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FOLLOWING the order of events, this book should be the third in the Series of the Leather-Stocking Tales. In "The Deerslayer," Natty Bumppo, under the sobriquet which forms the title of that work, is represented as a youth, just commencing his forest career as a warrior; having, for several years, been a hunter so celebrated as already to have gained the honorable appellation he then bore. In "The Last of the Mohicans " he appears as Hawkeye, and is present at the death of young Uncas; while in this tale he reappears in the same war of '56, in company with his Mohican friend, still in the vigor of manhood, and young enough to feel that master-passion to which all conditions of men, all tempers, and, we might almost say, all ages, submit, under circumstances that are incited to call it into existence.
"The Pathfinder" did not originally appear for several years after the publication of "The Prairie," the work in which the leading character of both had closed his career by death. It was, perhaps, a too hazardous experiment to recall to life, in this manner, and after so long an interval, a character that was somewhat a favorite with the reading world, and which had been regularly consigned to his grave, like any living man. It is probably owing to this severe ordeal that the work, like its successor, "The Deerslayer," has been so little noticed; scarce one in ten of those who know all about the three earliest books of the series having even a knowledge of the existence of the last at all. That this caprice in taste and favor is in no way dependent on merit, the writer feels certain; for, though the world will ever maintain that an author is always the worst judge of his own productions, one who has written much, and regards all his literary progeny with more or less of a paternal eye, must have a reasonably accurate knowledge of what he has been about the greater part of his life. Such a man may form too high an estimate of his relative merits, as relates to others; but it is not easy to see why he should fall into this error, more than another, as relates to himself. His general standard may be raised too high by means of self-love; but, unless he be disposed to maintain the equal perfection of what he has done, as probably no man was ever yet fool enough to do, he may very well have shrewd conjectures as to the comparative merits and defects of his own productions.
This work, on its appearance, was rudely and maliciously assailed by certain individuals out of pure personal malignancy. It is scarcely worth the author's while, nor would it have any interest for the reader, to expose the motives and frauds of these individuals, who have pretty effectually vindicated the writer by their own subsequent conduct. But even the falsest of men pay so much homage to truth, as to strive to seem its votaries. In attacking "The Pathfinder," the persons alluded to pointed out faults that the author, for the first time, has now ascertained to be real; and much to his surprise, as of most of them he is entirely innocent. They are purely errors of the press, unless, indeed, the writer can justly be accused of having been a careless proof-reader. A single instance of the mistakes he means may be given in explanation of the manner in which the book was originally got up.
The heroine of this tale was at first called "Agnes." In the fifth or sixth chapter this name was changed to "Mabel," and the manuscript was altered accordingly. Owing to inadvertency, however, the original appellation stood in several places, and
the principal female character of the book, until now, has had the advantage of going by two names! Many other typographical errors exist in the earlier editions, most of which, it is believed, are corrected in this.
There are a few discrepancies in the facts of this work, as connected with the facts of the different books of the series. They are not material, and it was thought fairer to let them stand as proof of the manner in which the books were originally written, than to make any changes in the text.
In youth, when belonging to the navy, the writer of this book served for some time on the great Western lakes. He was, indeed, one of those who first carried the cockade of the republic on those inland seas. This was pretty early in the present century, when the navigation was still confined to the employment of a few ships and schooners. Since that day, light may have said to have broken into the wilderness, and the rays of the sun have penetrated to tens of thousands of beautiful valleys and plains, that then lay in "grateful shade." Towns have been built along the whole of the extended line of coasts, and the traveller now stops at many a place of ten or fifteen, and at one of even fifty thousand inhabitants, where a few huts then marked the natural sites of future marts. In a word, though the scenes of this book are believed to have once been as nearly accurate as is required by the laws which govern fiction, they are so no longer. Oswego is a large and thriving town; Toronto and Kingston, on the other side of the lake, compete with it; while Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago, on the upper lakes, to say nothing of a hundred places of lesser note, are fast advancing to the level of commercial places of great local importance. In these changes, the energy of youth and abundance is quite as much apparent as any thing else; and it is ardently to be hoped that the fruits of the gifts of a most bountiful Providence may not be mistaken for any peculiar qualities in those who have been their beneficiaries. A just appreciation of the first of these facts will render us grateful and meek; while the vainglorious, who are so apt to ascribe all to themselves, will be certain to live long enough to ascertain the magnitude of their error. That great results are intended to be produced by means of these wonderful changes, we firmly believe; but that they will prove to be the precise results now so generally anticipated, in consulting the experience of the past, and taking the nature of man into the account, the reflecting and intelligent may be permitted to doubt.
It may strike the novice as an anachronism, to place vessels on Ontario in the middle of the eighteenth century, but, in this particular, facts will fully bear out all the license of the fiction. Although the precise vessels mentioned in these pages may never have existed on that water, or anywhere else, others so nearly resembling them as to form a sufficient authority for their introduction into a work of fiction, are known to have navigated that inland sea, even at a period much earlier than the one just mentioned. It is a fact not generally remembered, however well known it may be, that there are isolated spots along the line of the great lakes, that date, as settlements, as far back as many of the oldest American towns, and which were the seats of a species of civilization long before the greater portion of even the original States was rescued from the wilderness.
Ontario, in our own times, has been the scene of important naval evolutions. Fleets have manoeuvred on those waters, which, half a century since, were desert wastes; and the day is not distant, when the whole of that vast range of lakes will become the seat of empire, and fraught with all the interests of human society. A passing glimpse, even though it be in a work of fiction, of what that vast region so lately was, may help to make up the sum of knowledge by which alone a just appreciation can be formed of the wonderful means by which Providence is clearing the way for the advancement of civilization across the whole American continent.
"The turf shall be my fragrant shrine, My temple, Lord! that arch of thine; My censer's breath the mountain airs, And silent thoughts my only prayers."
THE sublimity connected with vastness is familiar to every eye. The most abstruse, the most far-reaching, perhaps the most chastened of the poet's thoughts, crowd on the imagination as he gazes into the depths of the illimitable void. The expanse of the ocean is seldom seen by the novice with indifference; and the mind, even in the obscurity of night, finds a parallel to that grandeur which seems inseparable from images that the senses cannot compass. With feelings akin to this admiration and awe-the offspring of sublimity were the different characters with which the action of this tale must open, gazing on the scene before them. Four persons in all-two of each sex-they had managed to ascend a pile of trees, that had been uptorn by a tempest, to catch a view of the objects that surrounded them. It is still the practice of the country to call these spots windrows. By letting in the light of heaven upon the dark and damp recesses of the wood, they form a sort of oases in the solemn obscurity of the virgin forests of America. The particular windrow of which we are writing, lay on the brow of a gentle acclivity, and it opened the way for an extensive view to those who might occupy its upper margin, a rare occurrence to the traveller in the woods. As usual, the spot was small, but owing to the circumstances of its lying on the low acclivity mentioned, and that of the opening's extending downward, it offered more than common advantages to the eye. Philosophy has not yet determined the nature of the power that so often lays desolate spots of this description: some
ascribing it to the whirlwinds that produce water-spouts on the ocean; while others again impute it to sudden and violent passages of streams of the electric fluid; but the effects in the woods are familiar to all. On the upper margin of the opening to which there is allusion, the viewless influence had piled tree on tree, in such a manner as had not only enabled the two males of the party to ascend to an elevation of some thirty feet above the level of the earth, but, with a little care and encouragement, to induce their more timid companions to accompany them. The vast trunks that had been broken and driven by the force of the gust, lay blended like jack-straws; while their branches, still exhaling the fragrance of wilted leaves, were interlaced in a manner to afford sufficient support to the hands. One tree had been completely uprooted; and its lower end filled with earth, had been cast uppermost, in a way to supply a sort of staging for the four adventurers, when they had gained the desired distance from the ground.
The reader is to anticipate none of the appliances of people of condition in the description of the personal appearances of the group in question. They were all wayfarers in the wilderness; and had they not been, neither their previous habits nor their actual social positions would have accustomed them to many of the luxuries of rank. Two of the party, indeed, a male and a female, belonged to the native owners of the soil, being Indians of the well-known tribe of the Tuscaroras; while their companions were a man, who bore about him the peculiarities of one who had passed his days on the ocean, and this, too, in a station little, if any, above that of a common mariner; while his female associate was a maiden of a class in no great degree superior to his own; though her youth, sweetness of countenance, and a modest but spirited mien, lent that character of
intellect and refinement which adds so much to the charm of beauty in the sex. On the present occasion, her full blue eye reflected the feeling of sublimity that the scene excited, and her pleasant face was beaming with the pensive expression with which all deep emotions, even though they bring the most grateful pleasure, shadow the countenances of the ingenuous and thoughtful.
ful of leaves to a look at the real Atlantic. You might seize all these tree-tops to Neptune's jacket, and they would make no more than a nosegay for his bosom."
"More fanciful than true, I think, Uncle. Look thither; it must be miles on miles, and yet we see nothing but leaves! what more could one behold, if looking at the ocean?"
"More!" returned the uncle, giving an im
And, truly, the scene was of a nature deeply to impress the imagination of the beholder. Tow-patient gesture with the elbow the other touched, ard the west, in which direction the faces of the for his arms were crossed, and the hands were party were turned, and in which alone could much thrust into the bosom of a vest of red cloth, a be seen, the eye ranged over an ocean of leaves, fashion of the times, "more, Magnet? say, rather, glorious and rich in the varied but lively verdure what less? Where are your combing seas, your of a generous vegetation, and shaded by the lux- blue water, your rollers, your breakers, your uriant tints that belong to the forty-second de- whales, or your water-spouts, and your endless gree of latitude. The elm, with its graceful and motion in this bit of a forest, child?" weeping top, the rich varieties of the maple, most of the noble oaks of the American forest, with the broad-leafed linden, known in the parlance of the country as the basswood, mingled their uppermost branches, forming one broad and seemingly interminable carpet of foliage, that stretched away toward the setting sun, until it bounded the horizon, by blending with the clouds, as the waves and the sky meet at the base of the vault of heav
"And where are your tree-tops, your solemn silence, your fragrant leaves, and your beautiful green, uncle, on the ocean?"
"Tut, Magnet! if you understood the thing, you would know that green water is a sailor's bane. He scarcely relishes a greenhorn less."
"But green trees are a different thing. Hist! that sound is the air breathing among the leaves."
and such-like incidents, in this bit of a forest, and what fishes have you swimming beneath yonder tame surface?"
"That there have been tempests here, these signs around us plainly show; and beasts, if not fishes, are beneath those leaves."
"You should hear a nor'wester breathe, girl, Here and there, by some accident of the if you fancy wind aloft. Now, where are your tempests, or by a caprice of Nature, a trifling open-gales, and hurricanes, and trades, and levanters, ing among these giant members of the forest permitted an inferior tree to struggle upward toward the light, and to lift its modest head nearly to a level with the surrounding surface of verdure. Of this class were the birch, a tree of some account in regions less favored, the quivering aspen, various generous nut-woods, and divers others that resembled the ignoble and vulgar, thrown by circumstances into the presence of the stately and great. Here and there, too, the tall, straight trunk of the pine pierced the vast field, rising high above it, like some grand monument reared by art on a plain of leaves.
It was the vastness of the view, the nearly unbroken surface of verdure, that contained the principle of grandeur. The beauty was to be traced in the delicate tints, relieved by gradations of light and shadow; while the solemn repose induced the feeling allied to awe.
Uncle," said the wondering but pleased girl, addressing her male companion, whose arm she rather touched than leaned on, to steady her own light but firm footing, "this is like a view of the ocean you so much love!"
"So much for ignorance, and a girl's fancy, Magnet," a term of affection the sailor often used in allusion to his niece's personal attractions, "no one but a child would think of likening this hand
"I do not know that," returned the uncle, with a sailor's dogmatism. "They told us many stories at Albany, of the wild animals we should fall in with, and yet we have seen nothing to frighten a seal. I doubt if any of your inland animals will compare with a low-latitude shark!"
"See!" exclaimed the niece, who was more occupied with the sublimity and beauty of the "boundless wood" than with her uncle's arguments, "yonder is a smoke curling over the tops of the trees-can it come from a house?"
Ay, ay; there is a look of humanity in that smoke," returned the old seaman, " which is worth a thousand trees; I must show it to Arrowhead, who may be running past a port without knowing it. It is probable there is a camboose where there is a smoke."
As he concluded, the uncle drew a hand from his bosom, touched the male Indian, who was standing near him, lightly on the shoulder, and pointed out a thin line of vapor that was stealing slowly out of the wilderness of leaves, at a dis
CHARLES CAP AND HIS NIECE.
tance of about a mile, and was diffusing itself, in almost imperceptible threads of humidity, in the quivering atmosphere. The Tuscarora was one of those noble-looking warriors that were oftener met with among the aborigines of this continent a century since, than to-day; and, while he had mingled sufficiently with the colonists to be familiar with their habits, and even with their language, he had lost little, if any, of the wild grandeur and simple dignity of a chief. Between him and the old seaman the intercourse had been friendly, but distant, for the Indian had been too much accustomed to mingle with the officers of the different military posts he had frequented, not to understand that his present companion was only a subordinate. So imposing, indeed, had been the quiet superiority of the Tuscarora's reserve, that Charles Cap, for so was the seaman named, in his most dogmatical or facetious moments, had not ventured on familiarity, in an intercourse that had now lasted more than a week. The sight of the curling smoke, however, had struck the latter like the sudden appearance of a sail at sea, and, for the first time since they met, he ventured to touch the warrior, as has been related.
"No Tuscarora-no Oneida-no Mohawkpale-face fire."
"The devil it is!-Well, Magnet, this surpasses a seaman's philosophy-we old sea-dogs can tell a soldier's from a sailor's quid, or a lubber's nest from a mate's hammock; but I do not think the oldest admiral in his majesty's fleet can tell a king's smoke from a collier's!"
The idea that human beings were in their vicinity in that ocean of wilderness, had deepened the flush on the blooming cheek and brightened the eye of the fair creature at his side, but she soon turned with a look of surprise to her relative, and said, hesitatingly, for both had often admired the Tuscarora's knowledge, or we might almost say, instinct :
"A pale-face's fire! Surely, uncle, he cannot know that!"
"Ten days since, child, I would have sworn to it; but, now, I hardly know what to believe.May I take the liberty of asking, Arrowhead, why you fancy that smoke, now, a pale-face's smoke, and not a red-skin's?"
"Wet wood," returned the warrior, with the calmness with which the pedagogue might point out an arithmetical demonstration to his puzzled pupil. "Much wet-much smoke; much water
"But, begging your pardon, Master Arrowhead, the smoke is not black, nor is there much of it. To my eye, now, it is as light and fanciful a smoke as ever rose from a captain's tea-kettle, when nothing was left to make the fire but a few chips from the dunnage."
The quick eye of the Tuscarora instantly caught a sight of the smoke, and for quite a min--black smoke." ute he stood, slightly raised on tiptoe, with distended nostrils, like the buck that scents a taint in the air, and a gaze as riveted as that of a trained pointer, while he waits his master's aim. Then, falling back on his feet, a low exclamation, in the soft tones that form so singular a contrast to its harsher cries in the Indian warrior's voice, was barely audible; otherwise, he was undisturbed. His countenance was calm, and his quick, dark eagle-eye moved over the leafy panorama, as if to take in at a glance every circumstance that might enlighten his mind. That the long journey they had attempted to make through a broad belt of wilderness, was necessarily attended with danger, both uncle and niece well knew; though neither could at once determine whether the sign that others were in their vicinity, was the harbinger of good or evil.
"There must be Oneidas or Tuscaroras near us, Arrowhead," said Cap, addressing his Indian companion by his conventional English name; "will it not be well to join company with them, and get a comfortable berth for the night in their wigwam?"
"No wigwam there," Arrowhead answered, in his unmoved manner-" too much tree."
"Too much water," returned Arrowhead, with a slight nod of the head; "Tuscarora too cunning to make fire with water; pale-face too much book, and burn any thing; much book, little know."
"Well, that's reasonable, I allow," said Cap, who was no devotee of learning; "he means that as a hit at your reading, Magnet, for the chief has sensible notions of things in his own way.-How far, now, Arrowhead, do you make us by your calculation, from the bit of a pond that you call the Great Lake, and toward which we have been so many days shaping our course?"
The Tuscarora looked at the seaman with quiet superiority, as he answered:
"Ontario, like heaven; one sun, and the great traveller will know it."
"Well, I have been a great traveller, I cannot deny, but of all my v'y'ges this has been the longest, the least profitable, and the farthest inland. If this body of fresh water is so nigh,
"But Indians must be there; perhaps some old messmates of your own, Master Arrowhead." | Arrowhead, and at the same time so large, one