Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

oldest admiral in his Majesty's fleet can tell a king's smoke from a collier's."

The idea that human beings were in their vicinity, in that ocean of wilderness, had deepened the flush on the blooming cheek and brightened the eye of the fair creature at his side; but she soon turned with a look of surprise to her relative, and said hesitatingly-for both had often admired the Tuscarora's knowledge, or, we might almost say, instinct,—

66

A paleface's fire! Surely, uncle, he cannot know. that!"

"Ten days since, child, I would have sworn to it; but now I hardly know what to believe.—May I take the liberty of asking, Arrowhead, why you fancy that smoke, now, a paleface's smoke and not a redskin's?"

66

'Wet wood," returned the warrior, with the calmness with which the pedagogue might point out an arithmetical demonstration to his puzzled pupil. Much wetmuch smoke; much water-black smoke."

[ocr errors]

"But, begging your pardon, Master Arrowhead, the smoke is not black, nor is there much of it. To my eye, now, it is as light and fanciful a smoke as ever rose from a captain's tea-kettle, when nothing was left to make the fire but a few chips from the dunnage."

[ocr errors]

"Too much water," returned Arrowhead, with a slight nod of the head. 'Tuscarora too cunning to make fire with water! Paleface too much book, and burn anything; much book, little know."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'Well, that's reasonable, I allow," said Cap, who was no devotee of learning : he means that as a hit at your reading, Magnet; for the chief has sensible notions of things in his own way. How far now, Arrowhead, do you make us, by your calculation from the bit of a pond that you call the Great Lake, and towards which we have been so many days shaping our course?"

The Tuscarora looked at the seaman with quiet superiority, as he answered “Ontario, like heaven; one sun, and the great traveller will know it."

"Well, I have been a great traveller, I cannot deny; but of all my v'y'ges this has been the longest, the least profitable, and the farthest inland. If this body of fresh water is so nigh, Arrowhead, and so large, one might think a pair of good eyes would find it out; for, apparently, everything within thirty miles is to be seen from this lookout."

"Look!" said Arrowhead, stretching an arm before him with quiet grace-" Ontario!"

[ocr errors]

Uncle, you are accustomed to cry 'Land ho!' but not 'Water ho!' and you do not see it," cried the niece, laughing, as girls will laugh at their own idle conceits.

How now, Magnet? Dost suppose that I shouldn't know my native element if it were in sight?"

"But Ontario is not your native element, dear uncle; for you come from the salt water, while this is fresh."

That might make some difference to your young mariner, but none to the old one, I should know water, child, were I to see it in China.”

"Ontario!" repeated the Arrowhead, with emphasis, again stretching his hand towards the north-west.

Cap looked at the Tuscarora, for the first time since their acquaintance, with something like an air of contempt, though he did not fail to follow the direction of the chief's eye and arm, both of which were directed toward a vacant point in the heavens a short distance above the plain of leaves.

[ocr errors]

Ay, ay; this is much as I expected, when I left the coast in search of a fresh-water pond," resumed Cap, shrugging his shoulders like one whose mind was made up, and who thought no more need be said. "Ontario may be there, or, for that matter, it may be in my pocket. Well, I suppose there will be room enough, when we reach it, to work our canoe.-But, Arrowhead, if there be palefaces in our neighbourhood, I confess I should like to get within hail of them.”

The Tuscarora now gave a quiet inclination of his head, and the whole party descended from the roots of the uptorn tree in silence. When they had reached the

ground, Arrowhead intimated his intention to go towards the fire, and ascertain who had lighted it; while he advised his wife and the two others to return to a canoe which they had left in the adjacent stream, and await his return.

[ocr errors]

Why, chief, this might do on soundings, and in an offing where one knew the channel," returned old Cap; but in an unknown region like this I think it unsafe to trust the pilot alone too far from the ship; so, with your leave, we will not part company."

What my brother want?" asked the Indian gravely, though without taking offence at a distrust that was sufficiently plain.

"" Your company, Master Arrowhead, and no more. I will go with you and speak these strangers."

The Tuscarora assented without difficulty, and again he directed his patient and submissive little wife, who seldom turned her full rich black eye on him but to express equally her respect, her dread, and her love, to proceed to the boat. But here Magnet raised a difficulty. Although spirited, and of unusual energy under circumstances of trial, she was but woman; and the idea of being entirely deserted by her two male protectors, in the midst of a wilderness that her senses had just told her was seemingly illimitable, became so keenly painful that she expressed a wish to accompany her uncle.

66

'The exercise will be a relief, dear sir, after sitting so long in the canoe," she added, as the rich blood slowly returned to a cheek that had paled, in spite of her efforts to be calm; "and there may be females with the strangers." Come then, child; it is but a cable's length, and we shall return an hour before the sun sets."

[ocr errors]

With this permission, the girl, whose real name was Mabel Dunham, prepared to be of the party; while the Dew-of-June, as the wife of Arrowhead was called, passively went her way towards the canoe, too much accustomed to obedience, solitude, and the gloom of the forest, to feel apprehension.

The three who remained in the wind-row now picked

their way around its tangled maze, and gained the margin of the woods. A few glances of the eye sufficed for Arrowhead; but old Cap deliberately set the smoke by a pocket-compass before he trusted himself within the shadows of the trees.

"This steering by the nose, Magnet, may do well enough for an Indian, but your thoroughbred knows the virtue of the needle," said the uncle, as he trudged at the heels of the light-stepping Tuscarora. America would never have been discovered, take my word for it, if Columbus had been nothing but nostrils.-Friend Arrowhead, didst ever see a machine like this ?”

The Indian turned, cast a glance at the compass, which Cap held in a way to direct his course, and gravely answered-" A paleface eye. The Tuscarora see in his head. The Salt-water"-for so the Indian styled his companion-" all eye now; no tongue."

[ocr errors]

He means, uncle, that we had needs be silent; perhaps he distrusts the persons we are about to meet." "Ay, 'tis an Indian's fashion of going to quarters. You perceive he has examined the priming of his rifle, and it may be as well if I look to that of my own pistols."

Without betraying alarm at these preparations, to which she had become accustomed by her long journey in the wilderness, Mabel followed with a step as elastic as that of the Indian, keeping close in the rear of her companions. For the first half-mile, no other caution beyond a rigid silence was observed; but as the party drew nearer to the spot where the fire was known to be, much greater care became necessary.

The forest, as usual, had little to intercept the view, below the branches, but the tall, straight trunks of trees. Everything belonging to vegetation had struggled towards the light, and beneath the leafy canopy one walked, as it might be, through a vast natural vault, upheld by myriads of rustic columns. These columns or trees, however, often served to conceal the adventurer, the hunter, or the foe; and as Arrowhead swiftly approached the spot where his practised and unerring

senses told him the strangers ought to be, his footstep gradually became lighter, his eye more vigilant, and his person was more carefully concealed.

"See, Salt-water," said he exultingly, pointing through the vista of trees, "paleface fire!"

[ocr errors]

"By the Lord, the fellow is right!" muttered Cap; there they are, sure enough, and eating their grub as quietly as if they were in the cabin of a three-decker." "Arrowhead is but half right!" whispered Mabel; " for there are two Indians, and only one white man.' "Palefaces," said the Tuscarora, holding up two fingers; "red man," holding up one.

[ocr errors]

Well," rejoined Cap, "it is hard to say which is right and which is wrong. One is entirely white, and a fine comely lad he is, with an air of respectability about him; one is a redskin, as plain as paint and nature can make him; but the third chap is half-rigged, being neither brig nor schooner."

"Palefaces," repeated Arrowhead, again raising two fingers; "red man," showing but one.

[ocr errors]

He must be right, uncle; for his eye seems never to fail. But it is now urgent to know whether we meet as friends or foes. They may be French."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

One hail will soon satisfy us on that head," returned Cap. Stand you behind this tree, Magnet, lest the knaves take it into their heads to fire a broadside without a parley, and I will soon learn what colours they sail under."

[ocr errors]

The uncle had placed his two hands to his mouth, to form a trumpet, and was about to give the promised hail, when a rapid movement from the hand of Arrowhead defeated the intention by deranging the instrument.

[ocr errors]

Red man, Mohican," said the Tuscarora-" good; palefaces, Yengeese."

[ocr errors]

These are heavenly tidings," murmured Mabel, who little relished the prospect of a deadly fray in that remote wilderness. Let us approach at once, dear uncle, and proclaim ourselves friends."

« PředchozíPokračovat »