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tomed, and which possessed equally the force of truth, faith, and probability, he was glad to get rid of the subject by evasion.
“Well, well, friend Pathfinder,” said he, leave the argument where it is; and we can try the water when we once reach it. Only mark my words — I do not say that it may not be fresh on the surface; the Atlantic is sometimes fresh on the surface, near the mouths of great rivers ; but, rely on it, I shall show you a way of tasting the water many fathoms deep, of which you never dreamed ; and then we shall know more about it.
The guide seemed content to let the matter rest, and the conversation changed.
“ We are not over-conceited consarning our gifts," observed the Pathfinder, after a short pause,
66 and well know that such as live in the towns, and near the sea
“ On the sea,” interrupted Cap.
“ On the sea, if you wish it, friend, have opportunities which do not befall us of the wilderness. Still, we know our own callings, and they are what I consider natural callings, and are not parvarted by vanity and wantonness. Now, my gifts are with the rifle, and on a trail, and in the way of game and scouting; for, though I can use the spear and the paddle, I pride not myself on either. The youth, Jasper, there, who is discoursing with the Sergeant's daughter, is a different cratur'; for he may be said to breathe the water, as it might be, like a fish. The Indians and Frenchers of the north shore call him Eau-douce, on account of his gifts in this particular. He is better at the oar, and the rope too, than in making fires on a trail.”
“ There must be something about these gifts of which you speak, after all,” said Cap. “ Now 'this fire, I will acknowledge, has overlaid all my seamanship. Arrowhead, there, said the smoke came from a pale-face’s fire, and that is a piece of philosophy which I hold to be equal to steering in a dark night by the edges of the sand.”
“ It's no great secret,” returned Pathfinder, laughing with great inward glee, though habitual caution prevented the emission of any noise. Nothing is easier to us who pass our time in the great school of Providence, than to
larn its lessons. We should be as useless on a trail, or in carrying tidings through the wilderness, as so many woodchucks, did we not soon come to a knowledge of these niceties. Eau-douce, as we call him, is so fond of the water, that he gathered a damp stick or two for our fire ; and wet will bring dark smoke, as I suppose even you followers of the sea must know. It's no great secret, though all is mystery to such as doesn't study the Lord and His mighty ways with humility and thankfulness.”
“ That must be a keen eye of Arrowhead's to see so slight a difference.”
“ He would be but a poor Indian if he didn't. No, no; it is war-time, and no red-skin is outlying without using his senses. Every skin has its own natur', and every natur' has its own laws, as well as its own skin. It was many years before I could master all these higher branches of a forest education ; for red-skin knowledge doesn't come as easy to white-skin natur', as what I suppose is intended to be white-skin knowledge; though I have but little of the latter, having passed most of my time in the wilderness.”
“ You have been a ready scholar, Master Pathfinder, as is seen by your understanding these things so well. I suppose it would be no great matter, for a man regularly brought up to the sea, to catch these trifles, if he could only bring his mind fairly to bear upon them.”
66 I don't know that. The white man has his diffi, culties in getting red-skin habits, quite as much as the Indian in getting white-skin ways. As for the real natur', it is my opinion that neither can actually get that of the other.”
“And yet we sailors, who run about the world so much, say there is but one nature, whether it be in the Chinaman or a Dutchman, For my own part, I am much of that way of thinking too; for I have generally found that all nations like gold and silver, and most men relish tobacco.”
“ Then you seafaring men know little of the red-skins. Have you ever known any of your Chinamen who could sing their death-songs, with their flesh torn with splinters,
and cut with knives, the fire raging around their naked bodies, and death staring them in the face ? Until you can find me a Chinaman, or a Christian-man, that can do all this, you cannot find a man with a red-skin natur', let him look ever so valiant, or know how to read all the books that were ever printed.”
“ It is the savages only that play each other such hellish tricks," said Master Cap, glancing his eyes about him uneasily at the apparently endless arches of the forest. “No white man is ever condemned to undergo these trials.”
“ Nay, therein you are again mistaken,' returned the Pathfinder, coolly selecting a delicate morsel of the venison as his bonne bouche; “ for though these torments belong only to the red-skin natur', in the way of bearing them like braves, white-skin natur' may be, and often has been, agonised by them.”
“ Happily,” said Cap, with an effort to clear his throat,
none of his Majesty's allies will be likely to attempt such damnable cruelties on any of his Majesty's loyal subjects. I have not served much in the royal navy, it is true; but I have served, and that is something; and, in the way of privateering and worrying the enemy in his ships and cargoes, I've done my full share. But I trust there are no French savages on this side the lake, and I think you
said that Ontario is a broad sheet of water?” Nay, it is broad in our eyes,” returned Pathfinder, not caring to conceal the smile which lighted a face which had been burnt by exposure to a bright red ; though I mistrust that some may think it narrow; and narrow it is, if you wish it to keep off the foe. Ontario has two ends, and the enemy that is afraid to cross it, will be certain to come round it."
" Ah! that comes of your d -d fresh-water ponds !” growled Cap, hemming so loudly as to cause him instantly to repent the indiscretion. “ No man, now, ever heard of a pirate or a ship getting round one end of the Atlantic !”
Mayhap the ocean has no ends ? " " That it hasn't ; nor sides, nor bottom. The nation
which is snugly moored on one of its coasts need fear nothing from the one anchored abeam, let it be ever so savage, unless it possesses the art of ship-building. No, no! the people who live on the shores of the Atlantic need fear but little for their skins or their scalps. A man may lie down at night, in those regions, in the hope of finding the hair on his head in the inorning, unless he wears a wig."
« It isn't so here. I don't wish to flurry the young woman, and therefore I will be in no way particular, though she seems pretty much listening to Eau-douce, as we call him; but without the edication I have received, I should think it, at this very moment, a risky journey to go over the very ground that lies between us and the garrison, in the present state of this frontier. There are about as many Iroquois on this side of Ontario, as there are on the other. It is for this very reason, friend Cap, that the Sergeant has engaged us to come out and show you the path."
« What! do the knaves dare to cruise so near the guns of one of his Majesty's works?"
“ Do not the ravens resort near the carcass of the deer, though the fowler is at hand? They come this-a-way, as it might be, naturally. There are more or less whites passing between the forts and the settlements, and they are sure to be on their trails. The Sarpent has come up one side of the river, and I have come up the other, in order to scout for the outlying rascals, while Jasper brought up the canoe, like a bold-hearted sailor as he is. The Sergeant told him, with tears in his eyes, all about his child, and how his heart yearned for her, and how gentle and obedient she was, until I think the lad would have dashed into a Mingo camp, single-handed, rather than not a-come.”
“ We thank him, and shall think the better of him for his readiness ; though I suppose the boy has run no great risk, after all."
Only the risk of being shot from a cover, as he forced the canoe up a swift rift turned an elbow in the stream, with his eyes fastened on the eddies. Of all the risky journeys, that on an ambushed river is the most risky, in my judgment, and that risk has Jasper run.”
" And why the devil has the Sergeant sent for me to travel a hundred and fifty miles in this outlandish manner? Give me an offing, and the enemy in sight, and I'll play with him in his own fashion, as long as he pleases, long bows or close quarters; but to be shot like a turtle asleep is not to my humour. If it were not for little Magnet there, I would tack ship this instant, make the best of my way back to York, and let Ontario take care of itself, salt water or fresh water.”
“ That wouldn't mend the matter much, friend mariner, as the road to return is much longer and almost as bad as the road to go on.
Trust to us, and we will carry you through safely, or lose our scalps.”
Cap wore a tight solid queue, done up in eelskin, while the top of his head was nearly bald ; and he mechanically passed his band over both, as if to make certain that each was in its right place. He was at the bottom, however, a brave man, and had often faced death with coolness, though never in the frightful forms in which it presented itself under the brief but graphic picture of his companion. It was too late to retreat ; and he determined to put the best face on the matter, though he could not avoid muttering inwardly a few curses on the indiscretion with which his brother-in-law, the Sergeant, had led him into his present dilemma.
“ I make no doubt, Master Pathfinder,” he answered, when these thoughts had found time to glance through his mind, “ that we shall reach port in safety. What distance may we now be from the fort?”
“ Little more than fifteen miles; and swift miles too, as the river runs, if the Mingos let us go clear.”
“ And I suppose the woods will stretch along starboard and larboard, as heretofore ? "
“ I mean that we shall have to pick our way through these damned trees.”
“ Nay, nay, you will go in the canoe, and the Oswego has been cleared of its flood-wood by the troops. It will be floating down stream, and that, too, with a swift current."