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66

Nay, nay, Sergeant, I've forgotten nothing that you have told me, and grudge no reasonable pains to make myself as pleasant in the eyes of Mabel as she is getting to be in mine. I cleaned and brightened up killdeer, this morning, as soon as the sun rose; and, in my judgment, the piece never looked better than it does at this very moment."

"That is according to your hunting notions, Pathfinder; but fire-arms should sparkle and glitter in the sun, and I never yet could see any beauty in a clouded barrel."

"Lord Howe thought otherwise, Sergeant; and he was accounted a good soldier."

"Very true; his lordship had all the barrels of his regiment darkened, and what good came of it? You can see his 'scutcheon hanging in the English church at Albany! No, no, my worthy friend, a soldier should be a soldier, and at no time ought he to be ashamed, or afraid, to carry about him the signs and symbols of his honourable trade. Had you much discourse with Mabel, Pathfinder, as you came along in the canoe ?"

"There was not much opportunity, Sergeant, and then I found myself so much beneath her in idees, that I was afraid to speak of much beyond what belonged to my own gifts."

"Therein you are partly right, and partly wrong, my friend. Women love trifling discourse, though they like to have most of it to themselves. Now you know I'm a man that do not loosen my tongue at every giddy thought; and yet there were days when I could see that Mabel's mother thought none the worse of me, because I descended a little from my manhood. It is true, I was twenty-two years younger then, than I am to-day; and, moreover, instead of being the oldest Sergeant in the regiment, I was the youngest. Dignity is commanding and useful, and there is no getting on without it, as respects the men; but if you would be thoroughly esteemed by a woman, it is necessary to condescend a little, on occasions."

"Ah 's me! Sergeant; I sometimes fear it will never do.”

"Why do you think so discouragingly of a matter on which I thought both our minds were made up?"

"We did agree, if Mabel should prove what you told me she was, and if the girl could fancy a rude hunter and guide, that I should quit some of my wandering ways, and try to humanize my mind down to a wife and children. But since I have seen the girl, I will own that many misgivings have come over me.' How's this?" interrupted the Sergeant, sternly; did I not understand you to say that you were pleased? -- and is Mabel a young woman to disappoint expectation ?"

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"Ah! Sergeant, it is not Mabel that I distrust, but myself. I

am but a poor ignorant woodsman, after all'; and perhaps I'm not, in truth, as good as even you and I may think me."

"If you doubt your own judgment of yourself, Pathfinder, I beg you will not doubt mine. Am I not accustomed to judge men's character? Is it not my especial duty ? and am I often deceived? Ask Major Duncan, sir, if you desire any assurances in this particular."

"But, Sergeant, we have long been friends; have fi't side by side a dozen times, and have done each other many services. When this is the case, men are apt to think over-kindly of each other; and I fear me that the daughter may not be so likely to view a plain ignorant hunter as favourably as the father does."

"Tut, tut, Pathfinder, you don't know yourself, man, and may put all faith in my judgment. In the first place, you have experience; and as all girls must want that, no prudent young woman would overlook such a qualification. Then you are not one of the coxcombs that strut about when they first join a regiment; but a man who has seen service, and who carries the marks of it on his person and countenance. I dare say you have been under fire some thirty or forty times, counting all the skirmishes and ambushes that you 've seen.

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"All of that, Sergeant, all of that; but what will it avail, in gaining the good-will of a tender-hearted young female ?"

"It will gain the day. Experience in the field is as good in love as in war. But you are as honest-hearted and as loyal a subject, as the King can boast of-God bless him!"

66 That may be too, that may be too; but I'm afear'd I 'm too rude, and too old, and too wild like, to suit the fancy of such a young and delicate girl as Mabel, who has been unused to our wilderness ways, and may think the settlements better suited to her gifts and inclinations.”

"These are new misgivings for you, my friend; and I wonder they were never paraded before."

"Because I never knew my own worthlessness, perhaps, until I saw Mabel. I have travelled with some as fair, and have guided them through the forest, and seen them in their perils and in their gladness; but they were always too much above me, to make me think of them, as more than so many feeble ones I was bound to protect and defend. The case is now different. Mabel and I are so nearly alike, that I feel weighed down with a load that is hard to bear, at finding us so unlike. I do wish, Sergeant, that I was ten years younger, more comely to look at, and better suited to please a handsome young woman's fancy."

"Cheer up, my brave friend, and trust to a father's knowledge

of womankind. Mabel half loves you already, and a fortnight's intercourse and kindness, down among the islands yonder, will close ranks with the other half. The girl as much as told me this herself, last night."

"Can this be so, Sergeant?" said the guide, whose meek and modest nature shrunk from viewing himself in colours so favourable. "Can this be truly so? I am but a poor hunter, and Mabel, I see, is fit to be an officer's lady. Do you think the girl will consent to quit all her beloved settlement usages, and her visitings, and church-goings, to dwell with a plain guide and hunter, up hereaway in the woods? Will she not, in the end, crave her old ways, and a better man?"

"A better man, Pathfinder, would be hard to find," returned the father. "As for town usages, they are soon forgotten in the freedom of the forest, and Mabel has just spirit enough to dwell on a frontier. I've not planned this marriage, my friend, without thinking it over, as a general does his campaign. At first, I thought of bringing you into the regiment, that you might succeed me when I retire, which must be sooner or later; but on reflection, Pathfinder, I think you are scarcely fitted for the office. Still, if not a soldier in all the meanings of the word, you are a soldier in its best meaning, and I know that you have the good-will of every officer in the corps. As long as I live, Mabel can dwell with me, and you will always have a home when you return from your scoutings and marches."

"This is very pleasant to think of, Sergeant, if the girl can only come into our wishes with good-will. But, ah 's me! it does not seem that one like myself can ever be agreeable in her handsome eyes. If I were younger, and more comely, now, as Jasper Western, is for instance, there might be a chance-yes, then, indeed, there might be some chance.'

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"That for Jasper Eau-douce, and every younker of them in or about the fort!" returned the Sergeant, snapping his fingers. "If not actually a younger, you are a younger-looking, ay, and a better-looking man then the Scud's master-—”

"Anan?" said Pathfinder, looking up at his companion with an expression of doubt, as if he did not understand his meaning. "I say if not actually younger in days and years, you look more hardy and like whipcord than Jasper, or any of them; and there will be more of you, thirty years hence, than of all of them put together. A good conscience will keep one like you a mere boy all his life."

"Jasper has as clear a conscience as any youth I know, Sergeant; and is as likely to wear, on that account, as any young man in the colony."

"Then you are my friend," squeezing the other's hand-"my tried, sworn, and constant friend."

"Yes, we have been friends, Sergeant, near twenty years— before Mabel was born."

"True enough-before Mabel was born, we were well-tried friends; and the hussy would never dream of refusing to marry a man who was her father's friend before she was born."

"We don't know, Sergeant, we don't know. Like loves like. The young perfer the young for companions, and the old the old." "Not for wives, Pathfinder; I never knew an old man, now, who had an objection to a young wife.. Then you are respected and esteemed by every officer in the fort, as I have said already, and it will please her fancy to like a man that every one else likes."

"I hope I have no enemies but the Mingos," returned the guide, stroking down his hair meekly, and speaking thoughtfully. "I've tried to do right, and that ought to make friends, though it sometimes fails."

"And you may be said to keep the best company; for even old Duncan of Lundie is glad to see you, and you pass hours in his society. Of all the guides, he confides most in you."

"Ay, even greater than he is have marched by my side for days, and have conversed with me as if I were their brother; but, Sergeant, I have never been puffed up by their company, for I know that the woods often bring men to a level, who would not be so in the settlements."

"And you are known to be the greatest rifle-shot that ever pulled trigger in all this region."

"If Mabel could fancy a man for that, I might have no great reason to despair; and yet, Sergeant, I sometimes think that it is all as much owing to killdeer as to any skill of my own. It is sartainly a wonderful piece, and might do as much in the hands of another."

"That is your own humble opinion of yourself, Pathfinder; but we have seen too many fail with the same weapon, and you succeed too often with the rifles of other men, to allow me to agree with you. We will get up a shooting-match in a day or two, when you can show your skill, and then Mabel will form some judgment concerning your true character."

“Will that be fair, Sergeant? Everybody knows that killdeer seldom misses; and ought we to make a trial of this sort when we all know what must be the result?"

"Tut, tut, man; I foresee I must do half this courting for you. For one who is always inside of the smoke in a skirmish, you are the faintest-hearted suitor I ever met with. Remember, Mabel

comes of a bold stock; and the girl will be as likely to admire a man, as her mother was before her."

Here the Sergeant arose, and proceeded to attend to his neverceasing duties without apology; the terms on which the guide stood with all in the garrison rendering this freedom quite a matter of course.

The reader will have gathered, from the conversation just related, one of the plans that Sergeant Dunham had in view, in causing his daughter to be brought to the frontier. Although, necessarily, much weaned from the caresses and blandishments that had rendered his child so dear to him, during the first year or two of his widowhood, he had still a strong, but somewhat latent, love for her. Accustomed to command and to obey, without being questioned himself or questioning others, concerning the reasonableness of the mandates, he was, perhaps, too much disposed to believe that his daughter would marry the man he might select, while he was far from being disposed to do violence to her wishes. The fact was, few knew the Pathfinder intimately without secretly believing him to be one of extraordinary qualities. Ever the same, simple-minded, faithful, utterly without fear, and yet prudent, foremost in all warrantable enterprises, or what the opinion of the day considered as such, and never engaged in anything to call a blush to his cheek or censure on his acts, it was not possible to live much with this being, who, in his peculiar way, was a sort of type of what Adam might have been supposed to be before the fall, though certainly not without sin, and not feel a respect and admiration for him, that had no reference to his position in life. It was remarked that no officer passed him without saluting him as if he had been his equal; no common man without addressing him with the confidence and freedom of a comrade. The most surprising peculiarity about the man himself, was the entire indifference with which he regarded all distinctions that did not depend on personal merit. He was respectful to his superiors from habit; but had often been known to correct their mistakes, and to reprove their vices with a fearlessness that proved how essentially he regarded the more material points, and with a natural discrimination that appeared to set education at defiance. In short, a disbeliever in the ability of man to distinguish between good and evil without the aid of instruction, would have been staggered by the character of this extraordinary inhabitant of the frontier. His feelings appeared to possess the freshness and nature of the forest in which he passed so much of his time; and no casuist could have made clearer decisions in matters relating to right and wrong; and yet he was not without his prejudices which, though few, and coloured by the character

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