29 FEBRUARY 1840, Page 18


A LEADING if not the leading characteristic of Mr. COOPER'S fic- tions, is to render sonic national class and natural features a main instead of a subordinate object. Indian, border, or nautical life, as in his best fictions—the alleged peculiarity of the Venetian oligarchy, in his Bravo—the operation of social prejudices, if a dislike to an executioner is to be accounted one, in his Headsman— together with the distinguishing characters of the scenery, and of the manners of the people amongst which the scenes are laid—seem always to have been his first thought; his story only the second. Hence, in despite of all his merits—and lie has the very consider. able merits of consistency, truth, reality, and character—there is a heaviness about his stories which causes them to drag in the perusal. We are called upon to admire landscapes, battles, fires, wrecks, tempests, savages, and savage warfare, as well as to listen to dialogue intended to develop character, whilst the fortunes of individuals are suspended-

" The play stands still; damn action and discourse ; Back fly the scenes, and enter foot and horse." Nor is this all. The purpose of the writer being something different from the true end of fiction, his choice of a story is fre- quently defective, either in the subject itself, or in its being un- equal to the length to which he spins it, or the importance he en- deavours to lead to it.

The Pathfinder partakes of the defect arising from this error; the interest of the tale itself being too slight, and the accesso- ries having too much resemblance to those of similar tales, for the space they are made to fill ; expanded as they are by digression, extraneous discourse, and a style of narrative or de- scription too critical in its exposition of causes to carry the reader along with the results. This might not have been felt had The Pathfinflpr been the first book of its class ; but, independ- ently of Mr. COOPER'S own novels, several other American writers have painted the character of the Red men, with the incidents of frontier war ; and their varieties being few, or the Pale Faces' know- ledge too scanty to murk them, the subject has the effect of an exhausted one. The novelist, indeed, has attempted to relieve this by the introduction of two peculiar characters. An old, ob- stinate, prejudiced tar, is brought into juxtaposition with the fresh- water sailors of the Lakes, and the Lakes themselves: in the Path- finder, so named from his skill in tracking, we have the picture of a just man—a philosopher of the woods, ignorant, simple, and con- fiding, in all beyond hunting and Indian warfhre, but with a mind trained to natural piety by solitude and the vast woods, and stur- dily bent upon doing right under all circumstances. These, how- ever, do not thoroughly fulfil the intention of the writer. The first is somewhat long-winded ; and his contempt of landsmen and inland waters is not the mere effect of a " sea-change," but of sea prejudices operating upon a crabbed and carping nature ; so that he is as often disagreeable as ludicrous. The moral peculiarities of the Pathfinder place him in a certain degree above, and there- fore beyond our sympathy. The story of The Pathfinder is simple; turtling upon the love of a young man and the redoubted hero himself for the same girl. The latter is urged on to the match by Mabel's father—a Sergeant in the frontier regiment, and an old companion of the huntstnan. Besides his claims for having saved the life of the farther, he also renders a similar service to the daughter more than once : in the moment of peril she promises her hand; and, from her own sense of right, and her respect for the Pathfinder's character, is ready to fulfil her pledge, and the Sergeant on his deathbed joins their hands. But the right-minded woodsman doubts the disparity of his years and manners ; and, discovering the passion of Jasper for Mabel, he resigns her to his rival, though with it he resigns the happiness of his lift.

This tale, though prettily managed, and with characters truly i drawn, is however only a vehicle lbr displaying American scenery and Indian and frontier manners before the Revolution. The greater part of the first volume consists of a journey through the wilderness to the garrison where the Sergeant is stationed ; the travellers being tracked by hostile Indians: and some of the passages of their imminent dangers and hairbreadth escapes are of a breathless interest. Passing over garrison life in a fort, with a shooting-match, the next great scene is a voyage and a storm on Lake Ontario; the danger being aggravated by the obstinacy of Old Cap the sailor. An attack upon an outpost by Indians, with the horrors of scalping and the excitement of danger and desperate defence, occupies the third volume, and prepares the catastrophe.

In each of these three great acts the heroes and the heroine are of course engaged, either doing or suffering; but, though elabo- rately drawn, it does not strike us that they are equal to some of the other characters, unless where they exhibit their professional skill, personifying as it were their caste. The Sergeant, in his military reserve and dignity, but his deep feeling—the treacherous Tuscarora chief and his submissive wife—and Captain Sanglier, the French adventurer, with his natural and acquired hardness and indifference, but with a conscience and a point of honour-- though all slight and subordinate persons, have more of ease and individuality.

During the earlier part of the journey, an amusement of Path- finder is to try the mettle of the Old Sailor by carrying him down a waterfall in a canoe. For this purpose, the Indians and women are landed; but Cap was stimulated to remain with the two boat- men, who wished to avoid a portage.


The injunction was olieyed, and in a few minutes the whole party had left the canoe, with the exception of Pathfinder and the two sailors. Notwithstaud. ing his professional pride, Cap would have gladly followed ; but lie did not like to exhibit so unequivocal a weakness in the presence of a fresh-water sailor.

" 1 call all hands to witness," he said, as those who had landed moved away, " that 1 do not look on this affair as any thing more than canoeing in the woods. There is no seamanship in tumbling over a waterfall, which is a feat

the greatest lubber can perform as well as the oldest mariner." * * *

The canoe was leaviug the shore, as he concluded, while Mabel went hur- riedly and trembling to the rock that had been pointed out, talking to her com- panion of the danger her uncle so unnecessarily tun, while her eyes were riveted on the agile and vigorous finm of Eau-1101sec, as he stood erect in the stern of the licht boat, governing its movements. As soon, however, as she reached a point where she got a nets of the fall, she gave an involuntary but suppressed scream, and covered her eyes. At the next instant the latter were again free, and the entranced girl stood immovable as a statue, a scarcely breathing observer of all that passed. The two Indians seated themselves passively on a log, hardly looking towards the stream, while the wife of Arrow- head came near Mahe', and appeared to watch the motions of the canoe with some such interest as a child regards the leaps of a tumbler. As soon as the boat was in the stream, Pathfinder sank on his knees, con. tinning to use the paddle, though it was slowly, and in a manner not to inter- fere with the efforts of his companion. The latter still stood erect ; and as he kept his eye on VIM object beyond the fall, it was evident that he was carefully looking for the stilt proper for their passage. " Further west, boy, further west," muttered Pathfinder ; " there where you see the water foam. Bring the top of the dead oak in it line with the stem of the blasted hemlock."

Eau-dunce made no answer; for the canoe was in the centre of the stream, with its head pointed towards the fall, and it had already begun to .1 aieken its motion by the increased fin-cc of the current. At that moment, Cap would cheerfully have renounced every claim to glory that could possibly be acquired. by the feat, to have been safe again on shore. Ile heard the roar of the water, thundering as it might lw, behind a screens, but becoming more and more dis- tinct, louder and louder ; and holism him he saw its true cutting the forest below, along which the p-t augry element seemed s:r .robed and :hissing, as if the particles were ahmo :l1,1 I heir principle of CO!1.-,1011. " Down with 3-our helm, down 1Vith vour helm, man " exclaimed, linable any longer to suppers his anxiety., as the canoe glided towards the edge of the

" Ay, ay, down it is, sure enough," answered Pathfinder, looking behind him for a single instant, with his silent joyous laugh—" down we go of a sartaiuty. Heave her start, up, boy ; further up with her stern."

The rest was like the passage of the viewless wind. Eau-donee gave the required sweep with Ids paddle, -the canoe glanced into the channel, and for a few seconds it seemed to Cap that he was tossing hi a caldron. lie felt the bow of the canoe tip, saw the raging foaming neater earicring madly by his side, was sensible that the light hi which he floated was tossed about like au egg-shell, and then, not legs to his great joy than to hi, sorprise„ he discovered that it was gliding across the basin of still water below the fall, under the steady impulse of Jasper's paddle. Cap now gave a tremendous hem felt for his queue, as if to ascertain its sathty, and then looked back it, order to examine the danger inc had gone through. His safety is easily explained. Most of the river fell perpendicularly ten or twelve feet; but near its maitre the force of the current had so 1hr worn away the rock, as to permit the water to shoot through a narrow passage at an angle of about forty-five degrees. Down this ticklish descent the canoe had glanced, amid fragments of broken rock, whirlpools, limns, and furious tossings of the element, which rut uninstructed eye would believe menaced inevitable destruction to an object so fragile. But the very lightness of the canoe had favoured its descent ; for, borne on the crests of the waves, and directed by a steady eye and an arm fhll of muscle, it had passed like a feather from one pile of foam to another, scarcely permitting its glossy side to be wetted. Thera were a few rocks to he avoided, this propr direction was to be rigidly observed, and the fierce current did the rest.

Here is a specimen of Uncle Cap in his milder moods.


" A charming sunset, Mabel," said the hearty voice ocher uncle, so close to the car of our heroine as to cause her to start ; " a charming son,,...t, girl, for fresh-water concern, though we should think but little of it at sea." " And is not nature the same on shore or at sea: on a lake like this or on the ocean i' does not the sun shine on all alike, dear uncle:' and can we not feel gratitude for the blessings of Providence, asstrongly on this remote frontier as in our own Manhattan " " The girl has fallen its with smie of her mother's books, though I should think the Sergeant would scarcely make a second unwell with such trumpery among his baggage. Is not nature the same, indeed ! NO1k, Mabel, do yea imagine that the nature of a sebum is the same as that of a seatitring-man? You've relations in both callings, 811(1 ought to be able to answer."

" But, uncle, I wan human nature—" " So do I, girl ; the human nature of a seamitss and the human nature of

one of these fellows of the not even excepting your own father. Here have they had a shooting inatch—target-firing, I should v it—this day; and what a different thing has it been from a target-liring afloat. There we should have sprung our broadside, sported with runnel-shut, at an object Ulla mile off, at the very nearest ; and the potatoes, if there happened to be any on board its quite likely would not have been the case, would have been left in the cook's coppers. It may bo an honourable calling, that of a soldier, Mabel; but an experienced hand sees many follies and weaknesses in one or these forts. As for that bit of a lake, von know my opinion of it already, and I wish to dis- parage nothing. No real seafarer disparages any thing; but d—me, if I regard.

this here Ontario, as they call it, as more than so much water in a ship's scuttle- butt. Now, look you here, Mabel, if you wish to understand the difference be- tween the ocean and a lake, I can make you comprehend it with a single look : this is what one may call a calm, seeing that there is no wind ; though, to own the truth, I do not think the calms are as calm as them we get outside." Uncle, there is not a breath of air. 1 do not think it possible for the leaves to be more immovably still, than those of the entire forest are at this very moment." Leaves, what are leaves, child ? there arc no leaves at sea. If you wish to know whether it is a dead calm or not, by a mould candle—your dips flaring too much; and then you may be certain whether there is or is not any wind. If you were in a latitude where the air was so still that you found a difficulty in stirring it to draw it in in breathing, you might fancy it a calm. People are often on a short allowance of air in the calm latitudes. Here, again, ]Deck at the water. It is like milk in a pan, with no more motion, now, than there is iu a full hogshead before the bung is started. On the ocean the water is never still, let the air be as quiet as it nifty." "The water of the ocean never still, Uncle Cap? not even in a calm ? " Bless your heart, no, child. The ocean breathes like a living being, and its bosom is always bearing, as the poetizers call it, though there be no inure air than is to he found in a siphon. No man ever saw the ocean still, like this hike; but it heaves and sets, as if it had lungs."


Cap preserved his coolness admirably. Ile had a profound and increasing respect for the power of the savages, and even for the majesty of fresh water, it is true ; but his apprehensions of the former proceeded more from his dread of being scalped and tortured, than from nay unmanly fear of death; and as he was now on the deck of a house, if not on the deck of a ship, and knew that there was little danger of hoarders, be moved about with a fearlessness and a rash exposure of his person, that Pathfinder, bad he been aware of the fact, would have been the first to condemn. Instead of keeping his body covered, agreeably to the usages of Indian warfare, lie was seen on every part of the roof, dashing the seater right and left, with the apparent steadiness and unconcern he would have manifested had he been a sail•trimmer exercising his art in a battle afloat. His appearance was one of the causes of the extra- military clamour among the assailants ; who, unused to see their enemies so reckless, opened upon bins with their tongues, like a pack that has the fi: in clew. Still he appeared to possess a charmed life ; for though the bullets whistled around bins on every side, and his clothes were several times torn, nothing cut his skin. When the shell passed through the logs below, the old sailor dropped his bucket, waved his hat, and gia e three cheers; in which heroic net he was employed as the dangerous missile exploded. This charac- teristic feat probably saved his life ; for, from that instant, the Indians ceased to tire at hint, and even to shoot their flaming arrows at the block, having taken up the notion simultaneously, and by common consent, that the " Salt- water" was mad; and it was a singular effect of their magnanimity, never to lift a baud against those whom they imagined devoid of reason.


The savages now ceased speaking, and the party that was concealed heard the slow and guarded movements of those who were on the bank, as they pushed

the bushes aside in their wary progress. It was soon evident that the latter had passed the cover ; but the group in the water still remained, scanning the shore with eyes that glared through their war-paint like coals of living lire. After a pause of two or three minutes, these three began also to descend the stream, though it was step by step, as men move who look for en object that has been lost. In this manlier they passed the artificial screen, and Path- finder opened his mouth in that hearty but noisele,,s laugh that nature and

habit had contributed to resider is peculiarity of ,y o. ;Nit). His triumph, how- ever, was premature: for the last of the retirint- ,virty, just at this moment Casting a look behind him, suddenly stopped ; urea his fixed attitude and steady gaze at once betrayed the appalling fart that some neglected bush had awakened his suspicions It was, perhaps, fortunate for the concealed, that the warrior who manifested these fearful signs of distrust was young, :nal had still a reputation to acquire. He knew the importance of diserotimi and modesty in one of his years, and most of all did he dread the ridicule and contempt that would certainly follow false alarm. Without recalling any of his companions, therefore, he turned on his own footsteps ; and while the others continued to descend the river, he cautiously approached the bushes on which his looks were still fitstened as by a charm. Seine of the leaves which were exposed to the sun had drooped a little, and this slight departure from the usual natural laws had caught the quick eye of the Indian ; for so practised and acute do the senses of the savage be- come, more especially when be is on the war-path, that trifles apparently of the most insignificant sort often prove to be clues to lead him to his object. The trifling nature of the change which had aroused the suspicion of this youth, was nu additional motive for not acquainting his companions with his discovery. Should he really detect any thing, his glory would be the greater for being unshared ; and should he not, he might hope to escape that derision which the young Indian so much threads. Then there were the dangers of an ambush and surprise, to which every warrior of the woods is keenly alive, to render his approach slow and cautious. In consequence of the delay that pro- ceeded from these combined causes, the two parties had descended sonic fifty or sixty yards before the young savage was again near enough to the hushes of the Pathfinder to touch them with his hand.

Notwithstanding their critical situation, the whole party behind the cover had their eyes fastened on the working countenance of the young lroquoise, who was agitated by conflicting feelings. First came the eager hope of ob- taining success where some of the most experienced of Isis tribe had failed, and with it a degree of glory that had seldom Wien to the share of one of his years or a brave on his first war-path; then followed doubts, as the drooping leaves Reined to rise again, and to revive in the currents of air ; and distrust of hid- den danger lent its exciting feeling to keep the eloquent features in play. So wry slight, however, had been the alteration produced by the beat on bushes of which the stems were in the water, that when the Iroquoise actually laid his hand on the leaves, he fancied that he had been deceived. As no man ever distrusts strongly without using all convenient means of satisfying his doubts, however, the young warrior cautiously pushed aside the branches, and advanced a step within the biding-place, when the forums of the concealed party met his gaze, resembling so numy breathless statues. The low exclamation, the slight start, and the glaring eye, were hardly seen and heard before the arm of Chin- gaehgook was raised, and the tomahawk of the Delaware descended on the sha- ven head of his foe. The lroquoise raised his hands frantically, bounded back- ward, and tell into the water at a spot where the current swept the body away, the struggling limbs still tossing and writhing in the agony of death. The Delaware made a vigorous but unsueeessful attempt to seize an arm, with the hope of securing the scalp ; but the 11 1 1wa.f ers whirled (loam the current, carrying with theist their quivering burden.