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"That is the spot you have mentioned?" she said to Jasper, when the roar of the rift first came freshly and distinctly on her
"It is; and I beg you to have confidence in me. We are not old acquaintances, Mabel; but we live many days in one, in this wilderness. I think already, that I have known you years!"
"And I do not feel as if you were a stranger to me, Jasper. I have every reliance on your skill, as well as on your disposition to serve me.'
"We shall see, we shall see. Pathfinder is striking the rapids too near the centre of the river; the bed of the water is closer to the eastern shore; but I cannot make him hear me now. Hold firmly to the canoe, Mabel, and fear nothing."
At the next moment the swift current had sucked them into the rift, and for three or four minutes the awe-struck rather than the alarmed girl saw nothing around her but sheets of glancing foam, heard nothing but the roar of waters. Twenty times did the canoe appear about to dash against some curling and bright wave that showed itself even amid that obscurity; and as often did it glide away again unharmed, impelled by the vigorous arm of him who governed its movements. Once, and once only, did Jasper seem to lose command of his frail bark, during which brief space it fairly whirled entirely round; but, by a desperate effort, he brought it again under control, recovered the lost channel, and was soon rewarded for all his anxiety, by finding himself floating quietly in the deep water below the rapids, secure from every danger, and without having taken in enough of the element to serve for a draught.
"All is over, Mabel," the young man cried, cheerfully. "The danger is past, and you may now, indeed, hope to meet your father this very night."
"God be praised! Jasper, we shall owe this great happiness to you."
"The Pathfinder may claim a full share in the merit; but what has become of the other canoe?"
"I see something near us on the water is it not the boat of our friends?"
A few strokes of the paddle brought Jasper to the side of the object in question: it was the other canoe, empty and bottom upwards. No sooner did the young man ascertain this fact, than he began to search for the swimmers; and, to his great joy, Cap was soon discovered drifting down with the current; the old seaman preferring the chances of drowning to those of landing among savages. He was hauled into the canoe, though not without difficulty, and then the search ended; for Jasper was persuaded that
the Pathfinder would wade to the shore, the water being shallow, in preference to abandoning his beloved rifle.
The remainder of the passage was short, though made amid darkness and doubt. After a short pause, a dull roaring sound was heard, which at times resembled the mutterings of distant thunder, and then again brought with it the washing of waters. Jasper announced to his companions that they now heard the surf of the lake. Low curved spits of land lay before them, into the bay formed by one of which the canoe glided, and then it shot up noiselessly upon a gravelly beach. The transition that followed was so hurried and great, that Mabel scarcely knew what passed. In the course of a few minutes, however, sentinels had been passed, a gale was opened, and the agitated girl found herself in the arms of a parent who was almost a stranger to her.
A land of love, and a land of light,
A still, an everlasting dream.-QUEEN'S WAKE.
THE rest that succeeds fatigue, and which attends a newlyawakened sense of security, is generally sweet and deep. Such was the fact with Mabel, who did not rise from her humble pallet-such a bed as a Sergeant's daughter might claim in a remote frontier post-until long after the garrison had obeyed the usual summons of the drums, and had assembled at the morning parade. Sergeant Dunham, on whose shoulders fell the task of attending to these ordinary and daily duties, had got through all his morning avocations, and was beginning to think of his breakfast, ere his child left her room, and came into the fresh air, equally bewildered, delighted, and grateful, at the novelty and security of her new situation.
At the time of which we are writing, Oswego was one of the extreme frontier posts of the British possessions on this continent. It had not been long occupied, and was garrisoned by a battalion of a regiment that had been originally Scotch, but into which many Americans had been received since its arrival in this country; an innovation that had led the way to Mabel's father filling the humble but responsible situation of the oldest Sergeant. A few young officers, also, who were natives of the
colonies, were to be found in the corps. The fort itself, like most works of that character, was better adapted to resist an attack of savages, than to withstand a regular siege; but the great difficulty of transporting heavy artillery and other necessaries rendered the occurrence of the latter a probability so remote, as scarcely to enter into the estimate of the engineers who had planned the defences. There were bastions of earth and logs, a dry ditch, a stockade, a parade of considerable extent, and barracks of logs, that answered the double purpose of dwellings and fortifications. A few light field-pieces stood in the area of the fort, ready to be conveyed to any point where they might be wanted, and one or two heavy iron guns looked out from the summits of the advanced angles, as so many admonitions to the audacious to respect their power.
When Mabel, quitting the convenient but comparatively retired hut where her father had been permitted to place her, issued into the pure air of the morning, she found herself at the foot of a bastion, that lay invitingly before her, with a promise of giving a coup-d'œil of all that had been concealed in the darkness of the preceding night. Tripping up the grassy ascent, the light-hearted as well as light-footed girl found herself at once on a point where the sight, at a few varying glances, could take in all the external novelties of her new situation.
To the southward lay the forest through which she had been journeying so many weary days, and which had proved so full of dangers. It was separated from the stockade by a belt of open land, that had been principally cleared of its woods to form the martial constructions around her. This glacis, for such in fact was its military uses, might have covered a hundred acres; but with it every sign of civilisation ceased. All beyond was forest; that dense interminable forest that Mabel could now picture to herself, through her recollections, with its hidden glassy lakes, its dark rolling stream, and its world of nature.
Turning from this view, our heroine felt her cheek fanned by a fresh and grateful breeze, such as she had not experienced since quitting the far distant coast. Here a new scene presented itself: although expected, it was not without a start, and a low exclamation indicative of pleasure, that the eager eyes of the girl drank in its beauties. To the north, and east, and west, in every direction, in short, over one entire half of the novel panorama, lay a field of rolling waters. The element was neither of that glassy green which distinguishes the American waters in general, nor yet of the deep blue of the ocean; the colour being of a slightly amber hue, that scarcely affected its limpidity. No land was to be seen, with the exception of the adjacent coast,
which stretched to the right and left, in an unbroken outline of forest, with wide bays and low headlands or points; still much of the shore was rocky, and into its caverns the sluggish waters occasionally rolled, producing a hollow sound, that resembled the concussions of a distant gun. No sail whitened the surface, no whale or other fish gambolled on its bosom, no sign of use or service rewarded the longest and most minute gaze at its boundless expanse. It was a scene, on one side, of apparently endless forests, while a waste of seemingly interminable water spread itself on the other. Nature had appeared to delight in producing grand effects, by setting two of her principal agents in bold relief to each other, neglecting details; the eye turning from the broad carpet of leaves to the still broader field of fluid, from the endless but gentle heavings of the lake to the holy calm and poetical solitude of the forest, with wonder and delight.
Mabel Dunham, though unsophisticated, like most of her countrywomen of that period, and ingenuous and frank as any warmhearted and sincere-minded girl well could be, was not altogether without a feeling for the poetry of this beautiful earth of ours. Although she could scarcely be said to be educated at all, for few of her sex at that day, and in this country, received much more than the rudiments of plain English instruction, still she had been taught much more than was usual for young women in her own station in life; and, in one sense certainly, she did credit to her teaching. The widow of a field-officer, who formerly belonged to the same regiment as her father, had taken the child in charge at the death of its mother; and under the care of this lady, Mabel had acquired some tastes and many ideas, which otherwise might always have remained strangers to her. Her situation in the family had been less that of a domestic than of a humble companion, and the results were quite apparent in her attire, her language, her sentiments, and even in her feelings, though neither, perhaps, rose to the level of those which would properly characterize a lady. She had lost the coarser and less refined habits and manners of one in her original position, without having quite reached a point that disqualified her for the situation in life that the accidents of birth and fortune would probably compel her to fill. All else that was distinctive and peculiar in her belonged to natural character.
With such antecedents, it will occasion the reader no wonder, if he learns that Mabel viewed the novel scene before her with a pleasure far superior to that produced by vulgar surprise. She felt its ordinary beauties, as most would have feit them, but she had also a feeling for its sublimity-for that softened solitude,
that calm grandeur, and eloquent repose that ever pervades broad views of natural objects which are yet undisturbed by the labours and struggles of man.
"How beautiful!" she exclaimed, unconscious of speaking, as she stood on the solitary bastion, facing the air from the lake, and experiencing the genial influence of its freshness pervading both her body and her mind. "How very beautiful! and yet how singular!"
The words, and the train of her ideas, were interrupted by a touch of a finger on her shoulder, and turning, in the expectation of seeing her father, Mabel found Pathfinder at her side. He was leaning quietly on his long rifle, and laughing in his quiet manner, while, with an outstretched arm, he swept over the whole panorama of land and water.
"Here you have both our domains," he said, "Jasper's and mine. The lake is for him, and the woods are for me. The lad sometimes boasts of the breadth of his dominions; but I tell him my trees make as broad a plain on the face of this 'arth, as all his water. Well, Mabel, you are fit for either; for I do not see that fear of the Mingos, or night marches, can destroy your pretty looks."
"It is a new character for the Pathfinder to appear in, to compliment a silly girl."
"Not silly, Mabel; no, not in the least silly. The Sergeant's daughter would do discredit to her worthy father, were she to do or say anything that, in common honesty, could be called silly.'
"Then she must take care and not put too much faith in trea- . cherous flattering words. But, Pathfinder, I rejoice to see you among us again; for, though Jasper did not seem to feel much uneasiness, I was afraid some accident might have happened to you and your friend on that frightful rift."
"The lad knows us both, and was sartain that we should not drown, which is scarcely one of my gifts. It would have been hard swimming, of a sartainty, with a long-barrelled rifle in the hand; and what between the game, and the savages, and the French, killdeer and I have gone through too much in company to part very easily. No, no; we waded ashore, the rift being shallow enough for that with small exceptions, and we landed with our arms in our hands. We had to take our time for it, on account of the Iroquois, I will own; but, as soon as the sculking vagabonds saw the lights that the Sergeant sent down to your canoe, we well understood they would decamp, since a visit might have been expected from some of the garrison. So it was only sitting patiently on the stones for an hour, and all the danger was over. Patience is the greatest of virtues in a woodsman."