“Here’s the wind, Anderson,” called out Jasper to the oldest of his sailors; “take the helm.”
This brief order was obeyed; the helm was put up, the cutter’s bows fell off, and in a few minutes the water was heard murmuring under her head, as the Scud glanced through the lake at the rate of five miles in the hour. All this passed in profound silence, when Jasper again gave the order to “ease off the sheets a little and keep her along the land.”
It was at this instant that the party from the after-cabin reappeared on the quarter-deck.
“You’ve no inclination, Jasper lad, to trust yourself too near our neighbours the French,” observed Muir, who took that occasion to recommence the discourse. “Well, well, your prudence will never be questioned by me, for I like the Canadas as little as you can possibly like them yourself.”
“I hug this shore, Mr. Muir, on account of the wind. The land-breeze is always freshest close in, provided you are not so near as to make a lee of the trees. We have Mexico Bay to cross; and that, on the present course, will give us quite offing enough.”
“I’m right glad it’s not the Bay of Mexico,” put in Cap, “which is a part of the world I would rather not visit in one of your inland craft. Does your cutter bear a weather helm, master Eau-douce?”
“She is easy on her rudder, master Cap; but likes looking up at the breeze as well as another, when in lively motion.”
“I suppose you have such things as reefs, though you can hardly have occasion to use them?”
Mabel’s bright eye detected the smile that gleamed for an instant on Jasper’s handsome face; but no one else saw that momentary exhibition of surprise and contempt.
“We have reefs, and often have occasion to use them,” quietly returned the young man. “Before we get in, Master Cap, an opportunity may offer to show you the manner in which we do so; for there is easterly weather brewing, and the wind cannot chop, even on the ocean itself, more readily than it flies round on Lake Ontario.”
“So much for knowing no better! I have seen the wind in the Atlantic fly round like a coach-wheel, in a way to keep your sails shaking for an hour, and the ship would become perfectly motionless from not knowing which way to turn.”
“We have no such sudden changes here, certainly,” Jasper mildly answered; “though we think ourselves liable to unexpected shifts of wind. I hope, however, to carry this land-breeze as far as the first islands; after which there will be less danger of our being seen and followed by any of the look-out boats from Frontenac.”
“Do you think the French keep spies out on the broad lake, Jasper?” inquired the Pathfinder.
“We know they do; one was off Oswego during the night of Monday last. A bark canoe came close in with the eastern point, and landed an Indian and an officer. Had you been outlying that night, as usual, we should have secured one, if not both of them.”