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that it pains my very heart to hear. Your worthy father, and almost-as-worthy uncle, have none of the best opinion of him.”
“I am sorry to hear it, Mr. Muir; I doubt not that time will remove all their distrust.”
“ If time would only remove mine, pretty Mabel,” rejoined the Quarter-master, in a wheedling tone, “I should feel no envy of the commander-in-chief. I think if I were in a condition to retire, the Sergeant would just step into
- If my
dear father is worthy to step into your shoes, Mr. Muir," returned the girl, with malicious pleasure, “ I'm sure that the qualification is mutual, and that you are every way worthy to step into his.”
“ The deuce is in the child ! you would not reduce me to the rank of a non-commissioned officer, Mabel ?”
“No indeed, sir, I was not thinking of the army at all as you spoke of retiring. My thoughts were more egotistical, and I was thinking how much you reminded me of my dear father, by your experience, wisdom, and suitableness to take his place as the head of a family.”
“ As its bridegroom, pretty Mabel, but not as its parent or natural chief. I see how it is with you, loving your repartee, and brilliant with wit. Well, I like spirit in a young woman, so it be not the spirit of a scold. This Pathfinder is an extraordinair, Mabel, if truth may be said of the man.”
“ Truth should be said of him or nothing. Pathfinder is my friend - my very particular friend, Mr. Muir, and no evil can be said of him, in my presence, that I shall not deny."
“I shall say nothing evil of him, I can assure you, Mabel ; but, at the same time, I doubt if much good can be said in his favour."
“ He is at least expert with the rifle," returned Mabel, smiling. “ That you cannot deny."
“ Let him have all the credit of his exploits in that way if you please ; but he is as illiterate as a Mohawk.”
“ He may not understand Latin, but his knowledge of Iroquois is greater than that of most men, and it is the
more useful language of the two in this part of the world.”
“ If Lundie himself were to call on me for an opinion which I admire more, your person or your wit, beautiful and caustic Mabel, I should be at a loss to answer. My admiration is so nearly divided between them, that I often fancy this is the one that bears off the palm, and then the other! Ah! the late Mrs. Muir was a paragon in that
“ The latest Mrs. Muir, did you say, sir?” asked Mabel, looking up innocently at her companion.
“ Hoot, hoot! That is some of Pathfinder's scandal. Now, I dare say, that the fellow has been trying to persuade you, Mabel, that I have had more than one wife already.”
“ In that case his time would have been thrown away, sir, as every body knows that you have been so unfortunate as to have had four."
Only three, as sure as my name is David Muir. The fourth is pure scandal—or rather, pretty Mabel, she is yet in petto, as they say at Rome ; and that means, in matters of love, in the heart, my dear.”
"Well, I'm glad I'm not that fourth person, in petto, or in any thing else, as I should not like to be a scandal.”
“ No fear of that, charming Mabel ; for were you the fourth, all the others would be forgotten, and your
wonderful beauty and merit would at once elevate you to be the first. No fear of your being the fourth in any thing.”
“ There is consolation in that assurance, Mr. Muir," said Mabel, laughing,
66 whatever there may be in your other assurance ; for I confess I should prefer being even a fourth-rate beauty to being a fourth wife.”
So saying she tripped away, leaving the Quarter-master to meditate on his success. Mabel had been induced to use her female means of defence thus freely, partly because her suitor had of late been so pointed as to stand in need of a pretty strong repulse, and partly on account of his innuendoes against Jasper and the Pathfinder. Though full of spirit and quick of intellect, she was not naturally pert; but, on the present occasion, she thought circum
stances called for more than usual decision. When she left her companion, therefore, she believed she was now finally released from attentions which she thought as illa bestowed as they were certainly disagreeable. Not so, however, with David Muir; accustomed to rebuffs, and familiar with the virtue of perseverance, he saw no reason to despair, though the half-menacing, half-self-satisfied manner in which he shook his head towards the retreating girl, might have betrayed designs as sinister as they were determined. While he was thus occupied the Pathfinder approached, and got within a few feet of him unseen.
" 'Twill never do, Quarter-master, 'twill never do," commenced the latter, laughing in his noiseless way;
“she is young and active, and none but a quick foot can overr take her. They tell me you are her suitor, if you are not her follower.”
“ And I hear the same of yourself, man, though the presumption would be so great. that I scarcely can think it true.”
“ I fear you're right, I do; yes, I fear you're right; when I consider myself, what I am, how little I know, and how rude my life has been, I altogether distrust my claim, even to think a moment of one so tutored, and gay, and light of heart, and delicate
“ You forget handsome,” coarsely interrupted Muir.
" And handsome, too, I fear," returned the meek and self-abased guide; “ I might have said handsome, at once, among her other qualities ; for the young fa’n, just as it learns to bound, is not more pleasant to the eye of the hunter, than Mabel is lovely in mine. I do indeed fear that all the thoughts I have harboured about her are vain and presumptuous." “ If you
think this, my friend, of your own accord, and natural modesty, as it might be, my duty to you as an old fellow-campaigner compels me to say
“Quarter-master," interrupted the other, regarding his companion keenly, "you and I have lived together much behind the ramparts of forts, but very little in the open woods or in front of the enemy."
“ Garrison or tent, it all passes for part of the same cam
paign, you know, Pathfinder; and then my duty keeps me much within sight of the store-houses, greatly contrary to my inclinations, as ye may well suppose, having yourself the ardour of battle in your temperament. But had ye heard what Mabel had just been saying of you, ye'd no think another minute of making yourself agreeable to the saucy and uncompromising hussy.
Pathfinder looked earnestly at the lieutenant, for it was impossible he should not feel an interest in what might be Mabel's opinion; but he had too much of the innate and true feeling of a gentleman to ask to hear what another had said of him. Muir, however, was not to be foiled by this self-denial and self-respect ; for, believing he had a man of great truth and simplicity to deal with, he determined to practise on his credulity, as one means of getting rid of his rivalry. He therefore pursued the subject, as soon as he perceived that his companion's self-denial was stronger than his curiosity.
“ You ought to know her opinion, Pathfinder,” he continued ; and I think every man ought to hear what his friends and acquaintances say of him: and so, by way of proving my own regard for your character and feelings, I'll just tell you in as few words as possible. You know that Mabel has a wicked malicious way with them eyes of her own, when she has a mind to be hard upon one's feelings."
- To me her eyes, Lieutenant Muir, have always seemed winning and soft, though I will acknowledge that they sometimes laugh ; yes, I have known them to laugh, and that right heartily, and with downright good will."
“ Well, it was just that, then ; her eyes were laughing with all their might, as it were; and in the midst of all her fun, she broke out with an exclamation to this effect : - I hope 'twill no hurt your sensibility, Pathfinder ?”
“ I will not say, Quarter-master, I will not say. Mabel's opinion of me is of more account than that of most others.
“ Then I'll no tell ye, but just keep discretion on the subject ; and why should a man be telling another what his friends say of him, especially when they happen to say
that which may not be pleasant to hear,
I'll not add another word to this present communication.”
“ I cannot make you speak, Quarter-master, if you are not so minded, and perhaps it is better for me not to know Mabel's opinion, as you seem to think it is not in my favour. Ah's me! if we could be what we wish to be, instead of being only what we are, there would be a great difference in our characters, and knowledge, and appear
One may be rude, and coarse, and ignorant, and yet happy, if he does not know it; but it is hard to see our own failings, in the strongest light, just as we wish to hear the least about them.”
“ That's just the rationale, as the French say, of the matter; and so I was telling Mabel, when she ran away and left me. You noticed the manner in which she skipped off, as you approached ?"
“It was very observable," answered Pathfinder, drawing a long breath, and clenching the barrel of his rifle, as if the fingers would bury themselves in the iron.
“ It was more than observable—it was flagrant; that's just the word, and the dictionary wouldn't supply a better, after an hour's search. Well, you must know, Pathfinder, for I cannot reasonably deny you the gratification of hearing this; so you must know, the minx bounded off in that manner, in preference to hearing what I had to say in your justification.”
" And what could you find to say in my behalf, Quarter-master ?”
“ Why, d'ye understand, my friend, I was ruled by circumstances, and no ventured indiscreetly into generalities, but was preparing to meet particulars, as it might be, with particulars. If you were thought wild, half-savage, or of a frontier formation, I could tell her, ye know, that it came of the frontier, wild, and half-savage life ye'd led; and all her objections must cease at once, or there would be a sort of a misunderstanding with Providence.”
“ And did you tell her this, Quarter-master ?”
“ I'll no swear to the exact words, but the idea was prevalent in my mind, ye'll understand. The girl was impatient, and would not hear the half I had to say ; but