“Father,” she said quietly, almost with a holy calm, “God blesses the dutiful daughter.”
“He will, Mabel; we have the Good Book for that.”
“I will marry whomever you desire.”
“Nay, nay, Mabel, you may have a choice of your own — "
“I have no choice; that is, none have asked me to have a choice, but Pathfinder and Mr. Muir; and between them, neither of us would hesitate. No, father; I will marry whomever you may choose.”
“Thou knowest my choice, beloved child; none other can make thee as happy as the noble-hearted guide.”
“Well, then, if he wish it, if he ask me again — for, father, you would not have me offer myself, or that any one should do that office for me,” and the blood stole across the pallid cheeks of Mabel as she spoke, for high and generous resolutions had driven back the stream of life to her heart; “no one must speak to him of it; but if he seek me again, and, knowing all that a true girl ought to tell the man she marries, he then wishes to make me his wife, I will be his.”
“Bless you, my Mabel! God in heaven bless you, and reward you as a pious daughter deserves to be rewarded!”
“Yes, father, put your mind at peace; go on this expedition with a light heart, and trust in God. For me you will have now no care. In the spring — I must have a little time, father — but in the spring I will marry Pathfinder, if that noble-hearted hunter shall then desire it.”
“Mabel, he loves you as I loved your mother. I have seen him weep like a child when speaking of his feelings towards you.”
“Yes, I believe it; I’ve seen enough to satisfy me that he thinks better of me than I deserve; and certainly the man is not living for whom I have more respect than for Pathfinder; not even for you, dear father.”
“That is as it should be, child, and the union will be blessed. May I not tell Pathfinder this?”
“I would rather you would not, father. Let it come of itself, come naturally.” The smile that illuminated Mabel’s handsome face was angelic, as even her parent thought, though one better practised in detecting the passing emotions, as they betray themselves in the countenance, might have traced something wild and unnatural in it. “No, no, we must let things take their course; father, you have my solemn promise.”
“That will do, that will do, Mabel, now kiss me. God bless and protect you, girl! you are a good daughter.”
Mabel threw herself into her father’s arms — it was the first time in her life — and sobbed on his bosom like an infant. The stern soldier’s heart was melted, and the tears of the two mingled; but Sergeant Dunham soon started, as if ashamed of himself, and, gently forcing his daughter from him, he bade her good-night, and sought his pallet. Mabel went sobbing to the rude corner that had been prepared for her reception; and in a few minutes the hut was undisturbed by any sound, save the heavy breathing of the veteran.