James Fenimore Cooper.

The pathfinder; or The inland sea online

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Following the order of events, this book should be
the third in the Series of the Leather-Stocking Tales.
In the Deerslayer, Natty Bumppo, under the Sobri-
quet which forms the title of that work, is represented
as a youth, just commencing his forest career as a
warrior ; having, for several years, been a hunter so
celebrated, as already to have gained the honorable
appellation he then bore. In the Last of the Mohi-
cans he appears as Hawkeye, and is present at the
death of young Uncas ; while in this tale, he reap-
pears in the same war of '56, in company with his
Mohican friend, still in the vigor of manhood, and
young enough to feel that master passion to which all
conditions of men, all tempers, and we might almost
say, all ages, submit, under circumstances that are
incited to call it into existence.

The Pathfinder did not originally appear for several
years after the publication of the Prairie, the work
in which the leading character of both had closed his




career by death. It was, perhaps, a too hazardous
experiment to recall to life, in this manner, and after
so long an interval, a character that was somewhat a
favorite with the reading world, and which had been
regularly consigned to his grave, like any living man.
It is probably owing to this severe ordeal that the
work, like its successor, the Deerslayer, has been so
little- noticed; scarce one in ten of those who know
all about the three earliest books of the series having
even a knowledge of the existence of the last at all.
That this caprice in taste and favor is in no way de-
pendent on merit, the writer feels certain ; for, though
the world will ever maintain that an author is always
the worst judge of his own productions, one who has
written much, and regards all his literary progeny
with more or less of a paternal eye, must have a rea
sonably accurate knowledge of what he has been
about the greater part of his life. Such a man may
form too high an estimate of his relative merits, as
relates to others ; but it is not easy to see why he
should fall into this error, more than another, as re-
lates to himself. His general standard may be raised
too high by means of self-love ; but, unless he be dis-
posed to maintain the equal perfection of what he has
done, as probably no man was ever yet fool enough
to do, he may very well have shrewd conjectures as
to the comparative merits and defects of his own pro-

This work, on its appearance, was rudely and ma-
liciously assailed by certain individuals out of pure
personal malignancy. It is scarcely worth the au-
thor's while, nor would it have any interest for the



reader, to expose the motives and frauds of these in-
dividuals, who have pretty effectually vindicated the
writer by their own subsequent conduct. But even
the falsest of men pay so much homage to truth, as
to strive to seem its votaries. In attacking the Path-
finder, the persons alluded to pointed out faults, that
the author, for the first time, has now ascertained to
be real ; and much to his surprise, as of most of them
he is entirely innocent. They are purely errors of
the press, unless, indeed, the writer can justly be ac-
cused of having been a careless proof-reader. A
single instance of the mistakes he means may be
given in explanation of the manner in which the
book was originally got up.

The heroine of this tale was at first called "Agnes."
In the fifth or sixth chapter this name was changed
to " Mabel," and the manuscript was altered accord-
ingly. Owing to inadvertency, however, the original
appellation stood in several places, and the principal
female character of the book, until now, has had the
advantage of going by two names ! Many other ty-
pographical errors exist in the earlier editions, most of
which, it is believed, are corrected in this.

There are a few discrepancies in the facts of this
work, as connected with the facts of the different
books of the series. They are not material, and it
was thought fairer to let them stand as proof of the
manner in which the books were originally written,
than to make any changes in the text.

In youth, when belonging to the navy, the writer
of this "book, served for some time on the great west-
ern lakes. He was, indeed, one of those who first

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carried the cockade of the republic on those inland
seas. This was pretty early in the present century,
when the navigation was still confined to the employ-
ment of a few ships and schooners. Since that day,
light may be said to have broken into the wilderness,
and the rays of the sun have penetrated to tens of
thousands of beautiful valleys and plains, that then
lay in "grateful shade." Towns have been built
along the whole of the extended line of coasts, and
the traveller now stops at many a place of ten or fif-
teen, and at one of even fifty thousand inhabitants,
where a few huts then marked the natural sites of
future marts. In a word, though the scenes of this
book are believed to have once been as nearly accu-
rate as is required by the laws which govern fiction,
they are so no longer. Oswego is a large and thriving
town ; Toronto and Kingston, on the other side of the
lake, compete with it ; while Buffalo, Detroit, Cleve-
land, Milwaukie, and Chicago, on the upper lakes, to
say nothing of a hundred places of lesser note, are
fast advancing to the level of commercial places of
great local importance. In these changes, the energy
of youth and abundance is quite as much apparent as
any thing else; and it is ardently to be hoped that
the fruits of the gifts of a most bountiful Providence
may not be mistaken for any peculiar qualities in
those who have been their beneficiaries. A just ap-
preciation of the first of these facts will render us
grateful and meek ; while the vainglorious, who are
so apt to ascribe all to themselves, will be certain to
live long enough to ascertain the magnitude x>f their
error. That great results are intended to be produced


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by means of these wonderful changes, we firmly be-
lieve ; but that they will prove to be the precise re-
sults now so generally anticipated, in consulting the
experience of the past, and taking the nature of man
into the account, the reflecting and intelligent may
be permitted to doubt.

It may strike the novice as an anachronism, to place
vessels on 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 pre-
cise vessels mentioned in these pages may never have
existed on that water, or anywhere else, others so
nearly resembling them as to form a sufficient author-
ity for their introduction into a work of fiction, are
known to have navigated that inland sea, even at a
period much earlier than the one just mentioned. 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 oldest American towns,
and which were the seats of a species of civilization
long before the greater portion of even the original
states was rescued from the wilderness.

Ontario, in our own times, has been the scene of
important naval evolutions. Fleets have manoeuvred
on those waters, which, half a century since, were
desert wastes ; 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 knowl-

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edge by which alone a just appreciation can be
formed of the wonderful means by which Providence
is clearing the way for the advancement of civiliza-
tion pcross 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 sur-
rounded 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 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. As usual, the


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spot was small, but owing to the circumstances of its lying on
the low acclivity mentioned, and that of the opening's extending
downwards, it offered- more than common advantages to the eye.
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 that produce water-spouts on the
ocean ; while others again impute it to sudden and violent pas-
sages of streams of the electric fluid ; but the effects in the
woods are familiar to all. On the upper margin of the opening
to which there is allusion, 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 encou-
ragement, to induce their more timid companions to accompany
them. The vast trunks that had been broken and driven by
the force of the gust, lay blended like jack-straws ; while their
branches, still exhaling the fragrance of wilted 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 ground.

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 compa-
nions were a man, who bore about him the peculiarities of one
who had passed his days on the ocean, and this, too, in a station
little, if any, above that of a common mariner ; while his
female associate was a maiden of a class in no great degree
^superior to his own ; though her youth, sweetness of counte-
C nance, and a modest but spirited mien, lent that character of

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intellect and refinement which adds so much to the chaiui off
beauty in the sex. On the present occasion, her full blue efe
reflected the feeling of sublimity that the scene excited, and her
pleasapt 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

And, truly, the scene was of a nature deeply to impress the
imagination of the beholder. Towards the west, in which direc-
tion the faces of the party were turned, and in which alone
could much be seen, the eye ranged over an ocean of leaves,
glorious and rich in the varied but lively verdure of a generous
vegetation, and shaded by the luxuriant tints that 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-leafed linden,
known in the parlance of the country as the bass-wood, mingled
their uppermost branches, forming one broad and seemingljt^.
interminable carpet of foliage, that stretched away towards the I
setting sun, until it bounded the horizon, by blending with the I
clouds, as the waves and the sky meet at the base of the vau U J
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
upwards towards 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 that resembled the ignoble and vulgar, thrown by cir-
cumstances 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 gradations of




light and shadow ; 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 P

" So much for ignorance, and a girl's fancy, Magnet," a term
of affection the sailor often used in allusion to his niece's perso-
nal 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. Loo*k thither ; it
must be miles on miles, and yet we see nothing but leaves !
what more could one behold, if looking at the ocean ?"

" More P 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 water-spouts, and your end-
less 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
green-horn less."

" But green trees are a different thing. Hist S that sound is
the air breathing among the leaves P

" 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 1"

" That there have been tempests here, these signs around us

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plainly show; and beasts, if not fishes, are beneath those

" I do not know that," returned the uncle, with a sailor's dog-
matism. " They told us many stories at Albany, of the wild ani-
mals 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 1"
f** " 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 house ?"
^ " Ay, ay ; there is a look of humanity in that smoke," re-
turned 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 camboose 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 that was
stealing slowly out of the wilderness of leaves, at a distance of
about a mile, and was diffusing itself in almost impercep-
tible threads of humidity, in the quivering atmosphere. The
Tuscarora was one of those noble-looking warriors that were
oftener met with among the aborigines of this continent a cen-
tury 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 sea-
man 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 Tus
carora'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 that had now

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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 related.

The quick eye of the Tuscarora instantly caught a sight of
the smoke, and for quite 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 h ; s master's aim. Then felling back on his feet,
a low exclamation, in the soft tones that form so singular a con-
trast to its harsher cries in the Indian warriors voice, was
barely audible; otherwise, he was undisturbed. His coun-
tenance was calm, and his quick, dark, eagle eye moved, over
the leafy panorama, as if to take in at a glance every circum-
stance 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 vicinitv, 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 tree."

" But Indians must be there ; perhaps some old messmates
of your own, Master Arrowhead."

u 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 soldier's from a
sailor's quid, or 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
I ocean of wilderness, had deepened the flush on the blooming

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe pathfinder; or The inland sea → online text (page 1 of 43)