“It would need a great deal of testimony, Pathfinder, to make me think ill of you in any way, and more than all in the way you mention,” returned Mabel, coloring with the sincere earnestness with which she endeavored to remove any suspicion to the contrary from his mind. “Both father and daughter, I believe, owe you their lives, and believe me, that neither will ever forget it.”
“Thank you, Mabel, thank you with all my heart. But I will not take advantage of your ignorance neither, girl, and therefore shall say, I do not think the Mingos would have hurt a hair of your head, had they succeeded by their devilries and contrivances in getting you into their hands. My scalp, and Jasper’s, and Master Cap’s there, and the Sarpent’s too, would sartainly have been smoked; but as for the Sergeant’s daughter, I do not think they would have hurt a hair of her head.”
“And why should I suppose that enemies, known to spare neither women nor children, would have shown more mercy to me than to another? I feel, Pathfinder, that I owe you my life.”
“I say nay, Mabel; they wouldn’t have had the heart to hurt you. No, not even a fiery Mingo devil would have had the heart to hurt a hair of your head. Bad as I suspect the vampires to be, I do not suspect them of anything so wicked as that. They might have wished you, nay, forced you to become the wife of one of their chiefs, and that would be torment enough to a Christian young woman; but beyond that I do not think even the Mingos themselves would have gone.”
“Well, then, I shall owe my escape from this great misfortune to you,” said Mabel, taking his hard hand into her own frankly and cordially, and certainly in a way to delight the honest guide. “To me it would be a lighter evil to be killed than to become the wife of an Indian.”
“That is her gift, Sergeant,” exclaimed Pathfinder, turning to his old comrade with gratification written on every lineament of his honest countenance, “and it will have its way. I tell the Sarpent that no Christianizing will ever make even a Delaware a white man; nor any whooping and yelling convert a pale-face into a red-skin. That is the gift of a young woman born of Christian parents, and it ought to be maintained.”
“You are right, Pathfinder; and so far as Mabel Dunham is concerned, it shall be maintained. But it is time to break your fasts; and if you will follow me, brother Cap, I will show you how we poor soldiers live here on a distant frontier.”
Now, my co-mates and partners in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam.
As You Like It.