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"And what does Mabel think would come of such a change? She knows that a man has his gifts, and that it is as useless to pretend to others, as to withstand them that come from Providence. I am a hunter, and a scout, or a guide, Saltwater, and it is not in me to fly so much in the face of Heaven, as to try to become anything else. Am I right, Mabel, or are you so much a woman as to wish to see a natur' altered?"
"I would wish to see no change in you, Pathfinder," Mabel answered with a cordial sincerity and frankness, that went directly to the hunter's heart; “and much as my uncle admires the sea, and great as is all the good that he thinks may come of it, I could not wish to see the best and noblest hunter of the woods transformed into an admiral. Remain what you are, my brave friend, and you need fear nothing, short of the anger of God."
"Do you hear this, Saltwater? do you hear what the Sergeant's daughter is saying, and she is much too upright and fair-minded, and pretty, not to think what she says. So long as she is satisfied with me as I am, I shall not fly in the face of the gifts of Providence, by striving to become anything else. I may seem useless here in a garrison; but when we get down among the Thousand Islands, there may be an opportunity to prove that a sure rifle is sometimes a Godsend."
"You are then to be of our party?" said Mabel, smiling so frankly and so sweetly on the guide, that he would have followed her to the end of the earth. "I shall be the only female, with the exception of one soldier's wife; and shall feel none the less secure, Pathfinder, because you will be among our protectors."
"The Sergeant would do that, Mabel, the Sergeant would do that, though you were not of his kin. No one will overlook you. I should think your uncle, here, would like an expedition of this sort, where we shall go with sails, and have a look at an inland sea?"
"Your inland sea is no great matter, Master Pathfinder, and I expect nothing from it. I confess, however, I should like to know the object of the cruise; for one does not wish to be idle, and my brother-in-law, the Sergeant, is as close-mouthed as a freemason. Do you know, Mabel, what all this means?"
"Not in the least, uncle. I dare not ask my father any questions about his duty, for he thinks it is not a woman's business; and all I can say is, that we are to sail as soon as the wind will permit, and that we are to be absent a month.
"Perhaps, Master Pathfinder can give me a useful hint; for a v'y'ge without an object is never pleasant to an old sailor."
"There is no great secret, Saltwater, concerning our port and object, though it is forbidden to talk much about either in the
garrison. I am no soldier, however, and can use my tongue as I please, though as little given as another to idle conversation, I hope; still, as we sail so soon, and you are both to be of the party, you may as well be told where you are to be carried. You know that there are such things as the Thousand Islands, I suppose, Master Cap?"
"Ay, what are so called, hereaway, though I take it for granted they are not real islands, such as iwe fall in with on the ocean; and that the thousand means some such matter as two or three, like the killed and wounded of a great battle."
"My eyes are good, and yet have I often been foiled in trying to count them very islands."
"Ay, ay, I've known people who couldn't count beyond a certain number. Your real land-birds never know their own roosts, even in a land-fall at sea; they are what I call all things to all men. How many times have I seen the beach, and houses, and churches, when the passengers have not been able to see anything but water! I have no idea that a man can get fairly out of sight of land, on fresh water. The thing appears to me to be irrational and impossible."
"You don't know the lakes, Master Cap, or you would not say that. Before we get to the Thousand Islands, you will have other notions of what natur' has done in this wilderness."
"I have my doubts whether you have such a thing as a real island in all this region. To my notion, fresh-water can't make a bony fidy island;-not what I call an island."
"We'll show you hundreds of them; not exactly a thousand, perhaps, but so many that eye cannot see them all, nor tongue count them.'
"And what sort of things may they be?"
"Land with water entirely around them."
"Ay, but what sort of land, and what sort of water? I'll engage, when the truth comes to be known, they 'll turn out to be nothing but peninsulas, or promontories, or continents; though these are matters, I dare say, of which you know little or nothing. But, islands or no islands, what is the object of the cruise, Master Pathfinder?"
Why, as you are the Sergeant's brother, and pretty Mabel here is his daughter, and we are all to be of the party, there can be no harm in giving you some idea of what we are going to do. Being so old a sailor, Master Cap, you 've heard, no doubt, of such a port as Frontenac ?"
"Who hasn't? I will not say I've ever been inside the harbour, but I've frequently been off the place."
"Then you are about to go upon ground with which you are
acquainted, though how you could ever have got there, from the ocean, I do not understand. These great lakes, you must know, make a chain, the water passing out of one into the other, until it reaches Erie, which is a sheet off here to the westward, as large as Ontario itself. Well, out of Erie the water comes, until it reaches a low mountain like, over the edge of which it passes"I should like to know how the devil it can do that?" "Why easy enough, Master Cap," returned Pathfinder laughing, "seeing that it has only to fall down hill. Had I said the water went up the mountain, there would have been natur' ag'in it; but we hold it no great matter for water to run down hill-that is, fresh water.'
“Ay, ay, but you speak of the water of a lake's coming down the side of a mountain; it's in the teeth of reason, if reason has any teeth." "Well, well, we will not dispute the point; but what I've seen, I've seen: as for reason having any teeth, I'll say nothing; but conscience has, and sharp ones too. After getting into Ontario, all the water of all the lakes passes down into the sea, by a river; and in the narrow part of the sheet where it is neither river nor lake, lie the islands spoken of. Now, Frontenac is a post of the Frenchers above these same islands; and as they hold the garrison below, their stores and ammunition are sent up the river to Frontenac, to be forwarded along the shores of this and the other lakes, in order to enable the enemy to play his devilries. among the savages, and to take Christian scalps."
"And will our presence prevent these horrible acts?" demanded Mabel, with interest.
"It may or it may not, as Providence wills. Lundie, as they call him, he who commands this garrison, sent a party down to take a station among the islands, to cut off some of the French boats; and this expedition of ours will be the second relief. As yet they 've not done much, though two bateaux loaded with Indian goods have been taken; but a runner came in last week, and brought such tidings that the Major is about to make a last effort to circumvent the knaves. Jasper knows the way, and we shall be in good hands, for the Sergeant is prudent, and of the first quality at an ambushment; yes, he is both prudent and alert."
"Is this all !" said Cap, contemptuously; " by the preparations and equipments I had thought there was a forced trade in the wind, and that an honest penny might be turned by taking an adventure. I suppose there are no shares in your fresh-water prize-money?"
"I take it for granted the King gets all, in these soldiering parties, and ambushments, as you call them?"
I know nothing about that, Master Cap. I take my share of the lead and powder if any falls into our hands, and say nothing to the King about it. If any one fares better, it is not I; though it is time I did begin to think of a house, and furniture, and a home."
Although the Pathfinder did not dare to look at Mabel, while he made this direct allusion to his change of life, he would have given the world to know whether she was listening, and what was the expression of her countenance. Mabel little suspected the nature of the allusion, however; and her countenance was perfectly unembarrassed, as she turned her eyes towards the river, where the appearance of some movement on board the Scud began to be visible.
Jasper is bringing the cutter out," observed the guide, whose look was drawn in the same direction, by the fall of some heavy article on the deck. "The lad sees the signs of wind, no doubt, and wishes to be ready for it.'
"Ay, now we shall have an opportunity of learning seamanship," returned Cap, with a sneer. "There is a nicety in getting a craft under her canvas, that shows the thoroughbred mariner as much as anything else. It's like a soldier buttoning his coat, and one can see whether he begins at the top, or the bottom.'
"I will not say that Jasper is equal to your seafarers below," observed Pathfinder, across whose upright mind an unworthy feeling of envy, or of jealousy, never passed; but he is a bold boy, and manages his cutter as skilfully as any man can desire, on this lake at least. You didn't find him backwards at the Oswego Falls, Master Cap, where fresh-water contrives to tumble down hill with little difficulty."
Cap made no other answer than a dissatisfied ejaculation, and then a general silence followed, all on the bastion studying the movements of the cutter, with the interest that was natural to their own future connection with the vessel. It was still a dead calm, the surface of the lake literally glittering with the last rays of the sun. The Scud had been warped up to a kedge, that lay a hundred yards above the points of the outlet, where she had room to manœuvre in the river which then formed the harbour of Oswego. But the total want of air prevented any such attempt, and it was soon evident that the light vessel was to be taken through the passage, under her sweeps. Not a sail was loosened; but as soon as the kedge was tripped, the heavy fall of the sweeps was heard, when the cutter, with her head up stream, began to sheer towards the centre of the current; on reaching which, the efforts of the men ceased, and she drifted
towards the outlet. In the narrow pass itself her movement was rapid, and in less than five minutes the Scud was floating outside of two low gravelly points that intercepted the waves of the lake. No anchor was let go, but the vessel continued to set off from the land, until her dark hull was seen resting on the glossy surface of the lake, fully a quarter of a mile beyond the low bluff which formed the eastern extremity of what might be called the outer harbour, or roadstead. Here the influence of the river current ceased, and she became, virtually, stationary.
"She seems very beautiful to me, uncle," said Mabel, whose gaze had not been averted from the cutter for a single moment, while it had thus been changing it position; "I dare say you can find faults in her appearance, and in the way she is managed; but to my ignorance both are perfect."
"Ay, ay; she drops down with a current well enough, girl, and so would a chip. But when you come to niceties, an old tar, like myself, has no need of spectacles to find fault.'
Well, Master Cap," put in the guide, who seldom heard anything to Jasper's prejudice without manifesting a disposition to interfere, "I've heard old and experienced salt-water mariners confess, that the Scud is as pretty a craft as floats. I know nothing of such matters myself; but one may have his own notions about a ship, even though they be wrong notions; and it would take more than one witness to persuade me, Jasper does not keep his boat in good order."
"I do not say that the cutter is downright lubberly, Master Pathfinder; but she has faults, and great faults."
And what are they, uncle? If he knew them, Jasper would be glad to mend them."
"What are they? why fifty; ay, for that matter, a hundred. Very material and manifest faults."
Do name them, sir, and Pathfinder will mention them to his friend."
"Name them? it is no easy matter to call off the stars, for the simple reason that they are so numerous. Name them, indeed! -Why, my pretty niece, Miss Magnet, what do you think of that main-boom now? To my ignorant eyes it is topped at least a foot too high; and then the pennant is foul; and-and-ay, d-me, if there isn't a topsail gasket adrift-and, it wouldn't surprise me at all, if there should prove to be a round turn in that hawser, if the kedge were to be let go this instant. Faults, indeed! No seaman could look at her a moment, without seeing that she is as full of faults as a servant that has asked for his discharge."
"This may be very true, uncle, though I much question if