« PředchozíPokračovat »
head, and at the same time 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 !" 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 in the world 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 pointing, to all appearance, towards a vacant spot in the heavens, a short distance above the plain of leaves.
“Ay, ay, this is much as I expected, when I left the coast to come 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 pale-faces in our neighborhood, 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
proceed to a canoe, which they had left in the adjacent stream, and await his return.
“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.
“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, 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."
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, in the necessary direction. 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 thorough-bred 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 pale-face eye. The Tuscarora see in his head. The saltwater (for so the Indian styled his companion) all eye now; no tongue."
“ 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 light and 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 that was 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 footsteps gradually became lighter, his eye more vigilant, and his person was more carefully concealed.
" See, salt-water," he said exultingly, pointing at the same time through the vista of trees, “pale-face fire !"
"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.”
" Pale-face," said the Tuscarora, holding up two fingers ; “ red man” holding up one.
“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 life and respectability about him; one is a red-skin as plain as paint and nature can make him; but the third chap is half-rigged, being neither brig nor schooner."
“Pale-face,” repeated Arrowhead, again raising two fingers * red man,” showing but one.
“ 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.”
“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 colors they sail under.”
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 Arrowhead defeated the iutention by deranging the instrument.
"Red man, Mohican," said the Tuscarora; "good; paleface, Yengeese."
" 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."
“Good,” said the Tuscarora, “ red man cool, and know; pale-Wface hurried, and fire. Let squaw go."
“What,” said Cap, in astonishment, "send little Magnet
a-head, as a look-out, while two lubbers, like you and me, lie-to, to see what sort of a land-fall she will make! If I do, 1-"
"It is wisest, uncle,” interrupted the generous girl," and I have no fear. No Christian, seeing a woman approach alone, would fire upon her, and my presence will be a pledge of peace. Let me go forward, as Arrowhead wishes, and all will be well. We are, as yet, unseen, and the surprise of the strangers will not partake of alarm.”
" Good," returned Arrowhead, who did not conceal his approbation of Mabel's spirit.
" It has an unseaman-like look," answered Cap, “but, being in the woods, no one will know it. If you think, Mabel —”
Uncle, I know there is no cause to fear for me, and you are always nigh to protect me."
"Well, take one of the pistols, then—"
"Nay, I had better rely on my youth and feebleness," said the girl, smiling, while her color heightened under her feelings -“ Among Christian men, a woman's best guard is her claim to their protection. I know nothing of arms, and wish to live in ignorance of them.”
The uncle desisted : and, after receiving a few cautious instructions from the Tuscarora, Mabel rallied all her spirit, and advanced alone towards the group seated near the fire. Although the heart of the girl beat quick, her step was firm, and her movements, seemingly, were without reluctance. A death-like silence reigned in the forest, for they towards whom she approached, were too much occupied in appeasing that great natural appetite, hunger, to avert their looks, for an instant, from the important business in which they were all engaged. When Mabel, however, had got within a hundred feet of the fire, she trod upon a dried stick, and the trifling noise that was produced by her light footstep caused the Mohican, as Arrowhead had pronounced the Indian to be, and bis companion whose character had been thought so equivocal, to rise to their feet, as quick as thought. Both glanced at the rifles that