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ticular thrust itself forward in such a manner as to form beauti fully curved bays of snow on either side. On its extreme end a mighty oak stretched forward, as if to overshadow, with its branches, a spot which its roots were forbidden to enter. It had released itself from the thraldom, that a growth of centuries had imposed on the branches of the surrounding forest-trees, and threw its gnarled and fantastic arms abroad, in all the wildness of unrestrained liberty.
A dark spot of a few acres in extent at the southern extremity of this beautiful flat, and immediately under the feet of our travellers, alone showed, by its rippling surface, and the vapors which exhaled from it, that what at first might seem a plain, was one of the mountain lakes, locked in the frosts of winter. A narrow current rushed impetuously from its bosom at the open place we have mentioned, and might be traced for a few miles, as it wound its way towards the south through the real valley, by its borders of hemlock and pine, and by the vapor which arose from its warmer surface into the chill atmosphere of the hills. The banks of this lovely basin, at its outlet, or southern end, were steep but not high; and in that direction the land continued for many miles a narrow but level plain, along which the settlers had scattered their humble habitations, with a profusion that bespoke the quality of the soil, and the comparative facili ties of intercourse.
The following abridged extract will convey an idea of the more racy and characteristic parts of the work:
THE ancient amusement of shooting the Christmas turkey, is one of the few sports that the settlers of a new country seldom or never neglect to observe. It was connected with the daily practices of a people, who often laid aside the ax or the scythe to seize the rifle, as the deer glided through the forests they were felling, or the bear entered their rough meadows to scent the air of a clearing, and to scan, with a look of sagacity, the progress of the invader.
On the present occasion, the usual amusement of the day had been a little hastened, in order to allow a fair opportunity to Mr. Grant, whose exhibition was not less a treat to the young sportsmen, than the one which engaged their present attention. The
owner of the birds was a free black, who had been preparing for the occasion a collection of game that was admirably qualified to inflame the appetite of an epicure, and was well adapted to the means and skill of the different competitors, who were of all ages. The order of the sports was extremely simple, and well understood. The bird was fastened by a string of tow, to the base of a stump of a large pine, the side of which, towards the point where the marksmen were placed, had been flattened with an ax, in order that it might serve the purpose of a target, by which the merit of each individual might be ascertained. The distance between the stump and this point was one hundred measured yards: a foot more or a foot less being thought an invasion of the right of one of the parties. The negro affixed his own price to every bird, and the terms of the chance. but when these were once established, he was obliged, by the strict principles of public justice that prevailed in the country, to admit any adventurer who might offer.
The throng consisted of some twenty or thirty young men, most of whom had rifles, and a collection of all the boys in the village. The little urchins, clad in coarse but warm garments, stood gathered around the more distinguished marksmen, with their hands stuck under their waistbands, listening eagerly to the boastful stories of the skill that had been exhibited on former occasions, and were already emulating in their hearts these wonderful deeds in gunnery.
The chief speaker was the man who had been mentioned by Natty (Leatherstocking) as Billy Kirby. This fellow, whose occupation, when he did not labor, was that of clearing lands, or chopping jobs, was of great stature, and carried in his very air, the index of his character. He was a noisy, boisterous, reckless lad, whose good-natured eye contradicted the bluntness and bullying tenor of his speech.
Between him and the Leatherstocking there had long existed a jealous rivalry, on the point of their respective skill in shooting. Notwithstanding the long practice of Natty, it was commonly supposed that the steady nerves and quick eye of the woodchopper rendered him his equal. Their competition had, however, been confined hitherto to boastings, and comparisons made from their successes in their various hunting excursions: but this was the first time that they had ever come in open collision. The turkey was already fastened at the "mark," but its body
was entirely hid by the surrounding snow, nothing being visible but its red swelling head, and long proud neck. If the bird was .njured by any bullet that struck below the snow, it was still to continue the property of its present owner, but if a feather was touched in a visible part, the animal became the prize of the successful adventurer.
"Stand out of the way there, boys!" cried the wood-chopper, who was placing himself at the shooting-point—“stand out of the way, you little rascals, or I will shoot through you. Now, Brom (the negro), you may say good-bye to that turkey."
"Don't be boasting, Billy Kirby," said Natty, throwing the breech of his rifle into the snow, and leaning on its barrel. "Maybe it's true that I can't shoot as I used to could, but a hundred yards is but a short distance for a long rifle.”
What, old Leatherstocking, are you out this morning?" cried his reckless opponent. "Well, fair play's a jewel. But I've the lead of you, old fellow; so here goes, for a dry throat or a good dinner."
The countenance of the negro evinced not only all the interest which his pecuniary adventure might occasion, but also the keen excitement that the sport produced in the others, though with a very different wish as to the result. While the wood-chopper was slowly and steadily raising his rifle, he exclaimed-" Fair play-Billy Kirby-stand back-make 'em stand back, boysgib a nigger fair play—poss-up-gobbler; shake a head, fool; don't a see 'em pokin gun at 'em?"
These cries, which were intended as much to distract the attention of the marksman, as for anything else, were, however, fruitless. The nerves of the wood-chopper were not so easily shaken, and he took his aim with the utmost deliberation. The dead stillness of expectation prevailed for a moment, and he fired. The head of the turkey was seen to dash on one side, and its wings were spread in momentary fluttering; but it settled itself down calmly into its bed of snow, and glanced its eyes uneasily around. For a time long enough to draw a deep breath not a Bound was heard. The silence was then broken by the noise of the negro, who laughed, and shook his body, with all kinds of antics, rolling over in the snow with the excess of his delight.
The mirth of Brom vanished the instant that Natty took his stand. By this time the old hunter was ready for his business, and throwing his right leg far behind him, and stretching his left
arm along the barrel of his piece, he raised it towards the bird Every eye glanced rapidly from the marksman to the mark, but at the moment when each ear was expecting the report of the rifle, they were disappointed by the ticking sound of the flint only.
"A snap-a snap," shouted the negro, springing from his crouching posture, like a madman, before his bird. "A snap as good as a fire-Natty Bumppo gun he snap-Natty Bunppo miss a turkey!"
"Natty Bumppo hit a nigger," said the indignant old hunter, "if you don't get out of the way, Brom. It's contrary to the reason of the thing, boy, that a snap should count for a fire, when one is nothing more than a fire-stone striking a steel pan, and the other is good lead, ay! and with a good aim; so get out of my way, boy, and let me show Billy Kirby how to shoot a Christmas turkey."
"Gib a nigger fair play!" cried the black, who continued resolutely to maintain his post. Ebbery body know that snap as good as fire. Leab it to lady."
"Sartain," said the wood-chopper; "it's the law of the game in this part of the country, Leatherstocking. If you fire agin, you must pay up the other shilling. I b'lieve I'll try luck once more myself; so, Brom, here's my money, and I take the next fire."
"It's likely you know the laws of the woods better than I do, Billy Kirby!" returned Natty. "You come in with the settlers, with an ox-goad in your hand, and I come in with moccasins on my feet, and with a good rifle on my shoulder, so long back as afore the old war. Which is likely to know the best? I say no man need tell me that snapping is as good as firing, when I pull the trigger. I think Miss Elizabeth's thoughts should be taken. I've known the squaws give very good counsel when the Indians have been dumb-founded in their notions. If she says that I ought to lose, I agree to give it up."
"Then I adjudge you to be a loser, for this time,” said Miss Temple; "but pay your money, and renew your chance; unless Brom will sell me the bird for a dollar. I will give him the money, and save the life of the poor victim."
This proposition was evidently but little relished by any of the listeners, even the negro feeling unwilling to lose the sport, though he lost his turkey. In the meanwhile, as Billy Kirby was preparing himself for another shot, Natty left the goal with
an extremely dissatisfied manner, muttering to himself and speaking aloud:
"There hasn't been such a thing as a good flint sold at the foot of the lake since the time when the Indian traders used to come into the country; and if a body should go into the flats along the streams in the hills to hunt for such a thing, it's ten to one but they will be all covered up with the plough. Heigho! it seems to me that just as the game grows scarce, and a body wants the best of ammunition, to get a livelihood, everything that's bad falls on him like a judgment. But I'll change the stone, for Billy Kirby hasn't the eye for such a mark, I know."
The wood-chopper seemed now entirely sensible that his reputation in a great measure depended on his care; nor did he neglect any means to insure his success. He drew up his rifle and renewed his aim again and again, still appearing reluctant to fire. No sound was heard from even Brom during these portentous movements, until Kirby discharged his piece, with the same want of success as before. Then, indeed, the shouts of the negro rung through the bushes, and sounded among the trees of the neighboring forest like the outcries of a tribe of Indians. He laughed, rolling his head, first on one side, then on the other, until nature seemed exhausted with mirth. He danced, until his legs were wearied with motion, in the snow; and, in short, he exhibited all that violence of joy that characterizes the mirth of a thoughtless negro.
"Look this a-way, Billy Kirby," said Leatherstocking, “and let them clear the mark, and I'll show you a man who's made better shots afore now, and that when he's been hard pressed by the savages and wild beasts."
Although Natty Bumppo had certainly made hundreds of more momentous shots at his enemies or his game, yet he never exerted himself more to excel. He raised his piece three several times; once to get his range, once to calculate his distance, and once because the bird, alarmed by the deathlike stillness that prevailed, turned its head quickly to examine its foes. But the fourth time he fired.
The smoke, the report, and the momentary shock, prevented most of the spectators from instantly knowing the result; but Elizabeth, when she saw her champion drop the end of his rifle in the snow, and open his mouth in one of its silent laughs, and then proceed very coolly to recharge his piece, knew that he