The Pathfinder; Or, The Inland Sea, страница 1
Produced by Nigel Lacey
or, THE INLAND SEA
By James Fenimore Cooper
The plan of this tale suggested itself to the writer many years since,though the details are altogether of recent invention. The idea ofassociating seamen and savages in incidents that might be supposedcharacteristic of the Great Lakes having been mentioned to a Publisher,the latter obtained something like a pledge from the Author to carryout the design at some future day, which pledge is now tardily andimperfectly redeemed.
The reader may recognize an old friend under new circumstances in theprincipal character of this legend. If the exhibition made of this oldacquaintance, in the novel circumstances in which he now appears, shouldbe found not to lessen his favor with the Public, it will be a sourceof extreme gratification to the writer, since he has an interest in theindividual in question that falls little short of reality. It is notan easy task, however, to introduce the same character in four separateworks, and to maintain the peculiarities that are indispensableto identity, without incurring a risk of fatiguing the reader withsameness; and the present experiment has been so long delayed quite asmuch from doubts of its success as from any other cause. In this, asin every other undertaking, it must be the "end" that will "crown thework."
The Indian character has so little variety, that it has been myobject to avoid dwelling on it too much on the present occasion itsassociation with the sailor, too, it is feared, will be found to havemore novelty than interest.
It may strike the novice as an anachronism to place vessels on theOntario in the middle of the eighteenth century; but in this particularfacts will fully bear out all the license of the fiction. Although theprecise vessels mentioned in these pages may never have existed on thatwater or anywhere else, others so nearly resembling them are known tohave navigated that inland sea, even at a period much earlier thanthe one just mentioned, as to form a sufficient authority for theirintroduction into a work of fiction. It is a fact not generallyremembered, however well known it may be, that there are isolated spotsalong the line of the great lakes that date as settlements as far backas many of the older American towns, and which were the seats of aspecies of civilization long before the greater portion of even theolder States was rescued from the wilderness.
Ontario in our own times has been the scene of important navalevolutions. Fleets have manoeuvered on those waters, which, half acentury ago, were as deserted as waters well can be; and the day is notdistant when the whole of that vast range of lakes will become theseat of empire, and fraught with all the interests of human society. Apassing glimpse, even though it be in a work of fiction, of what thatvast region so lately was, may help to make up the sum of knowledge bywhich alone a just appreciation can be formed of the wonderful means bywhich Providence is clearing the way for the advancement of civilizationacross the whole American continent.
The turf shall be my fragrant shrine; My temple, Lord! that arch of thine; My censer's breath the mountain airs, And silent thoughts my only prayers. MOORE
The sublimity connected with vastness is familiar to every eye. Themost abstruse, the most far-reaching, perhaps the most chastened of thepoet's thoughts, crowd on the imagination as he gazes into the depthsof the illimitable void. The expanse of the ocean is seldom seen by thenovice with indifference; and the mind, even in the obscurity of night,finds a parallel to that grandeur, which seems inseparable from imagesthat the senses cannot compass. With feelings akin to this admirationand awe--the offspring of sublimity--were the different characters withwhich the action of this tale must open, gazing on the scene beforethem. Four persons in all,--two of each sex,--they had managed to ascenda pile of trees, that had been uptorn by a tempest, to catch a viewof the objects that surrounded them. It is still the practice of thecountry to call these spots wind-rows. By letting in the light of heavenupon the dark and damp recesses of the wood, they form a sort of oasesin the solemn obscurity of the virgin forests of America. The particularwind-row of which we are writing lay on the brow of a gentle acclivity;and, though small, it had opened the way for an extensive view to thosewho might occupy its upper margin, a rare occurrence to the travellerin the woods. Philosophy has not yet determined the nature of the powerthat so often lays desolate spots of this description some ascribing itto the whirlwinds which produce waterspouts on the ocean, while othersagain impute it to sudden and violent passages of streams of theelectric fluid; but the effects in the woods are familiar to all. On theupper margin of the opening, the viewless influence had piled tree ontree, in such a manner as had not only enabled the two males of theparty to ascend to an elevation of some thirty feet above the level ofthe earth, but, with a little care and encouragement, to induce theirmore timid companions to accompany them. The vast trunks which had beenbroken and driven by the force of the gust lay blended like jack-straws;while their branches, still exhaling the fragrance of withering leaves,were interlaced in a manner to afford sufficient support to the hands.One tree had been completely uprooted, and its lower end, filled withearth, had been cast uppermost, in a way to supply a sort of staging forthe four adventurers, when they had gained the desired distance from theground.
The reader is to anticipate none of the appliances of people ofcondition in the description of the personal appearances of the groupin question. They were all wayfarers in the wilderness; and had they notbeen, neither their previous habits, nor their actual social positions,would have accustomed them to many of the luxuries of rank. Two of theparty, indeed, a male and female, belonged to the native owners of thesoil, being Indians of the well-known tribe of the Tuscaroras; whiletheir companions were--a man, who bore about him the peculiarities ofone who had passed his days on the ocean, and was, too, in a stationlittle, if any, above that of a common mariner; and his femaleassociate, who was a maiden of a class in no great degree superior tohis own; though her youth, sweetness and countenance, and a modest, butspirited mien, lent that character of intellect and refinement whichadds so much to the charm of beauty in the sex. On the present occasion,her full blue eye reflected the feeling of sublimity that the sceneexcited, and her pleasant face was beaming with the pensive expressionwith which all deep emotions, even though they bring the most gratefulpleasure, shadow the countenances of the ingenuous and thoughtful.
And truly the scene was of a nature deeply to impress the imaginationof the beholder. Towards the west, in which direction the faces of theparty were turned, the eye ranged over an ocean of leaves, gloriousand rich in the varied and lively verdure of a generous vegetation, andshaded by the luxuriant tints which belong to the forty-second degree oflatitude. The elm with its graceful and weeping top, the rich varietiesof the maple, most of the noble oaks of the American forest, withthe broad-leaved linden known in the parlance of the country as thebasswood, mingled their uppermost branches, forming one broad andseemingly interminable carpet of foliage which stretched away towardsthe setting sun, until it bounded the horizon, by blending with theclouds, as the waves and the sky meet at the base of the vault ofheaven. Here and there, by some accident of the tempests, or by acaprice of nature, a trifling opening among these giant members of theforest permitted an inferior tree to struggle upward toward the light,and to lift its modest head nearly to a level with the surroundingsurface of verdure. Of this class were the birch, a tree of someaccount in regions less favored, the quivering aspen, various generousnut-woods, and divers others which resembled the ignoble and vulgar,thrown by circumstances into the presence of the stately and great. Hereand there, too, the tall straight trunk of the pine pierced the vastfield, r
It was the vastness of the view, the nearly unbroken surface of verdure,that contained the principle of grandeur. The beauty was to be tracedin the delicate tints, relieved by graduations of light and shade; whilethe solemn repose induced the feeling allied to awe.
"Uncle," said the wondering, but pleased girl, addressing her malecompanion, whose arm she rather touched than leaned on, to steady herown light but firm footing, "this is like a view of the ocean you somuch love!"
"So much for ignorance, and a girl's fancy, Magnet,"--a term ofaffection the sailor often used in allusion to his niece's personalattractions; "no one but a child would think of likening this handfulof leaves to a look at the real Atlantic. You might seize all thesetree-tops to Neptune's jacket, and they would make no more than anosegay for his bosom."
"More fanciful than true, I think, uncle. Look thither; it must be mileson miles, and yet we see nothing but leaves! what could one behold, iflooking at the ocean?"
"More!" returned the uncle, giving an impatient gesture with the elbowthe other touched, for his arms were crossed, and the hands were thrustinto the bosom of a vest of red cloth, a fashion of the times,--"more,Magnet! say, rather, what less? Where are your combing seas, your bluewater, your rollers, your breakers, your whales, or your waterspouts,and your endless motion, in this bit of a forest, child?"
"And where are your tree-tops, your solemn silence, your fragrantleaves, and your beautiful green, uncle, on the ocean?"
"Tut, Magnet! if you understood the thing, you would know that greenwater is a sailor's bane. He scarcely relishes a greenhorn less."
"But green trees are a different thing. Hist! that sound is the airbreathing among the leaves!"
"You should hear a nor-wester breathe, girl, if you fancy wind aloft.Now, where are your gales, and hurricanes, and trades, and levanters,and such like incidents, in this bit of a forest? And what fishes haveyou swimming beneath yonder tame surface?"
"That there have been tempests here, these signs around us plainly show;and beasts, if not fishes, are beneath those leaves."
"I do not know that," returned the uncle, with a sailor's dogmatism."They told us many stories at Albany of the wild animals we should fallin with, and yet we have seen nothing to frighten a seal. I doubt if anyof your inland animals will compare with a low latitude shark."
"See!" exclaimed the niece, who was more occupied with the sublimity andbeauty of the "boundless wood" than with her uncle's arguments; "yonderis a smoke curling over the tops of the trees--can it come from ahouse?"
"Ay, ay; there is a look of humanity in that smoke," returned the oldseaman, "which is worth a thousand trees. I must show it to Arrowhead,who may be running past a port without knowing it. It is probable thereis a caboose where there is a smoke."
As he concluded, the uncle drew a hand from his bosom, touched the maleIndian, who was standing near him, lightly on the shoulder, and pointedout a thin line of vapor which was stealing slowly out of the wildernessof leaves, at a distance of about a mile, and was diffusing itself inalmost imperceptible threads of humidity in the quivering atmosphere.The Tuscarora was one of those noble-looking warriors oftener met withamong the aborigines of this continent a century since than to-day; and,while he had mingled sufficiently with the colonists to be familiar withtheir habits and even with their language, he had lost little, if any,of the wild grandeur and simple dignity of a chief. Between him andthe old seaman the intercourse had been friendly, but distant; for theIndian had been too much accustomed to mingle with the officers of thedifferent military posts he had frequented not to understand that hispresent companion was only a subordinate. So imposing, indeed, had beenthe quiet superiority of the Tuscarora's reserve, that Charles Cap, forso was the seaman named, in his most dogmatical or facetious moments,had not ventured on familiarity in an intercourse which had now lastedmore than a week. The sight of the curling smoke, however, had struckthe latter like the sudden appearance of a sail at sea; and, for thefirst time since they met, he ventured to touch the warrior, as has beenrelated.
The quick eye of the Tuscarora instantly caught a sight of the smoke;and for full a minute he stood, slightly raised on tiptoe, withdistended nostrils, like the buck that scents a taint in the air, anda gaze as riveted as that of the trained pointer while he waits hismaster's aim. Then, falling back on his feet, a low exclamation, in thesoft tones that form so singular a contrast to its harsher cries inthe Indian warrior's voice, was barely audible; otherwise, he wasundisturbed. His countenance was calm, and his quick, dark, eagleeye moved over the leafy panorama, as if to take in at a glance everycircumstance that might enlighten his mind. That the long journey theyhad attempted to make through a broad belt of wilderness was necessarilyattended with danger, both uncle and niece well knew; though neithercould at once determine whether the sign that others were in theirvicinity was the harbinger of good or evil.
"There must be Oneidas or Tuscaroras near us, Arrowhead," said Cap,addressing his Indian companion by his conventional English name; "willit not be well to join company with them, and get a comfortable berthfor the night in their wigwam?"
"No wigwam there," Arrowhead answered in his unmoved manner--"too muchtree."
"But Indians must be there; perhaps some old mess-mates of your own,Master Arrowhead."
"No Tuscarora--no Oneida--no Mohawk--pale-face fire."
"The devil it is? Well, Magnet, this surpasses a seaman's philosophy:we old sea-dogs can tell a lubber's nest from a mate's hammock; but Ido not think the oldest admiral in his Majesty's fleet can tell a king'ssmoke from a collier's."
The idea that human beings were in their vicinity, in that ocean ofwilderness, had deepened the flush on the blooming cheek and brightenedthe eye of the fair creature at his side; but she soon turned with alook of surprise to her relative, and said hesitatingly, for bothhad often admired the Tuscarora's knowledge, or, we might almost say,instinct,--
"A pale-face's fire! Surely, uncle, he cannot know _that_?"
"Ten days since, child, I would have sworn to it; but now I hardly knowwhat to believe. May I take the liberty of asking, Arrowhead, why youfancy that smoke, now, a pale-face's smoke, and not a red-skin's?"
"Wet wood," returned the warrior, with the calmness with which thepedagogue might point out an arithmetical demonstration to his puzzledpupil. "Much wet--much smoke; much water--black smoke."
"But, begging your pardon, Master Arrowhead, the smoke is not black, noris there much of it. To my eye, now, it is as light and fanciful a smokeas ever rose from a captain's tea-kettle, when nothing was left to makethe fire but a few chips from the dunnage."
"Too much water," returned Arrowhead, with a slight nod of the head;"Tuscarora too cunning to make fire with water! Pale-face too much book,and burn anything; much book, little know."
"Well, that's reasonable, I allow," said Cap, who was no devotee oflearning: "he means that as a hit at your reading, Magnet; for the chiefhas sensible notions of things in his own way. How far, now, Arrowhead,do you make us, by your calculation, from the bit of a pond that youcall the Great Lake, and towards which we have been so many days shapingour course?"
The Tuscarora looked at the seaman with quiet superiority as heanswered, "Ontario, like heaven; one sun, and the great traveller willknow it."
"Well, I have been a great traveller, I cannot deny; but of all myv'y'ges this has been the longest, the least profitable, and thefarthest inland. If this body of fresh water is so nigh, Arrowhead, andso large, one might think a pair of good eyes would find it out; forapparently everything within thirty miles is to be seen from thislookout."
"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 youdo not see it," cried the niece, laughing, as girls will laugh at theirown idle conceits.
"How now, Magnet! dost suppose that I shouldn't know my nati
"But Ontario is not your native element, dear uncle; for you come fromthe salt water, while this is fresh."
"That might make some difference to your young mariner, but none to theold one. I should know water, child, were I to see it in China."
"Ontario," repeated Arrowhead, with emphasis, again stretching his handtowards the north-west.
Cap looked at the Tuscarora, for the first time since theiracquaintance, with something like an air of contempt, though he did notfail to follow the direction of the chief's eye and arm, both of whichwere directed towards a vacant point in the heavens, a short distanceabove the plain of leaves.
"Ay, ay; this is much as I expected, when I left the coast in search ofa fresh-water pond," resumed Cap, shrugging his shoulders like one whosemind was made up, and who thought no more need be said. "Ontario maybe there, or, for that matter, it may be in my pocket. Well, I supposethere will be room enough, when we reach it, to work our canoe. ButArrowhead, if there be pale-faces in our neighborhood, I confess Ishould like to get within hail of them."
The Tuscarora now gave a quiet inclination of his head, and the wholeparty descended from the roots of the up-torn tree in silence. When theyreached the ground, Arrowhead intimated his intention to go towards thefire, and ascertain who had lighted it; while he advised his wife andthe two others to return to a canoe, which they had left in the adjacentstream, and await his return.
"Why, chief, this might do on soundings, and in an offing where one knewthe channel," returned old Cap; "but in an unknown region like this Ithink it unsafe to trust the pilot alone too far from the ship: so, withyour leave, we will not part company."
"What my brother want?" asked the Indian gravely, though without takingoffence at a distrust that was sufficiently plain.
"Your company, Master Arrowhead, and no more. I will go with you andspeak these strangers."
The Tuscarora assented without difficulty, and again he directed hispatient and submissive little wife, who seldom turned her full richblack eye on him but to express equally her respect, her dread, andher 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 twomale protectors, in the midst of a wilderness that her senses had justtold her was seemingly illimitable, became so keenly painful, that sheexpressed a wish to accompany her uncle.
"The exercise will be a relief, dear sir, after sitting so long in thecanoe," she added, as the rich blood slowly returned to a cheek that hadpaled in spite of her efforts to be calm; "and there may be females withthe strangers."
"Come, then, child; it is but a cable's length, and we shall return anhour 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 ofArrowhead was called, passively went her way towards the canoe, too muchaccustomed to obedience, solitude, and the gloom of the forest to feelapprehension.
The three who remained in the wind-row now picked their way around itstangled maze, and gained the margin of the woods. A few glances of theeye sufficed for Arrowhead; but old Cap deliberately set the smoke bya pocket-compass, before he trusted himself within the shadows of thetrees.
"This steering by the nose, Magnet, may do well enough for an Indian,but your thoroughbred knows the virtue of the needle," said the uncle,as he trudged at the heels of the light-stepping Tuscarora. "Americawould never have been discovered, take my word for it, if Columbus hadbeen nothing but nostrils. Friend Arrowhead, didst ever see a machinelike this?"
The Indian turned, cast a glance at the compass, which Cap held in away to direct his course, and gravely answered, "A pale-face eye. TheTuscarora see in his head. The Salt-water (for so the Indian styled hiscompanion) all eye now; no tongue."
"He means, uncle, that we had needs be silent, perhaps he distrusts thepersons we are about to meet."
"Ay, 'tis an Indian's fashion of going to quarters. You perceive he hasexamined the priming of his rifle, and it may be as well if I look tothat of my own pistols."
Without betraying alarm at these preparations, to which she had becomeaccustomed by her long journey in the wilderness, Mabel followed with astep as elastic as that of the Indian, keeping close in the rear ofher companions. For the first half mile no other caution beyond a rigidsilence was observed; but as the party drew nearer to the spot where thefire was known to be, much greater care became necessary.
The forest, as usual, had little to intercept the view below thebranches but the tall straight trunks of trees. Everything belonging tovegetation had struggled towards the light, and beneath the leafy canopyone walked, as it might be, through a vast natural vault, upheld bymyriads of rustic columns. These columns or trees, however, often servedto conceal the adventurer, the hunter, or the foe; and, as Arrowheadswiftly approached the spot where his practised and unerring senses toldhim the strangers ought to be, his footstep gradually became lighter,his eye more vigilant, and his person was more carefully concealed.
"See, Saltwater," said he exulting, pointing through the vista of trees;"pale-face fire!"
"By the Lord, the fellow is right!" muttered Cap; "there they are, sureenough, and eating their grub as quietly as if they were in the cabin ofa three-decker."
"Arrowhead is but half right!" whispered Mabel, "for there are twoIndians and only one white man."
"Pale-faces," 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 iswrong. One is entirely white, and a fine comely lad he is, with an airof respectability about him; one is a red-skin as plain as paint andnature can make him; but the third chap is half-rigged, being neitherbrig nor schooner."
"Pale-faces," 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 nowurgent 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 youbehind the tree, Magnet, lest the knaves take it into their heads tofire a broadside without a parley, and I will soon learn what colorsthey sail under."
The uncle had placed his two hands to his mouth to form a trumpet, andwas about to give the promised hail, when a rapid movement from the handof Arrowhead defeated the intention by deranging the instrument.
"Red man, Mohican," said the Tuscarora; "good; pale-faces, Yengeese."
"These are heavenly tidings," murmured Mabel, who little relished theprospect of a deadly fray in that remote wilderness. "Let us approach atonce, dear uncle, and proclaim ourselves friends."
"Good," said the Tuscarora "red man cool, and know; pale-face hurried,and fire. Let the squaw go."
"What!" said Cap in astonishment; "send little Magnet ahead as alookout, while two lubbers, like you and me, lie-to to see what sort ofa landfall she will make! If I do, I--"
"It is wisest, uncle," interrupted the generous girl, "and I have nofear. No Christian, seeing a woman approach alone, would fire uponher; and my presence will be a pledge of peace. Let me go forward, asArrowhead wishes, and all will be well. We are, as yet, unseen, and thesurprise of the strangers will not partake of alarm."
"Good," returned Arrowhead, who did not conceal his approbation ofMabel'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 alwaysnigh 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 Christianmen, a woman's best guard is her claim to their protection. I knownothing of arms, and wish to live in ignorance of them."
The uncle desisted; and, after rec
The latter saw, as the stranger approached that she was about to beaddressed by one of her own color, though his dress was so strange amixture of the habits of the two races, that it required a near lookto be certain of the fact. He was of middle age; but there was an openhonesty, a total absence of guile, in his face, which otherwise wouldnot have been thought handsome, that at once assured Magnet she was inno danger. Still she paused.
"Fear nothing, young woman," said the hunter, for such his attire wouldindicate him to be; "you have met Christian men in the wilderness,and such as know how to treat all kindly who are disposed to peace andjustice. I am a man well known in all these parts, and perhaps one of mynames may have reached your ears. By the Frenchers and the red-skins onthe other side of the Big Lakes, I am called La Longue Carabine; by theMohicans, a just-minded and upright tribe, what is left of them, HawkEye; while the troops and rangers along this side of the water call mePathfinder, inasmuch as I have never been known to miss one end of thetrail, when there was a Mingo, or a friend who stood in need of me, atthe other."
This was not uttered boastfully, but with the honest confidence of onewho well knew that by whatever name others might have heard of him,who had no reason to blush at the reports. The effect on Mabel wasinstantaneous. The moment she heard the last _sobriquet_ she clasped herhands eagerly and repeated the word "Pathfinder!"
"So they call me, young woman, and many a great lord has got a titlethat he did not half so well merit; though, if truth be said, I ratherpride myself in finding my way where there is no path, than in findingit where there is. But the regular troops are by no means particular,and half the time they don't know the difference between a trail and apath, though one is a matter for the eye, while the other is little morethan scent."
"Then you are the friend my father promised to send to meet us?"
"If you are Sergeant Dunham's daughter, the great Prophet of theDelawares never uttered more truth."
"I am Mabel; and yonder, hid by the trees, are my uncle, whose name isCap, and a Tuscarora called Arrowhead. We did not hope to meet you untilwe had nearly reached the shores of the lake."
"I wish a juster-minded Indian had been your guide," said Pathfinder;"for I am no lover of the Tuscaroras, who have travelled too far fromthe graves of their fathers always to remember the Great Spirit; andArrowhead is an ambitious chief. Is the Dew-of-June with him?"
"His wife accompanies us, and a humble and mild creature she is."
"Ay, and true-hearted; which is more than any who know him will say ofArrowhead. Well, we must take the fare that Providence bestows, while wefollow the trail of life. I suppose worse guides might have been foundthan the Tuscarora; though he has too much Mingo blood for one whoconsorts altogether with the Delawares."
"It is, then, perhaps, fortunate we have met," said Mabel.
"It is not misfortunate, at any rate; for I promised the Sergeant Iwould see his child safe to the garrison, though I died for it. Weexpected to meet you before you reached the Falls, where we have leftour own canoe; while we thought it might do no harm to come up a fewmiles, in order to be of service if wanted. It is lucky we did, for Idoubt if Arrowhead be the man to shoot the current."
"Here come my uncle and the Tuscarora, and our parties can now join."As Mabel concluded, Cap and Arrowhead, who saw that the conference wasamicable, drew nigh; and a few words sufficed to let them know as muchas the girl herself had learned from the strangers. As soon as this wasdone, the party proceeded towards the two who still remained near thefire.