Obrázky stránek

little bay where A small ancient

It was noon when Chingachgook entered a the Scud lay at anchor in a sort of roadstead. clearing was on the shore, and near the margin of the lake was a log dwelling, recently and completely, though rudely fitted up. There was an air of frontier comfort and of frontier abundance around the place, though it was necessarily wild and solitary. Jasper stood on the shore; and when Pathfinder landed, he was the first to take him by the hand. The meeting was simple, but very cordial. No questions were asked, it being apparent that Chingachgook had made the necessary explanations. Pathfinder never squeezed his friend's hand more cordially than in this interview; and he even laughed cordially in his face as he told him how happy and well he appeared.

"Where is she, Jasper-where is she?" the guide at length whispered; for at first he had seemed to be afraid to trust himself with the question.

"She is waiting for us in the house, my dear friend, where you see that June has already hastened before us.”

"June may use a lighter step to meet Mabel, but she cannot carry a lighter heart. And so, lad, you found the chaplain at the garrison, and all was soon settled ?"

"We were married within a week after we left you, and Master Cap departed next day-you have forgotten to inquire your friend, Salt-water-"


"Not I-not I. The Sarpent has told me all that; and then I love to hear so much of Mabel and her happiness, I do. Did the child smile, or did she weep when the ceremony was over ?"

"She did both, my friend; but--"

"Yes, that's their natur'; tearful and cheerful. Ah's me! they are very pleasant to us of the woods; and I do believe I should think all right, whatever Mabel might do. And do you think, Jasper, that she thought of me at all, on that joyful occasion ?"

"I know she did, Pathfinder; and she thinks of you and talks of you daily—almost hourly. None love you as we do!"

"I know few love me better than yourself, Jasper. Chingachgook is, perhaps, now the only creatur' of whom I can say that. Well, there's no use in putting it off any longer; it must be done, and may as well be done at once; so, Jasper, lead the way, and I'll endivor to look upon her sweet countenance once more.'

[ocr errors]

Jasper did lead the way, and they were soon in the presence of Mabel. The latter met her late suitor with a bright blush, and her limbs trembled so she could hardly stand. Still, her manner was affectionate and frank. During the hour of Pathfinder's visit, for it lasted no longer, though he ate in the dwelling of his friends, one who was expert in tracing the workings of the human mind might have seen a faithful index to the feelings of Mabel, in her manner to Pathfinder and her husband. With the latter she still had a little of the reserve that usually accompanies young wedlock; but the tones of her voice were kinder even than common; the glance of her eye was tender, and she seldom looked at him without the glow that tinged her cheeks betraying the existence of feelings that habit and time had not yet soothed into absolute tranquillity. With Pathfinder, all was earnest, sincere—even anxious; but the tones never trembled, the eye never fell, and if the cheek flushed, it was with the emotions that are connected with concern.

At length the moment came when Pathfinder must go his way. Chingachgook had already abandoned the canoes, and was posted on the margin of the woods, where a path led into the forest. Here he calmly waited to be joined by his friend. As soon as the latter was aware of this fact, he rose in a solemn manner, and took his leave.

"I've sometimes thought that my own fate has been a little hard," he said; "but that of this woman, Mabel, has shamed me into reason

[ocr errors]

"June remains, and lives with me," eagerly interrupted our heroine.

"So I comprehend it. If anybody can bring her back from her grief, and make her wish to live, you can do it, Mabel, though



I've misgivings about even your success. The poor creatur' is without a tribe as well as without a husband, and it's not easy to reconcile the feelings to both losses. Ah's me!-what have I to do with other people's miseries and marriages, as if I hadn't affliction enough of my own? Don't speak to me, Mabel—don't speak to me, Jasper-let me go my way in peace, and like a man. I've seen your happiness, and that is a great deal, and I shall be able to bear my own sorrow all the better for it. I'll never kiss you ag'in, Mabel, I'll never kiss you ag'in. my hand, Jasper--squeeze it, boy, squeeze it; no fear of its giving way, for it's the hand of a man--and, now, Mabel, do you take it, nay, you must not do this--" preventing Mabel from kissing it, and bathing it with her tears—" you must not do this." "Pathfinder," asked Mabel," when shall we see you again?” "I've thought of that, too; yes, I've thought of that, I have. If the time should ever come when I can look upon you altogether as a sister, Mabel, or a child--it might be better to say a child, since you're young enough to be my daughter-depend on it, I'll come back; for it would lighten my very heart to witness your gladness. But if I cannot--farewell-farewellthe sarjeant was wrong-yes, the sarjeant was wrong!"

This was the last the Pathfinder ever uttered to the ears of Jasper Western and Mabel Dunham. He turned away, as if the words choked him; and was quickly at the side of his friend. As soon as the latter saw him approach, he shouldered his own burden, and glided in among the trees without waiting to be spoken to. Mabel, her husband, and June, all watched the form of the Pathfinder, in the hope of receiving a parting gesture, or a stolen glance of the eye; but he did not look back. Once or twice they thought they saw his head shake, as one trembles in bitterness of spirit; and a toss of the hand was given, as if he knew that he was watched; but a tread whose vigor no sorrow could enfeeble, soon bore him out of view, and he was lost in the depths of the forest.

Neither Jasper nor his wife ever beheld the Pathfinder again. They remained for another year on the banks of Ontario;

and then the pressing solicitations of Cap induced them to join him in New York, where Jasper eventually became a successful and respected merchant. Thrice Mabel received valuable presents of furs, at intervals of years; and her feelings told her whence they came, though no name accompanied the gift. Later in life still, when the mother of several youths, she had occasion to visit the interior, and found herself on the banks of the Mohawk, accompanied by her sons, the eldest of whom was capable of being her protector. On that occasion she observed a man in a singular guise, watching her in the distance, with an intentness that induced her to inquire into his pursuits and character. She was told he was the most renowned hunter of that portion of the State-it was after the Revolution—a being of great purity of character, and of as marked peculiarities; and that he was known in that region of country by the name of the Leather-stocking. Further than this Mrs. Western could not ascertain; though the distant glimpse and singular deportment of this unknown hunter gave her a sleepless night, and cast a shade of melancholy over her still lovely face, that lasted many a day.

As for June, the double loss of husband and tribe produced the effect that Pathfinder had foreseen. She died in the cottage of Mabel, on the shores of the lake; and Jasper conveyed her body to the island, where he interred it by the side of that of Arrowhead.

Lundie lived to marry his ancient love, and retired, a warworn and battered veteran: but his name has been rendered illustrious in our own time, by the deeds of a younger brother, who succeeded to his territorial title, which, however, was shortly after merged in one earned by his valor on the ocean.


« PředchozíPokračovat »