“We are seriously situated, I believe, brother Cap,” said the Sergeant, when he had reached the spot, “by what I can gather from the two hands on the forecastle? They tell me the cutter cannot carry any more sail, and her drift is so great we shall go ashore in an hour or two. I hope their fears have deceived them?”
Cap made no reply; but he gazed at the land with a rueful face, and then looked to windward with an expression of ferocity, as if he would gladly have quarrelled with the weather.
“It may be well, brother,” the Sergeant continued, “to send for Jasper and consult him as to what is to be done. There are no French here to dread; and, under all circumstances, the boy will save us from drowning if possible.”
“Ay, ay, ’tis these cursed circumstances that have done all the mischief. But let the fellow come; let him come; a few well-managed questions will bring the truth out of him, I’ll warrant you.”
This acquiescence on the part of the dogmatical Cap was no sooner obtained, than Jasper was sent for. The young man instantly made his appearance, his whole air, countenance, and mien expressive of mortification, humility, and, as his observers fancied, rebuked deception. When he first stepped on deck, Jasper cast one hurried, anxious glance around, as if curious to know the situation of the cutter; and that glance sufficed, it would seem, to let him into the secret of all her perils. At first he looked to windward, as is usual with every seaman; then he turned round the horizon, until his eye caught a view of the high lands to leeward, when the whole truth burst upon him at once.
“I’ve sent for you, Master Jasper,” said Cap, folding his arms, and balancing his body with the dignity of the forecastle, “in order to learn something about the haven to leeward. We take it for granted you do not bear malice so hard as to wish to drown us all, especially the women; and I suppose you will be man enough to help us run the cutter into some safe berth until this bit of a gale has done blowing!”
“I would die myself rather than harm should come to Mabel Dunham,” the young man earnestly answered.
“I knew it! I knew it!” cried the Pathfinder, clapping his hand kindly on Jasper’s shoulder. “The lad is as true as the best compass that ever ran a boundary, or brought a man off from a blind trail. It is a mortal sin to believe otherwise.”
“Humph!” ejaculated Cap; “especially the women! As if they were in any particular danger. Never mind, young man; we shall understand each other by talking like two plain seamen. Do you know of any port under our lee?”
“None. There is a large bay at this end of the lake; but it is unknown to us all, and not easy of entrance.”
“And this coast to leeward — it has nothing particular to recommend it, I suppose?”
“It is a wilderness until you reach the mouth of the Niagara in one direction, and Frontenac in the other. North and west, they tell me, there is nothing but forest and prairies for a thousand miles.”