The Pathfinder had no sooner recognized the form of his red friend, than, with a strong sweep of his paddle, he threw the head of his own canoe towards the shore, motioning for Jasper to follow. In a minute both boats were silently drifting down the stream, within reach of the bushes that overhung the water, all observing a profound silence; some from alarm, and others from habitual caution. As the travellers drew nearer the Indian, he made a sign for them to stop; and then he and Pathfinder had a short but earnest conference.
“The Chief is not apt to see enemies in a dead log,” observed the white man to his red associate; “why does he tell us to stop?”
“Mingos are in the woods.”
“That we have believed these two days: does the chief know it?”
The Mohican quietly held up the head of a pipe formed of stone.
“It lay on a fresh trail that led towards the garrison,” — for so it was the usage of that frontier to term a military work, whether it was occupied or not.
“That may be the bowl of a pipe belonging to a soldier. Many use the red-skin pipes.”
“See,” said the Big Serpent, again holding the thing he had found up to the view of his friend.
The bowl of the pipe was of soap-stone, and was carved with great care and with a very respectable degree of skill; in its centre was a small Latin cross, made with an accuracy which permitted no doubt of its meaning.
“That does foretell devilry and wickedness,” said the Pathfinder, who had all the provincial horror of the holy symbol in question which then pervaded the country, and which became so incorporated with its prejudices, by confounding men with things, as to have left its traces strong enough on the moral feeling of the community to be discovered even at the present hour; “no Indian who had not been parvarted by the cunning priests of the Canadas would dream of carving a thing like that on his pipe. I’ll warrant ye, the knave prays to the image every time he wishes to sarcumvent the innocent, and work his fearful wickedness. It looks fresh, too, Chingachgook?”
“The tobacco was burning when I found it.”
“That is close work, chief. Where was the trail?”
The Mohican pointed to a spot not a hundred yards from that where they stood.
The matter now began to look very serious, and the two principal guides conferred apart for several minutes, when both ascended the bank, approached the indicated spot, and examined the trail with the utmost care. After this investigation had lasted a quarter of an hour, the white man returned alone, his red friend having disappeared in the forest.
The ordinary expression of the countenance of the Pathfinder was that of simplicity, integrity, and sincerity, blended in an air of self-reliance which usually gave great confidence to those who found themselves under his care; but now a look of concern cast a shade over his honest face, that struck the whole party.