The occurrences of the last few days had been too exciting, and had made too many demands on the fortitude of our heroine, to leave her in the helplessness of grief. She mourned for her father, and she occasionally shuddered as she recalled the sudden death of Jennie, and all the horrible scenes she had witnessed; but on the whole she had aroused herself, and was no longer in the deep depression which usually accompanies grief. Perhaps the overwhelming, almost stupefying sorrow that crushed poor June, and left her for nearly twenty-four hours in a state of stupor, assisted Mabel in conquering her own feelings, for she had felt called on to administer consolation to the young Indian woman. This she had done in the quiet, soothing, insinuating way in which her sex usually exerts its influence on such occasions.
The morning of the third day was set for that on which the Scud was to sail. Jasper had made all his preparations; the different effects were embarked, and Mabel had taken leave of June, a painful and affectionate parting. In a word, all was ready, and every soul had left the island but the Indian woman, Pathfinder, Jasper, and our heroine. The former had gone into a thicket to weep, and the three last were approaching the spot where three canoes lay, one of which was the property of June, and the other two were in waiting to carry the others off to the Scud. Pathfinder led the way, but, when he drew near the shore, instead of taking the direction to the boats, he motioned to his companions to follow, and proceeded to a fallen tree which lay on the margin of the glade and out of view of those in the cutter. Seating himself on the trunk, he signed to Mabel to take her place on one side of him and to Jasper to occupy the other.
“Sit down here Mabel; sit down there, Eau-douce,” he commenced, as soon as he had taken his own seat. “I’ve something that lies heavy on my mind, and now is the time to take it off, if it’s ever to be done. Sit down, Mabel, and let me lighten my heart, if not my conscience, while I’ve the strength to do it.”
The pause that succeeded lasted two or three minutes, and both the young people wondered what was to come next; the idea that Pathfinder could have any weight on his conscience seeming equally improbable to each.
“Mabel,” our hero at length resumed, “we must talk plainly to each other afore we join your uncle in the cutter, where the Saltwater has slept every night since the last rally, for he says it’s the only place in which a man can be sure of keeping the hair on his head, he does. Ah’s me! What have I to do with these follies and sayings now? I try to be pleasant, and to feel light-hearted, but the power of man can’t make water run up stream. Mabel, you know that the Sergeant, afore he left us, had settled it ’atween us two that we were to become man and wife, and that we were to live together and to love one another as long as the Lord was pleased to keep us both on ’arth; yes, and afterwards too?”