James Fenimore Cooper.

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Produced by Nigel Lacey



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 of
associating seamen and savages in incidents that might be supposed
characteristic of the Great Lakes having been mentioned to a Publisher,
the latter obtained something like a pledge from the Author to carry
out the design at some future day, which pledge is now tardily and
imperfectly redeemed.

The reader may recognize an old friend under new circumstances in the
principal character of this legend. If the exhibition made of this old
acquaintance, in the novel circumstances in which he now appears, should
be found not to lessen his favor with the Public, it will be a source
of extreme gratification to the writer, since he has an interest in the
individual in question that falls little short of reality. It is not
an easy task, however, to introduce the same character in four separate
works, and to maintain the peculiarities that are indispensable
to identity, without incurring a risk of fatiguing the reader with
sameness; and the present experiment has been so long delayed quite as
much from doubts of its success as from any other cause. In this, as
in every other undertaking, it must be the "end" that will "crown the

The Indian character has so little variety, that it has been my
object to avoid dwelling on it too much on the present occasion; its
association with the sailor, too, it is feared, will be found to have
more novelty than interest.

It may strike the novice as an anachronism to place vessels on the
Ontario in the middle of the eighteenth century; but in this particular
facts will fully bear out all the license of the fiction. Although the
precise vessels mentioned in these pages may never have existed on that
water or anywhere else, others so nearly resembling them are known to
have navigated that inland sea, even at a period much earlier than
the one just mentioned, as to form a sufficient authority for their
introduction into a work of fiction. It is a fact not generally
remembered, however well known it may be, that there are isolated spots
along the line of the great lakes that date as settlements as far back
as many of the older American towns, and which were the seats of a
species of civilization long before the greater portion of even the
older States was rescued from the wilderness.

Ontario in our own times has been the scene of important naval
evolutions. Fleets have manoeuvered on those waters, which, half a
century ago, were as deserted as waters well can be; and the day is not
distant when the whole of that vast range of lakes will become the
seat of empire, and fraught with all the interests of human society. A
passing glimpse, even though it be in a work of fiction, of what that
vast region so lately was, may help to make up the sum of knowledge by
which alone a just appreciation can be formed of the wonderful means by
which Providence is clearing the way for the advancement of civilization
across 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.

The sublimity connected with vastness is familiar to every eye. The
most abstruse, the most far-reaching, perhaps the most chastened of the
poet's thoughts, crowd on the imagination as he gazes into the depths
of the illimitable void. The expanse of the ocean is seldom seen by the
novice with indifference; and the mind, even in the obscurity of night,
finds a parallel to that grandeur, which seems inseparable from images
that the senses cannot compass. With feelings akin to this admiration
and awe - the offspring of sublimity - were the different characters with
which the action of this tale must open, gazing on the scene before
them. Four persons in all, - two of each sex, - they had managed to ascend
a pile of trees, that had been uptorn by a tempest, to catch a view
of the objects that surrounded them. It is still the practice of the
country to call these spots wind-rows. By letting in the light of heaven
upon the dark and damp recesses of the wood, they form a sort of oases
in the solemn obscurity of the virgin forests of America. The particular
wind-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 those
who might occupy its upper margin, a rare occurrence to the traveller
in the woods. Philosophy has not yet determined the nature of the power
that so often lays desolate spots of this description; some ascribing it
to the whirlwinds which produce waterspouts on the ocean, while others
again impute it to sudden and violent passages of streams of the
electric fluid; but the effects in the woods are familiar to all. On the
upper margin of the opening, the viewless influence had piled tree on
tree, in such a manner as had not only enabled the two males of the
party to ascend to an elevation of some thirty feet above the level of
the earth, but, with a little care and encouragement, to induce their
more timid companions to accompany them. The vast trunks which had been
broken 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 with
earth, had been cast uppermost, in a way to supply a sort of staging for
the four adventurers, when they had gained the desired distance from the

The reader is to anticipate none of the appliances of people of
condition in the description of the personal appearances of the group
in question. They were all wayfarers in the wilderness; and had they not
been, neither their previous habits, nor their actual social positions,
would have accustomed them to many of the luxuries of rank. Two of the
party, indeed, a male and female, belonged to the native owners of the
soil, being Indians of the well-known tribe of the Tuscaroras; while
their companions were - a man, who bore about him the peculiarities of
one who had passed his days on the ocean, and was, too, in a station
little, if any, above that of a common mariner; and his female
associate, who was a maiden of a class in no great degree superior to
his own; though her youth, sweetness and countenance, and a modest, but
spirited mien, lent that character of intellect and refinement which
adds 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 scene
excited, and her pleasant face was beaming with the pensive expression
with which all deep emotions, even though they bring the most grateful
pleasure, shadow the countenances of the ingenuous and thoughtful.

And truly the scene was of a nature deeply to impress the imagination
of the beholder. Towards the west, in which direction the faces of the
party were turned, the eye ranged over an ocean of leaves, glorious
and rich in the varied and lively verdure of a generous vegetation, and
shaded by the luxuriant tints which belong to the forty-second degree of
latitude. The elm with its graceful and weeping top, the rich varieties
of the maple, most of the noble oaks of the American forest, with
the broad-leaved linden known in the parlance of the country as the
basswood, mingled their uppermost branches, forming one broad and
seemingly interminable carpet of foliage which stretched away towards
the setting sun, until it bounded the horizon, by blending with the
clouds, as the waves and the sky meet at the base of the vault of
heaven. Here and there, by some accident of the tempests, or by a
caprice of nature, a trifling opening among these giant members of the
forest permitted an inferior tree to struggle upward toward the light,
and to lift its modest head nearly to a level with the surrounding
surface of verdure. Of this class were the birch, a tree of some
account in regions less favored, the quivering aspen, various generous
nut-woods, and divers others which resembled the ignoble and vulgar,
thrown by circumstances into the presence of the stately and great. Here
and there, too, the tall straight trunk of the pine pierced the vast
field, rising high above it, like some grand monument reared by art on a
plain of leaves.

It was the vastness of the view, the nearly unbroken surface of verdure,
that contained the principle of grandeur. The beauty was to be traced
in the delicate tints, relieved by graduations of light and shade; while
the solemn repose induced the feeling allied to awe.

"Uncle," said the wondering, but pleased girl, addressing her male
companion, whose arm she rather touched than leaned on, to steady her
own light but firm footing, "this is like a view of the ocean you so
much love!"

"So much for ignorance, and a girl's fancy, Magnet," - a term of
affection the sailor often used in allusion to his niece's personal
attractions; "no one but a child would think of likening this handful
of leaves to a look at the real Atlantic. You might seize all these
tree-tops to Neptune's jacket, and they would make no more than a
nosegay for his bosom."

"More fanciful than true, I think, uncle. Look thither; it must be miles
on miles, and yet we see nothing but leaves! what could one behold, if
looking at the ocean?"

"More!" returned the uncle, giving an impatient gesture with the elbow
the other touched, for his arms were crossed, and the hands were thrust
into 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 blue
water, 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 fragrant
leaves, and your beautiful green, uncle, on the ocean?"

"Tut, Magnet! if you understood the thing, you would know that green
water is a sailor's bane. He scarcely relishes a greenhorn less."

"But green trees are a different thing. Hist! that sound is the air
breathing 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 have
you 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 fall
in with, and yet we have seen nothing to frighten a seal. I doubt if any
of your inland animals will compare with a low latitude shark."

"See!" exclaimed the niece, who was more occupied with the sublimity and
beauty of the "boundless wood" than with her uncle's arguments; "yonder
is a smoke curling over the tops of the trees - can it come from a

"Ay, ay; there is a look of humanity in that smoke," returned the old
seaman, "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 there
is a caboose where there is a smoke."

As he concluded, the uncle drew a hand from his bosom, touched the male
Indian, who was standing near him, lightly on the shoulder, and pointed
out a thin line of vapor which was stealing slowly out of the wilderness
of leaves, at a distance of about a mile, and was diffusing itself in
almost imperceptible threads of humidity in the quivering atmosphere.
The Tuscarora was one of those noble-looking warriors oftener met with
among the aborigines of this continent a century since than to-day; and,
while he had mingled sufficiently with the colonists to be familiar with
their habits and even with their language, he had lost little, if any,
of the wild grandeur and simple dignity of a chief. Between him and
the old seaman the intercourse had been friendly, but distant; for the
Indian had been too much accustomed to mingle with the officers of the
different military posts he had frequented not to understand that his
present companion was only a subordinate. So imposing, indeed, had been
the quiet superiority of the Tuscarora's reserve, that Charles Cap, for
so was the seaman named, in his most dogmatical or facetious moments,
had not ventured on familiarity in an intercourse which had now lasted
more than a week. The sight of the curling smoke, however, had struck
the latter like the sudden appearance of a sail at sea; and, for the
first time since they met, he ventured to touch the warrior, as has been

The quick eye of the Tuscarora instantly caught a sight of the smoke;
and for full a minute he stood, slightly raised on tiptoe, with
distended nostrils, like the buck that scents a taint in the air, and
a gaze as riveted as that of the trained pointer while he waits his
master's aim. Then, falling back on his feet, a low exclamation, in the
soft tones that form so singular a contrast to its harsher cries in
the Indian warrior's voice, was barely audible; otherwise, he was
undisturbed. His countenance was calm, and his quick, dark, eagle
eye moved over the leafy panorama, as if to take in at a glance every
circumstance that might enlighten his mind. That the long journey they
had attempted to make through a broad belt of wilderness was necessarily
attended with danger, both uncle and niece well knew; though neither
could at once determine whether the sign that others were in their
vicinity 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; "will
it not be well to join company with them, and get a comfortable berth
for the night in their wigwam?"

"No wigwam there," Arrowhead answered in his unmoved manner - "too much

"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 I
do not think the oldest admiral in his Majesty's fleet can tell a king's
smoke from a collier's."

The idea that human beings were in their vicinity, in that ocean of
wilderness, had deepened the flush on the blooming cheek and brightened
the eye of the fair creature at his side; but she soon turned with a
look of surprise to her relative, and said hesitatingly, for both
had 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 know
what to believe. May I take the liberty of asking, Arrowhead, why you
fancy that smoke, now, a pale-face's smoke, and not a red-skin's?"

"Wet wood," returned the warrior, with the calmness with which the
pedagogue might point out an arithmetical demonstration to his puzzled
pupil. "Much wet - much smoke; much water - black smoke."

"But, begging your pardon, Master Arrowhead, the smoke is not black, nor
is there much of it. To my eye, now, it is as light and fanciful a smoke
as ever rose from a captain's tea-kettle, when nothing was left to make
the 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 of
learning: "he means that as a hit at your reading, Magnet; for the chief
has 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 you
call the Great Lake, and towards which we have been so many days shaping
our course?"

The Tuscarora looked at the seaman with quiet superiority as he
answered, "Ontario, like heaven; one sun, and the great traveller will
know it."

"Well, I have been a great traveller, I cannot deny; but of all my
v'y'ges this has been the longest, the least profitable, and the
farthest inland. If this body of fresh water is so nigh, Arrowhead, and
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

"Look," said Arrowhead, stretching an arm before him with quiet grace;

"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 to the
old one. I should know water, child, were I to see it in China."

"Ontario," repeated 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 directed towards a vacant point in the heavens, a short distance
above the plain of leaves.

"Ay, ay; this is much as I expected, when I left the coast 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 up-torn tree in silence. When they
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 return 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; "and 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

The three who remained in the wind-row now picked their way around its
tangled maze, and gained the margin of the woods. 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

"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. "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 Salt-water (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 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, 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 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, 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-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 is
wrong. One is entirely white, and a fine comely lad he is, with an air
of 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-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 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 the 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 the hand
of 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 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-face hurried,
and fire. Let the squaw go."

"What!" said Cap in astonishment; "send little Magnet ahead as a
lookout, while two lubbers, like you and me, lie-to to see what sort of
a landfall she will make! If I do, I - "

"It is wisest, uncle," interrupted the generous girl, "and I have no

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperPathfinder; or, the inland sea → online text (page 1 of 40)