« PředchozíPokračovat »
smiling, though he was evidently more disposed than his friend to let the passage of the falls be forgotten.
“ The boy is right,” rejoined Pathfinder, laughing in Mabel's face, the canoes being now so near that they almost touched ; “he is sartainly right. But you have not told us what you think of the leap we took ?
“ It was perilous and bold,” said Mabel ; looking at it, I could have wished that it had not been attempted, though, now it is over, I can admire its boldness and the steadiness with which it was made.”
“Now, do not think that we did this thing to set our. selves off in female eyes. It may be pleasant to the young to win each other's good opinions, by doing things which may seem praiseworthy and bold; but neither Eau-douce nor myself is of that race. My natur' has few turns in it, and is a straight natur'; nor would it be likely to lead me into a vanity of this sort while out on duty. As for Jasper, he would sooner go over the Oswego Falls, without a looker-on, than do it before a hundred pair of eyes. I know the lad well from much consorting, and I am sure he is not boastful or vain-glorious.”
Mabel rewarded the scout with a smile, which served to keep the canoes together for some time longer; for the sight of youth and beauty was so rare on that remote frontier, that even the rebuked and self-mortified feelings of this wanderer of the forest were sensibly touched by the blooming loveliness of the girl.
“We did it for the best,” Pathfinder continued ; 'twas all for the best. Had we waited to carry the canoe across the portage, time would have been lost, and nothing is so precious as time, when you are mistrustful of Mingos.”
But we can have little to fear, now. The canoes move swiftly, and two hours, you have said, will carry us down to the fort."
“ It shall be a cunning Iroquois who hurts a hair of your head, pretty one ; for all here are bound to the Sergeant, and most, I think, to yourself, to see you safe fro harm. Ha ! Eau-douce ; what is that in the at the lower turn, yonder, beneath the bushes, - I mean standing on the rock?”
“ 'Tis the Big Serpent, Pathfinder ; he is making signs to us in a way I don't understand.”
''Tis the Sarpent, as sure as I'm a white man, and he wishes us to drop in nearer to his shore. Mischief is brewing, or one of his deliberation and steadiness would never take this trouble. Courage, all! we are men, and must meet devilry as becomes our colour and our callings. Ah! I never knew good come of boasting ; and here, just as I was vaunting of our safety, comes danger to give me the lie.”
Art, stryving to compare
Through which the fragraut eglantines did spred.
The Oswego, below the falls, is a more rapid unequal stream, than it is above them. There are places where the river flows in the quiet stillness of deep water, but many shoals and rapids occur ; and, at that distant day, when every thing was in its natural state, some of the passes were not altogether without hazard. Very little exertion was required on the part of those who managed the canoes, except in those places where the swiftness of the current and the presence of the rocks required care; then, indeed, not only vigilance, but great coolness, readiness, and strength of arm became necessary, in order to avoid the dangers. Of all this the Mohican was aware, and he had judiciously selected a spot where the river flowed tranquilly, to intercept the canoes, in order to make his communication without hazard to those he wished to speak,
The Pathfinder had no sooner recognised the form of his red friend, than, with a strong sweep of his paddle, he threw the head of his own canoe towards the shore, motioning for Jasper to follow. In a minute both boats were
silently drifting down the stream, within reach of the bushes that overhung the water, all observing a profound silence; some from alarm, and others from habitual caution. As the travellers drew nearer the Indian, he made a sign for them to stop; and then he and Pathfinder had a short but earnest conference.
“ The chief is not apt to see enemies in a dead log,” observed the white man, to his red associate; “why does he tell us to stop ?"
· Mingos are in the woods.”
“ That we have believed these two days: does the chief know it?
The Mohican quietly held up the head of a pipe formed of stone.
“ It lay on a fresh trail that led towards the garrison," - for so it was the usage of that frontier to term a military work, whether it was occupied or not.
“ That may be the bowl of a pipe belonging to a soldier. Many use the red-skin pipes."
“ See," said the Big Serpent, again holding the thing he had found up to the view of his friend.
The bowl of the pipe was of soap-stone, and was carved with great care, and with a very respectable degree of skill; in its centre was a small Latin cross, made with an accuracy which permitted no doubt of its ineaning.
“ That does foretel devilry and wickedness,” said the Pathfinder, who had all the provincial horror of the holy symbol in question which then pervaded the country, and which became so incorporated with its prejudices, by con. founding men with things, as to have left its traces strong enough on the moral feeling of the community to be discovered even at the present hour; no Indian who had not been parvarted by the cunning priests of the Canadas, would dream of carving a thing like that on his pipe.
I'll warrant ye, the knave prays to the image every time he wishes to sarcumvent the innocent, and work his fearful wickedness. It looks fresh, too, Chingachgook ? '
“ The tobacco was burning when I found it.” s. That is close work, chief, Where was the trail ? "
The Mohican pointed to a spot not a hundred yards from that where they stood.
The matter now began to look very serious, and the two principal guides conferred apart for several minutes, when both ascended the bank, approached the indicated spot, and examined the trail with the utmost care. After this investigation had lasted a quarter of an hour, the white man returned alone, his red friend having disappeared in the forest.
The ordinary expression of the countenance of the Pathfinder was that of simplicity, integrity, and sincerity, blended in an air of self-reliance which usually gave great confidence to those who found themselves under his care; but now a look of concern cast a shade over his honest face, that struck the whole party.
“What cheer, Master Pathfinder ? ” demanded Cap, permitting a voice that was usually deep, loud, and confident, to sink into the cautious tones that better suited the dangers of the wilderness; “has the enemy got between us and our
“ Anan?” “ Have any of these painted scaramouches anchored off the harbour towards which we are running, with the hope of cutting us off in entering ?”
“ It may be all as you say, friend Cap, but I am none the wiser for your words; and, in ticklish times, the plainer a man makes his English, the easier he is understood. I know nothing of ports and anchors; but there is a direful Mingo trail within a hundred yards of this very spot, and as fresh as venison without salt. If one of the fiery devils has passed, so have a dozen ; and, what is worse, they have gone down towards the garrison, and not a soul crosses the clearing around it, that some of their piercing eyes will not discover, when sartain bullets will follow."
“ Cannot this said fort deliver a broadside, and clear every thing within the sweep of its hawse ? ”
* Nay, the forts this-a-way are not like forts in the settlements, and two or three light cannon are all they have down at the mouth of the river ; and then, broadsides fired at a dozen out-lying Mingoes, 'lying behind logs, and in a forest, would be powder spent in vain. We have but one
course, and that is a very nice one. We are judgmatically placed here, both canoes being hid by the high bank and the bushes, from all eyes, except those of any lurker directly opposite. Here, then, we may stay, without much present fear; but how to get the blood-thirsty devils up the stream again ? - Ha! I have it - I have it—if it does no good, it can do no harm. Do you see the wide-topped chesnut here, Jasper, at the last turn in the river? on our own side of the stream, I mean?”. 26 That near the fallen pine ?” “ The very same.
Take the flint and tinder-box, creep along the bank, and light a fire at that spot; may be the smoke will draw them above us. In the mean while, we will drop the canoes carefully down beyond the point below, and find another shelter. Bushes are plenty, and covers are easily to be had in this region, as witness the many ambushments.”
“I will do it, Pathfinder," said Jasper, springing to the shore. “ In ten minutes the fire shall be lighted.”.
“And, Eau-douce, use plenty of damp wood, this time,” half whispered the other, laughing heartily, in his own peculiar manner : 66 when smoke is wanted, water helps to thicken it.”
The young man was soon off, making his way rapidly towards the desired point. A slight attempt of Mabel to object to the risk was disregarded, and the party immediately prepared to change its position, as it could be seen from the place where Jasper intended to light his fire. The movement did not require haste, and it was made leisurely and with care. The canoes were got clear of the bushes then suffered to drop down with the stream until they reached the spot where the chestnut, at the foot of which Jasper was to light the fire, was almost shut out from view, when they stopped, and every eye was turned in the direction of the adventurer.
“ There goes the smoke !” exclaimed the Pathfinder, as a current of air whirled a little column of the vapour from the land, allowing it to rise spirally above the bed of the river. “A good flint, a small bit of steel, and plenty of dry leaves, maķe a quick fire. I hope Eau-douce will have