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"I rejoice to hear this, for fatigue itself could scarcely make me sleep, for thinking of what might befall you."
"Lord bless your tender little heart, Mabel! but this is the way with all you gentle ones. I must say, on my part, however, that I was right glad to see the lanterns come down to the water-side, which I knew to be a sure sign of your safety. We hunters and guides are rude beings; but we have our feelings, and our idees, as well as any general in the army. Both Jasper and I would have died before you should have come to harm-we would."
"I thank you for all you did for me, Pathfinder; from the bottom of my heart, I thank you','and depend on it my father shall know it. I have already told him much, but have still a duty to perform on this subject."
"Tush, Mabel! The Sergeant knows what the woods be, and what men-true red-men be, too. There is little need to tell him anything about it. Well, now you have met your father, do you find the honest old soldier the sort of person you expected to find?"
"He is my own dear father, and received me as a soldier and a father should receive a child. Have you known him long, Pathfinder?"
"That is as people count time. I was just twelve when the Sergeant took me on my first scouting, and that is now more than twenty years ago. We had a tramping time of it; and as it was before your day, you would have had no father, had not the rifle been one of my natural gifts."
"It is too simple for many words. We were ambushed, and the Sergeant got a bad hurt, and would have lost his scalp, but for a sort of inbred turn I took to the weapon. We brought him off, however, and a handsomer head of hair, for his time of life, is not to be found in the rijiment, than the Sargeant carries about with him this blessed day."
"You saved my father's life, Pathfinder!" exclaimed Mabel, unconsciously, though warmly, taking one of his hard sinewy hands into both her own.
your other good acts!"
"God bless you for this, too, among
"Nay, I did not say that much, though I believe I did save his scalp. A man might live without a scalp, and so I cannot say I saved his life. Jasper may say that much consarning you; for without his eye and arm the canoe would never have passed the rift in safety, on a night like the last. The gifts of the lad are for the water, while mine are for the hunt and the trail. He is yonder, in the cove there, looking after the canoes, and keeping an eye on his beloved little craft. To my eye, there is no likelier youth in these parts, than Jasper Western."
For the first time since she had left her room, Mabel now turned her eyes beneath her, and got a view of what might be called the fore-ground of the remarkable picture she had been studying with so much pleasure. The Oswego threw its dark waters into the lake, between banks of some height; that on its eastern side being bolder and projecting further north than that on its western. The fort was on the latter, and immediately beneath it were a few huts of logs, which, as they could not interfere with the defence of the place, had been erected along the strand for the purpose of receiving and containing such stores as were landed, or were intended to be embarked in the communications between the different ports on the shores of Ontario. There were two low, curved, gravelly points, that had been formed with surprising regularity by the counteracting forces of the northerly winds and the swift current, and which, inclining from the storms of the lake, formed two coves within the river: that on the western side was the most deeply indented; and as it also had the most water, it formed a sort of picturesque little port for the post. It was along the narrow strand that lay between the low height of the fort and the water of this cove, that the rude buildings just mentioned had been erected.
Several skiffs, bateaux, and canoes were hauled up on the shore, and in the cove itself lay the little craft, from which Jasper obtained his claim to be considered a sailor. She was cutter-rigged, might have been of forty tons burthen, was so neatly constructed and painted as to have something of the air of a vessel of war, though entirely without quarters, and rigged and sparred with so scrupulous a regard to proportions and beauty, as well as fitness and judgment, as to give her an appearance that even Mabel at once distinguished to be gallant and trim. Her mould was admirable, for a wright of great skill had sent her drafts from England, at the express request of the officer who had caused her to be constructed; her paint dark, warlike, and neat; and the long coachwhip pennant that she wore at once proclaimed her to be the property of the King. Her name was the Scud.
"That, then, is the vessel of Jasper!" said Mabel, who associated the master of the little craft quite naturally with the cutter itself. "Are there many others on this lake?"
"The Frenchers have three: one of which they tell me is a real ship, such as are used on the ocean; another a brig; and a third is a cutter, like the Scud here, which they call the Squirrel, in their own tongue, however; and which seems to have a natural hatred of our own pretty boat, for Jasper seldom goes out that the Squirrel is not at his heels."
"And is Jasper one to run from a Frenchman, though
he appears in the shape of a squirrel, and that, too, on the water?"
"Of what use would valour be without the means of turning it to account? Jasper is a brave boy, as all on this frontier know; but he has no gun except a little howitzer, and then his crew consists only of two men besides himself, and a boy. I was with him in one of his trampooses, and the youngster was risky enough, for he brought us so near the enemy that rifles began to talk; but the Frenchers carry cannon and ports, and never show their faces outside of Frontenac, without having some twenty men, besides their Squirrel, in their cutter. No, no; this Scud was built for flying, and the Major says he will not put her in a fighting humour, by giving her men and arms, lest she should take him at his word, and get her wings clipped. I know little of these things, for my gifts are not at all in that way; but I see the reason of the thing-I see its reason, though Jasper does not."
"Ah! here is my uncle, none the worse for his swim, coming to look at this inland sea."
Sure enough, Cap, who had announced his approach by a couple of lusty hems, now made his appearance on the bastion, where, after nodding to his niece and her companion, he made a deliberate survey of the expanse of water before him. In order to effect this at his ease, the mariner mounted on one of the old iron guns, folded his arms across his breast, and balanced his body, as if he felt the motion of a vessel. To complete the picture, he had a short pipe in his mouth.
"Well, Master Cap," asked the Pathfinder innocently, for he did not detect the expression of contempt that was gradually settling on the features of the other; "is it not a beautiful sheet, and fit to be named a sea?"
"This, then, is what you call your lake?" demanded Cap, sweeping the northern horizon with his pipe. "I say, is this really your lake?"
"Sartain; and, if the judgment of one who has lived on the shores of many others can be taken, a very good lake it is."
"Just as I expected. A pond in dimensions, and a scuttlebutt in taste. It is all in vain to travel inland, in the hope of seeing anything either full-grown or useful. I knew it would turn out just in this way."
"What is the matter with Ontario, Master Cap? It is large, and fair to look at, and pleasant enough to drink, for those who can't get at the water of the springs."
"Do you call this large?" asked Cap, again sweeping the air with the pipe. "I will just ask you what there is large about it?
Didn't Jasper himself confess that it was only some twenty leagues from shore to shore?"
"But, uncle," interposed Mabel; "no land is to be seen, except here on our own coast. To me it looks exactly like the ocean." "This bit of a pond look like the ocean! Well, Magnet, that from a girl who has had real seamen in her family is downright nonsense. What is there about it, pray, that has even the outline of a sea on it?”
"Why, there is water-water-water-nothing but water, for miles on miles-far as the eye can see.'
"And isn't there water-water-water-nothing but water for miles on miles, in your rivers, that you have been canoeing through, too?-ay, and as far as the eye can see,' in the bargain?
"Yes, uncle, but the rivers have their banks, and there are trees along them, and they are narrow."
"And isn't this a bank where we stand? don't these soldiers call this the bank of the lake? and ar'n't there trees in thousands? and ar❜n't twenty leagues narrow enough of all conscience? Who the devil ever heard of the banks of the ocean, unless it might be the banks that are under water?”
"But, uncle, we cannot see across this lake, as we can see across a river."
"There you are out, Magnet. Ar'n't the Amazon, and Oronoco, and La Plata rivers, and can you see across them? Hark'e, Pathfinder, I very much doubt if this stripe of water here be even a lake; for to me it appears to be only a river. You are by no means particular about your geography, I find, up here in the woods."
"There you are out, Master Cap. There is a river, and a noble one too, at each end of it; but this is old Ontario before you; and, though it is not my gift to live on a lake, to my judgment there are few better than this."
"And, uncle, if we stood on the beach at Rockaway, what more should we see than we now behold? There is a shore on one side, or banks there, and trees, too, as well as those which are here."
"This is perverseness, Magnet, and young girls should steer clear of anything like obstinacy. In the first place, the ocean has coasts, but no banks, except the Grand Banks, as I tell you, which are out of sight of land, and you will not pretend that this bank is out of sight of land, or even under water?"
"As Mabel could not very plausibly upset this extravagant opinion, Cap pursued the subject, his countenance beginning to discover the triumph of a successful disputant.
And then them trees bear no comparison to these trees. The coasts of the ocean have farms, and cities, and countryseats, and, in some parts of the world, castles and monasteries, and lighthouses-ay, ay-lighthouses, in particular, on them; not one of all which things is to be seen here. No, no, Master Pathfinder ; I never heard of an ocean that hadn't more or less lighthouses on it; whereas, hereaway there is not even a beacon."
"There is what is better, there is what is better; a forest and noble trees, a fit temple of God."
'Ay, your forest may do for a lake; but of what use would an ocean be if the earth all around it were forest? Ships would be unnecessary, as timber might be floated in rafts, and there would be an end of trade, and what would a world be without trade? I am of that philosopher's opinion, who says human nature was invented for the purposes of trade. Magnet, I am astonished that you should think this water even looks like sea-water! Now, I dare say, that there isn't such a thing as a whale in all your lake, Master Pathfinder?"
“I never heard of one, I will confess; but I am no judge of animals that live in the water, unless it be the fishes of the rivers and the brooks."
Nor a grampus, nor a porpoise even? not so much as a poor devil of a shark?"
"I will not take it on myself to say there is either. My gifts are not in that way, I tell you, Master Cap."
"Nor herring, nor albatros, nor flying-fish?" continued Cap, who kept his eye fastened on the guide, in order to see how far he might venture. "No such thing as a fish that can fly, I dare say?"
"A fish that can fly! Master Cap, Master Cap, do not think, because we are mere borderers, that we have no idees of natur', and what she has been pleased to do. I know there are squirrels that can fly-"
"A squirrel fly!-the devil, Master Pathfinder. Do you suppose that you have got a boy on his first v'y'ge, up here among you?" "I know nothing of your v'y'ges, Master Cap, though I suppose them to have been many; but as for what belongs to natur' in the woods, what I have seen I may tell, and not fear the face of man.'
“And do you wish me to understand that you have seen a squirrel fly?"
"If you wish to understand the power of God, Master Cap, you will do well to believe that, and many other things of a like natur', for you may be quite sartain it is true."