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smoke, and that they will naturally conclude that they who began by going up stream, will end by going up stream. If they know anything, they now know a party is out from the fort, and it will exceed even Mingo wit to fancy that we have come up here just for the pleasure of going back again, and that, too, the same day, and at the risk of our scalps."
Certainly," added Jasper, who was talking apart with the Pathfinder, as they moved towards the wind-row, "they cannot know anything about the Sergeant's daughter, for the greatest secrecy has been observed on her account."
"And they will learn nothing here," returned Pathfinder, causing his companion to see that he trod with the utmost care on the impression left on the leaves by the little foot of Mabel, "unless this old salt-water fish has been taking his niece about in the wind-row, like a fa'n playing by the side of the old doe."
"Buck, you mean, Pathfinder."
"Isn't he a queerity? Now I can consort with such a sailor as yourself, Eau-douce, and find nothing very contrary in our gifts, though yours belong to the lakes, and mine to the woods. Hark'e, Jasper," continued the scout, laughing in his noiseless manner; "suppose we try the temper of his blade, and run him over the falls ?"
"And what would be done with the pretty niece, in the mean while ?"
“Nay, nay, no harm shall come to her; she must walk round the portage, at any rate; but you and I can try this Atlantic oceaner, and then all parties will become better acquainted. We shall find out whether his flint will strike fire; and he may come to know something of frontier tricks."
Young Jasper smiled, for he was not averse to fun, and had been a little touched by Cap's superciliousness; but Mabel's fair face, light agile form, and winning smiles, stood like a shield between her uncle and the intended experiment.
"Perhaps the Sergeant's daughter will be frightened," he said. "Not she, if she has any of the Sergeant's spirit in her. She doesn't look like a skeary thing, at all. Leave it to me, then, Eau-douce, and I will manage the affair alone."
"Not you, Pathfinder; you would only drown both. If the canoe goes over, I must go in it."
"Well; have it so, then'; shall we smoke the pipe of agreement on the bargain ?"
Jasper laughed, nodded his head, by way of consent, and then the subject was dropped, as the party had reached the canoe so often mentioned, and fewer words had determined much greater things between the parties.
Before these fields were shorn and till'd,
The fresh and boundless wood;
And torrents dash'd and rivulets play'd,
And fountains spouted in the shade.-BRYANT.
IT is generally known, that the waters which flow into the southern side of Ontario are, in general, narrow, sluggish, and deep. There are some exceptions to this rule, for many of the rivers have rapids, or, as they are termed in the language of the region, "rifts," and some have falls. Among the latter was the particular stream on which our adventurers were now journeying. The Oswego is formed by the junction of the Oneida and the Onondaga, both of which flow from lakes; and it pursues its way, through a gently undulating country, some eight or ten miles, until it reaches the margin of a sort of natural terrace, down which it tumbles some ten or fifteen feet, to another level, across which it glides, or glances, or pursues its course with the silent stealthy progress of deep water, until it throws its tribute into the broad receptacle of the Ontario. The canoe in which Cap and his party had travelled from Fort Stanwix, the last military station on the Mohawk, lay by the side of this river, and into it the whole party now entered, with the exception of Pathfinder, who remained on the land, in order to shove the light vessel off.
"Let her starn drift down stream, Jasper," said the man of the woods to the young mariner of the lake, who had dispossessed Arrowhead of his paddle and taken his own station as steersman; let it go down with the current. Should any of these infarnals, the Mingos, strike our trail, or follow it to this point, they will not fail to look for the signs in the mud; and if they discover that we have left the shore with the nose of the canoe up-stream, it is a natural belief to think we went up
This direction was followed; and, giving a vigorous shove, the Pathfinder, who was in the flower of his strength and activity, made a leap, landing lightly, and without disturbing its equilibrium, in the bow of the canoe. As soon as it had reached the centre of the river or the strength of the current, the boat was turned, and it began to glide noiselessly down the stream.
The vessel in which Cap and his niece had embarked for their long and adventurous journey, was one of the canoes of bark,
which the Indians are in the habit of constructing, and which, by their exceeding lightness and the ease with which they are propelled, are admirably adapted to a navigation in which shoals, flood-wood, and other similar obstructions, so often occur. The two men who composed its original crew had several times carried it, when emptied of its luggage, many hundred yards; and it would not have exceeded the strength of a single man to lift its weight. Still it was long, and, for a canoe, wide; a want of steadiness being its principal defect in the eyes of the uninitiated. A few hours' practice, however, in a great measure remedied this evil, and both Mabel and her uncle had learned so far to humour its movements, that they now maintained their places with perfect composure; nor did the additional weight of the three guides tax its power in any particular degree, the breadth of the rounded bottom allowing the necessary quantity of water to be displaced, without bringing the gunwale very sensibly nearer to the surface of the stream. Its workmanship was neat; the timbers were small; and secured by thongs; and the whole fabric, though it was so slight and precarious to the eye, was probably capable of conveying double the number of persons that it now contained.
Cap was seated on a low thwart, in the centre of the canoe; the Big Serpent knelt near him. Arrowhead and his wife occupied places forward of both, the former having relinquished his post aft. Mabel was half-reclining on some of her own effects, behind her uncle, while the Pathfinder and Eau-douce stood erect, the one in the bow, and the other in the stern, each using a paddle, with a long, steady, noiseless sweep. The conversation was carried on in low tones, all of the party beginning to feel the necessity of prudence, as they drew nearer to the outskirts of the fort, and had no longer the cover of the woods.
The Oswego, just at that place, was a deep dark stream of no great width, its still gloomy-looking current winding its way among overhanging trees, that, in particular spots, almost shut out the light of the heavens. Here and there some half-fallen giant of the forest lay nearly across its surface, rendering care necessary to avoid the limbs; and most of the distance, the lower branches and leaves of the trees of smaller growth were laved by its waters. The picture which has been so beautifully described by our own admirable poet, and which we have placed at the head of this chapter, as an epigraph, was here realised; the earth fattened by the decayed vegetation of centuries, and black with loam, the stream that filled the banks nearly to overflowing, and the "fresh and boundless wood," being all as visible to the eye, as the pen of Bryant has elsewhere vividly presented them to the
imagination. In short, the entire scene was one of a rich and benevolent nature, before it had been subjected to the uses and desires of man; luxuriant, wild, full of promise, and not without the charm of the picturesque, even in its rudest state. It will be remembered that this was in the year 175-, or long before even speculation had brought any portion of western New York within the bounds of civilisation or the projects of the adventurous. At that distant day, there were two great channels of military communication between the inhabited portion of the colony of New York, and the frontiers that lay adjacent to the Canadas: that by Lakes Champlain and George, and that by means of the Mohawk, Wood Creek, the Oneida, and the rivers we have been describing. Along both these lines of communication, military posts had been established, though there existed a blank space of a hundred miles between the last fort at the head of the Mohawk, and the outlet of the Oswego, which embraced most of the distance that Cap and Mabel had journeyed under the protection of Arrowhead.
"I sometimes wish for peace again," said the Pathfinder, “when one can range the forest without searching for any other enemy than the beasts and fishes. Ah's me! many is the day that the Sarpent, there, and I have passed happily among the streams, living on venison, salmon, and trout, without thought of a Mingo or a scalp! I sometimes wish that them blessed days might come back, for it is not my real gift to slay my own kind. I'm sartain the Sergeant's daughter don't think me a wretch that takes pleasure in preying on human natur'?"
As this remark, a sort of half interrogatory, was made, Pathfinder looked behind him; and, though the most partial friend could scarcely term his sunburnt and hard features handsome, even Mabel thought his smile attractive, by its simple ingenuousness, and the uprightness that beamed in every lineament of his honest countenance.
"I do not think my father would have sent one like those you mention to see his daughter through the wilderness," the young woman answered, returning the smile as frankly as it was given, and much more sweetly.
"That he wouldn't, that he wouldn't; the Sergeant is a man of feeling, and many is the march and the fight that we have had -stood shoulder to shoulder in, as he would call it-though I always keep my limbs free, when near a Frencher or a Mingo. "You are, then, the young friend of whom my father has spoken so often in his letters ?"
"His young friend-the Sergeant has the advantage of me by thirty years; yes, he is thirty years my senior, and as many my better."
"Not in the eyes of the daughter, perhaps, friend Pathfinder,' put in Cap, whose spirits began to revive, when he found the water once more flowing around him. "The thirty years that you mention are not often thought to be an advantage in the eyes of girls of nineteen."
Mabel coloured; and, in turning aside her face to avoid the looks of those in the bow of the canoe, she encountered the admiring gaze of the young man in the stern. As a last resource, her spirited but soft blue eyes sought refuge in the water. Just at this moment a dull heavy sound swept up the avenue formed by the trees, borne along by a light air that hardly produced a ripple on the water.
That sounds pleasantly," said Cap, pricking up his ears like a dog that hears a distant baying; "it is merely this river tumbling over some rocks, half a mile below us."
Is there a fall in the stream?" demanded Mabel, a still brighter flush glowing in her face.
"The devil! Master Pathfinder, or you, Mr. Eau-douce" (for so Cap began to style Jasper, by way of entering cordially into the border usages), "had you not better give the canoe a sheer, and get nearer to the shore? These waterfalls have generally rapids above them, and one might as well get into the Maelstrom at once, as to run into their suction."
"Trust to us-trust to us, friend Cap," answered Pathfinder; we are but fresh-water sailors, it is true, and I cannot boast of being much even of that; but we understand rifts, and rapids, and cataracts; and, in going down these, we shall do our endeavours not to disgrace our edication."
In going down!" exclaimed Cap. The devil, man! you do not dream of going down a waterfall in this egg-shell of bark!" "Sartain; the path lies over the falls, and it is much easier to shoot them than to unload the canoe, and to carry that and all it contains around a portage of a mile by land."
Mabel turned her pallid countenance towards the young man in the stern of the canoe; for, just at that moment, a fresh roar of the fall was borne to her ears by a new current of the air, and it really sounded terrific, now that the cause was understood.
We thought that, by landing the females and the two Indians," Jasper quietly observed, "we three white men, all of whom are used to the water, might carry the canoe over in safety, for we often shoot these falls."
"And we counted on you, friend mariner, as a mainstay," said Pathfinder, winking at Jasper over his shoulder; for you are accustomed to see waves tumbling about; and without some one