Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
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 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 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
"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
"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
"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," 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 related.
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
"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
"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 lookout."
"Look," said Arrowhead, stretching an arm before him with quiet
"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
"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
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
"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 apprehension.
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 trees.
"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
"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 fear. No Christian, seeing a woman approach alone, would fire
upon her; and my presence will be a pledge of peace. Let me go
forward, as Arrowhead wishes, and all will be well. We are, as
yet, unseen, and the surprise of the strangers will not partake of
"Good," returned Arrowhead, who did not conceal his approbation of
"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
always nigh 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
Christian men, a woman's best guard is her claim to their protection.
I know nothing of arms, and wish to live in ignorance of them."
The uncle desisted; and, after receiving a few cautious instructions
from the Tuscarora, Mabel rallied all her spirit, and advanced
alone towards the group seated near the fire. Although the heart
of the girl beat quick, her step was firm, and her movements,
seemingly, were without reluctance. A death-like silence reigned
in the forest, for they towards whom she approached were too much
occupied in appeasing their hunger to avert their looks for an
instant from the important business in which they were all engaged.
When Mabel, however, had got within a hundred feet of the fire,
she trod upon a dried stick, and the trifling noise produced by
her light footstep caused the Mohican, as Arrowhead had pronounced
the Indian to be, and his companion, whose character had been
thought so equivocal, to rise to their feet, as quick as thought.
Both glanced at the rifles that leaned against a tree; and then
each stood without stretching out an arm, as his eyes fell on the
form of the girl. The Indian uttered a few words to his companion,
and resumed his seat and his meal as calmly as if no interruption
had occurred. On the contrary, the white man left the fire, and
came forward to meet Mabel.
The latter saw, as the stranger approached that she was about to be
addressed by one of her own color, though his dress was so strange
a mixture of the habits of the two races, that it required a near
look to be certain of the fact. He was of middle age; but there
was an open honesty, a total absence of guile, in his face, which
otherwise would not have been thought handsome, that at once assured
Magnet she was in no danger. Still she paused.
"Fear nothing, young woman," said the hunter, for such his attire
would indicate 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
and justice. I am a man well known in all these parts, and perhaps
one of my names may have reached your ears. By the Frenchers and
the red-skins on the other side of the Big Lakes, I am called La
Longue Carabine; by the Mohicans, a just-minded and upright tribe,
what is left of them, Hawk Eye; while the troops and rangers along
this side of the water call me Pathfinder, inasmuch as I have never
been known to miss one end of the trail, when there was a Mingo,
or a friend who stood in need of me, at the other."
This was not uttered boastfully, but with the honest confidence
of one who 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 was instantaneous. The moment she heard the last _sobriquet_
she clasped her hands eagerly and repeated the word "Pathfinder!"
"So they call me, young woman, and many a great lord has got a
title that he did not half so well merit; though, if truth be said,
I rather pride myself in finding my way where there is no path,
than in finding it 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 a path, though one is a matter for the eye,
while the other is little more than 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 the
Delawares never uttered more truth."
"I am Mabel; and yonder, hid by the trees, are my uncle, whose name
is Cap, and a Tuscarora called Arrowhead. We did not hope to meet
you until we 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 from the graves of their fathers always to remember the Great
Spirit; and Arrowhead is an ambitious chief. Is the Dew-of-June
"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
of Arrowhead. Well, we must take the fare that Providence bestows,
while we follow the trail of life. I suppose worse guides might
have been found than the Tuscarora; though he has too much Mingo
blood for one who consorts 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
I would see his child safe to the garrison, though I died for it.
We expected to meet you before you reached the Falls, where we have
left our own canoe; while we thought it might do no harm to come
up a few miles, in order to be of service if wanted. It is lucky
we did, for I doubt 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
was amicable, drew nigh; and a few words sufficed to let them know
as much as the girl herself had learned from the strangers. As
soon as this was done, the party proceeded towards the two who
still remained near the fire.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.