James Fenimore Cooper
Part 9 out of 10
"I do, I do put all confidence in you, my trusty friend, and empower
you to act as I could act myself in every particular. Mabel, child,
-- hand me the water, -- you will never repent this night. Bless
you, my daughter! God bless, and have you in His holy keeping!"
This tenderness was inexpressibly touching to one of Mabel's feelings;
and she felt at that moment as if her future union with Pathfinder
had received a solemnization that no ceremony of the Church could
render more holy. Still, a weight, as that of a mountain, lay
upon her heart, and she thought it would be happiness to die. Then
followed a short pause, when the Sergeant, in broken sentences,
briefly related what had passed since he parted with Pathfinder
and the Delaware. The wind had come more favorable; and, instead
of encamping on an island agreeably to the original intention, he
had determined to continue, and reach the station that night. Their
approach would have been unseen, and a portion of the calamity
avoided, he thought, had they not grounded on the point of a
neighboring island, where, no doubt, the noise made by the men in
getting off the boat gave notice of their approach, and enabled
the enemy to be in readiness to receive them. They had landed
without the slightest suspicion of danger, though surprised at not
finding a sentinel, and had actually left their arms in the boat,
with the intention of first securing their knapsacks and provisions.
The fire had been so close, that, notwithstanding the obscurity,
it was very deadly. Every man had fallen, though two or three
subsequently arose and disappeared. Four or five of the soldiers
had been killed, or so nearly so as to survive but a few minutes;
though, for some unknown reason, the enemy did not make the usual
rush for the scalps. Sergeant Dunham fell with the others; and he
had heard the voice of Mabel, as she rushed from the blockhouse.
This frantic appeal aroused all his parental feelings, and had
enabled him to crawl as far as the door of the building, where he
had raised himself against the logs in the manner already mentioned.
After this simple explanation was made, the Sergeant was so weak
as to need repose, and his companions, while they ministered to
his wants, suffered some time to pass in silence. Pathfinder took
the occasion to reconnoitre from the loops and the roof, and he
examined the condition of the rifles, of which there were a dozen
kept in the building, the soldiers having used their regimental
muskets in the expedition. But Mabel never left her father's side
for an instant; and when, by his breathing, she fancied he slept,
she bent her knees and prayed.
The half-hour that succeeded was awfully solemn and still. The
moccasin of Pathfinder was barely heard overhead, and occasionally
the sound of the breech of a rifle fell upon the floor, for he
was busied in examining the pieces, with a view to ascertain the
state of their charges and their primings. Beyond this, nothing
was so loud as the breathing of the wounded man. Mabel's heart
yearned to be in communication with the father she was so soon to
lose, and yet she would not disturb his apparent repose. But Dunham
slept not; he was in that state when the world suddenly loses its
attractions, its illusions, and its power; and the unknown future
fills the mind with its conjectures, its revelations, and its
immensity. He had been a moral man for one of his mode of life,
but he had thought little of this all-important moment. Had the
din of battle been ringing in his ears, his martial ardor might
have endured to the end; but there, in the silence of that nearly
untenanted blockhouse, with no sound to enliven him, no appeal to
keep alive factitious sentiment, no hope of victory to impel, things
began to appear in their true colors, and this state of being to
be estimated at its just value. He would have given treasures for
religious consolation, and yet he knew not where to turn to seek
it. He thought of Pathfinder, but he distrusted his knowledge. He
thought of Mabel, but for the parent to appeal to the child for
such succor appeared like reversing the order of nature. Then it
was that he felt the full responsibility of the parental character,
and had some clear glimpse of the manner in which he himself had
discharged the trust towards an orphan child. While thoughts like
these were rising in his mind, Mabel, who watched the slightest change
in his breathing, heard a guarded knock at the door. Supposing it
might be Chingachgook, she rose, undid two of the bars, and held
the third in her hand, as she asked who was there. The answer
was in her uncle's voice, and he implored her to give him instant
admission. Without an instant of hesitation, she turned the bar,
and Cap entered. He had barely passed the opening, when Mabel
closed the door again, and secured it as before, for practice had
rendered her expert in this portion of her duties.
The sturdy seaman, when he had made sure of the state of
his brother-in-law, and that Mabel, as well as himself, was safe,
was softened nearly to tears. His own appearance he explained by
saying that he had been carelessly guarded, under the impression
that he and the Quartermaster were sleeping under the fumes of liquor
with which they had been plied with a view to keep them quiet in
the expected engagement. Muir had been left asleep, or seeming to
sleep; but Cap had run into the bushes on the alarm of the attack,
and having found Pathfinder's canoe, had only succeeded, at that
moment, in getting to the blockhouse, whither he had come with the
kind intent of escaping with his niece by water. It is scarcely
necessary to say that he changed his plan when he ascertained the
state of the Sergeant, and the apparent security of his present
"If the worst comes to the worst, Master Pathfinder," said he, "we
must strike, and that will entitle us to receive quarter. We owe
it to our manhood to hold out a reasonable time, and to ourselves
to haul down the ensign in season to make saving conditions. I
wished Master Muir to do the same thing when we were captured
by these chaps you call vagabonds -- and rightly are they
named, for viler vagabonds do not walk the earth -- "
"You've found out their characters?" interrupted Pathfinder, who
was always as ready to chime in with abuse of the Mingos as with
the praises of his friends. "Now, had you fallen into the hands
of the Delawares, you would have learned the difference."
"Well, to me they seem much of a muchness; blackguards fore and
aft, always excepting our friend the Serpent, who is a gentleman
for an Indian. But, when these savages made the assault on us,
killing Corporal M'Nab and his men as if they had been so many
rabbits, Lieutenant Muir and myself took refuge in one of the holes
of this here island, of which there are so many among the rocks,
and there we remained stowed away like two leaguers in a ship's
hold, until we gave out for want of grub. A man may say that grub
is the foundation of human nature. I desired the Quartermaster to
make terms, for we could have defended ourselves for an hour or
two in the place, bad as it was; but he declined, on the ground
that the knaves wouldn't keep faith if any of them were hurt, and
so there was no use in asking them to. I consented to strike, on
two principles; one, that we might be said to have struck already,
for running below is generally thought to be giving up the ship;
and the other, that we had an enemy in our stomachs that was more
formidable in his attacks than the enemy on deck. Hunger is a
d----ble circumstance, as any man who has lived on it eight-and-forty
hours will acknowledge."
"Uncle," said Mabel in a mournful voice and with an expostulatory
manner, "my poor father is sadly, sadly hurt!"
"True, Magnet, true; I will sit by him, and do my best at consolation.
Are the bars well fastened, girl? for on such an occasion the mind
should be tranquil and undisturbed."
"We are safe, I believe, from all but this heavy blow of Providence."
"Well, then, Magnet, do you go up to the floor above and try to
compose yourself, while Pathfinder runs aloft and takes a look-out
from the cross-trees. Your father may wish to say something to me
in private, and it may be well to leave us alone. These are solemn
scenes, and inexperienced people, like myself, do not always wish
what they say to be overheard."
Although the idea of her uncle's affording religious consolation
by the side of a death-bed certainly never obtruded itself on
the imagination of Mabel, she thought there might be a propriety
in the request with which she was unacquainted, and she complied
accordingly. Pathfinder had already ascended to the roof to make
his survey, and the brothers-in-law were left alone. Cap took a
seat by the side of the Sergeant, and bethought him seriously of
the grave duty he had before him. A silence of several minutes
succeeded, during which brief space the mariner was digesting the
substance of his intended discourse.
"I must say, Sergeant Dunham," Cap at length commenced in his
peculiar manner, "that there has been mismanagement somewhere in
this unhappy expedition; and, the present being an occasion when
truth ought to be spoken, and nothing but the truth, I feel it my
duty to be say as much in plain language. In short, Sergeant, on
this point there cannot well be two opinions; for, seaman as I am,
and no soldier, I can see several errors myself, that it needs no
great education to detect."
"What would you have, brother Cap?" returned the other in a feeble
voice; "what is done is done; and it is now too late to remedy it."
"Very true, brother Dunham, but not to repent of it; the Good Book
tells us it is never too late to repent; and I've always heard
that this is the precious moment. If you've anything on your mind,
Sergeant, hoist it out freely; for, you know, you trust it to a
friend. You were my own sister's husband, and poor little Magnet
is my own sister's daughter; and, living or dead, I shall always
look upon you as a brother. It's a thousand pities that you didn't
lie off and on with the boats, and send a canoe ahead to reconnoitre;
in which case your command would have been saved, and this disaster
would not have befallen us all. Well, Sergeant, we are _all_ mortal;
that is some consolation, I make no doubt; and if you go before a
little, why, we must follow. Yes, that _must_ give you consolation."
"I know all this, brother Cap; and hope I'm prepared to
meet a soldier's fate -- there is poor Mabel -- "
"Ay, ay, that's a heavy drag, I know; but you wouldn't take her
with you if you could, Sergeant; and so the better way is to make
as light of the separation as you can. Mabel is a good girl, and
so was her mother before her; she was my sister, and it shall be
my care to see that her daughter gets a good husband, if our lives
and scalps are spared; for I suppose no one would care about entering
into a family that has no scalps."
"Brother, my child is betrothed; she will become the wife of
"Well, brother Dunham, every man has his opinions and his manner
of viewing things; and, to my notion, this match will be anything
but agreeable to Mabel. I have no objection to the age of the man;
I'm not one of them that thinks it necessary to be a boy to make
a girl happy, but, on the whole, I prefer a man of about fifty for
a husband; still there ought not to be any circumstance between
the parties to make them unhappy. Circumstances play the devil with
matrimony, and I set it down as one that Pathfinder don't know as
much as my niece. You've seen but little of the girl, Sergeant,
and have not got the run of her knowledge; but let her pay it out
freely, as she will do when she gets to be thoroughly acquainted,
and you'll fall in with but few schoolmasters that can keep their
luffs in her company."
"She's a good child -- a dear, good child," muttered the Sergeant,
his eyes filling with tears; "and it is my misfortune that I have
seen so little of her."
"She is indeed a good girl, and knows altogether too much for poor
Pathfinder, who is a reasonable man and an experienced man in his
own way; but who has no more idea of the main chance than you have
of spherical trigonometry, Sergeant."
"Ah, brother Cap, had Pathfinder been with us in the boats this
sad affair might not have happened!"
"That is quite likely; for his worst enemy will allow that the man
is a good guide; but then, Sergeant, if the truth must be spoken,
you have managed this expedition in a loose way altogether. You
should have hove-to off your haven, and sent in a boat to reconnoitre,
as I told you before. That is a matter to be repented of, and I
tell it to you, because truth, in such a case, ought to be spoken."
"My errors are dearly paid for, brother; and poor Mabel, I fear,
will be the sufferer. I think, however, that the calamity would
not have happened had there not been treason. I fear me, brother,
that Jasper Eau-douce has played us false."
"That is just my notion; for this fresh-water life must sooner
or later undermine any man's morals. Lieutenant Muir and myself
talked this matter over while we lay in a bit of a hole out here,
on this island; and we both came to the conclusion that nothing
short of Jasper's treachery could have brought us all into this
infernal scrape. Well, Sergeant, you had better compose your mind,
and think of other matters; for, when a vessel is about to enter a
strange port, it is more prudent to think of the anchorage inside
than to be under-running all the events that have turned up during
the v'y'ge. There's the log-book expressly to note all these matters
in; and what stands there must form the column of figures that's
to be posted up for or against us. How now, Pathfinder! is there
anything in the wind, that you come down the ladder like an Indian
in the wake of a scalp?"
The guide raised a finger for silence and then beckoned to Cap to
ascend the first ladder, and to allow Mabel to take his place at
the side of the Sergeant.
"We must be prudent, and we must be bold too," said he in a low
voice. "The riptyles are in earnest in their intention to fire the
block; for they know there is now nothing to be gained by letting
it stand. I hear the voice of that vagabond Arrowhead among them,
and he is urging them to set about their devilry this very night.
We must be stirring, Saltwater, and doing too. Luckily there are
four or five barrels of water in the block, and these are something
towards a siege. My reckoning is wrong, too, or we shall yet reap
some advantage from that honest fellow's, the Sarpent, being at
Cap did not wait for a second invitation; but, stealing away, he
was soon in the upper room with Pathfinder, while Mabel took his
post at the side of her father's humble bed. Pathfinder had opened
a loop, having so far concealed the light that it would not expose
him to a treacherous shot; and, expecting a summons, he stood
with his face near the hole, ready to answer. The stillness that
succeeded was at length broken by the voice of Muir.
"Master Pathfinder," called out the Scotchman, "a friend summons you
to a parley. Come freely to one of the loops; for you've nothing
to fear so long as you are in converse with an officer of the 55th."
"What is your will, Quartermaster? what is your will? I know
the 55th, and believe it to be a brave regiment; though I rather
incline to the 60th as my favorite, and to the Delawares more than
to either; but what would you have, Quartermaster? It must be a
pressing errand that brings you under the loops of a blockhouse at
this hour of the night, with the sartainty of Killdeer being inside
"Oh, you'll no' harm a friend, Pathfinder, I'm certain; and that's
my security. You're a man of judgment, and have gained too great
a name on this frontier for bravery to feel the necessity of
foolhardiness to obtain a character. You'll very well understand,
my good friend, there is as much credit to be gained by submitting
gracefully, when resistance becomes impossible, as by obstinately
holding out contrary to the rules of war. The enemy is too strong
for us, my brave comrade, and I come to counsel you to give up the
block, on condition of being treated as a prisoner of war."
"I thank you for this advice, Quartermaster, which is the more
acceptable as it costs nothing; but I do not think it belongs to
my gifts to yield a place like this while food and water last."
"Well, I'd be the last, Pathfinder, to recommend anything against
so brave a resolution, did I see the means of maintaining it. But
ye'll remember that Master Cap has fallen."
"Not he, not he!" roared the individual in question through another
loop; "and so far from that, Lieutenant, he has risen to the height
of this here fortification, and has no mind to put his head of
hair into the hands of such barbers again, so long as he can help
it. I look upon this blockhouse as a circumstance, and have no
mind to throw it away."
"If that is a living voice," returned Muir, "I am glad to hear it;
for we all thought the man had fallen in the late fearful confusion.
But, Master Pathfinder, although ye're enjoying the society of
our friend Cap, -- and a great pleasure do I know it to be, by the
experience of two days and a night passed in a hole in the earth,
-- we've lost that of Sergeant Dunham, who has fallen, with all
the brave men he led in the late expedition. Lundie would have
it so, though it would have been more discreet and becoming to
send a commissioned officer in command. Dunham was a brave man,
notwithstanding, and shall have justice done his memory. In short,
we have all acted for the best, and that is as much as could be
said in favor of Prince Eugene, the Duke of Marlborough, or the
great Earl of Stair himself."
"You're wrong ag'in, Quartermaster, you're wrong ag'in," answered
Pathfinder, resorting to a ruse to magnify his force. "The Sergeant
is safe in the block too, where one might say the whole family is
"Well I rejoice to hear it, for we had certainly counted the
Sergeant among the slain. If pretty Mabel is in the block still,
let her not delay an instant, for heaven's sake, in quitting it,
for the enemy is about to put it to the trial by fire. Ye know
the potency of that dread element, and will be acting more like
the discreet and experienced warrior ye're universally allowed to
be, in yielding a place you canna' defend, than in drawing down
ruin on yourself and companions."
"I know the potency of fire, as you call it, Quartermaster; and am
not to be told, at this late hour, that it can be used for something
else besides cooking a dinner. But I make no doubt you've heard
of the potency of Killdeer, and the man who attempts to lay a pile
of brush against these logs will get a taste of his power. As
for arrows, it is not in their gift to set this building on fire,
for we've no shingles on our roof, but good solid logs and green
bark, and plenty of water besides. The roof is so flat, too, as
you know yourself, Quartermaster, that we can walk on it, and so
no danger on that score while water lasts. I'm peaceable enough
if let alone; but he who endivors to burn this block over my head
will find the fire squinched in his own blood."
"This is idle and romantic talk, Pathfinder, and ye'll no maintain
it yourself when ye come to meditate on the realities. I hope
ye'll no' gainsay the loyalty or the courage of the 55th, and I feel
convinced that a council of war would decide on the propriety of
a surrender forthwith. Na, na, Pathfinder, foolhardiness is na mair
like the bravery o' Wallace or Bruce than Albany on the Hudson is
like the old town of Edinbro'."
"As each of us seems to have made up his mind, Quartermaster, more
words are useless. If the riptyles near you are disposed to set
about their hellish job, let them begin at once. They can burn
wood, and I'll burn powder. If I were an Indian at the stake,
I suppose I could brag as well as the rest of them; but, my gifts
and natur' being both white, my turn is rather for doing than
talking. You've said quite enough, considering you carry the
king's commission; and should we all be consumed, none of us will
bear you any malice."
"Pathfinder, ye'll no' be exposing Mabel, pretty Mabel Dunham, to
sic' a calamity!"
"Mabel Dunham is by the side of her wounded father, and God will
care for the safety of a pious child. Not a hair of her head
shall fall, while my arm and sight remain true; and though _you_
may trust the Mingos, Master Muir, I put no faith in them. You've
a knavish Tuscarora in your company there, who has art and malice
enough to spoil the character of any tribe with which he consorts,
though he found the Mingos ready ruined to his hands, I fear. But
enough said; now let each party go to the use of his means and his
Throughout this dialogue Pathfinder had kept his body covered, lest
a treacherous shot should be aimed at the loop; and he now directed
Cap to ascend to the roof in order to be in readiness to meet the
first assault. Although the latter used sufficient diligence, he
found no less than ten blazing arrows sticking to the bark, while
the air was filled with the yells and whoops of the enemy. A
rapid discharge of rifles followed, and the bullets came pattering
against the logs, in a way to show that the struggle had indeed
These were sounds, however, that appalled neither Pathfinder nor
Cap, while Mabel was too much absorbed in her affliction to feel
alarm. She had good sense enough, too, to understand the nature
of the defences, and fully to appreciate their importance. As
for her father, the familiar noises revived him; and it pained
his child, at such a moment, to see that his glassy eye began to
kindle, and that the blood returned to a cheek it had deserted, as
he listened to the uproar. It was now Mabel first perceived that
his reason began slightly to wander.
"Order up the light companies," he muttered, "and let the grenadiers
charge! Do they dare to attack us in our fort? Why does not the
artillery open on them?"
At that instant the heavy report of a gun burst on the night; and
the crashing of rending wood was heard, as a heavy shot tore the
logs in the room above, and the whole block shook with the force of
a shell that lodged in the work. The Pathfinder narrowly escaped
the passage of this formidable missile as it entered; but when it
exploded, Mabel could not suppress a shriek, for she supposed all
over her head, whether animate or inanimate, destroyed. To increase
her horror, her father shouted in a frantic voice to "charge!"
"Mabel," said Pathfinder, with his head at the trap, "this is true
Mingo work -- more noise than injury. The vagabonds have got the
howitzer we took from the French, and have discharged it ag'in the
block; but fortunately they have fired off the only shell we had,
and there is an ind of its use for the present. There is some
confusion among the stores up in this loft, but no one is hurt.
Your uncle is still on the roof; and, as for myself, I've run the
gauntlet of too many rifles to be skeary about such a thing as a
howitzer, and that in Indian hands."
Mabel murmured her thanks, and tried to give all her attention to
her father, whose efforts to rise were only counteracted by his
debility. During the fearful minutes that succeeded, she was so
much occupied with the care of the invalid that she scarcely heeded
the clamor that reigned around her. Indeed, the uproar was so great,
that, had not her thoughts been otherwise employed, confusion of
faculties rather than alarm would probably have been the consequence.
Cap preserved his coolness admirably. He had a profound and
increasing respect for the power of the savages, and even for the
majesty of fresh water, it is true; but his apprehensions of the
former proceeded more from his dread of being scalped and tortured
than from any unmanly fear of death; and, as he was now on the deck
of a house, if not on the deck of a ship, and knew that there was
little danger of boarders, he moved about with a fearlessness and
a rash exposure of his person that Pathfinder, had he been aware
of the fact, would have been the first to condemn. Instead of keeping
his body covered, agreeably to the usages of Indian warfare, he was
seen on every part of the roof, dashing the water right and left,
with the apparent steadiness and unconcern he would have manifested
had he been a sail trimmer exercising his art in a battle afloat.
His appearance was one of the causes of the extraordinary clamor
among the assailants; who, unused to see their enemies so reckless,
opened upon him with their tongues, like a pack that has the fox
in view. Still he appeared to possess a charmed life; for, though
the bullets whistled around him on every side, and his clothes were
several times torn, nothing cut his skin. When the shell passed
through the logs below, the old sailor dropped his bucket, waved
his hat, and gave three cheers; in which heroic act he was employed
as the dangerous missile exploded. This characteristic feat probably
saved his life; for from that instant the Indians ceased to fire
at him, and even to shoot their flaming arrows at the block, having
taken up the notion simultaneously, and by common consent, that
the "Saltwater" was mad; and it was a singular effect of their
magnanimity never to lift a hand against those whom they imagined
devoid of reason.
The conduct of Pathfinder was very different. Everything he did
was regulated by the most exact calculation, the result of long
experience and habitual thoughtfulness. His person was kept carefully
out of a line with the loops, and the spot that he selected for
his look-out was one quite removed from danger. This celebrated
guide had often been known to lead forlorn hopes: he had once stood
at the stake, suffering under the cruelties and taunts of savage
ingenuity and savage ferocity without quailing; and legends of
his exploits, coolness, and daring were to be heard all along that
extensive frontier, or wherever men dwelt and men contended. But
on this occasion, one who did not know his history and character
might have thought his exceeding care and studied attention to
self-preservation proceeded from an unworthy motive. But such a
judge would not have understood his subject; the Pathfinder bethought
him of Mabel, and of what might possibly be the consequences to that
poor girl should any casualty befall himself. But the recollection
rather quickened his intellect than changed his customary prudence.
He was, in fact, one of those who was so unaccustomed to fear,
that he never bethought him of the constructions others might put
upon his conduct. But while in moments of danger he acted with the
wisdom of the serpent, it was also with the simplicity of a child.
For the first ten minutes of the assault, Pathfinder never raised
the breech of his rifle from the floor, except when he changed his
own position, for he well knew that the bullets of the enemy were
thrown away upon the massive logs of the work; and as he had been
at the capture of the howitzer he felt certain that the savages had
no other shell than the one found in it when the piece was taken.
There existed no reason, therefore, to dread the fire of the
assailants, except as a casual bullet might find a passage through
a loophole. One or two of these accidents did occur, but the balls
entered at an angle that deprived them of all chance of doing any
injury so long as the Indians kept near the block; and if discharged
from a distance, there was scarcely the possibility of one in a
hundred's striking the apertures. But when Pathfinder heard the
sound of mocassined feet and the rustling of brush at the foot of
the building, he knew that the attempt to build a fire against the
logs was about to be renewed. He now summoned Cap from the roof,
where, indeed, all the danger had ceased, and directed him to stand
in readiness with his water at a hole immediately over the spot
One less trained than our hero would have been in a hurry to repel
this dangerous attempt also, and might have resorted to his means
prematurely; not so with Pathfinder. His aim was not only to
extinguish the fire, about which he felt little apprehension, but
to give the enemy a lesson that would render him wary during the
remainder of the night. In order to effect the latter purpose, it
became necessary to wait until the light of the intended conflagration
should direct his aim, when he well knew that a very slight effort
of his skill would suffice. The Iroquois were permitted to collect
their heap of dried brush, to pile it against the block, to light
it, and to return to their covers without molestation. All that
Pathfinder would suffer Cap to do, was to roll a barrel filled with
water to the hole immediately over the spot, in readiness to be
used at the proper instant. That moment, however, did not arrive,
in his judgment, until the blaze illuminated the surrounding bushes,
and there had been time for his quick and practised eye to detect
the forms of three or four lurking savages, who were watching the
progress of the flames, with the cool indifference of men accustomed
to look on human misery with apathy. Then, indeed, he spoke.
"Are you ready, friend Cap?" he asked. "The heat begins to strike
through the crevices; and although these green logs are not of
the fiery natur' of an ill-tempered man, they may be kindled into
a blaze if one provokes them too much. Are you ready with the
barrel? See that it has the right cut, and that none of the water
"All ready!" answered Cap, in the manner in which a seaman replies
to such a demand.
"Then wait for the word. Never be over-impatient in a critical
time, nor fool-risky in a battle. Wait for the word."
While the Pathfinder was giving these directions, he was also making
his own preparations; for he saw it was time to act. Killdeer was
deliberately raised, pointed, and discharged. The whole process
occupied about half a minute, and as the rifle was drawn in the
eye of the marksman was applied to the hole.
"There is one riptyle the less," Pathfinder muttered to himself;
"I've seen that vagabond afore, and know him to be a marciless
devil. Well, well! the man acted according to his gifts, and he
has been rewarded according to his gifts. One more of the knaves,
and that will sarve the turn for to-night. When daylight appears,
we may have hotter work."
All this time another rifle was being got ready; and as Pathfinder
ceased, a second savage fell. This indeed sufficed; for, indisposed
to wait for a third visitation from the same hand, the whole band,
which had been crouching in the bushes around the block, ignorant
of who was and who was not exposed to view, leaped from their covers
and fled to different places for safety.
"Now, pour away, Master Cap," said Pathfinder; "I've made my mark
on the blackguards; and we shall have no more fires lighted to-night."
"Scaldings!" cried Cap, upsetting the barrel, with a care that at
once and completely extinguished the flames.
This ended the singular conflict; and the remainder of the night
passed in peace. Pathfinder and Cap watched alternately, though
neither can be said to have slept. Sleep indeed scarcely seemed
necessary to them, for both were accustomed to protracted watchings;
and there were seasons and times when the former appeared to be
literally insensible to the demands of hunger and thirst and callous
to the effects of fatigue.
Mabel watched by her father's pallet, and began to feel how much our
happiness in this world depends even on things that are imaginary.
Hitherto she had virtually lived without a father, the connection
with her remaining parent being ideal rather than positive; but now
that she was about to lose him, she thought for the moment that the
world would be a void after his death, and that she could never be
acquainted with happiness again.
There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily, and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods.
As the light returned, Pathfinder and Cap ascended again to the
roof, with a view to reconnoitre the state of things once more
on the island. This part of the blockhouse had a low battlement
around it, which afforded a considerable protection to those who
stood in its centre; the intention having been to enable marksmen
to lie behind it and to fire over its top. By making proper
use, therefore, of these slight defences, -- slight as to height,
though abundantly ample as far as they went, -- the two look-outs
commanded a pretty good view of the island, its covers excepted,
and of most of the channels that led to the spot.
The gale was still blowing very fresh at south; and there were places
in the river where its surface looked green and angry, though the
wind had hardly sweep enough to raise the water into foam. The
shape of the little island was nearly oval, and its greater length
was from east to west. By keeping in the channels that washed it,
in consequence of their several courses and of the direction of
the gale, it would have been possible for a vessel to range past
the island on either of its principal sides, and always to keep
the wind very nearly abeam. These were the facts first noticed
by Cap, and explained to his companion; for the hopes of both now
rested on the chances of relief sent from Oswego. At this instant,
while they stood gazing anxiously about them, Cap cried out, in
his lusty, hearty manner,
Pathfinder turned quickly in the direction of his companion's
face; and there, sure enough, was just visible the object of the
old sailor's exclamation. The elevation enabled the two to overlook
the low land of several of the adjacent islands; and the canvas
of a vessel was seen through the bushes that fringed the shore of
one that lay to the southward and westward. The stranger was under
what seamen call low sail; but so great was the power of the wind,
that her white outlines were seen flying past the openings of the
verdure with the velocity of a fast-travelling horse -- resembling
a cloud driving in the heavens.
"That cannot be Jasper," said Pathfinder in disappointment; for be
did not recognize the cutter of his friend in the swift-passing
object. "No, no, the lad is behind the hour; and that is some craft
which the Frenchers have sent to aid their friends, the accursed
"This time you are out in your reckoning, friend Pathfinder, if you
never were before," returned Cap in a manner that had lost none
of its dogmatism by the critical circumstances in which they were
placed. "Fresh water or salt, that is the head of the _Scud's_
mainsail, for it is cut with a smaller gore than common; and then
you can see that the gaff has been fished -- quite neatly done, I
admit, but fished."
"I can see none of this, I confess," answered Pathfinder, to whom
even the terms of his companion were Greek.
"No! Well, I own that surprises me, for I thought your eyes could
see anything! Now to me nothing is plainer than that gore and
that fish; and I must say, my honest friend, that in your place I
should apprehend that my sight was beginning to fail."
"If Jasper is truly coming, I shall apprehend but little. We can
make good the block against the whole Mingo nation for the next
eight or ten hours; and with Eau-douce to cover the retreat, I shall
despair of nothing. God send that the lad may not run alongside
of the bank, and fall into an ambushment, as befell the Sergeant!"
"Ay, there's the danger. There ought to have been signals concerted,
and an anchorage-ground buoyed out, and even a quarantine station
or a lazaretto would have been useful, could we have made these
Minks-ho respect the laws. If the lad fetches up, as you say,
anywhere in the neighborhood of this island, we may look upon the
cutter as lost. And, after all, Master Pathfinder, ought we not
to set down this same Jasper as a secret ally of the French, rather
than as a friend of our own? I know the Sergeant views the matter
in that light; and I must say this whole affair looks like treason."
"We shall soon know, we shall soon know, Master Cap; for there,
indeed, comes the cutter clear of the other island, and five minutes
must settle the matter. It would be no more than fair, however,
if we could give the boy some sign in the way of warning. It is
not right that he should fall into the trap without a notice that
it has been laid."
Anxiety and suspense, notwithstanding, prevented either from
attempting to make any signal. It was not easy, truly, to see how
it could be done; for the _Scud_ came foaming through the channel,
on the weather side of the island, at a rate that scarcely admitted
of the necessary time. Nor was any one visible on her deck to make
signs to; even her helm seemed deserted, though her course was as
steady as her progress was rapid.
Cap stood in silent admiration of a spectacle so unusual. But,
as the _Scud_ drew nearer, his practised eye detected the helm in
play by means of tiller-ropes, though the person who steered was
concealed. As the cutter had weatherboards of some little height,
the mystery was explained, no doubt remaining that her people lay
behind the latter, in order to be protected from the rifles of
the enemy. As this fact showed that no force beyond that of the
small crew could be on board, Pathfinder received his companion's
explanation with an ominous shake of the head.
"This proves that the Sarpent has not reached Oswego," said he,
"and that we are not to expect succor from the garrison. I hope
Lundie has not taken it into his head to displace the lad, for
Jasper Western would be a host of himself in such a strait. We
three, Master Cap, ought to make a manful warfare: you, as a seaman,
to keep up the intercourse with the cutter; Jasper, as a laker who
knows all that is necessary to be done on the water; and I, with
gifts that are as good as any among the Mingos, let me be what I
may in other particulars. I say we ought to make a manful fight
in Mabel's behalf."
"That we ought, and that we will," answered Cap heartily; for he
began to have more confidence in the security of his scalp now
that he saw the sun again. "I set down the arrival of the _Scud_ as
one circumstance, and the chances of Oh-deuce's honesty as another.
This Jasper is a young man of prudence, you find; for he keeps a
good offing, and seems determined to know how matters stand on
the island before he ventures to bring up."
"I have it! I have it!" exclaimed Pathfinder, with exultation.
"There lies the canoe of the Sarpent on the cutter's deck; and
the chief has got on board, and no doubt has given a true account
of our condition; for, unlike a Mingo, a Delaware is sartain to
get a story right, or to hold his tongue."
"That canoe may not belong to the cutter," said the captious seaman.
"Oh-deuce had one on board when he sailed."
"Very true, friend Cap; but if you know your sails and masts by
your gores and fishes, I know my canoes and my paths by frontier
knowledge. If you can see new cloth in a sail, I can see new bark
in a canoe. That is the boat of the Sarpent, and the noble fellow
has struck off for the garrison as soon as he found the block
besieged, has fallen in with the _Scud_, and, after telling his
story, has brought the cutter down here to see what can be done.
The Lord grant that Jasper Western be still on board her!"
"Yes, yes; it might not be amiss; for, traitor or loyal, the lad
has a handy way with him in a gale, it must be owned."
"And in coming over waterfalls!" said Pathfinder, nudging the ribs
of his companion with an elbow, and laughing in his silent but
hearty manner. "We will give the boy his due, though he scalps us
all with his own hand."
The _Scud_ was now so near, that Cap made no reply. The scene,
just at that instant, was so peculiar, that it merits a particular
description, which may also aid the reader in forming a more accurate
nature of the picture we wish to draw.
The gale was still blowing violently. Many of the smaller trees
bowed their tops, as if ready to descend to the earth, while the
rushing of the wind through the branches of the groves resembled
the roar of distant chariots.
The air was filled with leaves, which, at that late season, were
readily driven from their stems, and flew from island to island like
flights of birds. With this exception, the spot seemed silent as
the grave. That the savages still remained, was to be inferred
from the fact that their canoes, together with the boats of the
55th, lay in a group in the little cove that had been selected
as a harbor. Otherwise, not a sign of their presence was to be
detected. Though taken entirely by surprise by the cutter, the
sudden return of which was altogether unlooked-for, so uniform
and inbred were their habits of caution while on the war-path, that
the instant an alarm was given every man had taken to his cover
with the instinct and cunning of a fox seeking his hole. The same
stillness reigned in the blockhouse; for though Pathfinder and
Cap could command a view of the channel, they took the precaution
necessary to lie concealed. The unusual absence of anything like
animal life on board the _Scud_, too, was still more remarkable.
As the Indians witnessed her apparently undirected movements, a
feeling of awe gained a footing among them, and some of the boldest
of their party began to distrust the issue of an expedition that had
commenced so prosperously. Even Arrowhead, accustomed as he was
to intercourse with the whites on both sides of the lakes, fancied
there was something ominous in the appearance of this unmanned
vessel, and he would gladly at that moment have been landed again
on the main.
In the meantime the progress of the cutter was steady and rapid.
She held her way mid-channel, now inclining to the gusts, and now
rising again, like the philosopher that bends to the calamities
of life to resume his erect attitude as they pass away, but always
piling the water beneath her bows in foam. Although she was under
so very short canvas, her velocity was great, and there could not
have elapsed ten minutes between the time when her sails were first
seen glancing past the trees and bushes in the distance and the
moment when she was abreast of the blockhouse. Cap and Pathfinder
leaned forward, as the cutter came beneath their eyrie, eager to get
a better view of her deck, when, to the delight of both, Jasper
Eau-douce sprang upon his feet and gave three hearty cheers.
Regardless of all risk, Cap leaped upon the rampart of logs and
returned the greeting, cheer for cheer. Happily, the policy of
the enemy saved the latter; for they still lay quiet, not a rifle
being discharged. On the other hand, Pathfinder kept in view the
useful, utterly disregarding the mere dramatic part of warfare.
The moment he beheld his friend Jasper, he called out to him
with stentorian lungs, --
"Stand by us, lad, and the day's our own! Give 'em a grist in
yonder bushes, and you'll put 'em up like partridges."
Part of this reached Jasper's ears, but most was borne off to
leeward on the wings of the wind. By the time this was said, the
_Scud_ had driven past, and in the next moment she was hid from
view by the grove in which the blockhouse was partially concealed.
Two anxious minutes succeeded; but, at the expiration of that brief
space, the sails were again gleaming through the trees, Jasper having
wore, jibed, and hauled up under the lee of the island on the other
tack. The wind was free enough, as has been already explained,
to admit of this manoeuvre; and the cutter, catching the current
under her lee bow, was breasted up to her course in a way that
showed she would come out to windward of the island again without
any difficulty. This whole evolution was made with the greatest
facility, not a sheet being touched, the sails trimming themselves,
the rudder alone controlling the admirable machine. The object
appeared to be a reconnoissance. When, however, the _Scud_ had made
the circuit of the entire island, and had again got her weatherly
position in the channel by which she had first approached, her helm
was put down, and she tacked. The noise of the mainsail flapping
when it filled, loose-reefed as it was, sounded like the report of
a gun, and Cap trembled lest the seams should open.
"His Majesty gives good canvas, it must be owned," muttered the
old seaman; "and it must be owned, too, that boy handles his boat
as if he were thoroughly bred! D--- me, Master Pathfinder, if I
believe, after all that has been reported in the matter, that this
Mister Oh-deuce got his trade on this bit of fresh water."
"He did; yes, he did. He never saw the ocean, and has come by his
calling altogether up here on Ontario. I have often thought he
has a nat'ral gift in the way of schooners and sloops, and have
respected him accordingly. As for treason and lying and black-hearted
vices, friend Cap, Jasper Western is as free as the most virtuousest
of the Delaware warriors; and if you crave to see a truly honest
man, you must go among that tribe to discover him."
"There he comes round!" exclaimed the delighted Cap, the _Scud_
at this moment filling on her original tack; "and now we shall see
what the boy would be at; he cannot mean to keep running up and
down these passages, like a girl footing it through a country-dance."
The _Scud_ now kept so much away, that for a moment the two observers
on the blockhouse feared Jasper meant to come-to; and the savages,
in their lairs, gleamed out upon her with the sort of exultation
that the crouching tiger may be supposed to feel as he sees
his unconscious victim approach his bed. But Jasper had no such
intention: familiar with the shore, and acquainted with the depth
of water on every part of the island, he well knew that the _Scud_
might be run against the bank with impunity, and he ventured
fearlessly so near, that, as he passed through the little cove,
he swept the two boats of the soldiers from their fastenings and
forced them out into the channel, towing them with the cutter.
As all the canoes were fastened to the two Dunham boats, by this
bold and successful attempt the savages were at once deprived
of the means of quitting the island, unless by swimming, and they
appeared to be instantly aware of the very important fact. Rising
in a body, they filled the air with yells, and poured in a harmless
fire. While up in this unguarded manner, two rifles were discharged
by their adversaries. One came from the summit of the block, and
an Iroquois fell dead in his tracks, shot through the brain. The
other came from the _Scud_. The last was the piece of the Delaware,
but, less true than that of his friend, it only maimed an enemy
for life. The people of the _Scud_ shouted, and the savages sank
again, to a man, as if it might be into the earth.
"That was the Sarpent's voice," said Pathfinder, as soon as the
second piece was discharged. "I know the crack of his rifle as well
as I do that of Killdeer. 'Tis a good barrel, though not sartain
death. Well, well, with Chingachgook and Jasper on the water,
and you and I in the block, friend Cap, it will be hard if we don't
teach these Mingo scamps the rationality of a fight."
All this time the _Scud_ was in motion. As soon as he had reached
the end of the island, Jasper sent his prizes adrift; and they went
down before the wind until they stranded on a point half a mile
to leeward. He then wore, and came stemming the current again,
through the other passage. Those on the summit of the block could
now perceive that something was in agitation on the deck of the
_Scud_; and, to their great delight, just as the cutter came abreast
of the principal cove, on the spot where most of the enemy lay,
the howitzer which composed her sole armament was unmasked, and a
shower of case-shot was sent hissing into the bushes. A bevy of
quail would not have risen quicker than this unexpected discharge
of iron hail put up the Iroquois; when a second savage fell by a
messenger sent from Killdeer, and another went limping away by a
visit from the rifle of Chingachgook. New covers were immediately
found, however; and each party seemed to prepare for the renewal
of the strife in another form. But the appearance of June, bearing
a white flag, and accompanied by the French officer and Muir, stayed
the hands of all, and was the forerunner of another parley. The
negotiation that followed was held beneath the blockhouse; and so
near it as at once to put those who were uncovered completely at
the mercy of Pathfinder's unerring aim. Jasper anchored directly
abeam; and the howitzer, too, was kept trained upon the negotiators:
so that the besieged and their friends, with the exception of the
man who held the match, had no hesitation about exposing their
persons. Chingachgook alone lay in ambush; more, however, from
habit than distrust.
"You've triumphed, Pathfinder," called out the Quartermaster, "and
Captain Sanglier has come himself to offer terms. You'll no'
be denying a brave enemy honorable retreat, when he has fought ye
fairly, and done all the credit he could to king and country. Ye
are too loyal a subject yourself to visit loyalty and fidelity with
a heavy judgment. I am authorized to offer, on the part of the
enemy, an evacuation of the island, a mutual exchange of prisoners,
and a restoration of scalps. In the absence of baggage and artillery,
little more can be done."
As the conversation was necessarily carried on in a high key, both
on account of the wind and of the distance, all that was said was
heard equally by those in the block and those in the cutter.
"What do you say to that, Jasper?" called out Pathfinder. "You
hear the proposal. Shall we let the vagabonds go? Or shall we
mark them, as they mark their sheep in the settlements, that we
may know them again?"
"What has befallen Mabel Dunham?" demanded the young man, with a
frown on his handsome face, that was visible even to those on the
block. "If a hair of her head has been touched, it will go hard
with the whole Iroquois tribe."
"Nay, nay, she is safe below, nursing a dying parent, as
becomes her sex. We owe no grudge on account of the Sergeant's
hurt, which comes of lawful warfare; and as for Mabel -- "
"She is here!" exclaimed the girl herself, who had mounted to the
roof the moment she found the direction things were taking, --
"she is here! And, in the name of our holy religion, and of that
God whom we profess to worship in common, let there be no more
bloodshed! Enough has been spilt already; and if these men will
go away, Pathfinder -- if they will depart peaceably, Jasper --
oh, do not detain one of them! My poor father is approaching his
end, and it were better that he should draw his last breath in peace
with the world. Go, go, Frenchmen and Indians! We are no longer
your enemies, and will harm none of you."
"Tut, tut, Magnet!" put in Cap; "this sounds religious, perhaps, or
like a book of poetry; but it does not sound like common sense. The
enemy is just ready to strike; Jasper is anchored with his broadside
to bear, and, no doubt, with springs on his cables; Pathfinder's eye
and hand are as true as the needle; and we shall get prize-money,
head-money, and honor in the bargain, if you will not interfere
for the next half-hour."
"Well," said Pathfinder, "I incline to Mabel's way of thinking.
There _has_ been enough blood shed to answer our purpose and to
sarve the king; and as for honor, in that meaning, it will do better
for young ensigns and recruits than for cool-headed, obsarvant
Christian men. There is honor in doing what's right, and unhonor
in doing what's wrong; and I think it wrong to take the life even
of a Mingo, without a useful end in view, I do; and right to hear
reason at all times. So, Lieutenant Muir, let us know what your
friends the Frenchers and Indians have to say for themselves."
"My friends!" said Muir, starting; "you'll no' be calling the
king's enemies my friends, Pathfinder, because the fortune of war
has thrown me into their hands? Some of the greatest warriors,
both of ancient and modern times, have been prisoners of war; and
yon is Master Cap, who can testify whether we did not do all that
men could devise to escape the calamity."
"Ay, ay," drily answered Cap; "escape is the proper word. We ran
below and hid ourselves, and so discreetly, that we might have
remained in the hole to this hour, had it not been for the necessity
of re-stowing the bread lockers. You burrowed on that occasion,
Quartermaster, as handily as a fox; and how the d---l you knew so
well where to find the spot is a matter of wonder to me. A regular
skulk on board ship does not trail aft more readily when the jib
is to be stowed, than you went into that same hole."
"And did ye no' follow? There are moments in a man's life
when reason ascends to instinct -- "
"And men descend into holes," interrupted Cap, laughing in
his boisterous way, while Pathfinder chimed in, in his peculiar
manner. Even Jasper, though still filled with concern for Mabel,
was obliged to smile. "They say the d---l wouldn't make a sailor
if he didn't look aloft; and now it seems he'll not make a soldier
if he doesn't look below!"
This burst of merriment, though it was anything but agreeable to
Muir, contributed largely towards keeping the peace. Cap fancied
he had said a thing much better than common; and that disposed him
to yield his own opinion on the main point, so long as he got the
good opinion of his companions on his novel claim to be a wit.
After a short discussion, all the savages on the island were collected
in a body, without arms, at the distance of a hundred yards from the
block, and under the gun of the _Scud_; while Pathfinder descended
to the door of the blockhouse and settled the terms on which the
island was to be finally evacuated by the enemy. Considering all
the circumstances, the conditions were not very discreditable to
either party. The Indians were compelled to give up all their arms,
even to their knives and tomahawks, as a measure of precaution,
their force being still quadruple that of their foes. The French
officer, Monsieur Sanglier, as he was usually styled, and chose to
call himself, remonstrated against this act as one likely to reflect
more discredit on his command than any other part of the affair;
but Pathfinder, who had witnessed one or two Indian massacres,
and knew how valueless pledges became when put in opposition to
interest where a savage was concerned, was obdurate. The second
stipulation was of nearly the same importance. It compelled
Captain Sanglier to give up all his prisoners, who had been kept
well guarded in the very hole or cave in which Cap and Muir had taken
refuge. When these men were produced, four of them were found to
be unhurt; they had fallen merely to save their lives, a common
artifice in that species of warfare; and of the remainder, two were
so slightly injured as not to be unfit for service. As they brought
their muskets with them, this addition to his force immediately
put Pathfinder at his ease; for, having collected all the arms of
the enemy in the blockhouse, he directed these men to take possession
of the building, stationing a regular sentinel at the door. The
remainder of the soldiers were dead, the badly wounded having been
instantly despatched in order to obtain the much-coveted scalps.
As soon as Jasper was made acquainted with the terms, and the
preliminaries had been so far observed as to render it safe for him
to be absent, he got the _Scud_ under weigh; and, running down to
the point where the boats had stranded, he took them in tow again,
and, making a few stretches, brought them into the leeward passage.
Here all the savages instantly embarked, when Jasper took the boats
in tow a third time, and, running off before the wind, he soon
set them adrift full a mile to leeward of the island. The Indians
were furnished with but a single oar in each boat to steer with,
the young sailor well knowing that by keeping before the wind they
would land on the shores of Canada in the course of the morning.
Captain Sanglier, Arrowhead, and June alone remained, when this
disposition had been made of the rest of the party: the former
having certain papers to draw up and sign with Lieutenant Muir,
who in his eyes possessed the virtues which are attached to a
commission; and the latter preferring, for reasons of his own, not
to depart in company with his late friends, the Iroquois. Canoes
were detained for the departure of these three, when the proper
moment should arrive.
In the meantime, or while the _Scud_ was running down with the
boats in tow, Pathfinder and Cap, aided by proper assistants, busied
themselves with preparing a breakfast; most of the party not having
eaten for four-and-twenty hours. The brief space that passed in
this manner before the _Scud_ came-to again was little interrupted
by discourse, though Pathfinder found leisure to pay a visit to the
Sergeant, to say a few friendly words to Mabel, and to give such
directions as he thought might smooth the passage of the dying
man. As for Mabel herself, he insisted on her taking some light
refreshment; and, there no longer existing any motive for keeping
it there, he had the guard removed from the block, in order that
the daughter might have no impediment to her attentions to her
father. These little arrangements completed, our hero returned
to the fire, around which he found all the remainder of the party
assembled, including Jasper.
You saw but sorrow in its waning form;
A working sea remaining from a storm,
Where now the weary waves roll o'er the deep,
And faintly murmur ere they fall asleep.
Men accustomed to a warfare like that we have been describing are
not apt to be much under the influence of the tender feelings
while still in the field. Notwithstanding their habits, however,
more than one heart was with Mabel in the block, while the incidents
we are about to relate were in the course of occurrence; and even
the indispensable meal was less relished by the hardiest of the
soldiers than it might have been had not the Sergeant been so near
As Pathfinder returned from the block, he was met by Muir, who
led him aside in order to hold a private discourse. The manner of
the Quartermaster had that air of supererogatory courtesy about it
which almost invariably denotes artifice; for, while physiognomy
and phrenology are but lame sciences at the best, and perhaps lead
to as many false as right conclusions, we hold that there is no
more infallible evidence of insincerity of purpose, short of overt
acts, than a face that smiles when there is no occasion, and the
tongue that is out of measure smooth. Muir had much of this manner
in common, mingled with an apparent frankness that his Scottish
intonation of voice, Scottish accent, and Scottish modes of expression
were singularly adapted to sustain. He owed his preferment, indeed,
to a long-exercised deference to Lundie and his family; for, while
the Major himself was much too acute to be the dupe of one so much
his inferior in real talents and attainments, most persons are
accustomed to make liberal concessions to the flatterer, even while
they distrust his truth and are perfectly aware of his motives. On
the present occasion, the contest in skill was between two men as
completely the opposites of each other in all the leading essentials
of character as very well could be. Pathfinder was as simple as
the Quartermaster was practised; he was as sincere as the other
was false, and as direct as the last was tortuous. Both were cool
and calculating, and both were brave, though in different modes and
degrees; Muir never exposing his person except for effect, while
the guide included fear among the rational passions, or as a
sensation to be deferred to only when good might come of it.
"My dearest friend," Muir commenced, -- "for ye'll be dearer to us
all, by seventy and sevenfold, after your late conduct than ever ye
were, -- ye've just established yourself in this late transaction.
It's true that they'll not be making ye a commissioned officer, for
that species of prefairment is not much in your line, nor much in
your wishes, I'm thinking; but as a guide, and a counsellor, and
a loyal subject, and an expert marksman, yer renown may be said to
be full. I doubt if the commander-in-chief will carry away with
him from America as much credit as will fall to yer share, and
ye ought just to set down in content and enjoy yoursal' for the
remainder of yer days. Get married, man, without delay, and look
to your precious happiness; for ye've no occasion to look any
longer to your glory. Take Mabel Dunham, for Heaven's sake, to your
bosom, and ye'll have both a bonnie bride and a bonnie reputation."
"Why, Quartermaster, this is a new piece of advice to come from
your mouth. They've told me I had a rival in you."
"And ye had, man, and a formidible one, too, I can tell you, -- one
that has never yet courted in vain, and yet one that has courted
five times. Lundie twits me with four, and I deny the charge; but
he little thinks the truth would outdo even his arithmetic. Yes,
yes, ye had a rival, Pathfinder; but ye've one no longer in me.
Ye've my hearty wishes for yer success with Mabel; and were the
honest Sergeant likely to survive, ye might rely on my good word
with him, too, for a certainty."
"I feel your friendship, Quartermaster, I feel your friendship,
though I have no great need of any favor with Sergeant Dunham, who
has long been my friend. I believe we may look upon the matter
to be as sartain as most things in war-time; for, Mabel and her
father consenting, the whole 55th couldn't very well put a stop to
it. Ah's me! The poor father will scarcely live to see what his
heart has so long been set upon."
"But he'll have the consolation of knowing it will come to pass,
in dying. Oh, it's a great relief, Pathfinder, for the parting
spirit to feel certain that the beloved ones left behind will be
well provided for after its departure. All the Mistress Muirs have
duly expressed that sentiment with their dying breaths."
"All your wives, Quartermaster, have been likely to feel this
"Out upon ye, man! I'd no' thought ye such a wag. Well, well;
pleasant words make no heart-burnings between auld fri'nds. If
I cannot espouse Mabel, ye'll no object to my esteeming her, and
speaking well of her, and of yoursal', too, on all suitable occasions
and in all companies. But, Pathfinder, ye'll easily understan'
that a poor deevil who loses such a bride will probably stand in
need of some consolation?"
"Quite likely, quite likely, Quartermaster," returned the simple-minded
guide; "I know the loss of Mabel would be found heavy to be borne
by myself. It may bear hard on your feelings to see us married;
but the death of the Sergeant will be likely to put it off, and
you'll have time to think more manfully of it, you will."
"I'll bear up against it; yes, I'll bear up against it, though my
heart-strings crack! And ye might help me, man, by giving me something
to do. Ye'll understand that this expedition has been of a very
peculiar nature; for here am I, bearing the king's commission,
just a volunteer, as it might be; while a mere orderly has had the
command. I've submitted for various reasons, though my blood has
boiled to be in authority, while ye war' battling, for the honor
of the country and his Majesty's rights -- "
"Quartermaster," interrupted the guide, "you fell so early into the
enemy's hands that your conscience ought to be easily satisfied on
that score; so take my advice, and say nothing about it."
"That's just my opinion, Pathfinder; we'll all say nothing
about it. Sergeant Dunham is _hors de combat_ -- "
"Anan?" said the guide.
"Why, the Sergeant can command no longer, and it will hardly do to
leave a corporal at the head of a victorious party like this; for
flowers that will bloom in a garden will die on a heath; and I was
just thinking I would claim the authority that belongs to one who
holds a lieutenant's commission. As for the men, they'll no dare
to raise any objaction; and as for yoursal', my dear friend, now
that ye've so much honor, and Mabel, and the consciousness of having
done yer duty, which is more precious than all, I expect to find
an ally rather than one to oppose the plan."
"As for commanding the soldiers of the 55th, Lieutenant, it is your
right, I suppose, and no one here will be likely to gainsay it;
though you've been a prisoner of war, and there are men who might
stand out ag'in giving up their authority to a prisoner released by
their own deeds. Still no one here will be likely to say anything
hostile to your wishes."
"That's just it, Pathfinder; and when I come to draw up the report
of our success against the boats, and the defence of the block,
together with the general operations, including the capitulation,
ye'll no' find any omission of your claims and merits."
"Tut for my claims and merits, Quartermaster! Lundie knows what I
am in the forest and what I am in the fort; and the General knows
better than he. No fear of me; tell your own story, only taking
care to do justice by Mabel's father, who, in one sense, is the
commanding officer at this very moment."
Muir expressed his entire satisfaction with this arrangement, as
well as his determination to do justice by all, when the two went
to the group assembled round the fire. Here the Quartermaster
began, for the first time since leaving Oswego, to assume some
of the authority that might properly be supposed to belong to his
rank. Taking the remaining corporal aside, he distinctly told
that functionary that he must in future be regarded as one holding
the king's commission, and directed him to acquaint his subordinates
with the new state of things. This change in the dynasty was
effected without any of the usual symptoms of a revolution; for,
as all well understood the Lieutenant's legal claims to command,
no one felt disposed to dispute his orders. For reasons best known
to themselves, Lundie and the Quartermaster had originally made a
different disposition; and now, for reasons of his own, the latter
had seen fit to change it. This was reasoning enough for soldiers,
though the hurt received by Sergeant Dunham would have sufficiently
explained the circumstance had an explanation been required.
All this time Captain Sanglier was looking after his own breakfast
with the resignation of a philosopher, the coolness of a veteran,
the ingenuity and science of a Frenchman, and the voracity of an
ostrich. This person had now been in the colony some thirty years,
having left France in some such situation in his own army as Muir
filled in the 55th. An iron constitution, perfect obduracy of
feeling, a certain address well suited to manage savages, and an
indomitable courage, had early pointed him out to the commander-in-chief
as a suitable agent to be employed in directing the military
operations of his Indian allies. In this capacity, then, he had
risen to the titular rank of captain; and with his promotion had
acquired a portion of the habits and opinions of his associates
with a facility and an adaptation of self which are thought in
America to be peculiar to his countrymen. He had often led parties
of the Iroquois in their predatory expeditions; and his conduct on
such occasions exhibited the contradictory results of both alleviating
the misery produced by this species of warfare, and of augmenting
it by the broader views and greater resources of civilization. In
other words, he planned enterprises that, in their importance and
consequences, much exceeded the usual policy of the Indians, and
then stepped in to lessen some of the evils of his own creating.
In short, he was an adventurer whom circumstances had thrown into
a situation where the callous qualities of men of his class might
readily show themselves for good or for evil; and he was not of a
character to baffle fortune by any ill-timed squeamishness on the
score of early impressions, or to trifle with her liberality by
unnecessarily provoking her frowns through wanton cruelty. Still,
as his name was unavoidably connected with many of the excesses
committed by his parties, he was generally considered in the American
provinces a wretch who delighted in bloodshed, and who found his
greatest happiness in tormenting the helpless and the innocent;
and the name of Sanglier, which was a sobriquet of his own adopting,
or of Flint Heart, as he was usually termed on the borders, had
got to be as terrible to the women and children of that part of
the country as those of Butler and Brandt became at a later day.
The meeting between Pathfinder and Sanglier bore some resemblance
to that celebrated interview between Wellington and Blucher which
has been so often and graphically told. It took place at the fire;
and the parties stood earnestly regarding each other for more than
a minute without speaking. Each felt that in the other he saw a
formidable foe; and each felt, while he ought to treat the other
with the manly liberality due to a warrior, that there was little
in common between them in the way of character as well as of
interests. One served for money and preferment; the other, because
his life had been cast in the wilderness, and the land of his
birth needed his arm and experience. The desire of rising above his
present situation never disturbed the tranquillity of Pathfinder;
nor had he ever known an ambitious thought, as ambition usually
betrays itself, until he became acquainted with Mabel. Since then,
indeed, distrust of himself, reverence for her, and the wish to
place her in a situation above that which he then filled, had caused
him some uneasy moments; but the directness and simplicity of his
character had early afforded the required relief; and he soon came
to feel that the woman who would not hesitate to accept him for her
husband would not scruple to share his fortunes, however humble.
He respected Sanglier as a brave warrior; and he had far too much
of that liberality which is the result of practical knowledge to
believe half of what he had heard to his prejudice, for the most
bigoted and illiberal on every subject are usually those who know
nothing about it; but he could not approve of his selfishness,
cold-blooded calculations, and least of all of the manner in which
he forgot his "white gifts," to adopt those that were purely "red."
On the other hand, Pathfinder was a riddle to Captain Sanglier.
The latter could not comprehend the other's motives; he had often
heard of his disinterestedness, justice, and truth; and in several
instances they had led him into grave errors, on that principle
by which a frank and open-mouthed diplomatist is said to keep his
secrets better than one that is close-mouthed and wily.
After the two heroes had gazed at each other in the manner
mentioned, Monsieur Sanglier touched his cap; for the rudeness of
a border life had not entirely destroyed the courtesy of manner he
had acquired in youth, nor extinguished that appearance of _bonhomie_
which seems inbred in a Frenchman.
"Monsieur le Pathfinder," said he, with a very decided accent,
though with a friendly smile, "_un militaire_ honor _le courage,
et la loyaute_. You speak Iroquois?"
"Ay, I understand the language of the riptyles, and can get along
with it if there's occasion," returned the literal and truth-telling
guide; "but it's neither a tongue nor a tribe to my taste. Wherever
you find the Mingo blood, in my opinion, Master Flinty-heart, you
find a knave. Well, I've seen you often, though it was in battle;
and I must say it was always in the van. You must know most of
our bullets by sight?"
"Nevvair, sair, your own; _une balle_ from your honorable hand be
sairtaine deat'. You kill my best warrior on some island."
"That may be, that may be; though I daresay, if the truth was known,
they would turn out to be great rascals. No offence to you, Master
Flinty-heart, but you keep desperate evil company."
"Yes, sair," returned the Frenchman, who, bent on saying that
which was courteous himself, and comprehending with difficulty,
was disposed to think he received a compliment, "you too good.
But _un brave_ always _comme ca_. What that mean? ha! what that
_jeune homme_ do?"
The hand and eye of Captain Sanglier directed the look of Pathfinder
to the opposite side of the fire, where Jasper, just at that moment,
had been rudely seized by two of the soldiers, who were binding
his arms under the direction of Muir.
"What does that mean, indeed?" cried the guide, stepping forward
and shoving the two subordinates away with a power of muscle
that would not be denied. "Who has the heart to do this to Jasper
Eau-douce? And who has the boldness to do it before my eyes?"
"It is by my orders, Pathfinder," answered the Quartermaster, "and
I command it on my own responsibility. Ye'll no' tak' on yourself
to dispute the legality of orders given by one who bears the king's
commission to the king's soldiers?"
"I'd dispute the king's words, if they came from the king's own
mouth, did he say that Jasper desarves this. Has not the lad just
saved all our scalps, taken us from defeat, and given us victory?
No, no, Lieutenant; if this is the first use that you make of your
authority, I, for one, will not respect it."
"This savors a little of insubordination," answered Muir; "but we
can bear much from Pathfinder. It is true this Jasper has _seemed_
to serve us in this affair, but we ought not to overlook past
transactions. Did not Major Duncan himself denounce him to Sergeant
Dunham before we left the post? Have we not seen sufficient with
our own eyes to make sure of having been betrayed? And is it not
natural, and almost necessary, to believe that this young man has
been the traitor? Ah, Pathfinder! Ye'll no' be making yourself
a great statesman or a great captain if you put too much faith in
appearances. Lord bless me! Lord bless me! If I do not believe,
could the truth be come at, as you often say yourself, Pathfinder,
that hypocrisy is a more common vice than even envy, and that's
the bane of human nature."
Captain Sanglier shrugged his shoulders; then he looked earnestly
from Jasper towards the Quartermaster, and from the Quartermaster
"I care not for your envy, or your hypocrisy, or even for your human
natur'," returned Pathfinder. "Jasper Eau-douce is my friend; Jasper
Eau-douce is a brave lad, and an honest lad, and a loyal lad; and
no man of the 55th shall lay hands on him, short of Lundie's own
orders, while I'm in the way to prevent it. You may have authority
over your soldiers; but you have none over Jasper and me, Master
"_Bon!_" ejaculated Sanglier, the sound partaking equally of the
energies of the throat and of the nose.
"Will ye no' hearken to reason, Pathfinder? Ye'll no' be forgetting
our suspicions and judgments; and here is another circumstance
to augment and aggravate them all. Ye can see this little bit of
bunting; well, where should it be found but by Mabel Dunham, on
the branch of a tree on this very island, just an hour or so before
the attack of the enemy; and if ye'll be at the trouble to look at
the fly of the _Scud's_ ensign, ye'll just say that the cloth has
been cut from out it. Circumstantial evidence was never stronger."
"_Ma foi, c'est un peu fort, ceci,_" growled Sanglier between his
"Talk to me of no ensigns and signals when I know the heart,"
continued the Pathfinder. "Jasper has the gift of honesty; and it
is too rare a gift to be trifled with, like a Mingo's conscience.
No, no; off hands, or we shall see which can make the stoutest battle;
you and your men of the 55th, or the Sarpent here, and Killdeer,
with Jasper and his crew. You overrate your force, Lieutenant
Muir, as much as you underrate Eau-douce's truth."
"Well, if I must speak plainly, Pathfinder, I e'en must. Captain
Sanglier here and Arrowhead, this brave Tuscarora, have both
informed me that this unfortunate boy is the traitor. After such
testimony you can no longer oppose my right to correct him, as well
as the necessity of the act."
"_Scelerat,_" muttered the Frenchman.
"Captain Sanglier is a brave soldier, and will not gainsay the
conduct of an honest sailor," put in Jasper. "Is there any traitor
here, Captain Flinty-heart?"
"Ay," added Muir, "let him speak out then, since ye wish it,
unhappy youth! That the truth may be known. I only hope that ye
may escape the last punishment when a court will be sitting on your
misdeeds. How is it, Captain; do ye, or do ye not, see a traitor
"_Oui_ -- yes, sair -- _bien sur_."
"Too much lie!" said Arrowhead in a voice of thunder, striking the
breast of Muir with the back of his own hand in a sort of ungovernable
gesture; "where my warriors? - where Yengeese scalp? Too much
Muir wanted not for personal courage, nor for a certain sense of
personal honor. The violence which had been intended only for a
gesture he mistook for a blow; for conscience was suddenly aroused
within him, and he stepped back a pace, extending his hand towards
a gun. His face was livid with rage, and his countenance expressed
the fell intention of his heart. But Arrowhead was too quick for
him; with a wild glance of the eye the Tuscarora looked about him;
then thrust a hand beneath his own girdle, drew forth a concealed
knife, and, in the twinkling of an eye, buried it in the body of
the Quartermaster to the handle. As the latter fell at his feet,
gazing into his face with the vacant stare of one surprised by
death, Sanglier took a pinch of snuff, and said in a calm voice,
"_Voila l'affaire finie; mais,_" shrugging his shoulders, "_ce
n'est qu'un scelerat de moins._"
The act was too sudden to be prevented; and when Arrowhead, uttering
a yell, bounded into the bushes, the white men were too confounded
to follow. Chingachgook, however, was more collected; and the
bushes had scarcely closed on the passing body of the Tuscarora
than they were again opened by that of the Delaware in full pursuit.
Jasper Western spoke French fluently, and the words and manner of
Sanglier struck him.
"Speak, Monsieur," said he in English; "_am_ I the traitor?"
"_Le voila_," answered the cool Frenchman, "dat is our _espion_ --
our _agent_ -- our friend -- _ma foi_ -- _c'etait un grand scelerat_
While speaking, Sanglier bent over the dead body, and thrust his
hand into a pocket of the Quartermaster, out of which he drew a
purse. Emptying the contents on the ground, several double-louis
rolled towards the soldiers, who were not slow in picking them up.
Casting the purse from him in contempt, the soldier of fortune
turned towards the soup he had been preparing with so much care,
and, finding it to his liking, he began to break his fast with an
air of indifference that the most stoical Indian warrior might have
The only amaranthian flower on earth
Is virtue; the only lasting treasure, truth.
The reader must imagine some of the occurrences that followed the
sudden death of Muir. While his body was in the hands of his soldiers,
who laid it decently aside, and covered it with a greatcoat,
Chingachgook silently resumed his place at the fire, and both
Sanglier and Pathfinder remarked that he carried a fresh and bleeding
scalp at his girdle. No one asked any questions; and the former,
although perfectly satisfied that Arrowhead had fallen, manifested
neither curiosity nor feeling. He continued calmly eating his soup,
as if the meal had been tranquil as usual. There was something
of pride and of an assumed indifference to fate, imitated from the
Indians, in all this; but there was more that really resulted from
practice, habitual self-command, and constitutional hardihood.
With Pathfinder the case was a little different in feeling, though
much the same in appearance. He disliked Muir, whose smooth-tongued
courtesy was little in accordance with his own frank and ingenuous
nature; but he had been shocked at his unexpected and violent death,
though accustomed to similar scenes, and he had been surprised
at the exposure of his treachery. With a view to ascertain the
extent of the latter, as soon as the body was removed, he began to
question the Captain on the subject. The latter, having no particular
motive for secrecy now that his agent was dead, in the course
of the breakfast revealed the following circumstances, which will
serve to clear up some of the minor incidents of our tale.
Soon after the 55th appeared on the frontiers, Muir had volunteered
his services to the enemy. In making his offers, he boasted of his
intimacy with Lundie, and of the means it afforded of furnishing
more accurate and important information than usual. His terms had
been accepted, and Monsieur Sanglier had several interviews with
him in the vicinity of the fort at Oswego, and had actually passed
one entire night secreted in the garrison. Arrowhead, however,
was the usual channel of communication; and the anonymous letter to
Major Duncan had been originally written by Muir, transmitted to
Frontenac, copied, and sent back by the Tuscarora, who was returning
from that errand when captured by the _Scud_. It is scarcely
necessary to add that Jasper was to be sacrificed in order to
conceal the Quartermaster's treason, and that the position of the
island had been betrayed to the enemy by the latter. An extraordinary
compensation -- that which was found in his purse -- had induced
him to accompany the party under Sergeant Dunham, in order to give
the signals that were to bring on the attack. The disposition
of Muir towards the sex was a natural weakness, and he would have
married Mabel, or any one else who would accept his hand; but his
admiration of her was in a great degree feigned, in order that he
might have an excuse for accompanying the party without sharing in
the responsibility of its defeat, or incurring the risk of having
no other strong and seemingly sufficient motive. Much of this
was known to Captain Sanglier, particularly the part in connection
with Mabel, and he did not fail to let his auditors into the whole
secret, frequently laughing in a sarcastic manner, as he revealed
the different expedients of the luckless Quartermaster.
"_Touchez-la_," said the cold-blooded partisan, holding out his
sinewy hand to Pathfinder, when he ended his explanations; "you be
_honnete_, and dat is _beaucoup_. We tak' de spy as we tak' _la
medicine_, for de good; _mais, je les deteste! Touchez-la._"
"I'll shake your hand, Captain, I will; for you're a lawful and
nat'ral inimy," returned Pathfinder, "and a manful one; but the
body of the Quartermaster shall never disgrace English ground. I
did intend to carry it back to Lundie that he might play his bagpipes
over it, but now it shall lie here on the spot where he acted
his villainy, and have his own treason for a headstone. Captain
Flinty-heart, I suppose this consorting with traitors is a part of
a soldier's regular business; but, I tell you honestly, it is not
to my liking, and I'd rather it should be you than I who had this
affair on his conscience. What an awful sinner! To plot, right
and left, ag'in country, friends, and the Lord! Jasper, boy, a
word with you aside, for a single minute."
Pathfinder now led the young man apart; and, squeezing his hand,
with the tears in his own eyes, he continued:
"You know me, Eau-douce, and I know you," said he, "and this news
has not changed my opinion of you in any manner. I never believed their
tales, though it looked solemn at one minute, I will own; yes, it
did look solemn, and it made me feel solemn too. I never suspected
you for a minute, for I know your gifts don't lie that-a-way; but,
I must own, I didn't suspect the Quartermaster neither."
"And he holding his Majesty's commission, Pathfinder!"
"It isn't so much that, Jasper Western, it isn't so much that. He
held a commission from God to act right, and to deal fairly with
his fellow-creaturs, and he has failed awfully in his duty."
"To think of his pretending love for one like Mabel, too, when he
"That was bad, sartainly; the fellow must have had Mingo blood in
his veins. The man that deals unfairly by a woman can be but a
mongrel, lad; for the Lord has made them helpless on purpose that
we may gain their love by kindness and sarvices. Here is the
Sergeant, poor man, on his dying bed; he has given me his daughter
for a wife, and Mabel, dear girl, she has consented to it; and it
makes me feel that I have two welfares to look after, two natur's
to care for, and two hearts to gladden. Ah's me, Jasper! I
sometimes feel that I'm not good enough for that sweet child!"
Eau-douce had nearly gasped for breath when he first heard this
intelligence; and, though he succeeded in suppressing any other
outward signs of agitation, his cheek was blanched nearly to the
paleness of death. Still he found means to answer not only with
firmness, but with energy, --
"Say not so, Pathfinder; you are good enough for a queen."
"Ay, ay, boy, according to your idees of my goodness; that is to
say, I can kill a deer, or even a Mingo at need, with any man on
the lines; or I can follow a forest-path with as true an eye, or
read the stars, when others do not understand them. No doubt, no
doubt, Mabel will have venison enough, and fish enough, and pigeons
enough; but will she have knowledge enough, and will she have idees
enough, and pleasant conversation enough, when life comes to drag
a little, and each of us begins to pass for our true value?"
"If you pass for your value, Pathfinder, the greatest lady in the
land would be happy with you. On that head you have no reason to
"Now, Jasper, I dare to say _you_ think so, nay, I _know_ you do;
for it is nat'ral, and according to friendship, for people to look
over-favorably at them they love. Yes, yes; if I had to marry you,
boy, I should give myself no consarn about my being well looked
upon, for you have always shown a disposition to see me and all I
do with friendly eyes. But a young gal, after all, must wish to
marry a man that is nearer to her own age and fancies, than to have
one old enough to be her father, and rude enough to frighten her.
I wonder, Jasper, that Mabel never took a fancy to you, now, rather
than setting her mind on me."
"Take, a fancy to me, Pathfinder!" returned the young man, endeavoring
to clear his voice without betraying himself; "what is there about
me to please such a girl as Mabel Dunham? I have all that you find
fault with in yourself, with none of that excellence that makes
even the generals respect you."
"Well, well, it's all chance, say what we will about it. Here have
I journeyed and guided through the woods female after female, and
consorted with them in the garrisons, and never have I even felt
an inclination for any, until I saw Mabel Dunham. It's true the
poor Sergeant first set me to thinking about his daughter; but
after we got a little acquainted like, I'd no need of being spoken
to, to think of her night and day. I'm tough, Jasper; yes, I'm
very tough; and I'm risolute enough, as you all know; and yet I do
think it would quite break me down, now, to lose Mabel Dunham!"
"We will talk no more of it, Pathfinder," said Jasper, returning
his friend's squeeze of the hand, and moving back towards the fire,
though slowly, and in the manner of one who cared little where he
went; "we will talk no more of it. You are worthy of Mabel, and
Mabel is worthy of you -- you like Mabel, and Mabel likes you --
her father has chosen you for her husband, and no one has a right
to interfere. As for the Quartermaster, his feigning love for
Mabel is worse even than his treason to the king."
By this time they were so near the fire that it was necessary to
change the conversation. Luckily, at that instant, Cap, who had
been in the block in company with his dying brother-in-law, and
who knew nothing of what had passed since the capitulation, now
appeared, walking with a meditative and melancholy air towards the
group. Much of that hearty dogmatism, that imparted even to his
ordinary air and demeanor an appearance of something like contempt
for all around him, had disappeared, and he seemed thoughtful, if
"This death, gentlemen," said he, when he had got sufficiently
near, "is a melancholy business, make the best of it. Now, here
is Sergeant Dunham, a very good soldier, I make no question, about
to slip his cable; and yet he holds on to the better end of it,
as if he was determined it should never run out of the hawse-hole;
and all because he loves his daughter, it seems to me. For my
part, when a friend is really under the necessity of making a long
journey, I always wish him well and happily off."
"You wouldn't kill the Sergeant before his time?" Pathfinder
reproachfully answered. "Life is sweet, even to the aged; and,
for that matter, I've known some that seemed to set much store by
it when it got to be of the least value."
Nothing had been further from Cap's real thoughts than the wish to
hasten his brother-in-law's end. He had found himself embarrassed
with the duties of smoothing a deathbed, and all he had meant
was to express a sincere desire that the Sergeant were happily
rid of doubt and suffering. A little shocked, therefore, at the
interpretation that had been put on his words, he rejoined with some
of the asperity of the man, though rebuked by a consciousness of
not having done his own wishes justice. "You are too old and too
sensible a person, Pathfinder," said he, "to fetch a man up with
a surge, when he is paying out his ideas in distress, as it might
be. Sergeant Dunham is both my brother-in-law and my friend, --
that is to say, as intimate a friend as a soldier well can be with
a seafaring man, -- and I respect and honor him accordingly. I
make no doubt, moreover, that he has lived such a life as becomes
a man, and there can be no great harm, after all, in wishing any
one well berthed in heaven. Well! we are mortal, the best of us,
that you'll not deny; and it ought to be a lesson not to feel pride
in our strength and beauty. Where is the Quartermaster, Pathfinder?
It is proper he should come and have a parting word with the poor
Sergeant, who is only going a little before us."
"You have spoken more truth, Master Cap, than you've been knowing
to, all this time. You might have gone further, notwithstanding,
and said that we are mortal, the _worst_ of us; which is quite
as true, and a good deal more wholesome, than saying that we are
mortal, the _best_ of us. As for the Quartermaster's coming to speak
a parting word to the Sergeant, it is quite out of the question,
seeing that he has gone ahead, and that too with little parting
notice to himself, or to any one else."
"You are not quite so clear as common in your language, Pathfinder.
I know that we ought all to have solemn thoughts on these occasions,
but I see no use in speaking in parables."
"If my words are not plain, the idee is. In short, Master Cap,
while Sergeant Dunham has been preparing himself for a long journey,
like a conscientious and honest man as he is, deliberately, the
Quartermaster has started, in a hurry, before him; and, although
it is a matter on which it does not become me to be very positive,
I give it as my opinion that they travel such different roads that
they will never meet."
"Explain yourself, my friend," said the bewildered seaman, looking
around him in search of Muir, whose absence began to excite his
distrust. "I see nothing of the Quartermaster; but I think him too
much of a man to run away, now that the victory is gained. If the
fight were ahead instead of in our wake, the case would be altered."
"There lies all that is left of him, beneath that greatcoat," returned
the guide, who then briefly related the manner of the Lieutenant's
death. "The Tuscarora was as venemous in his blow as a rattler,
though he failed to give the warning," continued Pathfinder. "I've
seen many a desperate fight, and several of these sudden outbreaks
of savage temper; but never before did I see a human soul quit
the body more unexpectedly, or at a worse moment for the hopes of
the dying man. His breath was stopped with the lie on his lips,
and the spirit might be said to have passed away in the very ardor
Cap listened with a gaping mouth; and he gave two or three violent
hems, as the other concluded, like one who distrusted his own
"This is an uncertain and uncomfortable life of yours, Master
Pathfinder, what between the fresh water and the savages," said he;
"and the sooner I get quit of it, the higher will be my opinion of
myself. Now you mention it, I will say that the man ran for that
berth in the rocks, when the enemy first bore down upon us, with a
sort of instinct that I thought surprising in an officer; but I was
in too great a hurry to follow, to log the whole matter accurately.
God bless me! God bless me! -- a traitor, do you say, and ready
to sell his country, and to a rascally Frenchman too?"
"To sell anything; country, soul, body, Mabel, and all our scalps;
and no ways particular, I'll engage, as to the purchaser. The
countrymen of Captain Flinty-heart here were the paymasters this
"Just like 'em; ever ready to buy when they can't thrash, and to
run when they can do neither."
Monsieur Sanglier lifted his cap with ironical gravity, and
acknowledged the compliment with an expression of polite contempt
that was altogether lost on its insensible subject. But Pathfinder
had too much native courtesy, and was far too just-minded, to allow
the attack to go unnoticed.
"Well, well," he interposed, "to my mind there is no great
difference 'atween an Englishman and a Frenchman, after all. They
talk different tongues, and live under different kings, I will
allow; but both are human, and feel like human beings, when there
is occasion for it."
Captain Flinty-heart, as Pathfinder called him, made another
obeisance; but this time the smile was friendly, and not ironical;
for he felt that the intention was good, whatever might have been
the mode of expressing it. Too philosophical, however, to heed
what a man like Cap might say or think, he finished his breakfast,
without allowing his attention to be again diverted from that
"My business here was principally with the Quartermaster," Cap continued,
as soon as he had done regarding the prisoner's pantomime. "The
Sergeant must be near his end, and I have thought he might wish
to say something to his successor in authority before he finally
departed. It is too late, it would seem; and, as you say, Pathfinder,
the Lieutenant has truly gone before."
"That he has, though on a different path. As for authority,
I suppose the Corporal has now a right to command what's left of
the 55th; though a small and worried, not to say frightened, party
it is. But, if anything needs to be done, the chances are greatly
in favor of my being called on to do it. I suppose, however, we
have only to bury our dead; set fire to the block and the huts, for
they stand in the inimy's territory by position, if not by law, and
must not be left for their convenience. Our using them again is
out of the question; for, now the Frenchers know where the island
is to be found, it would be like thrusting the hand into a wolf-trap
with our eyes wide open. This part of the work the Sarpent and I
will see to, for we are as practysed in retreats as in advances."
"All that is very well, my good friend. And now for my poor
brother-in-law: though he is a soldier, we cannot let him slip
without a word of consolation and a leave-taking, in my judgment.
This has been an unlucky affair on every tack; though I suppose
it is what one had a right to expect, considering the state of the
times and the nature of the navigation. We must make the best of
it, and try to help the worthy man to unmoor, without straining his
messengers. Death is a circumstance, after all, Master Pathfinder,
and one of a very general character too, seeing that we must all
submit to it, sooner or later."
"You say truth, you say truth; and for that reason I hold it to
be wise to be always ready. I've often thought, Saltwater, that
he is the happiest who has the least to leave behind him when the
summons comes. Now, here am I, a hunter and a scout and a guide,
although I do not own a foot of land on 'arth, yet do I enjoy and
possess more than the great Albany Patroon. With the heavens over
my head to keep me in mind of the last great hunt, and the dried
leaves beneath my feet, I tramp over the ground as freely as if I
was its lord and owner; and what more need heart desire? I do not
say that I love nothing that belongs to 'arth; for I do, though
not much, unless it might be Mabel Dunham, that I can't carry with
me. I have some pups at the higher fort that I vally considerable,
though they are too noisy for warfare, and so we are compelled to
live separate for awhile; and then I think it would grieve me to
part with Killdeer; but I see no reason why we should not be buried
in the same grave, for we are as near as can be of the same length
-- six feet to a hair's breadth; but, bating these, and a pipe that
the Sarpent gave me, and a few tokens received from travellers,
all of which might be put in a pouch and laid under my head, when
the order comes to march I shall be ready at a minute's warning;
and, let me tell you, Master Cap, that's what I call a circumstance
"'Tis just so with me," answered the sailor, as the two walked
towards the block, too much occupied with their respective morality
to remember at the moment the melancholy errand they were on;
"that's just my way of feeling and reasoning. How often have I
felt, when near shipwreck, the relief of not owning the craft! 'If
she goes,' I have said to myself, 'why, my life goes with her,
but not my property, and there's great comfort in that.' I've
discovered, in the course of boxing about the world from the Horn
to Cape North, not to speak of this run on a bit of fresh water,
that if a man has a few dollars, and puts them in a chest under
lock and key, he is pretty certain to fasten up his heart in the
same till; and so I carry pretty much all I own in a belt round
my body, in order, as I say, to keep the vitals in the right place.
D--- me, Pathfinder, if I think a man without a heart any better
than a fish with a hole in his air-bag."
"I don't know how that may be, Master Cap; but a man without a
conscience is but a poor creatur', take my word for it, as any one
will discover who has to do with a Mingo. I trouble myself but
little with dollars or half-joes, for these are the favoryte coin
in this part of the world; but I can easily believe, by what I've
seen of mankind, that if a man _has_ a chest filled with either,
he may be said to lock up his heart in the same box. I once hunted
for two summers, during the last peace, and I collected so much
peltry that I found my right feelings giving way to a craving after
property; and if I have consarn in marrying Mabel, it is that I may
get to love such things too well, in order to make her comfortable."
"You're a philosopher, that's clear, Pathfinder; and I don't know
but you're a Christian."
"I should be out of humor with the man that gainsayed the last,
Master Cap. I have not been Christianized by the Moravians, like
so many of the Delawares, it is true; but I hold to Christianity
and white gifts. With me, it is as on-creditable for a white man
not to be a Christian as it is for a red-skin not to believe in
his happy hunting-grounds; indeed, after allowing for difference
in traditions, and in some variations about the manner in which
the spirit will be occupied after death, I hold that a good Delaware
is a good Christian, though he never saw a Moravian; and a good
Christian a good Delaware, so far as natur 'is consarned. The Sarpent
and I talk these matters over often, for he has a hankerin'
after Christianity -- "
"The d---l he has!" interrupted Cap. "And what does he intend to
do in a church with all the scalps he takes?"
"Don't run away with a false idee, friend Cap, don't run away with
a false idee. These things are only skin-deep, and all depend on
edication and nat'ral gifts. Look around you at mankind, and tell
me why you see a red warrior here, a black one there, and white
armies in another place? All this, and a great deal more of the
same kind that I could point out, has been ordered for some special
purpose; and it is not for us to fly in the face of facts and deny
their truth. No, no; each color has its gifts, and its laws, and
its traditions; and one is not to condemn another because he does
not exactly comprehend it."
"You must have read a great deal, Pathfinder, to see things so clear
as this," returned Cap, not a little mystified by his companion's
simple creed. "It's all as plain as day to me now, though I must
say I never fell in with these opinions before. What denomination
do you belong to, my friend?"
"What sect do you hold out for? What particular church do you
fetch up in?"
"Look about you, and judge for yourself. I'm in church now; I eat
in church, drink in church, sleep in church. The 'arth is the
temple of the Lord, and I wait on Him hourly, daily, without ceasing,
I humbly hope. No, no, I'll not deny my blood and color; but am
Christian born, and shall die in the same faith. The Moravians
tried me hard; and one of the King's chaplains has had his say
too, though that's a class no ways strenuous on such matters; and
a missionary sent from Rome talked much with me, as I guided him
through the forest, during the last peace; but I've had one answer
for them all -- I'm a Christian already, and want to be neither
Moravian, nor Churchman, nor Papist. No, no, I'll not deny my
birth and blood."
"I think a word from you might lighten the Sergeant over the shoals
of death, Master Pathfinder. He has no one with him but poor Mabel;
and she, you know, besides being his daughter, is but a girl and
a child after all."
"Mabel is feeble in body, friend Cap; but in matters of this natur'
I doubt if she may not be stronger than most men. But Sergeant
Dunham is my friend, and he is your brother-in-law; so, now the
press of fighting and maintaining our rights is over, it is fitting
we should both go and witness his departure. I've stood by many
a dying man, Master Cap," continued Pathfinder, who had a besetting
propensity to enlarge on his experience, stopping and holding his
companion by a button, -- "I've stood by many a dying man's side,
and seen his last gasp, and heard his last breath; for, when the
hurry and tumult of the battle is over, it is good to bethink us of
the misfortunate, and it is remarkable to witness how differently
human natur' feels at such solemn moments. Some go their way as
stupid and ignorant as if God had never given them reason and an
accountable state; while others quit us rejoicing, like men who
leave heavy burthens behind them. I think that the mind sees
clearly at such moments, my friend, and that past deeds stand thick
before the recollection."
"I'll engage they do, Pathfinder. I have witnessed something of
this myself, and hope I'm the better man for it. I remember once
that I thought my own time had come, and the log was overhauled with
a diligence I did not think myself capable of until that moment.
I've not been a very great sinner, friend Pathfinder; that is to
say, never on a large scale; though I daresay, if the truth were
spoken, a considerable amount of small matters might be raked up
against me, as well as against another man; but then, I've never
committed piracy, nor high treason, nor arson, nor any of them
sort of things. As to smuggling, and the like of that, why, I'm
a seafaring man, and I suppose all callings have their weak spots.
I daresay your trade is not altogether without blemish, honorable
and useful as it seems to be?"
"Many of the scouts and guides are desperate knaves; and, like the
Quartermaster here, some of them take pay of both sides. I hope
I'm not one of them, though all occupations lead to temptations.
Thrice have I been sorely tried in my life, and once I yielded
a little, though I hope it was not in a matter to disturb a man's
conscience in his last moments. The first time was when I found
in the woods a pack of skins that I knowed belonged to a Frencher
who was hunting on our side of the lines, where he had no business
to be; twenty-six as handsome beavers as ever gladdened human eyes.
Well, that was a sore temptation; for I thought the law would have
been almost with me, although it was in peace times. But then, I
remembered that such laws wasn't made for us hunters, and bethought
me that the poor man might have built great expectations for the
next winter on the sale of his skins; and I left them where they
lay. Most of our people said I did wrong; but the manner in which
I slept that night convinced me that I had done right. The next
trial was when I found the rifle that is sartainly the only one
in this part of the world that can be calculated on as surely as
Killdeer, and knowed that by taking it, or even hiding it, I might
at once rise to be the first shot in all these parts. I was then
young, and by no means so expart as I have since got to be, and
youth is ambitious and striving; but, God be praised! I mastered
that feeling; and, friend Cap, what is almost as good, I mastered
my rival in as fair a shooting-match as was ever witnessed in a
garrison; he with his piece, and I with Killdeer, and before the
General in person too!" Here Pathfinder stopped to laugh, his
triumph still glittering in his eyes and glowing on his sunburnt
and browned cheek. "Well, the next conflict with the devil was
the hardest of them all; and that was when I came suddenly upon a
camp of six Mingos asleep in the woods, with their guns and horns
piled in away that enabled me to get possession of them without
waking a miscreant of them all. What an opportunity that would
have been for the Sarpent, who would have despatched them, one after
another, with his knife, and had their six scalps at his girdle,
in about the time it takes me to tell you the story. Oh, he's a
valiant warrior, that Chingachgook, and as honest as he's brave,
and as good as he's honest!"
"And what may _you_ have done in this matter, Master Pathfinder?"
demanded Cap, who began to be interested in the result; "it seems
to me you had made either a very lucky, or a very unlucky landfall."
"'Twas lucky, and 'twas unlucky, if you can understand that. 'Twas
unlucky, for it proved a desperate trial; and yet 'twas lucky, all
things considered, in the ind. I did not touch a hair of their
heads, for a white man has no nat'ral gifts to take scalps; nor
did I even make sure of one of their rifles. I distrusted myself,
knowing that a Mingo is no favorite in my own eyes."
"As for the scalps, I think you were right enough, my worthy
friend; but as for the armament and the stores, they would have
been condemned by any prize-court in Christendom."
"That they would, that they would; but then the Mingos would have
gone clear, seeing that a white man can no more attack an unarmed
than a sleeping inimy. No, no, I did myself, and my color, and my
religion too, greater justice. I waited till their nap was over,
and they well on their war-path again; and, by ambushing them here
and flanking them there, I peppered the blackguards intrinsically
like" (Pathfinder occasionally caught a fine word from his
associates, and used it a little vaguely), "that only one ever got
back to his village, and he came into his wigwam limping. Luckily,
as it turned out, the great Delaware had only halted to jerk some
venison, and was following on my trail; and when he got up he had
five of the scoundrels' scalps hanging where they ought to be;
so, you see, nothing was lost by doing right, either in the way of
honor or in that of profit."
Cap grunted an assent, though the distinctions in his companion's
morality, it must be owned, were not exactly clear to his
understanding. The two had occasionally moved towards the block
as they conversed, and then stopped again as some matter of more
interest than common brought them to a halt. They were now so
near the building, however, that neither thought of pursuing the
subject any further; but each prepared himself for the final scene
with Sergeant Dunham.
Thou barraine ground, whom winter's wrath hath wasted,
Art made a mirror to behold my plight:
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