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duty to watch the foe in that quarter, while Arrowhead motioned to his white companion to seize the bow of the boat, and to follow Jasper. All this was the work of an instant: but when the Pathfinder reached the current that was sweeping round the turn, he felt a sudden change in the weight he was dragging; and looking back, he found that both the Tuscarora and his wife had deserted him. The thought of treachery flashed upon his mind, but there was no time to pause ; for the wailing shout that arose from the party below, proclaimed that the body of the young Iroquois had floated as low as the spot reached by his friends. The report of a rifle followed ; and then the guide saw that Jasper, having doubled the bend in the river, was crossing the stream, standing erect in the stern of the canoe, while Cap was seated forward, both propelling the light boat with vigorous strokes of the paddles, A glance, a thought, and an expedient followed each other quickly in one so trained in the vicissitudes of the frontier warfare. Springing into the stern of his own canoe, he urged it by a vigorous shove into the current, and commenced crossing the stream himself, at a point so much lower than that of his companions as to offer his own person for a target to the enemy, well knowing that their keen desire to secure a scalp would control all other feelings.
Keep well up the current, Jasper," shouted the gallant guide, as he swept the water with long, steady, vigorous strokes of the paddle ; keep well up the current, and pull for the alder bushes opposite. Presarve the Sergeant's daughter before all things, and leave these Mingo knaves to the Sarpent and me.”
Jasper flourished his paddle, as a signal of understanding, while shot succeeded shot in quick succession, all now being aimed at the solitary man in the nearest canoe,
“Ay, empty your rifles like simpletons, as you are,” said the Pathfinder, who had acquired a habit of speaking when alone, from passing so much of his time in the solitude of the forest; empty your rifles with an unsteady aim, and give me time to put yard upon yard of river be, tween us. I will not revile you like a Delaware or a Mohican; for my gifts are a white man's gifts, and not an
Indian’s ; and boasting in battle is no part of a Christian warrior ; but I may say here, all alone by myself, that you are little better than so many men from the town shooting at robins in the orchards. That was well meant," throwing back his head, as a rifle-bullet cut a lock of hair from his temple ; “but the lead that misses by an inch is as useless as the lead that never quits the barrel. Bravely done, Jasper ! the Sergeant's sweet child must be saved, even if we go in without our own scalps.”
By this time the Pathfinder was in the centre of the river, and almost abreast of his enemies, while the other canoe, impelled by the vigorous arms of Cap and Jasper, had nearly gained the opposite shore at the precise spot that had been pointed out to them. The old mariner now played his part manfully ; for he was on his proper element, loved his niece sincerely, had a proper regard for his own person, and was not unused to fire, though his experience certainlyway in a very different species of warfare. A few strokes of the paddles were given, and the canoe shot into the bushes, Mabel was hurried to land by Jasper, and, for the present, all three of the fugitives were safe.
Not so with the Pathfinder : his hardy self-devotion had brought him into a situation of unusual exposure, the hazards of which were much increased by the fact, that just as he drifted nearest to the enemy, the party on the shore rushed down the bank, and joined their friends who still stood in the water. The Oswego was about a cable's length in width at this point, and the canoe being in the centre, the object was only a hundred yards from the rifles that were constantly discharged at it; or, at the usual target distance for that weapon.
In this extremity the steadiness and skill of the Pathfinder did him good service. He knew that his safety depended altogether on keeping in motion ; for a stationary object, at that distance, would have been hit nearly every shot. Nor was motion of itself sufficient ; for, accustomed to kill the bounding deer, his enemies probably knew how to vary the line of aim so as to strike him, should he con. tinue to move in any one direction. He was consequently
compelled to change the course of the canoe, at one moment shooting down with the current, with the swiftness of an arrow; and at the next checking its progress in that direction, to glance athwart the stream. Luckily the Iroquois could not re-load their pieces in the water, and the bushes that every where fringed the shore, rendered it difficult to keep the fugitive in view, when on the land. Aided by these circumstances, and having received the fire of all his foes, the Pathfinder was gaining fast in distance, both downwards and across the current, when a new danger suddenly, if not unexpectedly, presented itself, by the appearance of the party that had been left in ambush below with a view to watch the river.
These were the savages alluded to in the short dialogue already related. They were no less than ten in number; and understanding all the advantages of their bloody occupation, they had posted themselves at a spot where the water dashed among rocks and over shallows, in a way to form a rapid which, in the language of the country, is called a rift. The Pathfinder saw that, if he entered this rift, he should be compelled to approach a point where the Iroquois had posted themselves, for the current was irresistible, and the rocks allowed no other safe passage, while death or captivity would be the probable result of the ato tempt. All his efforts, therefore, were turned towards reaching the western shore, the foe being all on the eastern side of the river ; but the exploit surpassed human power, and to attempt to stem the stream, would at once have so far diminished the motion of the canoe as to render aim certain. In this exigency the guide came to a decision with his usual cool promptitude, making his preparations accordingly. Instead of endeavouring to gain the channel, he steered towards the shallowest part of the stream, on reaching which he seized his rifle and pack, leaped into the water, and began to wade from rock to rock taking the direction of the western shore. The canoe whirled about in the furious current, now rolling over some slippery stone, now filling, and then emptying itself, until it lodged on the shore, within a few yards of the spot where the Iroquois, had posted themselves.
In the meanwhile the Pathfinder was far from being out of danger : for the first minute, admiration of his promptitude and daring, which are so high virtues in the mind of an Indian, kept his enemies motionless; but the desire of revenge, and the cravings for the much-prized trophy, soon overcame this transient feeling, and aroused them from their stupor. Rifle flashed after rifle, and the bullets whistled around the head of the fugitive, amid the roar of the waters. Still he proceeded like one who bore a charmed life ; for while his rude frontier garments were more than once cut, his skin was not rased.
As the Pathfinder, in several instances, was compelled to wade in water which rose nearly to his arms, while he kept his rifle and ammunition elevated above the raging current, the toil soon fatigued him, and he was glad to stop at a large stone, or a small rock, which rose so high above the river, that its upper surface was dry. On this stone he placed his powder-horn, getting behind it himself, so as to have the advantage of a partial cover for his body. The western shore was only fifty feet distant, but the quiet, swift, dark current that glanced through the interval, sufficiently showed that here he would be compelled to swim.
A short cessation in the firing now took place on the part of the Indians, who gathered about the canoe, and having found the paddles, were preparing to cross the river.
“ Pathfinder," called a voice from among the bushes, at the point nearest to the person addressed, on the western shore.
“What would you have, Jasper ?”
“Be of good heart — friends are at hand, and not a single Mingo shall cross without suffering for his boldness, Had you not better leave the rifle on the rock, and swim to us before the rascals can get afloat?”
“A true woodsman never quits his piece, while he has any powder in his horn, or a bullet in his pouch. I have not drawn a trigger this day, Eau-douce, and shouldn't relish the idea of parting with those reptiles without causing them to remember my name. A little water will
not harm my legs ; and I'see that blackguard, Arrowhead, among the scamps, and wish to send him the wages he has so faithfully earned. You have not brought the Sergeant's daughter down here in a range with their bullets, I hope, Jasper ?
« She is safe for the present at least ; though all depends on our keeping the river between us and the enemy.
They must know our weakness now; and should they cross, no doubt some of their party will be left on the other side."
“ This canoeing touches your gifts rather than mine, boy, though I will handle a paddle with the best Mingo that ever struck a salmon. If they cross below the rift why can't we cross in the still water above, and keep playing at dodge and turn with the wolves ? "
“ Because, as I have said, they will leave a party on the other shore ; and then, Pathfinder, would you expose Mabel to the rifles of the Iroquois ?
“ The Sergeant's daughter must be saved," returned the guide, with calm energy. “You are right, Jasper ; she has no gift to authorise her in offering her sweet face and tender body to a Mingo rifle. What can be done then ? They must be kept from crossing for an hour or two, if possible, when we must do our best in the darkness."
“ I agree with you, Pathfinder, if it can be effected ; but, are we strong enough for such a purpose ?
“ The Lord is with us, boy ; the Lord is with us ; and it is unreasonable to suppose that one like the Sergeant's daughter will be altogether abandoned by Providence, in such a strait. There is not a boat between the falls and the garrison, except these two canoes, to my sartain knowledge; and I think it will go beyond red-skin gifts to cross in the face of two rifles like these of your'n and mine. I will not vaunt, Jasper ; but it is well known on all this frontier that killdeer seldom fails.”
6 Your skill is admitted by all, far and near, Pathfinder but a rifle takes time to be loaded ; nor are you on the
nd, aided by a good cover, where you can work to the advantage you are used to. If
had our canoe, might you not pass to the shore with a dry rifle?”