“It is true, it is true, Mabel, no one did as much then; but — yet there is no reason I should deny my gifts which come from Providence — yes, yes; no one did as much there, but you shall know what can be done here. Do you observe the gulls that are flying over our heads?”
“Certainly, Pathfinder; there are too many to escape notice.”
“Here, where they cross each other in sailing about,” he added, cocking and raising his rifle; “the two — the two. Now look!”
The piece was presented quick as thought, as two of the birds came in a line, though distant from each other many yards; the report followed, and the bullet passed through the bodies of both victims. No sooner had the gulls fallen into the lake, than Pathfinder dropped the butt-end of the rifle, and laughed in his own peculiar manner, every shade of dissatisfaction and mortified pride having left his honest face.
“That is something, Mabel, that is something; although I have no calash to give you! But ask Jasper himself; I’ll leave it all to Jasper, for a truer tongue and heart are not in America.”
“Then it was not Jasper’s fault that he gained the prize?”
“Not it. He did his best, and he did well. For one that has water gifts, rather than land gifts, Jasper is uncommonly expert, and a better backer no one need wish, ashore or afloat. But it was my fault, Mabel, that he got the calash; though it makes no difference — it makes no difference, for the thing has gone to the right person.”
“I believe I understand you, Pathfinder,” said Mabel, blushing in spite of herself, “and I look upon the calash as the joint gift of yourself and Jasper.”
“That would not be doing justice to the lad, neither. He won the garment, and had a right to give it away. The most you may think, Mabel, is to believe that, had I won it, it would have gone to the same person.”
“I will remember that, Pathfinder, and take care that others know your skill, as it has been proved upon the poor gulls in my presence.”
“Lord bless you, Mabel! there is no more need of your talking in favor of my shooting on this frontier, than of your talking about the water in the lake or the sun in the heavens. Everybody knows what I can do in that way, and your words would be thrown away, as much as French would be thrown away on an American bear.”
“Then you think that Jasper knew you were giving him this advantage, of which he had so unhandsomely availed himself?” said Mabel, the color which had imparted so much lustre to her eyes gradually leaving her face, which became grave and thoughtful.
“I do not say that, but very far from it. We all forget things that we have known, when eager after our wishes. Jasper is satisfied that I can pass one bullet through two potatoes, as I sent my bullet through the gulls; and he knows no other man on the frontier can do the same thing. But with the calash before his eyes, and the hope of giving it to you, the lad was inclined to think better of himself, just at that moment, perhaps, than he ought. No, no, there’s nothing mean or distrustful about Jasper Eau-douce, though it is a gift natural to all young men to wish to appear well in the eyes of handsome young women.”