The Pathfınder - Chapter 4
As Pathfinder retold these facts to his companions, they were naturally excited. Jasper suggested that they run out the canoes at once and try to get out of reach of the Iroquois. Pathfinder considered this course too dangerous. Everyone was so tense, that for a moment, angry words passed between the two friends.
“I know that you are clever with the paddle and oar, Jasper,” said Pathfinder. “But the hated Mingos are clever in many other ways. Canoes move fast, it is true, but a rifle bullet moves faster.” “But we must get Mabel back to her father,” cried the younger man, “and take our chances doing it. It is one thing to be careful, but there are times when courage is more important.” Pathfinder looked at Jasper calmly. “You are young and hotheaded,” he said,
“but my life has been spent facing dangers of this kind, and my experience is far greater than yours. As for courage, Jasper, I will not return an angry word to meet an angry word, for I know that you mean well—though your words were poorly chosen. Just take the advice of one who faced the Mingos when you were a child, and who has learned the best way to fight against them.”
Jasper’s face colored. “I am sorry,” he said, suddenly ashamed at having spoken unkindly to so true and noble a person as his good friend, the Pathfinder. “It was foolish of me,
Pathfinder, to speak so of the courage of one like yourself, who is known to be braver than any of us here.”
The hard expression which had begun to form ground the eyes of Pathfinder disappeared, and he met the hand Jasper offered him in his usual warm and friendly manner.
“It’s all right, Jasper,” he said, laughing. “I bear you no hard feelings. We have been friends for a long time, and it is foolish for us to argue...
A touch on the shoulder, and he stopped speaking. Mabel was standing in the canoe and looking out through an opening in the branches. She pointed in the direction of the river. Pathfinder lowered his head to a similar opening near where he stood and then whispered to Jasper:
“The hated Mingos. Stand to your guns, men—but lie quiet as the dead.”
Jasper moved quickly but noiselessly to Mabel’s side and forced her, gently but definitely, to lie down in the canoe, so that her whole body might be hidden from view. Then he took his position near her alongside the canoe, his rifle loaded and ready at his side.
Arrowhead and Chingachgook lay on the ground like two serpents, their rifles also ready. Arrowhead’s wife sat with her head bowed between her knees and covered by part of her dress, rather like some frightened animal who hides his head in the ground to escape some danger.
Cap took both his pistols from his belt, but seemed not to know what to do. Pathfinder did not move. He had taken a position from which he could watch the enemy and at the same time aim with deadly effect when it became necessary to fire. He showed no signs of being nervous or excited.
It was truly an awful moment for all of them. Just as Mabel had touched Pathfinder’s shoulder, three of the Iroquois had appeared in the water, at the turn in the river, within a few hundred feet of the cover, and had stopped to examine the stream below. The upper part of their bodies was completely naked. They were in their war paint and armed for attack. It was apparent that they could not decide as to the course they should
follow. One pointed down the river, a second up the stream, and the third toward the opposite bank. They were clearly in doubt.
Without making any noise, Pathfinder succeeded in getting Chingachgook, Arrowhead and Jasper near him. He then spoke to them in a whisper.
“We must be ready,” he said. “We must be ready. There are but three of the scalping devils, and we are five men. Jasper, you take the fellow that is painted like death. Chingachgook, I give you the chief; and Arrowhead must keep his eye on the younger one. There must be no mistake, for two bullets in the same body would be a serious waste. I shall be ready if a fourth devil should appear, or if one of your hands may prove unsteady. By no means fire until I give the word. We must not let the noise of a rifle be heard unless there is no other course open to us, since all the other devils are still probably within hearing distance. Jasper, boy, in case of any movement behind us on the bank, I trust you to run out the canoe with the sergeant’s daughter and pull for the fort, by God’s leave.”
Pathfinder had no sooner given these directions, when the approach of their enemies made complete silence necessary. The Iroquois in the river were moving slowly downstream, keeping near the bushes. At the same time, a second group could be heard moving along the bank at about the same speed and not far away from the first group.
Having reached the cover behind which Pathfinder and the others were hidden, the two groups now stopped and a conversation took place which may be said to have passed directly over the heads of those in hiding. In fact, nothing but the branches and leaves which Pathfinder had so cleverly used to form the cover, protected the travelers.
Fortunately, the line of sight carried the eyes of the two parties of savages above the bushes, and they suspected nothing. Their conversation was carried on in guarded voices, as if they wished to make sure that they could not be heard except among themselves. They spoke in a language which Pathfinder and the two Indians with him, though of different tribes, understood. Even Jasper was able to follow part of what was said.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. Why didn’t Pathfinder want to escape in the canoes?
2. Why was Jasper ashamed of himself?
3. What did Mabel point out to Pathfinder?
4. What did J asper make Mabel do? Why?
5. How did Arrowhead’s wife sit?
6. What did the men in the hiding place do?
7. Describe the Iroquois and their actions.
8. What did Pathfinder tell the men that they must get ready to do?
9. What was J asper to be ready to do in addition?
10. What happened as soon as Pathfinder gave his directions?
11. What could be heard at the same time?
12. How near to the hiding place did the Iroquois stop?
13. Why did the Iroquois speak in guarded voices?
14. Who could understand them?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
courage within hearing distance
load no sooner... than
out of reach take place
be in doubt make sure
“The trail is washed away by water,” said one of the savages from below, who stood so near the cover that he might have been struck by the fishing spear which lay in the bottom of Jasper’s canoe. “Water has washed it so clear that even a Yankee hunting dog could not follow it.”
“The palefaces have left the shore in their canoes,” answered a speaker from the bank.
“It cannot be. The rifles of our men below are sure.” Pathfinder turned and looked toward Jasper, hoping that the importance of these words had impressed themselves upon the mind of the young sailor. But Jasper, like the others, seemed too tense at the moment to pay much attention.
“Let my young men look as if their eyes were the eyes of
eagles,” said one who, by his appearance, had already been judged by Pathfinder to be the chief. “We have been a whole month on the warpath and have found but one scalp. There is a young woman among them, and some of our braves want wives.”
Happily, these words were lost on Mabel, but Jasper scowled, and the expression of his face grew even more serious than before.
The savages now stopped speaking and the party in hiding heard the slow and guarded movements of those who were on the bank, as they pushed the bushes aside and moved with care downstream. They soon passed the cover, but the group in the water still remained, watching the shore line with eyes that shone like coals of living fire through their war paint.
This group also began to move downstream, though slowly, step by step, as men move who look for something. In this manner they too passed the cover and Pathfinder opened his mouth in that warm, but noiseless laugh that nature and custom had taught him over the years. Yet he had laughed a moment too soon. The last of the three savages, taking one final look behind him, suddenly stopped, and his fixed manner showed that something in the bushes had apparently attracted his attention.
It was perhaps fortunate for those behind the cover that the Indian who showed these signs of suspicion was young and without much experience. Fearing that perhaps his imagination had deceived him and that, if he were mistaken, his older companions would make fun of him, he turned on his own footsteps and, without calling to the others, approached the bushes alone. A few of the leaves of the cover, on which the sun had shone, had begun to droop slightly. This change from the usual natural arrangement had caught the eye of the Indian, for so sharp do all the senses of the savage become, especially when he is on the warpath, that nothing of even the slightest meaning escapes his observation.
Despite their serious situation, the whole party behind the cover kept their eyes fastened on the face of the young Iroquois. His expression showed the confused thoughts which were passing through his mind. First came the hope of winning success, where some of the more experienced of his tribe had failed, and
Tuscarora and his wife had left him. He suspected at once that this was a treacherous act on their part, but there was no time to stop, for the cry that now rose from the party of Indians below made it clear that they had seen the body of the young Iroquois as it floated by them.
The report of a rifle followed and then the guide saw that Jasper, having passed the turn in the river, was crossing the stream standing in the back of the canoe, while Cap sat in the bow—both using their paddles with all their strength. Pathfinder, from his wide experience in such matters, took only a moment to decide the course he should follow. Jumping into the back of his own canoe, he moved with a strong stroke of the paddle into the river and began to cross the stream himself. He had started at a point much lower than that of his companions, so that at once, as he had planned, the fire of the enemy was drawn toward himself, and away from his friends.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. What did the Indians think the travelers had done?
2. Why did the Iroquois especially want to find the party?
3. Where did the two groups of Indians now go?
4. Why had Pathfinder laughed too soon?
5. What was fortunate for those behind the cover?
6. What had caught the Indian’s eye?
7. What did the Indian’s expression show that he was thinking?
8. What happened to the young Indian?
9. What action did Pathfinder and Jasper now take?
10. What did Arrowhead and his wife do?
11. Why was there no time to stop?
12. How did Pathfinder draw the Indians’ fire on himself?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
coal wash away
deceive pay attention to
slight take a look at
sense be mistaken
fail fall dead
save make clear
with it, a certain amount of honor, which had seldom fallen to one of his years. Then followed doubts, as the few falling leaves seemed to rise again with a light movement of the air. There was, finally, the fear of hidden danger, which added to his excitement with each step he took.
Carefully, therefore, having arrived at last at the cover, he pushed aside the branches and moved a step within the hiding place. Here the forms of the hidden group appeared to him for a moment like so many stone statues. His low cry, his sudden start and frightened expression were hardly seen and heard, before the arm of Chingachgook was raised and the tomahawk of the Delaware fell on the shaved head of the young Indian. The Iroquois raised his hands in fear, jumped back, and fell dead into the water at a spot where the fast-moving river quickly carried him away. Chingachgook reached out to take hold of an arm or a leg, with the hope of getting a scalp, but the bloody body of the young savage was already floating downstream.
All this had happened so suddenly that men less accustomed than Pathfinder and his companions to Indian fighting would have found it difficult to know what to do next. But Jasper and the Pathfinder went into action at once.
“There is not a moment to lose,” said Jasper, tearing aside the bushes. “Do as I do, Master Cap, if you wish to save your niece. And you, Mabel, stay in the canoe and keep lying down.”
The words were hardly spoken when, taking hold of the bow of the light boat, Jasper pulled it along the shore, walking in the water himself. Cap helped him from behind. They kept as near the shore as possible, so as not to be seen by the savages below; and they moved in the direction of the turn in the river above, which would hide them completely from view.
Pathfinder’s canoe lay nearest to the bank and was therefore the last to leave the shore. Chingachgook hurried up the bank and disappeared into the forest, it having been agreed that he was to watch the enemy from that position. Arrowhead at the same time made signs to Pathfinder to take the bow of the boat and to follow Jasper.
All this was the work of a moment, but when Pathfinder reached the turn in the river, he felt a sudden change in the weight he was pulling. Looking behind, he found that both the