brother Cap; for should the Quartermaster
once break through the regulations of the expedition, he may pretend
to command me, as well as M'Nab."
"More particularly, should Mabel really cut him adrift while you
are absent. Of course, Sergeant, you'll leave everything that is
afloat under my care? The most d----ble confusion has grown out
of misunderstandings between commanders-in-chief, ashore and afloat."
"In one sense, brother, though in a general way, the Corporal is
commander-in-chief. The Corporal must command; but you can counsel
freely, particularly in all matters relating to the boats, of which
I shall leave one behind to secure your retreat, should there be
occasion. I know the Corporal well; he is a brave man and a good
soldier; and one that may be relied on, if the Santa Cruz can be
kept from him. But then he is a Scotchman, and will be liable to
the Quartermaster's influence, against which I desire both you and
Mabel to be on your guard."
"But why leave us behind, dear father? I have come thus far to be
a comfort to you, and why not go farther?"
"You are a good girl, Mabel, and very like the Dunhams. But you
must halt here. We shall leave the island to-morrow, before the
day dawns, in order not to be seen by any prying eyes coming from
our cover, and we shall take the two largest boats, leaving you
the other and one bark canoe. We are about to go into the channel
used by the French, where we shall lie in wait, perhaps a week, to
intercept their supply-boats, which are about to pass up on their
way to Frontenac, loaded, in particular, with a heavy amount of
"Have you looked well to your papers, brother?" Cap anxiously
demanded. "Of course you know a capture on the high seas is piracy,
unless your boat is regularly commissioned, either as a public or
a private armed cruiser."
"I have the honor to hold the Colonel's appointment as sergeant-major
of the 55th," returned the other, drawing himself up with dignity,
"and that will be sufficient even for the French king. If not, I
have Major Duncan's written orders."
"No papers, then, for a warlike cruiser?"
"They must suffice, brother, as I have no other. It is of vast
importance to his Majesty's interests, in this part of the world,
that the boats in question should be captured and carried into
Oswego. They contain the blankets, trinkets, rifles, ammunition,
in short, all the stores with which the French bribe their accursed
savage allies to commit their unholy acts, setting at nought our
holy religion and its precepts, the laws of humanity, and all that
is sacred and dear among men. By cutting off these supplies we
shall derange their plans, and gain time on them; for the articles
cannot be sent across the ocean again this autumn."
"But, father, does not his Majesty employ Indians also?" asked
Mabel, with some curiosity.
"Certainly, girl, and he has a right to employ them --God bless him!
It's a very different thing whether an Englishman or a Frenchman
employs a savage, as everybody can understand."
"But, father, I cannot see that this alters the case. If it be
wrong in a Frenchman to hire savages to fight his enemies, it would
seem to be equally wrong in an Englishman. _You_ will admit this,
"It's reasonable, it's reasonable; and I have never been one of
them that has raised a cry ag'in the Frenchers for doing the very
thing we do ourselves. Still it is worse to consort with a Mingo
than to consort with a Delaware. If any of that just tribe were
left, I should think it no sin to send them out ag'in the foe."
"And yet they scalp and slay young and old, women and children!"
"They have their gifts, Mabel, and are not to be blamed for following
them; natur' is natur', though the different tribes have different
ways of showing it. For my part I am white, and endeavor to maintain
"This is all unintelligible to me," answered Mabel. "What is right
in King George, it would seem, ought to be right in King Louis."
As all parties, Mabel excepted, seemed satisfied with the course
the discussion had taken, no one appeared to think it necessary to
pursue the subject. Supper was no sooner ended than the Sergeant
dismissed his guests, and then held a long and confidential
dialogue with his daughter. He was little addicted to giving way
to the gentler emotions, but the novelty of his present situation
awakened feelings that he was unused to experience. The soldier
or the sailor, so long as he acts under the immediate supervision
of a superior, thinks little of the risks he runs, but the moment
he feels the responsibility of command, all the hazards of his
undertaking begin to associate themselves in his mind: with the chances
of success or failure. While he dwells less on his own personal
danger, perhaps, than when that is the principal consideration, he
has more lively general perceptions of all the risks, and submits
more to the influence of the feelings which doubt creates. Such
was now the case with Sergeant Dunham, who, instead of looking
forward to victory as certain, according to his usual habits, began
to feel the possibility that he might be parting with his child
Never before had Mabel struck him as so beautiful as she appeared
that night. Possibly she never had displayed so many engaging
qualities to her father; for concern on his account had begun to
be active in her breast; and then her sympathies met with unusual
encouragement through those which had been stirred up in the
sterner bosom of the veteran. She had never been entirely at her
ease with her parent, the great superiority of her education creating
a sort of chasm, which had been widened by the military severity
of manner he had acquired by dealing so long with beings who could
only be kept in subjection by an unremitted discipline. On the
present occasion, however, the conversation between the father and
daughter became more confidential than usual, until Mabel rejoiced
to find that it was gradually becoming endearing, a state of feeling
that the warm-hearted girl had silently pined for in vain ever
since her arrival.
"Then mother was about my height?" Mabel said, as she held one of
her father's hands in both her own, looking up into his face with
humid eyes. "I had thought her taller."
"That is the way with most children who get a habit of thinking of
their parents with respect, until they fancy them larger and more
commanding than they actually are. Your mother, Mabel, was as near
your height as one woman could be to another."
"And her eyes, father?"
"Her eyes were like thine, child, too; blue and soft, and inviting
like, though hardly so laughing."
"Mine will never laugh again, dearest father, if you do not take
care of yourself in this expedition."
"Thank you, Mabel -- hem -- thank you, child; but I must do my duty.
I wish I had seen you comfortably married before we left Oswego;
my mind would be easier."
"Married! -- to whom, father?"
"You know the man I wish you to love. You may meet with many gayer,
and many dressed in finer clother; but with none with so true a
heart and just a mind."
"I know of none; in these particulars Pathfinder has few equals at
"But I need not marry at all. You are single, and I can remain to
take care of you."
"God bless you, Mabel! I know you would, and I do not say that
the feeling is not right, for I suppose it is; and yet I believe
there is another that is more so."
"What can be more right than to honor one's parents?"
"It is just as right to honor one's husband, my dear child."
"But I have no husband, father."
"Then take one as soon as possible, that you may have a husband
to honor. I cannot live for ever, Mabel, but must drop off in the
course of nature ere long, if I am not carried off in the course of
war. You are young, and may yet live long; and it is proper that
you should have a male protector, who can see you safe through life,
and take care of you in age, as you now wish to take care of me."
"And do you think, father," said Mabel, playing with his sinewy
fingers with her own little hands, and looking down at them, as if
they were subjects of intense interest, though her lips curled in
a slight smile as the words came from them, -- "and do you think,
father, that Pathfinder is just the man to do this? Is he not,
within ten or twelve years, as old as yourself?"
"What of that? His life has been one of moderation and exercise,
and years are less to be counted, girl, than constitution. Do you
know another more likely to be your protector?"
Mabel did not; at least another who had expressed a desire to that
effect, whatever might have been her hopes and her wishes.
"Nay, father, we are not talking of another, but of the Pathfinder,"
she answered evasively. "If he were younger, I think it would be
more natural for me to think of him for a husband."
"'Tis all in the constitution, I tell you, child; Pathfinder is a
younger man than half our subalterns."
"He is certainly younger than one, sir -- Lieutenant Muir."
Mabel's laugh was joyous and light-hearted, as if just then she
felt no care.
"That he is -- young enough to be his grandson; he is younger
in years, too. God forbid, Mabel, that you should ever become an
officer's lady, at least until you are an officer's daughter!"
"There will be little fear of that, father, if I marry Pathfinder,"
returned the girl, looking up archly in the Sergeant's face again.
"Not by the king's commission, perhaps, though the man is even now
the friend and companion of generals. I think I could die happy,
Mabel, if you were his wife."
"'Tis a sad thing to go into battle with the weight of an unprotected
daughter laid upon the heart."
"I would give the world to lighten yours of its load, my dear sir."
"It might be done," said the Sergeant, looking fondly at his child;
"though I could not wish to put a burthen on yours in order to do
The voice was deep and tremulous, and never before had Mabel witnessed
such a show of affection in her parent. The habitual sternness of
the man lent an interest to his emotions which they might otherwise
have wanted, and the daughter's heart yearned to relieve the father's
"Father, speak plainly!" she cried, almost convulsively.
"Nay, Mabel, it might not be right; your wishes and mine may be
"I have no wishes -- know nothing of what you mean. Would you
speak of my future marriage?"
"If I could see you promised to Pathfinder -- know that you were
pledged to become his wife, let my own fate be what it might, I
think I could die happy. But I will ask no pledge of you, my child;
I will not force you to do what you might repent. Kiss me, Mabel,
and go to your bed."
Had Sergeant Dunham exacted of Mabel the pledge that he really so
much desired, he would have encountered a resistance that he might
have found it difficult to overcome; but, by letting nature have
its course, he enlisted a powerful ally on his side, and the
warm-hearted, generous-minded Mabel was ready to concede to her
affections much more than she would ever have yielded to menace.
At that touching moment she thought only of her parent, who was
about to quit her, perhaps for ever; and all of that ardent love
for him, which had possibly been as much fed by the imagination
as by anything else, but which had received a little check by the
restrained intercourse of the last fortnight, now returned with a
force that was increased by pure and intense feeling. Her father
seemed all in all to her, and to render him happy there was no
proper sacrifice which she was not ready to make. One painful,
rapid, almost wild gleam of thought shot across the brain of the
girl, and her resolution wavered; but endeavoring to trace the
foundation of the pleasing hope on which it was based, she found
nothing positive to support it. Trained like a woman to subdue
her most ardent feelings, her thoughts reverted to her father, and
to the blessings that awaited the child who yielded to a parent's
"Father," she said quietly, almost with a holy calm, "God blesses
the dutiful daughter."
"He will, Mabel; we have the Good Book for that."
"I will marry whomever you desire."
"Nay, nay, Mabel, you may have a choice of your own -- "
"I have no choice; that is, none have asked me to have a choice,
but Pathfinder and Mr. Muir; and between _them_, neither of us
would hesitate. No, father; I will marry whomever you may choose."
"Thou knowest my choice, beloved child; none other can make thee
as happy as the noble-hearted guide."
"Well, then, if he wish it, if he ask me again -- for, father,
you would not have me offer myself, or that any one should do that
office for me," and the blood stole across the pallid cheeks of
Mabel as she spoke, for high and generous resolutions had driven
back the stream of life to her heart; "no one must speak to him
of it; but if he seek me again, and, knowing all that a true girl
ought to tell the man she marries, he then wishes to make me his
wife, I will be his."
"Bless you, my Mabel! God in heaven bless you, and reward you as
a pious daughter deserves to be rewarded!"
"Yes, father, put your mind at peace; go on this expedition with a
light heart, and trust in God. For me you will have now no care.
In the spring -- I must have a little time, father -- but in the
spring I will marry Pathfinder, if that noble-hearted hunter shall
then desire it."
"Mabel, he loves you as I loved your mother. I have seen him weep
like a child when speaking of his feelings towards you."
"Yes, I believe it; I've seen enough to satisfy me that he thinks
better of me than I deserve; and certainly the man is not living
for whom I have more respect than for Pathfinder; not even for you,
"That is as it should be, child, and the union will be blessed.
May I not tell Pathfinder this?"
"I would rather you would not, father. Let it come of itself, come
naturally." The smile that illuminated Mabel's handsome face was
angelic, as even her parent thought, though one better practised
in detecting the passing emotions, as they betray themselves in
the countenance, might have traced something wild and unnatural
in it. "No, no, _we_ must let things take their course; father,
you have my solemn promise."
"That will do, that will do, Mabel, now kiss me. God bless and
protect you, girl! you are a good daughter."
Mabel threw herself into her father's arms -- it was the first time
in her life -- and sobbed on his bosom like an infant. The stern
soldier's heart was melted, and the tears of the two mingled; but
Sergeant Dunham soon started, as if ashamed of himself, and, gently
forcing his daughter from him, he bade her good-night, and sought
his pallet. Mabel went sobbing to the rude corner that had
been prepared for her reception; and in a few minutes the hut was
undisturbed by any sound, save the heavy breathing of the veteran.
Wandering, I found on my ruinous walk,
By the dial stone, aged and green,
One rose of the wilderness, left on its stalk,
To mark where a garden had been.
It was not only broad daylight when Mabel awoke, but the sun had
actually been up some time. Her sleep had been tranquil, for she
rested on an approving conscience, and fatigue contributed to render
it sweet; and no sound of those who had been so early in motion
had interfered with her rest. Springing to her feet and rapidly
dressing herself, the girl was soon breathing the fragrance of
the morning in the open air. For the first time she was sensibly
struck with the singular beauties, as well as with the profound
retirement, of her present situation. The day proved to be one of
those of the autumnal glory, so common to a climate that is more
abused than appreciated, and its influence was every way inspiriting
and genial. Mabel was benefitted by this circumstance; for, as she
fancied, her heart was heavy on account of the dangers to which a
father, whom she now began to love as women love when confidence
is created, was exposed.
But the island seemed absolutely deserted. The previous night,
the bustle of the arrival had given the spot an appearance of life
which was now entirely gone; and our heroine had turned her eyes
nearly around on every object in sight, before she caught a view of
a single human being to remove the sense of utter solitude. Then,
indeed, she beheld all who were left behind, collected in a group
around a fire which might be said to belong to the camp. The
person of her uncle, to whom she was so much accustomed, reassured
Mabel; and she examined the remainder with a curiosity natural to
her situation. Besides Cap and the Quartermaster, there were the
Corporal, the three soldiers, and the woman who was cooking. The
huts were silent and empty; and the low but tower-like summit of
the blockhouse rose above the bushes, by which it was half concealed,
in picturesque beauty. The sun was just casting its brightness
into the open places of the glade, and the vault over her head
was impending in the soft sublimity of the blue void. Not a cloud
was visible, and she secretly fancied the circumstance might be
taken as a harbinger of peace and security.
Perceiving that all the others were occupied with that great concern
of human nature, a breakfast, Mabel walked, unobserved, towards
an end of the island where she was completely shut out of view by
the trees and bushes. Here she got a stand on the very edge of
the water, by forcing aside the low branches, and stood watching
the barely perceptible flow and re-flow of the miniature waves
which laved the shore; a sort of physical echo to the agitation
that prevailed on the lake fifty miles above her. The glimpses of
natural scenery that offered were very soft and pleasing; and our
heroine, who had a quick eye for all that was lovely in nature,
was not slow in selecting the most striking bits of landscape. She
gazed through the different vistas formed by the openings between
the islands, and thought she had never looked on aught more lovely.
While thus occupied, Mabel was suddenly alarmed by fancying that
she caught a glimpse of a human form among the bushes that lined
the shore of the island which lay directly before her. The distance
across the water was not a hundred yards; and, though she might be
mistaken, and her fancy was wandering when the form passed before
her sight, still she did not think she could be deceived. Aware
that her sex would be no protection against a rifle bullet, should
an Iroquois get a view of her, the girl instinctively drew back,
taking care to conceal her person as much as possible by the leaves,
while she kept her own look riveted on the opposite shore, vainly
waiting for some time in the expectation of the stranger. She was
about to quit her post in the bushes and hasten to her uncle, in
order to acquaint him of her suspicions, when she saw the branch
of an alder thrust beyond the fringe of bushes on the other island,
and waved towards her significantly, and as she fancied in token
of amity. This was a breathless and a trying moment to one as
inexperienced in frontier warfare as our heroine and yet she felt
the great necessity that existed for preserving her recollection,
and of acting with steadiness and discretion.
It was one of the peculiarities of the exposure to which those who
dwelt on the frontiers of America were liable, to bring out the
moral qualities of the women to a degree which they must themselves,
under other circumstances, have believed they were incapable of
manifesting; and Mabel well knew that the borderers loved to dwell
in their legends on the presence of mind, fortitude, and spirit that
their wives and sisters had displayed under circumstances the most
trying. Her emulation had been awakened by what she had heard on
such subjects; and it at once struck her that now was the moment
for her to show that she was truly Sergeant Dunham's child. The
motion of the branch was such as she believed indicated amity; and,
after a moment's hesitation, she broke off a twig, fastened it to
a stick and, thrusting it through an opening, waved it in return,
imitating as closely as possible the manner of the other.
This dumb show lasted two or three minutes on both sides, when Mabel
perceived that the bushes opposite were cautiously pushed aside,
and a human face appeared at an opening. A glance sufficed to
let Mabel see that it was the countenance of a red-skin, as well
as that of a woman. A second and a better look satisfied her that
it was the face of the Dew-of-June, the wife of Arrowhead. During
the time she had travelled in company with this woman, Mabel had
been won by the gentleness of manner, the meek simplicity, and
the mingled awe and affection with which she regarded her husband.
Once or twice in the course of the journey she fancied the Tuscarora
had manifested towards herself an unpleasant degree of attention;
and on those occasions it had struck her that his wife exhibited
sorrow and mortification. As Mabel, however, had more than compensated
for any pain she might in this way unintentionally have caused her
companion, by her own kindness of manner and attentions, the woman
had shown much attachment to her, and they had parted, with a deep
conviction on the mind of our heroine that in the Dew-of-June she
had lost a friend.
It is useless to attempt to analyze all the ways by which the
human heart is led into confidence. Such a feeling, however, had
the young Tuscarora woman awakened in the breast of our heroine;
and the latter, under the impression that this extraordinary visit
was intended for her own good, felt every disposition to have a
closer communication. She no longer hesitated about showing herself
clear of the bushes, and was not sorry to see the Dew-of-June imitate
her confidence, by stepping fearlessly out of her own cover. The
two girls, for the Tuscarora, though married, was even younger than
Mabel, now openly exchanged signs of friendship, and the latter
beckoned to her friend to approach, though she knew not the manner
herself in which this object could be effected. But the Dew-of-June
was not slow in letting it be seen that it was in her power; for,
disappearing in a moment, she soon showed herself again in the end
of a bark canoe, the bows of which she had drawn to the edge of
the bushes, and of which the body still lay in a sort of covered
creek. Mabel was about to invite her to cross, when her own name
was called aloud in the stentorian voice of her uncle. Making a
hurried gesture for the Tuscarora girl to conceal herself, Mabel
sprang from the bushes and tripped up the glade towards the sound,
and perceived that the whole party had just seated themselves
at breakfast; Cap having barely put his appetite under sufficient
restraint to summon her to join them. That this was the most
favorable instant for the interview flashed on the mind of Mabel;
and, excusing herself on the plea of not being prepared for the meal,
she bounded back to the thicket, and soon renewed her communications
with the young Indian woman.
Dew-of-June was quick of comprehension; and with half a dozen noiseless
strokes of the paddles, her canoe was concealed in the bushes of
Station Island. In another minute, Mabel held her hand, and was
leading her through the grove towards her own hut. Fortunately
the latter was so placed as to be completely hid from the sight
of those at the fire, and they both entered it unseen. Hastily
explaining to her guest, in the best manner she could, the
necessity of quitting her for a short time, Mabel, first placing
the Dew-of-June in her own room, with a full certainty that she
would not quit it until told to do so, went to the fire and took
her seat among the rest, with all the composure it was in her power
"Late come, late served, Mabel," said her uncle, between mouthfuls
of broiled salmon; for though the cookery might be very unsophisticated
on that remote frontier, the viands were generally delicious, --
"late come, late served; it is a good rule, and keeps laggards up
to their work."
"I am no laggard, Uncle; for I have been stirring nearly an hour,
and exploring our island."
"It's little you'll make o' that, Mistress Mabel," put in Muir;
"that's little by nature. Lundie -- or it might be better to style
him Major Duncan in this presence" (this was said in consideration
of the corporal and the common men, though they were taking their
meal a little apart) --"has not added an empire to his Majesty's
dominions in getting possession of this island, which is likely
to equal that of the celebrated Sancho in revenues and profits
--Sancho, of whom, doubtless, Master Cap, you'll often have been
reading in your leisure hours, more especially in calms and moments
"I know the spot you mean, Quartermaster; Sancho's Island -- coral
rock, of new formation, and as bad a landfall, in a dark night and
blowing weather, as a sinner could wish to keep clear of. It's
a famous place for cocoanuts and bitter water, that Sancho's Island."
"It's no' very famous for dinners," returned Muir, repressing the
smile which was struggling to his lips out of respect to Mabel;
"nor do I think there'll be much to choose between its revenue
and that of this spot. In my judgment, Master Cap, this is a very
unmilitary position, and I look to some calamity befalling it,
sooner or later."
"It is to be hoped not until our turn of duty is over," observed
Mabel. "I have no wish to study the French language."
"We might think ourselves happy, did it not prove to be the
Iroquois. I have reasoned with Major Duncan on the occupation
of this position, but 'a wilfu' man maun ha' his way.' My first
object in accompanying this party was to endeavor to make myself
acceptable and useful to your beautiful niece, Master Cap; and
the second was to take such an account of the stores that belong
to my particular department as shall leave no question open to
controversy, concerning the manner of expenditure, when they shall
have disappeared by means of the enemy."
"Do you look upon matters as so serious?" demanded Cap, actually
suspending his mastication of a bit of venison -- for he passed
alternately from fish to flesh and back again -- in the interest
he took in the answer. "Is the danger pressing?"
"I'll no' say just that; and I'll no' say just the contrary. There
is always danger in war, and there is more of it at the advanced
posts than at the main encampment. It ought, therefore, to occasion
no surprise were we to be visited by the French at any moment."
"And what the devil is to be done in that case? Six men and two
women would make but a poor job in defending such a place as this,
should the enemy invade us; as, no doubt, Frenchman-like, they
would take very good care to come strong-handed."
"That we may depend on -- some very formidable force at the
very lowest. A military disposition might be made in defence of
the island, out of all question, and according to the art of war,
though we would probably fail in the force necessary to carry out
the design in any very creditable manner. In the first place, a
detachment should be sent off to the shore, with orders to annoy
the enemy in landing; a strong party ought instantly to be thrown
into the blockhouse, as the citadel, for on that all the different
detachments would naturally fall back for support, as the French
advanced; and an entrenched camp might be laid out around the
stronghold, as it would be very unmilitary indeed to let the foe get
near enough to the foot of the walls to mine them. Chevaux-de-frise
would keep the cavalry in check; and as for the artillery, redoubts
should be thrown up under cover of yon woods. Strong skirmishing
parties, moreover, would be exceedingly serviceable in retarding
the march of the enemy; and these different huts, if properly
piqueted and ditched, would be converted into very eligible positions
for that object."
"Whe-e-e-w-, Quartermaster! And who the d---l is to find all the
men to carry out such a plan?"
"The king, out of all question, Master Cap. It is his quarrel,
and it's just he should bear the burthen o' it."
"And we are only six! This is fine talking, with a vengeance.
You could be sent down to the shore to oppose the landing, Mabel
might skirmish with her tongue at least, the soldier's wife might
act chevaux-de-frise to entangle the cavalry, the corporal should
command the entrenched camp, his three men could occupy the five
huts, and I would take the blockhouse. Whe-e-e-w! you describe well,
Lieutenant; and should have been a limner instead of a soldier."
"Na, I've been very literal and upright in my exposition of matters.
That there is no greater force here to carry out the plan is a
fault of his Majesty's ministers, and none of mine."
"But should our enemy really appear," asked Mabel, with more interest
than she might have shown, had she not remembered the guest in the
hut, "what course ought we to pursue?"
"My advice would be to attempt to achieve that, pretty Mabel, which
rendered Xenophon so justly celebrated."
"I think you mean a retreat, though I half guess at your allusion."
"You've imagined my meaning from the possession of a strong native
sense, young lady. I am aware that your worthy father has pointed
out to the Corporal certain modes and methods by which he fancies
this island could be held, in case the French should discover its
position; but the excellent Sergeant, though your father, and as
good a man in his duties as ever wielded a spontoon, is not the
great Lord Stair, or even the Duke of Marlborough. I'll not deny
the Sergeant's merits in his particular sphere; though I cannot
exaggerate qualities, however excellent, into those of men who
may be in some trifling degree his superiors. Sergeant Dunham has
taken counsel of his heart, instead of his head, in resolving to
issue such orders; but, if the fort fall, the blame will lie on
him that ordered it to be occupied, and not on him whose duty it
was to defend it. Whatever may be the determination of the latter,
should the French and their allies land, a good commander never
neglects the preparations necessary to effect a retreat; and I would
advise Master Cap, who is the admiral of our navy, to have a boat
in readiness to evacuate the island, if need comes to need. The
largest boat that we have left carries a very ample sail; and by
hauling it round here, and mooring it under those bushes, there will
be a convenient place for a hurried embarkation; and then you'll
perceive, pretty Mabel, that it is scarcely fifty yards before we
shall be in a channel between two other islands, and hid from the
sight of those who may happen to be on this."
"All that you say is very true, Mr. Muir; but may not the French
come from that quarter themselves? If it is so good for a retreat,
it is equally good for an advance."
"They'll no' have the sense to do so discreet a thing," returned
Muir, looking furtively and a little uneasily around him; "they'll
no' have sufficient discretion. Your French are a head-over-heels
nation, and usually come forward in a random way; so we may look
for them, if they come at all, on the other side of the island."
The discourse now became exceedingly desultory, touching principally,
however, on the probabilities of an invasion, and the best means
of meeting it.
To most of this Mabel paid but little attention; though she felt
some surprise that Lieutenant Muir, an officer whose character for
courage stood well, should openly recommend an abandonment of what
appeared to her to be doubly a duty, her father's character being
connected with the defence of the island. Her mind, however, was
so much occupied with her guest, that, seizing the first favorable
moment, she left the table, and was soon in her own hut again.
Carefully fastening the door, and seeing that the simple curtain
was drawn before the single little window, Mabel next led the
Dew-of-June, or June, as she was familiarly termed by those who spoke
to her in English, into the outer room, making signs of affection
"I am glad to see you, June," said Mabel, with one of her sweetest
smiles, and in her own winning voice, -- "very glad to see you.
What has brought you hither, and how did you discover the island?"
"Speak slow," said June, returning smile for smile, and pressing
the little hand she held with one of her own that was scarcely
larger, though it had been hardened by labor; "more slow -- too
Mabel repeated her questions, endeavoring to repress the impetuosity
of her feelings; and she succeeded in speaking so distinctly as to
"June, friend," returned the Indian woman.
"I believe you, June -- from my soul I believe you; what has this
to do with your visit?"
"Friend come to see friend," answered June, again smiling openly
in the other's face.
"There is some other reason, June, else would you never run this
risk, and alone. You are alone, June?"
"June wid you, no one else. June come alone, paddle canoe."
"I hope so, I think so -- nay, I know so. You would not be
treacherous with me, June?"
"You would not betray me, would not give me to the French, to the
Iroquois, to Arrowhead?"
June shook her head earnestly.
"You would not sell my scalp?"
Here June passed her arm fondly around the slender waist of Mabel
and pressed her to her heart with a tenderness and affection that
brought tears into the eyes of our heroine. It was done in the
fond caressing manner of a woman, and it was scarcely possible
that it should not obtain credit for sincerity with a young and
ingenuous person of the same sex. Mabel returned the pressure,
and then held the other off at the length of her arm, looked her
steadily in the face, and continued her inquiries.
"If June has something to tell her friend, let her speak plainly,"
she said. "My ears are open."
"June 'fraid Arrowhead kill her."
"But Arrowhead will never know it." Mabel's blood mounted to her
temples as she said this; for she felt that she was urging a wife
to be treacherous to her husband. "That is, Mabel will not tell
"He bury tomahawk in June's head."
"That must never be, dear June; I would rather you should say no
more than run this risk."
"Blockhouse good place to sleep, good place to stay."
"Do you mean that I may save my life by keeping in the blockhouse,
June? Surely, surely, Arrowhead will not hurt you for telling me
that. He cannot wish me any great harm, for I never injured him."
"Arrowhead wish no harm to handsome pale-face," returned June,
averting her face; and, though she always spoke in the soft, gentle
voice of an Indian girl, now permitting its notes to fall so low
as to cause them to sound melancholy and timid. "Arrowhead love
Mabel blushed, she knew not why, and for a moment her questions were
repressed by a feeling of inherent delicacy. But it was necessary
to know more, for her apprehensions had been keenly awakened, and
she resumed her inquiries.
"Arrowhead can have no reason to love or to hate _me_," she said.
"Is he near you?"
"Husband always near wife, here," said June, laying her hand on
"Excellent creature! But tell me, June, ought I to keep in the
blockhouse to-day -- this morning -- now?"
"Blockhouse very good; good for women. Blockhouse got no scalp."
"I fear I understand you only too well, June. Do you wish to see
"No here; gone away."
"You cannot know that, June; you see the island is full of his
"No full; gone away," -- here June held up four of her fingers, --
"so many red-coats."
"And Pathfinder? would you not like to see the Pathfinder? He can
talk to you in the Iroquois tongue."
"Tongue gone wid him," said June, laughing; "keep tongue in his
There was something so sweet and contagious in the infantile laugh
of an Indian girl, that Mabel could not refrain from joining in
it, much as her fears were aroused by all that had passed.
"You appear to know, or to think you know, all about us, June. But
if Pathfinder be gone, Eau-douce can speak French too. You know
Eau-douce; shall I run and bring him to talk with you?"
"Eau-douce gone too, all but heart; that there." As June said this,
she laughed again; looked in different directions, as if unwilling
to confuse the other, and laid her hand on Mabel's bosom.
Our heroine had often heard of the wonderful sagacity of the Indians,
and of the surprising manner in which they noted all things, while
they appeared to regard none; but she was scarcely prepared for
the direction the discourse had so singularly taken. Willing to
change it, and at the same time truly anxious to learn how great
the danger that impended over them might really be, she rose from
the camp-stool on which she had been seated; and, by assuming an
attitude of less affectionate confidence, she hoped to hear more
of that she really desired to learn, and to avoid allusions to that
which she found so embarrassing.
"You know how much or how little you ought to tell me, June," she
said; "and I hope you love me well enough to give me the information
I ought to hear. My dear uncle, too, is on the island, and you
are, or ought to be, his friend as well as mine; and both of us
will remember your conduct when we get back to Oswego."
"Maybe, never get back; who know?" This was said doubtingly, or as
one who lays down an uncertain proposition, and not with a taunt,
or a desire to alarm.
"No one knows what will happen but God. Our lives are in His hands.
Still, I think you are to be His instrument in saving us."
This passed June's comprehension, and she only looked her ignorance;
for it was evident she wished to be of use.
"Blockhouse very good," she repeated, as soon as her countenance
ceased to express uncertainty, laying strong emphasis on the last
"Well, I understand this, June, and will sleep in it to-night. Of
course I am to tell my uncle what you have said?"
The Dew-of-June started, and she discovered a very manifest uneasiness
at the interrogatory.
"No, no, no, no!" she answered, with a volubility and vehemence
that was imitated from the French of the Canadas; "no good to tell
Saltwater. He much talk and long tongue. Thinks woods all water,
understand not'ing. Tell Arrowhead, and June die."
"You do my dear uncle injustice, for he would be as little likely
to betray you as any one."
"No understand. Saltwater got tongue, but no eyes, no ears, no
nose -- not'ing but tongue, tongue, tongue!"
Although Mabel did not exactly coincide in this opinion, she saw
that Cap had not the confidence of the young Indian woman, and that
it was idle to expect she would consent to his being admitted to
"You appear to think you know our situation pretty well, June,"
Mabel continued; "have you been on the island before this visit?"
"How then do you know that what you say is true? My father, the
Pathfinder, and Eau-douce may all be here within sound of my voice,
if I choose to call them."
"All gone," said June positively, smiling good-humoredly at the
"Nay, this is more than you can say certainly, not having been over
the island to examine it."
"Got good eyes; see boat with men go away -- see ship with Eau-douce."
"Then you have been some time watching us: I think, however, you
have not counted them that remain."
June laughed, held up her four fingers again, and then pointed to
her two thumbs; passing a finger over the first, she repeated the
words "red-coats;" and touching the last, she added, "Saltwater,"
"Quartermaster." All this was being very accurate, and Mabel began
to entertain serious doubts as to the propriety of her permitting
her visitor to depart without her becoming more explicit. Still
it was so repugnant to her feelings to abuse the confidence this
gentle and affectionate creature had evidently reposed in her, that
Mabel had no sooner admitted the thought of summoning her uncle,
than she rejected it as unworthy of herself and unjust to her
friend. To aid this good resolution, too, there was the certainty
that June would reveal nothing, but take refuge in a stubborn
silence, if any attempt were made to coerce her.
"You think, then, June," Mabel continued, as soon as these thoughts had
passed through her mind, "that I had better live in the blockhouse?"
"Good place for woman. Blockhouse got no scalp. Logs t'ick."
"You speak confidently, June; as if you had been in it, and had
measured its walls."
June laughed; and she looked knowing, though she said nothing.
"Does any one but yourself know how to find this island? Have any
of the Iroquois seen it?"
June looked sad, and she cast her eyes warily about her, as if
distrusting a listener.
"Tuscarora, everywhere -- Oswego, here, Frontenac, Mohawk --
everywhere. If he see June, kill her."
"But we thought that no one knew of this island, and that we had
no reason to fear our enemies while on it."
"Much eye, Iroquois."
"Eyes will not always do, June, This spot is hid from ordinary
sight, and few of even our own people know how to find it."
"One man can tell; some Yengeese talk French."
Mabel felt a chill at her heart. All the suspicions against
Jasper, which she had hitherto disdained entertaining, crowded in
a body on her thoughts; and the sensation that they brought was so
sickening, that for an instant she imagined she was about to faint.
Arousing herself, and remembering her promise to her father, she
arose and walked up and down the hut for a minute, fancying that
Jasper's delinquencies were naught to her, though her inmost heart
yearned with the desire to think him innocent.
"I understand your meaning, June," she then said; "you wish me to
know that some one has treacherously told your people where and how
to find the island?"
June laughed, for in her eyes artifice in war was oftener a merit
than a crime; but she was too true to her tribe herself to say
more than the occasion required. Her object was to save Mabel,
and Mabel only; and she saw no sufficient reason for "travelling
out of the record," as the lawyers express it, in order to do
"Pale-face know now," she added. "Blockhouse good for girl, no
matter for men and warriors."
"But it is much matter with me, June; for one of those men is my
uncle, whom I love, and the others are my countrymen and friends.
I must tell them what has passed."
"Then June be kill," returned the young Indian quietly, though she
evidently spoke with concern.
"No; they shall not know that you have been here. Still, they must
be on their guard, and we can all go into the blockhouse."
"Arrowhead know, see everything, and June be kill. June come to
tell young pale-face friend, not to tell men. Every warrior watch
his own scalp. June woman, and tell woman; no tell men."
Mabel was greatly distressed at this declaration of her wild
friend, for it was now evident the young creature understood that
her communication was to go no further. She was ignorant how far
these people consider the point of honor interested in her keeping
the secret; and most of all was she unable to say how far any
indiscretion of her own might actually commit June and endanger her
life. All these considerations flashed on her mind, and reflection
only rendered their influence more painful. June, too, manifestly
viewed the matter gravely; for she began to gather up the
different little articles she had dropped in taking Mabel's hand,
and was preparing to depart. To attempt detaining her was out of
the question; and to part from her, after all she had hazarded to
serve her, was repugnant to all the just and kind feelings of our
"June," said she eagerly, folding her arms round the gentle but
uneducated being, "we are friends. From me you have nothing to
fear, for no one shall know of your visit. If you could give me
some signal just before the danger comes, some sign by which to
know when to go into the blockhouse, how to take care of myself."
June paused, for she had been in earnest in her intention to depart;
and then she said quietly, "Bring June pigeon."
"A pigeon! Where shall I find a pigeon to bring you?"
"Next hut; bring old one; June go to canoe."
"I think I understand you, June; but had I not better lead you back
to the bushes, lest you meet some of the men?"
"Go out first; count men, one, two, t'ree, four, five, six" - here
June held up her fingers, and laughed -- "all out of the way --
good; all but one, call him one side. Then sing, and fetch pigeon."
Mabel smiled at the readiness and ingenuity of the girl, and prepared
to execute her requests. At the door, however, she stopped, and
looked back entreatingly at the Indian woman. "Is there no hope
of your telling me more, June?" she said.
"Know all now, blockhouse good, pigeon tell, Arrowhead kill."
The last words sufficed; for Mabel could not urge further
communications, when her companion herself told her that the penalty
of her revelations might be death by the hand of her husband.
Throwing open the door, she made a sign of adieu to June, and went
out of the hut. Mabel resorted to the simple expedient of the young
Indian girl to ascertain the situation of the different individuals
on the island. Instead of looking about her with the intention
of recognizing faces and dresses, she merely counted them; and
found that three still remained at the fire, while two had gone to
the boat, one of whom was Mr. Muir. The sixth man was her uncle; and
he was coolly arranging some fishing-tackle at no great distance
from the fire. The woman was just entering her own hut; and
this accounted for the whole party. Mabel now, affecting to have
dropped something, returned nearly to the hut she had left, warbling
an air, stooped as if to pick up some object from the ground, and
hurried towards the hut June had mentioned. This was a dilapidated
structure, and it had been converted by the soldiers of the last
detachment into a sort of storehouse for their live stock. Among
other things, it contained a few dozen pigeons, which were regaling
on a pile of wheat that had been brought off from one of the farms
plundered on the Canada shore. Mabel had not much difficulty in
catching one of these pigeons, although they fluttered and flew
about the hut with a noise like that of drums; and, concealing it
in her dress, she stole back towards her own hut with the prize.
It was empty; and, without doing more than cast a glance in at
the door, the eager girl hurried down to the shore. She had no
difficulty in escaping observation, for the trees and bushes made
a complete cover to her person. At the canoe she found June, who
took the pigeon, placed it in a basket of her own manufacturing,
and, repeating the words, "blockhouse good," she glided out of the
bushes and across the narrow passage, as noiselessly as she had
come. Mabel waited some time to catch a signal of leave-taking or
amity after her friend had landed, but none was given. The adjacent
islands, without exception, were as quiet as if no one had ever
disturbed the sublime repose of nature, and nowhere could any sign
or symptom be discovered, as Mabel then thought, that might denote
the proximity of the sort of danger of which June had given notice.
On returning, however, from the shore, Mabel was struck with
a little circumstance, that, in an ordinary situation, would have
attracted no attention, but which, now that her suspicions had been
aroused, did not pass before her uneasy eye unnoticed. A small
piece of red bunting, such as is used in the ensigns of ships, was
fluttering at the lower branch of a small tree, fastened in a way
to permit it to blow out, or to droop like a vessel's pennant.
Now that Mabel's fears were awakened, June herself could not have
manifested greater quickness in analyzing facts that she believed
might affect the safety of the party. She saw at a glance that
this bit of cloth could be observed from an adjacent island; that
it lay so near the line between her own hut and the canoe as to
leave no doubt that June had passed near it, if not directly under
it; and that it might be a signal to communicate some important
fact connected with the mode of attack to those who were probably
lying in ambush near them. Tearing the little strip of bunting
from the tree, Mabel hastened on, scarcely knowing what her duty
next required of her. June might be false to her, but her manner,
her looks, her affection, and her disposition as Mabel had known
it in the journey, forbade the idea. Then came the allusion to
Arrowhead's admiration of the pale-face beauties, some dim recollections
of the looks of the Tuscarora, and a painful consciousness that few
wives could view with kindness one who had estranged a husband's
affections. None of these images were distinct and clear, but
they rather gleamed over the mind of our heroine than rested in
it, and they quickened her pulses, as they did her step, without
bringing with them the prompt and clear decisions that usually
followed her reflections. She had hurried onwards towards the hut
occupied by the soldier's wife, intending to remove at once to the
blockhouse with the woman, though she could persuade no other to
follow, when her impatient walk was interrupted by the voice of
"Whither so fast, pretty Mabel?" he cried; "and why so given to
solitude? The worthy Sergeant will deride my breeding, if he hear
that his daughter passes the mornings alone and unattended to, though
he well knows it is my ardent wish to be her slave and companion
from the beginning of the year to its end."
"Surely, Mr. Muir, you must have some authority here?" Mabel suddenly
arrested her steps to say. "One of your rank would be listened
to, at least, by a corporal?"
"I don't know that, I don't know that," interrupted Muir, with an
impatience and appearance of alarm that might have excited Mabel's
attention at another moment. "Command is command; discipline,
discipline; and authority, authority. Your good father would
be sore grieved did he find me interfering to sully or carry off
the laurels he is about to win; and I cannot command the Corporal
without equally commanding the Sergeant. The wisest way will
be for me to remain in the obscurity of a private individual in
this enterprise; and it is so that all parties, from Lundie down,
understand the transaction."
"This I know, and it may be well, nor would I give my dear father
any cause of complaint; but you may influence the Corporal to his
"I'll no' say that," returned Muir in his sly Scotch way; "it would
be far safer to promise to influence him to his injury. Mankind,
pretty Mabel, have their peculiarities; and to influence a
fellow-being to his own good is one of the most difficult tasks of
human nature, while the opposite is just the easiest. You'll no'
forget this, my dear, but bear it in mind for your edification and
government. But what is that you're twisting round your slender
finger as you may be said to twist hearts?"
"It is nothing but a bit of cloth -- a sort of flag -- a trifle
that is hardly worth our attention at this grave moment. If -- "
"A trifle! It's no' so trifling as ye may imagine, Mistress
Mabel," taking the bit of bunting from her, and stretching it at
full length with both his arms extended, while his face grew grave
and his eye watchful. "Ye'll no' ha' been finding this, Mabel
Dunham, in the breakfast?"
Mabel simply acquainted him with the spot where and the manner in
which she had found the bit of cloth. While she was speaking, the
eye of the Quartermaster was not quiet for a moment, glancing from
the rag to the face of our heroine, then back again to the rag.
That his suspicions were awakened was easy to be seen, nor was he
long in letting it be known what direction they had taken.
"We are not in a part of the world where our ensigns and gauds ought
to be spread abroad to the wind, Mabel Dunham!" he said, with an
ominous shake of the head.
"I thought as much myself, Mr. Muir, and brought away the little
flag lest it might be the means of betraying our presence here to
the enemy, even though nothing is intended by its display. Ought
not my uncle to be made acquainted with the circumstance?"
"I no' see the necessity for that, pretty Mabel; for, as you justly
say, it is a circumstance, and circumstances sometimes worry the
worthy mariner. But this flag, if flag it can be called, belongs
to a seaman's craft. You may perceive that it is made of what is
called bunting, and that is a description of cloth used only by
vessels for such purposes, _our_ colors being of silk, as you may
understand, or painted canvas. It's surprisingly like the fly of
the _Scud's_ ensign. And now I recollect me to have observed that
a piece had been cut from that very flag."
Mabel felt her heart sink, but she had sufficient self-command not
to attempt an answer.
"It must be looked to," Muir continued, "and, after all, I think
it may be well to hold a short consultation with Master Cap, than
whom a more loyal subject does not exist in the British empire."
"I have thought the warning so serious," Mabel rejoined, "that I
am about to remove to the blockhouse, and to take the woman with
"I do not see the prudence of that, Mabel. The blockhouse will
be the first spot assailed should there really be an attack; and
it's no' well provided for a siege, that must be allowed. If I
might advise in so delicate a contingency, I would recommend your
taking refuge in the boat, which, as you may now perceive, is most
favorably placed to retreat by that channel opposite, where all in
it would be hid by the islands in one or two minutes. Water leaves
no trail, as Pathfinder well expresses it; and there appears to
be so many different passages in that quarter that escape would
be more than probable. I've always been of opinion that Lundie
hazarded too much in occupying a post so far advanced and so much
exposed as this."
"It's too late to regret it now, Mr. Muir, and we have only to
consult our own security."
"And the king's honor, pretty Mabel. Yes, his Majesty's arms and
his glorious name are not to be overlooked on any occasion."
"Then I think it might be better if we all turned our eyes towards
the place that has been built to maintain them instead of the boat,"
said Mabel, smiling; "and so, Mr. Muir, I am for the blockhouse,
intending to await there the return of my father and his party.
He would be sadly grieved at finding we had fled when he got back
successful himself, and filled with the confidence of our having
been as faithful to our duties as he has been to his own."
"Nay, nay, for heaven's sake, do not misunderstand me, Mabel!" Muir
interrupted, with some alarm of manner; "I am far from intimating
that any but you females ought to take refuge in the boat. The
duty of us men is sufficiently plain, no doubt, and my resolution
has been formed from the first to stand or fall by the blockhouse."
"And did you imagine, Mr. Muir, that two females could row that
heavy boat in a way to escape the bark canoe of an Indian?"
"Ah, my pretty Mabel, love is seldom logical, and its fears and
misgivings are apt to warp the faculties. I only saw your sweet
person in the possession of the means of safety, and overlooked
the want of ability to use them; but you'll not be so cruel, lovely
creature, as to impute to me as a fault my intense anxiety on your
Mabel had heard enough: her mind was too much occupied with what
had passed that morning, and with her fears, to wish to linger
longer to listen to love speeches, which in her most joyous and
buoyant moments she would have found unpleasant. She took a hasty
leave of her companion, and was about to trip away towards the
hilt of the other woman, when Muir arrested the movement by laying
a hand on her arm.
"One word, Mabel," said he, "before you leave me. This little
flag may, or it may not, have a particular meaning; if it has, now
that we are aware of its being shown, may it not be better to put
it back again, while we watch vigilantly for some answer that may
betray the conspiracy; and if it mean nothing, why, nothing will
"This may be all right, Mr. Muir, though, if the whole is accidental,
the flag might be the occasion of the fort's being discovered."
Mabel stayed to utter no more; but she was soon out of sight,
running into the hut towards which she had been first proceeding.
The Quartermaster remained on the very spot and in the precise
attitude in which she had left him for quite a minute, first looking
at the bounding figure of the girl and then at the bit of bunting,
which he still held before him in a way to denote indecision. His
irresolution lasted but for this minute, however; for he was soon
beneath the tree, where he fastened the mimic flag to a branch
again, though, from his ignorance of the precise spot from which
it had been taken by Mabel, he left it fluttering from a part of
the oak where it was still more exposed than before to the eyes
of any passenger on the river, though less in view from the island
Each one has had his supping mess,
The cheese is put into the press,
The pans and bowls, clean scalded all,
Reared up against the milk-house wall.
It seemed strange to Mabel Dunham, as she passed along on her way
to find her female companion, that others should be so composed,
while she herself felt as if the responsibilities of life and
death rested on her shoulders. It is true that distrust of June's
motives mingled with her forebodings; but when she came to recall
the affectionate and natural manner of the young Indian girl,
and all the evidences of good faith and sincerity she had seen in
her conduct during the familiar intercourse of their journey, she
rejected the idea with the unwillingness of a generous disposition
to believe ill of others. She saw, however, that she could not put
her companions properly on their guard without letting them into
the secret of her conference with June; and she found herself
compelled to act cautiously and with a forethought to which she
was unaccustomed, more especially in a matter of so much moment.
The soldier's wife was told to transport the necessaries into the
blockhouse, and admonished not to be far from it at any time during
the day. Mabel did not explain her reasons. She merely stated
that she had detected some signs in walking about the island, which
induced her to apprehend that the enemy had more knowledge of its
position than had been previously believed, and that they two at
least, would do well to be in readiness to seek a refuge at the
shortest notice. It was not difficult to arouse the apprehension
of this person, who, though a stout-hearted Scotchwoman, was ready
enough to listen to anything that confirmed her dread of Indian
cruelties. As soon as Mabel believed that her companion was
sufficiently frightened to make her wary, she threw out some hints
touching the inexpediency of letting the soldiers know the extent
of their own fears. This was done with a view to prevent discussions
and inquiries that might embarrass our heroine: she determining
to render her uncle, the Corporal, and his men more cautious,
by adopting a different course. Unfortunately, the British army
could not have furnished a worse person for the particular duty that
he was now required to discharge than Corporal M'Nab, the individual
who had been left in command during the absence of Sergeant Dunham.
On the one hand, he was resolute, prompt, familiar with all the
details of a soldier's life, and used to war; on the other, he
was supercilious as regards the provincials, opinionated on every
subject connected with the narrow limits of his professional practice,
much disposed to fancy the British empire the centre of all that
is excellent in the world, and Scotland the focus of, at least,
all moral excellence in that empire. In short, he was an epitome,
though on a scale suited to his rank, of those very qualities which
were so peculiar to the servants of the Crown that were sent into
the colonies, as these servants estimated themselves in comparison
with the natives of the country; or, in other words, he considered
the American as an animal inferior to the parent stock, and viewed
all his notions of military service, in particular, as undigested
and absurd. A more impracticable subject, therefore, could not well
have offered for the purpose of Mabel, and yet she felt obliged to
lose no time in putting her plan in execution.
"My father has left you a responsible command, Corporal," she said,
as soon as she could catch M'Nab a little apart; "for should the
island fall into the hands of the enemy, not only should we be
captured, but the party that is now out would in all probability
become their prisoners also."
"It needs no journey from Scotland to this place to know the facts
needful to be o' that way of thinking." returned M'Nab drily.
"I do not doubt your understanding it as well as myself, Mr. M'Nab,
but I'm fearful that you veterans, accustomed as you are to dangers
and battles, are a little apt to overlook some of the precautions
that may be necessary in a situation as peculiar as ours."
"They say Scotland is no conquered country, young woman, but
I'm thinking there must be some mistak' in the matter, as we, her
children, are so drowsy-headed and apt to be o'ertaken when we
least expect it."
"Nay, my good friend, you mistake my meaning. In the first place,
I'm not thinking of Scotland at all, but of this island; and then
I am far from doubting your vigilance when you think it necessary
to practise it; but my great fear is that there may be danger to
which your courage will make you indifferent."
"My courage, Mistress Dunham, is doubtless of a very pool quality,
being nothing but Scottish courage; your father's is Yankee, and
were he here among us we should see different preparations, beyond
a doubt. Well, times are getting wrang, when foreigners hold
commissions and carry halberds in Scottish corps; and I no wonder
that battles are lost, and campaigns go wrang end foremost."
Mabel was almost in despair; but the quiet warning of June was
still too vividly impressed on her mind to allow her to yield the
matter. She changed her mode of operating, therefore, still clinging
to the hope of getting the whole party within the blockhouse,
without being compelled to betray the source whence she obtained
her notices of the necessity of vigilance.
"I daresay you are right, Corporal M'Nab," she observed; "for I've
often heard of the heroes of your country, who have been among
the first of the civilized world, if what they tell me of them is
"Have you read the history of Scotland, Mistress Dunham?" demanded
the Corporal, looking up at his pretty companion, for the first
time with something like a smile on his hard, repulsive countenance.
"I have read a little of it, Corporal, but I've heard much more.
The lady who brought me up had Scottish blood in her veins, and
was fond of the subject."
"I'll warrant ye, the Sergeant no' troubled himself to expatiate
on the renown of the country where his regiment was raised?"
"My father has other things to think of, and the little I know was
got from the lady I have mentioned."
"She'll no' be forgetting to tall ye o' Wallace?"
"Of him I've even read a good deal."
"And o' Bruce, and the affair of Bannockburn?"
"Of that too, as well as of Culloden Muir."
The last of these battles was then a recent event, it having actually
been fought within the recollection of our heroine, whose notions
of it, however, were so confused that she scarcely appreciated the
effect her allusion might produce on her companion. She knew it
had been a victory, and had often heard the guests of her patroness
mention it with triumph; and she fancied their feelings would find
a sympathetic chord in those of every British soldier. Unfortunately,
M'Nab had fought throughout that luckless day on the side of the
Pretender; and a deep scar that garnished his face had been left
there by the sabre of a German soldier in the service of the House
of Hanover. He fancied that his wound bled afresh at Mabel's
allusion; and it is certain that the blood rushed to his face in
a torrent, as if it would pour out of his skin at the cicatrix.
"Hoot! hoot awa'!" he fairly shouted, "with your Culloden and
Sherriff muirs, young woman; ye'll no' be understanding the subject
at all, and will manifest not only wisdom but modesty in speaking
o' your ain country and its many failings. King George has some
loyal subjects in the colonies, na doubt, but 'twill be a lang time
before he sees or hears any guid of them."
Mabel was surprised at the Corporal's heat, for she had not the
smallest idea where the shoe pinched; but she was determined not
to give up the point.
"I've always heard that the Scotch had two of the good qualities
of soldiers," she said, "courage and circumspection; and I feel
persuaded that Corporal M'Nab will sustain the national renown."
"Ask yer own father, Mistress Dunham; he is acquaint' with Corporal
M'Nab, and will no' be backward to point out his demerits. We have
been in battle thegither, and he is my superior officer, and has
a sort o' official right to give the characters of his subordinates."
"My father thinks well of you, M'Nab, or he would not have left
you in charge of this island and all it contains, his own daughter
included. Among other things, I well know that he calculates
largely on your prudence. He expects the blockhouse in particular
to be strictly attended to."
"If he wishes to defend the honor of the 55th behind logs, he
ought to have remained in command himsel'; for, to speak frankly,
it goes against a Scotchman's bluid and opinions to be beaten out
of the field even before he is attacked. We are broadsword men,
and love to stand foot to foot with the foe. This American mode
of fighting, that is getting into so much favor, will destroy the
reputation of his Majesty's army, if it no' destroy its spirit."
"No true soldier despises caution. Even Major Duncan himself, than
whom there is none braver, is celebrated for his care of his men."
"Lundie has his weakness, and is fast forgetting the broadsword and
open heaths in his tree and rifle practice. But, Mistress Dunham,
tak' the word of an old soldier, who has seen his fifty-fifth year,
when he talls ye that there is no surer method to encourage your
enemy than to seem to fear him; and that there is no danger in this
Indian warfare that the fancies and imaginations of your Americans
have not enlarged upon, until they see a savage in every bush.
We Scots come from a naked region, and have no need and less
relish for covers, and so ye'll be seeing, Mistress Dunham -- "
The Corporal gave a spring into the air, fell forward on his face,
and rolled over on his back, the whole passing so suddenly that
Mabel had scarcely heard the sharp crack of the rifle that had sent
a bullet through his body. Our heroine did not shriek -- did not
even tremble; for the occurrence was too sudden, too awful, and
too unexpected for that exhibition of weakness; on the contrary,
she stepped hastily forward, with a natural impulse to aid her
companion. There was just enough of life left in M'Nab to betray
his entire consciousness of all that had passed. His countenance
had the wild look of one who had been overtaken by death by surprise;
and Mabel, in her cooler moments, fancied that it showed the tardy
repentance of a willful and obstinate sinner.
"Ye'll be getting into the blockhouse as fast as possible," M'Nab
whispered, as Mabel leaned over him to catch his dying words.
Then came over our heroine the full consciousness of her situation
and of the necessity of exertion. She cast a rapid glance at the
body at her feet, saw that it had ceased to breathe, and fled. It
was but a few minutes' run to the blockhouse, the door of which
Mabel had barely gained when it was closed violently in her face
by Jennie, the soldier's wife, who in blind terror thought only
of her own safety. The reports of five or six rifles were heard
while Mabel was calling out for admittance; and the additional terror
they produced prevented the woman within from undoing quickly the
very fastenings she had been so expert in applying. After a minute's
delay, however, Mabel found the door reluctantly yielding to her
constant pressure, and she forced her slender body through the
opening the instant it was large enough to allow of its passage. By
this time Mabel's heart ceased to beat tulmultuously and she gained
sufficient self-command to act collectedly. Instead of yielding to
the almost convulsive efforts of her companion to close the door
again, she held it open long enough to ascertain that none of her
own party was in sight, or likely on the instant to endeavor to gain
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