“A charming sunset, Mabel!” said the hearty voice of her uncle, so close to the ear of our heroine as to cause her to start, — “a charming sunset, girl, for a fresh-water concern, though we should think but little of it at sea.”
“And is not nature the same on shore or at sea — on a lake like this or on the ocean? Does not the sun shine on all alike, dear uncle; and can we not feel gratitude for the blessings of Providence as strongly on this remote frontier as in our own Manhattan?”
“The girl has fallen in with some of her mother’s books. Is not nature the same, indeed! Now, Mabel, do you imagine that the nature of a soldier is the same as that of a seafaring man? You’ve relations in both callings, and ought to be able to answer.”
“But uncle, I mean human nature.”
“So do I, girl; the human nature of a seaman, and the human nature of one of these fellows of the 55th, not even excepting your own father. Here have they had a shooting-match — target-firing I should call it — this day, and what a different thing has it been from a target-firing afloat! There we should have sprung our broadside, sported with round shot, at an object half a mile off, at the very nearest; and the potatoes, if there happened to be any on board, as very likely would not have been the case, would have been left in the cook’s coppers. It may be an honorable calling, that of a soldier, Mabel; but an experienced hand sees many follies and weaknesses in one of these forts. As for that bit of a lake, you know my opinion of it already, and I wish to disparage nothing. No real seafarer disparages anything; but, d—– me, if I regard this here Ontario, as they call it, as more than so much water in a ship’s scuttle-butt. Now, look you here, Mabel, if you wish to understand the difference between the ocean and a lake, I can make you comprehend it with a single look: this is what one may call a calm, seeing that there is no wind; though, to own the truth, I do not think the calms are as calm as them we get outside — "
“Uncle, there is not a breath of air. I do not think it possible for the leaves to be more immovably still than those of the entire forest are at this very moment.”
“Leaves! what are leaves, child? there are no leaves at sea. If you wish to know whether it is a dead calm or not, try a mould candle, — your dips flaring too much, —and then you may be certain whether there is or is not any wind. If you were in a latitude where the air was so still that you found a difficulty in stirring it to draw it in in breathing, you might fancy it a calm. People are often on a short allowance of air in the calm latitudes. Here, again, look at that water! It is like milk in a pan, with no more motion now than there is in a full hogshead before the bung is started. On the ocean the water is never still, let the air be as quiet as it may.”
“The water of the ocean never still, Uncle Cap? not even in a calm?”