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The Pathfınder - Chapter 12

 

The Pathfınder - Chapter 12
 
PART I
 
Sergeant Dunham seemed to be growing weaker and weaker. He could hardly talk with Mabel and Pathfinder. His mind had begun to wander, so that, while he seemed to speak clearly one moment, he would, the next moment, shout commands to his men, imagining that he was leading them in battle.
 
They were, however, able to make out the following facts from his disconnected talk: after Pathfinder and Chingachgook had left the sergeant’s party, the wind became more favorable. Instead of camping somewhere for the night, as had first been planned, the sergeant decided to go on, to try to reach the island that same night. They would not have been seen, if they had not grounded on one of the neighboring islands.
 
The noise they made in getting the boat off this island was no doubt heard by the Indians, who must have been lying in wait for them. Sergeant Dunham and his group landed without sus­pecting any danger; they had even left their arms in the boat. The firing had been close and, despite the darkness, deadly. Every man had fallen, though two or three later were seen to disappear. Four or five soldiers had been killed. For some un­known reason, the enemy had not made the usual rush for the scalps. The sergeant fell with the others. When Mabel ran out of the fort, he had heard her voice and, with great effort, had crept and pulled himself along as far as the door of the building.
 
The sergeant now became silent, while his breathing became heavier. Mabel sat by*his side, giving him every possible atten­tion. She was sadly aware, however, that there was little that could be done for him. Pathfinder meanwhile took advantage of the silence to examine the condition of the rifles, of which there were a dozen in the building. He also went to the second floor and the roof to learn what he could of the enemy’s plans. While Pathfinder was busy in this way, Mabel heard a guarded knock at the door, near where she sat with her father. She sup­posed it might be Chingachgook, but on carefully opening the door, discovered that it was her Uncle Cap.
 
Charles Cap almost broke into tears as he looked at Sergeant Dunham. He explained that, after first hiding with Lieutenant Muir in a distant part of the island, they were discovered and taken prisoners. The Indians had treated them well, though. They even offered them whiskey, in the hope of keeping them quiet during the expected fight with the British. They had there­fore been poorly guarded while thought to be drank. Cap had been able to run off into the bushes at the first sign of the attack, leaving Lieutenant Muir still sleeping. Cap had later found Pathfinder’s canoe in one of the channels and had come to the fort for Mabel, in the hope of escaping with his niece by water.
 
His arrival was most fortunate at the moment. He had hardly finished telling Mabel all that had happened, when Pathfinder, hearing his voice from above, called down to welcome him and to say that he was in great need of all the help he could get.
 
“We must be careful, and we must be brave at the same time,” explained Pathfinder in a low voice. “The devils are serious in their intention to set fire to the fort, for they now know that there is nothing to be gained by letting it stand. I have heard the treacherous voice of that fellow Arrowhead among them giving them advice. We haven’t a moment to lose. Fortunately, there are four or five barrels of water in the fort, and we can make use of them if necessary.”
 
With a sad look behind him at the sergeant, Cap was soon in the upper room with Pathfinder. Mabel remained behind. During the frightening happenings that followed, she was hardly aware of the noise and the shouting around her, so carefully did she watch over her father.
 
Following Pathfinder’s directions, Cap went to the roof to wait for the first attack. He found ten flaming arrows already sticking in the bark. The air was filled with the war-cries of the enemy. The rapid firing of many rifles followed, and the bullets came striking against the logs continuously—showing that the struggle had really begun.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. How had the Indians discovered the presence of the ser­geant’s party?
2. What had happened to the soldiers in the party?
3. How had the sergeant reached the fort?
4. Of what was Mabel aware?
5. What was Pathfinder examining?
6. Who now entered the fort?
7. Tell what had happened to Cap.
8. Who was advising the Indians to attack the fort?
9. Why was Mabel hardly aware of what followed?
10.How did they know that the struggle for the fort had really begun?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
wander instead of
battle lie in wait
aware despite
treat as far as
guarded in the hope of
 
PART II
 
Neither Cap nor Pathfinder were frightened at these sounds. Pathfinder had taken a position on the second floor, at one of the openings. He stood with his rifle Killdeer ready for action. But even he was shaken when the heavy sound of a cannon burst upon the night, and the breaking of wood was heard as the shell tore into the logs on the second floor. In fact, the whole fort shook with the blow. Pathfinder narrowly missed
 
being struck. When the shell burst, Mabel, could not help but cry out. She imagined everything above her destroyed and her two friends siirely killed.
 
“Mabel,” called’Pathfinder, “this is true Mingo work—more noise than harm done. The devils have gotten the cannon which we took from the French and have fired it against the fort. For­tunately, they have fired off the only shell we had and there is an end to the use of the cannon for the moment. A few supplies here have been destroyed—but no one is hurt. Your uncle is still on the roof, and as for me, I have run the risk of too many Mingo rifles to be afraid of such a thing as a cannon, especially one in Indian hands.”
 
Cap appeared to be calm and unaffected by all that went on. He had only recently learned to respect the power of savages. His only fear was that of being scalped. He was a brave man at heart. In addition, he was now on the deck of a house, if not on the deck of a ship, where he felt almost at home. He therefore moved about the roof without any thought of the danger to himself. Instead of covering himself, he was seen rushing about, right and left, and throwing water.
 
In fact, his appearance was one of the reasons for the unusual noise among the savages. They were not used to seeing their enemies so reckless and shouted at him like a group of dogs that have an animal in sight. He appeared, however, to be es­pecially favored, for although the bullets flew around him and his clothes were torn, nothing cut his skin. When the shell of the cannon passed through the logs below and burst, the old sailor dropped his pail, waved his hat, and gave three cheers. The savages thought he had gone crazy. From that moment they gave up firing at him. They even stopped shooting their flaming arrows at the fort, for it was the custom among Indians not to raise a hand against anyone who they thought had lost his mind.
 
Pathfinder’s manner was quite different. Everything he did was marked by the most exact care. His person was kept out of the line of the openings, and the spot he chose for his lookout was removed from danger. For the first ten minutes of the attack he never even raised his gun from the floor. He knew very well that the bullets of the enemy were being thrown away against
 
the heavy logs of the fort. When he heard the enemy at the foot of,the building preparing a fire there, he called Cap down from the roof and they both now made ready to meet this new danger.
 
Still Pathfinder showed no particular signs of hurry. His pur­pose was not only to put out the fire, of which he had little fear, but also to give the enemy a lesson that they would remember. In order to do this, it became necessary to wait until the light of the intended fire would be strong enough to direct the aim of his rifle. The Iroquois were therefore permitted to bring dry leaves and branches, pile them against the fort, light them, and return to their covers. All that Pathfinder would permit Cap to do was to roll a barrel of water to the hole immediately over the spot, ready for use.
 
“Are you ready, friend Cap?” Pathfinder called. “The heat begins to rise, and although these green logs do not burn easily, they can catch fire, if they become hot enough. Are you ready with the barrel? See that no water is lost.”
 
“All ready!” answered Cap.
 
“Then wait until I give you the word. There is no need to hurry in a time of battle such as this.”
While Pathfinder was giving_these directions, he was also pre­paring himself, for he now saw that the time for action had ar­rived. The flames had at last so lighted up the grounds around the fort that several possible targets could be seen. Killdeer was raised, pointed, and fired.
 
“There is one devil less,” said Pathfinder. “I’ve seen that fel­low before, and know him to be a bad one. One more of them now, and that will serve them for tonight. When day comes, we may have hotter work to do.”
 
All this time another rifle was being got ready and, as Path­finder fired, a second savage fell dead. This seemed to be enough. The whole party of Indians who had been hiding in the bushes, not knowing who was, and who was not exposed to the aim of Pathfinder, now jumped from their covers and ran from the place.
 
“Now pour away, Master Cap,” said Pathfinder. “I’ve really made my mark on the devils, and we shall have no more lighted fires tonight.”
 
“Here goes,” cried Cap, turning over the barrel with a care that at once put out the flames.
 
This ended the struggle. The rest of the night passed in peace. Pathfinder and Cap took turns watching, though neither slept. Both, in fact, were well accustomed to going long hours without rest.
 
Mabel continued to watch by her father’s side. The thought came to her that she had really lived without a father, since he had existed only in her memory and imagination. Now that she was about to lose him, however, the world seemed an empty place, and she herself would never feel completely happy again.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What happened that was a surprise to Pathfinder?
2. What had the Indians found?
3. Why couldn’t they use the cannon again?
4., Why did Cap feel almost at home on the roof of the fort?
5. Why did Cap’s appearance cause unusual noise among the Indians?
6. Why did they stop firing at him?
7. How did Pathfinder behave during the attack on the fort?
8. How did they go about meeting the danger of fire?
9. Why did Pathfinder wait until the fire was lighted before he began to shoot his rifle?
10. How many of the Indians did he shoot?
11. How did the rest of the night pass?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
 
 
run the risk               throw away
at heart                      pull out
go crazy                     catch fire
feel at home               light up
lost his mind              take turns