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The Pathfınder - Chapter 2


The Pathfınder - Chapter 2
                                                    Let the Canoe Float Back Downstream at First
The river Cap and his party had traveled down was the Oswego. The Oswego is formed by the meeting of the Oneida and the Onandago rivers, both of which come originally from lakes. The Oswego, for a distance of some eight or ten miles, moves gently through softly rolling country. It then suddenly drops some ten or fifteen feet to form the rather dangerous falls of which Pathfinder and Jasper had been speaking.
“Let the canoe float back downstream at first,” said Path- finder to Jasper, who had taken the paddle from Arrowhead,
and was already sitting in the steering position at the back of the boat. The others had entered the canoe, and were waiting for Pathfinder, who still stood on shore.
“If any of those devils, the Mingos, strike our trail, or follow it to this point, they will surely look for signs of the canoe along the shore. If they find that we have left with the bow of the canoe pointing upstream, it is natural for them to think that we went upstream.”
These directions were followed; and, giving a strong push to the canoe, Pathfinder jumped and landed lightly in its bow. As soon as the canoe reached the center of the river, it was turned around, according to Pathfinder’s plan, and then began to move noiselessly downstream.
Like most canoes built by Indians, this one was light, fast and easily guided. At certain points, where it had been impossible to use the canoe on the river, Cap and Arrowhead, who had fonned the original crew, had several times carried it for con­siderable distances without difficulty. It was long, and for a canoe, rather wide. It was not particularly steady in the water, but both Cap and Mabel had long ago learned how to control its movements.
Uncle _and niece now sat calmly in the center of the boat. Arrowhead and his wife sat just ahead of them. The Big Serpent sat behind them, while Pathfinder and Jasper stood up, the one in the bow, the other in the back of the canoe, each using a paddle with a long, steady and noiseless stroke.
The river lands through which the party now passed were perhaps even more beautiful than the deep forests through which they had traveled earlier. Here and there some half-fallen giant tree lay nearly across the surface of the narrow river, so that great care had to be taken to move through its thick branches. The leaves and branches of smaller trees also touched the water lightly at various points. In still other places the trees on both sides of the river met above their heads to form a solid cover of green, under which the passengers moved in deep silence. All around them were signs of a rich and generous nature which, in the year of this story, 175—, had not yet been subjected to the various uses and needs of man.
The group had not gone far downstream when there were
sounds in the distance as of the heavy fall of water.
“That sounds pleasant,” said Cap, raising his head like some dog that hears a distant but familiar sound. “Those are waves, perhaps, breaking on the shore of your lake.”
“Not so—not so,” answered Pathfinder. “We are still some hours away from the fort and not close enough for that. It is simply the river falling over some rocks a little distance below.” “Is there a fall in the stream?” asked Mabel, the color rising to her cheeks.
“The devil, Mr. Pathfinder, or you, Mr. Western,” said sea­man Cap. “Hadn’t you better give the canoe a turn toward the shore? These falls are dangerous, and the water just above them always moves very fast.”
“Trust us, friend Cap,” answered Pathfinder, smiling in the direction of Jasper. “We are but fresh-water sailors, it is true— but we understand all about such matters. In going down the falls we will try not to disgrace ourselves or our education.”
“In going down them?” cried Cap. “The devil, now! You do not dream of going over a falls in this light canoe!”
“Yes,” said Pathfinder, drily. “It is much easier to shoot the falls than to remove all our things from the canoe, and then carry the canoe and everything else around a path of almost a mile.”
It was explained that Mabel, in the company of the Indians, would take the path, while only Cap, Pathfinder, and Jasper would remain to guide the canoe over the falls.
Under the circumstances, Cap could do little else but agree, though he continued to argue against such a plan. When the canoe was drawn up to the shore, and Mabel and the Indians left to take the path that led around the falls, Cap would prob­ably have preferred to go with them. However, the canoe was already moving downstream before he had time to consider such a move.
From a high rock near the shore Mabel watched the light boat and its three passengers as it picked up speed and moved quickly in the direction of the falls. Charles Cap was on his knees in the center of the boat, holding on with both hands to the sides. Pathfinder sat in the bow. Jasper Western guided the canoe from the back, where he stood holding the paddle.
Mabel could not help but admire the strong and rather noble figure of the young man as he cleverly turned the canoe first in one direction and then in another. Soon the canoe approached the falls and in another minute had shot through them. Charles Cap would probably have given anything he owned to be safe on shore again at this moment.
Yet, if he had known it, the trip was not nearly so dangerous as he had been led to believe. In the very center of the falls there was a narrow opening worn deep into the rocks by the waters that had flowed over them for perhaps hundreds of years. Jasper and Pathfinder had carefully guided the canoe through this opening. They had made the same trip many times before. The noise of the falls, of course, was very great. The canoe also seemed to be thrown in all directions at once, by the rush of the waters. The effect, therefore, upon anyone innocent of the true facts may well be imagined. But Pathfinder and Jasper had had their fun with old saltwater, as they called Cap, and they were well satisfied with their work. They never once mentioned any­thing to him about the opening in the center of the falls.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. What were the falls about which Pathfinder and Jasper had been speaking?
2. Why did Pathfinder tell Jasper to let the canoe float down­stream at first?
3. How did Pathfinder himself get into the canoe? What did they do then?
4. Describe the canoe in which they were traveling.
5. How were the six people seated in the canoe?
6. Describe the area through which they were traveling.
7. What sounds did they soon hear?
8. How were Mabel and the Indians going to pass the falls? What were the three white men going to do?
9. Who was in the front of the canoe? Who was in the back? Where was Cap?
10. Why wasn’t shooting the falls as dangerous as Cap believed it to be?
11. Why did it seem dangerous?
B.Use each of the following words in sentences of your own first as a noun and then as a verb:
drop            push                         care
form            control                     cover
point           paddle                       sound
C.Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
look for                              take care
turn around                    at once
Having now reached a point below the falls, the group drew near the place where Jasper, in his trip upstream with Pathfinder and the Big Serpent, had left his own canoe earlier in the day. It lay well hidden in the bushes. Mabel and the Indians soon arrived, and the whole party now entered the canoes again. Cap, Jasper and Mabel took their places in one canoe, and Pathfinder, Arrowhead and his wife in the other. The Mohican (Big Serpent) had already passed down the banks of the river by land, looking carefully, in true Indian style, for any signs of the enemy.
Mabel’s color did not again become natural until the canoe had moved well downstream. She had watched the passing of the falls by the three men with such fear, that for a time she .was unable to speak. Pathfinder called to her from the other canoe:
“Mabel,” he said, “you haven’t told us as yet what you thought of our jump over the falls.'’
“It was very dangerous,” said Mabel. “While looking at it, I was sorry that it had been tried. But now that it is over, I must say that you all proved yourselves to be very brave.”
“We did it for the best,” returned Pathfinder. “It was all for the best. If we had carried the canoe around the path, time would have been lost, and nothing is so valuable as time, when you are fighting the treacherous Mingos.”
“But we have little to be afraid of now,” answered Mabel.
“Isn’t that right? The canoes move quickly, and two hours, you have said, will carry us to the fort.”
“It will have to be a very clever Iroquois who hurts a hair of your head, pretty one. For all of us here are sworn to the sergeant and even to you, yourself, to see that you get safely to the fort. Ha, Jasper, what is that in the river, at the lower turn, below the bushes? I mean standing on the rocks.”
“It’s the Big Serpent, Pathfinder. He is making signs to us in a way I don’t understand.”
“It’s the Serpent, as sure as I’m a white man,” said Pathfinder. “And he wishes us to drop in nearer to the shore. Something must be wrong, or he would never take this trouble. But have no fear. We are all brave men and must meet such problems in a way that becomes us. Ah, I never knew any good to come of boasting. Just as I was mentioning the fact that we were about to arrive safely, this new danger comes up.”
Pathfinder had no sooner recognized his red friend than, with a strong stroke of the paddle, he moved the head of his own canoe toward the shore, leaving Jasper to follow. In a minute, both boats were silently floating down the stream within reach of the bushes that hung over the water. As the travelers drew near the Indian on the bank, he made a sign for them to stop; and then he and Pathfinder had a short and apparently serious conversation.
The Big Serpent had come upon the trail of some Mingos, and had found a pipe lying very close to the river. That it was a pipe belonging to a Mingo working for the French, rather than to some English soldier, was clearly established by the fact that a small, religious cross had been cut into the bowl. The pipe, when found, was still warm, and this proved that some­one had been smoking it not long before. The trail, therefore, must be considered a fresh one.
“That is close work. Where was the trail?” asked Pathfinder. The Mohican pointed to a spot just a few hundred feet from where they stood.
The matter now began to look serious, and the two guides talked for several minutes. Then they both climbed up the bank, approached the spot, and examined the trail all around with the greatest care. After a while the white man returned alone, his
Indian friend having disappeared in the forest. A heavy feeling of danger seemed to hang in the air.
“What news, Pathfinder?” asked Cap, permitting his voice, which was usually deep and loud, to fall almost to a whisper. “Has the enemy gotten between us and the fort?”
“There is a fresh Mingo trail not more than- a few hundred feet from this very spot. And if one of the devils has passed here, so have a dozen of them. What is worse, they have gone toward the fort, and not a person will approach it but that their sharp eyes will find it out. . . and bullets will follow.”
“But can’t the fort shoot off their cannon and clear out every Indian within a distance of several miles?”
“No, the fort here is not like those in the towns. Two or three light cannon are all they have, and to fire at a dozen Mingos well hidden in the forest, behind trees and bushes, is to waste one’s time. We have but one course open to us, and that is a clear one. We must try to draw the devils upstream. We are well placed here. Both canoes can easily be hidden by the high bank and bushes. Here we can remain without much present fear. But how to carry all of this out? I have it... if it does no good, we will lose nothing. Do you see that tall tree there, Jasper, at the last turn above us in the river—on our side of the stream, I mean?”
“That near the fallen trunk?”
“The very same. Now, move carefully along the bank and light a fire at that very spot. Maybe the smoke will draw them above us. Meanwhile, we will drop the canoes carefully down beyond that point below, and hide them in the bushes there. And Jasper, don’t hesitate to throw on plenty of wet wood. When smoke is needed, water helps to make it thick.”
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
1. Where was J asper’s own canoe?
2. How was the party now divided?
3. Why had Pathfinder decided they should shoot the falls?
4. How much longer did Mabel expect it would take them to reach the fort?
5. What did Big Serpent make signs for them to do?
6.What had Big Serpent come upon?
7.How did he know the trail was fresh?
8.What did Pathfinder find when he examined the trail?
9.Why couldn’t the fort clear out the Indians with its cannon?
10.What plan of action did Pathfinder suggest?
11.Why did he tell Jasper to throw wet wood on the fire?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
treacherous make signs to
boast             about to
hesitate             waste time
draw near carry out
be over              light a fire