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silence, when Jasper again gave the order to "ease off the sheets a little, and keep her along the land."
It was at this instant that the party from the after-cabin re-appeared on the quarter-deck.
"You've no inclination, Jasper lad, to trust yourself too near our neighbours the French," observed Muir, who took that occasion to recommence the discourse. "Well, well, your prudence will never be questioned by me, for I like the Canadas as little as you can possibly like them yourself."
"I hug this shore, Mr. Muir, on account of the wind. The land-breeze is always freshest close in, provided you are not so near as to make a lee of the trees. We have Mexico Bay to cross; and that, on the present course, will give us quite offing enough."
"I'm right glad it's not the Bay of Mexico," put in Cap, "which is part of the world I would rather not visit in one of your inland craft. Does your cutter bear a weather helm, Master Eau-douce?"
"She is easy on her rudder, Master Cap; but likes looking up at the breeze as well as another, when in lively motion."
'I suppose you have such things as reefs, though you can hardly have occasion to use them?"
Mabel's bright eye detected the smile that gleamed, for an instant, on Jasper's handsome face; but no one else saw that momentary exhibition of surprise and contempt.
"We have reefs, and often have occasion to use them," quietly returned the young man. "Before we get in, Master Cap, an opportunity may offer to show you the manner in which we do so; for there is easterly weather brewing, and the wind cannot chop, even on the ocean itself, more readly than it flies round on Lake Ontario."
"So much for knowing no better! I have seen the wind, in the Atlantic, fly round like a coach-wheel, in a way to keep your sails shaking for an hour, and the ship would become perfectly motionless from not knowing which way to turn."
"We have no such sudden changes here, certainly," Jasper mildly answered; "though we think ourselves liable to unexpected shifts of wind. I hope, however, to carry this land-breeze as far as the first islands; after which, there will be less danger of our being seen and followed by any of the look-out boats from Frontenac.
"Do you think the French keep spies out on the broad lake, Jasper?" inquired the Pathfinder.
"We know they do; one was off Oswego, during the night of Monday last. A bark canoe came close in with the eastern point,
and landed an Indian and an officer. Had you been out-lying that night, as usual, we should have secured one, if not both of them."
It was too dark to betray the colour that deepened on the weather-burnt features of the guide; for he felt the consciousness of having lingered in the fort that night, listening to the sweet tones of Mabel's voice, as she sang ballads to her father, and gazing at a countenance that, to him, was radiant with charms. Probity in thought and deed being the distinguishing quality of this extraordinary man's mind, while he felt that a sort of disgrace ought to attach to his idleness, on the occasion mentioned, the last thought that could occur would be to attempt to palliate or deny his negligence.
"I confess it, Jasper, I confess it," he said, humbly. "Had I been out that night,-and I now recollect no sufficient reason why I was not,-it might, indeed, have turned out as you say."
"It was the evening you passed with us, Pathfinder," Mabel innocently remarked; "surely one who lives so much of his time in the forest, in front of the enemy, may be excused for giving a few hours of his time to an old friend and his daughter."
66 Nay, nay, I've done little else but idle since we reached the garrison," returned the other, sighing; "and it is well that the lad should tell me of it: the idler needs a rebuke-yes, he needs a rebuke."
"Rebuke! Pathfinder; I never dreamt of saying anything disagreeable, and least of all would I think of rebuking you; because a solitary spy, and an Indian or two, have escaped us. Now I know where you were, I think your absence the most natural thing in the world."
"I think nothing of it, Jasper; I think nothing of what you said, since it was deserved. We are all human, and all do wrong."
"This is unkind, Pathfinder."
"Give me your hand, lad, give me your hand. It wasn't you that gave the lesson; it was conscience."
"Well, well," interrupted Cap, "now this latter matter is settled to the satisfaction of all parties, perhaps you will tell us how it happened to be known that there were spies near us, so lately. This looks amazingly like a circumstance."
As the mariner uttered the last sentence, he pressed a foot slily on that of the Sergeant, and nudged the guide with his elbow, winking, at the same time, though this sign was lost in the obscurity.
"It is known, because their trail was found next day by the Serpent, and it was that of a military boot and a moccasin. One
of our hunters, moreover, saw the canoe crossing towards Frontenac next morning."
"Did the trail lead near the garrison, Jasper," Pathfinder asked, in a manner so meek and subdued, that it resembled the tone of a rebuked school-boy. "Did the trail lead near the garrison, lad?"
"We thought not ; though, of course, it did not cross the river. It was followed down to the eastern point, at the river's mouth, where what was doing in port might be seen; but it did not cross, as we could discover.'
“And why didn't you get under way, Master Jasper,” Cap demanded," and give chase? On Tuesday morning it blew a good breeze, one in which this cutter might have run nine knots."
"That may do on the ocean, Master Cap," put in Pathfinder, "but it would not do here. Water leaves no trail, and a Mingo and a Frenchman are a match for the devil, in a pursuit."
"Who wants a trail, when the chase can be seen from the deck, as Jasper here said was the case with this canoe? and it mattered nothing if there were twenty of your Mingos and Frenchmen, with a good British-built bottom in their wake. I'll engage, Master Eau-douce, had you given me a call, that said Tuesday morning, that we should have overhauled the blackguards."
“I dare say, Master Cap, that the advice of as old a seaman as you might have done no harm to as young a sailor as myself, but it is a long and a hopeless chase that has a bark canoe in it.”
"You would have had only to press it hard, to drive it ashore." 66 Ashore, Master Cap! You do not understand our lake navigation at all, if you suppose it an easy matter to force a bark canoe ashore. As soon as they find themselves pressed, these bubbles paddle right into the wind's eye, and before you know it, you find yourself a mile or two dead under their lee."
"You don't wish me to believe, Master Jasper, that any one is so heedless of drowning, as to put off into this lake, in one of them egg-shells, when there is any wind?"
"I have often crossed Ontario in a bark canoe, even when there has been a good deal of sea on. Well managed, they are the driest boats of which we have any knowledge."
Cap now led his brother-in-law and the Pathfinder aside, when he assured him that the admission of Jasper concerning the spies was "a circumstance," and "a strong circumstance," and as such, it deserved his deliberate investigation; while his account of the canoes was so improbable, as to wear the appearance of browbeating the listeners. Jasper spoke confidently of the character of the two individuals who had landed, and this Cap deemed pretty strong proof that he knew more about them than was to be gathered from a mere trail. As for moccasins, he said that
they were worn in that part of the world by white men as well as by Indians; he had purchased a pair himself; and boots, it was notorious, did not particularly make a soldier. Although much of this logic was thrown away on the Sergeant, still it produced some effect. He thought it a little singular himself, that there should have been spies detected so near the fort, and he know nothing of it; nor did he believe that this was a branch of knowledge that fell particularly within the sphere of Jasper. It was true that the Scud had, once or twice, been sent across the lake to land men of this character, or to bring them off; but then the part played by Jasper, to his own certain knowledge, was very secondary, the master of the cutter remaining as ignorant as any one else of the purport of the visits of those whom he had carried to and fro; nor did he see why he alone, of all present, should know anything of the late visit. Pathfinder viewed the matter differently. With his habitual diffidence, he reproached himself with a neglect of duty, and that knowledge, of which the want struck him as a fault in one whose business it was to possess it, appeared a merit in the young man. He saw nothing extraordinary in Jasper's knowing the facts he had related; while he did feel it was unusual, not to say disgraceful, that he himself now heard of them for the first time.
"As for moccasins, Master Cap," he said, when a short pause invited him to speak, "they may be worn by pale-faces as well as by red-skins, it is true, though they never leave the same trail on the foot of one as on the foot of the other. Any one who is used to the woods can tell the footstep of an Indian from the footstep of a white man, whether it be made by a boot or a moccasin. It will need better evidence than this to persuade me into the belief that Jasper is false."
"You will allow, Pathfinder, that there are such things in the world as traitors?" put in Cap logically.
"I never knew an honest-minded Mingo,-one that you could put faith in, if he had a temptation to deceive you. Cheating seems to be their gift, and I sometimes think they ought to be pitied for it, rather than parsecuted."
"Then why not believe that this Jasper may have the same weakness? A man is a man, and human nature is sometimes but a poor concern, as I know by experience,-I may say well know by experience, at least, I speak from my own human nature."
This was the opening of another long and desultory conversation, in which the probability of Jasper's guilt or innocence was argued pro and con, until both the Sergeant and his brother-inlaw had nearly reasoned themselves into settled convictions in
favour of the first, while their companion grew sturdier and sturdier in his defence of the accused, and still more fixed in his opinion of his being unjustly charged with treachery. In this there was nothing out of the common course of things; for there is no more certain way of arriving at any particular notion, than by undertaking to defend it; and among the most obstinate of our opinions may be classed those which are derived from discussions in which we affect to search for truth, while in reality we are only fortifying prejudice. By this time, the Sergeant had reached a state of mind that disposed him to view every act of the young sailor with distrust, and he soon got to coincide with his relative in deeming the peculiar knowledge of Jasper, in reference to the spies, a branch of information that certainly did not come within the circle of his regular duties as "a circumstance."
While this matter was thus discussed near the taffrail, Mabel sat silently by the companion-way, Mr. Muir having gone below to look after his personal comforts, and Jasper standing a little aloof, with his arms crossed, and his eyes wandering from the sails to the clouds, from the clouds to the dusky outline of the shore, from the shore to the lake, and from the lake back again to the sails. Our heroine, too, began to commune with her own thoughts. The excitement of the late journey, the incidents which marked the day of her arrival at the fort, the meeting with a father who was virtually a stranger to her, the novelty of her late situation in the garrison, and her present voyage, formed a vista for the mind's-eye to look back through, that seemed lengthened into months. She could with difficulty believe that she had so recently left the town, with all the usages of civilized life; and she wondered in particular that the incidents which had occurred during the descent of the Oswego had made so little impression on her mind. Too inexperienced to know that events, when crowded, have the effect of time, or that the quick succession of novelties that pass before us in travelling elevates objects, in a measure, to the dignity of events, she drew upon her memory for days and dates, in order to make certain that she had known Jasper, and the Pathfinder, and her own father, but little more than a fortnight. Mabel was a girl of heart rather than of imagination, though by no means deficient in the last, and she could not easily account for the strength of her feelings in connection with those who were so lately strangers to her; for she was not sufficiently accustomed to analyze her sensations to understand the nature of the influences that have just been mentioned. As yet, however, her pure mind was free from the blight of distrust, and she had no suspicion of the views of either of her suitors; and one of the last thoughts that could have voluntarily disturbed