The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea, by James Fenimore Cooper

Chapter 15.

What pearl is it that rich men cannot buy,

That learning is too proud to gather up;

But which the poor and the despised of all

Seek and obtain, and often find unsought?

Tell me — and I will tell thee what is truth.

COWPER.

The meeting with the Indian and his wife excited no surprise in the majority of those who witnessed the occurrence; but Mabel, and all who knew of the manner in which this chief had been separated from the party of Cap, simultaneously entertained suspicions, which it was far easier to feel than to follow out by any plausible clue to certainty. Pathfinder, who alone could converse freely with the prisoners, for such they might now be considered, took Arrowhead aside, and held a long conversation with him, concerning the reasons of the latter for having deserted his charge and the manner in which he had been since employed.

The Tuscarora met these inquiries, and he gave his answers with the stoicism of an Indian. As respects the separation, his excuses were very simply made, and they seemed to be sufficiently plausible. When he found that the party was discovered in its place of concealment, he naturally sought his own safety, which he secured by plunging into the woods. In a word, he had run away in order to save his life.

“This is well,” returned Pathfinder, affecting to believe the other’s apologies; “my brother did very wisely; but his woman followed?”

“Do not the pale-faces’ women follow their husbands? Would not Pathfinder have looked back to see if one he loved was coming?”

This appeal was made to the guide while he was in a most fortunate frame of mind to admit its force; for Mabel and her blandishments and constancy were becoming images familiar to his thoughts. The Tuscarora, though he could not trace the reason, saw that his excuse was admitted, and he stood with quiet dignity awaiting the next inquiry.

“This is reasonable and natural,” returned Pathfinder; “this is natural, and may be so. A woman would be likely to follow the man to whom she had plighted faith, and husband and wife are one flesh. Your words are honest, Tuscarora,” changing the language to the dialect of the other. “Your words are honest, and very pleasant and just. But why has my brother been so long from the fort? His friends have thought of him often, but have never seen him.”

“If the doe follows the buck, ought not the buck to follow the doe?” answered the Tuscarora, smiling, as he laid a finger significantly on the shoulder of his interrogator. “Arrowhead’s wife followed Arrowhead; it was right in Arrowhead to follow his wife. She lost her way, and they made her cook in a strange wigwam.”

“I understand you, Tuscarora. The woman fell into the hands of the Mingos, and you kept upon their trail.”

“Pathfinder can see a reason as easily as he can see the moss on the trees. It is so.”

“And how long have you got the woman back, and in what manner has it been done?”

“Two suns. The Dew-of-June was not long in coming when her husband whispered to her the path.”

“Well, well, all this seems natural, and according to matrimony. But, Tuscarora, how did you get that canoe, and why are you paddling towards the St. Lawrence instead of the garrison?”

“Arrowhead can tell his own from that of another. This canoe is mine; I found it on the shore near the fort.”

“That sounds reasonable, too, for the canoe does belong to the man, and an Indian would make few words about taking it. Still, it is extraordinary that we saw nothing of the fellow and his wife, for the canoe must have left the river before we did ourselves.”

This idea, which passed rapidly through the mind of the guide, was now put to the Indian in the shape of a question.

“Pathfinder knows that a warrior can have shame. The father would have asked me for his daughter, and I could not give her to him. I sent the Dew-of-June for the canoe, and no one spoke to the woman. A Tuscarora woman would not be free in speaking to strange men.”

All this, too, was plausible, and in conformity with Indian character and customs. As was usual, Arrowhead had received one half of his compensation previously to quitting the Mohawk; and his refraining to demand the residue was a proof of that conscientious consideration of mutual rights that quite as often distinguishes the morality of a savage as that of a Christian. To one as upright as Pathfinder, Arrowhead had conducted himself with delicacy and propriety, though it would have been more in accordance with his own frank nature to have met the father, and abided by the simple truth. Still, accustomed to the ways of Indians, he saw nothing out of the ordinary track of things in the course the other had taken.

“This runs like water flowing down hill, Arrowhead,” he answered, after a little reflection, “and truth obliges me to own it. It was the gift of a red-skin to act in this way, though I do not think it was the gift of a pale-face. You would not look upon the grief of the girl’s father?”

Arrowhead made a quiet inclination of the body as if to assent.

“One thing more my brother will tell me,” continued Pathfinder, “and there will be no cloud between his wigwam and the strong-house of the Yengeese. If he can blow away this bit of fog with his breath, his friends will look at him as he sits by his own fire, and he can look at them as they lay aside their arms, and forget that they are warriors. Why was the head of Arrowhead’s canoe looking towards the St. Lawrence, where there are none but enemies to be found?”

“Why were the Pathfinder and his friends looking the same way?” asked the Tuscarora calmly. “A Tuscarora may look in the same direction as a Yengeese.”

“Why, to own the truth, Arrowhead, we are out scouting like; that is, sailing — in other words, we are on the king’s business, and we have a right to be here, though we may not have a right to say why we are here.”

“Arrowhead saw the big canoe, and he loves to look on the face of Eau-douce. He was going towards the sun at evening in order to seek his wigwam; but, finding that the young sailor was going the other way, he turned that he might look in the same direction. Eau-douce and Arrowhead were together on the last trail.”

“This may all be true, Tuscarora, and you are welcome. You shall eat of our venison, and then we must separate. The setting sun is behind us, and both of us move quick: my brother will get too far from that which he seeks, unless he turns round.”

Pathfinder now returned to the others, and repeated the result of his examination. He appeared himself to believe that the account of Arrowhead might be true, though he admitted that caution would be prudent with one he disliked; but his auditors, Jasper excepted, seemed less disposed to put faith in the explanations.

“This chap must be ironed at once, brother Dunham,” said Cap, as soon as Pathfinder finished his narration; “he must be turned over to the master-at-arms, if there is any such officer on fresh water, and a court-martial ought to be ordered as soon as we reach port.”

“I think it wisest to detain the fellow,” the Sergeant answered; “but irons are unnecessary so long as he remains in the cutter. In the morning the matter shall be inquired into.”

Arrowhead was now summoned and told the decision. The Indian listened gravely, and made no objections. On the contrary, he submitted with the calm and reserved dignity with which the American aborigines are known to yield to fate; and he stood apart, an attentive but calm observer of what was passing. Jasper caused the cutter’s sails to be filled, and the Scud resumed her course.

It was now getting near the hour to set the watch, and when it was usual to retire for the night. Most of the party went below, leaving no one on deck but Cap, the Sergeant, Jasper, and two of the crew. Arrowhead and his wife also remained, the former standing aloof in proud reserve, and the latter exhibiting, by her attitude and passiveness, the meek humility that characterizes an Indian woman.

“You will find a place for your wife below, Arrowhead, where my daughter will attend to her wants,” said the Sergeant kindly, who was himself on the point of quitting the deck; “yonder is a sail where you may sleep yourself.”

“I thank my father. The Tuscaroras are not poor. The woman will look for my blankets in the canoe.”

“As you wish, my friend. We think it necessary to detain you; but not necessary to confine or to maltreat you. Send your squaw into the canoe for the blankets and you may follow her yourself, and hand us up the paddles. As there may be some sleepy heads in the Scud, Eau-douce,” added the Sergeant in a lower tone, “it may be well to secure the paddles.”

Jasper assented, and Arrowhead and his wife, with whom resistance appeared to be out of the question, silently complied with the directions. A few expressions of sharp rebuke passed from the Indian to his wife, while both were employed in the canoe, which the latter received with submissive quiet, immediately repairing an error she had made by laying aside the blanket she had taken and searching for another that was more to her tyrant’s mind.

“Come, bear a hand, Arrowhead,” said the Sergeant, who stood on the gunwale overlooking the movements of the two, which were proceeding too slowly for the impatience of a drowsy man; “it is getting late; and we soldiers have such a thing as reveille — early to bed and early to rise.”

“Arrowhead is coming,” was the answer, as the Tuscarora stepped towards the head of his canoe.

One blow of his keen knife severed the rope which held the boat, and then the cutter glanced ahead, leaving the light bubble of bark, which instantly lost its way, almost stationary. So suddenly and dexterously was this manoeuvre performed, that the canoe was on the lee quarter of the Scud before the Sergeant was aware of the artifice, and quite in her wake ere he had time to announce it to his companions.

“Hard-a-lee!” shouted Jasper, letting fly the jib-sheet with his own hands, when the cutter came swiftly up to the breeze, with all her canvas flapping, or was running into the wind’s eye, as seamen term it, until the light craft was a hundred feet to windward of her former position. Quick and dexterous as was this movement, and ready as had been the expedient, it was not quicker or more ready than that of the Tuscarora. With an intelligence that denoted some familiarity with vessels, he had seized his paddle and was already skimming the water, aided by the efforts of his wife. The direction he took was south-westerly, or on a line that led him equally towards the wind and the shore, while it also kept him so far aloof from the cutter as to avoid the danger of the latter falling on board of him when she filled on the other tack. Swiftly as the Scud had shot into the wind, and far as she had forced ahead, Jasper knew it was necessary to cast her ere she had lost all her way; and it was not two minutes from the time the helm had been put down before the lively little craft was aback forward, and rapidly falling off, in order to allow her sails to fill on the opposite tack.

“He will escape!” said Jasper the instant he caught a glimpse of the relative bearings of the cutter and the canoe. “The cunning knave is paddling dead to windward, and the Scud can never overtake him!”

“You have a canoe!” exclaimed the Sergeant, manifesting the eagerness of a boy to join in the pursuit; “let us launch it, and give chase!”

“It will be useless. If Pathfinder had been on deck, there might have been a chance; but there is none now. To launch the canoe would have taken three or four minutes, and the time lost would be sufficient for the purposes of Arrowhead.”

Both Cap and the Sergeant saw the truth of this, which would have been nearly self-evident even to one unaccustomed to vessels. The shore was distant less than half a mile, and the canoe was already glancing into its shadows, at a rate to show that it would reach the land before its pursuers could probably get half the distance. The helm of the Scud was reluctantly put up again, and the cutter wore short round on her heel, coming up to her course on the other tack, as if acting on an instinct. All this was done by Jasper in profound silence, his assistants understanding what was necessary, and lending their aid in a sort of mechanical imitation. While these manoeuvres were in the course of execution, Cap took the Sergeant by a button, and led him towards the cabin-door, where he was out of ear-shot, and began to unlock his stores of thought.

“Hark’e, brother Dunham,” said he, with an ominous face, “this is a matter that requires mature thought and much circumspection.”

“The life of a soldier, brother Cap, is one of constant thought and circumspection. On this frontier, were we to overlook either, our scalps might be taken from our heads in the first nap.”

“But I consider this capture of Arrowhead as a circumstance; and I might add his escape as another. This Jasper Freshwater must look to it.”

“They are both circumstances truly, brother; but they tell different ways. If it is a circumstance against the lad that the Indian has escaped, it is a circumstance in his favor that he was first taken.”

“Ay, ay, but two circumstances do not contradict each other like two negatives. If you will follow the advice of an old seaman, Sergeant, not a moment is to be lost in taking the steps necessary for the security of the vessel and all on board of her. The cutter is now slipping through the water at the rate of six knots, and as the distances are so short on this bit of a pond, we may all find ourselves in a French port before morning, and in a French prison before night.”

“This may be true enough. What would you advise me to do, brother?”

“In my opinion you should put this Master Freshwater under arrest on the spot; send him below under the charge of a sentinel, and transfer the command of the cutter to me. All this you have power to perform, the craft belonging to the army, and you being the commanding officer of the troops present.”

Sergeant Dunham deliberated more than an hour on the propriety of this proposal; for, though sufficiently prompt when his mind was really made up, he was habitually thoughtful and wary. The habit of superintending the personal police of the garrison had made him acquainted with character, and he had long been disposed to think well of Jasper. Still that subtle poison, suspicion, had entered his soul; and so much were the artifices and intrigues of the French dreaded, that, especially warned as he had been by his commander, it is not to be wondered that the recollection of years of good conduct should vanish under the influence of a distrust so keen, and seemingly so plausible. In this embarrassment the Sergeant consulted the Quartermaster, whose opinion, as his superior, he felt bound to respect, though at the moment independent of his control. It is an unfortunate occurrence for one who is in a dilemma to ask advice of another who is desirous of standing well in his favor, the party consulted being almost certain to try to think in the manner which will be the most agreeable to the party consulting. In the present instance it was equally unfortunate, as respects a candid consideration of the subject, that Cap, instead of the Sergeant himself, made the statement of the case; for the earnest old sailor was not backward in letting his listener perceive to which side he was desirous that the Quartermaster should lean. Lieutenant Muir was much too politic to offend the uncle and father of the woman he hoped and expected to win, had he really thought the case admitted of doubt; but, in the manner in which the facts were submitted to him, he was seriously inclined to think that it would be well to put the control of the Scud temporarily into the management of Cap, as a precaution against treachery. This opinion then decided the Sergeant, who forthwith set about the execution of the necessary measures.

Without entering into any explanations, Sergeant Dunham simply informed Jasper that he felt it to be his duty to deprive him temporarily of the command of the cutter, and to confer it on his own brother-in-law. A natural and involuntary burst of surprise, which escaped the young man, was met by a quiet remark, reminding him that military service was often of a nature that required concealment, and a declaration that the present duty was of such a character that this particular arrangement had become indispensable. Although Jasper’s astonishment remained undiminished — the Sergeant cautiously abstaining from making any allusion to his suspicions — the young man was accustomed to obey with military submission; and he quietly acquiesced, with his own mouth directing the little crew to receive their further orders from Cap until another change should be effected. When, however, he was told the case required that not only he himself, but his principal assistant, who, on account of his long acquaintance with the lake, was usually termed the pilot, were to remain below, there was an alteration in his countenance and manner that denoted strong feeling, though it was so well mastered as to leave even the distrustful Cap in doubt as to its meaning. As a matter of course, however, when distrust exists, it was not long before the worst construction was put upon it.

As soon as Jasper and the pilot were below, the sentinel at the hatch received private orders to pay particular attention to both; to allow neither to come on deck again without giving instant notice to the person who might then be in charge of the cutter, and to insist on his return below as soon as possible. This precaution, however, was uncalled for; Jasper and his assistant both throwing themselves silently on their pallets, which neither quitted again that night.

“And now, Sergeant,” said Cap, as soon as he found himself master of the deck, “you will just have the goodness to give me the courses and distance, that I may see the boat keeps her head the right way.”

“I know nothing of either, brother Cap,” returned Dunham, not a little embarrassed at the question. “We must make the best of our way to the station among the Thousand Islands, ‘where we shall land, relieve the party that is already out, and get information for our future government.’ That’s it, nearly word for word, as it stands in the written orders.”

“But you can muster a chart — something in the way of bearings and distances, that I may see the road?”

“I do not think Jasper ever had anything of the sort to go by.”

“No chart, Sergeant Dunham!”

“Not a scrap of a pen even. Our sailors navigate this lake without any aid from maps.”

“The devil they do! They must be regular Yahoos. And do you suppose, Sergeant Dunham, that I can find one island out of a thousand without knowing its name or its position, without even a course or a distance?”

“As for the name, brother Cap, you need not be particular, for not one of the whole thousand has a name, and so a mistake can never be made on that score. As for the position, never having been there myself, I can tell you nothing about it, nor do I think its position of any particular consequence, provided we find the spot. Perhaps one of the hands on deck can tell us the way.”

“Hold on, Sergeant — hold on a moment, if you please, Sergeant Dunham. If I am to command this craft, it must be done, if you please, without holding any councils of war with the cook and cabin-boy. A ship-master is a ship-master, and he must have an opinion of his own, even if it be a wrong one. I suppose you know service well enough to understand that it is better in a commander to go wrong than to go nowhere. At all events, the Lord High Admiral couldn’t command a yawl with dignity, if he consulted the cockswain every time he wished to go ashore. No sir, if I sink, I sink! but, d —-me, I’ll go down ship-shape and with dignity.”

“But, brother Cap, I have no wish to go down anywhere, unless it be to the station among the Thousand Islands whither we are bound.”

“Well, well, Sergeant, rather than ask advice — that is, direct, barefaced advice — of a foremast hand, or any other than a quarter-deck officer, I would go round to the whole thousand, and examine them one by one until we got the right haven. But there is such a thing as coming at an opinion without manifesting ignorance, and I will manage to rouse all there is out of these hands, and make them think all the while that I am cramming them with my own experience! We are sometimes obliged to use the glass at sea when there is nothing in sight, or to heave the lead long before we strike soundings. When a youngster, sailed two v’y’ges with a man who navigated his ship pretty much by the latter sort of information, which sometimes answers.”

“I know we are steering in the right direction at present,” returned the Sergeant; “but in the course of a few hours we shall be up with a headland, where we must feel our way with more caution.”

“Leave me to pump the man at the wheel, brother, and you shall see that I will make him suck in a very few minutes.”

Cap and the Sergeant now walked aft, until they stood by the sailor who was at the helm, Cap maintaining an air of security and tranquillity, like one who was entirely confident of his own powers.

“This is a wholesome air, my lad,” Cap observed, in the manner that a superior on board a vessel sometimes condescends to use to a favored inferior. “Of course you have it in this fashion off the land every night?”

“At this season of the year, sir,” the man returned, touching his hat, out of respect, to his new commander and Sergeant Dunham’s connection.

“The same thing, I take it, among the Thousand Islands? The wind will stand, of course, though we shall then have land on every side of us.”

“When we get farther east, sir, the wind will probably shift, for there can then be no particular land-breeze.”

“Ay, ay; so much for your fresh water! It has always some trick that is opposed to nature. Now, down among the West India Islands, one is just as certain of having a land-breeze as he is of having a sea-breeze. In that respect there is no difference, though it’s quite in rule it should be different up here on this bit of fresh water. Of course, my lad, you know all about these said Thousand Islands?”

“Lord bless you, Master Cap, nobody knows all about them or anything about them. They are a puzzle to the oldest sailor on the lake, and we don’t pretend to know even their names. For that matter, most of them have no more names than a child that dies before it is christened.”

“Are you a Roman Catholic?” demanded the Sergeant sharply.

“No, sir, nor anything else. I’m a generalizer about religion, never troubling that which don’t trouble me.”

“Hum! a generalizer; that is, no doubt, one of the new sects that afflict the country,” muttered Mr. Dunham, whose grandfather had been a New Jersey Quaker, his father a Presbyterian, and who had joined the Church of England himself after he entered the army.

“I take it, John —” resumed Cap. “Your name is Jack, I believe?”

“No, sir; I am called Robert.”

“Ay, Robert, it’s very much the same thing, Jack or Bob; we use the two indifferently. I say, Bob, it’s good holding ground, is it, down at this same station for which we are bound?”

“Bless you, sir! I know no more about it than one of the Mohawks, or a soldier of the 55th.”

“Did you never anchor there?”

“Never, sir. Master Eau-douce always makes fast to the shore.”

“But in running in for the town, you kept the lead going, out of question, and must have tallowed as usual.”

“Tallow! — and town, too! Bless your heart, Master Cap! there is no more town than there is on your chin, and not half as much tallow!”

The Sergeant smiled grimly, but his brother-in-law did not detect this proof of humor.

“No church tower, nor light, nor fort, ha? There is a garrison, as you call it hereaway, at least?”

“Ask Sergeant Dunham, sir, if you wish to know that. All the garrison is on board the Scud.”

“But in running in, Bob, which of the channels do you think the best? the one you went last, or — or — or — ay, or the other?”

“I can’t say, sir; I know nothing of either.”

“You didn’t go to sleep, fellow, at the wheel, did you?”

“Not at the wheel, sir, but down in the fore-peak in my berth. Eau-douce sent us below, soldiers and all, with the exception of the pilot, and we know no more of the road than if we had never been over it. This he has always done in going in and coming out; and, for the life of me, I could tell you nothing of the channel, or the course, after we are once fairly up with the islands. No one knows anything of either but Jasper and the pilot.”

“Here is a circumstance for you, Sergeant,” said Cap, leading his brother-in-law a little aside; “there is no one on board to pump, for they all suck from ignorance at the first stroke of the brake. How the devil am I to find the way to this station for which we are bound?”

“Sure enough, brother Cap, your question is more easily put than answered. Is there no such thing as figuring it out by navigation? I thought you salt-water mariners were able to do as small a thing as that. I have often read of their discovering islands, surely.”

“That you have, brother, that you have; and this discovery would be the greatest of them all; for it would not only be discovering one island, but one island out of a thousand.”

“Still, the sailors of the lake have a method of finding the places they wish to go to.”

“If I have understood you, Sergeant, this station or blockhouse is particularly private.”

“It is, indeed, the utmost care having been taken to prevent a knowledge of its position from reaching the enemy.”

“And you expect me, a stranger on your lake, to find this place without chart, course, distance, latitude, longitude, or soundings — ay, d —-me, or tallow! Allow me to ask if you think a mariner runs by his nose, like one of Pathfinder’s hounds?”

“Well, brother, you may yet learn something by questioning the young man at the helm; I can hardly think that he is as ignorant as he pretends to be.”

“Hum! — this looks like another circumstance. For that matter, the case is getting to be so full of circumstances that one hardly knows how to foot up the evidence. But we will soon see how much the lad knows.”

Cap and the Sergeant now returned to their station near the helm, and the former renewed his inquiries.

“Do you happen to know what may be the latitude and longitude of this said island, my lad?” he asked.

“The what, sir?”

“Why, the latitude or longitude — one or both; I’m not particular which, as I merely inquire in order to see how they bring up young men on this bit of fresh water.”

“I’m not particular about either myself, sir, and so I do not happen to know what you mean.”

“Not what I mean! You know what latitude is?”

“Not I, sir!” returned the man, hesitating. “Though I believe it is French for the upper lakes.”

“Whe-e-e-w-!” whistled Cap, drawing out his breath like the broken stop of an organ; “latitude, French for upper lakes! Hark’e, young man, do you know what longitude means?”

“I believe I do, sir; that is, five feet six, the regulation height for soldiers in the king’s service.”

“There’s the longitude found out for you, Sergeant, in the rattling of a brace-block! You have some notion about a degree, and minutes and seconds, I hope?”

“Yes, sir; degree means my betters; and minutes and seconds are for the short or long log-lines. We all know these things as well as the salt-water people.”

“D—-me, brother Dunham, if I think even Faith can get along on this lake, much as they say it can do with mountains. Well, my lad, you understand the azimuth, and measuring distances, and how to box the compass.”

“As for the first, sir, I can’t say I do. The distances we all know, as we measure them from point to point; and as for boxing the compass, I will turn my back to no admiral in his Majesty’s fleet. Nothe, nothe and by east, nothe, nothe-east, nothe-east and by nothe, nothe-east, nothe-east and by east, east-nothe-east, east and by nothe-east —”

“That will do, that will do. You’ll bring about a shift of wind if you go on in this manner. I see very plainly, Sergeant,” walking away again, and dropping his voice, “we’ve nothing to hope for from that chap. I’ll stand on two hours longer on this tack, when we’ll heave-to and get the soundings, after which we will be governed by circumstances.”

To this the Sergeant made no objections; and as the wind grew lighter, as usual with the advance of night, and there were no immediate obstacles to the navigation, he made a bed of a sail on deck, and was soon lost in the sound sleep of a soldier. Cap continued to walk the deck, for he was one whose iron frame set fatigue at defiance, and not once that night did he close his eyes.

It was broad daylight when Sergeant Dunham awoke, and the exclamation of surprise that escaped him, as he rose to his feet and began to look about him, was stronger than it was usual for one so drilled to suffer to be heard. He found the weather entirely changed, the view bounded by driving mist that limited the visible horizon to a circle of about a mile in diameter, the lake raging and covered with foam, and the Scud lying-to. A brief conversation with his brother-in-law let him into the secrets of all these sudden changes.

According to the account of Master Cap, the wind had died away to a calm about midnight, or just as he was thinking of heaving-to, to sound, for islands ahead were beginning to be seen. At one A.M. it began to blow from the north-east, accompanied by a drizzle, and he stood off to the northward and westward, knowing that the coast of New York lay in the opposite direction. At half-past one he stowed the flying-jib, reefed the mainsail, and took the bonnet off the jib. At two he was compelled to get a second reef aft; and by half-past two he had put a balance-reef in the sail, and was lying-to.

“I can’t say but the boat behaves well, Sergeant,” the old sailor added, “but it blows forty-two pounders. I had no idea there were any such currents of air up here on this bit of fresh water, though I care not the knotting of a yarn for it, as your lake has now somewhat of a natural look; and if this d —— d water had a savor of salt about it, one might be comfortable.”

“How long have you been heading in this direction, brother Cap?” inquired the prudent soldier; “and at what rate may we be going through the water?”

“Why, two or three hours, mayhap, and she went like a horse for the first pair of them. Oh, we’ve a fine offing now! for, to own the truth, little relishing the neighborhood of them said islands, although they are to windward, I took the helm myself, and run her off free for some league or two. We are well to leeward of them, I’ll engage — I say to leeward; for though one might wish to be well to windward of one island, or even half a dozen, when it comes to a thousand, the better way is to give it up at once, and to slide down under their lee as fast as possible. No, no; there they are up yonder in the dingle; and there they may stay, for anything Charles Cap cares.”

“As the north shore lies only some five or six leagues from us, brother, and I know there is a large bay in that quarter, might it not be well to consult some of the crew concerning our position, if, indeed, we do not call up Jasper Eau-douce, and tell him to carry us back to Oswego? For it is quite impossible we should ever reach the station with this wind directly in our teeth.”

“There are several serious professional reasons, Sergeant, against all your propositions. In the first place, an admission of ignorance on the part of a commander would destroy discipline. No matter, brother; I understand your shake of the head, but nothing capsizes discipline so much as to confess ignorance. I once knew a master of a vessel who went a week on a wrong course rather than allow he had made a mistake; and it was surprising how much he rose in the opinions of his people, just because they could not understand him.”

“That may do on salt water, brother Cap, but it will hardly do on fresh. Rather than wreck my command on the Canada shore, I shall feel it a duty to take Jasper out of arrest.”

“And make a haven in Frontenac. No, Sergeant; the Scud is in good hands, and will now learn something of seamanship. We have a fine offing, and no one but a madman would think of going upon a coast in a gale like this. I shall ware every watch, and then we shall be safe against all dangers but those of the drift, which, in a light low craft like this, without top-hamper, will be next to nothing. Leave it all to me, Sergeant, and I pledge you the character of Charles Cap that all will go well.”

Sergeant Dunham was fain to yield. He had great confidence in his connection’s professional skill, and hoped that he would take such care of the cutter as would amply justify his opinion of him. On the other hand, as distrust, like care, grows by what it feeds on, he entertained so much apprehension of treachery, that he was quite willing any one but Jasper should just then have the control of the fate of the whole party. Truth, moreover, compels us to admit another motive. The particular duty on which he was now sent of right should have been confided to a commissioned officer; and Major Duncan had excited a good deal of discontent among the subalterns of the garrison, by having confided it to one of the Sergeant’s humble station. To return without having even reached the point of destination, therefore, the latter felt would be a failure from which he was not likely soon to recover, and the measure would at once be the means of placing a superior in his shoes.

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Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:40