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Title: The Deerslayer
Author: Cooper, James Fenimore
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE DEERSLAYER

By James Fenimore Cooper



Chapter I.


    “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
    There is a rapture on the lonely shore.
    There is society where none intrudes,
    By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
    I love not man the less, but nature more,
    From these our interviews, in which I steal
    From all I may be, or have been before,
    To mingle with the universe, and feel
    What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal”

    Childe Harold.

On the human imagination events produce the effects of time. Thus, he
who has travelled far and seen much is apt to fancy that he has lived
long; and the history that most abounds in important incidents soonest
assumes the aspect of antiquity. In no other way can we account for the
venerable air that is already gathering around American annals. When the
mind reverts to the earliest days of colonial history, the period seems
remote and obscure, the thousand changes that thicken along the links
of recollections, throwing back the origin of the nation to a day so
distant as seemingly to reach the mists of time; and yet four lives of
ordinary duration would suffice to transmit, from mouth to mouth, in the
form of tradition, all that civilized man has achieved within the
limits of the republic. Although New York alone possesses a population
materially exceeding that of either of the four smallest kingdoms of
Europe, or materially exceeding that of the entire Swiss Confederation,
it is little more than two centuries since the Dutch commenced their
settlement, rescuing the region from the savage state. Thus, what seems
venerable by an accumulation of changes is reduced to familiarity when
we come seriously to consider it solely in connection with time.

This glance into the perspective of the past will prepare the reader to
look at the pictures we are about to sketch, with less surprise than he
might otherwise feel; and a few additional explanations may carry him
back in imagination to the precise condition of society that we desire
to delineate. It is matter of history that the settlements on the
eastern shores of the Hudson, such as Claverack, Kinderhook, and even
Poughkeepsie, were not regarded as safe from Indian incursions a century
since; and there is still standing on the banks of the same river, and
within musket-shot of the wharves of Albany, a residence of a younger
branch of the Van Rensselaers, that has loopholes constructed for
defence against the same crafty enemy, although it dates from a period
scarcely so distant. Other similar memorials of the infancy of the
country are to be found, scattered through what is now deemed the very
centre of American civilization, affording the plainest proofs that all
we possess of security from invasion and hostile violence is the growth
of but little more than the time that is frequently fulfilled by a
single human life.

The incidents of this tale occurred between the years 1740 and 1745,
when the settled portions of the colony of New York were confined to
the four Atlantic counties, a narrow belt of country on each side of the
Hudson, extending from its mouth to the falls near its head, and to
a few advanced “neighborhoods” on the Mohawk and the Schoharie. Broad
belts of the virgin wilderness not only reached the shores of the first
river, but they even crossed it, stretching away into New England, and
affording forest covers to the noiseless moccasin of the native warrior,
as he trod the secret and bloody war-path. A bird’s-eye view of the
whole region east of the Mississippi must then have offered one
vast expanse of woods, relieved by a comparatively narrow fringe of
cultivation along the sea, dotted by the glittering surfaces of lakes,
and intersected by the waving lines of river. In such a vast picture of
solemn solitude, the district of country we design to paint sinks into
insignificance, though we feel encouraged to proceed by the conviction
that, with slight and immaterial distinctions, he who succeeds in giving
an accurate idea of any portion of this wild region must necessarily
convey a tolerably correct notion of the whole.

seasons is unbroken. Summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, return in
their stated order with a sublime precision, affording to man one of the
noblest of all the occasions he enjoys of proving the high powers of
his far-reaching mind, in compassing the laws that control their exact
uniformity, and in calculating their never-ending revolutions.

Centuries of summer suns had warmed the tops of the same noble oaks and
pines, sending their heats even to the tenacious roots, when voices were
heard calling to each other, in the depths of a forest, of which the
leafy surface lay bathed in the brilliant light of a cloudless day
in June, while the trunks of the trees rose in gloomy grandeur in the
shades beneath. The calls were in different tones, evidently proceeding
from two men who had lost their way, and were searching in different
directions for their path. At length a shout proclaimed success, and
presently a man of gigantic mould broke out of the tangled labyrinth
of a small swamp, emerging into an opening that appeared to have been
formed partly by the ravages of the wind, and partly by those of fire.
This little area, which afforded a good view of the sky, although it was
pretty well filled with dead trees, lay on the side of one of the high
hills, or low mountains, into which nearly the whole surface of the
adjacent country was broken.

“Here is room to breathe in!” exclaimed the liberated forester, as soon
as he found himself under a clear sky, shaking his huge frame like a
mastiff that has just escaped from a snowbank. “Hurrah! Deerslayer; here
is daylight, at last, and yonder is the lake.”

These words were scarcely uttered when the second forester dashed
aside the bushes of the swamp, and appeared in the area. After making
a hurried adjustment of his arms and disordered dress, he joined his
companion, who had already begun his disposition for a halt.

“Do you know this spot!” demanded the one called Deerslayer, “or do you
shout at the sight of the sun?”

“Both, lad, both; I know the spot, and am not sorry to see so useful
a fri’nd as the sun. Now we have got the p’ints of the compass in our
minds once more, and ‘t will be our own faults if we let anything turn
them topsy-turvy ag’in, as has just happened. My name is not Hurry
Harry, if this be not the very spot where the land-hunters camped the
last summer, and passed a week. See I yonder are the dead bushes of
their bower, and here is the spring. Much as I like the sun, boy, I’ve
no occasion for it to tell me it is noon; this stomach of mine is as
good a time-piece as is to be found in the colony, and it already p’ints
to half-past twelve. So open the wallet, and let us wind up for another
six hours’ run.”

At this suggestion, both set themselves about making the preparations
necessary for their usual frugal but hearty meal. We will profit by this
pause in the discourse to give the reader some idea of the appearance of
the men, each of whom is destined to enact no insignificant part in our
legend.

It would not have been easy to find a more noble specimen of vigorous
manhood than was offered in the person of him who called himself Hurry
Harry. His real name was Henry March but the frontiersmen having caught
the practice of giving sobriquets from the Indians, the appellation of
Hurry was far oftener applied to him than his proper designation, and
not unfrequently he was termed Hurry Skurry, a nickname he had obtained
from a dashing, reckless offhand manner, and a physical restlessness
that kept him so constantly on the move, as to cause him to be known
along the whole line of scattered habitations that lay between the
province and the Canadas. The stature of Hurry Harry exceeded six feet
four, and being unusually well proportioned, his strength fully realized
the idea created by his gigantic frame. The face did no discredit to the
rest of the man, for it was both good-humored and handsome. His air was
free, and though his manner necessarily partook of the rudeness of a
border life, the grandeur that pervaded so noble a physique prevented it
from becoming altogether vulgar.

Deerslayer, as Hurry called his companion, was a very different person
in appearance, as well as in character. In stature he stood about
six feet in his moccasins, but his frame was comparatively light and
slender, showing muscles, however, that promised unusual agility, if not
unusual strength. His face would have had little to recommend it except
youth, were it not for an expression that seldom failed to win upon
those who had leisure to examine it, and to yield to the feeling of
confidence it created. This expression was simply that of guileless
truth, sustained by an earnestness of purpose, and a sincerity of
feeling, that rendered it remarkable. At times this air of integrity
seemed to be so simple as to awaken the suspicion of a want of the
usual means to discriminate between artifice and truth; but few came in
serious contact with the man, without losing this distrust in respect
for his opinions and motives.

Both these frontiersmen were still young, Hurry having reached the
age of six or eight and twenty, while Deerslayer was several years his
junior. Their attire needs no particular description, though it may
be well to add that it was composed in no small degree of dressed
deer-skins, and had the usual signs of belonging to those who pass their
time between the skirts of civilized society and the boundless forests.
There was, notwithstanding, some attention to smartness and the
picturesque in the arrangements of Deerslayer’s dress, more particularly
in the part connected with his arms and accoutrements. His rifle was in
perfect condition, the handle of his hunting-knife was neatly carved,
his powder-horn was ornamented with suitable devices lightly cut into
the material, and his shot-pouch was decorated with wampum.

On the other hand, Hurry Harry, either from constitutional recklessness,
or from a secret consciousness how little his appearance required
artificial aids, wore everything in a careless, slovenly manner, as
if he felt a noble scorn for the trifling accessories of dress and
ornaments. Perhaps the peculiar effect of his fine form and great
stature was increased rather than lessened, by this unstudied and
disdainful air of indifference.

“Come, Deerslayer, fall to, and prove that you have a Delaware stomach,
as you say you have had a Delaware edication,” cried Hurry, setting the
example by opening his mouth to receive a slice of cold venison steak
that would have made an entire meal for a European peasant; “fall to,
lad, and prove your manhood on this poor devil of a doe with your teeth,
as you’ve already done with your rifle.”

“Nay, nay, Hurry, there’s little manhood in killing a doe, and that too
out of season; though there might be some in bringing down a painter
or a catamount,” returned the other, disposing himself to comply. “The
Delawares have given me my name, not so much on account of a bold heart,
as on account of a quick eye, and an actyve foot. There may not be any
cowardyce in overcoming a deer, but sartain it is, there’s no great
valor.”

“The Delawares themselves are no heroes,” muttered Hurry through his
teeth, the mouth being too full to permit it to be fairly opened, “or
they would never have allowed them loping vagabonds, the Mingos, to make
them women.”

“That matter is not rightly understood--has never been rightly
explained,” said Deerslayer earnestly, for he was as zealous a friend as
his companion was dangerous as an enemy; “the Mengwe fill the woods with
their lies, and misconstruct words and treaties. I have now lived ten
years with the Delawares, and know them to be as manful as any other
nation, when the proper time to strike comes.”

“Harkee, Master Deerslayer, since we are on the subject, we may as
well open our minds to each other in a man-to-man way; answer me one
question; you have had so much luck among the game as to have gotten
a title, it would seem, but did you ever hit anything human or
intelligible: did you ever pull trigger on an inimy that was capable of
pulling one upon you?”

This question produced a singular collision between mortification and
correct feeling, in the bosom of the youth, that was easily to be traced
in the workings of his ingenuous countenance. The struggle was short,
however; uprightness of heart soon getting the better of false pride and
frontier boastfulness.

“To own the truth, I never did,” answered Deerslayer; “seeing that a
fitting occasion never offered. The Delawares have been peaceable since
my sojourn with ‘em, and I hold it to be onlawful to take the life of
man, except in open and generous warfare.”

“What! did you never find a fellow thieving among your traps and
skins, and do the law on him with your own hands, by way of saving the
magistrates trouble in the settlements, and the rogue himself the cost
of the suit!”

“I am no trapper, Hurry,” returned the young man proudly: “I live by the
rifle, a we’pon at which I will not turn my back on any man of my years,
atween the Hudson and the St. Lawrence. I never offer a skin that has
not a hole in its head besides them which natur’ made to see with or to
breathe through.”

“Ay, ay, this is all very well, in the animal way, though it makes but a
poor figure alongside of scalps and ambushes. Shooting an Indian from an
ambush is acting up to his own principles, and now we have what you call
a lawful war on our hands, the sooner you wipe that disgrace off your
character, the sounder will be your sleep; if it only come from knowing
there is one inimy the less prowling in the woods. I shall not frequent
your society long, friend Natty, unless you look higher than four-footed
beasts to practice your rifle on.”

“Our journey is nearly ended, you say, Master March, and we can part
to-night, if you see occasion. I have a fri’nd waiting for me, who will
think it no disgrace to consort with a fellow-creatur’ that has never
yet slain his kind.”

“I wish I knew what has brought that skulking Delaware into this part of
the country so early in the season,” muttered Hurry to himself, in a way
to show equally distrust and a recklessness of its betrayal. “Where did
you say the young chief was to give you the meeting?”

“At a small round rock, near the foot of the lake, where they tell me,
the tribes are given to resorting to make their treaties, and to bury
their hatchets. This rock have I often heard the Delawares mention,
though lake and rock are equally strangers to me. The country is claimed
by both Mingos and Mohicans, and is a sort of common territory to
fish and hunt through, in time of peace, though what it may become in
war-time, the Lord only knows!”

“Common territory” exclaimed Hurry, laughing aloud. “I should like to
know what Floating Tom Hutter would say to that! He claims the lake as
his own property, in vartue of fifteen years’ possession, and will not
be likely to give it up to either Mingo or Delaware without a battle for
it!”

“And what will the colony say to such a quarrel--all this country must
have some owner, the gentry pushing their cravings into the wilderness,
even where they never dare to ventur’, in their own persons, to look at
the land they own.”

“That may do in other quarters of the colony, Deerslayer, but it will
not do here. Not a human being, the Lord excepted, owns a foot of sile
in this part of the country. Pen was never put to paper consarning
either hill or valley hereaway, as I’ve heard old Tom say time and
ag’in, and so he claims the best right to it of any man breathing; and
what Tom claims, he’ll be very likely to maintain.”

“By what I’ve heard you say, Hurry, this Floating Tom must be an
oncommon mortal; neither Mingo, Delaware, nor pale-face. His possession,
too, has been long, by your tell, and altogether beyond frontier
endurance. What’s the man’s history and natur’?”

“Why, as to old Tom’s human natur’, it is not much like other men’s
human natur’, but more like a muskrat’s human natar’, seeing that he
takes more to the ways of that animal than to the ways of any other
fellow-creatur’. Some think he was a free liver on the salt water, in
his youth, and a companion of a sartain Kidd, who was hanged for piracy,
long afore you and I were born or acquainted, and that he came up into
these regions, thinking that the king’s cruisers could never cross the
mountains, and that he might enjoy the plunder peaceably in the woods.”

“Then he was wrong, Hurry; very wrong. A man can enjoy plunder peaceably
nowhere.”

“That’s much as his turn of mind may happen to be. I’ve known them
that never could enjoy it at all, unless it was in the midst of a
jollification, and them again that enjoyed it best in a corner. Some
men have no peace if they don’t find plunder, and some if they do. Human
nature’ is crooked in these matters. Old Tom seems to belong to neither
set, as he enjoys his, if plunder he has really got, with his darters,
in a very quiet and comfortable way, and wishes for no more.”

“Ay, he has darters, too; I’ve heard the Delawares, who’ve hunted this
a way, tell their histories of these young women. Is there no mother,
Hurry?”

“There was once, as in reason; but she has now been dead and sunk these
two good years.”

“Anan?” said Deerslayer, looking up at his companion in a little
surprise.

“Dead and sunk, I say, and I hope that’s good English. The old fellow
lowered his wife into the lake, by way of seeing the last of her, as I
can testify, being an eye-witness of the ceremony; but whether Tom
did it to save digging, which is no easy job among roots, or out of a
consait that water washes away sin sooner than ‘arth, is more than I can
say.”

“Was the poor woman oncommon wicked, that her husband should take so
much pains with her body?”

“Not onreasonable; though she had her faults. I consider Judith Hutter
to have been as graceful, and about as likely to make a good ind as
any woman who had lived so long beyond the sound of church bells; and I
conclude old Tom sunk her as much by way of saving pains, as by way of
taking it. There was a little steel in her temper, it’s true, and,
as old Hutter is pretty much flint, they struck out sparks
once-and-a-while; but, on the whole, they might be said to live amicable
like. When they did kindle, the listeners got some such insights into
their past lives, as one gets into the darker parts of the woods, when
a stray gleam of sunshine finds its way down to the roots of the trees.
But Judith I shall always esteem, as it’s recommend enough to one woman
to be the mother of such a creatur’ as her darter, Judith Hutter!”

“Ay, Judith was the name the Delawares mentioned, though it was
pronounced after a fashion of their own. From their discourse, I do not
think the girl would much please my fancy.”

“Thy fancy!” exclaimed March, taking fire equally at the indifference
and at the presumption of his companion, “what the devil have you to do
with a fancy, and that, too, consarning one like Judith? You are but a
boy--a sapling, that has scarce got root. Judith has had men among her
suitors, ever since she was fifteen; which is now near five years; and
will not be apt even to cast a look upon a half-grown creatur’ like
you!”

“It is June, and there is not a cloud atween us and the sun, Hurry,
so all this heat is not wanted,” answered the other, altogether
undisturbed; “any one may have a fancy, and a squirrel has a right to
make up his mind touching a catamount.”

“Ay, but it might not be wise, always, to let the catamount know it,”
 growled March. “But you’re young and thoughtless, and I’ll overlook your
ignorance. Come, Deerslayer,” he added, with a good-natured laugh, after
pausing a moment to reflect, “come, Deerslayer, we are sworn friends,
and will not quarrel about a light-minded, jilting jade, just because
she happens to be handsome; more especially as you have never seen
her. Judith is only for a man whose teeth show the full marks, and it’s
foolish to be afeard of a boy. What did the Delawares say of the hussy?
for an Indian, after all, has his notions of woman-kind, as well as a
white man.”

“They said she was fair to look on, and pleasant of speech; but
over-given to admirers, and light-minded.”

“They are devils incarnate! After all, what schoolmaster is a match for
an Indian, in looking into natur’! Some people think they are only good
on a trail or the war-path, but I say that they are philosophers, and
understand a man as well as they understand a beaver, and a woman as
well as they understand either. Now that’s Judith’s character to a
ribbon! To own the truth to you, Deerslayer, I should have married the
gal two years since, if it had not been for two particular things, one
of which was this very lightmindedness.”

“And what may have been the other?” demanded the hunter, who continued
to eat like one that took very little interest in the subject.

“T’other was an insartainty about her having me. The hussy is handsome,
and she knows it. Boy, not a tree that is growing in these hills is
straighter, or waves in the wind with an easier bend, nor did you ever
see the doe that bounded with a more nat’ral motion. If that was all,
every tongue would sound her praises; but she has such failings that I
find it hard to overlook them, and sometimes I swear I’ll never visit
the lake again.”

“Which is the reason that you always come back? Nothing is ever made
more sure by swearing about it.”

“Ah, Deerslayer, you are a novelty in these particulars; keeping as true
to education as if you had never left the settlements. With me the case
is different, and I never want to clinch an idee, that I do not feel a
wish to swear about it. If you know’d all that I know consarning Judith,
you’d find a justification for a little cussing. Now, the officers
sometimes stray over to the lake, from the forts on the Mohawk, to fish
and hunt, and then the creatur’ seems beside herself! You can see in the
manner which she wears her finery, and the airs she gives herself with
the gallants.”

“That is unseemly in a poor man’s darter,” returned Deerslayer gravely,
“the officers are all gentry, and can only look on such as Judith with
evil intentions.”

“There’s the unsartainty, and the damper! I have my misgivings about a
particular captain, and Jude has no one to blame but her own folly, if
I’m right. On the whole, I wish to look upon her as modest and becoming,
and yet the clouds that drive among these hills are not more unsartain.
Not a dozen white men have ever laid eyes upon her since she was a
child, and yet her airs, with two or three of these officers, are
extinguishers!”

“I would think no more of such a woman, but turn my mind altogether to
the forest; that will not deceive you, being ordered and ruled by a hand
that never wavers.”

“If you know’d Judith, you would see how much easier it is to say this
than it would be to do it. Could I bring my mind to be easy about the
officers, I would carry the gal off to the Mohawk by force, make her
marry me in spite of her whiffling, and leave old Tom to the care
of Hetty, his other child, who, if she be not as handsome or as
quick-witted as her sister, is much the most dutiful.”

“Is there another bird in the same nest!” asked Deerslayer, raising his
eyes with a species of half-awakened curiosity, “the Delawares spoke to
me only of one.”

“That’s nat’ral enough, when Judith Hutter and Hetty Hutter are in
question. Hetty is only comely, while her sister, I tell thee, boy, is
such another as is not to be found atween this and the sea: Judith is as
full of wit, and talk, and cunning, as an old Indian orator, while poor
Hetty is at the best but ‘compass’ meant us.”

“Anan?” inquired, again, the Deerslayer.

“Why, what the officers call ‘compass meant us,’ which I understand
to signify that she means always to go in the right direction, but
sometimes does not know how. ‘Compass’for the p’int, and ‘meant us’ for
the intention. No, poor Hetty is what I call on the verge of ignorance,
and sometimes she stumbles on one side of the line, and sometimes on
t’other.”

“Them are beings that the Lord has in his special care,” said
Deerslayer, solemnly; “for he looks carefully to all who fall short of
their proper share of reason. The red-skins honor and respect them who
are so gifted, knowing that the Evil Spirit delights more to dwell in an
artful body, than in one that has no cunning to work upon.”

“I’ll answer for it, then, that he will not remain long with poor Hetty;
for the child is just ‘compass meant us,’ as I have told you. Old Tom
has a feeling for the gal, and so has Judith, quick-witted and glorious
as she is herself; else would I not answer for her being altogether safe
among the sort of men that sometimes meet on the lake shore.”

“I thought this water an unknown and little-frequented sheet,” observed
the Deerslayer, evidently uneasy at the idea of being too near the
world.

“It’s all that, lad, the eyes of twenty white men never having been laid
on it; still, twenty true-bred frontiersmen--hunters and trappers, and
scouts, and the like,--can do a deal of mischief if they try. ‘T would
be an awful thing to me, Deerslayer, did I find Judith married, after an
absence of six months!”

“Have you the gal’s faith, to encourage you to hope otherwise?”

“Not at all. I know not how it is: I’m good-looking, boy,--that much I
can see in any spring on which the sun shines,--and yet I could not get
the hussy to a promise, or even a cordial willing smile, though she will
laugh by the hour. If she has dared to marry in my absence, she’d be
like to know the pleasures of widowhood afore she is twenty!”

“You would not harm the man she has chosen, Hurry, simply because she
found him more to her liking than yourself!”

“Why not! If an enemy crosses my path, will I not beat him out of it!
Look at me! am I a man like to let any sneaking, crawling, skin-trader
get the better of me in a matter that touches me as near as the kindness
of Judith Hutter! Besides, when we live beyond law, we must be our own
judges and executioners. And if a man should be found dead in the woods,
who is there to say who slew him, even admitting that the colony took
the matter in hand and made a stir about it?”

“If that man should be Judith Hutter’s husband, after what has passed, I
might tell enough, at least, to put the colony on the trail.”

“You!--half-grown, venison-hunting bantling! You dare to think of
informing against Hurry Harry in so much as a matter touching a mink or
a woodchuck!”

“I would dare to speak truth, Hurry, consarning you or any man that ever
lived.”

March looked at his companion, for a moment, in silent amazement; then
seizing him by the throat with both hands, he shook his comparatively
slight frame with a violence that menaced the dislocation of some of the
bones. Nor was this done jocularly, for anger flashed from the giant’s
eyes, and there were certain signs that seemed to threaten much more
earnestness than the occasion would appear to call for. Whatever might
be the real intention of March, and it is probable there was none
settled in his mind, it is certain that he was unusually aroused; and
most men who found themselves throttled by one of a mould so gigantic,
in such a mood, and in a solitude so deep and helpless, would have felt
intimidated, and tempted to yield even the right. Not so, however, with
Deerslayer. His countenance remained unmoved; his hand did not shake,
and his answer was given in a voice that did not resort to the artifice
of louder tones, even by way of proving its owner’s resolution.

“You may shake, Hurry, until you bring down the mountain,” he said
quietly, “but nothing beside truth will you shake from me. It is
probable that Judith Hutter has no husband to slay, and you may never
have a chance to waylay one, else would I tell her of your threat, in
the first conversation I held with the gal.”

March released his grip, and sat regarding the other in silent
astonishment.

“I thought we had been friends,” he at length added; “but you’ve got the
last secret of mine that will ever enter your ears.”

“I want none, if they are to be like this. I know we live in the woods,
Hurry, and are thought to be beyond human laws,--and perhaps we are
so, in fact, whatever it may be in right,--but there is a law and a
law-maker, that rule across the whole continent. He that flies in the
face of either need not call me a friend.”

“Damme, Deerslayer, if I do not believe you are at heart a Moravian, and
no fair-minded, plain-dealing hunter, as you’ve pretended to be!”

“Fair-minded or not, Hurry, you will find me as plaindealing in deeds
as I am in words. But this giving way to sudden anger is foolish, and
proves how little you have sojourned with the red man. Judith Hutter no
doubt is still single, and you spoke but as the tongue ran, and not as
the heart felt. There’s my hand, and we will say and think no more about
it.”

Hurry seemed more surprised than ever; then he burst forth in a loud,
good-natured laugh, which brought tears to his eyes. After this he
accepted the offered hand, and the parties became friends.

“‘T would have been foolish to quarrel about an idee,” March cried,
as he resumed his meal, “and more like lawyers in the towns than like
sensible men in the woods. They tell me, Deerslayer, much ill-blood
grows out of idees among the people in the lower counties, and that they
sometimes get to extremities upon them.”

“That do they,--that do they; and about other matters that might better
be left to take care of themselves. I have heard the Moravians say that
there are lands in which men quarrel even consarning their religion; and
if they can get their tempers up on such a subject, Hurry, the Lord have
Marcy on ‘em. Howsoever, there is no occasion for our following their
example, and more especially about a husband that this Judith Hutter
may never see, or never wish to see. For my part, I feel more cur’osity
about the feeble-witted sister than about your beauty. There’s
something that comes close to a man’s feelin’s, when he meets with a
fellow-creatur’ that has all the outward show of an accountable mortal,
and who fails of being what he seems, only through a lack of reason.
This is bad enough in a man, but when it comes to a woman, and she a
young, and maybe a winning creatur’ it touches all the pitiful thoughts
his natur’ has. God knows, Hurry, that such poor things be defenceless
enough with all their wits about ‘em; but it’s a cruel fortun’ when that
great protector and guide fails ‘em.”

“Hark, Deerslayer,--you know what the hunters, and trappers, and
peltry-men in general be; and their best friends will not deny that
they are headstrong and given to having their own way, without much
bethinking ‘em of other people’s rights or feelin’s,--and yet I don’t
think the man is to be found, in all this region, who would harm Hetty
Hutter, if he could; no, not even a red-skin.”

“Therein, fri’nd Hurry, you do the Delawares, at least, and all their
allied tribes, only justice, for a red-skin looks upon a being thus
struck by God’s power as especially under his care. I rejoice to hear
what you say, however, I rejoice to hear it; but as the sun is beginning
to turn towards the afternoon’s sky, had we not better strike the trail
again, and make forward, that we may get an opportunity of seeing these
wonderful sisters?”

Harry March giving a cheerful assent, the remnants of the meal were
soon collected; then the travelers shouldered their packs, resumed their
arms, and, quitting the little area of light, they again plunged into
the deep shadows of the forest.



Chapter II.

    “Thou’rt passing from the lake’s green side,
    And the hunter’s hearth away;
    For the time of flowers, for the summer’s pride,
    Daughter! thou canst not stay.”

    Mrs.  Hemans, “Edith.  A Tale of the Woods” II.  191-94



Our two adventurers had not far to go. Hurry knew the direction, as soon
as he had found the open spot and the spring, and he now led on with the
confident step of a man assured of his object. The forest was dark, as a
matter of course, but it was no longer obstructed by underbrush, and the
footing was firm and dry. After proceeding near a mile, March stopped,
and began to cast about him with an inquiring look, examining the
different objects with care, and occasionally turning his eyes on the
trunks of the fallen trees, with which the ground was well sprinkled,
as is usually the case in an American wood, especially in those parts of
the country where timber has not yet become valuable.

“This must be the place, Deerslayer,” March at length observed; “here is
a beech by the side of a hemlock, with three pines at hand, and yonder
is a white birch with a broken top; and yet I see no rock, nor any of
the branches bent down, as I told you would be the case.”

“Broken branches are onskilful landmarks, as the least exper’enced know
that branches don’t often break of themselves,” returned the other; “and
they also lead to suspicion and discoveries. The Delawares never trust
to broken branches, unless it is in friendly times, and on an open
trail. As for the beeches, and pines, and hemlocks, why, they are to be
seen on all sides of us, not only by twos and threes, but by forties,
and fifties, and hundreds.”

“Very true, Deerslayer, but you never calculate on position. Here is a
beech and a hemlock--”

“Yes, and there is another beech and a hemlock, as loving as two
brothers, or, for that matter, more loving than some brothers; and
yonder are others, for neither tree is a rarity in these woods. I fear
me, Hurry, you are better at trapping beaver and shooting bears, than
at leading on a blindish sort of a trail. Ha! there’s what you wish to
find, a’ter all!”

“Now, Deerslayer, this is one of your Delaware pretensions, for hang me
if I see anything but these trees, which do seem to start up around us
in a most onaccountable and perplexing manner.”

“Look this-a-way, Hurry--here, in a line with the black oak--don’t
you see the crooked sapling that is hooked up in the branches of the
bass-wood, near it? Now, that sapling was once snow-ridden, and got
the bend by its weight; but it never straightened itself, and fastened
itself in among the bass-wood branches in the way you see. The hand of
man did that act of kindness for it.”

“That hand was mine!” exclaimed Hurry; “I found the slender young
thing bent to the airth, like an unfortunate creatur’ borne down by
misfortune, and stuck it up where you see it. After all, Deerslayer, I
must allow, you’re getting to have an oncommon good eye for the woods!”

“‘Tis improving, Hurry--‘tis improving I will acknowledge; but ‘tis only
a child’s eye, compared to some I know. There’s Tamenund, now, though
a man so old that few remember when he was in his prime, Tamenund lets
nothing escape his look, which is more like the scent of a hound than
the sight of an eye. Then Uncas, the father of Chingachgook, and the
lawful chief of the Mohicans, is another that it is almost hopeless to
pass unseen. I’m improving, I will allow--I’m improving, but far from
being perfect, as yet.”

“And who is this Chingachgook, of whom you talk so much, Deerslayer!”
 asked Hurry, as he moved off in the direction of the righted sapling; “a
loping red-skin, at the best, I make no question.”

“Not so, Hurry, but the best of loping red-skins, as you call ‘em. If he
had his rights, he would be a great chief; but, as it is, he is only
a brave and just-minded Delaware; respected, and even obeyed in some
things, ‘tis true, but of a fallen race, and belonging to a fallen
people. Ah! Harry March, ‘twould warm the heart within you to sit in
their lodges of a winter’s night, and listen to the traditions of the
ancient greatness and power of the Mohicans!”

“Harkee, fri’nd Nathaniel,” said Hurry, stopping short to face his
companion, in order that his words might carry greater weight with them,
“if a man believed all that other people choose to say in their own
favor, he might get an oversized opinion of them, and an undersized
opinion of himself. These red-skins are notable boasters, and I set down
more than half of their traditions as pure talk.”

“There is truth in what you say, Hurry, I’ll not deny it, for I’ve seen
it, and believe it. They do boast, but then that is a gift from natur’;
and it’s sinful to withstand nat’ral gifts. See; this is the spot you
come to find!” This remark cut short the discourse, and both the men
now gave all their attention to the object immediately before them.
Deerslayer pointed out to his companion the trunk of a huge linden, or
bass-wood, as it is termed in the language of the country, which had
filled its time, and fallen by its own weight. This tree, like so many
millions of its brethren, lay where it had fallen, and was mouldering
under the slow but certain influence of the seasons. The decay, however,
had attacked its centre, even while it stood erect in the pride of
vegetation, bellowing out its heart, as disease sometimes destroys the
vitals of animal life, even while a fair exterior is presented to the
observer. As the trunk lay stretched for near a hundred feet along the
earth, the quick eye of the hunter detected this peculiarity, and from
this and other circumstances, he knew it to be the tree of which March
was in search.

“Ay, here we have what we want,” cried Hurry, looking in at the larger
end of the linden; “everything is as snug as if it had been left in an
old woman’s cupboard. Come, lend me a hand, Deerslayer, and we’ll be
afloat in half an hour.”

At this call the hunter joined his companion, and the two went to work
deliberately and regularly, like men accustomed to the sort of thing in
which they were employed. In the first place, Hurry removed some pieces
of bark that lay before the large opening in the tree, and which the
other declared to be disposed in a way that would have been more likely
to attract attention than to conceal the cover, had any straggler passed
that way. The two then drew out a bark canoe, containing its seats,
paddles, and other appliances, even to fishing-lines and rods. This
vessel was by no means small; but such was its comparative lightness,
and so gigantic was the strength of Hurry, that the latter shouldered it
with seeming ease, declining all assistance, even in the act of raising
it to the awkward position in which he was obliged to hold it.

“Lead ahead, Deerslayer,” said March, “and open the bushes; the rest I
can do for myself.”

The other obeyed, and the men left the spot, Deerslayer clearing the
way for his companion, and inclining to the right or to the left, as the
latter directed. In about ten minutes they both broke suddenly into the
brilliant light of the sun, on a low gravelly point, that was washed by
water on quite half its outline.

An exclamation of surprise broke from the lips of Deerslayer, an
exclamation that was low and guardedly made, however, for his habits
were much more thoughtful and regulated than those of the reckless
Hurry, when on reaching the margin of the lake, he beheld the view that
unexpectedly met his gaze. It was, in truth, sufficiently striking to
merit a brief description. On a level with the point lay a broad sheet
of water, so placid and limpid that it resembled a bed of the pure
mountain atmosphere, compressed into a setting of hills and woods.
Its length was about three leagues, while its breadth was irregular,
expanding to half a league, or even more, opposite to the point, and
contracting to less than half that distance, more to the southward. Of
course, its margin was irregular, being indented by bays, and broken
by many projecting, low points. At its northern, or nearest end, it was
bounded by an isolated mountain, lower land falling off east and west,
gracefully relieving the sweep of the outline. Still the character
of the country was mountainous; high hills, or low mountains, rising
abruptly from the water, on quite nine tenths of its circuit. The
exceptions, indeed, only served a little to vary the scene; and
even beyond the parts of the shore that were comparatively low, the
background was high, though more distant.

But the most striking peculiarities of this scene were its solemn
solitude and sweet repose. On all sides, wherever the eye turned,
nothing met it but the mirror-like surface of the lake, the placid view
of heaven, and the dense setting of woods. So rich and fleecy were the
outlines of the forest, that scarce an opening could be seen, the
whole visible earth, from the rounded mountain-top to the water’s edge,
presenting one unvaried hue of unbroken verdure. As if vegetation were
not satisfied with a triumph so complete, the trees overhung the lake
itself, shooting out towards the light; and there were miles along its
eastern shore, where a boat might have pulled beneath the branches of
dark Rembrandt-looking hemlocks, “quivering aspens,” and melancholy
pines. In a word, the hand of man had never yet defaced or deformed any
part of this native scene, which lay bathed in the sunlight, a glorious
picture of affluent forest grandeur, softened by the balminess of June,
and relieved by the beautiful variety afforded by the presence of so
broad an expanse of water.

“This is grand!--‘tis solemn!--‘tis an edication of itself, to look
upon!” exclaimed Deerslayer, as he stood leaning on his rifle, and
gazing to the right and left, north and south, above and beneath, in
whichever direction his eye could wander; “not a tree disturbed even by
red-skin hand, as I can discover, but everything left in the ordering of
the Lord, to live and die according to his own designs and laws! Hurry,
your Judith ought to be a moral and well disposed young woman, if
she has passed half the time you mention in the centre of a spot so
favored.”

“That’s naked truth; and yet the gal has the vagaries. All her time
has not been passed here, howsoever, old Tom having the custom, afore
I know’d him, of going to spend the winters in the neighborhood of the
settlers, or under the guns of the forts. No, no, Jude has caught
more than is for her good from the settlers, and especially from the
gallantifying officers.”

“If she has--if she has, Hurry, this is a school to set her mind right
ag’in. But what is this I see off here, abreast of us, that seems too
small for an island, and too large for a boat, though it stands in the
midst of the water!

“Why, that is what these galantine gentry from the forts call Muskrat
Castle; and old Tom himself will grin at the name, though it bears so
hard on his own natur’ and character. ‘Tis the stationary house, there
being two; this, which never moves, and the other, that floats, being
sometimes in one part of the lake and sometimes in another. The last
goes by the name of the ark, though what may be the meaning of the word
is more than I can tell you.”

“It must come from the missionaries, Hurry, whom I have heard speak
and read of such a thing. They say that the ‘arth was once covered with
water, and that Noah, with his children, was saved from drowning by
building a vessel called an ark, in which he embarked in season. Some of
the Delawares believe this tradition, and some deny it; but it behooves
you and me, as white men born, to put our faith in its truth. Do you see
anything of this ark?”

“‘Tis down south, no doubt, or anchored in some of the bays. But the
canoe is ready, and fifteen minutes will carry two such paddles as
your’n and mine to the castle.”

At this suggestion, Deerslayer helped his companion to place the
different articles in the canoe, which was already afloat. This was no
sooner done than the two frontiermen embarked, and by a vigorous push
sent the light bark some eight or ten rods from the shore. Hurry now
took the seat in the stern, while Deerslayer placed himself forward, and
by leisurely but steady strokes of the paddles, the canoe glided across
the placid sheet, towards the extraordinary-looking structure that the
former had styled Muskrat Castle. Several times the men ceased paddling,
and looked about them at the scene, as new glimpses opened from behind
points, enabling them to see farther down the lake, or to get broader
views of the wooded mountains. The only changes, however, were in the
new forms of the hills, the varying curvature of the bays, and the wider
reaches of the valley south; the whole earth apparently being clothed in
a gala-dress of leaves.

“This is a sight to warm the heart!” exclaimed Deerslayer, when they had
thus stopped for the fourth or fifth time; “the lake seems made to let
us get an insight into the noble forests; and land and water alike stand
in the beauty of God’s providence! Do you say, Hurry, that there is no
man who calls himself lawful owner of all these glories?”

“None but the King, lad. He may pretend to some right of that natur’,
but he is so far away that his claim will never trouble old Tom Hutter,
who has got possession, and is like to keep it as long as his life
lasts. Tom is no squatter, not being on land; I call him a floater.”

“I invy that man! I know it’s wrong, and I strive ag’in the feelin’, but
I invy that man! Don’t think, Hurry, that I’m consorting any plan to put
myself in his moccasins, for such a thought doesn’t harbor in my mind;
but I can’t help a little invy! ‘Tis a nat’ral feelin’, and the best of
us are but nat’ral, a’ter all, and give way to such feelin’s at times.”

“You’ve only to marry Hetty to inherit half the estate,” cried Hurry,
laughing; “the gal is comely; nay, if it wasn’t for her sister’s beauty
she would be even handsome; and then her wits are so small that you may
easily convart her into one of your own way of thinking, in all things.
Do you take Hetty off the old fellow’s hands, and I’ll engage he’ll give
you an interest in every deer you can knock over within five miles of
his lake.”

“Does game abound!” suddenly demanded the other, who paid but little
attention to March’s raillery.

“It has the country to itself. Scarce a trigger is pulled on it; and as
for the trappers, this is not a region they greatly frequent. I ought
not to be so much here myself, but Jude pulls one way, while the beaver
pulls another. More than a hundred Spanish dollars has that creatur’
cost me the last two seasons, and yet I could not forego the wish to
look upon her face once more.”

“Do the redmen often visit this lake, Hurry?” continued Deerslayer,
pursuing his own train of thought.

“Why, they come and go; sometimes in parties, and sometimes singly. The
country seems to belong to no native tribe in particular; and so it has
fallen into the hands of the Hutter tribe. The old man tells me that
some sharp ones have been wheedling the Mohawks for an Indian deed,
in order to get a title out of the colony; but nothing has come of it,
seeing that no one heavy enough for such a trade has yet meddled
with the matter. The hunters have a good life-lease still of this
wilderness.”

“So much the better, so much the better, Hurry. If I was King of
England, the man that felled one of these trees without good occasion
for the timber, should be banished to a desarted and forlorn region, in
which no fourfooted animal ever trod. Right glad am I that Chingachgook
app’inted our meeting on this lake, for hitherto eye of mine never
looked on such a glorious spectacle.”

“That’s because you’ve kept so much among the Delawares, in whose
country there are no lakes. Now, farther north and farther west these
bits of water abound; and you’re young, and may yet live to see ‘em.
But though there be other lakes, Deerslayer, there’s no other Judith
Hutter!”

At this remark his companion smiled, and then he dropped his paddle into
the water, as if in consideration of a lover’s haste. Both now pulled
vigorously until they got within a hundred yards of the “castle,” as
Hurry familiarly called the house of Hutter, when they again ceased
paddling; the admirer of Judith restraining his impatience the more
readily, as he perceived that the building was untenanted, at the
moment. This new pause was to enable Deerslayer to survey the singular
edifice, which was of a construction so novel as to merit a particular
description.

Muskrat Castle, as the house had been facetiously named by some waggish
officer, stood in the open lake, at a distance of fully a quarter of a
mile from the nearest shore. On every other side the water extended much
farther, the precise position being distant about two miles from the
northern end of the sheet, and near, if not quite, a mile from its
eastern shore. As there was not the smallest appearance of any island,
but the house stood on piles, with the water flowing beneath it, and
Deerslayer had already discovered that the lake was of a great depth,
he was fain to ask an explanation of this singular circumstance. Hurry
solved the difficulty by telling him that on this spot alone, a long,
narrow shoal, which extended for a few hundred yards in a north and
south direction, rose within six or eight feet of the surface of
the lake, and that Hutter had driven piles into it, and placed his
habitation on them, for the purpose of security.

“The old fellow was burnt out three times, atween the Indians and the
hunters; and in one affray with the red-skins he lost his only son,
since which time he has taken to the water for safety. No one can attack
him here, without coming in a boat, and the plunder and scalps would
scarce be worth the trouble of digging out canoes. Then it’s by no
means sartain which would whip in such a scrimmage, for old Tom is well
supplied with arms and ammunition, and the castle, as you may see, is a
tight breastwork ag’in light shot.”

Deerslayer had some theoretical knowledge of frontier warfare, though
he had never yet been called on to raise his hand in anger against a
fellow-creature. He saw that Hurry did not overrate the strength of
this position in a military point of view, since it would not be easy to
attack it without exposing the assailants to the fire of the besieged.
A good deal of art had also been manifested in the disposition of
the timber of which the building was constructed and which afforded a
protection much greater than was usual to the ordinary log-cabins of the
frontier. The sides and ends were composed of the trunks of large pines,
cut about nine feet long, and placed upright, instead of being laid
horizontally, as was the practice of the country. These logs were
squared on three sides, and had large tenons on each end. Massive sills
were secured on the heads of the piles, with suitable grooves dug out
of their upper surfaces, which had been squared for the purpose, and the
lower tenons of the upright pieces were placed in these grooves, giving
them secure fastening below. Plates had been laid on the upper ends
of the upright logs, and were kept in their places by a similar
contrivance; the several corners of the structure being well fastened
by scarfing and pinning the sills and plates. The doors were made of
smaller logs, similarly squared, and the roof was composed of light
poles, firmly united, and well covered with bark.

The effect of this ingenious arrangement was to give its owner a house
that could be approached only by water, the sides of which were composed
of logs closely wedged together, which were two feet thick in their
thinnest parts, and which could be separated only by a deliberate and
laborious use of human hands, or by the slow operation of time. The
outer surface of the building was rude and uneven, the logs being of
unequal sizes; but the squared surfaces within gave both the sides and
door as uniform an appearance as was desired, either for use or show.
The chimney was not the least singular portion of the castle, as Hurry
made his companion observe, while he explained the process by which it
had been made. The material was a stiff clay, properly worked, which had
been put together in a mould of sticks, and suffered to harden, a foot
or two at a time, commencing at the bottom. When the entire chimney had
thus been raised, and had been properly bound in with outward props, a
brisk fire was kindled, and kept going until it was burned to something
like a brick-red. This had not been an easy operation, nor had it
succeeded entirely; but by dint of filling the cracks with fresh clay,
a safe fireplace and chimney had been obtained in the end. This part of
the work stood on the log-door, secured beneath by an extra pile. There
were a few other peculiarities about this dwelling, which will better
appear in the course of the narrative.

“Old Tom is full of contrivances,” added Hurry, “and he set his heart on
the success of his chimney, which threatened more than once to give out
altogether; but perseverance will even overcome smoke; and now he has
a comfortable cabin of it, though it did promise, at one time, to be a
chinky sort of a flue to carry flames and fire.”

“You seem to know the whole history of the castle, Hurry, chimney and
sides,” said Deerslayer, smiling; “is love so overcoming that it causes
a man to study the story of his sweetheart’s habitation?”

“Partly that, lad, and partly eyesight,” returned the good-natured
giant, laughing; “there was a large gang of us in the lake, the summer
the old fellow built, and we helped him along with the job. I raised no
small part of the weight of them uprights with my own shoulders, and
the axes flew, I can inform you, Master Natty, while we were bee-ing it
among the trees ashore. The old devil is no way stingy about food, and
as we had often eat at his hearth, we thought we would just house him
comfortably, afore we went to Albany with our skins. Yes, many is the
meal I’ve swallowed in Tom Hutter’s cabins; and Hetty, though so weak in
the way of wits, has a wonderful particular way about a frying-pan or a
gridiron!

“While the parties were thus discoursing, the canoe had been gradually
drawing nearer to the “castle,” and was now so close as to require but
a single stroke of a paddle to reach the landing. This was at a floored
platform in front of the entrance, that might have been some twenty feet
square.

“Old Tom calls this sort of a wharf his door-yard,” observed Hurry, as
he fastened the canoe, after he and his Companion had left it: “and the
gallants from the forts have named it the castle court though what a
‘court’ can have to do here is more than I can tell you, seeing that
there is no law. ‘Tis as I supposed; not a soul within, but the whole
family is off on a v’y’ge of discovery!”

While Hurry was bustling about the “door-yard,” examining the
fishing-spears, rods, nets, and other similar appliances of a frontier
cabin, Deerslayer, whose manner was altogether more rebuked and quiet,
entered the building with a curiosity that was not usually exhibited by
one so long trained in Indian habits. The interior of the “castle” was
as faultlessly neat as its exterior was novel. The entire space, some
twenty feet by forty, was subdivided into several small sleeping-rooms;
the apartment into which he first entered, serving equally for the
ordinary uses of its inmates, and for a kitchen. The furniture was of
the strange mixture that it is not uncommon to find in the remotely
situated log-tenements of the interior. Most of it was rude, and to the
last degree rustic; but there was a clock, with a handsome case of dark
wood, in a corner, and two or three chairs, with a table and bureau,
that had evidently come from some dwelling of more than usual
pretension. The clock was industriously ticking, but its leaden-looking
hands did no discredit to their dull aspect, for they pointed to the
hour of eleven, though the sun plainly showed it was some time past
the turn of the day. There was also a dark, massive chest. The kitchen
utensils were of the simplest kind, and far from numerous, but every
article was in its place, and showed the nicest care in its condition.

After Deerslayer had cast a look about him in the outer room, he raised
a wooden latch, and entered a narrow passage that divided the inner
end of the house into two equal parts. Frontier usages being no way
scrupulous, and his curiosity being strongly excited, the young man now
opened a door, and found himself in a bedroom. A single glance sufficed
to show that the apartment belonged to females. The bed was of the
feathers of wild geese, and filled nearly to overflowing; but it lay in
a rude bunk, raised only a foot from the door. On one side of it were
arranged, on pegs, various dresses, of a quality much superior to what
one would expect to meet in such a place, with ribbons and other similar
articles to correspond. Pretty shoes, with handsome silver buckles, such
as were then worn by females in easy circumstances, were not wanting;
and no less than six fans, of gay colors, were placed half open, in a
way to catch the eye by their conceits and hues. Even the pillow, on
this side of the bed, was covered with finer linen than its companion,
and it was ornamented with a small ruffle. A cap, coquettishly decorated
with ribbons, hung above it, and a pair of long gloves, such as were
rarely used in those days by persons of the laboring classes, were
pinned ostentatiously to it, as if with an intention to exhibit them
there, if they could not be shown on the owner’s arms.

All this Deerslayer saw, and noted with a degree of minuteness that
would have done credit to the habitual observation of his friends, the
Delawares. Nor did he fail to perceive the distinction that existed
between the appearances on the different sides of the bed, the head
of which stood against the wall. On that opposite to the one just
described, everything was homely and uninviting, except through its
perfect neatness. The few garments that were hanging from the pegs were
of the coarsest materials and of the commonest forms, while nothing
seemed made for show. Of ribbons there was not one; nor was there either
cap or kerchief beyond those which Hutter’s daughters might be fairly
entitled to wear.

It was now several years since Deerslayer had been in a spot especially
devoted to the uses of females of his own color and race. The sight
brought back to his mind a rush of childish recollections; and he
lingered in the room with a tenderness of feeling to which he had long
been a stranger. He bethought him of his mother, whose homely vestments
he remembered to have seen hanging on pegs like those which he felt
must belong to Hetty Hutter; and he bethought himself of a sister, whose
incipient and native taste for finery had exhibited itself somewhat in
the manner of that of Judith, though necessarily in a less degree. These
little resemblances opened a long hidden vein of sensations; and as he
quitted the room, it was with a saddened mien. He looked no further, but
returned slowly and thoughtfully towards the “door-yard.”

“If Old Tom has taken to a new calling, and has been trying his hand at
the traps,” cried Hurry, who had been coolly examining the borderer’s
implements; “if that is his humor, and you’re disposed to remain in
these parts, we can make an oncommon comfortable season of it; for,
while the old man and I out-knowledge the beaver, you can fish, and
knock down the deer, to keep body and soul together. I’ve always give
the poorest hunters half a share, but one as actyve and sartain as
yourself might expect a full one.”

“Thank’ee, Hurry; thank’ee, with all my heart--but I do a little
beavering for myself as occasions offer. ‘Tis true, the Delawares call
me Deerslayer, but it’s not so much because I’m pretty fatal with the
venison as because that while I kill so many bucks and does, I’ve never
yet taken the life of a fellow-creatur’. They say their traditions do
not tell of another who had shed so much blood of animals that had not
shed the blood of man.”

“I hope they don’t account you chicken-hearted, lad! A faint-hearted man
is like a no-tailed beaver.”

“I don’t believe, Hurry, that they account me as out-of-the-way
timorsome, even though they may not account me as out-of-the-way brave.
But I’m not quarrelsome; and that goes a great way towards keeping blood
off the hands, among the hunters and red-skins; and then, Harry March,
it keeps blood off the conscience, too.”

“Well, for my part I account game, a red-skin, and a Frenchman as pretty
much the same thing; though I’m as onquarrelsome a man, too, as there is
in all the colonies. I despise a quarreller as I do a cur-dog; but one
has no need to be over-scrupulsome when it’s the right time to show the
flint.”

“I look upon him as the most of a man who acts nearest the right, Hurry.
But this is a glorious spot, and my eyes never a-weary looking at it!”

“‘Tis your first acquaintance with a lake; and these ideas come over us
all at such times. Lakes have a gentle character, as I say, being pretty
much water and land, and points and bays.”

As this definition by no means met the feelings that were uppermost in
the mind of the young hunter, he made no immediate answer, but stood
gazing at the dark hills and the glassy water in silent enjoyment.

“Have the Governor’s or the King’s people given this lake a name?” he
suddenly asked, as if struck with a new idea. “If they’ve not begun to
blaze their trees, and set up their compasses, and line off their maps,
it’s likely they’ve not bethought them to disturb natur’ with a name.”

“They’ve not got to that, yet; and the last time I went in with skins,
one of the King’s surveyors was questioning me consarning all the region
hereabouts. He had heard that there was a lake in this quarter, and
had got some general notions about it, such as that there was water and
hills; but how much of either, he know’d no more than you know of the
Mohawk tongue. I didn’t open the trap any wider than was necessary,
giving him but poor encouragement in the way of farms and clearings. In
short, I left on his mind some such opinion of this country, as a man
gets of a spring of dirty water, with a path to it that is so muddy that
one mires afore he sets out. He told me they hadn’t got the spot down
yet on their maps, though I conclude that is a mistake, for he showed me
his parchment, and there is a lake down on it, where there is no lake
in fact, and which is about fifty miles from the place where it ought to
be, if they meant it for this. I don’t think my account will encourage
him to mark down another, by way of improvement.”

Here Hurry laughed heartily, such tricks being particularly grateful to
a set of men who dreaded the approaches of civilization as a curtailment
of their own lawless empire. The egregious errors that existed in the
maps of the day, all of which were made in Europe, were, moreover, a
standing topic of ridicule among them; for, if they had not science
enough to make any better themselves, they had sufficient local
information to detect the gross blunders contained in those that
existed. Any one who will take the trouble to compare these unanswerable
evidences of the topographical skill of our fathers a century since,
with the more accurate sketches of our own time, will at once perceive
that the men of the woods had a sufficient justification for all their
criticism on this branch of the skill of the colonial governments, which
did not at all hesitate to place a river or a lake a degree or two out
of the way, even though they lay within a day’s march of the inhabited
parts of the country.

“I’m glad it has no name,” resumed Deerslayer, “or at least, no
pale-face name; for their christenings always foretell waste and
destruction. No doubt, howsoever, the red-skins have their modes of
knowing it, and the hunters and trappers, too; they are likely to call
the place by something reasonable and resembling.”

“As for the tribes, each has its tongue, and its own way of calling
things; and they treat this part of the world just as they treat
all others. Among ourselves, we’ve got to calling the place the
‘Glimmerglass,’ seeing that its whole basin is so often hinged with
pines, cast upward to its face as if it would throw back the hills that
hang over it.”

“There is an outlet, I know, for all lakes have outlets, and the rock
at which I am to meet Chingachgook stands near an outlet. Has that no
colony-name yet?”

“In that particular they’ve got the advantage of us, having one end, and
that the biggest, in their own keeping: they’ve given it a name which
has found its way up to its source; names nat’rally working up stream.
No doubt, Deerslayer, you’ve seen the Susquehannah, down in the Delaware
country?”

“That have I, and hunted along its banks a hundred times.”

“That and this are the same in fact, and, I suppose, the same in sound.
I am glad they’ve been compelled to keep the redmen’s name, for it would
be too hard to rob them of both land and name!”

Deerslayer made no answer; but he stood leaning on his rifle, gazing
at the view which so much delighted him. The reader is not to suppose,
however, that it was the picturesque alone which so strongly attracted
his attention. The spot was very lovely, of a truth, and it was then
seen in one of its most favorable moments, the surface of the lake
being as smooth as glass and as limpid as pure air, throwing back
the mountains, clothed in dark pines, along the whole of its eastern
boundary, the points thrusting forward their trees even to nearly
horizontal lines, while the bays were seen glittering through an
occasional arch beneath, left by a vault fretted with branches and
leaves. It was the air of deep repose--the solitudes, that spoke of
scenes and forests untouched by the hands of man--the reign of nature,
in a word, that gave so much pure delight to one of his habits and turn
of mind. Still, he felt, though it was unconsciously, like a poet
also. If he found a pleasure in studying this large, and to him unusual
opening into the mysteries and forms of the woods, as one is gratified
in getting broader views of any subject that has long occupied his
thoughts, he was not insensible to the innate loveliness of such a
landscape neither, but felt a portion of that soothing of the spirit
which is a common attendant of a scene so thoroughly pervaded by the
holy cairn of nature.



Chapter III.

    “Come, shall we go and kill us venison?
    And yet it irks me, the poor dappled foals,--
    Being native burghers of this desert city,--
    Should, in their own confines, with forked heads
    Have their round haunches gored.”

    As You Like It, II.i.21-25

Hurry Harry thought more of the beauties of Judith Hutter than of those
of the Glimmerglass and its accompanying scenery. As soon as he had
taken a sufficiently intimate survey of floating Tom’s implements,
therefore, he summoned his companion to the canoe, that they might go
down the lake in quest of the family. Previously to embarking, however,
Hurry carefully examined the whole of the northern end of the water with
an indifferent ship’s glass, that formed a part of Hutter’s effects. In
this scrutiny, no part of the shore was overlooked; the bays and points
in particular being subjected to a closer inquiry than the rest of the
wooded boundary.

“‘Tis as I thought,” said Hurry, laying aside the glass, “the old fellow
is drifting about the south end this fine weather, and has left the
castle to defend itself. Well, now we know that he is not up this-a-way,
‘twill be but a small matter to paddle down and hunt him up in his
hiding-place.”

“Does Master Hutter think it necessary to burrow on this lake?” inquired
Deerslayer, as he followed his companion into the canoe; “to my eye it
is such a solitude as one might open his whole soul in, and fear no one
to disarrange his thoughts or his worship.”

“You forget your friends the Mingos, and all the French savages. Is
there a spot on ‘arth, Deerslayer, to which them disquiet rogues don’t
go? Where is the lake, or even the deer lick, that the blackguards don’t
find out, and having found out, don’t, sooner or later, discolour its
water with blood.”

“I hear no good character of ‘em, sartainly, friend Hurry, though I’ve
never been called on, yet, to meet them, or any other mortal, on the
warpath. I dare to say that such a lovely spot as this, would not be
likely to be overlooked by such plunderers, for, though I’ve not been
in the way of quarreling with them tribes myself, the Delawares give
me such an account of ‘em that I’ve pretty much set ‘em down in my own
mind, as thorough miscreants.”

“You may do that with a safe conscience, or for that matter, any other
savage you may happen to meet.”

Here Deerslayer protested, and as they went paddling down the lake, a
hot discussion was maintained concerning the respective merits of
the pale-faces and the red-skins. Hurry had all the prejudices and
antipathies of a white hunter, who generally regards the Indian as a
sort of natural competitor, and not unfrequently as a natural enemy.
As a matter of course, he was loud, clamorous, dogmatical and not
very argumentative. Deerslayer, on the other hand, manifested a very
different temper, proving by the moderation of his language, the
fairness of his views, and the simplicity of his distinctions, that he
possessed every disposition to hear reason, a strong, innate desire to
do justice, and an ingenuousness that was singularly indisposed to have
recourse to sophism to maintain an argument; or to defend a prejudice.
Still he was not altogether free from the influence of the latter
feeling. This tyrant of the human mind, which ruses on it prey through
a thousand avenues, almost as soon as men begin to think and feel, and
which seldom relinquishes its iron sway until they cease to do
either, had made some impression on even the just propensities of this
individual, who probably offered in these particulars, a fair specimen
of what absence from bad example, the want of temptation to go wrong,
and native good feeling can render youth.

“You will allow, Deerslayer, that a Mingo is more than half devil,”
 cried Hurry, following up the discussion with an animation that touched
closely on ferocity, “though you want to over-persuade me that the
Delaware tribe is pretty much made up of angels. Now, I gainsay that
proposal, consarning white men, even. All white men are not faultless,
and therefore all Indians can’t be faultless. And so your argument is
out at the elbow in the start. But this is what I call reason. Here’s
three colors on ‘arth: white, black, and red. White is the highest
color, and therefore the best man; black comes next, and is put to live
in the neighborhood of the white man, as tolerable, and fit to be made
use of; and red comes last, which shows that those that made ‘em never
expected an Indian to be accounted as more than half human.”

“God made all three alike, Hurry.”

“Alike! Do you call a nigger like a white man, or me like an Indian?”

“You go off at half-cock, and don’t hear me out. God made us all, white,
black, and red; and, no doubt, had his own wise intentions in coloring
us differently. Still, he made us, in the main, much the same in
feelin’s; though I’ll not deny that he gave each race its gifts. A
white man’s gifts are Christianized, while a red-skin’s are more for the
wilderness. Thus, it would be a great offence for a white man to scalp
the dead; whereas it’s a signal vartue in an Indian. Then ag’in, a white
man cannot amboosh women and children in war, while a red-skin may. ‘Tis
cruel work, I’ll allow; but for them it’s lawful work; while for us, it
would be grievous work.”

“That depends on your inimy. As for scalping, or even skinning a savage,
I look upon them pretty much the same as cutting off the ears of wolves
for the bounty, or stripping a bear of its hide. And then you’re out
significantly, as to taking the poll of a red-skin in hand, seeing that
the very colony has offered a bounty for the job; all the same as it
pays for wolves’ ears and crows’ heads.”

“Ay, and a bad business it is, Hurry. Even the Indians themselves cry
shame on it, seeing it’s ag’in a white man’s gifts. I do not pretend
that all that white men do, is properly Christianized, and according
to the lights given them, for then they would be what they ought to be;
which we know they are not; but I will maintain that tradition, and use,
and color, and laws, make such a difference in races as to amount to
gifts. I do not deny that there are tribes among the Indians that are
nat’rally pervarse and wicked, as there are nations among the whites.
Now, I account the Mingos as belonging to the first, and the Frenchers,
in the Canadas, to the last. In a state of lawful warfare, such as
we have lately got into, it is a duty to keep down all compassionate
feelin’s, so far as life goes, ag’in either; but when it comes to
scalps, it’s a very different matter.”

“Just hearken to reason, if you please, Deerslayer, and tell me if the
colony can make an onlawful law? Isn’t an onlawful law more ag’in natur’
than scalpin’ a savage? A law can no more be onlawful, than truth can be
a lie.”

“That sounds reasonable; but it has a most onreasonable bearing, Hurry.
Laws don’t all come from the same quarter. God has given us his’n, and
some come from the colony, and others come from the King and Parliament.
When the colony’s laws, or even the King’s laws, run ag’in the laws of
God, they get to be onlawful, and ought not to be obeyed. I hold to
a white man’s respecting white laws, so long as they do not cross the
track of a law comin’ from a higher authority; and for a red man to obey
his own red-skin usages, under the same privilege. But, ‘t is useless
talking, as each man will think fir himself, and have his say agreeable
to his thoughts. Let us keep a good lookout for your friend Floating
Tom, lest we pass him, as he lies hidden under this bushy shore.”

Deerslayer had not named the borders of the lake amiss. Along their
whole length, the smaller trees overhung the water, with their branches
often dipping in the transparent element. The banks were steep, even from
the narrow strand; and, as vegetation invariably struggles towards
the light, the effect was precisely that at which the lover of the
picturesque would have aimed, had the ordering of this glorious setting
of forest been submitted to his control. The points and bays, too, were
sufficiently numerous to render the outline broken and diversified. As
the canoe kept close along the western side of the lake, with a view,
as Hurry had explained to his companion, of reconnoitering for enemies,
before he trusted himself too openly in sight, the expectations of the
two adventurers were kept constantly on the stretch, as neither could
foretell what the next turning of a point might reveal. Their progress
was swift, the gigantic strength of Hurry enabling him to play with the
light bark as if it had been a feather, while the skill of his companion
almost equalized their usefulness, notwithstanding the disparity in
natural means.

Each time the canoe passed a point, Hurry turned a look behind him,
expecting to see the “ark” anchored, or beached in the bay. He was
fated to be disappointed, however; and they had got within a mile of the
southern end of the lake, or a distance of quite two leagues from the
“castle,” which was now hidden from view by half a dozen intervening
projections of the land, when he suddenly ceased paddling, as if
uncertain in what direction next to steer.

“It is possible that the old chap has dropped into the river,” said
Hurry, after looking carefully along the whole of the eastern shore,
which was about a mile distant, and open to his scrutiny for more than
half its length; “for he has taken to trapping considerable, of late,
and, barring flood-wood, he might drop down it a mile or so; though he
would have a most scratching time in getting back again!”

“Where is this outlet?” asked Deerslayer; “I see no opening in the
banks or the trees, that looks as if it would let a river like the
Susquehannah run through it.”

“Ay, Deerslayer, rivers are like human mortals; having small beginnings,
and ending with broad shoulders and wide mouths. You don’t see the
outlet, because it passes atween high, steep banks; and the pines, and
hemlocks and bass-woods hang over it, as a roof hangs over a house. If
old Tom is not in the ‘Rat’s Cove,’ he must have burrowed in the river;
we’ll look for him first in the cove, and then we’ll cross to the
outlet.”

As they proceeded, Hurry explained that there was a shallow bay, formed
by a long, low point, that had got the name of the “Rat’s Cove,” from
the circumstance of its being a favorite haunt of the muskrat; and which
offered so complete a cover for the “ark,” that its owner was fond of
lying in it, whenever he found it convenient.

“As a man never knows who may be his visitors, in this part of the
country,” continued Hurry, “it’s a great advantage to get a good look
at ‘em afore they come too near. Now it’s war, such caution is more than
commonly useful, since a Canada man or a Mingo might get into his hut
afore he invited ‘em. But Hutter is a first-rate look-outer, and can
pretty much scent danger, as a hound scents the deer.”

“I should think the castle so open, that it would be sartain to draw
inimies, if any happened to find the lake; a thing onlikely enough, I
will allow, as it’s off the trail of the forts and settlements.”

“Why, Deerslayer, I’ve got to believe that a man meets with inimies
easier than he meets with fri’nds. It’s skearful to think for how many
causes one gets to be your inimy, and for how few your fri’nd. Some take
up the hatchet because you don’t think just as they think; other some
because you run ahead of ‘em in the same idees; and I once know’d a
vagabond that quarrelled with a fri’nd because he didn’t think him
handsome. Now, you’re no monument in the way of beauty, yourself,
Deerslayer, and yet you wouldn’t be so onreasonable as to become my
inimy for just saying so.”

“I’m as the Lord made me; and I wish to be accounted no better, nor any
worse. Good looks I may not have; that is to say, to a degree that the
light-minded and vain crave; but I hope I’m not altogether without some
ricommend in the way of good conduct. There’s few nobler looking men to
be seen than yourself, Hurry; and I know that I am not to expect any to
turn their eyes on me, when such a one as you can be gazed on; but I
do not know that a hunter is less expart with the rifle, or less to be
relied on for food, because he doesn’t wish to stop at every shining
spring he may meet, to study his own countenance in the water.”

Here Hurry burst into a fit of loud laughter; for while he was too
reckless to care much about his own manifest physical superiority, he
was well aware of it, and, like most men who derive an advantage from
the accidents of birth or nature, he was apt to think complacently on
the subject, whenever it happened to cross his mind.

“No, no, Deerslayer, you’re no beauty, as you will own yourself, if
you’ll look over the side of the canoe,” he cried; “Jude will say that
to your face, if you start her, for a tarter tongue isn’t to be found in
any gal’s head, in or out of the settlements, if you provoke her to use
it. My advice to you is, never to aggravate Judith; though you may tell
anything to Hetty, and she’ll take it as meek as a lamb. No, Jude will
be just as like as not to tell you her opinion consarning your looks.”

“And if she does, Hurry, she will tell me no more than you have said
already.”

“You’re not thick’ning up about a small remark, I hope, Deerslayer,
when no harm is meant. You are not a beauty, as you must know, and
why shouldn’t fri’nds tell each other these little trifles? If you was
handsome, or ever like to be, I’d be one of the first to tell you of it;
and that ought to content you. Now, if Jude was to tell me that I’m as
ugly as a sinner, I’d take it as a sort of obligation, and try not to
believe her.”

“It’s easy for them that natur’ has favored, to jest about such matters,
Hurry, though it is sometimes hard for others. I’ll not deny but I’ve
had my cravings towards good looks; yes, I have; but then I’ve always
been able to get them down by considering how many I’ve known with fair
outsides, who have had nothing to boast of inwardly. I’ll not deny,
Hurry, that I often wish I’d been created more comely to the eye, and
more like such a one as yourself in them particulars; but then I get the
feelin’ under by remembering how much better off I am, in a great many
respects, than some fellow-mortals. I might have been born lame, and
onfit even for a squirrel-hunt, or blind, which would have made me a
burden on myself as well as on my fri’nds; or without hearing, which
would have totally onqualified me for ever campaigning or scouting;
which I look forward to as part of a man’s duty in troublesome times.
Yes, yes; it’s not pleasant, I will allow, to see them that’s more
comely, and more sought a’ter, and honored than yourself; but it may
all be borne, if a man looks the evil in the face, and don’t mistake his
gifts and his obligations.”

Hurry, in the main, was a good-hearted as well as good-natured fellow;
and the self-abasement of his companion completely got the better of
the passing feeling of personal vanity. He regretted the allusion he
had made to the other’s appearance, and endeavored to express as much,
though it was done in the uncouth manner that belonged to the habits and
opinions of the frontier.

“I meant no harm, Deerslayer,” he answered, in a deprecating manner,
“and hope you’ll forget what I’ve said. If you’re not downright
handsome, you’ve a sartain look that says, plainer than any words, that
all’s right within. Then you set no value by looks, and will the sooner
forgive any little slight to your appearance. I will not say that Jude
will greatly admire you, for that might raise hopes that would only
breed disapp’intment; but there’s Hetty, now, would be just as likely
to find satisfaction in looking at you, as in looking at any other man.
Then you’re altogether too grave and considerate-like, to care much
about Judith; for, though the gal is oncommon, she is so general in her
admiration, that a man need not be exalted because she happens to smile.
I sometimes think the hussy loves herself better than she does anything
else breathin’.”

“If she did, Hurry, she’d do no more, I’m afeard, than most queens on
their thrones, and ladies in the towns,” answered Deerslayer, smiling,
and turning back towards his companion with every trace of feeling
banished from his honest-looking and frank countenance. “I never yet
know’d even a Delaware of whom you might not say that much. But here is
the end of the long p’int you mentioned, and the ‘Rat’s Cove’ can’t be
far off.”

This point, instead of thrusting itself forward, like all the others,
ran in a line with the main shore of the lake, which here swept within
it, in a deep and retired bay, circling round south again, at the
distance of a quarter of a mile, and crossed the valley, forming the
southern termination of the water. In this bay Hurry felt almost certain
of finding the ark, since, anchored behind the trees that covered the
narrow strip of the point, it might have lain concealed from prying eyes
an entire summer. So complete, indeed, was the cover, in this spot, that
a boat hauled close to the beach, within the point, and near the bottom
of the bay, could by any possibility be seen from only one direction;
and that was from a densely wooded shore within the sweep of the water,
where strangers would be little apt to go.

“We shall soon see the ark,” said Hurry, as the canoe glided round
the extremity of the point, where the water was so deep as actually to
appear black; “he loves to burrow up among the rushes, and we shall be
in his nest in five minutes, although the old fellow may be off among
the traps himself.”

March proved a false prophet. The canoe completely doubled the point, so
as to enable the two travellers to command a view of the whole cove or
bay, for it was more properly the last, and no object, but those that
nature had placed there, became visible. The placid water swept round
in a graceful curve, the rushes bent gently towards its surface, and
the trees overhung it as usual; but all lay in the soothing and sublime
solitude of a wilderness. The scene was such as a poet or an artist
would have delighted in, but it had no charm for Hurry Harry, who was
burning with impatience to get a sight of his light-minded beauty.

The motion of the canoe had been attended with little or no noise, the
frontiermen habitually getting accustomed to caution in most of their
movements, and it now lay on the glassy water appearing to float in air,
partaking of the breathing stillness that seemed to pervade the entire
scene. At this instant a dry stick was heard cracking on the narrow
strip of land that concealed the bay from the open lake. Both the
adventurers started, and each extended a hand towards his rifle, the
weapon never being out of reach of the arm.

“‘Twas too heavy for any light creatur’,” whispered Hurry, “and it
sounded like the tread of a man!”

“Not so--not so,” returned Deerslayer; “‘t was, as you say, too heavy
for one, but it was too light for the other. Put your paddle in the
water, and send the canoe in, to that log; I’ll land and cut off the
creatur’s retreat up the p’int, be it a Mingo, or be it a muskrat.”

As Hurry complied, Deerslayer was soon on the shore, advancing into the
thicket with a moccasined foot, and a caution that prevented the least
noise. In a minute he was in the centre of the narrow strip of land,
and moving slowly down towards its end, the bushes rendering extreme
watchfulness necessary. Just as he reached the centre of the thicket
the dried twigs cracked again, and the noise was repeated at short
intervals, as if some creature having life walked slowly towards the
point. Hurry heard these sounds also, and pushing the canoe off into
the bay, he seized his rifle to watch the result. A breathless minute
succeeded, after which a noble buck walked out of the thicket, proceeded
with a stately step to the sandy extremity of the point, and began to
slake his thirst from the water of the lake. Hurry hesitated an instant;
then raising his rifle hastily to his shoulder, he took sight and fired.
The effect of this sudden interruption of the solemn stillness of such
a scene was not its least striking peculiarity. The report of the weapon
had the usual sharp, short sound of the rifle: but when a few moments
of silence had succeeded the sudden crack, during which the noise was
floating in air across the water, it reached the rocks of the opposite
mountain, where the vibrations accumulated, and were rolled from cavity
to cavity for miles along the hills, seeming to awaken the sleeping
thunders of the woods. The buck merely shook his head at the report of
the rifle and the whistling of the bullet, for never before had he come
in contact with man; but the echoes of the hills awakened his distrust,
and leaping forward, with his four legs drawn under his body, he fell
at once into deep water, and began to swim towards the foot of the lake.
Hurry shouted and dashed forward in chase, and for one or two minutes
the water foamed around the pursuer and the pursued. The former was
dashing past the point, when Deerslayer appeared on the sand and signed
to him to return.

“‘Twas inconsiderate to pull a trigger, afore we had reconn’itred the
shore, and made sartain that no inimies harbored near it,” said the
latter, as his companion slowly and reluctantly complied. “This much I
have l’arned from the Delawares, in the way of schooling and traditions,
even though I’ve never yet been on a war-path. And, moreover, venison
can hardly be called in season now, and we do not want for food. They
call me Deerslayer, I’ll own, and perhaps I desarve the name, in the way
of understanding the creatur’s habits, as well as for some sartainty in
the aim, but they can’t accuse me of killing an animal when there is no
occasion for the meat, or the skin. I may be a slayer, it’s true, but
I’m no slaughterer.”

“‘Twas an awful mistake to miss that buck!” exclaimed Hurry, doffing his
cap and running his fingers through his handsome but matted curls, as
if he would loosen his tangled ideas by the process. “I’ve not done so
onhandy a thing since I was fifteen.”

“Never lament it, as the creatur’s death could have done neither of us
any good, and might have done us harm. Them echoes are more awful in my
ears, than your mistake, Hurry, for they sound like the voice of natur’
calling out ag’in a wasteful and onthinking action.”

“You’ll hear plenty of such calls, if you tarry long in this quarter of
the world, lad,” returned the other laughing. “The echoes repeat pretty
much all that is said or done on the Glimmerglass, in this calm summer
weather. If a paddle falls you hear of it sometimes, ag’in and ag’in,
as if the hills were mocking your clumsiness, and a laugh, or a whistle,
comes out of them pines, when they’re in the humour to speak, in a way
to make you believe they can r’ally convarse.”

“So much the more reason for being prudent and silent. I do not think
the inimy can have found their way into these hills yet, for I don’t
know what they are to gain by it, but all the Delawares tell me that, as
courage is a warrior’s first vartue, so is prudence his second. One such
call from the mountains, is enough to let a whole tribe into the secret
of our arrival.”

“If it does no other good, it will warn old Tom to put the pot over, and
let him know visiters are at hand. Come, lad; get into the canoe, and we
will hunt the ark up, while there is yet day.”

Deerslayer complied, and the canoe left the spot. Its head was turned
diagonally across the lake, pointing towards the south-eastern curvature
of the sheet. In that direction, the distance to the shore, or to the
termination of the lake, on the course the two were now steering, was
not quite a mile, and, their progress being always swift, it was fast
lessening under the skilful, but easy sweeps of the paddles. When about
half way across, a slight noise drew the eyes of the men towards the
nearest land, and they saw that the buck was just emerging from the lake
and wading towards the beach. In a minute, the noble animal shook the
water from his flanks, gazed up ward at the covering of trees, and,
bounding against the bank, plunged into the forest.

“That creatur’ goes off with gratitude in his heart,” said Deerslayer,
“for natur’ tells him he has escaped a great danger. You ought to have
some of the same feelin’s, Hurry, to think your eye wasn’t true, or
that your hand was onsteady, when no good could come of a shot that was
intended onmeaningly rather than in reason.”

“I deny the eye and the hand,” cried March with some heat. “You’ve got
a little character, down among the Delawares, there, for quickness and
sartainty, at a deer, but I should like to see you behind one of them
pines, and a full painted Mingo behind another, each with a cock’d rifle
and a striving for the chance! Them’s the situations, Nathaniel, to try
the sight and the hand, for they begin with trying the narves. I never
look upon killing a creatur’ as an explite; but killing a savage is. The
time will come to try your hand, now we’ve got to blows ag’in, and we
shall soon know what a ven’son reputation can do in the field. I deny
that either hand or eye was onsteady; it was all a miscalculation of the
buck, which stood still when he ought to have kept in motion, and so I
shot ahead of him.”

“Have it your own way, Hurry; all I contend for is, that it’s lucky.
I dare say I shall not pull upon a human mortal as steadily or with as
light a heart, as I pull upon a deer.”

“Who’s talking of mortals, or of human beings at all, Deerslayer? I put
the matter to you on the supposition of an Injin. I dare say any man
would have his feelin’s when it got to be life or death, ag’in another
human mortal; but there would be no such scruples in regard to an Injin;
nothing but the chance of his hitting you, or the chance of your hitting
him.”

“I look upon the redmen to be quite as human as we are ourselves, Hurry.
They have their gifts, and their religion, it’s true; but that makes no
difference in the end, when each will be judged according to his deeds,
and not according to his skin.”

“That’s downright missionary, and will find little favor up in this part
of the country, where the Moravians don’t congregate. Now, skin makes
the man. This is reason; else how are people to judge of each other.
The skin is put on, over all, in order when a creatur’, or a mortal, is
fairly seen, you may know at once what to make of him. You know a bear
from a hog, by his skin, and a gray squirrel from a black.”

“True, Hurry,” said the other looking back and smiling, “nevertheless,
they are both squirrels.”

“Who denies it? But you’ll not say that a red man and a white man are
both Injins?”

“But I do say they are both men. Men of different races and colors, and
having different gifts and traditions, but, in the main, with the same
natur’. Both have souls; and both will be held accountable for their
deeds in this life.”

Hurry was one of those theorists who believed in the inferiority of all
the human race who were not white. His notions on the subject were
not very clear, nor were his definitions at all well settled; but his
opinions were none the less dogmatical or fierce. His conscience accused
him of sundry lawless acts against the Indians, and he had found it an
exceedingly easy mode of quieting it, by putting the whole family of
redmen, incontinently, without the category of human rights. Nothing
angered him sooner than to deny his proposition, more especially if the
denial were accompanied by a show of plausible argument; and he did not
listen to his companion’s remarks with much composure of either manner
or feeling.

“You’re a boy, Deerslayer, misled and misconsaited by Delaware arts, and
missionary ignorance,” he exclaimed, with his usual indifference to the
forms of speech, when excited. “You may account yourself as a red-skin’s
brother, but I hold’em all to be animals; with nothing human about ‘em
but cunning. That they have, I’ll allow; but so has a fox, or even a
bear. I’m older than you, and have lived longer in the woods--or, for
that matter, have lived always there, and am not to be told what an
Injin is or what he is not. If you wish to be considered a savage,
you’ve only to say so, and I’ll name you as such to Judith and the old
man, and then we’ll see how you’ll like your welcome.”

Here Hurry’s imagination did his temper some service, since, by
conjuring up the reception his semi-aquatic acquaintance would be
likely to bestow on one thus introduced, he burst into a hearty fit
of laughter. Deerslayer too well knew the uselessness of attempting
to convince such a being of anything against his prejudices, to feel a
desire to undertake the task; and he was not sorry that the approach of
the canoe to the southeastern curve of the lake gave a new direction to
his ideas. They were now, indeed, quite near the place that March had
pointed out for the position of the outlet, and both began to look for
it with a curiosity that was increased by the expectation of the ark.

It may strike the reader as a little singular, that the place where a
stream of any size passed through banks that had an elevation of some
twenty feet, should be a matter of doubt with men who could not now have
been more than two hundred yards distant from the precise spot. It will
be recollected, however, that the trees and bushes here, as elsewhere,
fairly overhung the water, making such a fringe to the lake, as to
conceal any little variations from its general outline.

“I’ve not been down at this end of the lake these two summers,” said
Hurry, standing up in the canoe, the better to look about him. “Ay,
there’s the rock, showing its chin above the water, and I know that the
river begins in its neighborhood.”

The men now plied the paddles again, and they were presently within a
few yards of the rock, floating towards it, though their efforts were
suspended. This rock was not large, being merely some five or six feet
high, only half of which elevation rose above the lake. The incessant
washing of the water for centuries had so rounded its summit, that it
resembled a large beehive in shape, its form being more than usually
regular and even. Hurry remarked, as they floated slowly past, that this
rock was well known to all the Indians in that part of the country, and
that they were in the practice of using it as a mark to designate the
place of meeting, when separated by their hunts and marches.

“And here is the river, Deerslayer,” he continued, “though so shut in
by trees and bushes as to look more like an and-bush, than the outlet of
such a sheet as the Glimmerglass.”

Hurry had not badly described the place, which did truly seem to be a
stream lying in ambush. The high banks might have been a hundred feet
asunder; but, on the western side, a small bit of low land extended so
far forward as to diminish the breadth of the stream to half that width.

As the bushes hung in the water beneath, and pines that had the stature
of church-steeples rose in tall columns above, all inclining towards the
light, until their branches intermingled, the eye, at a little distance,
could not easily detect any opening in the shore, to mark the egress of
the water. In the forest above, no traces of this outlet were to be seen
from the lake, the whole presenting the same connected and seemingly
interminable carpet of leaves. As the canoe slowly advanced, sucked in
by the current, it entered beneath an arch of trees, through which the
light from the heavens struggled by casual openings, faintly relieving
the gloom beneath.

“This is a nat’ral and-bush,” half whispered Hurry, as if he felt that
the place was devoted to secrecy and watchfulness; “depend on it, old
Tom has burrowed with the ark somewhere in this quarter. We will drop
down with the current a short distance, and ferret him out.”

“This seems no place for a vessel of any size,” returned the other; “it
appears to me that we shall have hardly room enough for the canoe.”

Hurry laughed at the suggestion, and, as it soon appeared, with reason;
for the fringe of bushes immediately on the shore of the lake was no
sooner passed, than the adventurers found themselves in a narrow stream,
of a sufficient depth of limpid water, with a strong current, and a
canopy of leaves upheld by arches composed of the limbs of hoary trees.
Bushes lined the shores, as usual, but they left sufficient space
between them to admit the passage of anything that did not exceed twenty
feet in width, and to allow of a perspective ahead of eight or ten times
that distance.

Neither of our two adventurers used his paddle, except to keep the light
bark in the centre of the current, but both watched each turning of the
stream, of which there were two or three within the first hundred yards,
with jealous vigilance. Turn after turn, however, was passed, and the
canoe had dropped down with the current some little distance, when Hurry
caught a bush, and arrested its movement so suddenly and silently as to
denote some unusual motive for the act. Deerslayer laid his hand on the
stock of his rifle as soon as he noted this proceeding, but it was quite
as much with a hunter’s habit as from any feeling of alarm.

“There the old fellow is!” whispered Hurry, pointing with a finger, and
laughing heartily, though he carefully avoided making a noise, “ratting
it away, just as I supposed; up to his knees in the mud and water,
looking to the traps and the bait. But for the life of me I can see
nothing of the ark; though I’ll bet every skin I take this season, Jude
isn’t trusting her pretty little feet in the neighborhood of that black
mud. The gal’s more likely to be braiding her hair by the side of some
spring, where she can see her own good looks, and collect scornful
feelings ag’in us men.”

“You over-judge young women--yes, you do, Hurry--who as often bethink
them of their failings as they do of their perfections. I dare to say
this Judith, now, is no such admirer of herself, and no such scorner
of our sex as you seem to think; and that she is quite as likely to be
sarving her father in the house, wherever that may be, as he is to be
sarving her among the traps.”

“It’s a pleasure to hear truth from a man’s tongue, if it be only once
in a girl’s life,” cried a pleasant, rich, and yet soft female voice, so
near the canoe as to make both the listeners start. “As for you, Master
Hurry, fair words are so apt to choke you, that I no longer expect to
hear them from your mouth; the last you uttered sticking in your throat,
and coming near to death. But I’m glad to see you keep better society
than formerly, and that they who know how to esteem and treat women are
not ashamed to journey in your company.”

As this was said, a singularly handsome and youthful female face was
thrust through an opening in the leaves, within reach of Deerslayer’s
paddle. Its owner smiled graciously on the young man; and the frown
that she cast on Hurry, though simulated and pettish, had the effect to
render her beauty more striking, by exhibiting the play of an expressive
but capricious countenance; one that seemed to change from the soft
to the severe, the mirthful to the reproving, with facility and
indifference.

A second look explained the nature of the surprise. Unwittingly, the men
had dropped alongside of the ark, which had been purposely concealed in
bushes cut and arranged for the purpose; and Judith Hutter had merely
pushed aside the leaves that lay before a window, in order to show her
face, and speak to them.



Chapter IV.


    “And that timid fawn starts not with fear,
    When I steal to her secret bower;
    And that young May violet to me is dear,
    And I visit the silent streamlet near,
    To look on the lovely flower.”

    Bryant, “An Indian Story,” ii.11-15

The ark, as the floating habitation of the Hutters was generally called,
was a very simple contrivance. A large flat, or scow, composed the
buoyant part of the vessel; and in its centre, occupying the whole of
its breadth, and about two thirds of its length, stood a low fabric,
resembling the castle in construction, though made of materials so light
as barely to be bullet-proof. As the sides of the scow were a little
higher than usual, and the interior of the cabin had no more elevation
than was necessary for comfort, this unusual addition had neither a very
clumsy nor a very obtrusive appearance. It was, in short, little more
than a modern canal-boat, though more rudely constructed, of greater
breadth than common, and bearing about it the signs of the wilderness,
in its bark-covered posts and roof. The scow, however, had been put
together with some skill, being comparatively light, for its strength,
and sufficiently manageable. The cabin was divided into two apartments,
one of which served for a parlor, and the sleeping-room of the father,
and the other was appropriated to the uses of the daughters. A very
simple arrangement sufficed for the kitchen, which was in one end of
the scow, and removed from the cabin, standing in the open air; the ark
being altogether a summer habitation.

The “and-bush,” as Hurry in his ignorance of English termed it, is quite
as easily explained. In many parts of the lake and river, where the
banks were steep and high, the smaller trees and larger bushes, as has
been already mentioned, fairly overhung the stream, their branches not
unfrequently dipping into the water. In some instances they grew out
in nearly horizontal lines, for thirty or forty feet. The water being
uniformly deepest near the shores, where the banks were highest and the
nearest to a perpendicular, Hutter had found no difficulty in letting
the ark drop under one of these covers, where it had been anchored
with a view to conceal its position; security requiring some such
precautions, in his view of the case. Once beneath the trees and bushes,
a few stones fastened to the ends of the branches had caused them to
bend sufficiently to dip into the river; and a few severed bushes,
properly disposed, did the rest. The reader has seen that this cover was
so complete as to deceive two men accustomed to the woods, and who were
actually in search of those it concealed; a circumstance that will be
easily understood by those who are familiar with the matted and wild
luxuriance of a virgin American forest, more especially in a rich soil.
The discovery of the ark produced very different effects on our two
adventurers.

As soon as the canoe could be got round to the proper opening, Hurry
leaped on board, and in a minute was closely engaged in a gay, and a
sort of recriminating discourse with Judith, apparently forgetful of
the existence of all the rest of the world. Not so with Deerslayer. He
entered the ark with a slow, cautious step, examining every arrangement
of the cover with curious and scrutinizing eyes. It is true, he cast
one admiring glance at Judith, which was extorted by her brilliant and
singular beauty; but even this could detain him but a single instant
from the indulgence of his interest in Hutter’s contrivances. Step
by step did he look into the construction of the singular abode,
investigate its fastenings and strength, ascertain its means of defence,
and make every inquiry that would be likely to occur to one whose
thoughts dwelt principally on such expedients. Nor was the cover
neglected. Of this he examined the whole minutely, his commendation
escaping him more than once in audible comments. Frontier usages
admitting of this familiarity, he passed through the rooms, as he had
previously done at the ‘Castle’, and opening a door issued into the end
of the scow opposite to that where he had left Hurry and Judith. Here
he found the other sister, employed at some coarse needle-work, seated
beneath the leafy canopy of the cover.

As Deerslayer’s examination was by this time ended, he dropped the butt
of his rifle, and, leaning on the barrel with both hands, he turned
towards the girl with an interest the singular beauty of her sister
had not awakened. He had gathered from Hurry’s remarks that Hetty was
considered to have less intellect than ordinarily falls to the share of
human beings, and his education among Indians had taught him to treat
those who were thus afflicted by Providence with more than common
tenderness. Nor was there any thing in Hetty Hutter’s appearance, as so
often happens, to weaken the interest her situation excited. An idiot
she could not properly be termed, her mind being just enough enfeebled
to lose most of those traits that are connected with the more artful
qualities, and to retain its ingenuousness and love of truth. It had
often been remarked of this girl, by the few who had seen her, and who
possessed sufficient knowledge to discriminate, that her perception
of the right seemed almost intuitive, while her aversion to the wrong
formed so distinctive a feature of her mind, as to surround her with an
atmosphere of pure morality; peculiarities that are not infrequent with
persons who are termed feeble-minded; as if God had forbidden the evil
spirits to invade a precinct so defenceless, with the benign purpose
of extending a direct protection to those who had been left without the
usual aids of humanity. Her person, too, was agreeable, having a strong
resemblance to that of her sister’s, of which it was a subdued and
humble copy. If it had none of the brilliancy of Judith’s, the calm,
quiet, almost holy expression of her meek countenance seldom failed to
win on the observer, and few noted it long that did not begin to feel a
deep and lasting interest in the girl. She had no colour, in common,
nor was her simple mind apt to present images that caused her cheek to
brighten, though she retained a modesty so innate that it almost raised
her to the unsuspecting purity of a being superior to human infirmities.
Guileless, innocent, and without distrust, equally by nature and from
her mode of life, providence had, nevertheless shielded her from harm,
by a halo of moral light, as it is said ‘to temper the wind to the shorn
lamb.’

“You are Hetty Hutter,” said Deerslayer, in the way one puts a question
unconsciously to himself, assuming a kindness of tone and manner that
were singularly adapted to win the confidence of her he addressed.
“Hurry Harry has told me of you, and I know you must be the child?”

“Yes, I’m Hetty Hutter” returned the girl in a low, sweet voice, which
nature, aided by some education, had preserved from vulgarity of tone
and utterance--“I’m Hetty; Judith Hutter’s sister; and Thomas Hutter’s
youngest daughter.”

“I know your history, then, for Hurry Harry talks considerable, and he
is free of speech when he can find other people’s consarns to dwell on.
You pass most of your life on the lake, Hetty.”

“Certainly. Mother is dead; father is gone a-trapping, and Judith and I
stay at home. What’s your name?”

“That’s a question more easily asked than it is answered, young woman,
seeing that I’m so young, and yet have borne more names than some of the
greatest chiefs in all America.”

“But you’ve got a name--you don’t throw away one name, before you come
honestly by another?”

“I hope not, gal--I hope not. My names have come nat’rally, and I
suppose the one I bear now will be of no great lasting, since the
Delawares seldom settle on a man’s ra’al title, until such time as he
has an opportunity of showing his true natur’, in the council, or on the
warpath; which has never behappened me; seeing firstly, because I’m not
born a red-skin and have no right to sit in their councillings, and am
much too humble to be called on for opinions from the great of my own
colour; and, secondly, because this is the first war that has befallen
in my time, and no inimy has yet inroaded far enough into the colony, to
be reached by an arm even longer than mine.”

“Tell me your names,” added Hetty, looking up at him artlessly, “and,
maybe, I’ll tell you your character.”

“There is some truth in that, I’ll not deny, though it often fails. Men
are deceived in other men’s characters, and frequently give ‘em names
they by no means desarve. You can see the truth of this in the Mingo
names, which, in their own tongue, signify the same things as the
Delaware names,--at least, so they tell me, for I know little of that
tribe, unless it be by report,--and no one can say they are as honest or
as upright a nation. I put no great dependence, therefore, on names.”

“Tell me all your names,” repeated the girl, earnestly, for her mind
was too simple to separate things from professions, and she did attach
importance to a name; “I want to know what to think of you.”

“Well, sartain; I’ve no objection, and you shall hear them all. In the
first place, then, I’m Christian, and white-born, like yourself, and my
parents had a name that came down from father to son, as is a part of
their gifts. My father was called Bumppo; and I was named after him, of
course, the given name being Nathaniel, or Natty, as most people saw fit
to tarm it.”

“Yes, yes--Natty--and Hetty” interrupted the girl quickly, and
looking up from her work again, with a smile: “you are Natty, and I’m
Hetty--though you are Bumppo, and I’m Hutter. Bumppo isn’t as pretty as
Hutter, is it?”

“Why, that’s as people fancy. Bumppo has no lofty sound, I admit; and
yet men have bumped through the world with it. I did not go by this
name, howsoever, very long; for the Delawares soon found out, or thought
they found out, that I was not given to lying, and they called me,
firstly, ‘Straight-tongue.’”

“That’s a good name,” interrupted Hetty, earnestly, and in a positive
manner; “don’t tell me there’s no virtue in names!”

“I do not say that, for perhaps I desarved to be so called, lies being
no favorites with me, as they are with some. After a while they found
out I was quick of foot, and then they called me ‘The Pigeon’; which,
you know, has a swift wing, and flies in a straight line.”

“That was a pretty name!” exclaimed Hetty; “pigeons are pretty birds!”

“Most things that God created are pretty in their way, my good gal,
though they get to be deformed by mankind, so as to change their
natur’s, as well as their appearance. From carrying messages, and
striking blind trails, I got at last to following the hunters, when it
was thought I was quicker and surer at finding the game than most lads,
and then they called me the ‘Lap-ear’; as, they said, I partook of the
sagacity of the hound.”

“That’s not so pretty,” answered Hetty; “I hope you didn’t keep that
name long.”

“Not after I was rich enough to buy a rifle,” returned the other,
betraying a little pride through his usually quiet and subdued manner;
“then it was seen I could keep a wigwam in ven’son; and in time I got
the name of ‘Deerslayer,’ which is that I now bear; homely as some will
think it, who set more value on the scalp of a fellow-mortal than on the
horns of a buck.”

“Well, Deerslayer, I’m not one of them,” answered Hetty, simply; “Judith
likes soldiers, and flary coats, and fine feathers; but they’re all
naught to me. She says the officers are great, and gay, and of soft
speech; but they make me shudder, for their business is to kill their
fellow-creatures. I like your calling better; and your last name is a
very good one--better than Natty Bumppo.”

“This is nat’ral in one of your turn of mind, Hetty, and much as I
should have expected. They tell me your sister is handsome--oncommon,
for a mortal; and beauty is apt to seek admiration.”

“Did you never see Judith?” demanded the girl, with quick earnestness;
“if you never have, go at once and look at her. Even Hurry Harry isn’t
more pleasant to look at though she is a woman, and he is a man.”

Deerslayer regarded the girl for a moment with concern. Her pale-face
had flushed a little, and her eye, usually so mild and serene,
brightened as she spoke, in the way to betray the inward impulses.

“Ay, Hurry Harry,” he muttered to himself, as he walked through the
cabin towards the other end of the boat; “this comes of good looks, if
a light tongue has had no consarn in it. It’s easy to see which way that
poor creatur’s feelin’s are leanin’, whatever may be the case with your
Jude’s.”

But an interruption was put to the gallantry of Hurry, the coquetry
of his intros, the thoughts of Deerslayer, and the gentle feelings of
Hetty, by the sudden appearance of the canoe of the ark’s owner, in the
narrow opening among the bushes that served as a sort of moat to
his position. It would seem that Hutter, or Floating Tom, as he was
familiarly called by all the hunters who knew his habits, recognized the
canoe of Hurry, for he expressed no surprise at finding him in the
scow. On the contrary, his reception was such as to denote not only
gratification, but a pleasure, mingled with a little disappointment at
his not having made his appearance some days sooner.

“I looked for you last week,” he said, in a half-grumbling,
half-welcoming manner; “and was disappointed uncommonly that you didn’t
arrive. There came a runner through, to warn all the trappers and
hunters that the colony and the Canadas were again in trouble; and I
felt lonesome, up in these mountains, with three scalps to see to, and
only one pair of hands to protect them.”

“That’s reasonable,” returned March; “and ‘t was feeling like a parent.
No doubt, if I had two such darters as Judith and Hetty, my exper’ence
would tell the same story, though in gin’ral I am just as well satisfied
with having the nearest neighbor fifty miles off, as when he is within
call.”

“Notwithstanding, you didn’t choose to come into the wilderness alone,
now you knew that the Canada savages are likely to be stirring,”
 returned Hutter, giving a sort of distrustful, and at the same time
inquiring glance at Deerslayer.

“Why should I? They say a bad companion, on a journey, helps to shorten
the path; and this young man I account to be a reasonably good one.
This is Deerslayer, old Tom, a noted hunter among the Delawares, and
Christian-born, and Christian-edicated, too, like you and me. The lad is
not parfect, perhaps, but there’s worse men in the country that he came
from, and it’s likely he’ll find some that’s no better, in this part
of the world. Should we have occasion to defend our traps, and the
territory, he’ll be useful in feeding us all; for he’s a reg’lar dealer
in ven’son.”

“Young man, you are welcome,” growled Tom, thrusting a hard, bony hand
towards the youth, as a pledge of his sincerity; “in such times, a white
face is a friend’s, and I count on you as a support. Children sometimes
make a stout heart feeble, and these two daughters of mine give me more
concern than all my traps, and skins, and rights in the country.”

“That’s nat’ral!” cried Hurry. “Yes, Deerslayer, you and I don’t know it
yet by experience; but, on the whole, I consider that as nat’ral. If we
had darters, it’s more than probable we should have some such feelin’s;
and I honor the man that owns ‘em. As for Judith, old man, I enlist, at
once, as her soldier, and here is Deerslayer to help you to take care of
Hetty.”

“Many thanks to you, Master March,” returned the beauty, in a full, rich
voice, and with an accuracy of intonation and utterance that she shared
in common with her sister, and which showed that she had been better
taught than her father’s life and appearance would give reason to
expect. “Many thanks to you; but Judith Hutter has the spirit and
the experience that will make her depend more on herself than on
good-looking rovers like you. Should there be need to face the savages,
do you land with my father, instead of burrowing in the huts, under the
show of defending us females and--”

“Girl--girl,” interrupted the father, “quiet that glib tongue of thine,
and hear the truth. There are savages on the lake shore already, and no
man can say how near to us they may be at this very moment, or when we
may hear more from them!”

“If this be true, Master Hutter,” said Hurry, whose change of
countenance denoted how serious he deemed the information, though it did
not denote any unmanly alarm, “if this be true, your ark is in a most
misfortunate position, for, though the cover did deceive Deerslayer and
myself, it would hardly be overlooked by a full-blooded Injin, who was
out seriously in s’arch of scalps!”

“I think as you do, Hurry, and wish, with all my heart, we lay anywhere
else, at this moment, than in this narrow, crooked stream, which has
many advantages to hide in, but which is almost fatal to them that are
discovered. The savages are near us, moreover, and the difficulty is,
to get out of the river without being shot down like deer standing at a
lick!”

“Are you sartain, Master Hutter, that the red-skins you dread are ra’al
Canadas?” asked Deerslayer, in a modest but earnest manner. “Have you
seen any, and can you describe their paint?”

“I have fallen in with the signs of their being in the neighborhood,
but have seen none of ‘em. I was down stream a mile or so, looking to my
traps, when I struck a fresh trail, crossing the corner of a swamp, and
moving northward. The man had not passed an hour; and I know’d it for an
Indian footstep, by the size of the foot, and the intoe, even before I
found a worn moccasin, which its owner had dropped as useless. For that
matter, I found the spot where he halted to make a new one, which was
only a few yards from the place where he had dropped the old one.”

“That doesn’t look much like a red-skin on the war path!” returned the
other, shaking his head. “An exper’enced warrior, at least, would have
burned, or buried, or sunk in the river such signs of his passage; and
your trail is, quite likely, a peaceable trail. But the moccasin may
greatly relieve my mind, if you bethought you of bringing it off. I’ve
come here to meet a young chief myself; and his course would be much in
the direction you’ve mentioned. The trail may have been his’n.”

“Hurry Harry, you’re well acquainted with this young man, I hope, who
has meetings with savages in a part of the country where he has
never been before?” demanded Hutter, in a tone and in a manner that
sufficiently indicated the motive of the question; these rude beings
seldom hesitating, on the score of delicacy, to betray their feelings.
“Treachery is an Indian virtue; and the whites, that live much in their
tribes, soon catch their ways and practices.”

“True--true as the Gospel, old Tom; but not personable to Deerslayer,
who’s a young man of truth, if he has no other ricommend. I’ll answer
for his honesty, whatever I may do for his valor in battle.”

“I should like to know his errand in this strange quarter of the
country.”

“That is soon told, Master Hutter,” said the young man, with the
composure of one who kept a clean conscience. “I think, moreover, you’ve
a right to ask it. The father of two such darters, who occupies a lake,
after your fashion, has just the same right to inquire into a stranger’s
business in his neighborhood, as the colony would have to demand the
reason why the Frenchers put more rijiments than common along the lines.
No, no, I’ll not deny your right to know why a stranger comes into your
habitation or country, in times as serious as these.”

“If such is your way of thinking, friend, let me hear your story without
more words.”

“‘T is soon told, as I said afore; and shall be honestly told. I’m a
young man, and, as yet, have never been on a war-path; but no sooner did
the news come among the Delawares, that wampum and a hatchet were about
to be sent in to the tribe, than they wished me to go out among the
people of my own color, and get the exact state of things for ‘em. This
I did, and, after delivering my talk to the chiefs, on my return, I met
an officer of the crown on the Schoharie, who had messages to send to
some of the fri’ndly tribes that live farther west. This was thought a
good occasion for Chingachgook, a young chief who has never struck a
foe, and myself; to go on our first war path in company, and an
app’intment was made for us, by an old Delaware, to meet at the rock
near the foot of this lake. I’ll not deny that Chingachgook has another
object in view, but it has no consarn with any here, and is his secret
and not mine; therefore I’ll say no more about it.”

“‘Tis something about a young woman,” interrupted Judith hastily, then
laughing at her own impetuosity, and even having the grace to colour a
little, at the manner in which she had betrayed her readiness to impute
such a motive. “If ‘tis neither war, nor a hunt, it must be love.”

“Ay, it comes easy for the young and handsome, who hear so much of them
feelin’s, to suppose that they lie at the bottom of most proceedin’s;
but, on that head, I say nothin’. Chingachgook is to meet me at the
rock, an hour afore sunset to-morrow evening, after which we shall go our
way together, molesting none but the king’s inimies, who are lawfully
our own. Knowing Hurry of old, who once trapped in our hunting grounds,
and falling in with him on the Schoharie, just as he was on the p’int of
starting for his summer ha’nts, we agreed to journey in company; not so
much from fear of the Mingos, as from good fellowship, and, as he says,
to shorten a long road.”

“And you think the trail I saw may have been that of your friend, ahead
of his time?” said Hutter.

“That’s my idee, which may be wrong, but which may be right. If I saw
the moccasin, howsever, I could tell, in a minute, whether it is made in
the Delaware fashion, or not.”

“Here it is, then,” said the quick-witted Judith, who had already gone
to the canoe in quest of it. “Tell us what it says; friend or enemy. You
look honest, and I believe all you say, whatever father may think.”

“That’s the way with you, Jude; forever finding out friends, where I
distrust foes,” grumbled Tom: “but, speak out, young man, and tell us
what you think of the moccasin.”

“That’s not Delaware made,” returned Deerslayer, examining the worn and
rejected covering for the foot with a cautious eye. “I’m too young on a
war-path to be positive, but I should say that moccasin has a northern
look, and comes from beyond the Great Lakes.”

“If such is the case, we ought not to lie here a minute longer than is
necessary,” said Hutter, glancing through the leaves of his cover, as if
he already distrusted the presence of an enemy on the opposite shore of
the narrow and sinuous stream. “It wants but an hour or so of night,
and to move in the dark will be impossible, without making a noise that
would betray us. Did you hear the echo of a piece in the mountains,
half-an-hour since?”

“Yes, old man, and heard the piece itself,” answered Hurry, who now felt
the indiscretion of which he had been guilty, “for the last was fired
from my own shoulder.”

“I feared it came from the French Indians; still it may put them on the
look-out, and be a means of discovering us. You did wrong to fire in
war-time, unless there was good occasion.

“So I begin to think myself, Uncle Tom; and yet, if a man can’t trust
himself to let off his rifle in a wilderness that is a thousand miles
square, lest some inimy should hear it, where’s the use in carrying
one?”

Hutter now held a long consultation with his two guests, in which the
parties came to a true understanding of their situation. He explained
the difficulty that would exist in attempting to get the ark out of
so swift and narrow a stream, in the dark, without making a noise that
could not fail to attract Indian ears. Any strollers in their vicinity
would keep near the river or the lake; but the former had swampy shores
in many places, and was both so crooked and so fringed with bushes, that
it was quite possible to move by daylight without incurring much danger
of being seen. More was to be apprehended, perhaps, from the ear than
from the eye, especially as long as they were in the short, straitened,
and canopied reaches of the stream.

“I never drop down into this cover, which is handy to my traps, and
safer than the lake from curious eyes, without providing the means of
getting out ag’in,” continued this singular being; “and that is easier
done by a pull than a push. My anchor is now lying above the suction, in
the open lake; and here is a line, you see, to haul us up to it. Without
some such help, a single pair of hands would make heavy work in forcing
a scow like this up stream. I have a sort of a crab, too, that lightens
the pull, on occasion. Jude can use the oar astern as well as myself;
and when we fear no enemy, to get out of the river gives us but little
trouble.”

“What should we gain, Master Hutter, by changing the position?” asked
Deerslayer, with a good deal of earnestness; “this is a safe cover, and
a stout defence might be made from the inside of this cabin. I’ve never
fou’t unless in the way of tradition; but it seems to me we might beat
off twenty Mingos, with palisades like them afore us.”

“Ay, ay; you ‘ve never fought except in traditions, that’s plain enough,
young man! Did you ever see as broad a sheet of water as this above us,
before you came in upon it with Hurry?”

“I can’t say that I ever did,” Deerslayer answered, modestly. “Youth
is the time to l’arn; and I’m far from wishing to raise my voice in
counsel, afore it is justified by exper’ence.”

“Well, then, I’ll teach you the disadvantage of fighting in this
position, and the advantage of taking to the open lake. Here, you may
see, the savages will know where to aim every shot; and it would be too
much to hope that some would not find their way through the crevices of
the logs. Now, on the other hand, we should have nothing but a forest
to aim at. Then we are not safe from fire, here, the bark of this roof
being little better than so much kindling-wood. The castle, too, might
be entered and ransacked in my absence, and all my possessions overrun
and destroyed. Once in the lake, we can be attacked only in boats or
on rafts--shall have a fair chance with the enemy--and can protect the
castle with the ark. Do you understand this reasoning, youngster?”

“It sounds well--yes, it has a rational sound; and I’ll not gainsay it.”

“Well, old Tom,” cried Hurry, “If we are to move, the sooner we make a
beginning, the sooner we shall know whether we are to have our scalps
for night-caps, or not.”

As this proposition was self-evident, no one denied its justice. The
three men, after a short preliminary explanation, now set about their
preparations to move the ark in earnest. The slight fastenings were
quickly loosened; and, by hauling on the line, the heavy craft slowly
emerged from the cover. It was no sooner free from the incumbrance of
the branches, than it swung into the stream, sheering quite close to the
western shore, by the force of the current. Not a soul on board heard
the rustling of the branches, as the cabin came against the bushes and
trees of the western bank, without a feeling of uneasiness; for no one
knew at what moment, or in what place, a secret and murderous enemy
might unmask himself. Perhaps the gloomy light that still struggled
through the impending canopy of leaves, or found its way through the
narrow, ribbon-like opening, which seemed to mark, in the air above,
the course of the river that flowed beneath, aided in augmenting the
appearance of the danger; for it was little more than sufficient to
render objects visible, without giving up all their outlines at a
glance. Although the sun had not absolutely set, it had withdrawn its
direct rays from the valley; and the hues of evening were beginning to
gather around objects that stood uncovered, rendering those within the
shadows of the woods still more sombre and gloomy.

No interruption followed the movement, however, and, as the men
continued to haul on the line, the ark passed steadily ahead, the great
breadth of the scow preventing its sinking into the water, and from
offering much resistance to the progress of the swift element beneath
its bottom. Hutter, too, had adopted a precaution suggested by
experience, which might have done credit to a seaman, and which
completely prevented any of the annoyances and obstacles which otherwise
would have attended the short turns of the river. As the ark descended,
heavy stones, attached to the line, were dropped in the centre of the
stream, forming local anchors, each of which was kept from dragging
by the assistance of those above it, until the uppermost of all was
reached, which got its “backing” from the anchor, or grapnel, that lay
well out in the lake. In consequence of this expedient, the ark floated
clear of the incumbrances of the shore, against which it would otherwise
have been unavoidably hauled at every turn, producing embarrassments
that Hutter, single-handed, would have found it very difficult to
overcome. Favored by this foresight, and stimulated by the apprehension
of discovery, Floating Tom and his two athletic companions hauled the
ark ahead with quite as much rapidity as comported with the strength
of the line. At every turn in the stream, a stone was raised from the
bottom, when the direction of the scow changed to one that pointed
towards the stone that lay above. In this manner, with the channel
buoyed out for him, as a sailor might term it, did Hutter move forward,
occasionally urging his friends, in a low and guarded voice, to increase
their exertions, and then, as occasions offered, warning them against
efforts that might, at particular moments, endanger all by too much
zeal. In spite of their long familiarity with the woods, the gloomy
character of the shaded river added to the uneasiness that each felt;
and when the ark reached the first bend in the Susquehannah, and the eye
caught a glimpse of the broader expanse of the lake, all felt a relief,
that perhaps none would have been willing to confess. Here the last
stone was raised from the bottom, and the line led directly towards the
grapnel, which, as Hutter had explained, was dropped above the suction
of the current.

“Thank God!” ejaculated Hurry, “there is daylight, and we shall soon
have a chance of seeing our inimies, if we are to feel ‘em.”

“That is more than you or any man can say,” growled Hutter. “There is no
spot so likely to harbor a party as the shore around the outlet, and the
moment we clear these trees and get into open water, will be the most
trying time, since it will leave the enemy a cover, while it puts us
out of one. Judith, girl, do you and Hetty leave the oar to take care of
itself; and go within the cabin; and be mindful not to show your faces
at a window; for they who will look at them won’t stop to praise their
beauty. And now, Hurry, we’ll step into this outer room ourselves, and
haul through the door, where we shall all be safe, from a surprise, at
least. Friend Deerslayer, as the current is lighter, and the line has
all the strain on it that is prudent, do you keep moving from window to
window, taking care not to let your head be seen, if you set any value
on life. No one knows when or where we shall hear from our neighbors.”

Deerslayer complied, with a sensation that had nothing in common with
fear, but which had all the interest of a perfectly novel and a most
exciting situation. For the first time in his life he was in the
vicinity of enemies, or had good reason to think so; and that, too,
under all the thrilling circumstances of Indian surprises and Indian
artifices. As he took his stand at the window, the ark was just passing
through the narrowest part of the stream, a point where the water first
entered what was properly termed the river, and where the trees fairly
interlocked overhead, causing the current to rush into an arch of
verdure; a feature as appropriate and peculiar to the country, perhaps,
as that of Switzerland, where the rivers come rushing literally from
chambers of ice.

The ark was in the act of passing the last curve of this leafy entrance,
as Deerslayer, having examined all that could be seen of the eastern
bank of the river, crossed the room to look from the opposite window, at
the western. His arrival at this aperture was most opportune, for he
had no sooner placed his eye at a crack, than a sight met his gaze that
might well have alarmed a sentinel so young and inexperienced. A sapling
overhung the water, in nearly half a circle, having first grown towards
the light, and then been pressed down into this form by the weight of
the snows; a circumstance of common occurrence in the American woods.
On this no less than six Indians had already appeared, others standing
ready to follow them, as they left room; each evidently bent on running
out on the trunk, and dropping on the roof of the ark as it passed
beneath. This would have been an exploit of no great difficulty, the
inclination of the tree admitting of an easy passage, the adjoining
branches offering ample support for the hands, and the fall being too
trifling to be apprehended. When Deerslayer first saw this party, it was
just unmasking itself, by ascending the part of the tree nearest to the
earth, or that which was much the most difficult to overcome; and his
knowledge of Indian habits told him at once that they were all in their
war-paint, and belonged to a hostile tribe.

“Pull, Hurry,” he cried; “pull for your life, and as you love Judith
Hutter! Pull, man, pull!”

This call was made to one that the young man knew had the strength of a
giant. It was so earnest and solemn, that both Hutter and March felt
it was not idly given, and they applied all their force to the line
simultaneously, and at a most critical moment. The scow redoubled its
motion, and seemed to glide from under the tree as if conscious of
the danger that was impending overhead. Perceiving that they were
discovered, the Indians uttered the fearful war-whoop, and running
forward on the tree, leaped desperately towards their fancied prize.
There were six on the tree, and each made the effort. All but their
leader fell into the river more or less distant from the ark, as they
came, sooner or later, to the leaping place. The chief, who had taken
the dangerous post in advance, having an earlier opportunity than the
others, struck the scow just within the stern. The fall proving so much
greater than he had anticipated, he was slightly stunned, and for a
moment he remained half bent and unconscious of his situation. At this
instant Judith rushed from the cabin, her beauty heightened by the
excitement that produced the bold act, which flushed her cheek to
crimson, and, throwing all her strength into the effort, she pushed
the intruder over the edge of the scow, headlong into the river. This
decided feat was no sooner accomplished than the woman resumed her sway;
Judith looked over the stern to ascertain what had become of the man,
and the expression of her eyes softened to concern, next, her cheek
crimsoned between shame and surprise at her own temerity, and then she
laughed in her own merry and sweet manner. All this occupied less than a
minute, when the arm of Deerslayer was thrown around her waist, and she
was dragged swiftly within the protection of the cabin. This retreat was
not effected too soon. Scarcely were the two in safety, when the forest
was filled with yells, and bullets began to patter against the logs.

The ark being in swift motion all this while, it was beyond the danger
of pursuit by the time these little events had occurred; and the
savages, as soon as the first burst of their anger had subsided, ceased
firing, with the consciousness that they were expending their ammunition
in vain. When the scow came up over her grapnel, Hutter tripped the
latter in a way not to impede the motion; and being now beyond the
influence of the current, the vessel continued to drift ahead, until
fairly in the open lake, though still near enough to the land to render
exposure to a rifle-bullet dangerous. Hutter and March got out two small
sweeps and, covered by the cabin, they soon urged the ark far enough
from the shore to leave no inducement to their enemies to make any
further attempt to injure them.


Chapter V.


    “Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
    The hart ungalled play,
    For some must watch, while some must sleep,
    Thus runs the world away.”

    Hamlet, III.ii.271-74

Another consultation took place in the forward part of the scow,
at which both Judith and Hetty were present. As no danger could now
approach unseen, immediate uneasiness had given place to the concern
which attended the conviction that enemies were in considerable force on
the shores of the lake, and that they might be sure no practicable means
of accomplishing their own destruction would be neglected. As a matter
of course Hutter felt these truths the deepest, his daughters having an
habitual reliance on his resources, and knowing too little to appreciate
fully all the risks they ran; while his male companions were at liberty
to quit him at any moment they saw fit. His first remark showed that
he had an eye to the latter circumstance, and might have betrayed, to a
keen observer, the apprehension that was just then uppermost.

“We’ve a great advantage over the Iroquois, or the enemy, whoever they
are, in being afloat,” he said.

“There’s not a canoe on the lake that I don’t know where it’s hid; and
now yours is here. Hurry, there are but three more on the land, and
they’re so snug in hollow logs that I don’t believe the Indians could
find them, let them try ever so long.”

“There’s no telling that--no one can say that,” put in Deerslayer; “a
hound is not more sartain on the scent than a red-skin, when he expects
to get anything by it. Let this party see scalps afore ‘em, or plunder,
or honor accordin’ to their idees of what honor is, and ‘t will be a
tight log that hides a canoe from their eyes.”

“You’re right, Deerslayer,” cried Harry March; “you’re downright Gospel
in this matter, and I rej’ice that my bunch of bark is safe enough here,
within reach of my arm. I calcilate they’ll be at all the rest of the
canoes afore to-morrow night, if they are in ra’al ‘arnest to smoke you
out, old Tom, and we may as well overhaul our paddles for a pull.”

Hutter made no immediate reply. He looked about him in silence for quite
a minute, examining the sky, the lake, and the belt of forest which
inclosed it, as it might be hermetically, like one consulting their
signs. Nor did he find any alarming symptoms. The boundless woods were
sleeping in the deep repose of nature, the heavens were placid, but
still luminous with the light of the retreating sun, while the lake
looked more lovely and calm than it had before done that day. It was a
scene altogether soothing, and of a character to lull the passions into
a species of holy calm. How far this effect was produced, however, on
the party in the ark, must appear in the progress of our narrative.

“Judith,” called out the father, when he had taken this close but short
survey of the omens, “night is at hand; find our friends food; a long
march gives a sharp appetite.”

“We’re not starving, Master Hutter,” March observed, “for we filled up
just as we reached the lake, and for one, I prefer the company of Jude
even to her supper. This quiet evening is very agreeable to sit by her
side.”

“Natur’ is natur’,” objected Hutter, “and must be fed. Judith, see to
the meal, and take your sister to help you. I’ve a little discourse to
hold with you, friends,” he continued, as soon as his daughters were out
of hearing, “and wish the girls away. You see my situation, and I should
like to hear your opinions concerning what is best to be done. Three
times have I been burnt out already, but that was on the shore; and I’ve
considered myself as pretty safe ever since I got the castle built,
and the ark afloat. My other accidents, however, happened in peaceable
times, being nothing more than such flurries as a man must meet with, in
the woods; but this matter looks serious, and your ideas would greatly
relieve my mind.”

“It’s my notion, old Tom, that you, and your huts, and your traps, and
your whole possessions, hereaway, are in desperate jippardy,” returned
the matter-of-fact Hurry, who saw no use in concealment. “Accordin’ to
my idees of valie, they’re altogether not worth half as much to-day as
they was yesterday, nor would I give more for ‘em, taking the pay in
skins.”

“Then I’ve children!” continued the father, making the allusion in a
way that it might have puzzled even an indifferent observer to say
was intended as a bait, or as an exclamation of paternal concern,
“daughters, as you know, Hurry, and good girls too, I may say, though I
am their father.”

“A man may say anything, Master Hutter, particularly when pressed by
time and circumstances. You’ve darters, as you say, and one of them
hasn’t her equal on the frontiers for good looks, whatever she may have
for good behavior. As for poor Hetty, she’s Hetty Hutter, and that’s as
much as one can say about the poor thing. Give me Jude, if her conduct
was only equal to her looks!”

“I see, Harry March, I can only count on you as a fair-weather friend;
and I suppose that your companion will be of the same way of thinking,”
 returned the other, with a slight show of pride, that was not altogether
without dignity; “well, I must depend on Providence, which will not turn
a deaf ear, perhaps, to a father’s prayers.”

“If you’ve understood Hurry, here, to mean that he intends to desart
you,” said Deerslayer, with an earnest simplicity that gave double
assurance of its truth, “I think you do him injustice, as I know you
do me, in supposing I would follow him, was he so ontrue-hearted as to
leave a family of his own color in such a strait as this. I’ve come on
this at take, Master Hutter, to rende’vous a fri’nd, and I only wish he
was here himself, as I make no doubt he will be at sunset to-morrow, when
you’d have another rifle to aid you; an inexper’enced one, I’ll allow,
like my own, but one that has proved true so often ag’in the game, big
and little, that I’ll answer for its sarvice ag’in mortals.”

“May I depend on you to stand by me and my daughters, then, Deerslayer?”
 demanded the old man, with a father’s anxiety in his countenance.

“That may you, Floating Tom, if that’s your name; and as a brother would
stand by a sister, a husband his wife, or a suitor his sweetheart. In
this strait you may count on me, through all advarsities; and I think
Hurry does discredit to his natur’ and wishes, if you can’t count on
him.”

“Not he,” cried Judith, thrusting her handsome face out of the door;
“his nature is hurry, as well as his name, and he’ll hurry off, as
soon as he thinks his fine figure in danger. Neither ‘old Tom,’ nor his
‘gals,’ will depend much on Master March, now they know him, but you
they will rely on, Deerslayer; for your honest face and honest heart
tell us that what you promise you will perform.”

This was said, as much, perhaps, in affected scorn for Hurry, as in
sincerity. Still, it was not said without feeling. The fine face of
Judith sufficiently proved the latter circumstance; and if the conscious
March fancied that he had never seen in it a stronger display of
contempt--a feeling in which the beauty was apt to indulge--than while
she was looking at him, it certainly seldom exhibited more of a womanly
softness and sensibility, than when her speaking blue eyes were turned
on his travelling companion.

“Leave us, Judith,” Hutter ordered sternly, before either of the young
men could reply; “leave us; and do not return until you come with
the venison and fish. The girl has been spoilt by the flattery of the
officers, who sometimes find their way up here, Master March, and you’ll
not think any harm of her silly words.”

“You never said truer syllable, old Tom,” retorted Hurry, who smarted
under Judith’s observations; “the devil-tongued youngsters of the
garrison have proved her undoing! I scarce know Jude any longer, and
shall soon take to admiring her sister, who is getting to be much more
to my fancy.”

“I’m glad to hear this, Harry, and look upon it as a sign that you’re
coming to your right senses. Hetty would make a much safer and more
rational companion than Jude, and would be much the most likely to
listen to your suit, as the officers have, I greatly fear, unsettled her
sister’s mind.”

“No man needs a safer wife than Hetty,” said Hurry, laughing, “though
I’ll not answer for her being of the most rational. But no matter;
Deerslayer has not misconceived me, when he told you I should be found
at my post. I’ll not quit you, Uncle Tom, just now, whatever may be my
feelin’s and intentions respecting your eldest darter.”

Hurry had a respectable reputation for prowess among his associates,
and Hutter heard this pledge with a satisfaction that was not concealed.
Even the great personal strength of such an aid became of moment, in
moving the ark, as well as in the species of hand-to-hand conflicts,
that were not unfrequent in the woods; and no commander who was hard
pressed could feel more joy at hearing of the arrival of reinforcements,
than the borderer experienced at being told this important auxiliary
was not about to quit him. A minute before, Hutter would have been well
content to compromise his danger, by entering into a compact to act only
on the defensive; but no sooner did he feel some security on this
point, than the restlessness of man induced him to think of the means of
carrying the war into the enemy’s country.

“High prices are offered for scalps on both sides,” he observed, with a
grim smile, as if he felt the force of the inducement, at the very time
he wished to affect a superiority to earning money by means that the
ordinary feelings of those who aspire to be civilized men repudiated,
even while they were adopted. “It isn’t right, perhaps, to take gold for
human blood; and yet, when mankind is busy in killing one another, there
can be no great harm in adding a little bit of skin to the plunder.
What’s your sentiments, Hurry, touching these p’ints?”

“That you’ve made a vast mistake, old man, in calling savage blood human
blood, at all. I think no more of a red-skin’s scalp than I do of a pair
of wolf’s ears; and would just as lief finger money for the one as for
the other. With white people ‘t is different, for they’ve a nat’ral
avarsion to being scalped; whereas your Indian shaves his head
in readiness for the knife, and leaves a lock of hair by way of
braggadocio, that one can lay hold of in the bargain.”

“That’s manly, however, and I felt from the first that we had only to
get you on our side, to have your heart and hand,” returned Tom, losing
all his reserve, as he gained a renewed confidence in the disposition
of his companions. “Something more may turn up from this inroad of the
red-skins than they bargained for. Deerslayer, I conclude you’re of
Hurry’s way of thinking, and look upon money ‘arned in this way as being
as likely to pass as money ‘arned in trapping or hunting.”

“I’ve no such feelin’, nor any wish to harbor it, not I,” returned
the other. “My gifts are not scalpers’ gifts, but such as belong to my
religion and color. I’ll stand by you, old man, in the ark or in the
castle, the canoe or the woods, but I’ll not unhumanize my natur’ by
falling into ways that God intended for another race. If you and
Hurry have got any thoughts that lean towards the colony’s gold, go by
yourselves in s’arch of it, and leave the females to my care. Much as I
must differ from you both on all gifts that do not properly belong to a
white man, we shall agree that it is the duty of the strong to take
care of the weak, especially when the last belong to them that natur’
intended man to protect and console by his gentleness and strength.”

“Hurry Harry, that is a lesson you might learn and practise on to some
advantage,” said the sweet, but spirited voice of Judith, from the
cabin; a proof that she had over-heard all that had hitherto been said.

“No more of this, Jude,” called out the father angrily. “Move farther
off; we are about to talk of matters unfit for a woman to listen to.”

Hutter did not take any steps, however, to ascertain whether he
was obeyed or not; but dropping his voice a little, he pursued the
discourse.

“The young man is right, Hurry,” he said; “and we can leave the children
in his care. Now, my idea is just this; and I think you’ll agree that it
is rational and correct. There’s a large party of these savages on shore
and, though I didn’t tell it before the girls, for they’re womanish,
and apt to be troublesome when anything like real work is to be done,
there’s women among ‘em. This I know from moccasin prints; and ‘t is
likely they are hunters, after all, who have been out so long that they
know nothing of the war, or of the bounties.”

“In which case, old Tom, why was their first salute an attempt to cut
our throats?”

“We don’t know that their design was so bloody. It’s natural and easy
for an Indian to fall into ambushes and surprises; and, no doubt they
wished to get on board the ark first, and to make their conditions
afterwards. That a disapp’inted savage should fire at us, is in rule;
and I think nothing of that. Besides, how often they burned me out,
and robbed my traps--ay, and pulled trigger on me, in the most peaceful
times?”

“The blackguards will do such things, I must allow; and we pay ‘em off
pretty much in their own c’ine. Women would not be on the war-path,
sartainly; and, so far, there’s reason in your idee.”

“Nor would a hunter be in his war-paint,” returned Deerslayer. “I saw
the Mingos, and know that they are out on the trail of mortal men; and
not for beaver or deer.”

“There you have it ag’in, old fellow,” said Hurry. “In the way of an
eye, now, I’d as soon trust this young man, as trust the oldest settler
in the colony; if he says paint, why paint it was.”

“Then a hunting-party and a war-party have met, for women must have been
with ‘em. It’s only a few days since the runner went through with the
tidings of the troubles; and it may be that warriors have come out to
call in their women and children, to get an early blow.”

“That would stand the courts, and is just the truth,” cried Hurry;
“you’ve got it now, old Tom, and I should like to hear what you mean to
make out of it.”

“The bounty,” returned the other, looking up at his attentive companion
in a cool, sullen manner, in which, however, heartless cupidity and
indifference to the means were far more conspicuous than any feelings of
animosity or revenge.

“If there’s women, there’s children; and big and little have scalps; the
colony pays for all alike.”

“More shame to it, that it should do so,” interrupted Deerslayer;
“more shame to it, that it don’t understand its gifts, and pay greater
attention to the will of God.”

“Hearken to reason, lad, and don’t cry out afore you understand a
case,” returned the unmoved Hurry; “the savages scalp your fri’nds, the
Delawares, or Mohicans whichever they may be, among the rest; and why
shouldn’t we scalp? I will own, it would be ag’in right for you and me
now, to go into the settlements and bring out scalps, but it’s a very
different matter as concerns Indians. A man shouldn’t take scalps, if he
isn’t ready to be scalped, himself, on fitting occasions. One good turn
desarves another, the world over. That’s reason, and I believe it to be
good religion.”

“Ay, Master Hurry,” again interrupted the rich voice of Judith, “is it
religion to say that one bad turn deserves another?”

“I’ll never reason ag’in you, Judy, for you beat me with beauty, if you
can’t with sense. Here’s the Canadas paying their Injins for scalps, and
why not we pay--”

“Our Indians!” exclaimed the girl, laughing with a sort of melancholy
merriment. “Father, father! think no more of this, and listen to the
advice of Deerslayer, who has a conscience; which is more than I can say
or think of Harry March.”

Hutter now rose, and, entering the cabin, he compelled his daughters
to go into the adjoining room, when he secured both the doors, and
returned. Then he and Hurry pursued the subject; but, as the purport of
all that was material in this discourse will appear in the narrative,
it need not be related here in detail. The reader, however, can have
no difficulty in comprehending the morality that presided over their
conference. It was, in truth, that which, in some form or other, rules
most of the acts of men, and in which the controlling principle is that
one wrong will justify another. Their enemies paid for scalps, and this
was sufficient to justify the colony for retaliating. It is true, the
French used the same argument, a circumstance, as Hurry took occasion
to observe in answer to one of Deerslayer’s objections, that proved its
truth, as mortal enemies would not be likely to have recourse to the
same reason unless it were a good one. But neither Hutter nor Hurry was
a man likely to stick at trifles in matters connected with the right of
the aborigines, since it is one of the consequences of aggression that
it hardens the conscience, as the only means of quieting it. In the
most peaceable state of the country, a species of warfare was carried on
between the Indians, especially those of the Canadas, and men of their
caste; and the moment an actual and recognized warfare existed, it was
regarded as the means of lawfully revenging a thousand wrongs, real
and imaginary. Then, again, there was some truth, and a good deal of
expediency, in the principle of retaliation, of which they both
availed themselves, in particular, to answer the objections of their
juster-minded and more scrupulous companion.

“You must fight a man with his own we’pons, Deerslayer,” cried Hurry,
in his uncouth dialect, and in his dogmatical manner of disposing of all
oral propositions; “if he’s f’erce you must be f’ercer; if he’s stout
of heart, you must be stouter. This is the way to get the better of
Christian or savage: by keeping up to this trail, you’ll get soonest to
the ind of your journey.”

“That’s not Moravian doctrine, which teaches that all are to be judged
according to their talents or l’arning; the Injin like an Injin; and the
white man like a white man. Some of their teachers say, that if you’re
struck on the cheek, it’s a duty to turn the other side of the face, and
take another blow, instead of seeking revenge, whereby I understand--”

“That’s enough!” shouted Hurry; “that’s all I want, to prove a man’s
doctrine! How long would it take to kick a man through the colony--in at
one ind and out at the other, on that principle?”

“Don’t mistake me, March,” returned the young hunter, with dignity; “I
don’t understand by this any more than that it’s best to do this, if
possible. Revenge is an Injin gift, and forgiveness a white man’s.
That’s all. Overlook all you can is what’s meant; and not revenge all
you can. As for kicking, Master Hurry,” and Deerslayer’s sunburnt cheek
flushed as he continued, “into the colony, or out of the colony, that’s
neither here nor there, seeing no one proposes it, and no one would
be likely to put up with it. What I wish to say is, that a red-skin’s
scalping don’t justify a pale-face’s scalping.”

“Do as you’re done by, Deerslayer; that’s ever the Christian parson’s
doctrine.”

“No, Hurry, I’ve asked the Moravians consarning that; and it’s
altogether different. ‘Do as you would be done by,’ they tell me, is the
true saying, while men practyse the false. They think all the colonies
wrong that offer bounties for scalps, and believe no blessing will
follow the measures. Above all things, they forbid revenge.”

“That for your Moravians!” cried March, snapping his fingers; “they’re
the next thing to Quakers; and if you’d believe all they tell you, not
even a ‘rat would be skinned, out of marcy. Who ever heard of marcy on a
muskrat!”

The disdainful manner of Hurry prevented a reply, and he and the old man
resumed the discussion of their plans in a more quiet and confidential
manner. This confidence lasted until Judith appeared, bearing the simple
but savory supper. March observed, with a little surprise, that she
placed the choicest bits before Deerslayer, and that in the little
nameless attentions it was in her power to bestow, she quite obviously
manifested a desire to let it be seen that she deemed him the honored
guest. Accustomed, however, to the waywardness and coquetry of the
beauty, this discovery gave him little concern, and he ate with an
appetite that was in no degree disturbed by any moral causes. The
easily-digested food of the forests offering the fewest possible
obstacles to the gratification of this great animal indulgence,
Deerslayer, notwithstanding the hearty meal both had taken in the woods,
was in no manner behind his companion in doing justice to the viands.

An hour later the scene had greatly changed. The lake was still placid
and glassy, but the gloom of the hour had succeeded to the soft twilight
of a summer evening, and all within the dark setting of the woods lay in
the quiet repose of night. The forests gave up no song, or cry, or
even murmur, but looked down from the hills on the lovely basin they
encircled, in solemn stillness; and the only sound that was audible
was the regular dip of the sweeps, at which Hurry and Deerslayer lazily
pushed, impelling the ark towards the castle. Hutter had withdrawn to
the stern of the scow, in order to steer, but, finding that the young
men kept even strokes, and held the desired course by their own skill,
he permitted the oar to drag in the water, took a seat on the end of the
vessel, and lighted his pipe. He had not been thus placed many minutes,
ere Hetty came stealthily out of the cabin, or house, as they usually
termed that part of the ark, and placed herself at his feet, on a
little bench that she brought with her. As this movement was by no means
unusual in his feeble-minded child, the old man paid no other attention
to it than to lay his hand kindly on her head, in an affectionate
and approving manner; an act of grace that the girl received in meek
silence.

After a pause of several minutes, Hetty began to sing. Her voice was
low and tremulous, but it was earnest and solemn. The words and the
tune were of the simplest form, the first being a hymn that she had been
taught by her mother, and the last one of those natural melodies
that find favor with all classes, in every age, coming from and being
addressed to the feelings. Hutter never listened to this simple strain
without finding his heart and manner softened; facts that his daughter
well knew, and by which she had often profited, through the sort of holy
instinct that enlightens the weak of mind, more especially in their aims
toward good.

Hetty’s low, sweet tones had not been raised many moments, when the dip
of the oars ceased, and the holy strain arose singly on the breathing
silence of the wilderness. As if she gathered courage with the theme,
her powers appeared to increase as she proceeded; and though nothing
vulgar or noisy mingled in her melody, its strength and melancholy
tenderness grew on the ear, until the air was filled with this simple
homage of a soul that seemed almost spotless. That the men forward
were not indifferent to this touching interruption, was proved by their
inaction; nor did their oars again dip until the last of the sweet
sounds had actually died among the remarkable shores, which, at that
witching hour, would waft even the lowest modulations of the human voice
more than a mile. Hutter was much affected; for rude as he was by early
habits, and even ruthless as he had got to be by long exposure to the
practices of the wilderness, his nature was of that fearful mixture of
good and evil that so generally enters into the moral composition of
man.

“You are sad to-night, child,” said the father, whose manner and language
usually assumed some of the gentleness and elevation of the civilized
life he had led in youth, when he thus communed with this particular
child; “we have just escaped from enemies, and ought rather to rejoice.”

“You can never do it, father!” said Hetty, in a low, remonstrating
manner, taking his hard, knotty hand into both her own; “you have talked
long with Harry March; but neither of you have the heart to do it!”

“This is going beyond your means, foolish child; you must have been
naughty enough to have listened, or you could know nothing of our talk.”

“Why should you and Hurry kill people--especially women and children?”

“Peace, girl, peace; we are at war, and must do to our enemies as our
enemies would do to us.”

“That’s not it, father! I heard Deerslayer say how it was. You must do
to your enemies as you wish your enemies would do to you. No man wishes
his enemies to kill him.”

“We kill our enemies in war, girl, lest they should kill us. One side or
the other must begin; and them that begin first, are most apt to get the
victory. You know nothing about these things, poor Hetty, and had best
say nothing.”

“Judith says it is wrong, father; and Judith has sense though I have
none.”

“Jude understands better than to talk to me of these matters; for she
has sense, as you say, and knows I’ll not bear it. Which would you
prefer, Hetty; to have your own scalp taken, and sold to the French, or
that we should kill our enemies, and keep them from harming us?”

“That’s not it, father! Don’t kill them, nor let them kill us. Sell your
skins, and get more, if you can; but don’t sell human blood.”

“Come, come, child; let us talk of matters you understand. Are you glad
to see our old friend, March, back again? You like Hurry, and must know
that one day he may be your brother--if not something nearer.”

“That can’t be, father,” returned the girl, after a considerable pause;
“Hurry has had one father, and one mother; and people never have two.”

“So much for your weak mind, Hetty. When Jude marries, her husband’s
father will be her father, and her husband’s sister her sister. If she
should marry Hurry, then he will be your brother.”

“Judith will never have Hurry,” returned the girl mildly, but
positively; “Judith don’t like Hurry.”

“That’s more than you can know, Hetty. Harry March is the handsomest,
and the strongest, and the boldest young man that ever visits the lake;
and, as Jude is the greatest beauty, I don’t see why they shouldn’t come
together. He has as much as promised that he will enter into this job
with me, on condition that I’ll consent.”

Hetty began to move her body back and forth, and other-wise to express
mental agitation; but she made no answer for more than a minute. Her
father, accustomed to her manner, and suspecting no immediate cause of
concern, continued to smoke with the apparent phlegm which would seem to
belong to that particular species of enjoyment.

“Hurry is handsome, father,” said Hetty, with a simple emphasis, that
she might have hesitated about using, had her mind been more alive to
the inferences of others.

“I told you so, child,” muttered old Hutter, without removing the pipe
from between his teeth; “he’s the likeliest youth in these parts; and
Jude is the likeliest young woman I’ve met with since her poor mother
was in her best days.”

“Is it wicked to be ugly, father?’”

“One might be guilty of worse things--but you’re by no means ugly;
though not so comely as Jude.”

“Is Judith any happier for being so handsome?”

“She may be, child, and she may not be. But talk of other matters now,
for you hardly understand these, poor Hetty. How do you like our new
acquaintance, Deerslayer?”

“He isn’t handsome, father. Hurry is far handsomer than Deerslayer.”

“That’s true; but they say he is a noted hunter! His fame had reached
me before I ever saw him; and I did hope he would prove to be as stout
a warrior as he is dexterous with the deer. All men are not alike,
howsever, child; and it takes time, as I know by experience, to give a
man a true wilderness heart.”

“Have I got a wilderness heart, father--and Hurry, is his heart true
wilderness?”

“You sometimes ask queer questions, Hetty! Your heart is good, child,
and fitter for the settlements than for the woods; while your reason is
fitter for the woods than for the settlements.”

“Why has Judith more reason than I, father?”

“Heaven help thee, child: this is more than I can answer. God gives
sense, and appearance, and all these things; and he grants them as he
seeth fit. Dost thou wish for more sense?”

“Not I. The little I have troubles me; for when I think the hardest,
then I feel the unhappiest. I don’t believe thinking is good for me,
though I do wish I was as handsome as Judith!”

“Why so, poor child? Thy sister’s beauty may cause her trouble, as it
caused her mother before her. It’s no advantage, Hetty, to be so marked
for anything as to become an object of envy, or to be sought after more
than others.”

“Mother was good, if she was handsome,” returned the girl, the tears
starting to her eyes, as usually happened when she adverted to her
deceased parent.

Old Hutter, if not equally affected, was moody and silent at this
allusion to his wife. He continued smoking, without appearing disposed
to make any answer, until his simple-minded daughter repeated her
remark, in a way to show that she felt uneasiness lest he might be
inclined to deny her assertion. Then he knocked the ashes out of his
pipe, and laying his hand in a sort of rough kindness on the girl’s
head, he made a reply.

“Thy mother was too good for this world,” he said; “though others might
not think so. Her good looks did not befriend her; and you have no
occasion to mourn that you are not as much like her as your sister.
Think less of beauty, child, and more of your duty, and you’ll be as
happy on this lake as you could be in the king’s palace.”

“I know it, father; but Hurry says beauty is everything in a young
woman.”

Hutter made an ejaculation expressive of dissatisfaction, and went
forward, passing through the house in order to do so. Hetty’s simple
betrayal of her weakness in behalf of March gave him uneasiness on a
subject concerning which he had never felt before, and he determined
to come to an explanation at once with his visitor; for directness of
speech and decision in conduct were two of the best qualities of
this rude being, in whom the seeds of a better education seemed to be
constantly struggling upwards, to be choked by the fruits of a life in
which his hard struggles for subsistence and security had steeled his
feelings and indurated his nature. When he reached the forward end of
the scow, he manifested an intention to relieve Deerslayer at the oar,
directing the latter to take his own place aft. By these changes, the
old man and Hurry were again left alone, while the young hunter was
transferred to the other end of the ark.

Hetty had disappeared when Deerslayer reached his new post, and for some
little time he directed the course of the slow-moving craft by himself.
It was not long, however, before Judith came out of the cabin, as if
disposed to do the honors of the place to a stranger engaged in the
service of her family. The starlight was sufficient to permit objects to
be plainly distinguished when near at hand, and the bright eyes of the
girl had an expression of kindness in them, when they met those of the
youth, that the latter was easily enabled to discover. Her rich
hair shaded her spirited and yet soft countenance, even at that hour
rendering it the more beautiful--as the rose is loveliest when reposing
amid the shadows and contrasts of its native foliage. Little ceremony
is used in the intercourse of the woods; and Judith had acquired a
readiness of address, by the admiration that she so generally excited,
which, if it did not amount to forwardness, certainly in no degree lent
to her charms the aid of that retiring modesty on which poets love to
dwell.

“I thought I should have killed myself with laughing, Deerslayer,” the
beauty abruptly but coquettishly commenced, “when I saw that Indian
dive into the river! He was a good-looking savage, too,” the girl always
dwelt on personal beauty as a sort of merit, “and yet one couldn’t stop
to consider whether his paint would stand water!”

“And I thought they would have killed you with their we’pons, Judith,”
 returned Deerslayer; “it was an awful risk for a female to run in the
face of a dozen Mingos!”

“Did that make you come out of the cabin, in spite of their rifles,
too?” asked the girl, with more real interest than she would have cared
to betray, though with an indifference of manner that was the result of
a good deal of practice united to native readiness.

“Men ar’n’t apt to see females in danger, and not come to their
assistance. Even a Mingo knows that.”

This sentiment was uttered with as much simplicity of manner as of
feeling, and Judith rewarded it with a smile so sweet, that even
Deerslayer, who had imbibed a prejudice against the girl in consequence
of Hurry’s suspicions of her levity, felt its charm, notwithstanding
half its winning influence was lost in the feeble light. It at once
created a sort of confidence between them, and the discourse was
continued on the part of the hunter, without the lively consciousness
of the character of this coquette of the wilderness, with which it had
certainly commenced.

“You are a man of deeds, and not of words, I see plainly, Deerslayer,”
 continued the beauty, taking her seat near the spot where the other
stood, “and I foresee we shall be very good friends. Hurry Harry has a
tongue, and, giant as he is, he talks more than he performs.”

“March is your fri’nd, Judith; and fri’nds should be tender of each
other, when apart.”

“We all know what Hurry’s friendship comes to! Let him have his own way
in everything, and he’s the best fellow in the colony; but ‘head him
off,’ as you say of the deer, and he is master of everything near him
but himself. Hurry is no favorite of mine, Deerslayer; and I dare say,
if the truth was known, and his conversation about me repeated, it would
be found that he thinks no better of me than I own I do of him.”

The latter part of this speech was not uttered without uneasiness. Had
the girl’s companion been more sophisticated, he might have observed the
averted face, the manner in which the pretty little foot was agitated,
and other signs that, for some unexplained reason, the opinions of March
were not quite as much a matter of indifference to her as she thought
fit to pretend. Whether this was no more than the ordinary working of
female vanity, feeling keenly even when it affected not to feel at all,
or whether it proceeded from that deeply-seated consciousness of right
and wrong which God himself has implanted in our breasts that we may
know good from evil, will be made more apparent to the reader as we
proceed in the tale. Deerslayer felt embarrassed. He well remembered the
cruel imputations left by March’s distrust; and, while he did not wish
to injure his associate’s suit by exciting resentment against him, his
tongue was one that literally knew no guile. To answer without saying
more or less than he wished, was consequently a delicate duty.

“March has his say of all things in natur’, whether of fri’nd or foe,”
 slowly and cautiously rejoined the hunter. “He’s one of them that speak
as they feel while the tongue’s a-going, and that’s sometimes different
from what they’d speak if they took time to consider. Give me a
Delaware, Judith, for one that reflects and ruminates on his idees!
Inmity has made him thoughtful, and a loose tongue is no ricommend at
their council fires.”

“I dare say March’s tongue goes free enough when it gets on the subject
of Judith Hutter and her sister,” said the girl, rousing herself as if
in careless disdain. “Young women’s good names are a pleasant matter of
discourse with some that wouldn’t dare be so open-mouthed if there was a
brother in the way. Master March may find it pleasant to traduce us, but
sooner or later he’ll repent.

“Nay, Judith, this is taking the matter up too much in ‘arnest. Hurry
has never whispered a syllable ag’in the good name of Hetty, to begin
with--”

“I see how it is--I see how it is,” impetuously interrupted Judith.
“I am the one he sees fit to scorch with his withering tongue! Hetty,
indeed! Poor Hetty!” she continued, her voice sinking into low, husky
tones, that seemed nearly to stifle her in the utterance; “she is beyond
and above his slanderous malice! Poor Hetty! If God has created her
feeble-minded, the weakness lies altogether on the side of errors of
which she seems to know nothing. The earth never held a purer being than
Hetty Hutter, Deerslayer.”

“I can believe it--yes, I can believe that, Judith, and I hope ‘arnestly
that the same can be said of her handsome sister.”

There was a soothing sincerity in the voice of Deerslayer, which touched
the girl’s feelings; nor did the allusion to her beauty lessen the
effect with one who only knew too well the power of her personal charms.
Nevertheless, the still, small voice of conscience was not hushed, and
it prompted the answer which she made, after giving herself time to
reflect.

“I dare say Hurry had some of his vile hints about the people of the
garrisons,” she added. “He knows they are gentlemen, and can never
forgive any one for being what he feels he can never become himself.”

“Not in the sense of a king’s officer, Judith, sartainly, for March
has no turn that-a-way; but in the sense of reality, why may not a
beaver-hunter be as respectable as a governor? Since you speak of it
yourself, I’ll not deny that he did complain of one as humble as you
being so much in the company of scarlet coats and silken sashes. But ‘t
was jealousy that brought it out of him, and I do think he mourned over
his own thoughts as a mother would have mourned over her child.”

Perhaps Deerslayer was not aware of the full meaning that his earnest
language conveyed. It is certain that he did not see the color that
crimsoned the whole of Judith’s fine face, nor detect the uncontrollable
distress that immediately after changed its hue to deadly paleness. A
minute or two elapsed in profound stillness, the splash of the water
seeming to occupy all the avenues of sound; and then Judith arose, and
grasped the hand of the hunter, almost convulsively, with one of her
own.

“Deerslayer,” she said, hurriedly, “I’m glad the ice is broke between
us. They say that sudden friendships lead to long enmities, but I do not
believe it will turn out so with us. I know not how it is--but you are
the first man I ever met, who did not seem to wish to flatter--to wish
my ruin--to be an enemy in disguise--never mind; say nothing to Hurry,
and another time we’ll talk together again.”

As the girl released her grasp, she vanished in the house, leaving the
astonished young man standing at the steering-oar, as motionless as
one of the pines on the hills. So abstracted, indeed, had his thoughts
become, that he was hailed by Hutter to keep the scow’s head in the
right direction, before he remembered his actual situation.



Chapter VI.


    “So spake the apostate Angel, though in pain,
    Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair.”

    Paradise lost, I.  125-26.

Shortly after the disappearance of Judith, a light southerly air arose,
and Hutter set a large square sail, that had once been the flying
top-sail of an Albany sloop, but which having become threadbare in
catching the breezes of Tappan, had been condemned and sold. He had a
light, tough spar of tamarack that he could raise on occasion, and with
a little contrivance, his duck was spread to the wind in a sufficiently
professional manner. The effect on the ark was such as to supersede the
necessity of rowing; and in about two hours the castle was seen, in the
darkness, rising out of the water, at the distance of a hundred yards.
The sail was then lowered, and by slow degrees the scow drifted up to
the building, and was secured.

No one had visited the house since Hurry and his companion left it. The
place was found in the quiet of midnight, a sort of type of the solitude
of a wilderness. As an enemy was known to be near, Hutter directed his
daughters to abstain from the use of lights, luxuries in which they
seldom indulged during the warm months, lest they might prove beacons to
direct their foes where they might be found.

“In open daylight I shouldn’t fear a host of savages behind these stout
logs, and they without any cover to skulk into,” added Hutter, when he
had explained to his guests the reasons why he forbade the use of light;
“for I’ve three or four trusty weapons always loaded, and Killdeer, in
particular, is a piece that never misses. But it’s a different thing at
night. A canoe might get upon us unseen, in the dark; and the savages
have so many cunning ways of attacking, that I look upon it as bad
enough to deal with ‘em under a bright sun. I built this dwelling in
order to have ‘em at arm’s length, in case we should ever get to
blows again. Some people think it’s too open and exposed, but I’m for
anchoring out here, clear of underbrush and thickets, as the surest
means of making a safe berth.”

“You was once a sailor, they tell me, old Tom?” said Hurry, in his
abrupt manner, struck by one or two expressions that the other had just
used, “and some people believe you could give us strange accounts of
inimies and shipwrecks, if you’d a mind to come out with all you know?”

“There are people in this world, Hurry,” returned the other, evasively,
“who live on other men’s thoughts; and some such often find their way
into the woods. What I’ve been, or what I’ve seen in youth, is of less
matter now than what the savages are. It’s of more account to find out
what will happen in the next twenty-four hours than to talk over what
happened twenty-four years since.”

“That’s judgment, Deerslayer; yes, that’s sound judgment. Here’s Judith
and Hetty to take care of, to say nothing of our own top-knots; and, for
my part, I can sleep as well in the dark as I could under a noonday sun.
To me it’s no great matter whether there is light or not, to see to shut
my eyes by.”

As Deerslayer seldom thought it necessary to answer his companion’s
peculiar vein of humor, and Hutter was evidently indisposed to dwell
longer on the subject, it’s discussion ceased with this remark. The
latter had something more on his mind, however, than recollections. His
daughters had no sooner left them, with an expressed intention of going
to bed, than he invited his two companions to follow him again into the
scow. Here the old man opened his project, keeping back the portion that
he had reserved for execution by Hurry and himself.

“The great object for people posted like ourselves is to command the
water,” he commenced. “So long as there is no other craft on the lake,
a bark canoe is as good as a man-of-war, since the castle will not be
easily taken by swimming. Now, there are but five canoes remaining in
these parts, two of which are mine, and one is Hurry’s. These three
we have with us here; one being fastened in the canoe-dock beneath the
house, and the other two being alongside the scow. The other canoes
are housed on the shore, in hollow logs, and the savages, who are such
venomous enemies, will leave no likely place unexamined in the morning,
if they ‘re serious in s’arch of bounties--”

“Now, friend Hutter,” interrupted Hurry, “the Indian don’t live that
can find a canoe that is suitably wintered. I’ve done something at this
business before now, and Deerslayer here knows that I am one that can
hide a craft in such a way that I can’t find it myself.”

“Very true, Hurry,” put in the person to whom the appeal had been made,
“but you overlook the sarcumstance that if you couldn’t see the trail of
the man who did the job, I could. I’m of Master Hutter’s mind, that
it’s far wiser to mistrust a savage’s ingenuity, than to build any great
expectations on his want of eye-sight. If these two canoes can be got
off to the castle, therefore, the sooner it’s done the better.”

“Will you be of the party that’s to do it?” demanded Hutter, in a way to
show that the proposal both surprised and pleased him.

“Sartain. I’m ready to enlist in any enterprise that’s not ag’in a white
man’s lawful gifts. Natur’ orders us to defend our lives, and the lives
of others, too, when there’s occasion and opportunity. I’ll follow you,
Floating Tom, into the Mingo camp, on such an arr’nd, and will strive to
do my duty, should we come to blows; though, never having been tried in
battle, I don’t like to promise more than I may be able to perform. We
all know our wishes, but none know their might till put to the proof.”

“That’s modest and suitable, lad,” exclaimed Hurry. “You’ve never
yet heard the crack of an angry rifle; and, let me tell you, ‘tis as
different from the persuasion of one of your venison speeches, as the
laugh of Judith Hutter, in her best humor, is from the scolding of a
Dutch house keeper on the Mohawk. I don’t expect you’ll prove much of a
warrior, Deerslayer, though your equal with the bucks and the does don’t
exist in all these parts. As for the ra’al sarvice, however, you’ll turn
out rather rearward, according to my consait.”

“We’ll see, Hurry, we’ll see,” returned the other, meekly; so far as
human eye could discover, not at all disturbed by these expressed doubts
concerning his conduct on a point on which men are sensitive, precisely
in the degree that they feel the consciousness of demerit; “having never
been tried, I’ll wait to know, before I form any opinion of myself; and
then there’ll be sartainty, instead of bragging. I’ve heard of them
that was valiant afore the fight, who did little in it; and of them that
waited to know their own tempers, and found that they weren’t as bad as
some expected, when put to the proof.”

“At any rate, we know you can use a paddle, young man,” said Hutter,
“and that’s all we shall ask of you to-night. Let us waste no more time,
but get into the canoe, and do, in place of talking.”

As Hutter led the way, in the execution of his project, the boat was
soon ready, with Hurry and Deerslayer at the paddles. Before the old man
embarked himself, however, he held a conference of several minutes with
Judith, entering the house for that purpose; then, returning, he took
his place in the canoe, which left the side of the ark at the next
instant.

Had there been a temple reared to God, in that solitary wilderness, its
clock would have told the hour of midnight as the party set forth on
their expedition. The darkness had increased, though the night was still
clear, and the light of the stars sufficed for all the purposes of the
adventurers. Hutter alone knew the places where the canoes were hid,
and he directed the course, while his two athletic companions raised
and dipped their paddles with proper caution, lest the sound should be
carried to the ears of their enemies, across that sheet of placid water,
in the stillness of deep night. But the bark was too light to require
any extraordinary efforts, and skill supplying the place of strength,
in about half an hour they were approaching the shore, at a point near a
league from the castle.

“Lay on your paddles, men,” said Hutter, in a low voice, “and let us
look about us for a moment. We must now be all eyes and ears, for these
vermin have noses like bloodhounds.”

The shores of the lake were examined closely, in order to discover any
glimmering of light that might have been left in a camp; and the men
strained their eyes, in the obscurity, to see if some thread of smoke
was not still stealing along the mountainside, as it arose from the
dying embers of a fire. Nothing unusual could be traced; and as the
position was at some distance from the outlet, or the spot where the
savages had been met, it was thought safe to land. The paddles were
plied again, and the bows of the canoe ground upon the gravelly beach
with a gentle motion, and a sound barely audible. Hutter and Hurry
immediately landed, the former carrying his own and his friend’s rifle,
leaving Deerslayer in charge of the canoe. The hollow log lay a little
distance up the side of the mountain, and the old man led the way
towards it, using so much caution as to stop at every third or fourth
step, to listen if any tread betrayed the presence of a foe. The same
death-like stillness, however, reigned on the midnight scene, and the
desired place was reached without an occurrence to induce alarm.

“This is it,” whispered Hutter, laying a foot on the trunk of a fallen
linden; “hand me the paddles first, and draw the boat out with care, for
the wretches may have left it for a bait, after all.”

“Keep my rifle handy, butt towards me, old fellow,” answered March.
“If they attack me loaded, I shall want to unload the piece at ‘em, at
least. And feel if the pan is full.”

“All’s right,” muttered the other; “move slow, when you get your load,
and let me lead the way.”

The canoe was drawn out of the log with the utmost care, raised by Hurry
to his shoulder, and the two began to return to the shore, moving but
a step at a time, lest they should tumble down the steep declivity. The
distance was not great, but the descent was extremely difficult; and,
towards the end of their little journey, Deerslayer was obliged to land
and meet them, in order to aid in lifting the canoe through the bushes.
With his assistance the task was successfully accomplished, and the
light craft soon floated by the side of the other canoe. This was no
sooner done, than all three turned anxiously towards the forest and the
mountain, expecting an enemy to break out of the one, or to come rushing
down the other. Still the silence was unbroken, and they all embarked
with the caution that had been used in coming ashore.

Hutter now steered broad off towards the centre of the lake. Having got
a sufficient distance from the shore, he cast his prize loose, knowing
that it would drift slowly up the lake before the light southerly air,
and intending to find it on his return. Thus relieved of his tow, the
old man held his way down the lake, steering towards the very point
where Hurry had made his fruitless attempt on the life of the deer. As
the distance from this point to the outlet was less than a mile, it
was like entering an enemy’s country; and redoubled caution became
necessary. They reached the extremity of the point, however, and landed
in safety on the little gravelly beach already mentioned. Unlike the
last place at which they had gone ashore, here was no acclivity to
ascend, the mountains looming up in the darkness quite a quarter of a
mile farther west, leaving a margin of level ground between them and the
strand. The point itself, though long, and covered with tall trees, was
nearly flat, and for some distance only a few yards in width. Hutter and
Hurry landed as before, leaving their companion in charge of the boat.

In this instance, the dead tree that contained the canoe of which they
had come in quest lay about half-way between the extremity of the narrow
slip of land and the place where it joined the main shore; and knowing
that there was water so near him on his left, the old man led the way
along the eastern side of the belt with some confidence walking boldly,
though still with caution. He had landed at the point expressly to get
a glimpse into the bay and to make certain that the coast was clear;
otherwise he would have come ashore directly abreast of the hollow tree.
There was no difficulty in finding the latter, from which the canoe
was drawn as before, and instead of carrying it down to the place where
Deerslayer lay, it was launched at the nearest favorable spot. As soon
as it was in the water, Hurry entered it, and paddled round to the
point, whither Hutter also proceeded, following the beach. As the
three men had now in their possession all the boats on the lake, their
confidence was greatly increased, and there was no longer the same
feverish desire to quit the shore, or the same necessity for extreme
caution. Their position on the extremity of the long, narrow bit of land
added to the feeling of security, as it permitted an enemy to approach
in only one direction, that in their front, and under circumstances that
would render discovery, with their habitual vigilance, almost certain.
The three now landed together, and stood grouped in consultation on the
gravelly point.

“We’ve fairly tree’d the scamps,” said Hurry, chuckling at their
success; “if they wish to visit the castle, let ‘em wade or swim! Old
Tom, that idee of your’n, in burrowing out in the lake, was high proof,
and carries a fine bead. There be men who would think the land safer
than the water; but, after all, reason shows it isn’t; the beaver, and
rats, and other l’arned creatur’s taking to the last when hard pressed.
I call our position now, entrenched, and set the Canadas at defiance.”

“Let us paddle along this south shore,” said Hutter, “and see if there’s
no sign of an encampment; but, first, let me have a better look into the
bay, for no one has been far enough round the inner shore of the point
to make suit of that quarter yet.”

As Hutter ceased speaking, all three moved in the direction he had
named. Scarce had they fairly opened the bottom of the bay, when a
general start proved that their eyes had lighted on a common object
at the same instant. It was no more than a dying brand, giving out its
flickering and failing light; but at that hour, and in that place, it
was at once as conspicuous as “a good deed in a naughty world.”
 There was not a shadow of doubt that this fire had been kindled at an
encampment of the Indians. The situation, sheltered from observation on
all sides but one, and even on that except for a very short distance,
proved that more care had been taken to conceal the spot than would be
used for ordinary purposes, and Hutter, who knew that a spring was
near at hand, as well as one of the best fishing-stations on the lake,
immediately inferred that this encampment contained the women and
children of the party.

“That’s not a warrior’s encampment,” he growled to Hurry; “and there’s
bounty enough sleeping round that fire to make a heavy division of
head-money. Send the lad to the canoes, for there’ll come no good of him
in such an onset, and let us take the matter in hand at once, like men.”

“There’s judgment in your notion, old Tom, and I like it to the
backbone. Deerslayer, do you get into the canoe, lad, and paddle off
into the lake with the spare one, and set it adrift, as we did with the
other; after which you can float along shore, as near as you can get to
the head of the bay, keeping outside the point, howsever, and outside
the rushes, too. You can hear us when we want you; and if there’s any
delay, I’ll call like a loon--yes, that’ll do it--the call of a loon
shall be the signal. If you hear rifles, and feel like sogering, why,
you may close in, and see if you can make the same hand with the savages
that you do with the deer.”

“If my wishes could be followed, this matter would not be undertaken,
Hurry----”

“Quite true--nobody denies it, boy; but your wishes can’t be followed;
and that inds the matter. So just canoe yourself off into the middle
of the lake, and by the time you get back there’ll be movements in that
camp!”

The young man set about complying with great reluctance and a heavy
heart. He knew the prejudices of the frontiermen too well, however, to
attempt a remonstrance. The latter, indeed, under the circumstances,
might prove dangerous, as it would certainly prove useless. He paddled
the canoe, therefore, silently and with the former caution, to a spot
near the centre of the placid sheet of water, and set the boat just
recovered adrift, to float towards the castle, before the light
southerly air. This expedient had been adopted, in both cases, under
the certainty that the drift could not carry the light barks more than
a league or two, before the return of light, when they might easily be
overtaken in order to prevent any wandering savage from using them, by
swimming off and getting possession, a possible but scarcely a probable
event, all the paddles were retained.

No sooner had he set the recovered canoe adrift, than Deerslayer
turned the bows of his own towards the point on the shore that had been
indicated by Hurry. So light was the movement of the little craft,
and so steady the sweep of its master’s arm, that ten minutes had not
elapsed ere it was again approaching the land, having, in that brief
time, passed over fully half a mile of distance. As soon as Deerslayer’s
eye caught a glimpse of the rushes, of which there were many growing in
the water a hundred feet from the shore, he arrested the motion of
the canoe, and anchored his boat by holding fast to the delicate
but tenacious stem of one of the drooping plants. Here he remained,
awaiting, with an intensity of suspense that can be easily imagined, the
result of the hazardous enterprise.

It would be difficult to convey to the minds of those who have never
witnessed it, the sublimity that characterizes the silence of a solitude
as deep as that which now reigned over the Glimmerglass. In the present
instance, this sublimity was increased by the gloom of night, which
threw its shadowy and fantastic forms around the lake, the forest,
and the hills. It is not easy, indeed, to conceive of any place more
favorable to heighten these natural impressions, than that Deerslayer
now occupied. The size of the lake brought all within the reach of human
senses, while it displayed so much of the imposing scene at a single
view, giving up, as it might be, at a glance, a sufficiency to produce
the deepest impressions. As has been said, this was the first lake
Deerslayer had ever seen. Hitherto, his experience had been limited to
the courses of rivers and smaller streams, and never before had he seen
so much of that wilderness, which he so well loved, spread before
his gaze. Accustomed to the forest, however, his mind was capable
of portraying all its hidden mysteries, as he looked upon its leafy
surface. This was also the first time he had been on a trail where human
lives depended on the issue. His ears had often drunk in the traditions
of frontier warfare, but he had never yet been confronted with an enemy.

The reader will readily understand, therefore, how intense must have
been the expectation of the young man, as he sat in his solitary canoe,
endeavoring to catch the smallest sound that might denote the course of
things on shore. His training had been perfect, so far as theory could
go, and his self-possession, notwithstanding the high excitement, that
was the fruit of novelty, would have done credit to a veteran. The
visible evidences of the existence of the camp, or of the fire could not
be detected from the spot where the canoe lay, and he was compelled to
depend on the sense of hearing alone. He did not feel impatient, for
the lessons he had heard taught him the virtue of patience, and, most
of all, inculcated the necessity of wariness in conducting any covert
assault on the Indians. Once he thought he heard the cracking of a
dried twig, but expectation was so intense it might mislead him. In this
manner minute after minute passed, until the whole time since he left
his companions was extended to quite an hour. Deerslayer knew not
whether to rejoice in or to mourn over this cautious delay, for, if
it augured security to his associates, it foretold destruction to the
feeble and innocent.

It might have been an hour and a half after his companions and he had
parted, when Deerslayer was aroused by a sound that filled him equally
with concern and surprise. The quavering call of a loon arose from
the opposite side of the lake, evidently at no great distance from
its outlet. There was no mistaking the note of this bird, which is
so familiar to all who know the sounds of the American lakes. Shrill,
tremulous, loud, and sufficiently prolonged, it seems the very cry of
warning. It is often raised, also, at night, an exception to the habits
of most of the other feathered inmates of the wilderness; a circumstance
which had induced Hurry to select it as his own signal. There had been
sufficient time, certainly, for the two adventurers to make their way by
land from the point where they had been left to that whence the call had
come, but it was not probable that they would adopt such a course. Had
the camp been deserted they would have summoned Deerslayer to the shore,
and, did it prove to be peopled, there could be no sufficient motive
for circling it, in order to re-embark at so great a distance. Should he
obey the signal, and be drawn away from the landing, the lives of those
who depended on him might be the forfeit--and, should he neglect the
call, on the supposition that it had been really made, the consequences
might be equally disastrous, though from a different cause. In this
indecision he waited, trusting that the call, whether feigned or
natural, would be speedily renewed. Nor was he mistaken. A very few
minutes elapsed before the same shrill warning cry was repeated, and
from the same part of the lake. This time, being on the alert, his
senses were not deceived. Although he had often heard admirable
imitations of this bird, and was no mean adept himself in raising its
notes, he felt satisfied that Hurry, to whose efforts in that way he
had attended, could never so completely and closely follow nature. He
determined, therefore, to disregard that cry, and to wait for one less
perfect and nearer at hand.

Deerslayer had hardly come to this determination, when the profound
stillness of night and solitude was broken by a cry so startling, as to
drive all recollection of the more melancholy call of the loon from the
listener’s mind. It was a shriek of agony, that came either from one
of the female sex, or from a boy so young as not yet to have attained a
manly voice. This appeal could not be mistaken. Heart rending terror--if
not writhing agony--was in the sounds, and the anguish that had awakened
them was as sudden as it was fearful. The young man released his hold
of the rush, and dashed his paddle into the water; to do, he knew
not what--to steer, he knew not whither. A very few moments, however,
removed his indecision. The breaking of branches, the cracking of
dried sticks, and the fall of feet were distinctly audible; the
sounds appearing to approach the water though in a direction that led
diagonally towards the shore, and a little farther north than the spot
that Deerslayer had been ordered to keep near. Following this clue,
the young man urged the canoe ahead, paying but little attention to the
manner in which he might betray its presence. He had reached a part of
the shore, where its immediate bank was tolerably high and quite steep.
Men were evidently threshing through the bushes and trees on the summit
of this bank, following the line of the shore, as if those who fled
sought a favorable place for descending. Just at this instant five or
six rifles flashed, and the opposite hills gave back, as usual, the
sharp reports in prolonged rolling echoes. One or two shrieks, like
those which escape the bravest when suddenly overcome by unexpected
anguish and alarm, followed; and then the threshing among the bushes was
renewed, in a way to show that man was grappling with man.

“Slippery devil!” shouted Hurry with the fury of disappointment--“his
skin’s greased! I sha’n’t grapple! Take that for your cunning!”

The words were followed by the fall of some heavy object among the
smaller trees that fringed the bank, appearing to Deerslayer as if his
gigantic associate had hurled an enemy from him in this unceremonious
manner. Again the flight and pursuit were renewed, and then the young
man saw a human form break down the hill, and rush several yards into
the water. At this critical moment the canoe was just near enough to the
spot to allow this movement, which was accompanied by no little noise,
to be seen, and feeling that there he must take in his companion, if
anywhere, Deerslayer urged the canoe forward to the rescue. His paddle
had not been raised twice, when the voice of Hurry was heard filling
the air with imprecations, and he rolled on the narrow beach, literally
loaded down with enemies. While prostrate, and almost smothered with
his foes, the athletic frontierman gave his loon-call, in a manner
that would have excited laughter under circumstances less terrific. The
figure in the water seemed suddenly to repent his own flight, and
rushed to the shore to aid his companion, but was met and immediately
overpowered by half a dozen fresh pursuers, who, just then, came leaping
down the bank.

“Let up, you painted riptyles--let up!” cried Hurry, too hard pressed to
be particular about the terms he used; “isn’t it enough that I am withed
like a saw-log that ye must choke too!”

This speech satisfied Deerslayer that his friends were prisoners,
and that to land would be to share their fate. He was already within a
hundred feet of the shore, when a few timely strokes of the paddle not
only arrested his advance, but forced him off to six or eight times
that distance from his enemies. Luckily for him, all of the Indians had
dropped their rifles in the pursuit, or this retreat might not have been
effected with impunity; though no one had noted the canoe in the first
confusion of the melee.

“Keep off the land, lad,” called out Hutter; “the girls depend only on
you, now; you will want all your caution to escape these savages. Keep
off, and God prosper you, as you aid my children!”

There was little sympathy in general between Hutter and the young man,
but the bodily and mental anguish with which this appeal was made served
at the moment to conceal from the latter the former’s faults. He saw
only the father in his sufferings, and resolved at once to give a pledge
of fidelity to its interests, and to be faithful to his word.

“Put your heart at ease, Master Hutter,” he called out; “the gals shall
be looked to, as well as the castle. The inimy has got the shore, ‘tis
no use to deny, but he hasn’t got the water. Providence has the charge
of all, and no one can say what will come of it; but, if good-will can
sarve you and your’n, depend on that much. My exper’ence is small, but
my will is good.”

“Ay, ay, Deerslayer,” returned Hurry, in this stentorian voice,
which was losing some of its heartiness, notwithstanding,--“Ay, ay,
Deerslayer. You mean well enough, but what can you do? You’re no great
matter in the best of times, and such a person is not likely to turn
out a miracle in the worst. If there’s one savage on this lake shore,
there’s forty, and that’s an army you ar’n’t the man to overcome. The
best way, in my judgment, will be to make a straight course to the
castle; get the gals into the canoe, with a few eatables; then strike
off for the corner of the lake where we came in, and take the best trail
for the Mohawk. These devils won’t know where to look for you for some
hours, and if they did, and went off hot in the pursuit, they must
turn either the foot or the head of the lake to get at you. That’s my
judgment in the matter; and if old Tom here wishes to make his last will
and testament in a manner favorable to his darters, he’ll say the same.”

“‘Twill never do, young man,” rejoined Hutter. “The enemy has scouts out
at this moment, looking for canoes, and you’ll be seen and taken. Trust
to the castle; and above all things, keep clear of the land. Hold out a
week, and parties from the garrisons will drive the savages off.”

“‘Twon’t be four-and-twenty hours, old fellow, afore these foxes will be
rafting off to storm your castle,” interrupted Hurry, with more of the
heat of argument than might be expected from a man who was bound and a
captive, and about whom nothing could be called free but his opinions
and his tongue. “Your advice has a stout sound, but it will have a fatal
tarmination. If you or I was in the house, we might hold out a few days,
but remember that this lad has never seen an inimy afore to-night, and is
what you yourself called settlement-conscienced; though for my part, I
think the consciences in the settlements pretty much the same as they
are out here in the woods. These savages are making signs, Deerslayer,
for me to encourage you to come ashore with the canoe; but that I’ll
never do, as it’s ag’in reason and natur’. As for old Tom and myself,
whether they’ll scalp us to-night, keep us for the torture by fire,
or carry us to Canada, is more than any one knows but the devil that
advises them how to act. I’ve such a big and bushy head that it’s quite
likely they’ll indivor to get two scalps off it, for the bounty is a
tempting thing, or old Tom and I wouldn’t be in this scrape. Ay--there
they go with their signs ag’in, but if I advise you to land may they eat
me as well as roast me. No, no, Deerslayer--do you keep off where you
are, and after daylight, on no account come within two hundred yards--”

This injunction of Hurry’s was stopped by a hand being rudely slapped
against his mouth, the certain sign that some one in the party
sufficiently understood English to have at length detected the drift of
his discourse. Immediately after, the whole group entered the forest,
Hutter and Hurry apparently making no resistance to the movement. Just
as the sounds of the cracking bushes were ceasing, however, the voice of
the father was again heard.

“As you’re true to my children, God prosper you, young man!” were the
words that reached Deerslayer’s ears; after which he found himself left
to follow the dictates of his own discretion.

Several minutes elapsed, in death-like stillness, when the party on the
shore had disappeared in the woods. Owing to the distance--rather more
than two hundred yards--and the obscurity, Deerslayer had been able
barely to distinguish the group, and to see it retiring; but even this
dim connection with human forms gave an animation to the scene that was
strongly in contrast to the absolute solitude that remained. Although
the young man leaned forward to listen, holding his breath and
condensing every faculty in the single sense of hearing, not another
sound reached his ears to denote the vicinity of human beings. It seemed
as if a silence that had never been broken reigned on the spot again;
and, for an instant, even that piercing shriek, which had so lately
broken the stillness of the forest, or the execrations of March, would
have been a relief to the feeling of desertion to which it gave rise.

This paralysis of mind and body, however, could not last long in one
constituted mentally and physically like Deerslayer. Dropping his paddle
into the water, he turned the head of the canoe, and proceeded slowly,
as one walks who thinks intently, towards the centre of the lake. When
he believed himself to have reached a point in a line with that where
he had set the last canoe adrift, he changed his direction northward,
keeping the light air as nearly on his back as possible. After paddling
a quarter of a mile in this direction, a dark object became visible
on the lake, a little to the right; and turning on one side for the
purpose, he had soon secured his lost prize to his own boat. Deerslayer
now examined the heavens, the course of the air, and the position of the
two canoes. Finding nothing in either to induce a change of plan, he lay
down, and prepared to catch a few hours’ sleep, that the morrow might
find him equal to its exigencies.

Although the hardy and the tired sleep profoundly, even in scenes of
danger, it was some time before Deerslayer lost his recollection. His
mind dwelt on what had passed, and his half-conscious faculties kept
figuring the events of the night, in a sort of waking dream. Suddenly
he was up and alert, for he fancied he heard the preconcerted signal of
Hurry summoning him to the shore. But all was still as the grave again.
The canoes were slowly drifting northward, the thoughtful stars were
glimmering in their mild glory over his head, and the forest-bound sheet
of water lay embedded between its mountains, as calm and melancholy as
if never troubled by the winds, or brightened by a noonday sun. Once
more the loon raised his tremulous cry, near the foot of the lake, and
the mystery of the alarm was explained. Deerslayer adjusted his hard
pillow, stretched his form in the bottom of the canoe, and slept.



Chapter VII.


    “Clear, placid Leman I Thy contrasted lake
    With the wild world I dwelt in, is a thing
    Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake
    Earth’s troubled waters for a purer spring.
    This quiet sail is as a noiseless wing
    To waft me from distraction; once I loved
    Torn ocean’s roar, but thy soft murmuring
    Sounds sweet as if a sister’s voice reproved,
    That I with stern delights should e’er have been so moved.”

    BYRON.

Day had fairly dawned before the young man, whom we have left in the
situation described in the last chapter, again opened his eyes. This
was no sooner done, than he started up, and looked about him with
the eagerness of one who suddenly felt the importance of accurately
ascertaining his precise position. His rest had been deep and
undisturbed; and when he awoke, it was with a clearness of intellect and
a readiness of resources that were very much needed at that particular
moment. The sun had not risen, it is true, but the vault of heaven was
rich with the winning softness that “brings and shuts the day,” while
the whole air was filled with the carols of birds, the hymns of the
feathered tribe. These sounds first told Deerslayer the risks he ran.
The air, for wind it could scarce be called, was still light, it is
true, but it had increased a little in the course of the night, and
as the canoes were feathers on the water, they had drifted twice the
expected distance; and, what was still more dangerous, had approached
so near the base of the mountain that here rose precipitously from the
eastern shore, as to render the carols of the birds plainly audible.
This was not the worst. The third canoe had taken the same direction,
and was slowly drifting towards a point where it must inevitably
touch, unless turned aside by a shift of wind, or human hands. In other
respects, nothing presented itself to attract attention, or to awaken
alarm. The castle stood on its shoal, nearly abreast of the canoes, for
the drift had amounted to miles in the course of the night, and the ark
lay fastened to its piles, as both had been left so many hours before.

As a matter of course, Deerslayer’s attention was first given to the
canoe ahead. It was already quite near the point, and a very few strokes
of the paddle sufficed to tell him that it must touch before he could
possibly overtake it. Just at this moment, too, the wind inopportunely
freshened, rendering the drift of the light craft much more rapid than
certain. Feeling the impossibility of preventing a contact with
the land, the young man wisely determined not to heat himself with
unnecessary exertions; but first looking to the priming of his piece,
he proceeded slowly and warily towards the point, taking care to make
a little circuit, that he might be exposed on only one side, as he
approached.

The canoe adrift being directed by no such intelligence, pursued its
proper way, and grounded on a small sunken rock, at the distance of
three or four yards from the shore. Just at that moment, Deerslayer had
got abreast of the point, and turned the bows of his own boat to
the land; first casting loose his tow, that his movements might be
unencumbered. The canoe hung an instant to the rock; then it rose a
hair’s breadth on an almost imperceptible swell of the water, swung
round, floated clear, and reached the strand. All this the young man
noted, but it neither quickened his pulses, nor hastened his hand. If
any one had been lying in wait for the arrival of the waif, he must
be seen, and the utmost caution in approaching the shore became
indispensable; if no one was in ambush, hurry was unnecessary. The point
being nearly diagonally opposite to the Indian encampment, he hoped the
last, though the former was not only possible, but probable; for the
savages were prompt in adopting all the expedients of their particular
modes of warfare, and quite likely had many scouts searching the shores
for craft to carry them off to the castle. As a glance at the lake
from any height or projection would expose the smallest object on its
surface, there was little hope that either of the canoes would pass
unseen; and Indian sagacity needed no instruction to tell which way a
boat or a log would drift, when the direction of the wind was known. As
Deerslayer drew nearer and nearer to the land, the stroke of his paddle
grew slower, his eye became more watchful, and his ears and nostrils
almost dilated with the effort to detect any lurking danger. It was a
trying moment for a novice, nor was there the encouragement which
even the timid sometimes feel, when conscious of being observed and
commended. He was entirely alone, thrown on his own resources, and
was cheered by no friendly eye, emboldened by no encouraging voice.
Notwithstanding all these circumstances, the most experienced veteran
in forest warfare could not have behaved better. Equally free from
recklessness and hesitation, his advance was marked by a sort of
philosophical prudence that appeared to render him superior to all
motives but those which were best calculated to effect his purpose. Such
was the commencement of a career in forest exploits, that afterwards
rendered this man, in his way, and under the limits of his habits and
opportunities, as renowned as many a hero whose name has adorned the
pages of works more celebrated than legends simple as ours can ever
become.

When about a hundred yards from the shore, Deerslayer rose in the canoe,
gave three or four vigorous strokes with the paddle, sufficient of
themselves to impel the bark to land, and then quickly laying aside the
instrument of labor, he seized that of war. He was in the very act of
raising the rifle, when a sharp report was followed by the buzz of a
bullet that passed so near his body as to cause him involuntarily to
start. The next instant Deerslayer staggered, and fell his whole
length in the bottom of the canoe. A yell--it came from a single
voice--followed, and an Indian leaped from the bushes upon the open area
of the point, bounding towards the canoe. This was the moment the young
man desired. He rose on the instant, and levelled his own rifle at his
uncovered foe; but his finger hesitated about pulling the trigger on one
whom he held at such a disadvantage. This little delay, probably, saved
the life of the Indian, who bounded back into the cover as swiftly as
he had broken out of it. In the meantime Deerslayer had been swiftly
approaching the land, and his own canoe reached the point just as his
enemy disappeared. As its movements had not been directed, it touched
the shore a few yards from the other boat; and though the rifle of his
foe had to be loaded, there was not time to secure his prize, and carry
it beyond danger, before he would be exposed to another shot. Under the
circumstances, therefore, he did not pause an instant, but dashed into
the woods and sought a cover.

On the immediate point there was a small open area, partly in native
grass, and partly beach, but a dense fringe of bushes lined its
upper side. This narrow belt of dwarf vegetation passed, one issued
immediately into the high and gloomy vaults of the forest. The land was
tolerably level for a few hundred feet, and then it rose precipitously
in a mountainside. The trees were tall, large, and so free from
underbrush, that they resembled vast columns, irregularly scattered,
upholding a dome of leaves. Although they stood tolerably close
together, for their ages and size, the eye could penetrate to
considerable distances; and bodies of men, even, might have engaged
beneath their cover, with concert and intelligence.

Deerslayer knew that his adversary must be employed in reloading, unless
he had fled. The former proved to be the case, for the young man had no
sooner placed himself behind a tree, than he caught a glimpse of the arm
of the Indian, his body being concealed by an oak, in the very act of
forcing the leathered bullet home. Nothing would have been easier than
to spring forward, and decide the affair by a close assault on his
unprepared foe; but every feeling of Deerslayer revolted at such a step,
although his own life had just been attempted from a cover. He was yet
unpracticed in the ruthless expedients of savage warfare, of which he
knew nothing except by tradition and theory, and it struck him as unfair
advantage to assail an unarmed foe. His color had heightened, his eye
frowned, his lips were compressed, and all his energies were collected
and ready; but, instead of advancing to fire, he dropped his rifle to
the usual position of a sportsman in readiness to catch his aim, and
muttered to himself, unconscious that he was speaking--

“No, no--that may be red-skin warfare, but it’s not a Christian’s gifts.
Let the miscreant charge, and then we’ll take it out like men; for the
canoe he must not, and shall not have. No, no; let him have time to
load, and God will take care of the right!”

All this time the Indian had been so intent on his own movements,
that he was even ignorant that his enemy was in the woods. His only
apprehension was, that the canoe would be recovered and carried away
before he might be in readiness to prevent it. He had sought the cover
from habit, but was within a few feet of the fringe of bushes, and could
be at the margin of the forest in readiness to fire in a moment. The
distance between him and his enemy was about fifty yards, and the trees
were so arranged by nature that the line of sight was not interrupted,
except by the particular trees behind which each party stood.

His rifle was no sooner loaded, than the savage glanced around him, and
advanced incautiously as regarded the real, but stealthily as respected
the fancied position of his enemy, until he was fairly exposed. Then
Deerslayer stepped from behind its own cover, and hailed him.

“This-a-way, red-skin; this-a-way, if you’re looking for me,” he called
out. “I’m young in war, but not so young as to stand on an open beach to
be shot down like an owl, by daylight. It rests on yourself whether it’s
peace or war atween us; for my gifts are white gifts, and I’m not one
of them that thinks it valiant to slay human mortals, singly, in the
woods.”

The savage was a good deal startled by this sudden discovery of the
danger he ran. He had a little knowledge of English, however, and caught
the drift of the other’s meaning. He was also too well schooled to
betray alarm, but, dropping the butt of his rifle to the earth, with
an air of confidence, he made a gesture of lofty courtesy. All this was
done with the ease and self-possession of one accustomed to consider no
man his superior. In the midst of this consummate acting, however, the
volcano that raged within caused his eyes to glare, and his nostrils to
dilate, like those of some wild beast that is suddenly prevented from
taking the fatal leap.

“Two canoes,” he said, in the deep guttural tones of his race, holding
up the number of fingers he mentioned, by way of preventing mistakes;
“one for you--one for me.”

“No, no, Mingo, that will never do. You own neither; and neither shall
you have, as long as I can prevent it. I know it’s war atween your
people and mine, but that’s no reason why human mortals should slay each
other, like savage creatur’s that meet in the woods; go your way, then,
and leave me to go mine. The world is large enough for us both; and when
we meet fairly in battle, why, the Lord will order the fate of each of
us.”

“Good!” exclaimed the Indian; “my brother missionary--great talk; all
about Manitou.”

“Not so--not so, warrior. I’m not good enough for the Moravians, and am
too good for most of the other vagabonds that preach about in the woods.
No, no; I’m only a hunter, as yet, though afore the peace is made,
‘tis like enough there’ll be occasion to strike a blow at some of your
people. Still, I wish it to be done in fair fight, and not in a quarrel
about the ownership of a miserable canoe.”

“Good! My brother very young--but he is very wise. Little warrior--great
talker. Chief, sometimes, in council.”

“I don’t know this, nor do I say it, Injin,” returned Deerslayer,
coloring a little at the ill-concealed sarcasm of the other’s manner;
“I look forward to a life in the woods, and I only hope it may be a
peaceable one. All young men must go on the war-path, when there’s
occasion, but war isn’t needfully massacre. I’ve seen enough of the
last, this very night, to know that Providence frowns on it; and I now
invite you to go your own way, while I go mine; and hope that we may
part fri’nds.”

“Good! My brother has two scalp--gray hair under ‘other. Old
wisdom--young tongue.”

Here the savage advanced with confidence, his hand extended, his face
smiling, and his whole bearing denoting amity and respect. Deerslayer
met his offered friendship in a proper spirit, and they shook hands
cordially, each endeavoring to assure the other of his sincerity and
desire to be at peace.

“All have his own,” said the Indian; “my canoe, mine; your canoe,
your’n. Go look; if your’n, you keep; if mine, I keep.”

“That’s just, red-skin; thought you must be wrong in thinking the canoe
your property. Howsever, seein’ is believin’, and we’ll go down to the
shore, where you may look with your own eyes; for it’s likely you’ll
object to trustin’ altogether to mine.”

The Indian uttered his favorite exclamation of “Good!” and then they
walked side by side, towards the shore. There was no apparent distrust
in the manner of either, the Indian moving in advance, as if he wished
to show his companion that he did not fear turning his back to him. As
they reached the open ground, the former pointed towards Deerslayer’s
boat, and said emphatically--“No mine--pale-face canoe. This red man’s.
No want other man’s canoe--want his own.”

“You’re wrong, red-skin, you’re altogether wrong. This canoe was left
in old Hutter’s keeping, and is his’n according to law, red or white,
till its owner comes to claim it. Here’s the seats and the stitching of
the bark to speak for themselves. No man ever know’d an Injin to turn
off such work.”

“Good! My brother little old--big wisdom. Injin no make him. White man’s
work.”

“I’m glad you think so, for holding out to the contrary might have made
ill blood atween us, every one having a right to take possession of his
own. I’ll just shove the canoe out of reach of dispute at once, as the
quickest way of settling difficulties.”

While Deerslayer was speaking, he put a foot against the end of the
light boat, and giving a vigorous shove, he sent it out into the lake
a hundred feet or more, where, taking the true current, it would
necessarily float past the point, and be in no further danger of coming
ashore. The savage started at this ready and decided expedient, and his
companion saw that he cast a hurried and fierce glance at his own canoe,
or that which contained the paddles. The change of manner, however, was
but momentary, and then the Iroquois resumed his air of friendliness,
and a smile of satisfaction.

“Good!” he repeated, with stronger emphasis than ever. “Young head, old
mind. Know how to settle quarrel. Farewell, brother. He go to house in
water--muskrat house--Injin go to camp; tell chiefs no find canoe.”

Deerslayer was not sorry to hear this proposal, for he felt anxious
to join the females, and he took the offered hand of the Indian very
willingly. The parting words were friendly, and while the red man
walked calmly towards the wood, with the rifle in the hollow of his arm,
without once looking back in uneasiness or distrust, the white man moved
towards the remaining canoe, carrying his piece in the same pacific
manner, it is true, but keeping his eye fastened on the movements of the
other. This distrust, however, seemed to be altogether uncalled for, and
as if ashamed to have entertained it, the young man averted his look,
and stepped carelessly up to his boat. Here he began to push the canoe
from the shore, and to make his other preparations for departing. He
might have been thus employed a minute, when, happening to turn his face
towards the land, his quick and certain eye told him, at a glance, the
imminent jeopardy in which his life was placed. The black, ferocious
eyes of the savage were glancing on him, like those of the crouching
tiger, through a small opening in the bushes, and the muzzle of his
rifle seemed already to be opening in a line with his own body.

Then, indeed, the long practice of Deerslayer, as a hunter did him good
service. Accustomed to fire with the deer on the bound, and often when
the precise position of the animal’s body had in a manner to be guessed
at, he used the same expedients here. To cock and poise his rifle were
the acts of a single moment and a single motion: then aiming almost
without sighting, he fired into the bushes where he knew a body ought
to be, in order to sustain the appalling countenance which alone was
visible. There was not time to raise the piece any higher, or to take
a more deliberate aim. So rapid were his movements that both parties
discharged their pieces at the same instant, the concussions mingling
in one report. The mountains, indeed, gave back but a single echo.
Deerslayer dropped his piece, and stood with head erect, steady as one
of the pines in the calm of a June morning, watching the result; while
the savage gave the yell that has become historical for its appalling
influence, leaped through the bushes, and came bounding across the open
ground, flourishing a tomahawk. Still Deerslayer moved not, but stood
with his unloaded rifle fallen against his shoulders, while, with a
hunter’s habits, his hands were mechanically feeling for the powder-horn
and charger. When about forty feet from his enemy, the savage hurled his
keen weapon; but it was with an eye so vacant, and a hand so unsteady
and feeble, that the young man caught it by the handle as it was flying
past him. At that instant the Indian staggered and fell his whole length
on the ground.

“I know’d it--I know’d it!” exclaimed Deerslayer, who was already
preparing to force a fresh bullet into his rifle; “I know’d it must come
to this, as soon as I had got the range from the creatur’s eyes. A man
sights suddenly, and fires quick when his own life’s in danger; yes, I
know’d it would come to this. I was about the hundredth part of a second
too quick for him, or it might have been bad for me! The riptyle’s
bullet has just grazed my side--but say what you will for or ag’in ‘em,
a red-skin is by no means as sartain with powder and ball as a white
man. Their gifts don’t seem to lie that a way. Even Chingachgook, great
as he is in other matters, isn’t downright deadly with the rifle.”

By this time the piece was reloaded, and Deerslayer, after tossing the
tomahawk into the canoe, advanced to his victim, and stood over him,
leaning on his rifle, in melancholy attention. It was the first
instance in which he had seen a man fall in battle--it was the first
fellow-creature against whom he had ever seriously raised his own hand.
The sensations were novel; and regret, with the freshness of our better
feelings, mingled with his triumph. The Indian was not dead, though shot
directly through the body. He lay on his back motionless, but his eyes,
now full of consciousness, watched each action of his victor--as the
fallen bird regards the fowler--jealous of every movement. The man
probably expected the fatal blow which was to precede the loss of his
scalp; or perhaps he anticipated that this latter act of cruelty
would precede his death. Deerslayer read his thoughts; and he found a
melancholy satisfaction in relieving the apprehensions of the helpless
savage.

“No, no, red-skin,” he said; “you’ve nothing more to fear from me. I am
of a Christian stock, and scalping is not of my gifts. I’ll just make
sartain of your rifle, and then come back and do you what sarvice I can.
Though here I can’t stay much longer, as the crack of three rifles will
be apt to bring some of your devils down upon me.”

The close of this was said in a sort of a soliloquy, as the young man
went in quest of the fallen rifle. The piece was found where its owner
had dropped it, and was immediately put into the canoe. Laying his own
rifle at its side, Deerslayer then returned and stood over the Indian
again.

“All inmity atween you and me’s at an ind red-skin,” he said; “and you
may set your heart at rest on the score of the scalp, or any further
injury. My gifts are white, as I’ve told you; and I hope my conduct will
be white also.”

Could looks have conveyed all they meant, it is probable Deerslayer’s
innocent vanity on the subject of color would have been rebuked a
little; but he comprehended the gratitude that was expressed in the eyes
of the dying savage, without in the least detecting the bitter sarcasm
that struggled with the better feeling.

“Water!” ejaculated the thirsty and unfortunate creature; “give poor
Injin water.”

“Ay, water you shall have, if you drink the lake dry. I’ll just carry
you down to it that you may take your fill. This is the way, they
tell me, with all wounded people--water is their greatest comfort and
delight.”

So saying, Deerslayer raised the Indian in his arms, and carried him to
the lake. Here he first helped him to take an attitude in which he could
appease his burning thirst; after which he seated himself on a
stone, and took the head of his wounded adversary in his own lap, and
endeavored to soothe his anguish in the best manner he could.

“It would be sinful in me to tell you your time hadn’t come, warrior,”
 he commenced, “and therefore I’ll not say it. You’ve passed the middle
age already, and, considerin’ the sort of lives ye lead, your days have
been pretty well filled. The principal thing now, is to look forward
to what comes next. Neither red-skin nor pale-face, on the whole,
calculates much on sleepin’ forever; but both expect to live in another
world. Each has his gifts, and will be judged by ‘em, and I suppose
you’ve thought these matters over enough not to stand in need of sarmons
when the trial comes. You’ll find your happy hunting-grounds, if you’ve
been a just Injin; if an onjust, you’ll meet your desarts in another
way. I’ve my own idees about these things; but you’re too old and
exper’enced to need any explanations from one as young as I.”

“Good!” ejaculated the Indian, whose voice retained its depth even as
life ebbed away; “young head--old wisdom!”

“It’s sometimes a consolation, when the ind comes, to know that them
we’ve harmed, or tried to harm, forgive us. I suppose natur’ seeks
this relief, by way of getting a pardon on ‘arth; as we never can know
whether He pardons, who is all in all, till judgment itself comes. It’s
soothing to know that any pardon at such times; and that, I conclude, is
the secret. Now, as for myself, I overlook altogether your designs ag’in
my life; first, because no harm came of ‘em; next, because it’s your
gifts, and natur’, and trainin’, and I ought not to have trusted you at
all; and, finally and chiefly, because I can bear no ill-will to a dying
man, whether heathen or Christian. So put your heart at ease, so far as
I’m consarned; you know best what other matters ought to trouble you, or
what ought to give you satisfaction in so trying a moment.”

It is probable that the Indian had some of the fearful glimpses of the
unknown state of being which God, in mercy, seems at times to afford
to all the human race; but they were necessarily in conformity with his
habits and prejudices. Like most of his people, and like too many of our
own, he thought more of dying in a way to gain applause among those
he left than to secure a better state of existence hereafter. While
Deerslayer was speaking, his mind was a little bewildered, though he
felt that the intention was good; and when he had done, a regret passed
over his spirit that none of his own tribe were present to witness his
stoicism, under extreme bodily suffering, and the firmness with which he
met his end. With the high innate courtesy that so often distinguishes
the Indian warrior before he becomes corrupted by too much intercourse
with the worst class of the white men, he endeavored to express his
thankfulness for the other’s good intentions, and to let him understand
that they were appreciated.

“Good!” he repeated, for this was an English word much used by the
savages, “good! young head; young heart, too. Old heart tough; no shed
tear. Hear Indian when he die, and no want to lie--what he call him?”

“Deerslayer is the name I bear now, though the Delawares have said that
when I get back from this war-path, I shall have a more manly title,
provided I can ‘arn one.”

“That good name for boy--poor name for warrior. He get better quick.
No fear there,”--the savage had strength sufficient, under the strong
excitement he felt, to raise a hand and tap the young man on his
breast,--“eye sartain--finger lightning--aim, death--great warrior soon.
No Deerslayer--Hawkeye--Hawkeye--Hawkeye. Shake hand.”

Deerslayer--or Hawkeye, as the youth was then first named, for in after
years he bore the appellation throughout all that region--Deerslayer
took the hand of the savage, whose last breath was drawn in that
attitude, gazing in admiration at the countenance of a stranger, who
had shown so much readiness, skill, and firmness, in a scene that was
equally trying and novel. When the reader remembers it is the highest
gratification an Indian can receive to see his enemy betray weakness,
he will be better able to appreciate the conduct which had extorted so
great a concession at such a moment.

“His spirit has fled!” said Deerslayer, in a suppressed, melancholy
voice. “Ah’s me! Well, to this we must all come, sooner or later; and
he is happiest, let his skin be what color it may, who is best fitted to
meet it. Here lies the body of no doubt a brave warrior, and the soul
is already flying towards its heaven or hell, whether that be a happy
hunting ground, a place scant of game, regions of glory, according to
Moravian doctrine, or flames of fire! So it happens, too, as regards
other matters! Here have old Hutter and Hurry Harry got themselves into
difficulty, if they haven’t got themselves into torment and death,
and all for a bounty that luck offers to me in what many would think a
lawful and suitable manner. But not a farthing of such money shall cross
my hand. White I was born, and white will I die; clinging to color to
the last, even though the King’s majesty, his governors, and all his
councils, both at home and in the colonies, forget from what they come,
and where they hope to go, and all for a little advantage in warfare.
No, no, warrior, hand of mine shall never molest your scalp, and so your
soul may rest in peace on the p’int of making a decent appearance when
the body comes to join it, in your own land of spirits.”

Deerslayer arose as soon as he had spoken. Then he placed the body of
the dead man in a sitting posture, with its back against the little
rock, taking the necessary care to prevent it from falling or in any
way settling into an attitude that might be thought unseemly by
the sensitive, though wild notions of a savage. When this duty was
performed, the young man stood gazing at the grim countenance of his
fallen foe, in a sort of melancholy abstraction. As was his practice,
however, a habit gained by living so much alone in the forest, he then
began again to give utterance to his thoughts and feelings aloud.

“I didn’t wish your life, red-skin,” he said “but you left me no choice
atween killing or being killed. Each party acted according to his
gifts, I suppose, and blame can light on neither. You were treacherous,
according to your natur’ in war, and I was a little oversightful, as I’m
apt to be in trusting others. Well, this is my first battle with a human
mortal, though it’s not likely to be the last. I have fou’t most of
the creatur’s of the forest, such as bears, wolves, painters, and
catamounts, but this is the beginning with the red-skins. If I was Injin
born, now, I might tell of this, or carry in the scalp, and boast of
the expl’ite afore the whole tribe; or, if my inimy had only been even
a bear, ‘twould have been nat’ral and proper to let everybody know what
had happened; but I don’t well see how I’m to let even Chingachgook into
this secret, so long as it can be done only by boasting with a white
tongue. And why should I wish to boast of it a’ter all? It’s slaying a
human, although he was a savage; and how do I know that he was a just
Injin; and that he has not been taken away suddenly to anything but
happy hunting-grounds. When it’s onsartain whether good or evil has
been done, the wisest way is not to be boastful--still, I should like
Chingachgook to know that I haven’t discredited the Delawares, or my
training!”

Part of this was uttered aloud, while part was merely muttered between
the speaker’s teeth; his more confident opinions enjoying the first
advantage, while his doubts were expressed in the latter mode. Soliloquy
and reflection received a startling interruption, however, by the sudden
appearance of a second Indian on the lake shore, a few hundred yards
from the point. This man, evidently another scout, who had probably been
drawn to the place by the reports of the rifles, broke out of the forest
with so little caution that Deerslayer caught a view of his person
before he was himself discovered. When the latter event did occur, as
was the case a moment later, the savage gave a loud yell, which was
answered by a dozen voices from different parts of the mountainside.
There was no longer any time for delay; in another minute the boat was
quitting the shore under long and steady sweeps of the paddle.

As soon as Deerslayer believed himself to be at a safe distance he
ceased his efforts, permitting the little bark to drift, while he
leisurely took a survey of the state of things. The canoe first sent
adrift was floating before the air, quite a quarter of a mile above him,
and a little nearer to the shore than he wished, now that he knew more
of the savages were so near at hand. The canoe shoved from the point was
within a few yards of him, he having directed his own course towards
it on quitting the land. The dead Indian lay in grim quiet where he had
left him, the warrior who had shown himself from the forest had already
vanished, and the woods themselves were as silent and seemingly deserted
as the day they came fresh from the hands of their great Creator. This
profound stillness, however, lasted but a moment. When time had been
given to the scouts of the enemy to reconnoitre, they burst out of the
thicket upon the naked point, filling the air with yells of fury at
discovering the death of their companion. These cries were immediately
succeeded by shouts of delight when they reached the body and clustered
eagerly around it. Deerslayer was a sufficient adept in the usages of
the natives to understand the reason of the change. The yell was the
customary lamentation at the loss of a warrior, the shout a sign of
rejoicing that the conqueror had not been able to secure the scalp;
the trophy, without which a victory is never considered complete. The
distance at which the canoes lay probably prevented any attempts to
injure the conqueror, the American Indian, like the panther of his own
woods, seldom making any effort against his foe unless tolerably certain
it is under circumstances that may be expected to prove effective.

As the young man had no longer any motive to remain near the point, he
prepared to collect his canoes, in order to tow them off to the castle.
That nearest was soon in tow, when he proceeded in quest of the other,
which was all this time floating up the lake. The eye of Deerslayer was
no sooner fastened on this last boat, than it struck him that it was
nearer to the shore than it would have been had it merely followed the
course of the gentle current of air. He began to suspect the influence
of some unseen current in the water, and he quickened his exertions, in
order to regain possession of it before it could drift into a dangerous
proximity to the woods. On getting nearer, he thought that the canoe had
a perceptible motion through the water, and, as it lay broadside to the
air, that this motion was taking it towards the land. A few vigorous
strokes of the paddle carried him still nearer, when the mystery was
explained. Something was evidently in motion on the off side of the
canoe, or that which was farthest from himself, and closer scrutiny
showed that it was a naked human arm. An Indian was lying in the bottom
of the canoe, and was propelling it slowly but certainly to the shore,
using his hand as a paddle. Deerslayer understood the whole artifice at
a glance. A savage had swum off to the boat while he was occupied with
his enemy on the point, got possession, and was using these means to
urge it to the shore.

Satisfied that the man in the canoe could have no arms, Deerslayer
did not hesitate to dash close alongside of the retiring boat, without
deeming it necessary to raise his own rifle. As soon as the wash of the
water, which he made in approaching, became audible to the prostrate
savage, the latter sprang to his feet, and uttered an exclamation that
proved how completely he was taken by surprise.

“If you’ve enj’yed yourself enough in that canoe, red-skin,” Deerslayer
coolly observed, stopping his own career in sufficient time to prevent
an absolute collision between the two boats,--“if you’ve enj’yed
yourself enough in that canoe, you’ll do a prudent act by taking to the
lake ag’in. I’m reasonable in these matters, and don’t crave your blood,
though there’s them about that would look upon you more as a due-bill
for the bounty than a human mortal. Take to the lake this minute, afore
we get to hot words.”

The savage was one of those who did not understand a word of English,
and he was indebted to the gestures of Deerslayer, and to the expression
of an eye that did not often deceive, for an imperfect comprehension of
his meaning. Perhaps, too, the sight of the rifle that lay so near the
hand of the white man quickened his decision. At all events, he crouched
like a tiger about to take his leap, uttered a yell, and the next
instant his naked body disappeared in the water. When he rose to take
breath, it was at the distance of several yards from the canoe, and the
hasty glance he threw behind him denoted how much he feared the arrival
of a fatal messenger from the rifle of his foe. But the young man made
no indication of any hostile intention. Deliberately securing the canoe
to the others, he began to paddle from the shore; and by the time the
Indian reached the land, and had shaken himself, like a spaniel, on
quitting the water, his dreaded enemy was already beyond rifle-shot on
his way to the castle. As was so much his practice, Deerslayer did not
fail to soliloquize on what had just occurred, while steadily pursuing
his course towards the point of destination.

“Well, well,”--he commenced,--“‘twould have been wrong to kill a human
mortal without an object. Scalps are of no account with me, and life
is sweet, and ought not to be taken marcilessly by them that have white
gifts. The savage was a Mingo, it’s true; and I make no doubt he is, and
will be as long as he lives, a ra’al riptyle and vagabond; but that’s no
reason I should forget my gifts and color. No, no,--let him go; if ever
we meet ag’in, rifle in hand, why then ‘twill be seen which has the
stoutest heart and the quickest eye. Hawkeye! That’s not a bad name
for a warrior, sounding much more manful and valiant than Deerslayer!
‘Twouldn’t be a bad title to begin with, and it has been fairly ‘arned.
If ‘t was Chingachgook, now, he might go home and boast of his deeds,
and the chiefs would name him Hawkeye in a minute; but it don’t become
white blood to brag, and ‘t isn’t easy to see how the matter can
be known unless I do. Well, well,--everything is in the hands of
Providence; this affair as well as another; I’ll trust to that for
getting my desarts in all things.”

Having thus betrayed what might be termed his weak spot, the young man
continued to paddle in silence, making his way diligently, and as fast
as his tows would allow him, towards the castle. By this time the sun
had not only risen, but it had appeared over the eastern mountains, and
was shedding a flood of glorious light on this as yet unchristened
sheet of water. The whole scene was radiant with beauty; and no one
unaccustomed to the ordinary history of the woods would fancy it had so
lately witnessed incidents so ruthless and barbarous. As he approached
the building of old Hutter, Deerslayer thought, or rather felt that
its appearance was in singular harmony with all the rest of the scene.
Although nothing had been consulted but strength and security, the rude,
massive logs, covered with their rough bark, the projecting roof, and
the form, would contribute to render the building picturesque in almost
any situation, while its actual position added novelty and piquancy to
its other points of interest.

When Deerslayer drew nearer to the castle, however, objects of interest
presented themselves that at once eclipsed any beauties that might have
distinguished the scenery of the lake, and the site of the singular
edifice. Judith and Hetty stood on the platform before the door, Hurry’s
dooryard awaiting his approach with manifest anxiety; the former, from
time to time, taking a survey of his person and of the canoes through
the old ship’s spyglass that has been already mentioned. Never probably
did this girl seem more brilliantly beautiful than at that moment; the
flush of anxiety and alarm increasing her color to its richest tints,
while the softness of her eyes, a charm that even poor Hetty shared with
her, was deepened by intense concern. Such, at least, without pausing
or pretending to analyze motives, or to draw any other very nice
distinction between cause and effect, were the opinions of the young man
as his canoes reached the side of the ark, where he carefully fastened
all three before he put his foot on the platform.



Chapter VIII.


    “His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles;
    His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate;
    His tears pure messengers sent from his heart;
    His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth.”

    Two Gentlemen of Verona, II.vii,75-78

Neither of the girls spoke as Deerslayer stood before them alone, his
countenance betraying all the apprehension he felt on account of two
absent members of their party.

“Father!” Judith at length exclaimed, succeeding in uttering the word,
as it might be by a desperate effort.

“He’s met with misfortune, and there’s no use in concealing it,”
 answered Deerslayer, in his direct and simple minded manner. “He
and Hurry are in Mingo hands, and Heaven only knows what’s to be the
tarmination. I’ve got the canoes safe, and that’s a consolation, since
the vagabonds will have to swim for it, or raft off, to come near this
place. At sunset we’ll be reinforced by Chingachgook, if I can manage to
get him into a canoe; and then, I think, we two can answer for the ark
and the castle, till some of the officers in the garrisons hear of this
war-path, which sooner or later must be the case, when we may look for
succor from that quarter, if from no other.”

“The officers!” exclaimed Judith, impatiently, her color deepening, and
her eye expressing a lively but passing emotion. “Who thinks or speaks
of the heartless gallants now? We are sufficient of ourselves to defend
the castle. But what of my father, and of poor Hurry Harry?”

“‘T is natural you should feel this consarn for your own parent, Judith,
and I suppose it’s equally so that you should feel it for Hurry Harry,
too.”

Deerslayer then commenced a succinct but clear narrative of all that
occurred during the night, in no manner concealing what had befallen
his two companions, or his own opinion of what might prove to be the
consequences. The girls listened with profound attention, but neither
betrayed that feminine apprehension and concern which would have
followed such a communication when made to those who were less
accustomed to the hazards and accidents of a frontier life. To the
surprise of Deerslayer, Judith seemed the most distressed, Hetty
listening eagerly, but appearing to brood over the facts in melancholy
silence, rather than betraying any outward signs of feeling. The
former’s agitation, the young man did not fail to attribute to the
interest she felt in Hurry, quite as much as to her filial love, while
Hetty’s apparent indifference was ascribed to that mental darkness
which, in a measure, obscured her intellect, and which possibly
prevented her from foreseeing all the consequences. Little was said,
however, by either, Judith and her sister busying themselves in making
the preparations for the morning meal, as they who habitually attend
to such matters toil on mechanically even in the midst of suffering and
sorrow. The plain but nutritious breakfast was taken by all three in
sombre silence. The girls ate little, but Deerslayer gave proof of
possessing one material requisite of a good soldier, that of preserving
his appetite in the midst of the most alarming and embarrassing
circumstances. The meal was nearly ended before a syllable was uttered;
then, however, Judith spoke in the convulsive and hurried manner in
which feeling breaks through restraint, after the latter has become more
painful than even the betrayal of emotion.

“Father would have relished this fish,” she exclaimed; “he says the
salmon of the lakes is almost as good as the salmon of the sea.”

“Your father has been acquainted with the sea, they tell me, Judith,”
 returned the young man, who could not forbear throwing a glance of
inquiry at the girl; for in common with all who knew Hutter, he had some
curiosity on the subject of his early history. “Hurry Harry tells me he
was once a sailor.”

Judith first looked perplexed; then, influenced by feelings that were
novel to her, in more ways than one, she became suddenly communicative,
and seemingly much interested in the discourse.

“If Hurry knows anything of father’s history, I would he had told it to
me!” she cried. “Sometimes I think, too, he was once a sailor, and then
again I think he was not. If that chest were open, or if it could speak,
it might let us into his whole history. But its fastenings are too
strong to be broken like pack thread.”

Deerslayer turned to the chest in question, and for the first time
examined it closely. Although discolored, and bearing proofs of having
received much ill-treatment, he saw that it was of materials and
workmanship altogether superior to anything of the same sort he had
ever before beheld. The wood was dark, rich, and had once been highly
polished, though the treatment it had received left little gloss on
its surface, and various scratches and indentations proved the rough
collisions that it had encountered with substances still harder than
itself. The corners were firmly bound with steel, elaborately and richly
wrought, while the locks, of which it had no less than three, and the
hinges, were of a fashion and workmanship that would have attracted
attention even in a warehouse of curious furniture. This chest was quite
large; and when Deerslayer arose, and endeavored to raise an end by its
massive handle, he found that the weight fully corresponded with the
external appearance.

“Did you never see that chest opened, Judith?” the young man demanded
with frontier freedom, for delicacy on such subjects was little felt
among the people on the verge of civilization, in that age, even if it
be to-day.

“Never. Father has never opened it in my presence, if he ever opens it
at all. No one here has ever seen its lid raised, unless it be father;
nor do I even know that he has ever seen it.”

“Now you’re wrong, Judith,” Hetty quietly answered. “Father has raised
the lid, and I’ve seen him do it.”

A feeling of manliness kept the mouth of Deerslayer shut; for, while he
would not have hesitated about going far beyond what would be thought
the bounds of propriety, in questioning the older sister, he had just
scruples about taking what might be thought an advantage of the feeble
intellect of the younger. Judith, being under no such restraint,
however, turned quickly to the last speaker and continued the discourse.

“When and where did you ever see that chest opened, Hetty?”

“Here, and again and again. Father often opens it when you are away,
though he don’t in the least mind my being by, and seeing all he does,
as well as hearing all he says.”

“And what is it that he does, and what does he say?”

“That I cannot tell you, Judith,” returned the other in a low but
resolute voice. “Father’s secrets are not my secrets.”

“Secrets! This is stranger still, Deerslayer, that father should tell
them to Hetty, and not tell them to me!”

“There’s a good reason for that, Judith, though you’re not to know it.
Father’s not here to answer for himself, and I’ll say no more about it.”

Judith and Deerslayer looked surprised, and for a minute the first
seemed pained. But, suddenly recollecting herself, she turned away from
her sister, as if in pity for her weakness and addressed the young man.

“You’ve told but half your story,” she said, “breaking off at the place
where you went to sleep in the canoe--or rather where you rose to listen
to the cry of the loon. We heard the call of the loons, too, and thought
their cries might bring a storm, though we are little used to tempests
on this lake at this season of the year.”

“The winds blow and the tempests howl as God pleases; sometimes at one
season, and sometimes at another,” answered Deerslayer; “and the loons
speak accordin’ to their natur’. Better would it be if men were as
honest and frank. After I rose to listen to the birds, finding it could
not be Hurry’s signal, I lay down and slept. When the day dawned I was
up and stirring, as usual, and then I went in chase of the two canoes,
lest the Mingos should lay hands on ‘em.”

“You have not told us all, Deerslayer,” said Judith earnestly. “We heard
rifles under the eastern mountain; the echoes were full and long, and
came so soon after the reports, that the pieces must have been fired on
or quite near to the shore. Our ears are used to these signs, and are
not to be deceived.”

“They’ve done their duty, gal, this time; yes, they’ve done their duty.
Rifles have been sighted this morning, ay, and triggers pulled, too,
though not as often as they might have been. One warrior has gone to his
happy hunting-grounds, and that’s the whole of it. A man of white blood
and white gifts is not to be expected to boast of his expl’ites and to
flourish scalps.”

Judith listened almost breathlessly; and when Deerslayer, in his quiet,
modest manner, seemed disposed to quit the subject, she rose, and
crossing the room, took a seat by his side. The manner of the girl had
nothing forward about it, though it betrayed the quick instinct of a
female’s affection, and the sympathizing kindness of a woman’s heart.
She even took the hard hand of the hunter, and pressed it in both her
own, unconsciously to herself, perhaps, while she looked earnestly and
even reproachfully into his sun burnt face.

“You have been fighting the savages, Deerslayer, singly and by
yourself!” she said. “In your wish to take care of us---of Hetty--of me,
perhaps, you’ve fought the enemy bravely, with no eye to encourage your
deeds, or to witness your fall, had it pleased Providence to suffer so
great a calamity!”

“I’ve fou’t, Judith; yes, I have fou’t the inimy, and that too, for the
first time in my life. These things must be, and they bring with ‘em a
mixed feelin’ of sorrow and triumph. Human natur’ is a fightin’ natur’,
I suppose, as all nations kill in battle, and we must be true to our
rights and gifts. What has yet been done is no great matter, but should
Chingachgook come to the rock this evening, as is agreed atween us, and
I get him off it onbeknown to the savages or, if known to them, ag’in
their wishes and designs, then may we all look to something like
warfare, afore the Mingos shall get possession of either the castle, or
the ark, or yourselves.”

“Who is this Chingachgook; from what place does he come, and why does he
come here?”

“The questions are nat’ral and right, I suppose, though the youth has a
great name, already, in his own part of the country. Chingachgook is a
Mohican by blood, consorting with the Delawares by usage, as is the case
with most of his tribe, which has long been broken up by the increase of
our color. He is of the family of the great chiefs; Uncas, his father,
having been the considerablest warrior and counsellor of his people.
Even old Tamenund honors Chingachgook, though he is thought to be
yet too young to lead in war; and then the nation is so disparsed and
diminished, that chieftainship among ‘em has got to be little more than
a name.

“Well, this war having commenced in ‘arnest, the Delaware and I
rendezvous’d an app’intment, to meet this evening at sunset on the
rendezvous-rock at the foot of this very lake, intending to come out on
our first hostile expedition ag’in the Mingos. Why we come exactly this
a way is our own secret; but thoughtful young men on the war-path, as
you may suppose, do nothing without a calculation and a design.”

“A Delaware can have no unfriendly intentions towards us,” said Judith,
after a moment’s hesitation, “and we know you to be friendly.”

“Treachery is the last crime I hope to be accused of,” returned
Deerslayer, hurt at the gleam of distrust that had shot through Judith’s
mind; “and least of all, treachery to my own color.”

“No one suspects you, Deerslayer,” the girl impetuously cried.
“No--no--your honest countenance would be sufficient surety for the
truth of a thousand hearts! If all men had as honest tongues, and no
more promised what they did not mean to perform, there would be less
wrong done in the world, and fine feathers and scarlet cloaks would not
be excuses for baseness and deception.”

The girl spoke with strong, nay, even with convulsed feeling, and her
fine eyes, usually so soft and alluring, flashed fire as she concluded.
Deerslayer could not but observe this extraordinary emotion; but
with the tact of a courtier, he avoided not only any allusion to the
circumstance, but succeeded in concealing the effect of his discovery
on himself. Judith gradually grew calm again, and as she was obviously
anxious to appear to advantage in the eyes of the young man, she was
soon able to renew the conversation as composedly as if nothing had
occurred to disturb her.

“I have no right to look into your secrets, or the secrets of your
friend, Deerslayer,” she continued, “and am ready to take all you say on
trust. If we can really get another male ally to join us at this trying
moment, it will aid us much; and I am not without hope that when the
savages find that we are able to keep the lake, they will offer to give
up their prisoners in exchange for skins, or at least for the keg of
powder that we have in the house.”

The young man had the words “scalps” and “bounty” on his lips, but a
reluctance to alarm the feelings of the daughters prevented him from
making the allusion he had intended to the probable fate of their
father. Still, so little was he practised in the arts of deception,
that his expressive countenance was, of itself, understood by the
quick-witted Judith, whose intelligence had been sharpened by the risks
and habits of her life.

“I understand what you mean,” she continued, hurriedly, “and what you
would say, but for the fear of hurting me--us, I mean; for Hetty
loves her father quite as well as I do. But this is not as we think of
Indians. They never scalp an unhurt prisoner, but would rather take him
away alive, unless, indeed, the fierce wish for torturing should get the
mastery of them. I fear nothing for my father’s scalp, and little for
his life. Could they steal on us in the night, we should all probably
suffer in this way; but men taken in open strife are seldom injured;
not, at least, until the time of torture comes.”

“That’s tradition, I’ll allow, and it’s accordin’ to practice--but,
Judith, do you know the arr’nd on which your father and Hurry went ag’in
the savages?”

“I do; and a cruel errand it was! But what will you have? Men will be
men, and some even that flaunt in their gold and silver, and carry the
King’s commission in their pockets, are not guiltless of equal cruelty.”
 Judith’s eye again flashed, but by a desperate struggle she resumed her
composure. “I get warm when I think of all the wrong that men do,”
 she added, affecting to smile, an effort in which she only succeeded
indifferently well. “All this is silly. What is done is done, and it
cannot be mended by complaints. But the Indians think so little of
the shedding of blood, and value men so much for the boldness of their
undertakings, that, did they know the business on which their prisoners
came, they would be more likely to honor than to injure them for it.”

“For a time, Judith; yes, I allow that, for a time. But when that
feelin’ dies away, then will come the love of revenge. We must
indivor,--Chingachgook and I,--we must indivor to see what we can do to
get Hurry and your father free; for the Mingos will no doubt hover about
this lake some days, in order to make the most of their success.”

“You think this Delaware can be depended on, Deerslayer?” demanded the
girl, thoughtfully.

“As much as I can myself. You say you do not suspect me, Judith?”

“You!” taking his hand again, and pressing it between her own, with a
warmth that might have awakened the vanity of one less simple-minded,
and more disposed to dwell on his own good qualities, “I would as soon
suspect a brother! I have known you but a day, Deerslayer, but it has
awakened the confidence of a year. Your name, however, is not unknown
to me; for the gallants of the garrisons frequently speak of the lessons
you have given them in hunting, and all proclaim your honesty.”

“Do they ever talk of the shooting, gal?” inquired the other eagerly,
after, however, laughing in a silent but heartfelt manner. “Do they ever
talk of the shooting? I want to hear nothing about my own, for if that
isn’t sartified to by this time, in all these parts, there’s little
use in being skilful and sure; but what do the officers say of their
own--yes, what do they say of their own? Arms, as they call it, is their
trade, and yet there’s some among ‘em that know very little how to use
‘em!”

“Such I hope will not be the case with your friend Chingachgook, as you
call him--what is the English of his Indian name?”

“Big Sarpent--so called for his wisdom and cunning, Uncas is his ra’al
name--all his family being called Uncas until they get a title that has
been ‘arned by deeds.”

“If he has all this wisdom, we may expect a useful friend in him, unless
his own business in this part of the country should prevent him from
serving us.”

“I see no great harm in telling you his arr’nd, a’ter all, and, as
you may find means to help us, I will let you and Hetty into the whole
matter, trusting that you’ll keep the secret as if it was your own. You
must know that Chingachgook is a comely Injin, and is much looked upon
and admired by the young women of his tribe, both on account of his
family, and on account of himself. Now, there is a chief that has a
daughter called Wah-ta-Wah, which is intarpreted into Hist-oh-Hist, in
the English tongue, the rarest gal among the Delawares, and the one
most sought a’ter and craved for a wife by all the young warriors of the
nation. Well, Chingachgook, among others, took a fancy to Wah-ta-Wah,
and Wah-ta-Wah took a fancy to him.” Here Deerslayer paused an instant;
for, as he got thus far in his tale, Hetty Hutter arose, approached,
and stood attentive at his knee, as a child draws near to listen to
the legends of its mother. “Yes, he fancied her, and she fancied him,”
 resumed Deerslayer, casting a friendly and approving glance at the
innocent and interested girl; “and when that is the case, and all the
elders are agreed, it does not often happen that the young couple keep
apart. Chingachgook couldn’t well carry off such a prize without making
inimies among them that wanted her as much as he did himself. A sartain
Briarthorn, as we call him in English, or Yocommon, as he is tarmed in
Injin, took it most to heart, and we mistrust him of having a hand in
all that followed.”

“Wah-ta-Wah went with her father and mother, two moons ago, to fish for
salmon on the western streams, where it is agreed by all in these parts
that fish most abounds, and while thus empl’yed the gal vanished. For
several weeks we could get no tidings of her; but here, ten days since,
a runner, that came through the Delaware country, brought us a message,
by which we learn that Wah-ta-Wah was stolen from her people, we think,
but do not know it, by Briarthorn’s sarcumventions,--and that she was
now with the inimy, who had adopted her, and wanted her to marry a
young Mingo. The message said that the party intended to hunt and forage
through this region for a month or two, afore it went back into the
Canadas, and that if we could contrive to get on a scent in this
quarter, something might turn up that would lead to our getting the
maiden off.”

“And how does that concern you, Deerslayer?” demanded Judith, a little
anxiously.

“It consarns me, as all things that touches a fri’nd consarns a fri’nd.
I’m here as Chingachgook’s aid and helper, and if we can get the young
maiden he likes back ag’in, it will give me almost as much pleasure as
if I had got back my own sweetheart.”

“And where, then, is your sweetheart, Deerslayer?”

“She’s in the forest, Judith--hanging from the boughs of the trees, in a
soft rain--in the dew on the open grass--the clouds that float about in
the blue heavens--the birds that sing in the woods--the sweet springs
where I slake my thirst--and in all the other glorious gifts that come
from God’s Providence!”

“You mean that, as yet, you’ve never loved one of my sex, but love best
your haunts, and your own manner of life.”

“That’s it--that’s just it. I am white--have a white heart and can’t,
in reason, love a red-skinned maiden, who must have a red-skin heart
and feelin’s. No, no, I’m sound enough in them partic’lars, and hope to
remain so, at least till this war is over. I find my time too much taken
up with Chingachgook’s affair, to wish to have one of my own on my hands
afore that is settled.”


“The girl that finally wins you, Deerslayer, will at least win an honest
heart,--one without treachery or guile; and that will be a victory that
most of her sex ought to envy.”

As Judith uttered this, her beautiful face had a resentful frown on it;
while a bitter smile lingered around a mouth that no derangement of the
muscles could render anything but handsome. Her companion observed the
change, and though little skilled in the workings of the female heart,
he had sufficient native delicacy to understand that it might be well to
drop the subject.

As the hour when Chingachgook was expected still remained distant,
Deerslayer had time enough to examine into the state of the defences,
and to make such additional arrangements as were in his power, and the
exigency of the moment seemed to require. The experience and foresight
of Hutter had left little to be done in these particulars; still,
several precautions suggested themselves to the young man, who may be
said to have studied the art of frontier warfare, through the traditions
and legends of the people among whom he had so long lived. The distance
between the castle and the nearest point on the shore, prevented any
apprehension on the subject of rifle-bullets thrown from the land. The
house was within musket-shot in one sense, it was true, but aim was
entirely out of the question, and even Judith professed a perfect
disregard of any danger from that source. So long, then, as the party
remained in possession of the fortress, they were safe, unless their
assailants could find the means to come off and carry it by fire or
storm, or by some of the devices of Indian cunning and Indian treachery.

Against the first source of danger Hutter had made ample provision, and
the building itself, the bark roof excepted, was not very combustible.
The floor was scuttled in several places, and buckets provided with
ropes were in daily use, in readiness for any such emergency. One of the
girls could easily extinguish any fire that might be lighted, provided
it had not time to make much headway. Judith, who appeared to understand
all her father’s schemes of defence, and who had the spirit to take no
unimportant share in the execution of them, explained all these details
to the young man, who was thus saved much time and labor in making his
investigations.

Little was to be apprehended during the day. In possession of the
canoes and of the ark, no other vessel was to be found on the lake.
Nevertheless, Deerslayer well knew that a raft was soon made, and, as
dead trees were to be found in abundance near the water, did the savages
seriously contemplate the risks of an assault, it would not be a very
difficult matter to find the necessary means. The celebrated American
axe, a tool that is quite unrivalled in its way, was then not very
extensively known, and the savages were far from expert in the use of
its hatchet-like substitute; still, they had sufficient practice in
crossing streams by this mode to render it certain they would construct
a raft, should they deem it expedient to expose themselves to the risks
of an assault. The death of their warrior might prove a sufficient
incentive, or it might act as a caution; but Deerslayer thought it more
than possible that the succeeding night would bring matters to a crisis,
and in this precise way. This impression caused him to wish ardently for
the presence and succor of his Mohican friend, and to look forward to
the approach of sunset with an increasing anxiety.

As the day advanced, the party in the castle matured their plans,
and made their preparations. Judith was active, and seemed to find a
pleasure in consulting and advising with her new acquaintance,
whose indifference to danger, manly devotion to herself and sister,
guilelessness of manner, and truth of feeling, had won rapidly on both
her imagination and her affections. Although the hours appeared long in
some respects to Deerslayer, Judith did not find them so, and when the
sun began to descend towards the pine-clad summits of the western hills,
she felt and expressed her surprise that the day should so soon be
drawing to a close. On the other hand, Hetty was moody and silent. She
was never loquacious, or if she occasionally became communicative, it
was under the influence of some temporary excitement that served to
arouse her unsophisticated mind; but, for hours at a time, in the course
of this all-important day, she seemed to have absolutely lost the use
of her tongue. Nor did apprehension on account of her father materially
affect the manner of either sister. Neither appeared seriously to dread
any evil greater than captivity, and once or twice, when Hetty did
speak, she intimated the expectation that Hutter would find the means
to liberate himself. Although Judith was less sanguine on this head, she
too betrayed the hope that propositions for a ransom would come,
when the Indians discovered that the castle set their expedients and
artifices at defiance. Deerslayer, however, treated these passing
suggestions as the ill-digested fancies of girls, making his own
arrangements as steadily, and brooding over the future as seriously, as
if they had never fallen from their lips.

At length the hour arrived when it became necessary to proceed to
the place of rendezvous appointed with the Mohican, or Delaware, as
Chingachgook was more commonly called. As the plan had been matured
by Deerslayer, and fully communicated to his companions, all three set
about its execution, in concert, and intelligently. Hetty passed into
the ark, and fastening two of the canoes together, she entered one, and
paddled up to a sort of gateway in the palisadoes that surrounded the
building, through which she carried both; securing them beneath the
house by chains that were fastened within the building. These palisadoes
were trunks of trees driven firmly into the mud, and served the double
purpose of a small inclosure that was intended to be used in this very
manner, and to keep any enemy that might approach in boats at arm’s
length. Canoes thus docked were, in a measure, hid from sight, and as
the gate was properly barred and fastened, it would not be an easy
task to remove them, even in the event of their being seen. Previously,
however, to closing the gate, Judith also entered within the inclosure
with the third canoe, leaving Deerslayer busy in securing the door and
windows inside the building, over her head. As everything was massive
and strong, and small saplings were used as bars, it would have been the
work of an hour or two to break into the building, when Deerslayer had
ended his task, even allowing the assailants the use of any tools but
the axe, and to be unresisted. This attention to security arose from
Hutter’s having been robbed once or twice by the lawless whites of the
frontiers, during some of his many absences from home.

As soon as all was fast in the inside of the dwelling, Deerslayer
appeared at a trap, from which he descended into the canoe of Judith.
When this was done, he fastened the door with a massive staple and stout
padlock. Hetty was then received in the canoe, which was shoved outside
of the palisadoes. The next precaution was to fasten the gate, and the
keys were carried into the ark. The three were now fastened out of the
dwelling, which could only be entered by violence, or by following the
course taken by the young man in quitting it. The glass had been brought
outside as a preliminary step, and Deerslayer next took a careful survey
of the entire shore of the lake, as far as his own position would allow.
Not a living thing was visible, a few birds excepted, and even the last
fluttered about in the shades of the trees, as if unwilling to encounter
the heat of a sultry afternoon. All the nearest points, in particular,
were subjected to severe scrutiny, in order to make certain that no raft
was in preparation; the result everywhere giving the same picture of
calm solitude. A few words will explain the greatest embarrassment
belonging to the situation of our party. Exposed themselves to the
observation of any watchful eyes, the movements of their enemies were
concealed by the drapery of a dense forest. While the imagination would
be very apt to people the latter with more warriors than it really
contained, their own weakness must be too apparent to all who might
chance to cast a glance in their direction.

“Nothing is stirring, howsever,” exclaimed Deerslayer, as he finally
lowered the glass, and prepared to enter the ark. “If the vagabonds do
harbor mischief in their minds, they are too cunning to let it be seen;
it’s true, a raft may be in preparation in the woods, but it has not
yet been brought down to the lake. They can’t guess that we are about to
quit the castle, and, if they did, they’ve no means of knowing where we
intend to go.”

“This is so true, Deerslayer,” returned Judith, “that now all is ready,
we may proceed at once, boldly, and without the fear of being followed;
else we shall be behind our time.”

“No, no; the matter needs management; for, though the savages are in the
dark as to Chingachgook and the rock, they’ve eyes and legs, and will
see in what direction we steer, and will be sartain to follow us. I
shall strive to baffle ‘em, howsever, by heading the scow in all manner
of ways, first in one quarter and then in another, until they get to be
a-leg-weary, and tired of tramping a’ter us.”

So far as it was in his power, Deerslayer was as good as his word. In
less than five minutes after this speech was made, the whole party was
in the ark, and in motion. There was a gentle breeze from the north, and
boldly hoisting the sail, the young man laid the head of the unwieldy
craft in such a direction, as, after making a liberal but necessary
allowance for leeway, would have brought it ashore a couple of miles
down the lake, and on its eastern side. The sailing of the ark was
never very swift, though, floating as it did on the surface, it was not
difficult to get it in motion, or to urge it along over the water at the
rate of some three or four miles in the hour. The distance between the
castle and the rock was a little more than two leagues. Knowing the
punctuality of an Indian, Deerslayer had made his calculations closely,
and had given himself a little more time than was necessary to reach the
place of rendezvous, with a view to delay or to press his arrival, as
might prove most expedient. When he hoisted the sail, the sun lay above
the western hills, at an elevation that promised rather more than two
hours of day; and a few minutes satisfied him that the progress of the
scow was such as to equal his expectations.

It was a glorious June afternoon, and never did that solitary sheet of
water seem less like an arena of strife and bloodshed. The light air
scarce descended as low as the bed of the lake, hovering over it, as if
unwilling to disturb its deep tranquillity, or to ruffle its mirror-like
surface. Even the forests appeared to be slumbering in the sun, and a
few piles of fleecy clouds had lain for hours along the northern horizon
like fixtures in the atmosphere, placed there purely to embellish the
scene. A few aquatic fowls occasionally skimmed along the water, and a
single raven was visible, sailing high above the trees, and keeping
a watchful eye on the forest beneath him, in order to detect anything
having life that the mysterious woods might offer as prey.

The reader will probably have observed, that, amidst the frankness and
abruptness of manner which marked the frontier habits of Judith, her
language was superior to that used by her male companions, her own
father included. This difference extended as well to pronunciation as
to the choice of words and phrases. Perhaps nothing so soon betrays
the education and association as the modes of speech; and few
accomplishments so much aid the charm of female beauty as a graceful and
even utterance, while nothing so soon produces the disenchantment that
necessarily follows a discrepancy between appearance and manner, as
a mean intonation of voice, or a vulgar use of words. Judith and her
sister were marked exceptions to all the girls of their class, along
that whole frontier; the officers of the nearest garrison having often
flattered the former with the belief that few ladies of the towns
acquitted themselves better than herself, in this important particular.
This was far from being literally true, but it was sufficiently near the
fact to give birth to the compliment. The girls were indebted to their
mother for this proficiency, having acquired from her, in childhood, an
advantage that no subsequent study or labor can give without a drawback,
if neglected beyond the earlier periods of life. Who that mother was,
or rather had been, no one but Hutter knew. She had now been dead two
summers, and, as was stated by Hurry, she had been buried in the lake;
whether in indulgence of a prejudice, or from a reluctance to take the
trouble to dig her grave, had frequently been a matter of discussion
between the rude beings of that region. Judith had never visited the
spot, but Hetty was present at the interment, and she often paddled a
canoe, about sunset or by the light of the moon, to the place, and gazed
down into the limpid water, in the hope of being able to catch a glimpse
of the form that she had so tenderly loved from infancy to the sad hour
of their parting.

“Must we reach the rock exactly at the moment the sun sets?” Judith
demanded of the young man, as they stood near each other, Deerslayer
holding the steering-oar, and she working with a needle at some ornament
of dress, that much exceeded her station in life, and was altogether a
novelty in the woods. “Will a few minutes, sooner or later, alter the
matter? It will be very hazardous to remain long as near the shore as
that rock!”

“That’s it, Judith; that’s the very difficulty! The rock’s within p’int
blank for a shot-gun, and ‘twill never do to hover about it too close
and too long. When you have to deal with an Injin, you must calculate
and manage, for a red natur’ dearly likes sarcumvention. Now you see,
Judith, that I do not steer towards the rock at all, but here to
the eastward of it, whereby the savages will be tramping off in that
direction, and get their legs a-wearied, and all for no advantage.”

“You think, then, they see us, and watch our movements, Deerslayer? I
was in hopes they might have fallen back into the woods, and left us to
ourselves for a few hours.”

“That’s altogether a woman’s consait. There’s no let-up in an Injin’s
watchfulness when he’s on a war-path, and eyes are on us at this
minute, ‘though the lake presarves us. We must draw near the rock on
a calculation, and indivor to get the miscreants on a false scent. The
Mingos have good noses, they tell me; but a white man’s reason ought
always to equalize their instinct.”

Judith now entered into a desultory discourse with Deerslayer, in which
the girl betrayed her growing interest in the young man; an interest
that his simplicity of mind and her decision of character, sustained as
it was by the consciousness awakened by the consideration her personal
charms so universally produced, rendered her less anxious to conceal
than might otherwise have been the case. She was scarcely forward in
her manner, though there was sometimes a freedom in her glances that it
required all the aid of her exceeding beauty to prevent from awakening
suspicions unfavorable to her discretion, if not to her morals. With
Deerslayer, however, these glances were rendered less obnoxious to
so unpleasant a construction; for she seldom looked at him without
discovering much of the sincerity and nature that accompany the purest
emotions of woman. It was a little remarkable that, as his captivity
lengthened, neither of the girls manifested any great concern for
her father; but, as has been said already, their habits gave them
confidence, and they looked forward to his liberation, by means of a
ransom, with a confidence that might, in a great degree, account for
their apparent indifference. Once before, Hutter had been in the hands
of the Iroquois, and a few skins had readily effected his release. This
event, however, unknown to the sisters, had occurred in a time of
peace between England and France, and when the savages were restrained,
instead of being encouraged to commit their excesses, by the policy of
the different colonial governments.

While Judith was loquacious and caressing in her manner, Hetty remained
thoughtful and silent. Once, indeed, she drew near to Deerslayer,
and questioned him a little closely as to his intentions, as well as
concerning the mode of effecting his purpose; but her wish to converse
went no further. As soon as her simple queries were answered--and
answered they all were, in the fullest and kindest manner--she withdrew
to her seat, and continued to work on a coarse garment that she was
making for her father, sometimes humming a low melancholy air, and
frequently sighing.

In this manner the time passed away; and when the sun was beginning to
glow behind the fringe of the pines that bounded the western hill, or
about twenty minutes before it actually set, the ark was nearly as low
as the point where Hutter and Hurry had been made prisoners. By sheering
first to one side of the lake, and then to the other, Deerslayer managed
to create an uncertainty as to his object; and, doubtless, the savages,
who were unquestionably watching his movements, were led to believe that
his aim was to communicate with them, at or near this spot, and would
hasten in that direction, in order to be in readiness to profit by
circumstances. This artifice was well managed; since the sweep of the
bay, the curvature of the lake, and the low marshy land that intervened,
would probably allow the ark to reach the rock before its pursuers, if
really collected near this point, could have time to make the circuit
that would be required to get there by land. With a view to aid this
deception, Deerslayer stood as near the western shore as was at all
prudent; and then causing Judith and Hetty to enter the house, or cabin,
and crouching himself so as to conceal his person by the frame of the
scow, he suddenly threw the head of the latter round, and began to make
the best of his way towards the outlet. Favored by an increase in
the wind, the progress of the ark was such as to promise the complete
success of this plan, though the crab-like movement of the craft
compelled the helmsman to keep its head looking in a direction very
different from that in which it was actually moving.



Chapter IX.


    “Yet art thou prodigal of smiles--
    Smiles, sweeter than thy frowns are stern:
    Earth sends from all her thousand isles,
    A shout at thy return.
    The glory that comes down from thee
    Bathes, in deep joy, the land and sea.”

    Bryant, “The Firmament,” 11.19-24

It may assist the reader in understanding the events we are about to
record, if he has a rapidly sketched picture of the scene, placed before
his eyes at a single view. It will be remembered that the lake was an
irregularly shaped basin, of an outline that, in the main, was oval, but
with bays and points to relieve its formality and ornament its shores.
The surface of this beautiful sheet of water was now glittering like a
gem, in the last rays of the evening sun, and the setting of the whole,
hills clothed in the richest forest verdure, was lighted up with a sort
of radiant smile, that is best described in the beautiful lines we have
placed at the head of this chapter. As the banks, with few exceptions,
rose abruptly from the water, even where the mountain did not
immediately bound the view, there was a nearly unbroken fringe of leaves
overhanging the placid lake, the trees starting out of the acclivities,
inclining to the light, until, in many instances they extended their
long limbs and straight trunks some forty or fifty feet beyond the line
of the perpendicular. In these cases we allude only to the giants of the
forest, pines of a hundred or a hundred and fifty feet in height, for
of the smaller growth, very many inclined so far as to steep their lower
branches in the water. In the position in which the Ark had now got, the
castle was concealed from view by the projection of a point, as indeed
was the northern extremity of the lake itself. A respectable mountain,
forest clad, and rounded, like all the rest, limited the view in that
direction, stretching immediately across the whole of the fair
scene, with the exception of a deep bay that passed the western end,
lengthening the basin, for more than a mile.

The manner in which the water flowed out of the lake, beneath the leafy
arches of the trees that lined the sides of the stream, has already been
mentioned, and it has also been said that the rock, which was a favorite
place of rendezvous throughout all that region, and where Deerslayer
now expected to meet his friend, stood near this outlet, and at no great
distance from the shore. It was a large, isolated stone that rested on
the bottom of the lake, apparently left there when the waters tore away
the earth from around it, in forcing for themselves a passage down the
river, and which had obtained its shape from the action of the elements,
during the slow progress of centuries. The height of this rock could
scarcely equal six feet, and, as has been said, its shape was not unlike
that which is usually given to beehives, or to a hay-cock. The latter,
indeed, gives the best idea not only of its form, but of its dimensions.
It stood, and still stands, for we are writing of real scenes, within
fifty feet of the bank, and in water that was only two feet in depth,
though there were seasons in which its rounded apex, if such a term can
properly be used, was covered by the lake. Many of the trees stretched
so far forward, as almost to blend the rock with the shore, when seen
from a little distance, and one tall pine in particular overhung it in a
way to form a noble and appropriate canopy to a seat that had held many
a forest chieftain, during the long succession of unknown ages, in
which America, and all it contained, had existed apart, in mysterious
solitude, a world by itself; equally without a familiar history, and
without an origin that the annals of man can reach.

When distant some two or three hundred feet from the shore, Deerslayer
took in his sail. He dropped his grapnel, as soon as he found the Ark
had drifted in a line that was directly to windward of the rock. The
motion of the scow was then checked, when it was brought head to wind,
by the action of the breeze. As soon as this was done, Deerslayer “paid
out line,” and suffered the vessel to “set down” upon the rock, as fast
as the light air could force it to leeward. Floating entirely on the
surface, this was soon effected, and the young man checked the drift
when he was told that the stern of the scow was within fifteen or
eighteen feet of the desired spot.

In executing this maneuver, Deerslayer had proceeded promptly, for,
while he did not in the least doubt that he was both watched and
followed by the foe, he believed he distracted their movements, by the
apparent uncertainty of his own, and he knew they could have no means
of ascertaining that the rock was his aim, unless indeed one of their
prisoners had betrayed him; a chance so improbable in itself, as to give
him no concern. Notwithstanding the celerity and decision his movements,
he did not, however, venture so near the shore without taking due
precautions to effect a retreat, in the event of its becoming necessary.
He held the line in his hand, and Judith was stationed at a loop, on the
side of the cabin next the shore, where she could watch the beach and
the rock, and give timely notice of the approach of either friend
or foe. Hetty was also placed on watch, but it was to keep the trees
overhead in view, lest some enemy might ascend one, and, by completely
commanding the interior of the scow render the defence of the hut, or
cabin, useless.

The sun had disappeared from the lake and valley, when Deerslayer
checked the Ark, in the manner mentioned. Still it wanted a few
minutes to the true sunset, and he knew Indian punctuality too well
to anticipate any unmanly haste in his friend. The great question was,
whether, surrounded by enemies as he was known to be, he had escaped
their toils. The occurrences of the last twenty-four hours must be a
secret to him, and like himself, Chingachgook was yet young on a path.
It was true, he came prepared to encounter the party that withheld
his promised bride, but he had no means ascertaining the extent of the
danger he ran, or the precise positions occupied by either friends, or
foes. In a word, the trained sagacity, and untiring caution of an Indian
were all he had to rely on, amid the critical risks he unavoidably ran.

“Is the rock empty, Judith?” inquired Deerslayer, as soon as he
had checked the drift of the Ark, deeming it imprudent to venture
unnecessarily near the shore. “Is any thing to be seen of the Delaware
chief?”

“Nothing, Deerslayer. Neither rock, shore, trees, nor lake seems to have
ever held a human form.”

‘Keep close, Judith--keep close, Hetty--a rifle has a prying eye, a
nimble foot, and a desperate fatal tongue. Keep close then, but keep up
actyve looks, and be on the alart. ‘Twould grieve me to the heart, did
any harm befall either of you.’

“And you Deerslayer--” exclaimed Judith, turning her handsome face from
the loop, to bestow a gracious and grateful look on the young man--“do
you ‘keep close’, and have a proper care that the savages do not catch
a glimpse of you! A bullet might be as fatal to you as to one of us; and
the blow that you felt, would be felt by us all.”

“No fear of me, Judith--no fear of me, my good gal. Do not look
this-a-way, although you look so pleasant and comely, but keep your eyes
on the rock, and the shore, and the--”

Deerslayer was interrupted by a slight exclamation from the girl, who,
in obedience to his hurried gestures, as much as in obedience to his
words, had immediately bent her looks again, in the opposite direction.

“What is’t?--What is’t, Judith?” he hastily demanded--“Is any thing to
be seen?”

“There is a man on the rock!--An Indian warrior, in his paint--and
armed!”

“Where does he wear his hawk’s feather?” eagerly added Deerslayer,
relaxing his hold of the line, in readiness to drift nearer to the place
of rendezvous. “Is it fast to the war-lock, or does he carry it above
the left ear?”

“‘Tis as you say, above the left ear; he smiles, too, and mutters the
word ‘Mohican.’”

“God be praised, ‘tis the Sarpent, at last!” exclaimed the young man,
suffering the line to slip through his hands, until hearing a light
bound, in the other end of the craft, he instantly checked the rope,
and began to haul it in, again, under the assurance that his object was
effected. At that moment the door of the cabin was opened hastily, and,
a warrior, darting through the little room, stood at Deerslayer’s side,
simply uttering the exclamation “Hugh!” At the next instant, Judith and
Hetty shrieked, and the air was filled with the yell of twenty savages,
who came leaping through the branches, down the bank, some actually
falling headlong into the water, in their haste.

“Pull, Deerslayer,” cried Judith, hastily barring the door, in order
to prevent an inroad by the passage through which the Delaware had just
entered; “pull, for life and death--the lake is full of savages, wading
after us!”

The young men--for Chingachgook immediately came to his friend’s
assistance--needed no second bidding, but they applied themselves to
their task in a way that showed how urgent they deemed the occasion. The
great difficulty was in suddenly overcoming the inertia of so large
a mass, for once in motion, it was easy to cause the scow to skim the
water with all the necessary speed.

“Pull, Deerslayer, for Heaven’s sake!” cried Judith, again at the loop.
“These wretches rush into the water like hounds following their prey!
Ah--the scow moves! and now, the water deepens, to the arm-pits of the
foremost, but they reach forward, and will seize the Ark!”

A slight scream, and then a joyous laugh followed from the girl; the
first produced by a desperate effort of their pursuers, and the last by
its failure; the scow, which had now got fairly in motion gliding ahead
into deep water, with a velocity that set the designs of their enemies
at nought. As the two men were prevented by the position of the cabin
from seeing what passed astern, they were compelled to inquire of the
girls into the state of the chase.

“What now, Judith?--What next?--Do the Mingos still follow, or are we
quit of ‘em, for the present,” demanded Deerslayer, when he felt the
rope yielding as if the scow was going fast ahead, and heard the scream
and the laugh of the girl, almost in the same breath.

“They have vanished!--One--the last--is just burying himself in the
bushes of the bank--There, he has disappeared in the shadows of the
trees! You have got your friend, and we are all safe!”

The two men now made another great effort, pulled the Ark up swiftly to
the grapnel, tripped it, and when the scow had shot some distance and
lost its way, they let the anchor drop again. Then, for the first time
since their meeting, they ceased their efforts. As the floating house
now lay several hundred feet from the shore, and offered a complete
protection against bullets, there was no longer any danger or any motive
for immediate exertion.

The manner in which the two friends now recognized each other, was
highly characteristic. Chingachgook, a noble, tall, handsome and
athletic young Indian warrior, first examined his rifle with care,
opening the pan to make sure that the priming was not wet, and, assured
of this important fact, he next cast furtive but observant glances
around him, at the strange habitation and at the two girls. Still he
spoke not, and most of all did he avoid the betrayal of a womanish
curiosity, by asking questions.

“Judith and Hetty” said Deerslayer, with an untaught, natural
courtesy--“this is the Mohican chief of whom you’ve heard me speak;
Chingachgook as he is called; which signifies Big Sarpent; so named for
his wisdom and prudence, and cunning, and my ‘arliest and latest fri’nd.
I know’d it must be he, by the hawk’s feather over the left ear, most
other warriors wearing ‘em on the war-lock.”

As Deerslayer ceased speaking, he laughed heartily, excited more
perhaps by the delight of having got his friend safe at his side, under
circumstances so trying, than by any conceit that happened to cross his
fancy, and exhibiting this outbreaking of feeling in a manner that was a
little remarkable, since his merriment was not accompanied by any
noise. Although Chingachgook both understood and spoke English, he was
unwilling to communicate his thoughts in it, like most Indians, and
when he had met Judith’s cordial shake of the hand, and Hetty’s milder
salute, in the courteous manner that became a chief, he turned away,
apparently to await the moment when it might suit his friend to enter
into an explanation of his future intentions, and to give a narrative
of what had passed since their separation. The other understood his
meaning, and discovered his own mode of reasoning in the matter, by
addressing the girls.

“This wind will soon die away altogether, now the sun is down,” he said,
“and there is no need for rowing ag’in it. In half an hour, or so, it
will either be a flat calm, or the air will come off from the south
shore, when we will begin our journey back ag’in to the castle; in the
meanwhile, the Delaware and I will talk over matters, and get correct
idees of each other’s notions consarning the course we ought to take.”

No one opposed this proposition, and the girls withdrew into the cabin
to prepare the evening meal, while the two young men took their seats
on the head of the scow and began to converse. The dialogue was in
the language of the Delawares. As that dialect, however, is but little
understood, even by the learned; we shall not only on this, but on all
subsequent occasions render such parts as it may be necessary to give
closely, into liberal English; preserving, as far as possible, the idiom
and peculiarities of the respective speakers, by way of presenting the
pictures in the most graphic forms to the minds of the readers.

It is unnecessary to enter into the details first related by Deerslayer,
who gave a brief narrative of the facts that are already familiar to
those who have read our pages. In relating these events, however, it
may be well to say that the speaker touched only on the outlines, more
particularly abstaining from saying anything about his encounter with,
and victory over the Iroquois, as well as to his own exertions in behalf
of the two deserted young women. When Deerslayer ended, the Delaware
took up the narrative, in turn, speaking sententiously and with grave
dignity. His account was both clear and short, nor was it embellished by
any incidents that did not directly concern the history of his departure
from the villages of his people, and his arrival in the valley of the
Susquehannah. On reaching the latter, which was at a point only half
a mile south of the outlet, he had soon struck a trail, which gave him
notice of the probable vicinity of enemies. Being prepared for such an
occurrence, the object of the expedition calling him directly into
the neighborhood of the party of Iroquois that was known to be out, he
considered the discovery as fortunate, rather than the reverse, and took
the usual precautions to turn it to account. First following the river
to its source, and ascertaining the position of the rock, he met another
trail, and had actually been hovering for hours on the flanks of his
enemies, watching equally for an opportunity to meet his mistress,
and to take a scalp; and it may be questioned which he most ardently
desired. He kept near the lake, and occasionally he ventured to some
spot where he could get a view of what was passing on its surface. The
Ark had been seen and watched, from the moment it hove in sight,
though the young chief was necessarily ignorant that it was to be the
instrument of his effecting the desired junction with his friend. The
uncertainty of its movements, and the fact that it was unquestionably
managed by white men, soon led him to conjecture the truth, however,
and he held himself in readiness to get on board whenever a suitable
occasion might offer. As the sun drew near the horizon he repaired
to the rock, where, on emerging from the forest, he was gratified in
finding the Ark lying, apparently in readiness to receive him. The
manner of his appearance, and of his entrance into the craft is known.

Although Chingachgook had been closely watching his enemies for hours,
their sudden and close pursuit as he reached the scow was as much a
matter of surprise to himself, as it had been to his friend. He could
only account for it by the fact of their being more numerous than he had
at first supposed, and by their having out parties of the existence of
which he was ignorant. Their regular, and permanent encampment, if the
word permanent can be applied to the residence of a party that intended
to remain out, in all probability, but a few weeks, was not far from
the spot where Hutter and Hurry had fallen into their hands, and, as a
matter of course, near a spring.

“Well, Sarpent,” asked Deerslayer, when the other had ended his brief
but spirited narrative, speaking always in the Delaware tongue, which
for the reader’s convenience only we render into the peculiar vernacular
of the speaker--“Well, Sarpent, as you’ve been scouting around these
Mingos, have you anything to tell us of their captyves, the father of
these young women, and of another, who, I somewhat conclude, is the
lovyer of one of ‘em.”

“Chingachgook has seen them. An old man, and a young warrior--the
falling hemlock and the tall pine.”

“You’re not so much out, Delaware; you’re not so much out. Old Hutter is
decaying, of a sartainty, though many solid blocks might be hewn out of
his trunk yet, and, as for Hurry Harry, so far as height and strength
and comeliness go, he may be called the pride of the human forest. Were
the men bound, or in any manner suffering torture? I ask on account of
the young women, who, I dare to say, would be glad to know.”

“It is not so, Deerslayer. The Mingos are too many to cage their game.
Some watch; some sleep; some scout; some hunt. The pale-faces are
treated like brothers to-day; to-morrow they will lose their scalps.”

“Yes, that’s red natur’, and must be submitted to! Judith and Hetty,
here’s comforting tidings for you, the Delaware telling me that neither
your father nor Hurry Harry is in suffering, but, bating the loss of
liberty, as well off as we are ourselves. Of course they are kept in the
camp; otherwise they do much as they please.”

“I rejoice to hear this, Deerslayer,” returned Judith, “and now we are
joined by your friend, I make no manner of question that we shall find
an opportunity to ransom the prisoners. If there are any women in the
camp, I have articles of dress that will catch their eyes, and, should
the worst come to the worst, we can open the great chest, which I think
will be found to hold things that may tempt the chiefs.”

“Judith,” said the young man, looking up at her with a smile and an
expression of earnest curiosity, that in spite of the growing obscurity
did not escape the watchful looks of the girl, “can you find it in your
heart, to part with your own finery, to release prisoners; even though
one be your own father, and the other is your sworn suitor and lovyer?”

The flush on the face of the girl arose in part from resentment,
but more perhaps from a gentler and a novel feeling, that, with the
capricious waywardness of taste, had been rapidly rendering her more
sensitive to the good opinion of the youth who questioned her, than
to that of any other person. Suppressing the angry sensation, with
instinctive quickness, she answered with a readiness and truth, that
caused her sister to draw near to listen, though the obtuse intellect
of the latter was far from comprehending the workings of a heart as
treacherous, as uncertain, and as impetuous in its feelings, as that of
the spoiled and flattered beauty.

“Deerslayer,” answered Judith, after a moment’s pause, “I shall be
honest with you. I confess that the time has been when what you call
finery, was to me the dearest thing on earth; but I begin to feel
differently. Though Hurry Harry is nought to me nor ever can be, I
would give all I own to set him free. If I would do this for blustering,
bullying, talking Hurry, who has nothing but good looks to recommend
him, you may judge what I would do for my own father.”

“This sounds well, and is according to woman’s gifts. Ah’s, me! The same
feelin’s is to be found among the young women of the Delawares. I’ve
known ‘em, often and often, sacrifice their vanity to their hearts. ‘Tis
as it should be--‘tis as it should be I suppose, in both colours. Woman
was created for the feelin’s, and is pretty much ruled by feelin’.”

“Would the savages let father go, if Judith and I give them all our best
things?” demanded Hetty, in her innocent, mild, manner.

“Their women might interfere, good Hetty; yes, their women might
interfere with such an ind in view. But, tell me, Sarpent, how is it
as to squaws among the knaves; have they many of their own women in the
camp?”

The Delaware heard and understood all that passed, though with Indian
gravity and finesse he had sat with averted face, seemingly inattentive
to a discourse in which he had no direct concern. Thus appealed to,
however, he answered his friend in his ordinary sententious manner.

“Six--” he said, holding up all the fingers of one hand, and the thumb
of the other, “besides this.” The last number denoted his betrothed,
whom, with the poetry and truth of nature, he described by laying his
hand on his own heart.

“Did you see her, chief--did you get a glimpse of her pleasant
countenance, or come close enough to her ear, to sing in it the song she
loves to hear?”

“No, Deerslayer--the trees were too many, and leaves covered their
boughs like clouds hiding the heavens in a storm. But”--and the young
warrior turned his dark face towards his friend, with a smile on it that
illuminated its fierce-looking paint and naturally stern lineaments
with a bright gleam of human feeling, “Chingachgook heard the laugh of
Wah-ta-Wah, and knew it from the laugh of the women of the Iroquois. It
sounded in his ears, like the chirp of the wren.”

“Ay, trust a lovyer’s ear for that, and a Delaware’s ear for all sounds
that are ever heard in the woods. I know not why it is so, Judith, but
when young men--and I dares to say it may be all the same with young
women, too--but when they get to have kind feelin’s towards each other,
it’s wonderful how pleasant the laugh, or the speech becomes, to the
other person. I’ve seen grim warriors listening to the chattering and
the laughing of young gals, as if it was church music, such as is heard
in the old Dutch church that stands in the great street of Albany, where
I’ve been, more than once, with peltry and game.”

“And you, Deerslayer,” said Judith quickly, and with more sensibility
than marked her usually light and thoughtless manner,--“have you never
felt how pleasant it is to listen to the laugh of the girl you love?”

“Lord bless you gal!--Why I’ve never lived enough among my own colour
to drop into them sort of feelin’s,--no never! I dares to say, they are
nat’ral and right, but to me there’s no music so sweet as the sighing
of the wind in the tree tops, and the rippling of a stream from a full,
sparkling, natyve fountain of pure forest water--unless, indeed,”
 he continued, dropping his head for an instant in a thoughtful
manner--“unless indeed it be the open mouth of a sartain hound, when
I’m on the track of a fat buck. As for unsartain dogs, I care little for
their cries, seein’ they are as likely to speak when the deer is not in
sight, as when it is.”

Judith walked slowly and pensively away, nor was there any of her
ordinary calculating coquetry in the light tremulous sigh that,
unconsciously to herself, arose to her lips. On the other hand Hetty
listened with guileless attention, though it struck her simple mind as
singular that the young man should prefer the melody of the woods,
to the songs of girls, or even to the laugh of innocence and joy.
Accustomed, however, to defer in most things to her sister, she soon
followed Judith into the cabin, where she took a seat and remained
pondering intensely over some occurrence, or resolution, or
opinion--which was a secret to all but herself. Left alone, Deerslayer
and his friend resumed their discourse.

“Has the young pale-face hunter been long on this lake?” demanded the
Delaware, after courteously waiting for the other to speak first.

“Only since yesterday noon, Sarpent, though that has been long enough to
see and do much.” The gaze that the Indian fastened on his companion was
so keen that it seemed to mock the gathering darkness of the night.
As the other furtively returned his look, he saw the two black eyes
glistening on him, like the balls of the panther, or those of the penned
wolf. He understood the meaning of this glowing gaze, and answered
evasively, as he fancied would best become the modesty of a white man’s
gifts.

“‘Tis as you suspect, Sarpent; yes, ‘tis somewhat that-a-way. I have
fell in with the inimy, and I suppose it may be said I’ve fou’t them,
too.”

An exclamation of delight and exultation escaped the Indian, and then
laying his hand eagerly on the arm of his friend, he asked if there were
any scalps taken.

“That I will maintain in the face of all the Delaware tribe, old
Tamenund, and your own father the great Uncas, as well as the rest, is
ag’in white gifts! My scalp is on my head, as you can see, Sarpent, and
that was the only scalp that was in danger, when one side was altogether
Christian and white.”

“Did no warrior fall?--Deerslayer did not get his name by being slow of
sight, or clumsy with the rifle!”

“In that particular, chief, you’re nearer reason, and therefore nearer
being right. I may say one Mingo fell.”

“A chief!” demanded the other with startling vehemence.

“Nay, that’s more than I know, or can say. He was artful, and
treacherous, and stout-hearted, and may well have gained popularity
enough with his people to be named to that rank. The man fou’t well,
though his eye was’n’t quick enough for one who had had his schooling in
your company, Delaware.”

“My brother and friend struck the body?”

“That was uncalled for, seeing that the Mingo died in my arms. The truth
may as well be said, at once; he fou’t like a man of red gifts, and I
fou’t like a man with gifts of my own colour. God gave me the victory;
I coul’n’t fly in the face of his Providence by forgetting my birth and
natur’. White he made me, and white I shall live and die.”

“Good! Deerslayer is a pale-face, and has pale-face hands. A Delaware
will look for the scalp, and hang it on a pole, and sing a song in his
honour, when we go back to our people. The glory belongs to the tribe;
it must not be lost.”

“This is easy talking, but ‘twill not be as easy doing. The Mingo’s body
is in the hands of his fri’nds and, no doubt, is hid in some hole where
Delaware cunning will never be able to get at the scalp.”

The young man then gave his friend a succinct, but clear account, of the
event of the morning, concealing nothing of any moment, and yet touching
on every thing modestly and with a careful attention to avoid the Indian
habit of boasting. Chingachgook again expressed his satisfaction at the
honour won by his friend, and then both arose, the hour having arrived
when it became prudent to move the Ark further from the land.

It was now quite dark, the heavens having become clouded, and the stars
hid. The north wind had ceased--as was usual with the setting of the
sun, and a light air arose from the south. This change favoring the
design of Deerslayer, he lifted his grapnel, and the scow immediately
and quite perceptibly began to drift more into the lake. The sail was
set, when the motion of the craft increased to a rate not much less than
two miles in the hour. As this superseded the necessity of rowing, an
occupation that an Indian would not be likely to desire, Deerslayer,
Chingachgook and Judith seated themselves in the stern of the scow,
where they first governed its movements by holding the oar. Here they
discoursed on their future movements, and on the means that ought to be
used in order to effect the liberation of their friends.

In this dialogue Judith held a material part, the Delaware readily
understanding all she said, while his own replies and remarks, both of
which were few and pithy, were occasionally rendered into English by his
friend. Judith rose greatly in the estimation of her companions, in the
half hour that followed. Prompt of resolution and firm of purpose, her
suggestions and expedients partook of her spirit and sagacity, both of
which were of a character to find favor with men of the frontier. The
events that had occurred since their meeting, as well as her isolated
and dependant situation, induced the girl to feel towards Deerslayer
like the friend of a year instead of an acquaintance of a day, and so
completely had she been won by his guileless truth of character and of
feeling, pure novelties in our sex, as respected her own experience,
that his peculiarities excited her curiosity, and created a confidence
that had never been awakened by any other man. Hitherto she had been
compelled to stand on the defensive in her intercourse with men, with
what success was best known to herself, but here had she been suddenly
thrown into the society and under the protection of a youth, who
evidently as little contemplated evil towards herself as if he had been
her brother. The freshness of his integrity, the poetry and truth of his
feelings, and even the quaintness of his forms of speech, all had their
influence, and aided in awakening an interest that she found as pure
as it was sudden and deep. Hurry’s fine face and manly form had never
compensated for his boisterous and vulgar tone, and her intercourse with
the officers had prepared her to make comparisons under which even his
great natural advantages suffered. But this very intercourse with the
officers who occasionally came upon the lake to fish and hunt, had an
effect in producing her present sentiments towards the young stranger.
With them, while her vanity had been gratified, and her self-love
strongly awakened, she had many causes deeply to regret the
acquaintance--if not to mourn over it, in secret sorrow--for it was
impossible for one of her quick intellect not to perceive how hollow was
the association between superior and inferior, and that she was regarded
as the play thing of an idle hour, rather than as an equal and a friend,
by even the best intentioned and least designing of her scarlet-clad
admirers. Deerslayer, on the other hand, had a window in his breast
through which the light of his honesty was ever shining; and even his
indifference to charms that so rarely failed to produce a sensation,
piqued the pride of the girl, and gave him an interest that another,
seemingly more favored by nature, might have failed to excite.

In this manner half an hour passed, during which time the Ark had been
slowly stealing over the water, the darkness thickening around it;
though it was easy to see that the gloom of the forest at the southern
end of the lake was getting to be distant, while the mountains that
lined the sides of the beautiful basin were overshadowing it, nearly
from side to side. There was, indeed, a narrow stripe of water, in the
centre of the lake where the dim light that was still shed from the
heavens, fell upon its surface in a line extending north and south;
and along this faint track, a sort of inverted milky way, in which the
obscurity was not quite as dense as in other places, the scow held her
course, he who steered well knowing that it led in the direction he
wished to go. The reader is not to suppose, however, that any difficulty
could exist as to the course. This would have been determined by that of
the air, had it not been possible to distinguish the mountains, as well
as by the dim opening to the south, which marked the position of the
valley in that quarter, above the plain of tall trees, by a sort of
lessened obscurity; the difference between the darkness of the forest,
and that of the night, as seen only in the air. The peculiarities
at length caught the attention of Judith and the Deerslayer, and the
conversation ceased, to allow each to gaze at the solemn stillness and
deep repose of nature.

“‘Tis a gloomy night--” observed the girl, after a pause of several
minutes--“I hope we may be able to find the castle.”

“Little fear of our missing that, if we keep this path in the middle of
the lake,” returned the young man. “Natur’ has made us a road here, and,
dim as it is, there’ll be little difficulty following it.”

“Do you hear nothing, Deerslayer?--It seemed as if the water was
stirring quite near us!”

“Sartainly something did move the water, oncommon like; must have been
a fish. Them creatur’s prey upon each other like men and animals on the
land; one has leaped into the air and fallen hard, back into his own
element. ‘Tis of little use Judith, for any to strive to get out of
their elements, since it’s natur’ to stay in ‘em, and natur’ will have
its way. Ha! That sounds like a paddle, used with more than common
caution!”

At this moment the Delaware bent forward and pointed significantly into
the boundary of gloom, as if some object had suddenly caught his eye.
Both Deerslayer and Judith followed the direction of his gesture, and
each got a view of a canoe at the same instant. The glimpse of this
startling neighbor was dim, and to eyes less practised it might have
been uncertain, though to those in the Ark the object was evidently
a canoe with a single individual in it; the latter standing erect and
paddling. How many lay concealed in its bottom, of course could not be
known. Flight, by means of oars, from a bark canoe impelled by vigorous
and skilful hands, was utterly impracticable, and each of the men seized
his rifle in expectation of a conflict.

“I can easily bring down the paddler,” whispered Deerslayer, “but
we’ll first hail him, and ask his arrn’d.” Then raising his voice, he
continued in a solemn manner--“hold! If ye come nearer, I must fire,
though contrary to my wishes, and then sartain death will follow. Stop
paddling, and answer.”

“Fire, and slay a poor defenseless girl,” returned a soft tremulous
female voice. “And God will never forgive you! Go your way, Deerslayer,
and let me go mine.”

“Hetty!” exclaimed the young man and Judith in a breath; and the former
sprang instantly to the spot where he had left the canoe they had been
towing. It was gone, and he understood the whole affair. As for the
fugitive, frightened at the menace she ceased paddling, and remained
dimly visible, resembling a spectral outline of a human form, standing
on the water. At the next moment the sail was lowered, to prevent the
Ark from passing the spot where the canoe lay. This last expedient,
however, was not taken in time, for the momentum of so heavy a craft,
and the impulsion of the air, soon set her by, bringing Hetty directly
to windward, though still visible, as the change in the positions of
the two boats now placed her in that species of milky way which has been
mentioned.

“What can this mean, Judith?” demanded Deerslayer--“Why has your sister
taken the canoe, and left us?”

“You know she is feeble-minded, poor girl!--and she has her own ideas of
what ought to be done. She loves her father more than most children love
their parents--and--then--”

“Then, what, gal? This is a trying moment; one in which truth must be
spoken!”

Judith felt a generous and womanly regret at betraying her sister, and
she hesitated ere she spoke again. But once more urged by Deerslayer,
and conscious herself of all the risks the whole party was running by
the indiscretion of Hetty, she could refrain no longer.

“Then, I fear, poor, weak-minded Hetty has not been altogether able
to see all the vanity, and rudeness and folly, that lie hid behind the
handsome face and fine form of Hurry Harry. She talks of him in her
sleep, and sometimes betrays the inclination in her waking moments.”

“You think, Judith, that your sister is now bent on some mad scheme to
serve her father and Hurry, which will, in all likelihood, give them
riptyles the Mingos, the mastership of a canoe?”

“Such, I fear, will turn out to be the fact, Deerslayer. Poor Hetty has
hardly sufficient cunning to outwit a savage.”

All this while the canoe, with the form of Hetty erect in one end of it,
was dimly perceptible, though the greater drift of the Ark rendered it,
at each instant, less and less distinct. It was evident no time was to
be lost, lest it should altogether disappear. The rifles were now laid
aside as useless, the two men seizing the oars and sweeping the head of
the scow round in the direction of the canoe. Judith, accustomed to the
office, flew to the other end of the Ark, and placed herself at what
might be called the helm. Hetty took the alarm at these preparations,
which could not be made without noise, and started off like a bird that
had been suddenly put up by the approach of unexpected danger.

As Deerslayer and his companion rowed with the energy of those who
felt the necessity of straining every nerve, and Hetty’s strength was
impaired by a nervous desire to escape, the chase would have quickly
terminated in the capture of the fugitive, had not the girl made several
short and unlooked-for deviations in her course. These turnings gave her
time, and they had also the effect of gradually bringing both canoe and
Ark within the deeper gloom, cast by the shadows from the hills. They
also gradually increased the distance between the fugitive and her
pursuers, until Judith called out to her companions to cease rowing, for
she had completely lost sight of the canoe.

When this mortifying announcement was made, Hetty was actually so near
as to understand every syllable her sister uttered, though the latter
had used the precaution of speaking as low as circumstances would allow
her to do, and to make herself heard. Hetty stopped paddling at the same
moment, and waited the result with an impatience that was breathless,
equally from her late exertions, and her desire to land. A dead silence
immediately fell on the lake, during which the three in the Ark were
using their senses differently, in order to detect the position of the
canoe. Judith bent forward to listen, in the hope of catching some sound
that might betray the direction in which her sister was stealing away,
while her two companions brought their eyes as near as possible to
a level with the water, in order to detect any object that might be
floating on its surface. All was vain, however, for neither sound nor
sight rewarded their efforts. All this time Hetty, who had not the
cunning to sink into the canoe, stood erect, a finger pressed on her
lips, gazing in the direction in which the voices had last been heard,
resembling a statue of profound and timid attention. Her ingenuity had
barely sufficed to enable her to seize the canoe and to quit the Ark,
in the noiseless manner related, and then it appeared to be momentarily
exhausted. Even the doublings of the canoe had been as much the
consequence of an uncertain hand and of nervous agitation, as of any
craftiness or calculation.

The pause continued several minutes, during which Deerslayer and the
Delaware conferred together in the language of the latter. Then the oars
dipped, again, and the Ark moved away, rowing with as little noise as
possible. It steered westward, a little southerly, or in the direction
of the encampment of the enemy. Having reached a point at no great
distance from the shore, and where the obscurity was intense on account
of the proximity of the land, it lay there near an hour, in waiting for
the expected approach of Hetty, who, it was thought, would make the best
of her way to that spot as soon as she believed herself released
from the danger of pursuit. No success rewarded this little blockade,
however, neither appearance nor sound denoting the passage of the canoe.
Disappointed at this failure, and conscious of the importance of getting
possession of the fortress before it could be seized by the enemy,
Deerslayer now took his way towards the castle, with the apprehension
that all his foresight in securing the canoes would be defeated by this
unguarded and alarming movement on the part of the feeble-minded Hetty.



Chapter X.


    “But who in this wild wood
    May credit give to either eye, or ear?
    From rocky precipice or hollow cave,
    ‘Midst the confused sound of rustling leaves,
    And creaking boughs, and cries of nightly birds,
    Returning seeming answer!”

    Joanna Baihie, “Rayner: A Tragedy,” II.L3-4, 6-g.

Fear, as much as calculation, had induced Hetty to cease paddling, when
she found that her pursuers did not know in which direction to proceed.
She remained stationary until the Ark had pulled in near the encampment,
as has been related in the preceding chapter, when she resumed the
paddle and with cautious strokes made the best of her way towards the
western shore. In order to avoid her pursuers, however, who, she rightly
suspected, would soon be rowing along that shore themselves, the head
of the canoe was pointed so far north as to bring her to land on a point
that thrust itself into the lake, at the distance of near a league from
the outlet. Nor was this altogether the result of a desire to escape,
for, feeble minded as she was, Hetty Hutter had a good deal of that
instinctive caution which so often keeps those whom God has thus visited
from harm. She was perfectly aware of the importance of keeping the
canoes from falling into the hands of the Iroquois, and long familiarity
with the lake had suggested one of the simplest expedients, by which
this great object could be rendered compatible with her own purpose.

The point in question was the first projection that offered on that side
of the lake, where a canoe, if set adrift with a southerly air would
float clear of the land, and where it would be no great violation of
probabilities to suppose it might even hit the castle; the latter lying
above it, almost in a direct line with the wind. Such then was Hetty’s
intention, and she landed on the extremity of the gravelly point,
beneath an overhanging oak, with the express intention of shoving the
canoe off from the shore, in order that it might drift up towards her
father’s insulated abode. She knew, too, from the logs that occasionally
floated about the lake, that did it miss the castle and its appendages
the wind would be likely to change before the canoe could reach the
northern extremity of the lake, and that Deerslayer might have an
opportunity of regaining it in the morning, when no doubt he would be
earnestly sweeping the surface of the water, and the whole of its wooded
shores, with glass. In all this, too, Hetty was less governed by any
chain of reasoning than by her habits, the latter often supplying the
place of mind, in human beings, as they perform the same for animals of
the inferior classes.

The girl was quite an hour finding her way to the point, the distance
and the obscurity equally detaining her, but she was no sooner on the
gravelly beach than she prepared to set the canoe adrift, in the manner
mentioned. While in the act of pushing it from her, she heard low
voices that seemed to come among the trees behind her. Startled at this
unexpected danger Hetty was on the point of springing into the canoe
in order to seek safety in flight, when she thought she recognized the
tones of Judith’s melodious voice. Bending forward so as to catch the
sounds more directly, they evidently came from the water, and then she
understood that the Ark was approaching from the south, and so close
in with the western shore, as necessarily to cause it to pass the point
within twenty yards of the spot where she stood. Here, then, was all she
could desire; the canoe was shoved off into the lake, leaving its late
occupant alone on the narrow strand.

When this act of self-devotion was performed, Hetty did not retire. The
foliage of the overhanging trees and bushes would have almost concealed
her person, had there been light, but in that obscurity it was utterly
impossible to discover any object thus shaded, at the distance of a few
feet. Flight, too, was perfectly easy, as twenty steps would effectually
bury her in the forest. She remained, therefore, watching with intense
anxiety the result of her expedient, intending to call the attention
of the others to the canoe with her voice, should they appear to
pass without observing it. The Ark approached under its sail, again,
Deerslayer standing in its bow, with Judith near him, and the Delaware
at the helm. It would seem that in the bay below it had got too close to
the shore, in the lingering hope of intercepting Hetty, for, as it came
nearer, the latter distinctly heard the directions that the young man
forward gave to his companion aft, in order to clear the point.

“Lay her head more off the shore, Delaware,” said Deerslayer for the
third time, speaking in English that his fair companion might understand
his words--“Lay her head well off shore. We have got embayed here, and
needs keep the mast clear of the trees. Judith, there’s a canoe!”

The last words were uttered with great earnestness, and Deerslayer’s
hand was on his rifle ere they were fairly out of his mouth. But the
truth flashed on the mind of the quick-witted girl, and she instantly
told her companion that the boat must be that in which her sister had
fled.

“Keep the scow straight, Delaware; steer as straight as your bullet
flies when sent ag’in a buck; there--I have it.”

The canoe was seized, and immediately secured again to the side of the
Ark. At the next moment the sail was lowered, and the motion of the Ark
arrested by means of the oars.

“Hetty!” called out Judith, concern, even affection betraying itself in
her tones. “Are you within hearing, sister--for God’s sake answer, and
let me hear the sound of your voice, again! Hetty!--dear Hetty.”

“I’m here, Judith--here on the shore, where it will be useless to follow
me, as I will hide in the woods.”

“Oh! Hetty what is’t you do! Remember ‘tis drawing near midnight, and
that the woods are filled with savages and wild beasts!”

“Neither will harm a poor half-witted girl, Judith. God is as much with
me, here, as he would be in the Ark or in the hut. I am going to help my
father, and poor Hurry Harry, who will be tortured and slain unless some
one cares for them.”

“We all care for them, and intend to-morrow to send them a flag of
truce, to buy their ransom. Come back then, sister; trust to us, who
have better heads than you, and who will do all we can for father.”

“I know your head is better than mine, Judith, for mine is very weak, to
be sure; but I must go to father and poor Hurry. Do you and Deerslayer
keep the castle, sister; leave me in the hands of God.”


“God is with us all, Hetty--in the castle, or on the shore--father as
well as ourselves, and it is sinful not to trust to his goodness. You
can do nothing in the dark; will lose your way in the forest, and perish
for want of food.”

“God will not let that happen to a poor child that goes to serve her
father, sister. I must try and find the savages.”

“Come back for this night only; in the morning, we will put you ashore,
and leave you to do as you may think right.”

“You say so, Judith, and you think so; but you would not. Your heart
would soften, and you’d see tomahawks and scalping knives in the air.
Besides, I’ve got a thing to tell the Indian chief that will answer all
our wishes, and I’m afraid I may forget it, if I don’t tell it to him at
once. You’ll see that he will let father go, as soon as he hears it!”

“Poor Hetty! What can you say to a ferocious savage that will be likely
to change his bloody purpose!”

“That which will frighten him, and make him let father go--” returned
the simple-minded girl, positively. “You’ll see, sister; you’ll see, how
soon it will bring him to, like a gentle child!”

“Will you tell me, Hetty, what you intend to say?” asked Deerslayer. “I
know the savages well, and can form some idee how far fair words will be
likely, or not, to work on their bloody natur’s. If it’s not suited to
the gifts of a red-skin, ‘twill be of no use; for reason goes by gifts,
as well as conduct.”

“Well, then,” answered Hetty, dropping her voice to a low, confidential,
tone, for the stillness of the night, and the nearness of the Ark,
permitted her to do this and still to be heard--“Well, then, Deerslayer,
as you seem a good and honest young man I will tell you. I mean not to
say a word to any of the savages until I get face to face with their
head chief, let them plague me with as many questions as they please
I’ll answer none of them, unless it be to tell them to lead me to their
wisest man--Then, Deerslayer, I’ll tell him that God will not forgive
murder, and thefts; and that if father and Hurry did go after the
scalps of the Iroquois, he must return good for evil, for so the Bible
commands, else he will go into everlasting punishment. When he hears
this, and feels it to be true, as feel it he must, how long will it be
before he sends father, and Hurry, and me to the shore, opposite the
castle, telling us all three to go our way in peace?”

The last question was put in a triumphant manner, and then the
simple-minded girl laughed at the impression she never doubted that her
project had made on her auditors. Deerslayer was dumb-founded at this
proof of guileless feebleness of mind, but Judith had suddenly bethought
her of a means of counteracting this wild project, by acting on the
very feelings that had given it birth. Without adverting to the closing
question, or the laugh, therefore, she hurriedly called to her sister by
name, as one suddenly impressed with the importance of what she had to
say. But no answer was given to the call.

By the snapping of twigs, and the rustling of leaves, Hetty had
evidently quitted the shore, and was already burying herself in the
forest. To follow would have been fruitless, since the darkness, as
well as the dense cover that the woods everywhere offered, would have
rendered her capture next to impossible, and there was also the never
ceasing danger of falling into the hands of their enemies. After a short
and melancholy discussion, therefore, the sail was again set, and
the Ark pursued its course towards its habitual moorings, Deerslayer
silently felicitating himself on the recovery of the canoe, and brooding
over his plans for the morrow. The wind rose as the party quitted the
point, and in less than an hour they reached the castle. Here all was
found as it had been left, and the reverse of the ceremonies had to
be taken in entering the building, that had been used on quitting it.
Judith occupied a solitary bed that night bedewing the pillow with her
tears, as she thought of the innocent and hitherto neglected creature,
who had been her companion from childhood, and bitter regrets came over
her mind, from more causes than one, as the weary hours passed away,
making it nearly morning before she lost her recollection in sleep.
Deerslayer and the Delaware took their rest in the Ark, where we shall
leave them enjoying the deep sleep of the honest, the healthful and
fearless, to return to the girl we have last seen in the midst of the
forest.

When Hetty left the shore, she took her way unhesitatingly into the
woods, with a nervous apprehension of being followed. Luckily, this
course was the best she could have hit on to effect her own purpose,
since it was the only one that led her from the point. The night was so
intensely dark, beneath the branches of the trees, that her progress
was very slow, and the direction she went altogether a matter of chance,
after the first few yards. The formation of the ground, however, did not
permit her to deviate far from the line in which she desired to proceed.
On one hand it was soon bounded by the acclivity of the hill, while
the lake, on the other, served as a guide. For two hours did this
single-hearted and simple-minded girl toil through the mazes of the
forest, sometimes finding herself on the brow of the bank that bounded
the water, and at others struggling up an ascent that warned her to go
no farther in that direction, since it necessarily ran at right angles
to the course on which she wished to proceed. Her feet often slid from
beneath her, and she got many falls, though none to do her injury; but,
by the end of the period mentioned, she had become so weary as to want
strength to go any farther. Rest was indispensable, and she set about
preparing a bed, with the readiness and coolness of one to whom the
wilderness presented no unnecessary terrors. She knew that wild beasts
roamed through all the adjacent forest, but animals that preyed on the
human species were rare, and of dangerous serpents there were literally
none. These facts had been taught her by her father, and whatever her
feeble mind received at all, it received so confidingly as to leave her
no uneasiness from any doubts, or scepticism. To her the sublimity
of the solitude in which she was placed, was soothing, rather than
appalling, and she gathered a bed of leaves, with as much indifference
to the circumstances that would have driven the thoughts of sleep
entirely from the minds of most of her sex, as if she had been preparing
her place of nightly rest beneath the paternal roof. As soon as Hetty
had collected a sufficient number of the dried leaves to protect her
person from the damps of the ground, she kneeled beside the humble pile,
clasped her raised hands in an attitude of deep devotion, and in a soft,
low, but audible voice repeated the Lord’s Prayer. This was followed by
those simple and devout verses, so familiar to children, in which she
recommended her soul to God, should it be called away to another state
of existence, ere the return of morning. This duty done, she lay down
and disposed herself to sleep. The attire of the girl, though suited
to the season, was sufficiently warm for all ordinary purposes, but the
forest is ever cool, and the nights of that elevated region of country,
have always a freshness about them, that renders clothing more necessary
than is commonly the case in the summers of a low latitude. This had
been foreseen by Hetty, who had brought with her a coarse heavy mantle,
which, when laid over her body, answered all the useful purposes of
a blanket. Thus protected, she dropped asleep in a few minutes, as
tranquilly as if watched over by the guardian care of that mother,
who had so recently been taken from her forever, affording in this
particular a most striking contrast between her own humble couch, and
the sleepless pillow of her sister.

Hour passed after hour, in a tranquility as undisturbed and a rest as
sweet as if angels, expressly commissioned for that object, watched
around the bed of Hetty Hutter. Not once did her soft eyes open, until
the grey of the dawn came struggling through the tops of the trees,
falling on their lids, and, united to the freshness of a summer’s
morning, giving the usual summons to awake. Ordinarily, Hetty was up
ere the rays of the sun tipped the summits of the mountains, but on this
occasion her fatigue had been so great, and her rest was so profound,
that the customary warnings failed of their effect. The girl murmured
in her sleep, threw an arm forward, smiled as gently as an infant in
its cradle, but still slumbered. In making this unconscious gesture,
her hand fell on some object that was warm, and in the half unconscious
state in which she lay, she connected the circumstance with her habits.
At the next moment, a rude attack was made on her side, as if a rooting
animal were thrusting its snout beneath, with a desire to force her
position, and then, uttering the name of “Judith” she awoke. As the
startled girl arose to a sitting attitude she perceived that some dark
object sprang from her, scattering the leaves and snapping the fallen
twigs in its haste. Opening her eyes, and recovering from the first
confusion and astonishment of her situation, Hetty perceived a cub, of
the common American brown bear, balancing itself on its hinder legs, and
still looking towards her, as if doubtful whether it would be safe to
trust itself near her person again. The first impulse of Hetty, who had
been mistress of several of these cubs, was to run and seize the little
creature as a prize, but a loud growl warned her of the danger of such
a procedure. Recoiling a few steps, the girl looked hurriedly round, and
perceived the dam, watching her movements with fiery eyes at no great
distance. A hollow tree, that once been the home of bees, having
recently fallen, the mother with two more cubs was feasting on the
dainty food that this accident had placed within her reach; while the
first kept a jealous eye on the situation of its truant and reckless
young.

It would exceed all the means of human knowledge to presume to analyze
the influences that govern the acts of the lower animals. On this
occasion, the dam, though proverbially fierce when its young is thought
to be in danger, manifested no intention to attack the girl. It quitted
the honey, and advanced to a place within twenty feet of her, where it
raised itself on its hind legs and balanced its body in a sort of angry,
growling discontent, but approached no nearer. Happily, Hetty did not
fly. On the contrary, though not without terror, she knelt with her face
towards the animal, and with clasped hands and uplifted eyes, repeated
the prayer of the previous night. This act of devotion was not the
result of alarm, but it was a duty she never neglected to perform
ere she slept, and when the return of consciousness awoke her to the
business of the day. As the girl arose from her knees, the bear dropped
on its feet again, and collecting its cubs around her, permitted them
to draw their natural sustenance. Hetty was delighted with this proof of
tenderness in an animal that has but a very indifferent reputation for
the gentler feelings, and as a cub would quit its mother to frisk and
leap about in wantonness, she felt a strong desire again to catch it
up in her arms, and play with it. But admonished by the growl, she had
self-command sufficient not to put this dangerous project in execution,
and recollecting her errand among the hills, she tore herself away from
the group, and proceeded on her course along the margin of the lake, of
which she now caught glimpses again through the trees. To her surprise,
though not to her alarm, the family of bears arose and followed her
steps, keeping a short distance behind her; apparently watching every
movement as if they had a near interest in all she did.

In this manner, escorted by the dam and cubs, the girl proceeded
nearly a mile, thrice the distance she had been able to achieve in the
darkness, during the same period of time. She then reached a brook that
had dug a channel for itself into the earth, and went brawling into
the lake, between steep and high banks, covered with trees. Here Hetty
performed her ablutions; then drinking of the pure mountain water, she
went her way, refreshed and lighter of heart, still attended by her
singular companions. Her course now lay along a broad and nearly level
terrace, which stretched from the top of the bank that bounded the
water, to a low acclivity that rose to a second and irregular platform
above. This was at a part of the valley where the mountains ran
obliquely, forming the commencement of a plain that spread between
the hills, southward of the sheet of water. Hetty knew, by this
circumstance, that she was getting near to the encampment, and had she
not, the bears would have given her warning of the vicinity of human
beings. Snuffing the air, the dam refused to follow any further, though
the girl looked back and invited her to come by childish signs, and even
by direct appeals made in her own sweet voice. It was while making her
way slowly through some bushes, in this manner, with averted face and
eyes riveted on the immovable animals, that the girl suddenly found her
steps arrested by a human hand, that was laid lightly on her shoulder.

“Where go?--” said a soft female voice, speaking hurriedly, and in
concern.--“Indian--red man savage--wicked warrior--that-a-way.”

This unexpected salutation alarmed the girl no more than the presence of
the fierce inhabitants of the woods. It took her a little by surprise,
it is true, but she was in a measure prepared for some such meeting, and
the creature who stopped her was as little likely to excite terror as
any who ever appeared in the guise of an Indian. It was a girl, not much
older than herself, whose smile was sunny as Judith’s in her brightest
moments, whose voice was melody itself, and whose accents and manner had
all the rebuked gentleness that characterizes the sex among a people
who habitually treat their women as the attendants and servitors of the
warriors. Beauty among the women of the aboriginal Americans, before
they have become exposed to the hardships of wives and mothers, is by no
means uncommon. In this particular, the original owners of the country
were not unlike their more civilized successors, nature appearing to
have bestowed that delicacy of mien and outline that forms so great a
charm in the youthful female, but of which they are so early deprived;
and that, too, as much by the habits of domestic life as from any other
cause.

The girl who had so suddenly arrested the steps of Hetty was dressed
in a calico mantle that effectually protected all the upper part of her
person, while a short petticoat of blue cloth edged with gold lace, that
fell no lower than her knees, leggings of the same, and moccasins of
deer-skin, completed her attire. Her hair fell in long dark braids down
her shoulders and back, and was parted above a low smooth forehead, in
a way to soften the expression of eyes that were full of archness and
natural feeling. Her face was oval, with delicate features, the teeth
were even and white, while the mouth expressed a melancholy tenderness,
as if it wore this peculiar meaning in intuitive perception of the fate
of a being who was doomed from birth to endure a woman’s sufferings,
relieved by a woman’s affections. Her voice, as has been already
intimated, was soft as the sighing of the night air, a characteristic of
the females of her race, but which was so conspicuous in herself as
to have produced for her the name of Wah-ta-Wah; which rendered into
English means Hist-oh-Hist.

In a word, this was the betrothed of Chingachgook, who--having succeeded
in lulling their suspicions, was permitted to wander around the
encampment of her captors. This indulgence was in accordance with the
general policy of the red man, who well knew, moreover, that her trail
could have been easily followed in the event of flight. It will also be
remembered that the Iroquois, or Hurons, as it would be better to call
them, were entirely ignorant of the proximity of her lover, a fact,
indeed, that she did not know herself.

It is not easy to say which manifested the most self-possession at this
unexpected meeting; the pale-face, or the red girl. But, though a little
surprised, Wah-ta-Wah was the most willing to speak, and far the readier
in foreseeing consequences, as well as in devising means to avert them.
Her father, during her childhood, had been much employed as a warrior by
the authorities of the Colony, and dwelling for several years near the
forts, she had caught a knowledge of the English tongue, which she spoke
in the usual, abbreviated manner of an Indian, but fluently, and without
any of the ordinary reluctance of her people.

“Where go?--” repeated Wah-ta-Wah, returning the smile of Hetty, in her
own gentle, winning, manner--“wicked warrior that-a-way--good warrior,
far off.”

“What’s your name?” asked Hetty, with the simplicity of a child.

“Wah-ta-Wah. I no Mingo--good Delaware--Yengeese friend. Mingo cruel,
and love scalp, for blood--Delaware love him, for honor. Come here,
where no eyes.”

Wah-ta-Wah now led her companion towards the lake, descending the bank
so as to place its overhanging trees and bushes between them and any
probable observers. Nor did she stop until they were both seated, side
by side, on a fallen log, one end of which actually lay buried in the
water.

“Why you come for?” the young Indian eagerly inquired--“Where you come
for?” Hetty told her tale in her own simple and truth-loving manner. She
explained the situation of her father, and stated her desire to serve
him, and if possible to procure his release.

“Why your father come to Mingo camp in night?” asked the Indian girl,
with a directness, which if not borrowed from the other, partook largely
of its sincerity. “He know it war-time, and he no boy--he no want
beard--no want to be told Iroquois carry tomahawk, and knife, and rifle.
Why he come night time, seize me by hair, and try to scalp Delaware
girl?”

“You!” said Hetty, almost sickening with horror--“Did he seize you--did
he try to scalp you?”

“Why no? Delaware scalp sell for much as Mingo scalp. Governor no tell
difference. Wicked t’ing for pale-face to scalp. No his gifts, as the
good Deerslayer always tell me.”

“And do you know the Deerslayer?” said Hetty, coloring with delight and
surprise; forgetting her regrets, at the moment, in the influence of
this new feeling. “I know him, too. He is now in the Ark, with Judith
and a Delaware who is called the Big Serpent. A bold and handsome
warrior is this Serpent, too!”

Spite of the rich deep colour that nature had bestowed on the Indian
beauty, the tell-tale blood deepened on her cheeks, until the blush gave
new animation and intelligence to her jet-black eyes. Raising a finger
in an attitude of warning, she dropped her voice, already so soft and
sweet, nearly to a whisper, as she continued the discourse.

“Chingachgook!” returned the Delaware girl, sighing out the harsh
name, in sounds so softly guttural, as to cause it to reach the ear in
melody--“His father, Uncas--great chief of the Mahicanni--next to old
Tamenund!--More as warrior, not so much gray hair, and less at Council
Fire. You know Serpent?”

“He joined us last evening, and was in the Ark with me, for two or three
hours before I left it. I’m afraid, Hist--” Hetty could not pronounce
the Indian name of her new friend, but having heard Deerslayer give her
this familiar appellation, she used it without any of the ceremony of
civilized life--“I’m afraid Hist, he has come after scalps, as well as
my poor father and Hurry Harry.”

“Why he shouldn’t--ha? Chingachgook red warrior--very red--scalp make
his honor--Be sure he take him.”

“Then,” said Hetty, earnestly, “he will be as wicked as any other. God
will not pardon in a red man, what he will not pardon in a white man.

“No true--” returned the Delaware girl, with a warmth that nearly
amounted to passion. “No true, I tell you! The Manitou smile and pleased
when he see young warrior come back from the war path, with two, ten,
hundred scalp on a pole! Chingachgook father take scalp--grandfather
take scalp--all old chief take scalp, and Chingachgook take as many
scalp as he can carry, himself.”

“Then, Hist, his sleep of nights must be terrible to think of. No one
can be cruel, and hope to be forgiven.”

“No cruel--plenty forgiven--” returned Wah-ta-Wah, stamping her little
foot on the stony strand, and shaking her head in a way to show how
completely feminine feeling, in one of its aspects, had gotten the
better of feminine feeling in another. “I tell you, Serpent brave; he go
home, this time, with four,--yes--two scalp.”

“And is that his errand, here?--Did he really come all this distance,
across mountain, and valley, rivers and lakes, to torment his fellow
creatures, and do so wicked a thing?”

This question at once appeased the growing ire of the half-offended
Indian beauty. It completely got the better of the prejudices of
education, and turned all her thoughts to a gentler and more feminine
channel. At first, she looked around her, suspiciously, as if
distrusting eavesdroppers; then she gazed wistfully into the face of her
attentive companion; after which this exhibition of girlish coquetry
and womanly feeling, terminated by her covering her face with both her
hands, and laughing in a strain that might well be termed the melody of
the woods. Dread of discovery, however, soon put a stop to this naive
exhibition of feeling, and removing her hands, this creature of impulses
gazed again wistfully into the face of her companion, as if inquiring
how far she might trust a stranger with her secret. Although Hetty
had no claims to her sister’s extraordinary beauty, many thought
her countenance the most winning of the two. It expressed all the
undisguised sincerity of her character, and it was totally free from
any of the unpleasant physical accompaniments that so frequently attend
mental imbecility. It is true that one accustomed to closer observations
than common, might have detected the proofs of her feebleness of
intellect in the language of her sometimes vacant eyes, but they were
signs that attracted sympathy by their total want of guile, rather than
by any other feeling. The effect on Hist, to use the English and more
familiar translation of the name, was favorable, and yielding to an
impulse of tenderness, she threw her arms around Hetty, and embraced her
with an outpouring emotion, so natural that it was only equaled by its
warmth.

“You good--” whispered the young Indian--“you good, I know; it so long
since Wah-ta-Wah have a friend--a sister--any body to speak her heart
to! You Hist friend; don’t I say trut’?”

“I never had a friend,” answered Hetty returning the warm embrace with
unfeigned earnestness. “I’ve a sister, but no friend. Judith loves
me, and I love Judith; but that’s natural, and as we are taught in the
Bible--but I should like to have a friend! I’ll be your friend, with all
my heart, for I like your voice and your smile, and your way of thinking
in every thing, except about the scalps--”

“No t’ink more of him--no say more of scalp--” interrupted Hist,
soothingly--“You pale-face, I red-skin; we bring up different fashion.
Deerslayer and Chingachgook great friend, and no the same colour, Hist
and--what your name, pretty pale-face?”

“I am called Hetty, though when they spell the name in the bible, they
always spell it Esther.”

“What that make?--no good, no harm. No need to spell name at
all--Moravian try to make Wah-ta-Wah spell, but no won’t let him. No
good for Delaware girl to know too much--know more than warrior some
time; that great shame. My name Wah-ta-Wah that say Hist in your tongue;
you call him, Hist--I call him, Hetty.”

These preliminaries settled to their mutual satisfaction, the two girls
began to discourse of their several hopes and projects. Hetty made her
new friend more fully acquainted with her intentions in behalf of her
father, and, to one in the least addicted to prying into the affairs,
Hist would have betrayed her own feelings and expectations in connection
with the young warrior of her own tribe. Enough was revealed on both
sides, however, to let each party get a tolerable insight into the views
of the other, though enough still remained in mental reservation,
to give rise to the following questions and answers, with which the
interview in effect closed. As the quickest witted, Hist was the first
with her interrogatories. Folding an arm about the waist of Hetty, she
bent her head so as to look up playfully into the face of the other,
and, laughing, as if her meaning were to be extracted from her looks,
she spoke more plainly.

“Hetty got broder, as well as fader?--” she said--“Why no talk of
broder, as well as fader?”

“I have no brother, Hist. I had one once, they say, but he is dead many
a year, and lies buried in the lake, by the side of my mother.”

“No got broder--got a young warrior--Love him, almost as much as fader,
eh? Very handsome, and brave-looking; fit to be chief, if he good as he
seem to be.”

“It’s wicked to love any man as well as I love my father, and so I
strive not to do it, Hist,” returned the conscientious Hetty, who knew
not how to conceal an emotion, by an approach to an untruth as venial as
an evasion, though powerfully tempted by female shame to err, “though I
sometimes think wickedness will get the better of me, if Hurry comes so
often to the lake. I must tell you the truth, dear Hist, because you ask
me, but I should fall down and die in the woods, if he knew it!”

“Why he no ask you, himself?--Brave looking--why not bold speaking?
Young warrior ought to ask young girl, no make young girl speak first.
Mingo girls too shame for that.”

This was said indignantly, and with the generous warmth a young female
of spirit would be apt to feel, at what she deemed an invasion of
her sex’s most valued privilege. It had little influence on the
simple-minded, but also just-minded Hetty, who, though inherently
feminine in all her impulses, was much more alive to the workings of her
own heart, than to any of the usages with which convention has protected
the sensitiveness of her sex.

“Ask me what?’ the startled girl demanded, with a suddenness that proved
how completely her fears had been aroused. ‘Ask me, if I like him as
well as I do my own father! Oh! I hope he will never put such a question
to me, for I should have to answer, and that would kill me!”

“No--no--no kill, quite--almost,” returned the other, laughing in spite
of herself. “Make blush come--make shame come too; but he no stay great
while; then feel happier than ever. Young warrior must tell young girl
he want to make wife, else never can live in his wigwam.”

“Hurry don’t want to marry me--nobody will ever want to marry me, Hist.”

“How you can know? P’raps every body want to marry you, and by-and-bye,
tongue say what heart feel. Why nobody want to marry you?”

“I am not full witted, they say. Father often tells me this; and so does
Judith, sometimes, when she is vexed; but I shouldn’t so much mind them,
as I did mother. She said so once and then she cried as if her heart
would break; and, so, I know I’m not full witted.”

Hist gazed at the gentle, simple girl, for quite a minute without
speaking, and then the truth appeared to flash all at once on the
mind of the young Indian maid. Pity, reverence and tenderness seemed
struggling together in her breast, and then rising suddenly, she
indicated a wish to her companion that she would accompany her to the
camp, which was situated at no great distance. This unexpected change
from the precautions that Hist had previously manifested a desire to
use, in order to prevent being seen, to an open exposure of the person
of her friend, arose from the perfect conviction that no Indian would
harm a being whom the Great Spirit had disarmed, by depriving it of its
strongest defence, reason. In this respect, nearly all unsophisticated
nations resemble each other, appearing to offer spontaneously, by
a feeling creditable to human nature, that protection by their own
forbearance, which has been withheld by the inscrutable wisdom of
Providence. Wah-ta-Wah, indeed, knew that in many tribes the mentally
imbecile and the mad were held in a species of religious reverence,
receiving from these untutored inhabitants of the forest respect and
honors, instead of the contumely and neglect that it is their fortune to
meet with among the more pretending and sophisticated.

Hetty accompanied her new friend without apprehension or reluctance. It
was her wish to reach the camp, and, sustained by her motives, she felt
no more concern for the consequences than did her companion herself,
now the latter was apprised of the character of the protection that the
pale-face maiden carried with her. Still, as they proceeded slowly along
a shore that was tangled with overhanging bushes, Hetty continued the
discourse, assuming the office of interrogating which the other had
instantly dropped, as soon as she ascertained the character of the mind
to which her questions had been addressed.

“But you are not half-witted,” said Hetty, “and there’s no reason why
the Serpent should not marry you.”

“Hist prisoner, and Mingo got big ear. No speak of Chingachgook when
they by. Promise Hist that, good Hetty.”

“I know--I know--” returned Hetty, half-whispering, in her eagerness
to let the other see she understood the necessity of caution. “I
know--Deerslayer and the Serpent mean to get you away from the Iroquois,
and you wish me not to tell the secret.”

“How you know?” said Hist, hastily, vexed at the moment that the other
was not even more feeble minded than was actually the case. “How you
know? Better not talk of any but fader and Hurry--Mingo understand
dat; he no understand t’udder. Promise you no talk about what you no
understand.”

“But I do understand this, Hist, and so I must talk about it. Deerslayer
as good as told father all about it, in my presence, and as nobody
told me not to listen, I overheard it all, as I did Hurry and father’s
discourse about the scalps.”

“Very bad for pale-faces to talk about scalps, and very bad for young
woman to hear! Now you love Hist, I know, Hetty, and so, among Injins,
when love hardest never talk most.”

“That’s not the way among white people, who talk most about them they
love best. I suppose it’s because I’m only half-witted that I don’t see
the reason why it should be so different among red people.”

“That what Deerslayer call gift. One gift to talk; t’udder gift to hold
tongue. Hold tongue your gift, among Mingos. If Sarpent want to see
Hist, so Hetty want to see Hurry. Good girl never tell secret of
friend.”

Hetty understood this appeal, and she promised the Delaware girl not to
make any allusion to the presence of Chingachgook, or to the motive of
his visit to the lake.

“Maybe he get off Hurry and fader, as well as Hist, if let him have his
way,” whispered Wah-ta-Wah to her companion, in a confiding flattering
way, just as they got near enough to the encampment to hear the voices
of several of their own sex, who were apparently occupied in the usual
toils of women of their class. “Tink of dat, Hetty, and put two, twenty
finger on mouth. No get friend free without Sarpent do it.”

A better expedient could not have been adopted, to secure the silence
and discretion of Hetty, than that which was now presented to her mind.
As the liberation of her father and the young frontier man was the great
object of her adventure, she felt the connection between it and the
services of the Delaware, and with an innocent laugh, she nodded her
head, and in the same suppressed manner, promised a due attention to
the wishes of her friend. Thus assured, Hist tarried no longer, but
immediately and openly led the way into the encampment of her captors.



Chapter XI.


    “The great King of Kings
    Hath in the table of his law commanded,
    That thou shalt do no murder.
    Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hand,
    To hurl upon their heads that break his law.”

    Richard III, I.iv.i95-97 199-200.

That the party to which Hist compulsorily belonged was not one that was
regularly on the war path, was evident by the presence of females. It
was a small fragment of a tribe that had been hunting and fishing
within the English limits, where it was found by the commencement of
hostilities, and, after passing the winter and spring by living on what
was strictly the property of its enemies, it chose to strike a hostile
blow before it finally retired. There was also deep Indian sagacity
in the manoeuvre which had led them so far into the territory of
their foes. When the runner arrived who announced the breaking out of
hostilities between the English and French--a struggle that was certain
to carry with it all the tribes that dwelt within the influence of the
respective belligerents--this particular party of the Iroquois were
posted on the shores of the Oneida, a lake that lies some fifty miles
nearer to their own frontier than that which is the scene of our tale.

To have fled in a direct line for the Canadas would have exposed them to
the dangers of a direct pursuit, and the chiefs had determined to adopt
the expedient of penetrating deeper into a region that had now become
dangerous, in the hope of being able to retire in the rear of their
pursuers, instead of having them on their trail. The presence of the
women had induced the attempt at this ruse, the strength of these
feebler members of the party being unequal to the effort of escaping
from the pursuit of warriors. When the reader remembers the vast extent
of the American wilderness, at that early day, he will perceive that
it was possible for even a tribe to remain months undiscovered in
particular portions of it; nor was the danger of encountering a foe, the
usual precautions being observed, as great in the woods, as it is on the
high seas, in a time of active warfare.

The encampment being temporary, it offered to the eye no more than the
rude protection of a bivouac, relieved in some slight degree by the
ingenious expedients which suggested themselves to the readiness of
those who passed their lives amid similar scenes. One fire, that had
been kindled against the roots of a living oak, sufficed for the whole
party; the weather being too mild to require it for any purpose but
cooking. Scattered around this centre of attraction, were some fifteen
or twenty low huts, or perhaps kennels would be a better word, into
which their different owners crept at night, and which were also
intended to meet the exigencies of a storm.

These little huts were made of the branches of trees, put together with
some ingenuity, and they were uniformly topped with bark that had been
stripped from fallen trees; of which every virgin forest possesses
hundreds, in all stages of decay. Of furniture they had next to none.
Cooking utensils of the simplest sort were lying near the fire, a few
articles of clothing were to be seen in or around the huts, rifles,
horns, and pouches leaned against the trees, or were suspended from the
lower branches, and the carcasses of two or three deer were stretched to
view on the same natural shambles.

As the encampment was in the midst of a dense wood, the eye could not
take in its tout ensemble at a glance, but hut after hut started out of
the gloomy picture, as one gazed about him in quest of objects. There
was no centre, unless the fire might be so considered, no open area
where the possessors of this rude village might congregate, but all was
dark, covert and cunning, like its owners. A few children strayed from
hut to hut, giving the spot a little of the air of domestic life, and
the suppressed laugh and low voices of the women occasionally broke
in upon the deep stillness of the sombre forest. As for the men, they
either ate, slept, or examined their arms. They conversed but little,
and then usually apart, or in groups withdrawn from the females, whilst
an air of untiring, innate watchfulness and apprehension of danger
seemed to be blended even with their slumbers.

As the two girls came near the encampment, Hetty uttered a slight
exclamation, on catching a view of the person of her father. He was
seated on the ground with his back to a tree, and Hurry stood near him
indolently whittling a twig. Apparently they were as much at liberty as
any others in or about the camp, and one unaccustomed to Indian usages
would have mistaken them for visitors, instead of supposing them to
be captives. Wah-ta-Wah led her new friend quite near them, and then
modestly withdrew, that her own presence might be no restraint on her
feelings. But Hetty was not sufficiently familiar with caresses or
outward demonstrations of fondness, to indulge in any outbreaking of
feeling. She merely approached and stood at her father’s side without
speaking, resembling a silent statue of filial affection. The old man
expressed neither alarm nor surprise at her sudden appearance. In these
particulars he had caught the stoicism of the Indians, well knowing
that there was no more certain mode of securing their respect than by
imitating their self-command. Nor did the savages themselves betray the
least sign of surprise at this sudden appearance of a stranger among
them. In a word, this arrival produced much less visible sensation,
though occurring under circumstances so peculiar, than would be seen in
a village of higher pretensions to civilization did an ordinary traveler
drive up to the door of its principal inn.

Still a few warriors collected, and it was evident by the manner in
which they glanced at Hetty as they conversed together, that she was
the subject of their discourse, and probable that the reasons of her
unlooked-for appearance were matters of discussion. This phlegm of
manner is characteristic of the North American Indian--some say of his
white successor also--but, in this case much should be attributed to the
peculiar situation in which the party was placed. The force in the Ark,
the presence of Chingachgook excepted, was well known, no tribe or body
of troops was believed to be near, and vigilant eyes were posted round
the entire lake, watching day and night the slightest movement of those
whom it would not be exaggerated now to term the besieged.

Hutter was inwardly much moved by the conduct of Hetty, though he
affected so much indifference of manner. He recollected her gentle
appeal to him before he left the Ark, and misfortune rendered that of
weight which might have been forgotten amid the triumph of success. Then
he knew the simple, single-hearted fidelity of his child, and understood
why she had come, and the total disregard of self that reigned in all
her acts.

“This is not well, Hetty,” he said, deprecating the consequences to the
girl herself more than any other evil. “These are fierce Iroquois, and
are as little apt to forget an injury, as a favor.”

“Tell me, father--” returned the girl, looking furtively about her as
if fearful of being overheard, “did God let you do the cruel errand
on which you came? I want much to know this, that I may speak to the
Indians plainly, if he did not.”

“You should not have come hither, Hetty; these brutes will not
understand your nature or your intentions!”

“How was it, father; neither you nor Hurry seems to have any thing that
looks like scalps.”

“If that will set your mind at peace, child, I can answer you, no. I had
caught the young creatur’ who came here with you, but her screeches soon
brought down upon me a troop of the wild cats, that was too much for any
single Christian to withstand. If that will do you any good, we are as
innocent of having taken a scalp, this time, as I make no doubt we shall
also be innocent of receiving the bounty.”

“Thank God for that, father! Now I can speak boldly to the Iroquois, and
with an easy conscience. I hope Hurry, too, has not been able to harm
any of the Indians?”

“Why, as to that matter, Hetty,” returned the individual in question,
“you’ve put it pretty much in the natyve character of the religious
truth. Hurry has not been able, and that is the long and short of it.
I’ve seen many squalls, old fellow, both on land and on the water, but
never did I feel one as lively and as snappish as that which come down
upon us, night afore last, in the shape of an Indian hurrah-boys! Why,
Hetty, you’re no great matter at a reason, or an idee that lies a little
deeper than common, but you’re human and have some human notions--now
I’ll just ask you to look at them circumstances. Here was old Tom, your
father, and myself, bent on a legal operation, as is to be seen in the
words of the law and the proclamation; thinking no harm; when we were
set upon by critturs that were more like a pack of hungry wolves than
mortal savages even, and there they had us tethered like two sheep, in
less time than it has taken me to tell you the story.”

“You are free now, Hurry,” returned Hetty, glancing timidly at the fine
unfettered limbs of the young giant--“You have no cords, or withes, to
pain your arms, or legs, now.”

“Not I, Hetty. Natur’ is natur’, and freedom is natur’, too. My limbs
have a free look, but that’s pretty much the amount of it, sin’ I can’t
use them in the way I should like. Even these trees have eyes; ay, and
tongues too; for was the old man, here, or I, to start one single rod
beyond our gaol limits, sarvice would be put on the bail afore we could
‘gird up our loins’ for a race, and, like as not, four or five rifle
bullets would be travelling arter us, carrying so many invitations to
curb our impatience. There isn’t a gaol in the colony as tight as this
we are now in; for I’ve tried the vartues of two or three on ‘em, and I
know the mater’als they are made of, as well as the men that made ‘em;
takin’ down being the next step in schoolin’, to puttin’ up, in all such
fabrications.”

Lest the reader should get an exaggerated opinion of Hurry’s demerits
from this boastful and indiscreet revelation, it may be well to say that
his offences were confined to assaults and batteries, for several
of which he had been imprisoned, when, as he has just said, he often
escaped by demonstrating the flimsiness of the constructions in which he
was confined, by opening for himself doors in spots where the architects
had neglected to place them. But Hetty had no knowledge of gaols, and
little of the nature of crimes, beyond what her unadulterated and almost
instinctive perceptions of right and wrong taught her, and this sally
of the rude being who had spoken was lost upon her. She understood his
general meaning, however, and answered in reference to that alone.

“It’s so best, Hurry,” she said. “It is best father and you should be
quiet and peaceable, ‘till I have spoken to the Iroquois, when all will
be well and happy. I don’t wish either of you to follow, but leave me to
myself. As soon as all is settled, and you are at liberty to go back to
the castle, I will come and let you know it.”

Hetty spoke with so much simple earnestness, seemed so confident of
success, and wore so high an air of moral feeling and truth, that
both the listeners felt more disposed to attach an importance to her
mediation, than might otherwise have happened. When she manifested an
intention to quit them, therefore, they offered no obstacle, though they
saw she was about to join the group of chiefs who were consulting apart,
seemingly on the manner and motive of her own sudden appearance.

When Hist--for so we love best to call her--quitted her companion, she
strayed near one or two of the elder warriors, who had shown her most
kindness in her captivity, the principal man of whom had even offered to
adopt her as his child if she would consent to become a Huron. In taking
this direction, the shrewd girl did so to invite inquiry. She was too
well trained in the habits of her people to obtrude the opinions of one
of her sex and years on men and warriors, but nature had furnished
a tact and ingenuity that enabled her to attract the attention she
desired, without wounding the pride of those to whom it was her duty to
defer and respect. Even her affected indifference stimulated curiosity,
and Hetty had hardly reached the side of her father, before the Delaware
girl was brought within the circle of the warriors, by a secret but
significant gesture. Here she was questioned as to the person of her
companion, and the motives that had brought her to the camp. This
was all that Hist desired. She explained the manner in which she had
detected the weakness of Hetty’s reason, rather exaggerating than
lessening the deficiency in her intellect, and then she related in
general terms the object of the girl in venturing among her enemies.
The effect was all that the speaker expected, her account investing the
person and character of their visitor with a sacredness and respect that
she well knew would prove her protection. As soon as her own purpose was
attained, Hist withdrew to a distance, where, with female consideration
and a sisterly tenderness she set about the preparation of a meal, to be
offered to her new friend as soon as the latter might be at liberty to
partake of it. While thus occupied, however, the ready girl in no degree
relaxed in her watchfulness, noting every change of countenance among
the chiefs, every movement of Hetty’s, and the smallest occurrence that
could be likely to affect her own interests, or that of her new friend.

As Hetty approached the chiefs they opened their little circle, with an
ease and deference of manner that would have done credit to men of more
courtly origin. A fallen tree lay near, and the oldest of the warriors
made a quiet sign for the girl to be seated on it, taking his place at
her side with the gentleness of a father. The others arranged themselves
around the two with grave dignity, and then the girl, who had sufficient
observation to perceive that such a course was expected of her, began
to reveal the object of her visit. The moment she opened her mouth to
speak, however, the old chief gave a gentle sign for her to forbear,
said a few words to one of his juniors, and then waited in silent
patience until the latter had summoned Hist to the party. This
interruption proceeded from the chief’s having discovered that there
existed a necessity for an interpreter, few of the Hurons present
understanding the English language, and they but imperfectly.

Wah-ta-Wah was not sorry to be called upon to be present at the
interview, and least of all in the character in which she was now
wanted. She was aware of the hazards she ran in attempting to deceive
one or two of the party, but was none the less resolved to use every
means that offered, and to practice every artifice that an Indian
education could supply, to conceal the facts of the vicinity of her
betrothed, and of the errand on which he had come. One unpracticed in
the expedients and opinions of savage life would not have suspected the
readiness of invention, the wariness of action, the high resolution, the
noble impulses, the deep self-devotion, and the feminine disregard of
self when the affections were concerned, that lay concealed beneath the
demure looks, the mild eyes, and the sunny smiles of this young Indian
beauty. As she approached them, the grim old warriors regarded her with
pleasure, for they had a secret pride in the hope of engrafting so rare
a scion on the stock of their own nation; adoption being as regularly
practised, and as distinctly recognized among the tribes of America,
as it ever had been among those nations that submit to the sway of the
Civil Law.

As soon as Hist was seated by the side of Hetty, the old chief desired
her to ask “the fair young pale-face” what had brought her among the
Iroquois, and what they could do to serve her.

“Tell them, Hist, who I am--Thomas Hutter’s youngest daughter; Thomas
Hutter, the oldest of their two prisoners; he who owns the castle and
the Ark, and who has the best right to be thought the owner of these
hills, and that lake, since he has dwelt so long, and trapped so long,
and fished so long, among them--They’ll know whom you mean by Thomas
Hutter, if you tell them, that. And then tell them that I’ve come here
to convince them they ought not to harm father and Hurry, but let them
go in peace, and to treat them as brethren rather than as enemies. Now
tell them all this plainly, Hist, and fear nothing for yourself or me.
God will protect us.”

Wah-ta-Wah did as the other desired, taking care to render the words of
her friend as literally as possible into the Iroquois tongue, a language
she used with a readiness almost equal to that with which she spoke her
own. The chiefs heard this opening explanation with grave decorum, the
two who had a little knowledge of English intimating their satisfaction
with the interpreter by furtive but significant glances of the eyes.

“And, now, Hist,” continued Hetty, as soon as it was intimated to her
that she might proceed, “and, now, Hist, I wish you to tell these red
men, word for word, what I am about to say. Tell them first, that father
and Hurry came here with an intention to take as many scalps as they
could, for the wicked governor and the province have offered money for
scalps, whether of warriors, or women, men or children, and the love of
gold was too strong for their hearts to withstand it. Tell them this,
dear Hist, just as you have heard it from me, word for word.”

Wah-ta-Wah hesitated about rendering this speech as literally as had
been desired, but detecting the intelligence of those who understood
English, and apprehending even a greater knowledge than they actually
possessed she found herself compelled to comply. Contrary to what a
civilized man would have expected, the admission of the motives and of
the errands of their prisoners produced no visible effect on either the
countenances or the feelings of the listeners. They probably considered
the act meritorious, and that which neither of them would have hesitated
to perform in his own person, he would not be apt to censure in another.

“And, now, Hist,” resumed Hetty, as soon as she perceived that her first
speeches were understood by the chiefs, “you can tell them more. They
know that father and Hurry did not succeed, and therefore they can bear
them no grudge for any harm that has been done. If they had slain their
children and wives it would not alter the matter, and I’m not certain
that what I am about to tell them would not have more weight had there
been mischief done. But ask them first, Hist, if they know there is a
God, who reigns over the whole earth, and is ruler and chief of all who
live, let them be red, or white, or what color they may?”

Wah-ta-Wah looked a little surprised at this question, for the idea of
the Great Spirit is seldom long absent from the mind of an Indian girl.
She put the question as literally as possible, however, and received a
grave answer in the affirmative.

“This is right,” continued Hetty, “and my duty will now be light. This
Great Spirit, as you call our God, has caused a book to be written,
that we call a Bible, and in this book have been set down all his
commandments, and his holy will and pleasure, and the rules by which all
men are to live, and directions how to govern the thoughts even, and
the wishes, and the will. Here, this is one of these holy books, and
you must tell the chiefs what I am about to read to them from its sacred
pages.”

As Hetty concluded, she reverently unrolled a small English Bible from
its envelope of coarse calico, treating the volume with the sort of
external respect that a Romanist would be apt to show to a religious
relic. As she slowly proceeded in her task the grim warriors watched
each movement with riveted eyes, and when they saw the little volume
appear a slight expression of surprise escaped one or two of them. But
Hetty held it out towards them in triumph, as if she expected the sight
would produce a visible miracle, and then, without betraying either
surprise or mortification at the Stoicism of the Indian, she turned
eagerly to her new friend, in order to renew the discourse.

“This is the sacred volume, Hist,” she said--“and these words, and
lines, and verses, and chapters, all came from God.”

“Why Great Spirit no send book to Injin, too?” demanded Hist, with the
directness of a mind that was totally unsophisticated.

“Why?” answered Hetty, a little bewildered by a question so unexpected.
“Why?--Ah! you know the Indians don’t know how to read.”

If Hist was not satisfied with this explanation, she did not deem the
point of sufficient importance to be pressed. Simply bending her body,
in a gentle admission of the truth of what she heard, she sat patiently
awaiting the further arguments of the pale-face enthusiast.

“You can tell these chiefs that throughout this book, men are ordered to
forgive their enemies; to treat them as they would brethren; and never
to injure their fellow creatures, more especially on account of revenge
or any evil passions. Do you think you can tell them this, so that they
will understand it, Hist?”

“Tell him well enough, but he no very easy to understand.” Hist then
conveyed the ideas of Hetty, in the best manner she could, to the
attentive Indians, who heard her words with some such surprise as an
American of our own times would be apt to betray at a suggestion that
the great modern but vacillating ruler of things human, public opinion,
might be wrong. One or two of their number, however, having met with
missionaries, said a few words in explanation, and then the group gave
all its attention to the communications that were to follow. Before
Hetty resumed she inquired earnestly of Hist if the chiefs had
understood her, and receiving an evasive answer, was fain to be
satisfied.

“I will now read to the warriors some of the verses that it is good for
them to know,” continued the girl, whose manner grew more solemn and
earnest as she proceeded--“and they will remember that they are the very
words of the Great Spirit. First, then, ye are commanded to ‘love thy
neighbor as Thyself.’ Tell them that, dear Hist.”

“Neighbor, for Injin, no mean pale-face,” answered the Delaware girl,
with more decision than she had hitherto thought it necessary to use.
“Neighbor mean Iroquois for Iroquois, Mohican for Mohican, Pale-face for
pale face. No need tell chief any thing else.”

“You forget, Hist, these are the words of the Great Spirit, and
the chiefs must obey them as well as others. Here is another
commandment--‘Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him
the other also.’”

“What that mean?” demanded Hist, with the quickness of lightning.

Hetty explained that it was an order not to resent injuries, but rather
to submit to receive fresh wrongs from the offender.

“And hear this, too, Hist,” she added. “‘Love your enemies, bless them
that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which
despitefully use you and persecute you.’”

By this time Hetty had become excited; her eye gleamed with the
earnestness of her feelings, her cheeks flushed, and her voice, usually
so low and modulated, became stronger and more impressive. With the
Bible she had been early made familiar by her mother, and she now turned
from passage to passage with surprising rapidity, taking care to cull
such verses as taught the sublime lessons of Christian charity and
Christian forgiveness. To translate half she said, in her pious
earnestness, Wah-ta-Wah would have found impracticable, had she made the
effort, but wonder held her tongue tied, equally with the chiefs, and
the young, simple-minded enthusiast had fairly become exhausted with
her own efforts, before the other opened her mouth, again, to utter a
syllable. Then, indeed, the Delaware girl gave a brief translation of
the substance of what had been both read and said, confining herself to
one or two of the more striking of the verses, those that had struck her
own imagination as the most paradoxical, and which certainly would have
been the most applicable to the case, could the uninstructed minds of
the listeners embrace the great moral truths they conveyed.

It will be scarcely necessary to tell the reader the effect that
such novel duties would be likely to produce among a group of Indian
warriors, with whom it was a species of religious principle never to
forget a benefit, or to forgive an injury. Fortunately, the previous
explanations of Hist had prepared the minds of the Hurons for something
extravagant, and most of that which to them seemed inconsistent and
paradoxical, was accounted for by the fact that the speaker possessed
a mind that was constituted differently from those of most of the
human race. Still there were one or two old men who had heard similar
doctrines from the missionaries, and these felt a desire to occupy an
idle moment by pursuing a subject that they found so curious.

“This is the Good Book of the pale-faces,” observed one of these
chiefs, taking the volume from the unresisting hands of Hetty, who gazed
anxiously at his face while he turned the leaves, as if she expected to
witness some visible results from the circumstance. “This is the law by
which my white brethren professes to live?”

Hist, to whom this question was addressed, if it might be considered as
addressed to any one, in particular, answered simply in the affirmative;
adding that both the French of the Canadas, and the Yengeese of the
British provinces equally admitted its authority, and affected to revere
its principles.

“Tell my young sister,” said the Huron, looking directly at Hist, “that
I will open my mouth and say a few words.”

“The Iroquois chief go to speak--my pale-face friend listen,” said Hist.

“I rejoice to hear it!” exclaimed Hetty. “God has touched his heart, and
he will now let father and Hurry go.”

“This is the pale-face law,” resumed the chief. “It tells him to do good
to them that hurt him, and when his brother asks him for his rifle to
give him the powder horn, too. Such is the pale-face law?”

“Not so--not so--” answered Hetty earnestly, when these words had been
interpreted--“There is not a word about rifles in the whole book, and
powder and bullets give offence to the Great Spirit.”

“Why then does the pale-face use them? If he is ordered to give double
to him that asks only for one thing, why does he take double from the
poor Indian who ask for no thing. He comes from beyond the rising sun,
with this book in his hand, and he teaches the red man to read it, but
why does he forget himself all it says? When the Indian gives, he is
never satisfied; and now he offers gold for the scalps of our women and
children, though he calls us beasts if we take the scalp of a warrior
killed in open war. My name is Rivenoak.”

When Hetty had got this formidable question fairly presented to her mind
in the translation, and Hist did her duty with more than usual
readiness on this occasion, it scarcely need be said that she was sorely
perplexed. Abler heads than that of this poor girl have frequently been
puzzled by questions of a similar drift, and it is not surprising that
with all her own earnestness and sincerity she did not know what answer
to make.

“What shall I tell them, Hist,” she asked imploringly--“I know that all
I have read from the book is true, and yet it wouldn’t seem so, would
it, by the conduct of those to whom the book was given?”

“Give ‘em pale-face reason,” returned Hist, ironically--“that always
good for one side; though he bad for t’other.”

“No--no--Hist, there can’t be two sides to truth--and yet it does seem
strange! I’m certain I have read the verses right, and no one would be
so wicked as to print the word of God wrong. That can never be, Hist.”

“Well, to poor Injin girl, it seem every thing can be to pale-faces,”
 returned the other, coolly. “One time ‘ey say white, and one time ‘ey
say black. Why never can be?”

Hetty was more and more embarrassed, until overcome with the
apprehension that she had failed in her object, and that the lives of
her father and Hurry would be the forfeit of some blunder of her own,
she burst into tears. From that moment the manner of Hist lost all its
irony and cool indifference, and she became the fond caressing friend
again. Throwing her arms around the afflicted girl, she attempted
to soothe her sorrows by the scarcely ever failing remedy of female
sympathy.

“Stop cry--no cry--” she said, wiping the tears from the face of Hetty,
as she would have performed the same office for a child, and stopping
to press her occasionally to her own warm bosom with the affection of
a sister. “Why you so trouble? You no make he book, if he be wrong, and
you no make he pale-face if he wicked. There wicked red man, and wicked
white man--no colour all good--no colour all wicked. Chiefs know that
well enough.”

Hetty soon recovered from this sudden burst of grief, and then her
mind reverted to the purpose of her visit, with all its single-hearted
earnestness. Perceiving that the grim looking chiefs were still standing
around her in grave attention, she hoped that another effort to convince
them of the right might be successful. “Listen, Hist,” she said,
struggling to suppress her sobs, and to speak distinctly--“Tell the
chiefs that it matters not what the wicked do--right is right--The words
of The Great Spirit are the words of The Great Spirit--and no one can go
harmless for doing an evil act, because another has done it before him.
‘Render good for evil,’ says this book, and that is the law for the red
man as well as for the white man.”

“Never hear such law among Delaware, or among Iroquois--” answered
Hist soothingly. “No good to tell chiefs any such laws as dat. Tell ‘em
somet’ing they believe.”

Hist was about to proceed, notwithstanding, when a tap on the shoulder
from the finger of the oldest chief caused her to look up. She then
perceived that one of the warriors had left the group, and was already
returning to it with Hutter and Hurry. Understanding that the two
last were to become parties in the inquiry, she became mute, with
the unhesitating obedience of an Indian woman. In a few seconds the
prisoners stood face to face with the principal men of the captors.

“Daughter,” said the senior chief to the young Delaware, “ask this grey
beard why he came into our camp?”

The question was put by Hist, in her own imperfect English, but in a
way that was easy to be understood. Hutter was too stern and obdurate
by nature to shrink from the consequences of any of his acts, and he
was also too familiar with the opinions of the savages not to understand
that nothing was to be gained by equivocation or an unmanly dread of
their anger. Without hesitating, therefore, he avowed the purpose
with which he had landed, merely justifying it by the fact that the
government of the province had bid high for scalps. This frank avowal
was received by the Iroquois with evident satisfaction, not so much,
however, on account of the advantage it gave them in a moral point of
view, as by its proving that they had captured a man worthy of occupying
their thoughts and of becoming a subject of their revenge. Hurry,
when interrogated, confessed the truth, though he would have been
more disposed to concealment than his sterner companion, did the
circumstances very well admit of its adoption. But he had tact enough to
discover that equivocation would be useless, at that moment, and he made
a merit of necessity by imitating a frankness, which, in the case
of Hutter, was the offspring of habits of indifference acting on
a disposition that was always ruthless, and reckless of personal
consequences.

As soon as the chiefs had received the answers to their questions, they
walked away in silence, like men who deemed the matter disposed of,
all Hetty’s dogmas being thrown away on beings trained in violence from
infancy to manhood. Hetty and Hist were now left alone with Hutter and
Hurry, no visible restraint being placed on the movements of either;
though all four, in fact, were vigilantly and unceasingly watched. As
respects the men, care was had to prevent them from getting possession
of any of the rifles that lay scattered about, their own included; and
there all open manifestations of watchfulness ceased. But they, who
were so experienced in Indian practices, knew too well how great was the
distance between appearances and reality, to become the dupes of this
seeming carelessness. Although both thought incessantly of the means of
escape, and this without concert, each was aware of the uselessness
of attempting any project of the sort that was not deeply laid, and
promptly executed. They had been long enough in the encampment, and were
sufficiently observant to have ascertained that Hist, also, was a sort
of captive, and, presuming on the circumstance, Hutter spoke in her
presence more openly than he might otherwise have thought it prudent to
do; inducing Hurry to be equally unguarded by his example.

“I’ll not blame you, Hetty, for coming on this errand, which was well
meant if not very wisely planned,” commenced the father, seating himself
by the side of his daughter and taking her hand; a sign of affection
that this rude being was accustomed to manifest to this particular
child. “But preaching, and the Bible, are not the means to turn an
Indian from his ways. Has Deerslayer sent any message; or has he any
scheme by which he thinks to get us free?”

“Ay, that’s the substance of it!” put in Hurry. “If you can help us,
gal, to half a mile of freedom, or even a good start of a short quarter,
I’ll answer for the rest. Perhaps the old man may want a little more,
but for one of my height and years that will meet all objections.”

Hetty looked distressed, turning her eyes from one to the other, but she
had no answer to give to the question of the reckless Hurry.

“Father,” she said, “neither Deerslayer nor Judith knew of my coming
until I had left the Ark. They are afraid the Iroquois will make a raft
and try to get off to the hut, and think more of defending that than of
coming to aid you.”

“No--no--no--” said Hist hurriedly, though in a low voice, and with her
face bent towards the earth, in order to conceal from those whom
she knew to be watching them the fact of her speaking at all.
“No--no--no--Deerslayer different man. He no t’ink of defending ‘self,
with friend in danger. Help one another, and all get to hut.”

“This sounds well, old Tom,” said Hurry, winking and laughing, though he
too used the precaution to speak low--“Give me a ready witted squaw
for a fri’nd, and though I’ll not downright defy an Iroquois, I think I
would defy the devil.”

“No talk loud,” said Hist. “Some Iroquois got Yengeese tongue, and all
got Yengeese ear.”

“Have we a friend in you, young woman?” enquired Hutter with an
increasing interest in the conference. “If so, you may calculate on a
solid reward, and nothing will be easier than to send you to your own
tribe, if we can once fairly get you off with us to the castle. Give us
the Ark and the canoes, and we can command the lake, spite of all the
savages in the Canadas. Nothing but artillery could drive us out of the
castle, if we can get back to it.

“S’pose ‘ey come ashore to take scalp?” retorted Hist, with cool irony,
at which the girl appeared to be more expert than is common for her sex.

“Ay--ay--that was a mistake; but there is little use in lamentations,
and less still, young woman, in flings.”

“Father,” said Hetty, “Judith thinks of breaking open the big chest,
in hopes of finding something in that which may buy your freedom of the
savages.”

A dark look came over Hutter at the announcement of this fact, and he
muttered his dissatisfaction in a way to render it intelligible enough.

“What for no break open chest?” put in Hist. “Life sweeter than old
chest--scalp sweeter than old chest. If no tell darter to break him
open, Wah-ta-Wah no help him to run away.”

“Ye know not what ye ask--ye are but silly girls, and the wisest way for
ye both is to speak of what ye understand and to speak of nothing else.
I little like this cold neglect of the savages, Hurry; it’s a proof that
they think of something serious, and if we are to do any thing, we must
do it soon. Can we count on this young woman, think you?”

“Listen--” said Hist quickly, and with an earnestness that proved how
much her feelings were concerned--“Wah-ta-Wah no Iroquois--All over
Delaware--got Delaware heart--Delaware feeling. She prisoner, too. One
prisoner help t’udder prisoner. No good to talk more, now. Darter stay
with fader--Wah-ta-Wah come and see friend--all look right--Then tell
what he do.”

This was said in a low voice, but distinctly, and in a manner to make an
impression. As soon as it was uttered the girl arose and left the
group, walking composedly towards the hut she occupied, as if she had no
further interest in what might pass between the pale-faces.



Chapter XII.


    “She speaks much of her father; says she hears,
    There’s tricks i’ the world; and hems, and beats her breast;
    Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt,
    That carry but half sense; her speech is nothing,
    Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
    The hearers to collection;”

    Hamlet, IV.v.4-9.

We left the occupants of the castle and the ark, buried in sleep. Once,
or twice, in the course of the night, it is true, Deerslayer or the
Delaware, arose and looked out upon the tranquil lake; when, finding
all safe, each returned to his pallet, and slept like a man who was not
easily deprived of his natural rest. At the first signs of the dawn the
former arose, however, and made his personal arrangements for the day;
though his companion, whose nights had not been tranquil or without
disturbances of late, continued on his blanket until the sun had fairly
risen; Judith, too, was later than common that morning, for the earlier
hours of the night had brought her little of either refreshment or
sleep. But ere the sun had shown himself over the eastern hills these
too were up and afoot, even the tardy in that region seldom remaining on
their pallets after the appearance of the great luminary. Chingachgook
was in the act of arranging his forest toilet, when Deerslayer entered
the cabin of the Ark and threw him a few coarse but light summer
vestments that belonged to Hutter.

“Judith hath given me them for your use, chief,” said the latter, as he
cast the jacket and trousers at the feet of the Indian, “for it’s ag’in
all prudence and caution to be seen in your war dress and paint. Wash
off all them fiery streaks from your cheeks, put on these garments, and
here is a hat, such as it is, that will give you an awful oncivilized
sort of civilization, as the missionaries call it. Remember that Hist is
at hand, and what we do for the maiden must be done while we are
doing for others. I know it’s ag’in your gifts and your natur’ to wear
clothes, unless they are cut and carried in a red man’s fashion, but
make a vartue of necessity and put these on at once, even if they do
rise a little in your throat.”

Chingachgook, or the Serpent, eyed the vestments with strong disgust;
but he saw the usefulness of the disguise, if not its absolute
necessity. Should the Iroquois discover a red man, in or about the
Castle, it might, indeed, place them more on their guard, and give
their suspicions a direction towards their female captive. Any thing was
better than a failure, as it regarded his betrothed, and, after turning
the different garments round and round, examining them with a species
of grave irony, affecting to draw them on in a way that defeated itself,
and otherwise manifesting the reluctance of a young savage to confine
his limbs in the usual appliances of civilized life, the chief submitted
to the directions of his companion, and finally stood forth, so far
as the eye could detect, a red man in colour alone. Little was to be
apprehended from this last peculiarity, however, the distance from the
shore, and the want of glasses preventing any very close scrutiny,
and Deerslayer, himself, though of a brighter and fresher tint, had a
countenance that was burnt by the sun to a hue scarcely less red than
that of his Mohican companion. The awkwardness of the Delaware in his
new attire caused his friend to smile more than once that day, but he
carefully abstained from the use of any of those jokes which would have
been bandied among white men on such an occasion, the habits of a chief,
the dignity of a warrior on his first path, and the gravity of the
circumstances in which they were placed uniting to render so much levity
out of season.

The meeting at the morning meal of the three islanders, if we may use
the term, was silent, grave and thoughtful. Judith showed by her looks
that she had passed an unquiet night, while the two men had the future
before them, with its unseen and unknown events. A few words of courtesy
passed between Deerslayer and the girl, in the course of the breakfast,
but no allusion was made to their situation. At length Judith, whose
heart was full, and whose novel feelings disposed her to entertain
sentiments more gentle and tender than common, introduced the subject,
and this in a way to show how much of her thoughts it had occupied, in
the course of the last sleepless night.

“It would be dreadful, Deerslayer,” the girl abruptly exclaimed, “should
anything serious befall my father and Hetty! We cannot remain quietly
here and leave them in the hands of the Iroquois, without bethinking us
of some means of serving them.”

“I’m ready, Judith, to sarve them, and all others who are in trouble,
could the way to do it be p’inted out. It’s no trifling matter to fall
into red-skin hands, when men set out on an ar’n’d like that which took
Hutter and Hurry ashore; that I know as well as another, and I wouldn’t
wish my worst inimy in such a strait, much less them with whom I’ve
journeyed, and eat, and slept. Have you any scheme, that you would like
to have the Sarpent and me indivour to carry out?”

“I know of no other means to release the prisoners, than by bribing
the Iroquois. They are not proof against presents, and we might offer
enough, perhaps, to make them think it better to carry away what to them
will be rich gifts, than to carry away poor prisoners; if, indeed, they
should carry them away at all!”

“This is well enough, Judith; yes, it’s well enough, if the inimy is
to be bought, and we can find articles to make the purchase with. Your
father has a convenient lodge, and it is most cunningly placed, though
it doesn’t seem overstock’d with riches that will be likely to buy his
ransom. There’s the piece he calls Killdeer, might count for something,
and I understand there’s a keg of powder about, which might be a
make-weight, sartain; and yet two able bodied men are not to be bought
off for a trifle--besides--”

“Besides what?” demanded Judith impatiently, observing that the other
hesitated to proceed, probably from a reluctance to distress her.

“Why, Judith, the Frenchers offer bounties as well as our own side, and
the price of two scalps would purchase a keg of powder, and a rifle;
though I’ll not say one of the latter altogether as good as Killdeer,
there, which your father va’nts as uncommon, and unequalled, like. But
fair powder, and a pretty sartain rifle; then the red men are not the
expartest in fire arms, and don’t always know the difference atwixt that
which is ra’al, and that which is seeming.”

“This is horrible!” muttered the girl, struck by the homely manner in
which her companion was accustomed to state his facts. “But you overlook
my own clothes, Deerslayer, and they, I think, might go far with the
women of the Iroquois.”

“No doubt they would; no doubt they would, Judith,” returned the other,
looking at her keenly, as if he would ascertain whether she were really
capable of making such a sacrifice. “But, are you sartain, gal, you
could find it in your heart to part with your own finery for such a
purpose? Many is the man who has thought he was valiant till danger
stared him in the face; I’ve known them, too, that consaited they were
kind and ready to give away all they had to the poor, when they’ve
been listening to other people’s hard heartedness; but whose fists
have clench’d as tight as the riven hickory when it came to downright
offerings of their own. Besides, Judith, you’re handsome--uncommon in
that way, one might observe and do no harm to the truth--and they that
have beauty, like to have that which will adorn it. Are you sartain you
could find it in your heart to part with your own finery?”

The soothing allusion to the personal charms of the girl was well timed,
to counteract the effect produced by the distrust that the young man
expressed of Judith’s devotion to her filial duties. Had another said
as much as Deerslayer, the compliment would most probably have been
overlooked in the indignation awakened by the doubts, but even the
unpolished sincerity, that so often made this simple minded hunter bare
his thoughts, had a charm for the girl; and while she colored, and for
an instant her eyes flashed fire, she could not find it in her heart
to be really angry with one whose very soul seemed truth and manly
kindness. Look her reproaches she did, but conquering the desire to
retort, she succeeded in answering in a mild and friendly manner.

“You must keep all your favorable opinions for the Delaware girls,
Deerslayer, if you seriously think thus of those of your own colour,”
 she said, affecting to laugh. “But try me; if you find that I regret
either ribbon or feather, silk or muslin, then may you think what you
please of my heart, and say what you think.”

“That’s justice! The rarest thing to find on ‘arth is a truly just man.
So says Tamenund, the wisest prophet of the Delawares, and so all must
think that have occasion to see, and talk, and act among Mankind. I love
a just man, Sarpent. His eyes are never covered with darkness towards
his inimies, while they are all sunshine and brightness towards his
fri’nds. He uses the reason that God has given him, and he uses it with
a feelin’ of his being ordered to look at, and to consider things as
they are, and not as he wants them to be. It’s easy enough to find men
who call themselves just, but it’s wonderful oncommon to find them that
are the very thing, in fact. How often have I seen Indians, gal, who
believed they were lookin’ into a matter agreeable to the will of the
Great Spirit, when in truth they were only striving to act up to their
own will and pleasure, and this, half the time, with a temptation to
go wrong that could no more be seen by themselves, than the stream that
runs in the next valley can be seen by us through yonder mountain’,
though any looker on might have discovered it as plainly as we can
discover the parch that are swimming around this hut.”

“Very true, Deerslayer,” rejoined Judith, losing every trace of
displeasure in a bright smile--“very true, and I hope to see you act on
this love of justice in all matters in which I am concerned. Above all,
I hope you will judge for yourself, and not believe every evil story
that a prating idler like Hurry Harry may have to tell, that goes to
touch the good name of any young woman, who may not happen to have the
same opinion of his face and person that the blustering gallant has of
himself.”

“Hurry Harry’s idees do not pass for gospel with me, Judith; but even
worse than he may have eyes and ears,” returned the other gravely.

“Enough of this!” exclaimed Judith, with flashing eye and a flush that
mounted to her temples, “and more of my father and his ransom. ‘Tis as
you say, Deerslayer; the Indians will not be likely to give up their
prisoners without a heavier bribe than my clothes can offer, and
father’s rifle and powder. There is the chest.”

“Ay, there is the chest as you say, Judith, and when the question gets
to be between a secret and a scalp, I should think most men would prefer
keeping the last. Did your father ever give you any downright commands
consarning that chist?”


“Never. He has always appeared to think its locks, and its steel bands,
and its strength, its best protection.”

“‘Tis a rare chest, and altogether of curious build,” returned
Deerslayer, rising and approaching the thing in question, on which
he seated himself, with a view to examine it with greater ease.
“Chingachgook, this is no wood that comes of any forest that you or I
have ever trailed through! ‘Tisn’t the black walnut, and yet it’s quite
as comely, if not more so, did the smoke and the treatment give it fair
play.”

The Delaware drew near, felt of the wood, examined its grain, endeavored
to indent the surface with a nail, and passed his hand curiously over
the steel bands, the heavy padlocks, and the other novel peculiarities
of the massive box.

“No--nothing like this grows in these regions,” resumed Deerslayer.
“I’ve seen all the oaks, both the maples, the elms, the bass woods, all
the walnuts, the butternuts, and every tree that has a substance and
colour, wrought into some form or other, but never have I before seen
such a wood as this! Judith, the chest itself would buy your father’s
freedom, or Iroquois cur’osity isn’t as strong as red-skin cur’osity, in
general; especially in the matter of woods.”

“The purchase might be cheaper made, perhaps, Deerslayer. The chest is
full, and it would be better to part with half than to part with the
whole. Besides, father--I know not why--but father values that chest
highly.”

“He would seem to prize what it holds more than the chest, itself,
judging by the manner in which he treats the outside, and secures the
inside. Here are three locks, Judith; is there no key?”

“I’ve never seen one, and yet key there must be, since Hetty told us she
had often seen the chest opened.”

“Keys no more lie in the air, or float on the water, than humans, gal;
if there is a key, there must be a place in which it is kept.”

“That is true, and it might not be difficult to find it, did we dare to
search!”

“This is for you, Judith; it is altogether for you. The chist is your’n,
or your father’s; and Hutter is your father, not mine. Cur’osity is a
woman’s, and not a man’s failing, and there you have got all the reasons
before you. If the chist has articles for ransom, it seems to me they
would be wisely used in redeeming their owner’s life, or even in saving
his scalp; but that is a matter for your judgment, and not for ourn.
When the lawful owner of a trap, or a buck, or a canoe, isn’t present,
his next of kin becomes his riprisentyve by all the laws of the woods.
We therefore leave you to say whether the chist shall, or shall not be
opened.”

“I hope you do not believe I can hesitate, when my father’s life’s in
danger, Deerslayer!”

“Why, it’s pretty much putting a scolding ag’in tears and mourning.
It’s not onreasonable to foretell that old Tom may find fault with
what you’ve done, when he sees himself once more in his hut, here, but
there’s nothing unusual in men’s falling out with what has been done for
their own good; I dare to say that even the moon would seem a different
thing from what it now does, could we look at it from the other side.”

“Deerslayer, if we can find the key, I will authorize you to open
the chest, and to take such things from it as you may think will buy
father’s ransom.”

“First find the key, gal; we’ll talk of the rest a’terwards. Sarpent,
you’ve eyes like a fly, and a judgment that’s seldom out. Can you help
us in calculating where Floating Tom would be apt to keep the key of a
chist that he holds to be as private as this?”

The Delaware had taken no part in the discourse until he was thus
directly appealed to, when he quitted the chest, which had continued to
attract his attention, and cast about him for the place in which a key
would be likely to be concealed under such circumstances. As Judith and
Deerslayer were not idle the while, the whole three were soon engaged in
an anxious and spirited search. As it was certain that the desired key
was not to be found in any of the common drawers or closets, of which
there were several in the building, none looked there, but all turned
their inquiries to those places that struck them as ingenious hiding
places, and more likely to be used for such a purpose. In this manner
the outer room was thoroughly but fruitlessly examined, when they
entered the sleeping apartment of Hutter. This part of the rude building
was better furnished than the rest of the structure, containing several
articles that had been especially devoted to the service of the deceased
wife of its owner, but as Judith had all the rest of the keys, it was
soon rummaged without bringing to light the particular key desired.

They now entered the bed room of the daughters. Chingachgook was
immediately struck with the contrast between the articles and the
arrangement of that side of the room that might be called Judith’s, and
that which more properly belonged to Hetty. A slight exclamation escaped
him, and pointing in each direction he alluded to the fact in a low
voice, speaking to his friend in the Delaware tongue.

“‘Tis as you think, Sarpent,” answered Deerslayer, whose remarks we
always translate into English, preserving as much as possible of the
peculiar phraseology and manner of the man, “‘Tis just so, as any one
may see, and ‘tis all founded in natur’. One sister loves finery, some
say overmuch; while t’other is as meek and lowly as God ever created
goodness and truth. Yet, after all, I dare say that Judith has her
vartues, and Hetty has her failin’s.”

“And the ‘Feeble-Mind’ has seen the chist opened?” inquired
Chingachgook, with curiosity in his glance.

“Sartain; that much I’ve heard from her own lips; and, for that matter,
so have you. It seems her father doesn’t misgive her discretion, though
he does that of his eldest darter.”

“Then the key is hid only from the Wild Rose?” for so Chingachgook
had begun gallantly to term Judith, in his private discourse with his
friend.

“That’s it! That’s just it! One he trusts, and the other he doesn’t.
There’s red and white in that, Sarpent, all tribes and nations agreeing
in trusting some, and refusing to trust other some. It depends on
character and judgment.”

“Where could a key be put, so little likely to be found by the Wild
Rose, as among coarse clothes?”

Deerslayer started, and turning to his friend with admiration expressed
in every lineament of his face, he fairly laughed, in his silent but
hearty manner, at the ingenuity and readiness of the conjecture.

“Your name’s well bestowed, Sarpent--yes, ‘tis well bestowed! Sure
enough, where would a lover of finery be so little likely to s’arch, as
among garments as coarse and onseemly as these of poor Hetty’s. I dares
to say, Judith’s delicate fingers haven’t touched a bit of cloth
as rough and oncomely as that petticoat, now, since she first made
acquaintance with the officers! Yet, who knows? The key may be as likely
to be on the same peg, as in any other place. Take down the garment,
Delaware, and let us see if you are ra’ally a prophet.” Chingachgook
did as desired, but no key was found. A coarse pocket, apparently empty,
hung on the adjoining peg, and this was next examined. By this time,
the attention of Judith was called in that direction, and she spoke
hurriedly and like one who wished to save unnecessary trouble.

“Those are only the clothes of poor Hetty, dear simple girl!” she said,
“Nothing we seek would be likely to be there.”

The words were hardly out of the handsome mouth of the speaker, when
Chingachgook drew the desired key from the pocket. Judith was too quick
of apprehension not to understand the reason a hiding place so simple
and exposed had been used. The blood rushed to her face, as much with
resentment, perhaps, as with shame, and she bit her lip, though she
continued silent. Deerslayer and his friend now discovered the delicacy
of men of native refinement, neither smiling or even by a glance
betraying how completely he understood the motives and ingenuity of this
clever artifice. The former, who had taken the key from the Indian, led
the way into the adjoining room, and applying it to a lock ascertained
that the right instrument had actually been found. There were three
padlocks, each of which however was easily opened by this single key.
Deerslayer removed them all, loosened the hasps, raised the lid a little
to make certain it was loose, and then he drew back from the chest
several feet, signing to his friend to follow.

“This is a family chist, Judith,” he said, “and ‘tis like to hold family
secrets. The Sarpent and I will go into the Ark, and look to the canoes,
and paddles, and oars, while you can examine it by yourself, and find
out whether any thing that will be a make-weight in a ransom is, or is
not, among the articles. When you’ve got through give us a call, and
we’ll all sit in council together touching the valie of the articles.”

“Stop, Deerslayer,” exclaimed the girl, as he was about to withdraw.
“Not a single thing will I touch--I will not even raise the lid--unless
you are present. Father and Hetty have seen fit to keep the inside of
this chest a secret from me, and I am much too proud to pry into their
hidden treasures unless it were for their own good. But on no account
will I open the chest alone. Stay with me, then; I want witnesses of
what I do.”

“I rather think, Sarpent, that the gal is right! Confidence and reliance
beget security, but suspicion is like to make us all wary. Judith has a
right to ask us to be present, and should the chist hold any of Master
Hutter’s secrets, they will fall into the keeping of two as close
mouthed young men as are to be found. We will stay with you, Judith--but
first let us take a look at the lake and the shore, for this chist will
not be emptied in a minute.”

The two men now went out on the platform, and Deerslayer swept the shore
with the glass, while the Indian gravely turned his eye on the water and
the woods, in quest of any sign that might betray the machinations
of their enemies. Nothing was visible, and assured of their temporary
security, the three collected around the chest again, with the avowed
object of opening it.

Judith had held this chest and its unknown contents in a species of
reverence as long as she could remember. Neither her father nor her
mother ever mentioned it in her presence, and there appeared to be a
silent convention that in naming the different objects that occasionally
stood near it, or even lay on its lid, care should be had to avoid any
allusion to the chest itself. Habit had rendered this so easy, and so
much a matter of course, that it was only quite recently the girl had
began even to muse on the singularity of the circumstance. But there had
never been sufficient intimacy between Hutter and his eldest daughter to
invite confidence. At times he was kind, but in general, with her more
especially, he was stern and morose. Least of all had his authority been
exercised in a way to embolden his child to venture on the liberty she
was about to take, without many misgivings of the consequences, although
the liberty proceeded from a desire to serve himself. Then Judith was
not altogether free from a little superstition on the subject of this
chest, which had stood a sort of tabooed relic before her eyes from
childhood to the present hour. Nevertheless the time had come when
it would seem that this mystery was to be explained, and that under
circumstances, too, which left her very little choice in the matter.

Finding that both her companions were watching her movements, in grave
silence, Judith placed a hand on the lid and endeavored to raise it. Her
strength, however, was insufficient, and it appeared to the girl, who
was fully aware that all the fastenings were removed, that she was
resisted in an unhallowed attempt by some supernatural power.

“I cannot raise the lid, Deerslayer!” she said--“Had we not better give
up the attempt, and find some other means of releasing the prisoners?”

“Not so--Judith; not so, gal. No means are as sartain and easy, as a
good bribe,” answered the other. “As for the lid, ‘tis held by nothing
but its own weight, which is prodigious for so small a piece of wood,
loaded with iron as it is.”

As Deerslayer spoke, he applied his own strength to the effort, and
succeeded in raising the lid against the timbers of the house, where he
took care to secure it by a sufficient prop. Judith fairly trembled
as she cast her first glance at the interior, and she felt a temporary
relief in discovering that a piece of canvas, that was carefully tucked
in around the edges, effectually concealed all beneath it. The chest was
apparently well stored, however, the canvas lying within an inch of the
lid.

“Here’s a full cargo,” said Deerslayer, eyeing the arrangement, “and
we had needs go to work leisurely and at our ease. Sarpent, bring some
stools while I spread this blanket on the floor, and then we’ll begin
work orderly and in comfort.”

The Delaware complied, Deerslayer civilly placed a stool for Judith,
took one himself, and commenced the removal of the canvas covering.
This was done deliberately, and in as cautious a manner as if it were
believed that fabrics of a delicate construction lay hidden beneath.
When the canvass was removed, the first articles that came in view were
some of the habiliments of the male sex. They were of fine materials,
and, according to the fashions of the age, were gay in colours and rich
in ornaments. One coat in particular was of scarlet, and had button
holes worked in gold thread. Still it was not military, but was part of
the attire of a civilian of condition, at a period when social rank
was rigidly respected in dress. Chingachgook could not refrain from an
exclamation of pleasure, as soon as Deerslayer opened this coat and held
it up to view, for, notwithstanding all his trained self-command, the
splendor of the vestment was too much for the philosophy of an Indian.
Deerslayer turned quickly, and he regarded his friend with momentary
displeasure as this burst of weakness escaped him, and then he
soliloquized, as was his practice whenever any strong feeling suddenly
got the ascendancy.

“‘Tis his gift!--yes, ‘tis the gift of a red-skin to love finery, and
he is not to be blamed. This is an extr’ornary garment, too, and
extr’ornary things get up extr’ornary feelin’s. I think this will do,
Judith, for the Indian heart is hardly to be found in all America that
can withstand colours like these, and glitter like that. If this coat
was ever made for your father, you’ve come honestly by the taste for
finery, you have.”

“That coat was never made for father,” answered the girl, quickly--“it
is much too long, while father is short and square.”

“Cloth was plenty if it was, and glitter cheap,” answered Deerslayer,
with his silent, joyous laugh. “Sarpent, this garment was made for a man
of your size, and I should like to see it on your shoulders.”

Chingachgook, nothing loath, submitted to the trial, throwing aside the
coarse and thread bare jacket of Hutter, to deck his person in a coat
that was originally intended for a gentleman. The transformation was
ludicrous, but as men are seldom struck with incongruities in their own
appearance, any more than in their own conduct, the Delaware studied
this change in a common glass, by which Hutter was in the habit of
shaving, with grave interest. At that moment he thought of Hist, and
we owe it to truth, to say, though it may militate a little against the
stern character of a warrior to avow it, that he wished he could be seen
by her in his present improved aspect.

“Off with it, Sarpent--off with it,” resumed the inflexible Deerslayer.
“Such garments as little become you as they would become me. Your gifts
are for paint, and hawk’s feathers, and blankets, and wampum, and mine
are for doublets of skins, tough leggings, and sarviceable moccasins.
I say moccasins, Judith, for though white, living as I do in the woods
it’s necessary to take to some of the practyces of the woods, for
comfort’s sake and cheapness.”

“I see no reason, Deerslayer, why one man may not wear a scarlet coat,
as well as another,” returned the girl. “I wish I could see you in this
handsome garment.”

“See me in a coat fit for a Lord!--Well, Judith, if you wait till that
day, you’ll wait until you see me beyond reason and memory. No--no--gal,
my gifts are my gifts, and I’ll live and die in ‘em, though I never
bring down another deer, or spear another salmon. What have I done that
you should wish to see me in such a flaunting coat, Judith?”

“Because I think, Deerslayer, that the false-tongued and false-hearted
young gallants of the garrisons, ought not alone to appear in fine
feathers, but that truth and honesty have their claims to be honored and
exalted.”

“And what exaltification”--the reader will have remarked that Deerslayer
had not very critically studied his dictionary--“and what exaltification
would it be to me, Judith, to be bedizened and bescarleted like a Mingo
chief that has just got his presents up from Quebec? No--no--I’m well as
I am; and if not, I can be no better. Lay the coat down on the blanket,
Sarpent, and let us look farther into the chist.”

The tempting garment, one surely that was never intended for Hutter, was
laid aside, and the examination proceeded. The male attire, all of which
corresponded with the coat in quality, was soon exhausted, and then
succeeded female. A beautiful dress of brocade, a little the worse
from negligent treatment, followed, and this time open exclamations of
delight escaped the lips of Judith. Much as the girl had been addicted
to dress, and favorable as had been her opportunities of seeing
some little pretension in that way among the wives of the different
commandants, and other ladies of the forts, never before had she beheld
a tissue, or tints, to equal those that were now so unexpectedly placed
before her eyes. Her rapture was almost childish, nor would she allow
the inquiry to proceed, until she had attired her person in a robe so
unsuited to her habits and her abode. With this end, she withdrew into
her own room, where with hands practised in such offices, she soon got
rid of her own neat gown of linen, and stood forth in the gay tints of
the brocade. The dress happened to fit the fine, full person of Judith,
and certainly it had never adorned a being better qualified by natural
gifts to do credit to its really rich hues and fine texture. When she
returned, both Deerslayer and Chingachgook, who had passed the brief
time of her absence in taking a second look at the male garments, arose
in surprise, each permitting exclamations of wonder and pleasure to
escape him, in a way so unequivocal as to add new lustre to the eyes
of Judith, by flushing her cheeks with a glow of triumph. Affecting,
however, not to notice the impression she had made, the girl seated
herself with the stateliness of a queen, desiring that the chest might
be looked into, further.

“I don’t know a better way to treat with the Mingos, gal,” cried
Deerslayer, “than to send you ashore as you be, and to tell ‘em that a
queen has arrived among ‘em! They’ll give up old Hutter, and Hurry, and
Hetty, too, at such a spectacle!”

“I thought your tongue too honest to flatter, Deerslayer,” returned the
girl, gratified at this admiration more than she would have cared to
own. “One of the chief reasons of my respect for you, was your love for
truth.”

“And ‘tis truth, and solemn truth, Judith, and nothing else. Never did
eyes of mine gaze on as glorious a lookin’ creatur’ as you be yourself,
at this very moment! I’ve seen beauties in my time, too, both white and
red; and them that was renowned and talk’d of, far and near; but never
have I beheld one that could hold any comparison with what you are at
this blessed instant, Judith; never.”

The glance of delight which the girl bestowed on the frank-speaking
hunter in no degree lessened the effect of her charms, and as the
humid eyes blended with it a look of sensibility, perhaps Judith never
appeared more truly lovely, than at what the young man had called that
“blessed instant.” He shook his head, held it suspended a moment
over the open chest, like one in doubt, and then proceeded with the
examination.

Several of the minor articles of female dress came next, all of a
quality to correspond with the gown. These were laid at Judith’s feet,
in silence, as if she had a natural claim to their possession. One or
two, such as gloves, and lace, the girl caught up, and appended to her
already rich attire in affected playfulness, but with the real design
of decorating her person as far as circumstances would allow. When
these two remarkable suits, male and female they might be termed, were
removed, another canvas covering separated the remainder of the
articles from the part of the chest which they had occupied. As soon
as Deerslayer perceived this arrangement he paused, doubtful of the
propriety of proceeding any further.

“Every man has his secrets, I suppose,” he said, “and all men have
a right to their enj’yment. We’ve got low enough in this chist in my
judgment to answer our wants, and it seems to me we should do well by
going no farther; and by letting Master Hutter have to himself, and his
own feelin’s, all that’s beneath this cover.

“Do you mean, Deerslayer, to offer these clothes to the Iroquois as
ransom?” demanded Judith, quickly.

“Sartain. What are we prying into another man’s chist for, but to sarve
its owner in the best way we can. This coat, alone, would be very apt
to gain over the head chief of the riptyles, and if his wife or darter
should happen to be out with him, that there gownd would soften the
heart of any woman that is to be found atween Albany and Montreal. I do
not see that we want a larger stock in trade than them two articles.”

“To you it may seem so, Deerslayer,” returned the disappointed girl,
“but of what use could a dress like this be to any Indian woman? She
could not wear it among the branches of the trees, the dirt and smoke of
the wigwam would soon soil it, and how would a pair of red arms appear,
thrust through these short, laced sleeves!”

“All very true, gal, and you might go on and say it is altogether out of
time, and place and season, in this region at all. What is it to us how
the finery is treated, so long as it answers our wishes? I do not see
that your father can make any use of such clothes, and it’s lucky he has
things that are of no valie to himself, that will bear a high price with
others. We can make no better trade for him, than to offer these duds
for his liberty. We’ll throw in the light frivol’ties, and get Hurry off
in the bargain.”

“Then you think, Deerslayer, that Thomas Hutter has no one in his
family--no child--no daughter, to whom this dress may be thought
becoming, and whom you could wish to see in it, once and awhile, even
though it should be at long intervals, and only in playfulness?”

“I understand you, Judith--yes, I now understand your meaning, and I
think I can say, your wishes. That you are as glorious in that dress as
the sun when it rises or sets in a soft October day, I’m ready to allow,
and that you greatly become it is a good deal more sartain than that it
becomes you. There’s gifts in clothes, as well as in other things. Now
I do not think that a warrior on his first path ought to lay on the same
awful paints as a chief that has had his virtue tried, and knows from
exper’ence he will not disgrace his pretensions. So it is with all of
us, red or white. You are Thomas Hutter’s darter, and that gownd was
made for the child of some governor, or a lady of high station, and it
was intended to be worn among fine furniture, and in rich company. In
my eyes, Judith, a modest maiden never looks more becoming than when
becomingly clad, and nothing is suitable that is out of character.
Besides, gal, if there’s a creatur’ in the colony that can afford to
do without finery, and to trust to her own good looks and sweet
countenance, it’s yourself.”

“I’ll take off the rubbish this instant, Deerslayer,” cried the girl,
springing up to leave the room, “and never do I wish to see it on any
human being, again.”

“So it is with ‘em, all, Sarpent,” said the other, turning to his friend
and laughing, as soon as the beauty had disappeared. “They like finery,
but they like their natyve charms most of all. I’m glad the gal has
consented to lay aside her furbelows, howsever, for it’s ag’in reason
for one of her class to wear em; and then she is handsome enough, as I
call it, to go alone. Hist would show oncommon likely, too, in such a
gownd, Delaware!”

“Wah-ta-Wah is a red-skin girl, Deerslayer,” returned the Indian, “like
the young of the pigeon, she is to be known by her own feathers. I
should pass by without knowing her, were she dressed in such a skin.
It’s wisest always to be so clad that our friends need not ask us for
our names. The ‘Wild Rose’ is very pleasant, but she is no sweeter for
so many colours.”

“That’s it!--that’s natur’, and the true foundation for love and
protection. When a man stoops to pick a wild strawberry, he does not
expect to find a melon; and when he wishes to gather a melon, he’s
disapp’inted if it proves to be a squash; though squashes be often
brighter to the eye than melons. That’s it, and it means stick to your
gifts, and your gifts will stick to you.”

The two men had now a little discussion together, touching the propriety
of penetrating any farther into the chest of Hutter, when Judith
re-appeared, divested of her robes, and in her own simple linen frock
again.

“Thank you, Judith,” said Deerslayer, taking her kindly by the hand--“for
I know it went a little ag’in the nat’ral cravings of woman, to lay
aside so much finery, as it might be in a lump. But you’re more pleasing
to the eye as you stand, you be, than if you had a crown on your head,
and jewels dangling from your hair. The question now is, whether to lift
this covering to see what will be ra’ally the best bargain we can make
for Master Hutter, for we must do as we think he would be willing to do,
did he stand here in our places.”

Judith looked very happy. Accustomed as she was to adulation, the homely
homage of Deerslayer had given her more true satisfaction, than she had
ever yet received from the tongue of man. It was not the terms in which
this admiration had been expressed, for they were simple enough, that
produced so strong an impression; nor yet their novelty, or their warmth
of manner, nor any of those peculiarities that usually give value to
praise; but the unflinching truth of the speaker, that carried his
words so directly to the heart of the listener. This is one of the
great advantages of plain dealing and frankness. The habitual and wily
flatterer may succeed until his practices recoil on himself, and like
other sweets his aliment cloys by its excess; but he who deals honestly,
though he often necessarily offends, possesses a power of praising that
no quality but sincerity can bestow, since his words go directly to
the heart, finding their support in the understanding. Thus it was with
Deerslayer and Judith. So soon and so deeply did this simple hunter
impress those who knew him with a conviction of his unbending honesty,
that all he uttered in commendation was as certain to please, as all he
uttered in the way of rebuke was as certain to rankle and excite enmity,
where his character had not awakened a respect and affection, that in
another sense rendered it painful. In after life, when the career of
this untutored being brought him in contact with officers of rank, and
others entrusted with the care of the interests of the state, this same
influence was exerted on a wider field, even generals listening to his
commendations with a glow of pleasure, that it was not always in the
power of their official superiors to awaken. Perhaps Judith was the
first individual of his own colour who fairly submitted to this natural
consequence of truth and fair-dealing on the part of Deerslayer. She had
actually pined for his praise, and she had now received it, and that
in the form which was most agreeable to her weaknesses and habits of
thought. The result will appear in the course of the narrative.

“If we knew all that chest holds, Deerslayer,” returned the girl, when
she had a little recovered from the immediate effect produced by his
commendations of her personal appearance, “we could better determine on
the course we ought to take.”

“That’s not onreasonable, gal, though it’s more a pale-face than a
red-skin gift to be prying into other people’s secrets.”

“Curiosity is natural, and it is expected that all human beings should
have human failings. Whenever I’ve been at the garrisons, I’ve found
that most in and about them had a longing to learn their neighbor’s
secrets.”

“Yes, and sometimes to fancy them, when they couldn’t find ‘em out!
That’s the difference atween an Indian gentleman and a white gentleman.
The Sarpent, here, would turn his head aside if he found himself
onknowingly lookin’ into another chief’s wigwam, whereas in the
settlements while all pretend to be great people, most prove they’ve
got betters, by the manner in which they talk of their consarns. I’ll be
bound, Judith, you wouldn’t get the Sarpent, there, to confess there
was another in the tribe so much greater than himself, as to become the
subject of his idees, and to empl’y his tongue in conversations about
his movements, and ways, and food, and all the other little matters that
occupy a man when he’s not empl’y’d in his greater duties. He who does
this is but little better than a blackguard, in the grain, and them that
encourages him is pretty much of the same kidney, let them wear coats as
fine as they may, or of what dye they please.”

“But this is not another man’s wigwam; it belongs to my father, these
are his things, and they are wanted in his service.”

“That’s true, gal; that’s true, and it carries weight with it. Well,
when all is before us we may, indeed, best judge which to offer for the
ransom, and which to withhold.”

Judith was not altogether as disinterested in her feelings as she
affected to be. She remembered that the curiosity of Hetty had
been indulged in connection with this chest, while her own had been
disregarded, and she was not sorry to possess an opportunity of being
placed on a level with her less gifted sister in this one particular. It
appearing to be admitted all round that the enquiry into the contents of
the chest ought to be renewed, Deerslayer proceeded to remove the second
covering of canvass.

The articles that lay uppermost, when the curtain was again raised on
the secrets of the chest, were a pair of pistols, curiously inlaid with
silver. Their value would have been considerable in one of the towns,
though as weapons in the woods they were a species of arms seldom
employed; never, indeed, unless it might be by some officer from
Europe, who visited the colonies, as many were then wont to do, so much
impressed with the superiority of the usages of London as to fancy they
were not to be laid aside on the frontiers of America. What occurred on
the discovery of these weapons will appear in the succeeding chapter.



Chapter XIII.


    “An oaken, broken, elbow-chair;
    A caudle-cup without an ear;
    A battered, shattered ash bedstead;
    A box of deal without a lid;
    A pair of tongs, but out of joint;
    A back-sword poker, without point;
    A dish which might good meat afford once;
    An Ovid, and an old
    Concordance.”

    Thomas Sheridan, “A True and Faithful Inventory of the Goods
    belonging to Dr. Swift,” II. i-6, 13-14.

No sooner did Deerslayer raise the pistols, than he turned to the
Delaware and held them up for his admiration.

“Child gun,” said the Serpent, smiling, while he handled one of the
instruments as if it had been a toy.

“Not it, Sarpent; not it--‘twas made for a man and would satisfy a
giant, if rightly used. But stop; white men are remarkable for their
carelessness in putting away fire arms, in chists and corners. Let me
look if care has been given to these.”

As Deerslayer spoke, he took the weapon from the hand of his friend and
opened the pan. The last was filled with priming, caked like a bit of
cinder, by time, moisture and compression. An application of the ramrod
showed that both the pistols were charged, although Judith could testify
that they had probably lain for years in the chest. It is not easy to
portray the surprise of the Indian at this discovery, for he was in the
practice of renewing his priming daily, and of looking to the contents
of his piece at other short intervals.

“This is white neglect,” said Deerslayer, shaking his head, “and scarce
a season goes by that some one in the settlements doesn’t suffer from
it. It’s extr’ornary too, Judith--yes, it’s downright extr’ornary that
the owner shall fire his piece at a deer, or some other game, or perhaps
at an inimy, and twice out of three times he’ll miss; but let him catch
an accident with one of these forgotten charges, and he makes it sartain
death to a child, or a brother, or a fri’nd! Well, we shall do a good
turn to the owner if we fire these pistols for him, and as they’re
novelties to you and me, Sarpent, we’ll try our hands at a mark. Freshen
that priming, and I’ll do the same with this, and then we’ll see who is
the best man with a pistol; as for the rifle, that’s long been settled
atween us.”

Deerslayer laughed heartily at his own conceit, and, in a minute or two,
they were both standing on the platform, selecting some object in the
Ark for their target. Judith was led by curiosity to their side.

“Stand back, gal, stand a little back; these we’pons have been
long loaded,” said Deerslayer, “and some accident may happen in the
discharge.” “Then you shall not fire them! Give them both to the
Delaware; or it would be better to unload them without firing.”

“That’s ag’in usage--and some people say, ag’in manhood; though I hold
to no such silly doctrine. We must fire ‘em, Judith; yes, we must fire
‘em; though I foresee that neither will have any great reason to boast
of his skill.”

Judith, in the main, was a girl of great personal spirit, and her habits
prevented her from feeling any of the terror that is apt to come over
her sex at the report of fire arms. She had discharged many a rifle,
and had even been known to kill a deer, under circumstances that were
favorable to the effort. She submitted therefore, falling a little back
by the side of Deerslayer, giving the Indian the front of the platform
to himself. Chingachgook raised the weapon several times, endeavored to
steady it by using both hands, changed his attitude from one that was
awkward to another still more so, and finally drew the trigger with a
sort of desperate indifference, without having, in reality, secured any
aim at all. The consequence was, that instead of hitting the knot which
had been selected for the mark, he missed the ark altogether; the bullet
skipping along the water like a stone that was thrown by hand.

“Well done--Sarpent--well done--” cried Deerslayer laughing, with his
noiseless glee, “you’ve hit the lake, and that’s an expl’ite for some
men! I know’d it, and as much as said it, here, to Judith; for your
short we’pons don’t belong to red-skin gifts. You’ve hit the lake, and
that’s better than only hitting the air! Now, stand back and let us see
what white gifts can do with a white we’pon. A pistol isn’t a rifle, but
colour is colour.”

The aim of Deerslayer was both quick and steady, and the report followed
almost as soon as the weapon rose. Still the pistol hung fire, as it is
termed, and fragments of it flew in a dozen directions, some falling on
the roof of the castle, others in the Ark, and one in the water. Judith
screamed, and when the two men turned anxiously towards the girl she was
as pale as death, trembling in every limb.

“She’s wounded--yes, the poor gal’s wounded, Sarpent, though one
couldn’t foresee it, standing where she did. We’ll lead her in to a
seat, and we must do the best for her that our knowledge and skill can
afford.”

Judith allowed herself to be supported to a seat, swallowed a mouthful
of the water that the Delaware offered her in a gourd, and, after a
violent fit of trembling that seemed ready to shake her fine frame to
dissolution, she burst into tears.

“The pain must be borne, poor Judith--yes, it must be borne,” said
Deerslayer, soothingly, “though I am far from wishing you not to weep;
for weeping often lightens galish feelin’s. Where can she be hurt,
Sarpent? I see no signs of blood, nor any rent of skin or garments?”

“I am uninjured, Deerslayer,” stammered the girl through her tears.
“It’s fright--nothing more, I do assure you, and, God be praised! no
one, I find, has been harmed by the accident.”

“This is extr’ornary!” exclaimed the unsuspecting and simple minded
hunter--“I thought, Judith, you’d been above settlement weaknesses,
and that you was a gal not to be frightened by the sound of a bursting
we’pon--No--I didn’t think you so skeary! Hetty might well have been
startled; but you’ve too much judgment and reason to be frightened
when the danger’s all over. They’re pleasant to the eye, chief, and
changeful, but very unsartain in their feelin’s!”

Shame kept Judith silent. There had been no acting in her agitation, but
all had fairly proceeded from sudden and uncontrollable alarm--an alarm
that she found almost as inexplicable to herself, as it proved to be
to her companions. Wiping away the traces of tears, however, she smiled
again, and was soon able to join in the laugh at her own folly.

“And you, Deerslayer,” she at length succeeded in saying--“are you,
indeed, altogether unhurt? It seems almost miraculous that a pistol
should have burst in your hand, and you escape without the loss of a
limb, if not of life!”

“Such wonders ar’n’t oncommon, at all, among worn out arms. The first
rifle they gave me play’d the same trick, and yet I liv’d through it,
though not as onharmless as I’ve got out of this affair. Thomas Hutter
is master of one pistol less than he was this morning, but, as it
happened in trying to sarve him, there’s no ground of complaint. Now,
draw near, and let us look farther into the inside of the chist.”

Judith, by this time, had so far gotten the better of her agitation as
to resume her seat, and the examination went on. The next article that
offered was enveloped in cloth, and on opening it, it proved to be one
of the mathematical instruments that were then in use among seamen,
possessing the usual ornaments and fastenings in brass. Deerslayer and
Chingachgook expressed their admiration and surprise at the appearance
of the unknown instrument, which was bright and glittering, having
apparently been well cared for.

“This goes beyond the surveyors, Judith!” Deerslayer exclaimed, after
turning the instrument several times in his hands. “I’ve seen all their
tools often, and wicked and heartless enough are they, for they never
come into the forest but to lead the way to waste and destruction; but
none of them have as designing a look as this! I fear me, after all,
that Thomas Hutter has journeyed into the wilderness with no fair
intentions towards its happiness. Did you ever see any of the cravings
of a surveyor about your father, gal?”

“He is no surveyor, Deerslayer, nor does he know the use of that
instrument, though he seems to own it. Do you suppose that Thomas Hutter
ever wore that coat? It is as much too large for him, as this instrument
is beyond his learning.”

“That’s it--that must be it, Sarpent, and the old fellow, by some
onknown means, has fallen heir to another man’s goods! They say he has
been a mariner, and no doubt this chist, and all it holds--ha! What have
we here?--This far out does the brass and black wood of the tool!”

Deerslayer had opened a small bag, from which he was taking, one by one,
the pieces of a set of chessmen. They were of ivory, much larger than
common, and exquisitely wrought. Each piece represented the character
or thing after which it is named; the knights being mounted, the castles
stood on elephants, and even the pawns possessed the heads and busts of
men. The set was not complete, and a few fractures betrayed bad usage;
but all that was left had been carefully put away and preserved. Even
Judith expressed wonder, as these novel objects were placed before her
eyes, and Chingachgook fairly forgot his Indian dignity in admiration
and delight. The latter took up each piece, and examined it with never
tiring satisfaction, pointing out to the girl the more ingenious and
striking portions of the workmanship. But the elephants gave him the
greatest pleasure. The “Hughs!” that he uttered, as he passed his
fingers over their trunks, and ears, and tails, were very distinct,
nor did he fail to note the pawns, which were armed as archers. This
exhibition lasted several minutes, during which time Judith and the
Indian had all the rapture to themselves. Deerslayer sat silent,
thoughtful, and even gloomy, though his eyes followed each movement of
the two principal actors, noting every new peculiarity about the pieces
as they were held up to view. Not an exclamation of pleasure, nor a word
of condemnation passed his lips. At length his companions observed
his silence, and then, for the first time since the chessmen had been
discovered, did he speak.

“Judith,” he asked earnestly, but with a concern that amounted almost to
tenderness of manner, “did your parents ever talk to you of religion?”

The girl coloured, and the flashes of crimson that passed over her
beautiful countenance were like the wayward tints of a Neapolitan sky in
November. Deerslayer had given her so strong a taste for truth,
however, that she did not waver in her answer, replying simply and with
sincerity.

“My mother did often,” she said, “my father never. I thought it made my
mother sorrowful to speak of our prayers and duties, but my father has
never opened his mouth on such matters, before or since her death.”

“That I can believe--that I can believe. He has no God--no such God
as it becomes a man of white skin to worship, or even a red-skin. Them
things are idols!”

Judith started, and for a moment she seemed seriously hurt. Then she
reflected, and in the end she laughed. “And you think, Deerslayer, that
these ivory toys are my father’s Gods? I have heard of idols, and know
what they are.”

“Them are idols!” repeated the other, positively. “Why should your
father keep ‘em, if he doesn’t worship ‘em.”

“Would he keep his gods in a bag, and locked up in a chest? No, no,
Deerslayer; my poor father carries his God with him, wherever he goes,
and that is in his own cravings. These things may really be idols--I
think they are myself, from what I have heard and read of idolatry,
but they have come from some distant country, and like all the other
articles, have fallen into Thomas Hutter’s hands when he was a sailor.”

“I’m glad of it--I am downright glad to hear it, Judith, for I do not
think I could have mustered the resolution to strive to help a white
idolater out of his difficulties! The old man is of my colour and nation
and I wish to sarve him, but as one who denied all his gifts, in the way
of religion, it would have come hard to do so. That animal seems to give
you great satisfaction, Sarpent, though it’s an idolatrous beast at the
best.”

“It is an elephant,” interrupted Judith. “I’ve often seen pictures of
such animals, at the garrisons, and mother had a book in which there was
a printed account of the creature. Father burnt that with all the other
books, for he said Mother loved reading too well. This was not long
before mother died, and I’ve sometimes thought that the loss hastened
her end.”

This was said equally without levity and without any very deep
feeling. It was said without levity, for Judith was saddened by her
recollections, and yet she had been too much accustomed to live for
self, and for the indulgence of her own vanities, to feel her mother’s
wrongs very keenly. It required extraordinary circumstances to awaken a
proper sense of her situation, and to stimulate the better feelings of
this beautiful, but misguided girl, and those circumstances had not yet
occurred in her brief existence.

“Elephant, or no elephant, ‘tis an idol,” returned the hunter, “and not
fit to remain in Christian keeping.”

“Good for Iroquois!” said Chingachgook, parting with one of the castles
with reluctance, as his friend took it from him to replace it in the
bag--“Elephon buy whole tribe--buy Delaware, almost!”

“Ay, that it would, as any one who comprehends red-skin natur’ must
know,” answered Deerslayer, “but the man that passes false money,
Sarpent, is as bad as he who makes it. Did you ever know a just Injin
that wouldn’t scorn to sell a ‘coon skin for the true marten, or to pass
off a mink for a beaver. I know that a few of these idols, perhaps one
of them elephants, would go far towards buying Thomas Hutter’s liberty,
but it goes ag’in conscience to pass such counterfeit money. Perhaps no
Injin tribe, hereaway, is downright idolators but there’s some that come
so near it, that white gifts ought to be particular about encouraging
them in their mistake.”

“If idolatry is a gift, Deerslayer, and gifts are what you seem to think
them, idolatry in such people can hardly be a sin,” said Judith with
more smartness than discrimination.

“God grants no such gifts to any of his creatur’s, Judith,” returned the
hunter, seriously. “He must be adored, under some name or other, and not
creatur’s of brass or ivory. It matters not whether the Father of All is
called God, or Manitou, Deity or Great Spirit, he is none the less our
common maker and master; nor does it count for much whether the souls
of the just go to Paradise, or Happy Hunting Grounds, since He may send
each his own way, as suits his own pleasure and wisdom; but it curdles
my blood, when I find human mortals so bound up in darkness and consait,
as to fashion the ‘arth, or wood, or bones, things made by their own
hands, into motionless, senseless effigies, and then fall down afore
them, and worship ‘em as a Deity!”

“After all, Deerslayer, these pieces of ivory may not be idols, at all.
I remember, now, to have seen one of the officers at the garrison with
a set of fox and geese made in some such a design as these, and here is
something hard, wrapped in cloth, that may belong to your idols.”

Deerslayer took the bundle the girl gave him, and unrolling it, he found
the board within. Like the pieces it was large, rich, and inlaid with
ebony and ivory. Putting the whole in conjunction the hunter, though
not without many misgivings, slowly came over to Judith’s opinion, and
finally admitted that the fancied idols must be merely the curiously
carved men of some unknown game. Judith had the tact to use her victory
with great moderation, nor did she once, even in the most indirect
manner, allude to the ludicrous mistake of her companion.

This discovery of the uses of the extraordinary-looking little images
settled the affair of the proposed ransom. It was agreed generally, and
all understood the weaknesses and tastes of Indians, that nothing could
be more likely to tempt the cupidity of the Iroquois than the elephants,
in particular. Luckily the whole of the castles were among the pieces,
and these four tower-bearing animals it was finally determined should be
the ransom offered. The remainder of the men, and, indeed, all the rest
of the articles in the chest, were to be kept out of view, and to be
resorted to only as a last appeal. As soon as these preliminaries were
settled, everything but those intended for the bribe was carefully
replaced in the chest, all the covers were ‘tucked in’ as they had
been found, and it was quite possible, could Hutter have been put in
possession of the castle again, that he might have passed the remainder
of his days in it without even suspecting the invasion that had been
made on the privacy of the chest. The rent pistol would have been the
most likely to reveal the secret, but this was placed by the side of its
fellow, and all were pressed down as before, some half a dozen packages
in the bottom of the chest not having been opened at all. When this was
done the lid was lowered, the padlocks replaced, and the key turned. The
latter was then replaced in the pocket from which it had been taken.

More than an hour was consumed in settling the course proper to be
pursued, and in returning everything to its place. The pauses to
converse were frequent, and Judith, who experienced a lively pleasure
in the open, undisguised admiration with which Deerslayer’s honest eyes
gazed at her handsome face, found the means to prolong the interview,
with a dexterity that seems to be innate in female coquetry. Deerslayer,
indeed, appeared to be the first who was conscious of the time that had
been thus wasted, and to call the attention of his companions to the
necessity of doing something towards putting the plan of ransoming into
execution. Chingachgook had remained in Hutter’s bed room, where the
elephants were laid, to feast his eyes with the images of animals so
wonderful, and so novel. Perhaps an instinct told him that his presence
would not be as acceptable to his companions as this holding himself
aloof, for Judith had not much reserve in the manifestations of her
preferences, and the Delaware had not got so far as one betrothed
without acquiring some knowledge of the symptoms of the master passion.

“Well, Judith,” said Deerslayer, rising, after the interview had lasted
much longer than even he himself suspected, “‘tis pleasant convarsing
with you, and settling all these matters, but duty calls us another way.
All this time, Hurry and your father, not to say Hetty--” The word was
cut short in the speaker’s mouth, for, at that critical moment, a light
step was heard on the platform, or ‘court-yard’, a human figure darkened
the doorway, and the person last mentioned stood before him. The low
exclamation that escaped Deerslayer and the slight scream of Judith were
hardly uttered, when an Indian youth, between the ages of fifteen and
seventeen, stood beside her. These two entrances had been made with
moccasined feet, and consequently almost without noise, but, unexpected
and stealthy as they were, they had not the effect to disturb
Deerslayer’s self possession. His first measure was to speak rapidly in
Delaware to his friend, cautioning him to keep out of sight, while he
stood on his guard; the second was to step to the door to ascertain
the extent of the danger. No one else, however, had come, and a simple
contrivance, in the shape of a raft, that lay floating at the side of
the Ark, at once explained the means that had been used in bringing
Hetty off. Two dead and dry, and consequently buoyant, logs of pine
were bound together with pins and withes and a little platform of riven
chestnut had been rudely placed on their surfaces. Here Hetty had been
seated, on a billet of wood, while the young Iroquois had rowed the
primitive and slow-moving, but perfectly safe craft from the shore.

As soon as Deerslayer had taken a close survey of this raft, and
satisfied himself nothing else was near, he shook his head and muttered
in his soliloquizing way--“This comes of prying into another man’s
chist! Had we been watchful, and keen eyed, such a surprise could never
have happened, and, getting this much from a boy teaches us what we
may expect when the old warriors set themselves fairly about their
sarcumventions. It opens the way, howsever, to a treaty for the ransom,
and I will hear what Hetty has to say.”

Judith, as soon as her surprise and alarm had a little abated,
discovered a proper share of affectionate joy at the return of her
sister. She folded her to her bosom, and kissed her, as had been her
wont in the days of their childhood and innocence. Hetty herself was
less affected, for to her there was no surprise, and her nerves were
sustained by the purity and holiness of her purpose. At her sister’s
request she took a seat, and entered into an account of her adventures
since they had parted. Her tale commenced just as Deerslayer returned,
and he also became an attentive listener, while the young Iroquois stood
near the door, seemingly as indifferent to what was passing as one of
its posts.

The narrative of the girl was sufficiently clear, until she reached the
time where we left her in the camp, after the interview with the chiefs,
and, at the moment when Hist quitted her, in the abrupt manner already
related. The sequel of the story may be told in her own language.

“When I read the texts to the chiefs, Judith, you could not have seen
that they made any changes on their minds,” she said, “but if seed is
planted, it will grow. God planted the seeds of all these trees--”

“Ay that did he--that did he--” muttered Deerslayer; “and a goodly
harvest has followed.”

“God planted the seeds of all these trees,” continued Hetty, after a
moment’s pause, “and you see to what a height and shade they have grown!
So it is with the Bible. You may read a verse this year, and forget
it, and it will come back to you a year hence, when you least expect to
remember it.”

“And did you find any thing of this among the savages, poor Hetty?”

“Yes, Judith, and sooner and more fully than I had even hoped. I did not
stay long with father and Hurry, but went to get my breakfast with Hist.
As soon as we had done the chiefs came to us, and then we found the
fruits of the seed that had been planted. They said what I had read
from the good book was right--it must be right--it sounded right; like a
sweet bird singing in their ears; and they told me to come back and say
as much to the great warrior who had slain one of their braves; and to
tell it to you, and to say how happy they should be to come to church
here, in the castle, or to come out in the sun, and hear me read more
of the sacred volume--and to tell you that they wish you would lend them
some canoes that they can bring father and Hurry and their women to the
castle, that we might all sit on the platform there and listen to the
singing of the Pale-face Manitou. There, Judith; did you ever know of
any thing that so plainly shows the power of the Bible, as that!”

“If it were true ‘t would be a miracle, indeed, Hetty. But all this is
no more than Indian cunning and Indian treachery, striving to get the
better of us by management, when they find it is not to be done by
force.”

“Do you doubt the Bible, sister, that you judge the savages so harshly!”

“I do not doubt the Bible, poor Hetty, but I much doubt an Indian and an
Iroquois. What do you say to this visit, Deerslayer?”

“First let me talk a little with Hetty,” returned the party appealed to;
“Was the raft made a’ter you had got your breakfast, gal, and did you
walk from the camp to the shore opposite to us, here?”

“Oh! no, Deerslayer. The raft was ready made and in the water--could that
have been by a miracle, Judith?”

“Yes--yes--an Indian miracle,” rejoined the hunter--“They’re expart
enough in them sort of miracles. And you found the raft ready made to
your hands, and in the water, and in waiting like for its cargo?”

“It was all as you say. The raft was near the camp, and the Indians
put me on it, and had ropes of bark, and they dragged me to the place
opposite to the castle, and then they told that young man to row me off,
here.”

“And the woods are full of the vagabonds, waiting to know what is to be
the upshot of the miracle. We comprehend this affair, now, Judith, but
I’ll first get rid of this young Canada blood sucker, and then we’ll
settle our own course. Do you and Hetty leave us together, first
bringing me the elephants, which the Sarpent is admiring, for ‘twill
never do to let this loping deer be alone a minute, or he’ll borrow a
canoe without asking.”

Judith did as desired, first bringing the pieces, and retiring with her
sister into their own room. Deerslayer had acquired some knowledge of
most of the Indian dialects of that region, and he knew enough of the
Iroquois to hold a dialogue in the language. Beckoning to the lad,
therefore, he caused him to take a seat on the chest, when he placed
two of the castles suddenly before him. Up to that moment, this youthful
savage had not expressed a single intelligible emotion, or fancy. There
were many things, in and about the place, that were novelties to him,
but he had maintained his self-command with philosophical composure. It
is true, Deerslayer had detected his dark eye scanning the defences and
the arms, but the scrutiny had been made with such an air of innocence,
in such a gaping, indolent, boyish manner, that no one but a man who had
himself been taught in a similar school, would have even suspected
his object. The instant, however, the eyes of the savage fell upon the
wrought ivory, and the images of the wonderful, unknown beasts, surprise
and admiration got the mastery of him. The manner in which the natives
of the South Sea Islands first beheld the toys of civilized life has
been often described, but the reader is not to confound it with the
manner of an American Indian, under similar circumstances. In this
particular case, the young Iroquois or Huron permitted an exclamation of
rapture to escape him, and then he checked himself like one who had
been guilty of an indecorum. After this, his eyes ceased to wander, but
became riveted on the elephants, one of which, after a short hesitation,
he even presumed to handle. Deerslayer did not interrupt him for
quite ten minutes, knowing that the lad was taking such note of the
curiosities, as would enable him to give the most minute and accurate
description of their appearance to his seniors, on his return. When he
thought sufficient time had been allowed to produce the desired effect,
the hunter laid a finger on the naked knee of the youth and drew his
attention to himself.

“Listen,” he said; “I want to talk with my young friend from the
Canadas. Let him forget that wonder for a minute.”

“Where t’other pale brother?” demanded the boy, looking up and letting
the idea that had been most prominent in his mind, previously to the
introduction of the chess men, escape him involuntarily.

“He sleeps, or if he isn’t fairly asleep, he is in the room where the
men do sleep,” returned Deerslayer. “How did my young friend know there
was another?”

“See him from the shore. Iroquois have got long eyes--see beyond the
clouds--see the bottom of the Great Spring!”

“Well, the Iroquois are welcome. Two pale-faces are prisoners in the
camp of your fathers, boy.”

The lad nodded, treating the circumstance with great apparent
indifference; though a moment after he laughed as if exulting in the
superior address of his own tribe.

“Can you tell me, boy, what your chiefs intend to do with these
captyves, or haven’t they yet made up their minds?”

The lad looked a moment at the hunter with a little surprise. Then he
coolly put the end of his fore finger on his own head, just above the
left ear, and passed it round his crown with an accuracy and readiness
that showed how well he had been drilled in the peculiar art of his
race.

“When?” demanded Deerslayer, whose gorge rose at this cool demonstration
of indifference to human life. “And why not take them to your wigwams?”

“Road too long, and full of pale-faces. Wigwam full, and scalps sell
high. Small scalp, much gold.”

“Well that explains it--yes, that does explain it. There’s no need of
being any plainer. Now you know, lad, that the oldest of your prisoners
is the father of these two young women, and the other is the suitor of
one of them. The gals nat’rally wish to save the scalps of such fri’nds,
and they will give them two ivory creaturs, as ransom. One for each
scalp. Go back and tell this to your chiefs, and bring me the answer
before the sun sets.”

The boy entered zealously into this project, and with a sincerity that
left no doubt of his executing his commission with intelligence and
promptitude. For a moment he forgot his love of honor, and all his
clannish hostility to the British and their Indians, in his wish to
have such a treasure in his tribe, and Deerslayer was satisfied with the
impression he had made. It is true the lad proposed to carry one of the
elephants with him, as a specimen of the other, but to this his brother
negotiator was too sagacious to consent; well knowing that it might
never reach its destination if confided to such hands. This little
difficulty was soon arranged, and the boy prepared to depart. As he
stood on the platform, ready to step aboard of the raft, he hesitated,
and turned short with a proposal to borrow a canoe, as the means most
likely to shorten the negotiations. Deerslayer quietly refused the
request, and, after lingering a little longer, the boy rowed slowly away
from the castle, taking the direction of a thicket on the shore that lay
less than half a mile distant. Deerslayer seated himself on a stool and
watched the progress of the ambassador, sometimes closely scanning the
whole line of shore, as far as eye could reach, and then placing an
elbow on a knee, he remained a long time with his chin resting on the
hand.

During the interview between Deerslayer and the lad, a different scene
took place in the adjoining room. Hetty had inquired for the Delaware,
and being told why and where he remained concealed, she joined him. The
reception which Chingachgook gave his visitor was respectful and gentle.
He understood her character, and, no doubt, his disposition to be kind
to such a being was increased by the hope of learning some tidings of
his betrothed. As soon as the girl entered she took a seat, and invited
the Indian to place himself near her; then she continued silent, as if
she thought it decorous for him to question her, before she consented to
speak on the subject she had on her mind. But, as Chingachgook did not
understand this feeling, he remained respectfully attentive to any thing
she might be pleased to tell him.

“You are Chingachgook, the Great Serpent of the Delawares, ar’n’t
you?” the girl at length commenced, in her own simple way losing her
self-command in the desire to proceed, but anxious first to make sure
of the individual. “Chingachgook,” returned the Delaware with grave
dignity. “That say Great Sarpent, in Deerslayer tongue.”

“Well, that is my tongue. Deerslayer, and father, and Judith, and I,
and poor Hurry Harry--do you know Henry March, Great Serpent? I know you
don’t, however, or he would have spoken of you, too.”

“Did any tongue name Chingachgook, Drooping-Lily”? for so the chief had
named poor Hetty. “Was his name sung by a little bird among Iroquois?”

Hetty did not answer at first, but, with that indescribable feeling that
awakens sympathy and intelligence among the youthful and unpracticed
of her sex, she hung her head, and the blood suffused her cheek ere she
found her tongue. It would have exceeded her stock of intelligence to
explain this embarrassment, but, though poor Hetty could not reason, on
every emergency, she could always feel. The colour slowly receded from
her cheeks, and the girl looked up archly at the Indian, smiling with
the innocence of a child, mingled with the interest of a woman.

“My sister, the Drooping Lily, hear such bird!” Chingachgook added, and
this with a gentleness of tone and manner that would have astonished
those who sometimes heard the discordant cries that often came from the
same throat; these transitions from the harsh and guttural, to the soft
and melodious not being infrequent in ordinary Indian dialogues. “My
sister’s ears were open--has she lost her tongue?”

“You are Chingachgook--you must be; for there is no other red man here,
and she thought Chingachgook would come.”

“Chin-gach-gook,” pronouncing the name slowly, and dwelling on each
syllable--“Great Sarpent, Yengeese tongue.”

[It is singular there should be any question concerning the origin of
the well-known sobriquet of “Yankees.” Nearly all the old writers who
speak of the Indians first known to the colonists make them
pronounce the word “English” as “Yengeese.” Even at this day, it is a
provincialism of New England to say “Anglish” instead of “Inglish,” and
there is a close conformity of sound between “Anglish” and “yengeese,”
 more especially if the latter word, as was probably the case, be
pronounced short. The transition from “Yengeese,” thus pronounced, to
“Yankees” is quite easy. If the former is pronounced “Yangis,” it is
almost identical with “Yankees,” and Indian words have seldom been spelt
as they are pronounced. Thus the scene of this tale is spelt “Otsego,”
 and is properly pronounced “Otsago.” The liquids of the Indians would
easily convert “En” into “Yen.”]

“Chin-gach-gook,” repeated Hetty, in the same deliberate manner. “Yes,
so Hist called it, and you must be the chief.”

“Wah-ta-Wah,” added the Delaware.

“Wah-ta-Wah, or Hist-oh-Hist. I think Hist prettier than Wah, and so I
call her Hist.”

“Wah very sweet in Delaware ears!”

“You make it sound differently from me. But, never mind, I did hear the
bird you speak of sing, Great Serpent.”

“Will my sister say words of song? What she sing most--how she
look--often she laugh?”

“She sang Chin-gach-gook oftener than any thing else; and she laughed
heartily, when I told how the Iroquois waded into the water after us,
and couldn’t catch us. I hope these logs haven’t ears, Serpent!”

“No fear logs; fear sister next room. No fear Iroquois; Deerslayer stuff
his eyes and ears with strange beast.”

“I understand you, Serpent, and I understood Hist. Sometimes I think I’m
not half as feeble minded as they say I am. Now, do you look up at the
roof, and I’ll tell you all. But you frighten me, you look so eager when
I speak of Hist.”

The Indian controlled his looks, and affected to comply with the simple
request of the girl.

“Hist told me to say, in a very low voice, that you mustn’t trust the
Iroquois in anything. They are more artful than any Indians she knows.
Then she says that there is a large bright star that comes over the
hill, about an hour after dark”--Hist had pointed out the planet
Jupiter, without knowing it--“and just as that star comes in sight, she
will be on the point, where I landed last night, and that you must come
for her, in a canoe.”

“Good--Chingachgook understand well enough, now; but he understand
better if my sister sing him ag’in.”

Hetty repeated her words, more fully explaining what star was meant, and
mentioning the part of the point where he was to venture ashore. She now
proceeded in her own unsophisticated way to relate her intercourse with
the Indian maid, and to repeat several of her expressions and opinions
that gave great delight to the heart of her betrothed. She particularly
renewed her injunctions to be on their guard against treachery, a
warning that was scarcely needed, however, as addressed to men as
wary as those to whom it was sent. She also explained with sufficient
clearness, for on all such subjects the mind of the girl seldom failed
her, the present state of the enemy, and the movements they had made
since morning. Hist had been on the raft with her until it quitted the
shore, and was now somewhere in the woods, opposite to the castle, and
did not intend to return to the camp until night approached; when she
hoped to be able to slip away from her companions, as they followed
the shore on their way home, and conceal herself on the point. No
one appeared to suspect the presence of Chingachgook, though it was
necessarily known that an Indian had entered the Ark the previous night,
and it was suspected that he had since appeared in and about the castle
in the dress of a pale-face. Still some little doubt existed on the
latter point, for, as this was the season when white men might be
expected to arrive, there was some fear that the garrison of the castle
was increasing by these ordinary means. All this had Hist communicated
to Hetty while the Indians were dragging them along shore, the distance,
which exceeded six miles, affording abundance of time.

“Hist don’t know, herself, whether they suspect her or not, or whether
they suspect you, but she hopes neither is the case. And now, Serpent,
since I have told you so much from your betrothed,” continued Hetty,
unconsciously taking one of the Indian’s hands, and playing with the
fingers, as a child is often seen to play with those of a parent, “you
must let me tell you something from myself. When you marry Hist, you
must be kind to her, and smile on her, as you do now on me, and not look
cross as some of the chiefs do at their squaws. Will you promise this?”

“Alway good to Wah!--too tender to twist hard; else she break.”

“Yes, and smile, too; you don’t know how much a girl craves smiles
from them she loves. Father scarce smiled on me once, while I was with
him--and, Hurry--Yes--Hurry talked loud and laughed, but I don’t think
he smiled once either. You know the difference between a smile and a
laugh?”

“Laugh, best. Hear Wah laugh, think bird sing!”

“I know that; her laugh is pleasant, but you must smile. And then,
Serpent, you mustn’t make her carry burthens and hoe corn, as so many
Indians do; but treat her more as the pale-faces treat their wives.”

“Wah-ta-Wah no pale-face--got red-skin; red heart, red feelin’s. All
red; no pale-face. Must carry papoose.”

“Every woman is willing to carry her child,” said Hetty smiling, “and
there is no harm in that. But you must love Hist, and be gentle, and
good to her; for she is gentle and good herself.”

Chingachgook gravely bowed, and then he seemed to think this part of the
subject might be dismissed. Before there was time for Hetty to resume
her communications, the voice of Deerslayer was heard calling on his
friend, in the outer room. At this summons the Serpent arose to obey,
and Hetty joined her sister.



Chapter XIV.


    “‘A stranger animal,’ cries one,
    ‘Sure never liv’d beneath the sun;
    A lizard’s body lean and long,
    A fish’s head, a serpent’s tongue,
    Its foot, with triple claw disjoined;
    And what a length of tail behind!’”

    James Merrick, “The Chameleon,” 11.21-26.

The first act of the Delaware, on rejoining his friend, was to proceed
gravely to disencumber himself of his civilized attire, and to stand
forth an Indian warrior again. The protest of Deerslayer was met by his
communicating the fact that the presence of an Indian in the hut was
known to the Iroquois, and that maintaining the disguise would be more
likely to direct suspicions to his real object, than if he came out
openly as a member of a hostile tribe. When the latter understood the
truth, and was told that he had been deceived in supposing the chief had
succeeded in entering the Ark undiscovered, he cheerfully consented to
the change, since further attempt at concealment was useless. A gentler
feeling than the one avowed, however, lay at the bottom of the Indian’s
desire to appear as a son of the forest. He had been told that Hist was
on the opposite shore, and nature so far triumphed over all distinctions
of habit, and tribes and people, as to reduce this young savage warrior
to the level of a feeling which would have been found in the most
refined inhabitant of a town, under similar circumstances. There was a
mild satisfaction in believing that she he loved could see him, and as
he walked out on the platform in his scanty, native attire, an Apollo
of the wilderness, a hundred of the tender fancies that fleet through
lovers’ brains beset his imagination and softened his heart. All this
was lost on Deerslayer, who was no great adept in the mysteries of
Cupid, but whose mind was far more occupied with the concerns that
forced themselves on his attention, than with any of the truant fancies
of love. He soon recalled his companion, therefore, to a sense of their
actual condition, by summoning him to a sort of council of war, in which
they were to settle their future course. In the dialogue that followed,
the parties mutually made each other acquainted with what had passed
in their several interviews. Chingachgook was told the history of the
treaty about the ransom, and Deerslayer heard the whole of Hetty’s
communications. The latter listened with generous interest to his
friend’s hopes, and promised cheerfully all the assistance he could
lend.

“‘Tis our main ar’n’d, Sarpent, as you know, this battling for the
castle and old Hutter’s darters, coming in as a sort of accident.
Yes--yes--I’ll be actyve in helping little Hist, who’s not only one
of the best and handsomest maidens of the tribe, but the very best and
handsomest. I’ve always encouraged you, chief, in that liking, and it’s
proper, too, that a great and ancient race like your’n shouldn’t come to
an end. If a woman of red skin and red gifts could get to be near enough
to me to wish her for a wife, I’d s’arch for just such another, but that
can never be; no, that can never be. I’m glad Hetty has met with
Hist, howsever, for though the first is a little short of wit and
understanding, the last has enough for both. Yes, Sarpent,” laughing
heartily--“put ‘em together, and two smarter gals isn’t to be found in
all York Colony!”

“I will go to the Iroquois camp,” returned the Delaware, gravely. “No
one knows Chingachgook but Wah, and a treaty for lives and scalps
should be made by a chief. Give me the strange beasts, and let me take a
canoe.”

Deerslayer dropped his head and played with the end of a fish-pole in
the water, as he sat dangling his legs over the edge of the platform,
like a man who was lost in thought by the sudden occurrence of a novel
idea. Instead of directly answering the proposal of his friend, he began
to soliloquize, a circumstance however that in no manner rendered
his words more true, as he was remarkable for saying what he thought,
whether the remarks were addressed to himself, or to any one else.

“Yes--yes--” he said--“this must be what they call love! I’ve heard
say that it sometimes upsets reason altogether, leaving a young man as
helpless, as to calculation and caution, as a brute beast. To think that
the Sarpent should be so lost to reason, and cunning, and wisdom! We
must sartainly manage to get Hist off, and have ‘em married as soon
as we get back to the tribe, or this war will be of no more use to the
chief, than a hunt a little oncommon extr’ornary. Yes--Yes--he’ll never
be the man he was, till this matter is off his mind, and he comes to his
senses like all the rest of mankind. Sarpent, you can’t be in airnest,
and therefore I shall say but little to your offer. But you’re a chief,
and will soon be sent out on the war path at head of the parties, and
I’ll just ask if you’d think of putting your forces into the inimy’s
hands, afore the battle is fou’t?”

“Wah!” ejaculated the Indian.

“Ay--Wah--I know well enough it’s Wah, and altogether Wah--Ra’ally,
Sarpent, I’m consarned and mortified about you! I never heard so weak an
idee come from a chief, and he, too, one that’s already got a name for
being wise, young and inexper’enced as he is. Canoe you sha’n’t have, so
long as the v’ice of fri’ndship and warning can count for any thing.”

“My pale-face friend is right. A cloud came over the face of
Chingachgook, and weakness got into his mind, while his eyes were dim.
My brother has a good memory for good deeds, and a weak memory for bad.
He will forget.”

“Yes, that’s easy enough. Say no more about it chief, but if another
of them clouds blow near you, do your endivours to get out of its way.
Clouds are bad enough in the weather, but when they come to the reason,
it gets to be serious. Now, sit down by me here, and let us calculate
our movements a little, for we shall soon either have a truce and
a peace, or we shall come to an actyve and bloody war. You see the
vagabonds can make logs sarve their turn, as well as the best raftsmen
on the rivers, and it would be no great expl’ite for them to invade us
in a body. I’ve been thinking of the wisdom of putting all old Tom’s
stores into the Ark, of barring and locking up the Castle, and of taking
to the Ark, altogether. That is moveable, and by keeping the sail up,
and shifting places, we might worry through a great many nights, without
them Canada wolves finding a way into our sheep fold!”

Chingachgook listened to this plan with approbation. Did the negotiation
fail, there was now little hope that the night would pass without
an assault, and the enemy had sagacity enough to understand that
in carrying the castle they would probably become masters of all it
contained, the offered ransom included, and still retain the advantages
they had hitherto gained. Some precaution of the sort appeared to be
absolutely necessary, for now the numbers of the Iroquois were known, a
night attack could scarcely be successfully met. It would be impossible
to prevent the enemy from getting possession of the canoes and the Ark,
and the latter itself would be a hold in which the assailants would be
as effectually protected against bullets as were those in the building.
For a few minutes, both the men thought of sinking the Ark in the
shallow water, of bringing the canoes into the house, and of depending
altogether on the castle for protection. But reflection satisfied them
that, in the end, this expedient would fail. It was so easy to collect
logs on the shore, and to construct a raft of almost any size, that it
was certain the Iroquois, now they had turned their attention to
such means, would resort to them seriously, so long as there was the
certainty of success by perseverance. After deliberating maturely,
and placing all the considerations fairly before them, the two young
beginners in the art of forest warfare settled down into the opinion
that the Ark offered the only available means of security. This decision
was no sooner come to, than it was communicated to Judith. The girl
had no serious objection to make, and all four set about the measures
necessary to carrying the plan into execution.

The reader will readily understand that Floating Tom’s worldly goods
were of no great amount. A couple of beds, some wearing apparel, the
arms and ammunition, a few cooking utensils, with the mysterious and
but half examined chest formed the principal items. These were all soon
removed, the Ark having been hauled on the eastern side of the building,
so that the transfer could be made without being seen from the shore. It
was thought unnecessary to disturb the heavier and coarser articles of
furniture, as they were not required in the Ark, and were of but little
value in themselves. As great caution was necessary in removing the
different objects, most of which were passed out of a window with a view
to conceal what was going on, it required two or three hours before all
could be effected. By the expiration of that time, the raft made its
appearance, moving from the shore. Deerslayer immediately had recourse
to the glass, by the aid of which he perceived that two warriors were
on it, though they appeared to be unarmed. The progress of the raft was
slow, a circumstance that formed one of the great advantages that would
be possessed by the scow, in any future collision between them, the
movements of the latter being comparatively swift and light. As there
was time to make the dispositions for the reception of the two dangerous
visitors, everything was prepared for them, long before they had got
near enough to be hailed. The Serpent and the girls retired into the
building, where the former stood near the door, well provided with
rifles, while Judith watched the proceedings without through a loop. As
for Deerslayer, he had brought a stool to the edge of the platform, at
the point towards which the raft was advancing, and taken his seat with
his rifle leaning carelessly between his legs.

As the raft drew nearer, every means possessed by the party in the
castle was resorted to, in order to ascertain if their visitors had any
firearms. Neither Deerslayer nor Chingachgook could discover any, but
Judith, unwilling to trust to simple eyesight, thrust the glass through
the loop, and directed it towards the hemlock boughs that lay between
the two logs of the raft, forming a sort of flooring, as well as a seat
for the use of the rowers. When the heavy moving craft was within fifty
feet of him, Deerslayer hailed the Hurons, directing them to cease
rowing, it not being his intention to permit them to land. Compliance,
of course, was necessary, and the two grim-looking warriors instantly
quitted their seats, though the raft continued slowly to approach, until
it had driven in much nearer to the platform.

“Are ye chiefs?” demanded Deerslayer with dignity--“Are ye chiefs?--Or
have the Mingos sent me warriors without names, on such an ar’n’d? If
so, the sooner ye go back, the sooner them will be likely to come that a
warrior can talk with.”

“Hugh!” exclaimed the elder of the two on the raft, rolling his glowing
eyes over the different objects that were visible in and about the
Castle, with a keenness that showed how little escaped him. “My brother
is very proud, but Rivenoak (we use the literal translation of the term,
writing as we do in English) is a name to make a Delaware turn pale.”

“That’s true, or it’s a lie, Rivenoak, as it may be; but I am not likely
to turn pale, seeing that I was born pale. What’s your ar’n’d, and why
do you come among light bark canoes, on logs that are not even dug out?”

“The Iroquois are not ducks, to walk on water! Let the pale-faces give
them a canoe, and they’ll come in a canoe.”

“That’s more rational, than likely to come to pass. We have but four
canoes, and being four persons that’s only one for each of us. We thank
you for the offer, howsever, though we ask leave not to accept it. You
are welcome, Iroquois, on your logs.”

“Thanks--My young pale-face warrior--he has got a name--how do the
chiefs call him?”

Deerslayer hesitated a moment, and a gleam of pride and human weakness
came over him. He smiled, muttered between his teeth, and then looking
up proudly, he said--“Mingo, like all who are young and actyve, I’ve
been known by different names, at different times. One of your warriors
whose spirit started for the Happy Grounds of your people, as lately
as yesterday morning, thought I desarved to be known by the name of
Hawkeye, and this because my sight happened to be quicker than his own,
when it got to be life or death atween us.”

Chingachgook, who was attentively listening to all that passed, heard
and understood this proof of passing weakness in his friend, and on
a future occasion he questioned him more closely concerning the
transaction on the point, where Deerslayer had first taken human life.
When he had got the whole truth, he did not fail to communicate it to
the tribe, from which time the young hunter was universally known among
the Delawares by an appellation so honorably earned. As this, however,
was a period posterior to all the incidents of this tale, we shall
continue to call the young hunter by the name under which he has been
first introduced to the reader. Nor was the Iroquois less struck with
the vaunt of the white man. He knew of the death of his comrade, and had
no difficulty in understanding the allusion, the intercourse between the
conqueror and his victim on that occasion having been seen by several
savages on the shore of the lake, who had been stationed at different
points just within the margin of bushes to watch the drifting canoes,
and who had not time to reach the scene of action, ere the victor had
retired. The effect on this rude being of the forest was an exclamation
of surprise; then such a smile of courtesy, and wave of the hand,
succeeded, as would have done credit to Asiatic diplomacy. The two
Iroquois spoke to each other in low tones, and both drew near the end of
the raft that was closest to the platform.

“My brother, Hawkeye, has sent a message to the Hurons,” resumed
Rivenoak, “and it has made their hearts very glad. They hear he has
images of beasts with two tails! Will he show them to his friends?”

“Inimies would be truer,” returned Deerslayer, “but sound isn’t sense,
and does little harm. Here is one of the images; I toss it to you under
faith of treaties. If it’s not returned, the rifle will settle the p’int
atween us.”

The Iroquois seemed to acquiesce in the conditions, and Deerslayer arose
and prepared to toss one of the elephants to the raft, both parties
using all the precaution that was necessary to prevent its loss. As
practice renders men expert in such things, the little piece of ivory
was soon successfully transferred from one hand to the other, and then
followed another scene on the raft, in which astonishment and delight
got the mastery of Indian stoicism. These two grim old warriors
manifested even more feeling, as they examined the curiously wrought
chessman, than had been betrayed by the boy; for, in the case of the
latter, recent schooling had interposed its influence; while the men,
like all who are sustained by well established characters, were not
ashamed to let some of their emotions be discovered. For a few minutes
they apparently lost the consciousness of their situation, in the
intense scrutiny they bestowed on a material so fine, work so highly
wrought, and an animal so extraordinary. The lip of the moose is,
perhaps, the nearest approach to the trunk of the elephant that is to
be found in the American forest, but this resemblance was far from being
sufficiently striking to bring the new creature within the range of
their habits and ideas, and the more they studied the image, the greater
was their astonishment. Nor did these children of the forest mistake
the structure on the back of the elephant for a part of the animal. They
were familiar with horses and oxen, and had seen towers in the Canadas,
and found nothing surprising in creatures of burthen. Still, by a very
natural association, they supposed the carving meant to represent that
the animal they saw was of a strength sufficient to carry a fort on its
back; a circumstance that in no degree lessened their wonder.

“Has my pale-face brother any more such beasts?” at last the senior of
the Iroquois asked, in a sort of petitioning manner.

“There’s more where them came from, Mingo,” was the answer; “one is
enough, howsever, to buy off fifty scalps.”

“One of my prisoners is a great warrior--tall as a pine--strong as the
moose--active as a deer--fierce as the panther! Some day he’ll be a
great chief, and lead the army of King George!”

“Tut-tut Mingo; Hurry Harry is Hurry Harry, and you’ll never make
more than a corporal of him, if you do that. He’s tall enough, of a
sartainty; but that’s of no use, as he only hits his head ag’in the
branches as he goes through the forest. He’s strong too, but a strong
body isn’t a strong head, and the king’s generals are not chosen for
their sinews; he’s swift, if you will, but a rifle bullet is swifter;
and as for f’erceness, it’s no great ricommend to a soldier; they that
think they feel the stoutest often givin’ out at the pinch. No, no,
you’ll niver make Hurry’s scalp pass for more than a good head of curly
hair, and a rattle pate beneath it!”

“My old prisoner very wise--king of the lake--great warrior, wise
counsellor!”

“Well, there’s them that might gainsay all this, too, Mingo. A very wise
man wouldn’t be apt to be taken in so foolish a manner as befell Master
Hutter, and if he gives good counsel, he must have listened to very bad
in that affair. There’s only one king of this lake, and he’s a long way
off, and isn’t likely ever to see it. Floating Tom is some such king of
this region, as the wolf that prowls through the woods is king of the
forest. A beast with two tails is well worth two such scalps!”

“But my brother has another beast?--He will give two”--holding up as
many fingers, “for old father?”

“Floating Tom is no father of mine, but he’ll fare none the worse for
that. As for giving two beasts for his scalp, and each beast with two
tails, it is quite beyond reason. Think yourself well off, Mingo, if you
make a much worse trade.”

By this time the self-command of Rivenoak had got the better of his
wonder, and he began to fall back on his usual habits of cunning, in
order to drive the best bargain he could. It would be useless to relate
more than the substance of the desultory dialogue that followed, in
which the Indian manifested no little management, in endeavoring
to recover the ground lost under the influence of surprise. He even
affected to doubt whether any original for the image of the beast
existed, and asserted that the oldest Indian had never heard a tradition
of any such animal. Little did either of them imagine at the time that
long ere a century elapsed, the progress of civilization would bring
even much more extraordinary and rare animals into that region, as
curiosities to be gazed at by the curious, and that the particular
beast, about which the disputants contended, would be seen laving its
sides and swimming in the very sheet of water, on which they had met.

[The Otsego is a favorite place for the caravan keepers to let
their elephants bathe. The writer has seen two at a time, since the
publication of this book, swimming about in company.]

As is not uncommon on such occasions, one of the parties got a little
warm in the course of the discussion, for Deerslayer met all the
arguments and prevarication of his subtle opponent with his own cool
directness of manner, and unmoved love of truth. What an elephant was he
knew little better than the savage, but he perfectly understood that
the carved pieces of ivory must have some such value in the eyes of an
Iroquois as a bag of gold or a package of beaver skins would in those of
a trader. Under the circumstances, therefore, he felt it to be
prudent not to concede too much at first, since there existed a
nearly unconquerable obstacle to making the transfers, even after the
contracting parties had actually agreed upon the terms. Keeping this
difficulty in view, he held the extra chessmen in reserve, as a means of
smoothing any difficulty in the moment of need.

At length the savage pretended that further negotiation was useless,
since he could not be so unjust to his tribe as to part with the
honor and emoluments of two excellent, full grown male scalps for
a consideration so trifling as a toy like that he had seen, and he
prepared to take his departure. Both parties now felt as men are wont to
feel, when a bargain that each is anxious to conclude is on the eve of
being broken off, in consequence of too much pertinacity in the way
of management. The effect of the disappointment was very different,
however, on the respective individuals. Deerslayer was mortified, and
filled with regret, for he not only felt for the prisoners, but he also
felt deeply for the two girls. The conclusion of the treaty, therefore,
left him melancholy and full of regret. With the savage, his defeat
produced the desire of revenge. In a moment of excitement, he had loudly
announced his intention to say no more, and he felt equally enraged with
himself and with his cool opponent, that he had permitted a pale face to
manifest more indifference and self-command than an Indian chief. When
he began to urge his raft away from the platform his countenance lowered
and his eye glowed, even while he affected a smile of amity and a
gesture of courtesy at parting.

It took some little time to overcome the inertia of the logs, and while
this was being done by the silent Indian, Rivenoak stalked over the
hemlock boughs that lay between the logs in sullen ferocity, eyeing
keenly the while the hut, the platform and the person of his late
disputant. Once he spoke in low, quick tones to his companion, and he
stirred the boughs with his feet like an animal that is restive. At that
moment the watchfulness of Deerslayer had a little abated, for he sat
musing on the means of renewing the negotiation without giving too much
advantage to the other side. It was perhaps fortunate for him that the
keen and bright eyes of Judith were as vigilant as ever. At the instant
when the young man was least on his guard, and his enemy was the most
on the alert, she called out in a warning voice to the former, most
opportunely giving the alarm.

“Be on your guard, Deerslayer,” the girl cried--“I see rifles with the
glass, beneath the hemlock brush, and the Iroquois is loosening them
with his feet!”

It would seem that the enemy had carried their artifices so far as to
employ an agent who understood English. The previous dialogue had taken
place in his own language, but it was evident by the sudden manner in
which his feet ceased their treacherous occupation, and in which the
countenance of Rivenoak changed from sullen ferocity to a smile of
courtesy, that the call of the girl was understood. Signing to his
companion to cease his efforts to set the logs in motion, he advanced to
the end of the raft which was nearest to the platform, and spoke.

“Why should Rivenoak and his brother leave any cloud between them,” he
said. “They are both wise, both brave, and both generous; they ought to
part friends. One beast shall be the price of one prisoner.”

“And, Mingo,” answered the other, delighted to renew the negotiations on
almost any terms, and determined to clinch the bargain if possible by a
little extra liberality, “you’ll see that a pale-face knows how to pay
a full price, when he trades with an open heart, and an open hand. Keep
the beast that you had forgotten to give back to me, as you was about to
start, and which I forgot to ask for, on account of consarn at parting
in anger. Show it to your chiefs. When you bring us our fri’nds, two
more shall be added to it, and,” hesitating a moment in distrust of the
expediency of so great a concession; then, deciding in its favor--“and,
if we see them afore the sun sets, we may find a fourth to make up an
even number.”

This settled the matter. Every gleam of discontent vanished from the
dark countenance of the Iroquois, and he smiled as graciously, if not as
sweetly, as Judith Hutter, herself. The piece already in his possession
was again examined, and an ejaculation of pleasure showed how much he
was pleased with this unexpected termination of the affair. In point of
fact, both he and Deerslayer had momentarily forgotten what had become
of the subject of their discussion, in the warmth of their feelings, but
such had not been the case with Rivenoak’s companion. This man retained
the piece, and had fully made up his mind, were it claimed under such
circumstances as to render its return necessary, to drop it in the lake,
trusting to his being able to find it again at some future day. This
desperate expedient, however, was no longer necessary, and after
repeating the terms of agreement, and professing to understand them,
the two Indians finally took their departure, moving slowly towards the
shore.

“Can any faith be put in such wretches?” asked Judith, when she and
Hetty had come out on the platform, and were standing at the side of
Deerslayer, watching the dull movement of the logs. “Will they not
rather keep the toy they have, and send us off some bloody proofs of
their getting the better of us in cunning, by way of boasting? I’ve
heard of acts as bad as this.”

“No doubt, Judith; no manner of doubt, if it wasn’t for Indian natur’.
But I’m no judge of a red-skin, if that two tail’d beast doesn’t set
the whole tribe in some such stir as a stick raises in a beehive! Now,
there’s the Sarpent; a man with narves like flint, and no more cur’osity
in every day consarns than is befitting prudence; why he was so overcome
with the sight of the creatur’, carved as it is in bone, that I felt
ashamed for him! That’s just their gifts, howsever, and one can’t well
quarrel with a man for his gifts, when they are lawful. Chingachgook
will soon get over his weakness and remember that he’s a chief, and
that he comes of a great stock, and has a renowned name to support and
uphold; but as for yonder scamps, there’ll be no peace among ‘em until
they think they’ve got possession of every thing of the natur’ of that
bit of carved bone that’s to be found among Thomas Hutter’s stores!”

“They only know of the elephants, and can have no hopes about the other
things.”

“That’s true, Judith; still, covetousness is a craving feelin’! They’ll
say, if the pale-faces have these cur’ous beasts with two tails, who
knows but they’ve got some with three, or for that matter with four!
That’s what the schoolmasters call nat’ral arithmetic, and ‘twill be
sartain to beset the feelin’s of savages. They’ll never be easy, till
the truth is known.”

“Do you think, Deerslayer,” inquired Hetty, in her simple and innocent
manner, “that the Iroquois won’t let father and Hurry go? I read to them
several of the very best verses in the whole Bible, and you see what
they have done, already.”

The hunter, as he always did, listened kindly and even affectionately to
Hetty’s remarks; then he mused a moment in silence. There was something
like a flush on his cheek as he answered, after quite a minute had
passed.

“I don’t know whether a white man ought to be ashamed, or not, to own he
can’t read, but such is my case, Judith. You are skilful, I find, in all
such matters, while I have only studied the hand of God as it is seen in
the hills and the valleys, the mountain-tops, the streams, the forests
and the springs. Much l’arning may be got in this way, as well as out
of books; and, yet, I sometimes think it is a white man’s gift to read!
When I hear from the mouths of the Moravians the words of which Hetty
speaks, they raise a longing in my mind, and I then think I will know
how to read ‘em myself; but the game in summer, and the traditions, and
lessons in war, and other matters, have always kept me behind hand.”

“Shall I teach you, Deerslayer?” asked Hetty, earnestly. “I’m
weak-minded, they say, but I can read as well as Judith. It might save
your life to know how to read the Bible to the savages, and it will
certainly save your soul; for mother told me that, again and again!”

“Thankee, Hetty--yes, thankee, with all my heart. These are like to be
too stirring times for much idleness, but after it’s peace, and I come
to see you ag’in on this lake, then I’ll give myself up to it, as if
‘twas pleasure and profit in a single business. Perhaps I ought to
be ashamed, Judith, that ‘tis so; but truth is truth. As for these
Iroquois, ‘tisn’t very likely they’ll forget a beast with two tails, on
account of a varse or two from the Bible. I rather expect they’ll give
up the prisoners, and trust to some sarcumvenion or other to get ‘em
back ag’in, with us and all in the castle and the Ark in the bargain.
Howsever, we must humour the vagabonds, first to get your father and
Hurry out of their hands, and next to keep the peace atween us, until
such time as the Sarpent there can make out to get off his betrothed
wife. If there’s any sudden outbreakin’ of anger and ferocity, the
Indians will send off all their women and children to the camp at once,
whereas, by keeping ‘em calm and trustful we may manage to meet Hist at
the spot she has mentioned. Rather than have the bargain fall through,
now, I’d throw in half a dozen of them effigy bow-and-arrow men, such as
we’ve in plenty in the chist.”

Judith cheerfully assented, for she would have resigned even the
flowered brocade, rather than not redeem her father and please
Deerslayer. The prospects of success were now so encouraging as to
raise the spirits of all in the castle, though a due watchfulness of
the movements of the enemy was maintained. Hour passed after hour,
notwithstanding, and the sun had once more begun to fall towards the
summits of the western hills, and yet no signs were seen of the return
of the raft. By dint of sweeping the shore with the glass, Deerslayer
at length discovered a place in the dense and dark woods where, he
entertained no doubt, the Iroquois were assembled in considerable
numbers. It was near the thicket whence the raft had issued, and a
little rill that trickled into the lake announced the vicinity of
a spring. Here, then, the savages were probably holding their
consultation, and the decision was to be made that went to settle the
question of life or death for the prisoners. There was one ground for
hope in spite of the delay, however, that Deerslayer did not fail to
place before his anxious companions. It was far more probable that
the Indians had left their prisoners in the camp, than that they had
encumbered themselves by causing them to follow through the woods a
party that was out on a merely temporary excursion. If such was the
fact, it required considerable time to send a messenger the necessary
distance, and to bring the two white men to the spot where they were
to embark. Encouraged by these reflections, a new stock of patience was
gathered, and the declension of the sun was viewed with less alarm.

The result justified Deerslayer’s conjecture. Not long before the
sun had finally disappeared, the two logs were seen coming out of the
thicket, again, and as it drew near, Judith announced that her father
and Hurry, both of them pinioned, lay on the bushes in the centre. As
before, the two Indians were rowing. The latter seemed to be conscious
that the lateness of the hour demanded unusual exertions, and contrary
to the habits of their people, who are ever averse to toil, they labored
hard at the rude substitutes for oars. In consequence of this diligence,
the raft occupied its old station in about half the time that had been
taken in the previous visits.

Even after the conditions were so well understood, and matters had
proceeded so far, the actual transfer of the prisoners was not a duty
to be executed without difficulty. The Iroquois were compelled to
place great reliance on the good faith of their foes, though it
was reluctantly given; and was yielded to necessity rather than to
confidence. As soon as Hutter and Hurry should be released, the party
in the castle numbered two to one, as opposed to those on the raft, and
escape by flight was out of the question, as the former had three bark
canoes, to say nothing of the defences of the house and the Ark. All
this was understood by both parties, and it is probable the arrangement
never could have been completed, had not the honest countenance and
manner of Deerslayer wrought their usual effect on Rivenoak.

“My brother knows I put faith in him,” said the latter, as he advanced
with Hutter, whose legs had been released to enable the old man to
ascend to the platform. “One scalp--one more beast.”

“Stop, Mingo,” interrupted the hunter, “keep your prisoner a moment. I
have to go and seek the means of payment.”

This excuse, however, though true in part, was principally a fetch.
Deerslayer left the platform, and entering the house, he directed Judith
to collect all the arms and to conceal them in her own room. He then
spoke earnestly to the Delaware, who stood on guard as before, near the
entrance of the building, put the three remaining castles in his pocket,
and returned.

“You are welcome back to your old abode, Master Hutter,” said
Deerslayer, as he helped the other up on the platform, slyly passing
into the hand of Rivenoak, at the same time, another of the castles.
“You’ll find your darters right glad to see you, and here’s Hetty come
herself to say as much in her own behalf.”

Here the hunter stopped speaking and broke out into a hearty fit of his
silent and peculiar laughter. Hurry’s legs were just released, and he
had been placed on his feet. So tightly had the ligatures been drawn,
that the use of his limbs was not immediately recovered, and the young
giant presented, in good sooth, a very helpless and a somewhat ludicrous
picture. It was this unusual spectacle, particularly the bewildered
countenance, that excited the merriment of Deerslayer.

“You look like a girdled pine in a clearin’, Hurry Harry, that is
rocking in a gale,” said Deerslayer, checking his unseasonable mirth,
more from delicacy to the others than from any respect to the liberated
captive. “I’m glad, howsever, to see that you haven’t had your hair
dressed by any of the Iroquois barbers, in your late visit to their
camp.”

“Harkee, Deerslayer,” returned the other a little fiercely, “it will
be prudent for you to deal less in mirth and more in friendship on this
occasion. Act like a Christian, for once, and not like a laughing gal
in a country school when the master’s back is turned, and just tell me
whether there’s any feet, or not, at the end of these legs of mine. I
think I can see them, but as for feelin’ they might as well be down on
the banks of the Mohawk, as be where they seem to be.”

“You’ve come off whole, Hurry, and that’s not a little,” answered the
other, secretly passing to the Indian the remainder of the stipulated
ransom, and making an earnest sign at the same moment for him to
commence his retreat. “You’ve come off whole, feet and all, and are
only a little numb from a tight fit of the withes. Natur’ll soon set the
blood in motion, and then you may begin to dance, to celebrate what I
call a most wonderful and onexpected deliverance from a den of wolves.”

Deerslayer released the arms of his friends, as each landed, and the
two were now stamping and limping about on the platform, growling
and uttering denunciations as they endeavored to help the returning
circulation. They had been tethered too long, however, to regain the use
of their limbs in a moment, and the Indians being quite as diligent on
their return as on their advance, the raft was fully a hundred yards
from the castle when Hurry, turning accidentally in that direction,
discovered how fast it was getting beyond the reach of his vengeance. By
this time he could move with tolerable facility, though still numb and
awkward. Without considering his own situation, however, he seized the
rifle that leaned against the shoulder of Deerslayer, and attempted to
cock and present it. The young hunter was too quick for him. Seizing the
piece he wrenched it from the hands of the giant, not, however, until
it had gone off in the struggle, when pointed directly upward. It is
probable that Deerslayer could have prevailed in such a contest, on
account of the condition of Hurry’s limbs, but the instant the gun went
off, the latter yielded, and stumped towards the house, raising his legs
at each step quite a foot from the ground, from an uncertainty of the
actual position of his feet. But he had been anticipated by Judith. The
whole stock of Hutter’s arms, which had been left in the building as a
resource in the event of a sudden outbreaking of hostilities, had
been removed, and were already secreted, agreeably to Deerslayer’s
directions. In consequence of this precaution, no means offered by which
March could put his designs in execution.

Disappointed in his vengeance, Hurry seated himself, and like Hutter,
for half an hour, he was too much occupied in endeavoring to restore the
circulation, and in regaining the use of his limbs, to indulge in any
other reflections. By the end of this time the raft had disappeared, and
night was beginning to throw her shadows once more over the whole sylvan
scene. Before darkness had completely set in, and while the girls were
preparing the evening meal, Deerslayer related to Hutter an outline of
events that had taken place, and gave him a history of the means he had
adopted for the security of his children and property.



Chapter XV.


    “As long as Edwarde rules thys lande,
    Ne quiet you wylle ye know;
    Your sonnes and husbandes shall be slayne,
    And brookes with bloode shall ‘flowe.’

    “You leave youre geode and lawfulle kynge,
    Whenne ynne adversity;
    Like me, untoe the true cause stycke,
    And for the true cause dye.”

    Chatterton.

The calm of evening was again in singular contrast, while its gathering
gloom was in as singular unison with the passions of men. The sun was
set, and the rays of the retiring luminary had ceased to gild the edges
of the few clouds that had sufficient openings to admit the passage of
its fading light. The canopy overhead was heavy and dense, promising
another night of darkness, but the surface of the lake was scarcely
disturbed by a ripple. There was a little air, though it scarce deserved
to be termed wind. Still, being damp and heavy, it had a certain force.
The party in the castle were as gloomy and silent as the scene. The
two ransomed prisoners felt humbled and discoloured, but their humility
partook of the rancour of revenge. They were far more disposed to
remember the indignity with which they had been treated during the last
few hours of their captivity, than to feel grateful for the previous
indulgence. Then that keen-sighted monitor, conscience, by reminding
them of the retributive justice of all they had endured, goaded them
rather to turn the tables on their enemies than to accuse themselves.
As for the others, they were thoughtful equally from regret and joy.
Deerslayer and Judith felt most of the former sensation, though from
very different causes, while Hetty for the moment was perfectly happy.
The Delaware had also lively pictures of felicity in the prospect of
so soon regaining his betrothed. Under such circumstances, and in this
mood, all were taking the evening meal.

“Old Tom!” cried Hurry, bursting into a fit of boisterous laughter,
“you look’d amazin’ly like a tethered bear, as you was stretched on
them hemlock boughs, and I only wonder you didn’t growl more. Well, it’s
over, and syth’s and lamentations won’t mend the matter! There’s the
blackguard Rivenoak, he that brought us off has an oncommon scalp, and
I’d give as much for it myself as the Colony. Yes, I feel as rich as the
governor in these matters now, and will lay down with them doubloon for
doubloon. Judith, darling, did you mourn for me much, when I was in the
hands of the Philipsteins?”

The last were a family of German descent on the Mohawk, to whom Hurry
had a great antipathy, and whom he had confounded with the enemies of
Judea.

“Our tears have raised the lake, Hurry March, as you might have seen by
the shore!” returned Judith, with a feigned levity that she was far
from feeling. “That Hetty and I should have grieved for father was to be
expected; but we fairly rained tears for you.”

“We were sorry for poor Hurry, as well as for father, Judith!” put in
her innocent and unconscious sister.

“True, girl, true; but we feel sorrow for everybody that’s in trouble,
you know,” returned the other in a quick, admonitory manner and a low
tone. “Nevertheless, we are glad to see you, Master March, and out of
the hands of the Philipsteins, too.”

“Yes, they’re a bad set, and so is the other brood of ‘em, down on the
river. It’s a wonderment to me how you got us off, Deerslayer; and I
forgive you the interference that prevented my doin’ justice on that
vagabond, for this small service. Let us into the secret, that we may do
you the same good turn, at need. Was it by lying, or by coaxing?”

“By neither, Hurry, but by buying. We paid a ransom for you both,
and that, too, at a price so high you had well be on your guard ag’in
another captyvement, lest our stock of goods shouldn’t hold out.”

“A ransom! Old Tom has paid the fiddler, then, for nothing of mine would
have bought off the hair, much less the skin. I didn’t think men as keen
set as them vagabonds would let a fellow up so easy, when they had him
fairly at a close hug, and floored. But money is money, and somehow it’s
unnat’ral hard to withstand. Indian or white man, ‘tis pretty much the
same. It must be owned, Judith, there’s a considerable of human natur’
in mankind ginirally, arter all!”

Hutter now rose, and signing to Deerslayer, he led him to an inner room,
where, in answer to his questions, he first learned the price that had
been paid for his release. The old man expressed neither resentment nor
surprise at the inroad that had been made on his chest, though he
did manifest some curiosity to know how far the investigation of its
contents had been carried. He also inquired where the key had been
found. The habitual frankness of Deerslayer prevented any prevarication,
and the conference soon terminated by the return of the two to the
outer room, or that which served for the double purpose of parlour and
kitchen.

“I wonder if it’s peace or war, between us and the savages!” exclaimed
Hurry, just as Deerslayer, who had paused for a single instant, listened
attentively, and was passing through the outer door without stopping.
“This givin’ up captives has a friendly look, and when men have traded
together on a fair and honourable footing they ought to part fri’nds,
for that occasion at least. Come back, Deerslayer, and let us have
your judgment, for I’m beginnin’ to think more of you, since your late
behaviour, than I used to do.”

“There’s an answer to your question, Hurry, since you’re in such haste
to come ag’in to blows.”

As Deerslayer spoke, he threw on the table on which the other was
reclining with one elbow a sort of miniature fagot, composed of a dozen
sticks bound tightly together with a deer-skin thong. March seized it
eagerly, and holding it close to a blazing knot of pine that lay on
the hearth, and which gave out all the light there was in the room,
ascertained that the ends of the several sticks had been dipped in
blood.

“If this isn’t plain English,” said the reckless frontier man, “it’s
plain Indian! Here’s what they call a dicliration of war, down at York,
Judith. How did you come by this defiance, Deerslayer?”

“Fairly enough. It lay not a minut’ since, in what you call Floatin’
Tom’s door-yard.”

“How came it there?”

“It never fell from the clouds, Judith, as little toads sometimes do,
and then it don’t rain.”

“You must prove where it come from, Deerslayer, or we shall suspect some
design to skear them that would have lost their wits long ago, if fear
could drive ‘em away.”

Deerslayer had approached a window, and cast a glance out of it on the
dark aspect of the lake. As if satisfied with what he beheld, he drew
near Hurry, and took the bundle of sticks into his own hand, examining
it attentively.

“Yes, this is an Indian declaration of war, sure enough,” he said,
“and it’s a proof how little you’re suited to be on the path it has
travelled, Harry March, that it has got here, and you never the wiser as
to the means. The savages may have left the scalp on your head, but they
must have taken off the ears; else you’d have heard the stirring of the
water made by the lad as he come off ag’in on his two logs. His ar’n’d
was to throw these sticks at our door, as much as to say, we’ve struck
the war-post since the trade, and the next thing will be to strike you.”

“The prowling wolves! But hand me that rifle, Judith, and I’ll send an
answer back to the vagabonds through their messenger.”

“Not while I stand by, Master March,” coolly put in Deerslayer,
motioning for the other to forbear. “Faith is faith, whether given to a
red-skin, or to a Christian. The lad lighted a knot, and came off fairly
under its blaze to give us this warning; and no man here should harm
him, while empl’yed on such an ar’n’d. There’s no use in words, for the
boy is too cunning to leave the knot burning, now his business is done,
and the night is already too dark for a rifle to have any sartainty.”

“That may be true enough, as to a gun, but there’s virtue still in a
canoe,” answered Hurry, passing towards the door with enormous strides,
carrying a rifle in his hands. “The being doesn’t live that shall stop
me from following and bringing back that riptyle’s scalp. The more on
‘em that you crush in the egg, the fewer there’ll be to dart at you in
the woods!”

Judith trembled like the aspen, she scarce knew why herself, though
there was the prospect of a scene of violence; for if Hurry was fierce
and overbearing in the consciousness of his vast strength, Deerslayer
had about him the calm determination that promises greater perseverance,
and a resolution more likely to effect its object. It was the stern,
resolute eye of the latter, rather than the noisy vehemence of the
first, that excited her apprehensions. Hurry soon reached the spot where
the canoe was fastened, but not before Deerslayer had spoken in a quick,
earnest voice to the Serpent, in Delaware. The latter had been the
first, in truth, to hear the sounds of the oars, and he had gone upon
the platform in jealous watchfulness. The light satisfied him that a
message was coming, and when the boy cast his bundle of sticks at his
feet, it neither moved his anger nor induced surprise. He merely stood
at watch, rifle in hand, to make certain that no treachery lay behind
the defiance. As Deerslayer now called to him, he stepped into the
canoe, and quick as thought removed the paddles. Hurry was furious
when he found that he was deprived of the means of proceeding. He first
approached the Indian with loud menaces, and even Deerslayer stood
aghast at the probable consequences. March shook his sledge-hammer fists
and flourished his arms as he drew near the Indian, and all expected he
would attempt to fell the Delaware to the earth; one of them, at least,
was well aware that such an experiment would be followed by immediate
bloodshed. But even Hurry was awed by the stern composure of the chief,
and he, too, knew that such a man was not to be outraged with impunity;
he therefore turned to vent his rage on Deerslayer, where he foresaw no
consequences so terrible. What might have been the result of this second
demonstration if completed, is unknown, since it was never made.

“Hurry,” said a gentle, soothing voice at his elbow, “it’s wicked to be
so angry, and God will not overlook it. The Iroquois treated you well,
and they didn’t take your scalp, though you and father wanted to take
theirs.”

The influence of mildness on passion is well known. Hetty, too, had
earned a sort of consideration, that had never before been enjoyed
by her, through the self-devotion and decision of her recent conduct.
Perhaps her established mental imbecility, by removing all distrust of
a wish to control, aided her influence. Let the cause be as questionable
as it might, the effect we sufficiently certain. Instead of throttling
his old fellow-traveler, Hurry turned to the girl and poured out a
portion of his discontent, if none of his anger, in her attentive ears.

“‘Tis too bad, Hetty!” he exclaimed; “as bad as a county gaol or a lack
of beaver, to get a creatur’ into your very trap, then to see it get
off. As much as six first quality skins, in valie, has paddled off on
them clumsy logs, when twenty strokes of a well-turned paddle would
overtake ‘em. I say in valie, for as to the boy in the way of natur’, he
is only a boy, and is worth neither more nor less than one. Deerslayer,
you’ve been ontrue to your fri’nds in letting such a chance slip through
my fingers well as your own.”

The answer was given quietly, but with a voice as steady as a fearless
nature and the consciousness of rectitude could make it. “I should
have been untrue to the right, had I done otherwise,” returned the
Deerslayer, steadily; “and neither you, nor any other man has authority
to demand that much of me. The lad came on a lawful business, and the
meanest red-skin that roams the woods would be ashamed of not respecting
his ar’n’d. But he’s now far beyond your reach, Master March, and
there’s little use in talking, like a couple of women, of what can no
longer be helped.”

So saying, Deerslayer turned away, like one resolved to waste no more
words on the subject, while Hutter pulled Harry by the sleeve, and led
him into the ark. There they sat long in private conference. In the
mean time, the Indian and his friend had their secret consultation; for,
though it wanted some three or four hours to the rising of the star, the
former could not abstain from canvassing his scheme, and from opening
his heart to the other. Judith, too, yielded to her softer feelings,
and listened to the whole of Hetty’s artless narrative of what occurred
after she landed. The woods had few terrors for either of these girls,
educated as they had been, and accustomed as they were to look out daily
at their rich expanse or to wander beneath their dark shades; but the
elder sister felt that she would have hesitated about thus venturing
alone into an Iroquois camp. Concerning Hist, Hetty was not very
communicative. She spoke of her kindness and gentleness and of the
meeting in the forest; but the secret of Chingachgook was guarded with
a shrewdness and fidelity that many a sharper-witted girl might have
failed to display.

At length the several conferences were broken up by the reappearance
of Hutter on the platform. Here he assembled the whole party, and
communicated as much of his intentions as he deemed expedient. Of the
arrangement made by Deerslayer, to abandon the castle during the night
and to take refuge in the ark, he entirely approved. It struck him as it
had the others, as the only effectual means of escaping destruction.
Now that the savages had turned their attention to the construction of
rafts, no doubt could exist of their at least making an attempt to carry
the building, and the message of the bloody sticks sufficiently showed
their confidence in their own success. In short, the old man viewed
the night as critical, and he called on all to get ready as soon as
possible, in order to abandon the dwellings temporarily at least, if not
forever.

These communications made, everything proceeded promptly and with
intelligence; the castle was secured in the manner already described,
the canoes were withdrawn from the dock and fastened to the ark by the
side of the other; the few necessaries that had been left in the
house were transferred to the cabin, the fire was extinguished and all
embarked.

The vicinity of the hills, with their drapery of pines, had the effect
to render nights that were obscure darker than common on the lake.
As usual, however, a belt of comparative light was etched through the
centre of the sheet, while it was within the shadows of the mountains
that the gloom rested most heavily on the water. The island, or castle,
stood in this belt of comparative light, but still the night was so dark
as to cover the aperture of the ark. At the distance of an observer on
the shore her movements could not be seen at all, more particularly as a
background of dark hillside filled up the perspective of every view that
was taken diagonally or directly across the water. The prevailing wind
on the lakes of that region is west, but owing to the avenues formed by
the mountains it is frequently impossible to tell the true direction
of the currents, as they often vary within short distances and brief
differences of time. This is truer in light fluctuating puffs of air
than in steady breezes; though the squalls of even the latter are
familiarly known to be uncertain and baffling in all mountainous regions
and narrow waters. On the present occasion, Hutter himself (as he shoved
the ark from her berth at the side of the platform) was at a loss to
pronounce which way the wind blew. In common, this difficulty was solved
by the clouds, which, floating high above the hill tops, as a matter of
course obeyed the currents; but now the whole vault of heaven seemed
a mass of gloomy wall. Not an opening of any sort was visible, and
Chingachgook was already trembling lest the non-appearance of the star
might prevent his betrothed from being punctual to her appointment.
Under these circumstances, Hutter hoisted his sail, seemingly with the
sole intention of getting away from the castle, as it might be dangerous
to remain much longer in its vicinity. The air soon filled the cloth,
and when the scow was got under command, and the sail was properly
trimmed, it was found that the direction was southerly, inclining
towards the eastern shore. No better course offering for the purposes
of the party, the singular craft was suffered to skim the surface of
the water in this direction for more than hour, when a change in the
currents of the air drove them over towards the camp.

Deerslayer watched all the movements of Hutter and Harry with jealous
attention. At first, he did not know whether to ascribe the course they
held to accident or to design; but he now began to suspect the latter.
Familiar as Hutter was with the lake, it was easy to deceive one who had
little practice on the water; and let his intentions be what they
might, it was evident, ere two hours had elapsed, that the ark had got
sufficient space to be within a hundred rods of the shore, directly
abreast of the known position of the camp. For a considerable time
previously to reaching this point, Hurry, who had some knowledge of the
Algonquin language, had been in close conference with the Indian, and
the result was now announced by the latter to Deerslayer, who had been a
cold, not to say distrusted, looker-on of all that passed.

“My old father, and my young brother, the Big Pine,”--for so the
Delaware had named March--“want to see Huron scalps at their belts,”
 said Chingachgook to his friend. “There is room for some on the girdle
of the Sarpent, and his people will look for them when he goes back to
his village. Their eyes must not be left long in a fog, but they must
see what they look for. I know that my brother has a white hand; he will
not strike even the dead. He will wait for us; when we come back, he
will not hide his face from shame for his friend. The great Serpent of
the Mohicans must be worthy to go on the war-path with Hawkeye.”

“Ay, ay, Sarpent, I see how it is; that name’s to stick, and in time I
shall get to be known by it instead of Deerslayer; well, if such honours
will come, the humblest of us all must be willing to abide by ‘em. As
for your looking for scalps, it belongs to your gifts, and I see no harm
in it. Be marciful, Sarpent, howsever; be marciful, I beseech of you. It
surely can do no harm to a red-skin’s honour to show a little marcy. As
for the old man, the father of two young women, who might ripen better
feelin’s in his heart, and Harry March, here, who, pine as he is, might
better bear the fruit of a more Christianized tree, as for them two, I
leave them in the hands of the white man’s God. Wasn’t it for the bloody
sticks, no man should go ag’in the Mingos this night, seein’ that it
would dishonor our faith and characters; but them that crave blood can’t
complain if blood is shed at their call. Still, Sarpent, you can be
marciful. Don’t begin your career with the wails of women and the cries
of children. Bear yourself so that Hist will smile, and not weep, when
she meets you. Go, then; and the Manitou presarve you!”

“My brother will stay here with the scow. Wah will soon be standing on
the shore waiting, and Chingachgook must hasten.”

The Indian then joined his two co-adventurers, and first lowering the
sail, they all three entered the canoe, and left the side of the ark.
Neither Hutter nor March spoke to Deerslayer concerning their object, or
the probable length of their absence. All this had been confided to
the Indian, who had acquitted himself of the trust with characteristic
brevity. As soon as the canoe was out of sight, and that occurred
ere the paddles had given a dozen strokes, Deerslayer made the best
dispositions he could to keep the ark as nearly stationary as possible;
and then he sat down in the end of the scow, to chew the cud of his own
bitter reflections. It was not long, however, before he was joined by
Judith, who sought every occasion to be near him, managing her attack on
his affections with the address that was suggested by native coquetry,
aided by no little practice, but which received much of its most
dangerous power from the touch of feeling that threw around her manner,
voice, accents, thoughts, and acts, the indescribable witchery of
natural tenderness. Leaving the young hunter exposed to these dangerous
assailants, it has become our more immediate business to follow the
party in the canoe to the shore.

The controlling influence that led Hutter and Hurry to repeat their
experiment against the camp was precisely that which had induced the
first attempt, a little heightened, perhaps, by the desire of revenge.
But neither of these two rude beings, so ruthless in all things that
touched the rights and interests of the red man, thought possessing
veins of human feeling on other matters, was much actuated by any other
desire than a heartless longing for profit. Hurry had felt angered at
his sufferings, when first liberated, it is true, but that emotion
soon disappeared in the habitual love of gold, which he sought with the
reckless avidity of a needy spendthrift, rather than with the ceaseless
longings of a miser. In short, the motive that urged them both so soon
to go against the Hurons, was an habitual contempt of their enemy,
acting on the unceasing cupidity of prodigality. The additional chances
of success, however, had their place in the formation of the second
enterprise. It was known that a large portion of the warriors--perhaps
all--were encamped for the night abreast of the castle, and it was hoped
that the scalps of helpless victims would be the consequence. To confess
the truth, Hutter in particular--he who had just left two daughters
behind him--expected to find few besides women and children in the camp.
The fact had been but slightly alluded to in his communications with
Hurry, and with Chingachgook it had been kept entirely out of view. If
the Indian thought of it at all, it was known only to himself.

Hutter steered the canoe; Hurry had manfully taken his post in the bows,
and Chingachgook stood in the centre. We say stood, for all three were
so skilled in the management of that species of frail bark, as to be
able to keep erect positions in the midst of the darkness. The approach
to the shore was made with great caution, and the landing effected in
safety. The three now prepared their arms, and began their tiger-like
approach upon the camp. The Indian was on the lead, his two companions
treading in his footsteps with a stealthy cautiousness of manner that
rendered their progress almost literally noiseless. Occasionally a
dried twig snapped under the heavy weight of the gigantic Hurry, or the
blundering clumsiness of the old man; but, had the Indian walked on air,
his step could not have seemed lighter. The great object was first to
discover the position of the fire, which was known to be the centre of
the whole encampment. At length the keen eye of Chingachgook caught a
glimpse of this important guide. It was glimmering at a distance among
the trunks of trees. There was no blaze, but merely a single smouldering
brand, as suited the hour; the savages usually retiring and rising with
the revolutions of the sun.

As soon as a view was obtained of this beacon, the progress of the
adventurers became swifter and more certain. In a few minutes they got
to the edge of the circle of little huts. Here they stopped to survey
their ground, and to concert their movements. The darkness was so deep
as to render it difficult to distinguish anything but the glowing brand,
the trunks of the nearest trees, and the endless canopy of leaves that
veiled the clouded heaven. It was ascertained, however, that a hut was
quite near, and Chingachgook attempted to reconnnoitre its interior.
The manner in which the Indian approached the place that was supposed to
contain enemies, resembled the wily advances of the cat on the bird. As
he drew near, he stooped to his hands and knees, for the entrance was so
low as to require this attitude, even as a convenience. Before trusting
his head inside, however, he listened long to catch the breathing of
sleepers. No sound was audible, and this human Serpent thrust his head
in at the door, or opening, as another serpent would have peered in on
the nest. Nothing rewarded the hazardous experiment; for, after feeling
cautiously with a hand, the place was found to be empty.

The Delaware proceeded in the same guarded manner to one or two more
of the huts, finding all in the same situation. He then returned to his
companions, and informed them that the Hurons had deserted their camp.
A little further inquiry corroborated this fact, and it only remained to
return to the canoe. The different manner in which the adventurers bore
the disappointment is worthy of a passing remark. The chief, who had
landed solely with the hope of acquiring renown, stood stationary,
leaning against a tree, waiting the pleasure of his companions. He was
mortified, and a little surprised, it is true; but he bore all with
dignity, falling back for support on the sweeter expectations that still
lay in reserve for that evening. It was true, he could not now hope to
meet his mistress with the proofs of his daring and skill on his person,
but he might still hope to meet her; and the warrior, who was zealous in
the search, might always hope to be honored. On the other hand, Hutter
and Hurry, who had been chiefly instigated by the basest of all human
motives, the thirst of gain, could scarce control their feelings. They
went prowling among the huts, as if they expected to find some forgotten
child or careless sleeper; and again and again did they vent their spite
on the insensible huts, several of which were actually torn to pieces,
and scattered about the place. Nay, they even quarrelled with each
other, and fierce reproaches passed between them. It is possible
some serious consequences might have occurred, had not the Delaware
interfered to remind them of the danger of being so unguarded, and of
the necessity of returning to the ark. This checked the dispute, and in
a few minutes they were paddling sullenly back to the spot where they
hoped to find that vessel.

It has been said that Judith took her place at the side of Deerslayer,
soon after the adventurers departed. For a short time the girl was
silent, and the hunter was ignorant which of the sisters had approached
him, but he soon recognized the rich, full-spirited voice of the elder,
as her feelings escaped in words.

“This is a terrible life for women, Deerslayer!” she exclaimed. “Would
to Heaven I could see an end of it!”

“The life is well enough, Judith,” was the answer, “being pretty much as
it is used or abused. What would you wish to see in its place?”

“I should be a thousand times happier to live nearer to civilized
beings--where there are farms and churches, and houses built as it might
be by Christian hands; and where my sleep at night would be sweet and
tranquil! A dwelling near one of the forts would be far better than this
dreary place where we live!”

“Nay, Judith, I can’t agree too lightly in the truth of all this. If
forts are good to keep off inimies, they sometimes hold inimies of their
own. I don’t think ‘twould be for your good, or the good of Hetty, to
live near one; and if I must say what I think, I’m afeard you are
a little too near as it is.” Deerslayer went on, in his own steady,
earnest manner, for the darkness concealed the tints that colored the
cheeks of the girl almost to the brightness of crimson, while her own
great efforts suppressed the sounds of the breathing that nearly choked
her. “As for farms, they have their uses, and there’s them that like
to pass their lives on ‘em; but what comfort can a man look for in a
clearin’, that he can’t find in double quantities in the forest? If air,
and room, and light, are a little craved, the windrows and the streams
will furnish ‘em, or here are the lakes for such as have bigger longings
in that way; but where are you to find your shades, and laughing
springs, and leaping brooks, and vinerable trees, a thousand years old,
in a clearin’? You don’t find them, but you find their disabled trunks,
marking the ‘arth like headstones in a graveyard. It seems to me that
the people who live in such places must be always thinkin’ of their own
inds, and of universal decay; and that, too, not of the decay that is
brought about by time and natur’, but the decay that follows waste and
violence. Then as to churches, they are good, I suppose, else wouldn’t
good men uphold ‘em. But they are not altogether necessary. They call
‘em the temples of the Lord; but, Judith, the whole ‘arth is a temple of
the Lord to such as have the right mind. Neither forts nor churches
make people happier of themselves. Moreover, all is contradiction in
the settlements, while all is concord in the woods. Forts and churches
almost always go together, and yet they’re downright contradictions;
churches being for peace, and forts for war. No, no--give me the strong
places of the wilderness, which is the trees, and the churches, too,
which are arbors raised by the hand of natur’.”

“Woman is not made for scenes like these, Deerslayer, scenes of which we
shall have no end, as long as this war lasts.”

“If you mean women of white colour, I rather think you’re not far from
the truth, gal; but as for the females of the redmen, such visitations
are quite in character. Nothing would make Hist, now, the bargained
wife of yonder Delaware, happier than to know that he is at this moment
prowling around his nat’ral inimies, striving after a scalp.”

“Surely, surely, Deerslayer, she cannot be a woman, and not feel concern
when she thinks the man she loves is in danger!”

“She doesn’t think of the danger, Judith, but of the honor; and when the
heart is desperately set on such feelin’s, why, there is little room to
crowd in fear. Hist is a kind, gentle, laughing, pleasant creatur’, but
she loves honor, as well as any Delaware gal I ever know’d. She’s to
meet the Sarpent an hour hence, on the p’int where Hetty landed, and no
doubt she has her anxiety about it, like any other woman; but she’d be
all the happier did she know that her lover was at this moment waylaying
a Mingo for his scalp.”

“If you really believe this, Deerslayer, no wonder you lay so much
stress on gifts. Certain am I, that no white girl could feel anything
but misery while she believed her betrothed in danger of his life! Nor
do I suppose even you, unmoved and calm as you ever seem to be, could be
at peace if you believed your Hist in danger.”

“That’s a different matter--‘tis altogether a different matter, Judith.
Woman is too weak and gentle to be intended to run such risks, and man
must feel for her. Yes, I rather think that’s as much red natur’ as it’s
white. But I have no Hist, nor am I like to have; for I hold it wrong to
mix colours, any way except in friendship and sarvices.”

“In that you are and feel as a white man should! As for Hurry Harry, I
do think it would be all the same to him whether his wife were a squaw
or a governor’s daughter, provided she was a little comely, and could
help to keep his craving stomach full.”

“You do March injustice, Judith; yes, you do. The poor fellow dotes
on you, and when a man has ra’ally set his heart on such a creatur’ it
isn’t a Mingo, or even a Delaware gal, that’ll be likely to unsettle
his mind. You may laugh at such men as Hurry and I, for we’re rough and
unteached in the ways of books and other knowledge; but we’ve our good
p’ints, as well as our bad ones. An honest heart is not to be despised,
gal, even though it be not varsed in all the niceties that please the
female fancy.”

“You, Deerslayer! And do you--can you, for an instant, suppose I place
you by the side of Harry March? No, no, I am not so far gone in dullness
as that. No one--man or woman--could think of naming your honest heart,
manly nature, and simple truth, with the boisterous selfishness, greedy
avarice, and overbearing ferocity of Harry March. The very best that can
be said of him, is to be found in his name of Hurry Skurry, which, if it
means no great harm, means no great good. Even my father, following his
feelings with the other, as he is doing at this moment, well knows the
difference between you. This I know, for he said as much to me, in plain
language.”

Judith was a girl of quick sensibilities and of impetuous feelings; and,
being under few of the restraints that curtail the manifestations of
maiden emotions among those who are educated in the habits of civilized
life, she sometimes betrayed the latter with a feeling that was so
purely natural as to place it as far above the wiles of coquetry as it
was superior to its heartlessness. She had now even taken one of the
hard hands of the hunter and pressed it between both her own, with a
warmth and earnestness that proved how sincere was her language. It
was perhaps fortunate that she was checked by the very excess of her
feelings, since the same power might have urged her on to avow all that
her father had said--the old man not having been satisfied with making a
comparison favorable to Deerslayer, as between the hunter and Hurry, but
having actually, in his blunt rough way, briefly advised his daughter to
cast off the latter entirely, and to think of the former as a husband.
Judith would not willingly have said this to any other man, but
there was so much confidence awakened by the guileless simplicity of
Deerslayer, that one of her nature found it a constant temptation to
overstep the bounds of habit. She went no further, however, immediately
relinquishing the hand, and falling back on a reserve that was more
suited to her sex, and, indeed, to her natural modesty.

“Thankee, Judith, thankee with all my heart,” returned the hunter, whose
humility prevented him from placing any flattering interpretation on
either the conduct or the language of the girl. “Thankee as much as if
it was all true. Harry’s sightly--yes, he’s as sightly as the tallest
pine of the mountains, and the Sarpent has named him accordingly;
however, some fancy good looks, and some fancy good conduct, only. Hurry
has one advantage, and it depends on himself whether he’ll have t’other
or--Hark! That’s your father’s voice, gal, and he speaks like a man
who’s riled at something.”

“God save us from any more of these horrible scenes!” exclaimed Judith,
bending her face to her knees, and endeavoring to exclude the discordant
sounds, by applying her hands to her ears. “I sometimes wish I had no
father!”

This was bitterly said, and the repinings which extorted the words were
bitterly felt. It is impossible to say what might next have escaped her
had not a gentle, low voice spoken at her elbow.

“Judith, I ought to have read a chapter to father and Hurry!” said the
innocent but terrified speaker, “and that would have kept them from
going again on such an errand. Do you call to them, Deerslayer, and
tell them I want them, and that it will be good for them both if they’ll
return and hearken to my words.”

“Ah’s me! Poor Hetty, you little know the cravin’s for gold and revenge,
if you believe they are so easily turned aside from their longin’s! But
this is an uncommon business in more ways than one, Judith. I hear your
father and Hurry growling like bears, and yet no noise comes from the
mouth of the young chief. There’s an ind of secrecy, and yet his
whoop, which ought to ring in the mountains, accordin’ to rule in such
sarcumstances, is silent!”

“Justice may have alighted on him, and his death have saved the lives of
the innocent.”

“Not it--not it--the Sarpent is not the one to suffer if that’s to be
the law. Sartainly there has been no onset, and ‘tis most likely that
the camp’s deserted, and the men are comin’ back disapp’inted. That
accounts for the growls of Hurry and the silence of the Sarpent.”

Just at this instant a fall of a paddle was heard in the canoe, for
vexation made March reckless. Deerslayer felt convinced that his
conjecture was true. The sail being down, the ark had not drifted
far; and ere many minutes he heard Chingachgook, in a low, quiet tone,
directing Hutter how to steer in order to reach it. In less time than it
takes to tell the fact, the canoe touched the scow, and the adventurers
entered the latter. Neither Hutter nor Hurry spoke of what had occurred.
But the Delaware, in passing his friend, merely uttered the words
“fire’s out,” which, if not literally true, sufficiently explained the
truth to his listener.

It was now a question as to the course to be steered. A short surly
conference was held, when Hutter decided that the wisest way would be
to keep in motion as the means most likely to defeat any attempt at a
surprise--announcing his own and March’s intention to requite themselves
for the loss of sleep during their captivity, by lying down. As the air
still baffled and continued light, it was finally determined to sail
before it, let it come in what direction it might, so long as it did not
blow the ark upon the strand. This point settled, the released prisoners
helped to hoist the sail, and they threw themselves upon two of the
pallets, leaving Deerslayer and his friend to look after the movements
of the craft. As neither of the latter was disposed to sleep, on account
of the appointment with Hist, this arrangement was acceptable to all
parties. That Judith and Hetty remained up also, in no manner impaired
the agreeable features of this change.

For some time the scow rather drifted than sailed along the western
shore, following a light southerly current of the air. The progress
was slow--not exceeding a couple of miles in the hour--but the two men
perceived that it was not only carrying them towards the point they
desired to reach, but at a rate that was quite as fast as the hour
yet rendered necessary. But little more was said the while even by the
girls; and that little had more reference to the rescue of Hist than to
any other subject. The Indian was calm to the eye, but as minute after
minute passed, his feelings became more and more excited, until they
reached a state that might have satisfied the demands of even the most
exacting mistress. Deerslayer kept the craft as much in the bays as was
prudent, for the double purpose of sailing within the shadows of the
woods, and of detecting any signs of an encampment they might pass on
the shore. In this manner they doubled one low point, and were already
in the bay that was terminated north by the goal at which they aimed.
The latter was still a quarter of a mile distant, when Chingachgook
came silently to the side of his friend and pointed to a place directly
ahead. A small fire was glimmering just within the verge of the bushes
that lined the shore on the southern side of the point--leaving no doubt
that the Indians had suddenly removed their camp to the very place,
or at least the very projection of land where Hist had given them the
rendezvous!



Chapter XVI


    “I hear thee babbling to the vale
    Of sunshine and of flowers,
    But unto me thou bring’st a tale
    Of visionary hours.”

    Wordsworth.

One discovery mentioned at the close of the preceding chapter was of
great moment in the eyes of Deerslayer and his friend. In the first
place, there was the danger, almost the certainty, that Hutter and Hurry
would make a fresh attempt on this camp, should they awake and ascertain
its position. Then there was the increased risk of landing to bring off
Hist; and there were the general uncertainty and additional hazards that
must follow from the circumstance that their enemies had begun to change
their positions. As the Delaware was aware that the hour was near when
he ought to repair to the rendezvous, he no longer thought of trophies
torn from his foes, and one of the first things arranged between him and
his associate was to permit the two others to sleep on, lest they should
disturb the execution of their plans by substituting some of their own.
The ark moved slowly, and it would have taken fully a quarter of an hour
to reach the point, at the rate at which they were going, thus affording
time for a little forethought. The Indians, in the wish to conceal their
fire from those who were thought to be still in the castle, had placed
it so near the southern side of the point as to render it extremely
difficult to shut it in by the bushes, though Deerslayer varied the
direction of the scow both to the right and to the left, in the hope of
being able to effect that object.

“There’s one advantage, Judith, in finding that fire so near the water,”
 he said, while executing these little manoeuvres, “since it shows
the Mingos believe we are in the hut, and our coming on ‘em from this
quarter will be an unlooked for event. But it’s lucky Harry March and
your father are asleep, else we should have ‘em prowling after scalps
ag’in. Ha! there--the bushes are beginning to shut in the fire--and now
it can’t be seen at all!”

Deerslayer waited a little to make certain that he had at last
gained the desired position, when he gave the signal agreed on, and
Chingachgook let go the grapnel and lowered the sail.

The situation in which the ark now lay had its advantages and its
disadvantages. The fire had been hid by sheering towards the shore, and
the latter was nearer, perhaps, than was desirable. Still, the water
was known to be very deep further off in the lake, and anchoring in deep
water, under the circumstances in which the party was placed, was to
be avoided, if possible. It was also believed no raft could be within
miles; and though the trees in the darkness appeared almost to overhang
the scow, it would not be easy to get off to her without using a boat.
The intense darkness that prevailed so close in with the forest, too,
served as an effectual screen, and so long as care was had not to make a
noise, there was little or no danger of being detected. All these things
Deerslayer pointed out to Judith, instructing her as to the course she
was to follow in the event of an alarm; for it was thought to the last
degree inexpedient to arouse the sleepers, unless it might be in the
greatest emergency.

“And now, Judith, as we understand one another, it is time the Sarpent
and I had taken to the canoe,” the hunter concluded. “The star has not
risen yet, it’s true, but it soon must, though none of us are likely
to be any the wiser for it to-night, on account of the clouds. Howsever,
Hist has a ready mind, and she’s one of them that doesn’t always need to
have a thing afore her, to see it. I’ll warrant you she’ll not be either
two minutes or two feet out of the way, unless them jealous vagabonds,
the Mingos, have taken the alarm, and put her as a stool-pigeon to
catch us, or have hid her away, in order to prepare her mind for a Huron
instead of a Mohican husband.”

“Deerslayer,” interrupted the girl, earnestly; “this is a most dangerous
service; why do you go on it, at all?”

“Anan!--Why you know, gal, we go to bring off Hist, the Sarpent’s
betrothed--the maid he means to marry, as soon as we get back to the
tribe.”

“That is all right for the Indian--but you do not mean to marry
Hist--you are not betrothed, and why should two risk their lives and
liberties, to do that which one can just as well perform?”

“Ah--now I understand you, Judith--yes, now I begin to take the idee.
You think as Hist is the Sarpent’s betrothed, as they call it, and not
mine, it’s altogether his affair; and as one man can paddle a canoe he
ought to be left to go after his gal alone! But you forget this is our
ar’n’d here on the lake, and it would not tell well to forget an ar’n’d
just as the pinch came. Then, if love does count for so much with some
people, particularly with young women, fri’ndship counts for something,
too, with other some. I dares to say, the Delaware can paddle a canoe
by himself, and can bring off Hist by himself, and perhaps he would like
that quite as well, as to have me with him; but he couldn’t sarcumvent
sarcumventions, or stir up an ambushment, or fight with the savages, and
get his sweetheart at the same time, as well by himself as if he had
a fri’nd with him to depend on, even if that fri’nd is no better than
myself. No--no--Judith, you wouldn’t desert one that counted on you, at
such a moment, and you can’t, in reason, expect me to do it.”

“I fear--I believe you are right, Deerslayer, and yet I wish you were
not to go! Promise me one thing, at least, and that is, not to trust
yourself among the savages, or to do anything more than to save the
girl. That will be enough for once, and with that you ought to be
satisfied.”

“Lord bless you! gal; one would think it was Hetty that’s talking, and
not the quick-witted and wonderful Judith Hutter! But fright makes the
wise silly, and the strong weak. Yes, I’ve seen proofs of that, time
and ag’in! Well, it’s kind and softhearted in you, Judith, to feel this
consarn for a fellow creatur’, and I shall always say that you are kind
and of true feelings, let them that envy your good looks tell as many
idle stories of you as they may.”

“Deerslayer!” hastily said the girl, interrupting him, though nearly
choked by her own emotions; “do you believe all you hear about a poor,
motherless girl? Is the foul tongue of Hurry Harry to blast my life?”

“Not it, Judith--not it. I’ve told Hurry it wasn’t manful to backbite
them he couldn’t win by fair means; and that even an Indian is always
tender, touching a young woman’s good name.”

“If I had a brother, he wouldn’t dare to do it!” exclaimed Judith, with
eyes flashing fire. “But, finding me without any protector but an old
man, whose ears are getting to be as dull as his feelings, he has his
way as he pleases!”

“Not exactly that, Judith; no, not exactly that, neither! No man,
brother or stranger, would stand by and see as fair a gal as yourself
hunted down, without saying a word in her behalf. Hurry’s in ‘arnest in
wanting to make you his wife, and the little he does let out ag’in you,
comes more from jealousy, like, than from any thing else. Smile on him
when he awakes, and squeeze his hand only half as hard as you squeezed
mine a bit ago, and my life on it, the poor fellow will forget every
thing but your comeliness. Hot words don’t always come from the heart,
but oftener from the stomach than anywhere else. Try him, Judith, when
he awakes, and see the virtue of a smile.”

Deerslayer laughed, in his own manner, as he concluded, and then he
intimated to the patient-looking, but really impatient Chingachgook, his
readiness to proceed. As the young man entered the canoe, the girl stood
immovable as stone, lost in the musings that the language and manner
of the other were likely to produce. The simplicity of the hunter had
completely put her at fault; for, in her narrow sphere, Judith was an
expert manager of the other sex; though in the present instance she was
far more actuated by impulses, in all she had said and done, than by
calculation. We shall not deny that some of Judith’s reflections were
bitter, though the sequel of the tale must be referred to, in order to
explain how merited, or how keen were her sufferings.

Chingachgook and his pale-face friend set forth on their hazardous and
delicate enterprise, with a coolness and method that would have done
credit to men who were on their twentieth, instead of being on their
first, war-path. As suited his relation to the pretty fugitive, in whose
service they were engaged, the Indian took his place in the head of
the canoe; while Deerslayer guided its movements in the stern. By this
arrangement, the former would be the first to land, and of course,
the first to meet his mistress. The latter had taken his post without
comment, but in secret influenced by the reflection that one who had so
much at stake as the Indian, might not possibly guide the canoe with the
same steadiness and intelligence, as another who had more command of his
feelings. From the instant they left the side of the ark, the movements
of the two adventurers were like the manoeuvres of highly-drilled
soldiers, who, for the first time were called on to meet the enemy in
the field. As yet, Chingachgook had never fired a shot in anger, and the
debut of his companion in warfare is known to the reader. It is true,
the Indian had been hanging about his enemy’s camp for a few hours, on
his first arrival, and he had even once entered it, as related in the
last chapter, but no consequences had followed either experiment.
Now, it was certain that an important result was to be effected, or a
mortifying failure was to ensue. The rescue, or the continued captivity
of Hist, depended on the enterprise. In a word, it was virtually the
maiden expedition of these two ambitious young forest soldiers; and
while one of them set forth impelled by sentiments that usually carry
men so far, both had all their feelings of pride and manhood enlisted in
their success.

Instead of steering in a direct line to the point, then distant from the
ark less than a quarter of a mile, Deerslayer laid the head of his
canoe diagonally towards the centre of the lake, with a view to obtain
a position from which he might approach the shore, having his enemies
in his front only. The spot where Hetty had landed, and where Hist had
promised to meet them, moreover, was on the upper side of the projection
rather than on the lower; and to reach it would have required the two
adventurers to double nearly the whole point, close in with the shore,
had not this preliminary step been taken. So well was the necessity for
this measure understood, that Chingachgook quietly paddled on, although
it was adopted without consulting him, and apparently was taking him in
a direction nearly opposite to that one might think he most wished to
go. A few minutes sufficed, however, to carry the canoe the necessary
distance, when both the young men ceased paddling as it were by
instinctive consent, and the boat became stationary. The darkness
increased rather than diminished, but it was still possible, from the
place where the adventurers lay, to distinguish the outlines of the
mountains. In vain did the Delaware turn his head eastward, to catch a
glimpse of the promised star; for, notwithstanding the clouds broke
a little near the horizon in that quarter of the heavens, the curtain
continued so far drawn as effectually to conceal all behind it. In
front, as was known by the formation of land above and behind it, lay
the point, at the distance of about a thousand feet. No signs of the
castle could be seen, nor could any movement in that quarter of the lake
reach the ear. The latter circumstance might have been equally owing to
the distance, which was several miles, or to the fact that nothing was
in motion. As for the ark, though scarcely farther from the canoe than
the point, it lay so completely buried in the shadows of the shore, that
it would not have been visible even had there been many degrees more of
light than actually existed.

The adventurers now held a conference in low voices, consulting together
as to the probable time. Deerslayer thought it wanted yet some minutes
to the rising of the star, while the impatience of the chief caused him
to fancy the night further advanced, and to believe that his betrothed
was already waiting his appearance on the shore. As might have been
expected, the opinion of the latter prevailed, and his friend disposed
himself to steer for the place of rendezvous. The utmost skill and
precaution now became necessary in the management of the canoe. The
paddles were lifted and returned to the water in a noiseless manner;
and when within a hundred yards of the beach, Chingachgook took in his,
altogether laying his hand on his rifle in its stead. As they got still
more within the belt of darkness that girded the woods, it was seen
that they were steering too far north, and the course was altered
accordingly. The canoe now seemed to move by instinct, so cautious and
deliberate were all its motions. Still it continued to advance, until
its bows grated on the gravel of the beach, at the precise spot where
Hetty had landed, and whence her voice had issued, the previous night,
as the ark was passing. There was, as usual, a narrow strand, but bushes
fringed the woods, and in most places overhung the water.

Chingachgook stepped upon the beach, and cautiously examined it for some
distance on each side of the canoe. In order to do this, he was often
obliged to wade to his knees in the lake, but no Hist rewarded his
search. When he returned, he found his friend also on the shore. They
next conferred in whispers, the Indian apprehending that they must have
mistaken the place of rendezvous. But Deerslayer thought it was probable
they had mistaken the hour. While he was yet speaking, he grasped the
arm of the Delaware, caused him to turn his head in the direction of
the lake, and pointed towards the summits of the eastern mountains.
The clouds had broken a little, apparently behind rather than above the
hills, and the evening star was glittering among the branches of a pine.
This was every way a flattering omen, and the young men leaned on their
rifles, listening intently for the sound of approaching footsteps.
Voices they often heard, and mingled with them were the suppressed cries
of children, and the low but sweet laugh of Indian women. As the
native Americans are habitually cautious, and seldom break out in loud
conversation, the adventurers knew by these facts that they must be
very near the encampment. It was easy to perceive that there was a fire
within the woods, by the manner in which some of the upper branches of
the trees were illuminated, but it was not possible, where they stood,
to ascertain exactly how near it was to themselves. Once or twice, it
seemed as if stragglers from around the fire were approaching the place
of rendezvous; but these sounds were either altogether illusion, or
those who had drawn near returned again without coming to the shore. A
quarter of an hour was passed in this state of intense expectation and
anxiety, when Deerslayer proposed that they should circle the point in
the canoe; and by getting a position close in, where the camp could be
seen, reconnoitre the Indians, and thus enable themselves to form some
plausible conjectures for the non-appearance of Hist. The Delaware,
however, resolutely refused to quit the spot, reasonably enough offering
as a reason the disappointment of the girl, should she arrive in his
absence. Deerslayer felt for his friend’s concern, and offered to make
the circuit of the point by himself, leaving the latter concealed in the
bushes to await the occurrence of any fortunate event that might favour
his views. With this understanding, then, the parties separated.

As soon as Deerslayer was at his post again, in the stern of the canoe,
he left the shore with the same precautions, and in the same noiseless
manner, as he had approached it. On this occasion he did not go far from
the land, the bushes affording a sufficient cover, by keeping as close
in as possible. Indeed, it would not have been easy to devise any means
more favourable to reconnoitering round an Indian camp, than those
afforded by the actual state of things. The formation of the point
permitted the place to be circled on three of its sides, and the
progress of the boat was so noiseless as to remove any apprehensions
from an alarm through sound. The most practised and guarded foot might
stir a bunch of leaves, or snap a dried stick in the dark, but a bark
canoe could be made to float over the surface of smooth water, almost
with the instinctive readiness, and certainly with the noiseless
movements of an aquatic bird.

Deerslayer had got nearly in a line between the camp and the ark before
he caught a glimpse of the fire. This came upon him suddenly, and a
little unexpectedly, at first causing an alarm, lest he had incautiously
ventured within the circle of light it cast. But perceiving at a second
glance that he was certainly safe from detection, so long as the Indians
kept near the centre of the illumination, he brought the canoe to
a state of rest in the most favourable position he could find, and
commenced his observations.

We have written much, but in vain, concerning this extraordinary being,
if the reader requires now to be told, that, untutored as he was in the
learning of the world, and simple as he ever showed himself to be in all
matters touching the subtleties of conventional taste, he was a man
of strong, native, poetical feeling. He loved the woods for their
freshness, their sublime solitudes, their vastness, and the impress
that they everywhere bore of the divine hand of their creator. He seldom
moved through them, without pausing to dwell on some peculiar beauty
that gave him pleasure, though seldom attempting to investigate the
causes; and never did a day pass without his communing in spirit, and
this, too, without the aid of forms or language, with the infinite
source of all he saw, felt, and beheld. Thus constituted, in a moral
sense, and of a steadiness that no danger could appall, or any crisis
disturb, it is not surprising that the hunter felt a pleasure at looking
on the scene he now beheld, that momentarily caused him to forget the
object of his visit. This will more fully appear when we describe it.

The canoe lay in front of a natural vista, not only through the bushes
that lined the shore, but of the trees also, that afforded a clear view
of the camp. It was by means of this same opening that the light had
been first seen from the ark. In consequence of their recent change
of ground, the Indians had not yet retired to their huts, but had been
delayed by their preparations, which included lodging as well as food.
A large fire had been made, as much to answer the purpose of torches as
for the use of their simple cookery; and at this precise moment it was
blazing high and bright, having recently received a large supply of
dried brush. The effect was to illuminate the arches of the forest, and
to render the whole area occupied by the camp as light as if hundreds of
tapers were burning. Most of the toil had ceased, and even the hungriest
child had satisfied its appetite. In a word, the time was that moment of
relaxation and general indolence which is apt to succeed a hearty
meal, and when the labours of the day have ended. The hunters and
the fishermen had been totally successful; and food, that one great
requisite of savage life, being abundant, every other care appeared to
have subsided in the sense of enjoyment dependent on this all-important
fact.

Deerslayer saw at a glance that many of the warriors were absent.
His acquaintance Rivenoak, however, was present, being seated in the
foreground of a picture that Salvator Rosa would have delighted to draw,
his swarthy features illuminated as much by pleasure as by the torchlike
flame, while he showed another of the tribe one of the elephants that
had caused so much sensation among his people. A boy was looking over
his shoulder, in dull curiosity, completing the group. More in the
background eight or ten warriors lay half recumbent on the ground, or
sat with their backs reclining against trees, so many types of indolent
repose. Their arms were near them all, sometimes leaning against the
same trees as themselves, or were lying across their bodies in careless
preparation. But the group that most attracted the attention of
Deerslayer was that composed of the women and children. All the females
appeared to be collected together, and, almost as a matter of course,
their young were near them. The former laughed and chatted in their
rebuked and quiet manner, though one who knew the habits of the people
might have detected that everything was not going on in its usual train.
Most of the young women seemed to be light-hearted enough; but one old
hag was seated apart with a watchful soured aspect, which the hunter at
once knew betokened that some duty of an unpleasant character had been
assigned her by the chiefs. What that duty was, he had no means of
knowing; but he felt satisfied it must be in some measure connected with
her own sex, the aged among the women generally being chosen for such
offices and no other.

As a matter of course, Deerslayer looked eagerly and anxiously for the
form of Hist. She was nowhere visible though the light penetrated to
considerable distances in all directions around the fire. Once or twice
he started, as he thought he recognized her laugh; but his ears were
deceived by the soft melody that is so common to the Indian female
voice. At length the old woman spoke loud and angrily, and then he
caught a glimpse of one or two dark figures in the background of trees,
which turned as if obedient to the rebuke, and walked more within the
circle of the light. A young warrior’s form first came fairly into
view; then followed two youthful females, one of whom proved to be the
Delaware girl. Deerslayer now comprehended it all. Hist was watched,
possibly by her young companion, certainly by the old woman. The youth
was probably some suitor of either her or her companion; but even his
discretion was distrusted under the influence of his admiration. The
known vicinity of those who might be supposed to be her friends, and the
arrival of a strange red man on the lake had induced more than the usual
care, and the girl had not been able to slip away from those who watched
her in order to keep her appointment. Deerslayer traced her uneasiness
by her attempting once or twice to look up through the branches of the
trees, as if endeavouring to get glimpses of the star she had herself
named as the sign for meeting. All was vain, however, and after
strolling about the camp a little longer, in affected indifference, the
two girls quitted their male escort, and took seats among their own sex.
As soon as this was done, the old sentinel changed her place to one
more agreeable to herself, a certain proof that she had hitherto been
exclusively on watch.

Deerslayer now felt greatly at a loss how to proceed. He well knew
that Chingachgook could never be persuaded to return to the ark without
making some desperate effort for the recovery of his mistress, and his
own generous feelings well disposed him to aid in such an undertaking.
He thought he saw the signs of an intention among the females to retire
for the night; and should he remain, and the fire continue to give out
its light, he might discover the particular hut or arbour under which
Hist reposed; a circumstance that would be of infinite use in their
future proceedings. Should he remain, however, much longer where he was,
there was great danger that the impatience of his friend would drive him
into some act of imprudence. At each instant, indeed, he expected to see
the swarthy form of the Delaware appearing in the background, like the
tiger prowling around the fold. Taking all things into consideration,
therefore, he came to the conclusion it would be better to rejoin his
friend, and endeavour to temper his impetuosity by some of his own
coolness and discretion. It required but a minute or two to put this
plan in execution, the canoe returning to the strand some ten or fifteen
minutes after it had left it.

Contrary to his expectations, perhaps, Deerslayer found the Indian at
his post, from which he had not stirred, fearful that his betrothed
might arrive during his absence. A conference followed, in which
Chingachgook was made acquainted with the state of things in the camp.
When Hist named the point as the place of meeting, it was with the
expectation of making her escape from the old position, and of repairing
to a spot that she expected to find without any occupants; but the
sudden change of localities had disconcerted all her plans. A much
greater degree of vigilance than had been previously required was now
necessary; and the circumstance that an aged woman was on watch also
denoted some special grounds of alarm. All these considerations, and
many more that will readily suggest themselves to the reader, were
briefly discussed before the young men came to any decision. The
occasion, however, being one that required acts instead of words, the
course to be pursued was soon chosen.

Disposing of the canoe in such a manner that Hist must see it, should
she come to the place of meeting previously to their return, the young
men looked to their arms and prepared to enter the wood. The whole
projection into the lake contained about two acres of land; and the part
that formed the point, and on which the camp was placed, did not compose
a surface of more than half that size. It was principally covered with
oaks, which, as is usual in the American forests, grew to a great height
without throwing out a branch, and then arched in a dense and rich
foliage. Beneath, except the fringe of thick bushes along the shore,
there was very little underbrush; though, in consequence of their shape,
the trees were closer together than is common in regions where the
axe has been freely used, resembling tall, straight, rustic columns,
upholding the usual canopy of leaves. The surface of the land was
tolerably even, but it had a small rise near its centre, which divided
it into a northern and southern half. On the latter, the Hurons had
built their fire, profiting by the formation to conceal it from their
enemies, who, it will be remembered, were supposed to be in the castle,
which bore northerly. A brook also came brawling down the sides of the
adjacent hills, and found its way into the lake on the southern side
of the point. It had cut for itself a deep passage through some of the
higher portions of the ground, and, in later days, when this spot has
become subjected to the uses of civilization, by its windings and shaded
banks, it has become no mean accessory in contributing to the beauty of
the place. This brook lay west of the encampment, and its waters found
their way into the great reservoir of that region on the same side, and
quite near to the spot chosen for the fire. All these peculiarities,
so far as circumstances allowed, had been noted by Deerslayer, and
explained to his friend.

The reader will understand that the little rise in the ground, that lay
behind the Indian encampment, greatly favoured the secret advance of the
two adventurers. It prevented the light of the fire diffusing itself on
the ground directly in the rear, although the land fell away towards the
water, so as to leave what might be termed the left, or eastern flank
of the position unprotected by this covering. We have said unprotected,
though that is not properly the word, since the knoll behind the
huts and the fire offered a cover for those who were now stealthily
approaching, rather than any protection to the Indians. Deerslayer did
not break through the fringe of bushes immediately abreast of the canoe,
which might have brought him too suddenly within the influence of the
light, since the hillock did not extend to the water; but he followed
the beach northerly until he had got nearly on the opposite side of
the tongue of land, which brought him under the shelter of the low
acclivity, and consequently more in the shadow.

As soon as the friends emerged from the bushes, they stopped to
reconnoitre. The fire was still blazing behind the little ridge, casting
its light upward into the tops of the trees, producing an effect that
was more pleasing than advantageous. Still the glare had its uses; for,
while the background was in obscurity, the foreground was in strong
light; exposing the savages and concealing their foes. Profiting by
the latter circumstance, the young men advanced cautiously towards the
ridge, Deerslayer in front, for he insisted on this arrangement, lest
the Delaware should be led by his feelings into some indiscretion. It
required but a moment to reach the foot of the little ascent, and
then commenced the most critical part of the enterprise. Moving with
exceeding caution, and trailing his rifle, both to keep its barrel out
of view, and in readiness for service, the hunter put foot before foot,
until he had got sufficiently high to overlook the summit, his own head
being alone brought into the light. Chingachgook was at his side and
both paused to take another close examination of the camp. In order,
however, to protect themselves against any straggler in the rear, they
placed their bodies against the trunk of an oak, standing on the side
next the fire.

The view that Deerslayer now obtained of the camp was exactly the
reverse of that he had perceived from the water. The dim figures which
he had formerly discovered must have been on the summit of the ridge,
a few feet in advance of the spot where he was now posted. The fire
was still blazing brightly, and around it were seated on logs thirteen
warriors, which accounted for all whom he had seen from the canoe. They
were conversing, with much earnestness among themselves, the image of
the elephant passing from hand to hand. The first burst of savage wonder
had abated, and the question now under discussion was the probable
existence, the history and the habits of so extraordinary an animal. We
have not leisure to record the opinions of these rude men on a subject
so consonant to their lives and experience; but little is hazarded in
saying that they were quite as plausible, and far more ingenious, than
half the conjectures that precede the demonstrations of science. However
much they may have been at fault as to their conclusions and inferences,
it is certain that they discussed the questions with a zealous and most
undivided attention. For the time being all else was forgotten, and our
adventurers could not have approached at a more fortunate instant.

The females were collected near each other, much as Deerslayer had last
seen them, nearly in a line between the place where he now stood and the
fire. The distance from the oak against which the young men leaned and
the warriors was about thirty yards; the women may have been half that
number of yards nigher. The latter, indeed, were so near as to make the
utmost circumspection, as to motion and noise, indispensable. Although
they conversed in their low, soft voices it was possible, in the
profound stillness of the woods, even to catch passages of the
discourse; and the light-hearted laugh that escaped the girls might
occasionally have reached the canoe. Deerslayer felt the tremolo that
passed through the frame of his friend when the latter first caught the
sweet sounds that issued from the plump, pretty lips of Hist. He even
laid a hand on the shoulder of the Indian, as a sort of admonition to
command himself. As the conversation grew more earnest, each leaned
forward to listen.

“The Hurons have more curious beasts than that,” said one of the girls,
contemptuously, for, like the men, they conversed of the elephant and
his qualities. “The Delawares will think this creature wonderful, but
to-morrow no Huron tongue will talk of it. Our young men will find him if
the animals dare to come near our wigwams!”

This was, in fact, addressed to Wah-ta-Wah, though she who spoke uttered
her words with an assumed diffidence and humility that prevented her
looking at the other.

“The Delawares are so far from letting such creatures come into their
country,” returned Hist, “that no one has even seen their images there!
Their young men would frighten away the images as well as the beasts.”

“The Delaware young men!--the nation is women--even the deer walk when
they hear their hunters coming! Who has ever heard the name of a young
Delaware warrior?”

This was said in good-humour, and with a laugh; but it was also said
bitingly. That Hist so felt it, was apparent by the spirit betrayed in
her answer.

“Who has ever heard the name of a young Delaware?” she repeated
earnestly. “Tamenund, himself, though now as old as the pines on the
hill, or as the eagles in the air, was once young; his name was heard
from the great salt lake to the sweet waters of the west. What is the
family of Uncas? Where is another as great, though the pale-faces have
ploughed up its grates, and trodden on its bones? Do the eagles fly as
high, is the deer as swift or the panther as brave? Is there no young
warrior of that race? Let the Huron maidens open their eyes wider, and
they may see one called Chingachgook, who is as stately as a young ash,
and as tough as the hickory.”

As the girl used her figurative language and told her companions to
“open their eyes, and they would see” the Delaware, Deerslayer thrust
his fingers into the sides of his friend, and indulged in a fit of his
hearty, benevolent laughter. The other smiled; but the language of the
speaker was too flattering, and the tones of her voice too sweet for
him to be led away by any accidental coincidence, however ludicrous. The
speech of Hist produced a retort, and the dispute, though conducted in
good-humour, and without any of the coarse violence of tone and gesture
that often impairs the charms of the sex in what is called civilized
life, grew warm and slightly clamorous. In the midst of this scene,
the Delaware caused his friend to stoop, so as completely to conceal
himself, and then he made a noise so closely resembling the little
chirrup of the smallest species of the American squirrel, that
Deerslayer himself, though he had heard the imitation a hundred times,
actually thought it came from one of the little animals skipping about
over his head. The sound is so familiar in the woods, that none of the
Hurons paid it the least attention. Hist, however, instantly ceased
talking, and sat motionless. Still she had sufficient self-command to
abstain from turning her head. She had heard the signal by which her
lover so often called her from the wigwam to the stolen interview,
and it came over her senses and her heart, as the serenade affects the
maiden in the land of song.

From that moment, Chingachgook felt certain that his presence was known.
This was effecting much, and he could now hope for a bolder line of
conduct on the part of his mistress than she might dare to adopt under
an uncertainty of his situation. It left no doubt of her endeavouring
to aid him in his effort to release her. Deerslayer arose as soon as
the signal was given, and though he had never held that sweet communion
which is known only to lovers, he was not slow to detect the great
change that had come over the manner of the girl. She still affected to
dispute, though it was no longer with spirit and ingenuity, but what she
said was uttered more as a lure to draw her antagonists on to an easy
conquest, than with any hopes of succeeding herself. Once or twice, it
is true, her native readiness suggested a retort, or an argument that
raised a laugh, and gave her a momentary advantage; but these little
sallies, the offspring of mother-wit, served the better to conceal her
real feelings, and to give to the triumph of the other party a more
natural air than it might have possessed without them. At length the
disputants became wearied, and they rose in a body as if about to
separate. It was now that Hist, for the first time, ventured to turn
her face in the direction whence the signal had come. In doing this,
her movements were natural, but guarded, and she stretched her arm and
yawned, as if overcome with a desire to sleep. The chirrup was again
heard, and the girl felt satisfied as to the position of her lover,
though the strong light in which she herself was placed, and the
comparative darkness in which the adventurers stood, prevented her from
seeing their heads, the only portions of their forms that appeared above
the ridge at all. The tree against which they were posted had a dark
shadow cast upon it by the intervention of an enormous pine that grew
between it and the fire, a circumstance which alone would have rendered
objects within its cloud invisible at any distance. This Deerslayer well
knew, and it was one of the reasons why he had selected this particular
tree.

The moment was near when it became necessary for Hist to act. She was
to sleep in a small hut, or bower, that had been built near where she
stood, and her companion was the aged hag already mentioned. Once within
the hut, with this sleepless old woman stretched across the entrance, as
was her nightly practice, the hope of escape was nearly destroyed, and
she might at any moment be summoned to her bed. Luckily, at this instant
one of the warriors called to the old woman by name, and bade her bring
him water to drink. There was a delicious spring on the northern side of
the point, and the hag took a gourd from a branch and, summoning Hist
to her side, she moved towards the summit of the ridge, intending to
descend and cross the point to the natural fountain. All this was
seen and understood by the adventurers, and they fell back into the
obscurity, concealing their persons by trees, until the two females had
passed them. In walking, Hist was held tightly by the hand. As she moved
by the tree that hid Chingachgook and his friend the former felt for his
tomahawk, with the intention to bury it in the brain of the woman. But
the other saw the hazard of such a measure, since a single scream
might bring all the warriors upon them, and he was averse to the act
on considerations of humanity. His hand, therefore, prevented the blow.
Still as the two moved past, the chirrup was repeated, and the Huron
woman stopped and faced the tree whence the sounds seemed to proceed,
standing, at the moment, within six feet of her enemies. She expressed
her surprise that a squirrel should be in motion at so late an hour, and
said it boded evil. Hist answered that she had heard the same squirrel
three times within the last twenty minutes, and that she supposed it
was waiting to obtain some of the crumbs left from the late supper. This
explanation appeared satisfactory, and they moved towards the spring,
the men following stealthily and closely. The gourd was filled, and the
old woman was hurrying back, her hand still grasping the wrist of the
girl, when she was suddenly seized so violently by the throat as to
cause her to release her captive, and to prevent her making any other
sound than a sort of gurgling, suffocating noise. The Serpent passed his
arm round the waist of his mistress and dashed through the bushes with
her, on the north side of the point. Here he immediately turned along
the beach and ran towards the canoe. A more direct course could have
been taken, but it might have led to a discovery of the place of
embarking.

Deerslayer kept playing on the throat of the old woman like the keys of
an organ, occasionally allowing her to breathe, and then compressing
his fingers again nearly to strangling. The brief intervals for breath,
however, were well improved, and the hag succeeded in letting out a
screech or two that served to alarm the camp. The tramp of the warriors,
as they sprang from the fire, was plainly audible, and at the next
moment three or four of them appeared on the top of the ridge, drawn
against the background of light, resembling the dim shadows of the
phantasmagoria. It was now quite time for the hunter to retreat.
Tripping up the heels of his captive, and giving her throat a parting
squeeze, quite as much in resentment at her indomitable efforts to sound
the alarm as from any policy, he left her on her back, and moved towards
the bushes, his rifle at a poise, and his head over his shoulders, like
a lion at bay.



Chapter XVII.


   “There, ye wise saints, behold your light, your star,
    Ye would be dupes and victims and ye are.
    Is it enough?  or, must I, while a thrill
    Lives in your sapient bosoms, cheat you still?”

    Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh, “The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan”

The fire, the canoe, and the spring, near which Deerslayer commenced his
retreat, would have stood in the angles of a triangle of tolerably equal
sides. The distance from the fire to the boat was a little less than the
distance from the fire to the spring, while the distance from the spring
to the boat was about equal to that between the two points first named.
This, however, was in straight lines, a means of escape to which the
fugitives could not resort. They were obliged to have recourse to
a detour in order to get the cover of the bushes, and to follow the
curvature of the beach. Under these disadvantages, then, the hunter
commenced his retreat, disadvantages that he felt to be so much the
greater from his knowledge of the habits of all Indians, who rarely fail
in cases of sudden alarms, more especially when in the midst of cover,
immediately to throw out flankers, with a view to meet their foes at all
points, and if possible to turn their rear. That some such course was
now adopted he believed from the tramp of feet, which not only came up
the ascent, as related, but were also heard, under the first impulse,
diverging not only towards the hill in the rear, but towards the
extremity of the point, in a direction opposite to that he was about
to take himself. Promptitude, consequently became a matter of the last
importance, as the parties might meet on the strand, before the fugitive
could reach the canoe.

Notwithstanding the pressing nature of the emergency, Deerslayer
hesitated a single instant, ere he plunged into the bushes that lined
the shore. His feelings had been awakened by the whole scene, and a
sternness of purpose had come over him, to which he was ordinarily
a stranger. Four dark figures loomed on the ridge, drawn against the
brightness of the fire, and an enemy might have been sacrificed at a
glance. The Indians had paused to gaze into the gloom, in search of the
screeching hag, and with many a man less given to reflection than the
hunter, the death of one of them would have been certain. Luckily he was
more prudent. Although the rifle dropped a little towards the foremost
of his pursuers, he did not aim or fire, but disappeared in the
cover. To gain the beach, and to follow it round to the place where
Chingachgook was already in the canoe, with Hist, anxiously waiting his
appearance, occupied but a moment. Laying his rifle in the bottom of the
canoe, Deerslayer stooped to give the latter a vigorous shove from the
shore, when a powerful Indian leaped through the bushes, alighting like
a panther on his back. Everything was now suspended by a hair; a false
step ruining all. With a generosity that would have rendered a Roman
illustrious throughout all time, but which, in the career of one so
simple and humble, would have been forever lost to the world but
for this unpretending legend, Deerslayer threw all his force into a
desperate effort, shoved the canoe off with a power that sent it a
hundred feet from the shore, as it might be in an instant, and fell
forward into the lake, himself, face downward; his assailant necessarily
following him.

Although the water was deep within a few yards of the beach, it was not
more than breast high, as close in as the spot where the two combatants
fell. Still this was quite sufficient to destroy one who had sunk, under
the great disadvantages in which Deerslayer was placed. His hands were
free, however, and the savage was compelled to relinquish his hug,
to keep his own face above the surface. For half a minute there was a
desperate struggle, like the floundering of an alligator that has just
seized some powerful prey, and then both stood erect, grasping each
other’s arms, in order to prevent the use of the deadly knife in
the darkness. What might have been the issue of this severe personal
struggle cannot be known, for half a dozen savages came leaping into
the water to the aid of their friend, and Deerslayer yielded himself a
prisoner, with a dignity that was as remarkable as his self-devotion.

To quit the lake and lead their new captive to the fire occupied the
Indians but another minute. So much engaged were they all with the
struggle and its consequences, that the canoe was unseen, though it
still lay so near the shore as to render every syllable that was uttered
perfectly intelligible to the Delaware and his betrothed; and the whole
party left the spot, some continuing the pursuit after Hist, along the
beach, though most proceeded to the light. Here Deerslayer’s antagonist
so far recovered his breath and his recollection, for he had been
throttled nearly to strangulation, as to relate the manner in which the
girl had got off. It was now too late to assail the other fugitives, for
no sooner was his friend led into the bushes than the Delaware placed
his paddle into the water, and the light canoe glided noiselessly away,
holding its course towards the centre of the lake until safe from shot,
after which it sought the Ark. When Deerslayer reached the fire, he
found himself surrounded by no less than eight grim savages, among
whom was his old acquaintance Rivenoak. As soon as the latter caught a
glimpse of the captive’s countenance, he spoke apart to his companions,
and a low but general exclamation of pleasure and surprise escaped them.
They knew that the conqueror of their late friend, he who had fallen on
the opposite side of the lake, was in their hands, and subject to their
mercy, or vengeance. There was no little admiration mingled in the
ferocious looks that were thrown on the prisoner; an admiration that
was as much excited by his present composure, as by his past deeds.
This scene may be said to have been the commencement of the great and
terrible reputation that Deerslayer, or Hawkeye, as he was afterwards
called, enjoyed among all the tribes of New York and Canada; a
reputation that was certainly more limited in its territorial and
numerical extent, than those which are possessed in civilized life, but
which was compensated for what it wanted in these particulars, perhaps,
by its greater justice, and the total absence of mystification and
management.

The arms of Deerslayer were not pinioned, and he was left the free use
of his hands, his knife having been first removed. The only precaution
that was taken to secure his person was untiring watchfulness, and a
strong rope of bark that passed from ankle to ankle, not so much
to prevent his walking, as to place an obstacle in the way of his
attempting to escape by any sudden leap. Even this extra provision
against flight was not made until the captive had been brought to the
light, and his character ascertained. It was, in fact, a compliment
to his prowess, and he felt proud of the distinction. That he might be
bound when the warriors slept he thought probable, but to be bound
in the moment of capture showed that he was already, and thus early,
attaining a name. While the young Indians were fastening the rope, he
wondered if Chingachgook would have been treated in the same manner, had
he too fallen into the hands of the enemy. Nor did the reputation of the
young pale-face rest altogether on his success in the previous
combat, or in his discriminating and cool manner of managing the late
negotiation, for it had received a great accession by the occurrences
of the night. Ignorant of the movements of the Ark, and of the accident
that had brought their fire into view, the Iroquois attributed the
discovery of their new camp to the vigilance of so shrewd a foe. The
manner in which he ventured upon the point, the abstraction or escape of
Hist, and most of all the self-devotion of the prisoner, united to
the readiness with which he had sent the canoe adrift, were so many
important links in the chain of facts, on which his growing fame was
founded. Many of these circumstances had been seen, some had been
explained, and all were understood.

While this admiration and these honors were so unreservedly bestowed on
Deerslayer, he did not escape some of the penalties of his situation.
He was permitted to seat himself on the end of a log, near the fire,
in order to dry his clothes, his late adversary standing opposite,
now holding articles of his own scanty vestments to the heat, and now
feeling his throat, on which the marks of his enemy’s fingers were still
quite visible. The rest of the warriors consulted together, near at
hand, all those who had been out having returned to report that no signs
of any other prowlers near the camp were to be found. In this state
of things, the old woman, whose name was Shebear, in plain English,
approached Deerslayer, with her fists clenched and her eyes flashing
fire. Hitherto, she had been occupied with screaming, an employment
at which she had played her part with no small degree of success, but
having succeeded in effectually alarming all within reach of a pair of
lungs that had been strengthened by long practice, she next turned her
attention to the injuries her own person had sustained in the struggle.
These were in no manner material, though they were of a nature to arouse
all the fury of a woman who had long ceased to attract by means of the
gentler qualities, and who was much disposed to revenge the hardships
she had so long endured, as the neglected wife and mother of savages, on
all who came within her power. If Deerslayer had not permanently injured
her, he had temporarily caused her to suffer, and she was not a person
to overlook a wrong of this nature, on account of its motive.

“Skunk of the pale-faces,” commenced this exasperated and semi-poetic
fury, shaking her fist under the nose of the impassable hunter, “you are
not even a woman. Your friends the Delawares are only women, and you are
their sheep. Your own people will not own you, and no tribe of redmen
would have you in their wigwams; you skulk among petticoated warriors.
You slay our brave friend who has left us?--No--his great soul scorned
to fight you, and left his body rather than have the shame of slaying
you! But the blood that you spilt when the spirit was not looking on,
has not sunk into the ground. It must be buried in your groans. What
music do I hear? Those are not the wailings of a red man!--no red
warrior groans so much like a hog. They come from a pale-face
throat--a Yengeese bosom, and sound as pleasant as girls
singing--Dog--skunk--woodchuck-mink--hedgehog--pig--toad--spider--yengee--”

Here the old woman, having expended her breath and exhausted her
epithets, was fain to pause a moment, though both her fists were shaken
in the prisoner’s face, and the whole of her wrinkled countenance was
filled with fierce resentment. Deerslayer looked upon these impotent
attempts to arouse him as indifferently as a gentleman in our own state
of society regards the vituperative terms of a blackguard: the one party
feeling that the tongue of an old woman could never injure a warrior,
and the other knowing that mendacity and vulgarity can only permanently
affect those who resort to their use; but he was spared any further
attack at present, by the interposition of Rivenoak, who shoved aside
the hag, bidding her quit the spot, and prepared to take his seat at
the side of his prisoner. The old woman withdrew, but the hunter well
understood that he was to be the subject of all her means of annoyance,
if not of positive injury, so long as he remained in the power of his
enemies, for nothing rankles so deeply as the consciousness that an
attempt to irritate has been met by contempt, a feeling that is usually
the most passive of any that is harbored in the human breast. Rivenoak
quietly took the seat we have mentioned, and, after a short pause, he
commenced a dialogue, which we translate as usual, for the benefit of
those readers who have not studied the North American languages.

“My pale-face friend is very welcome,” said the Indian, with a familiar
nod, and a smile so covert that it required all Deerslayer’s vigilance
to detect, and not a little of his philosophy to detect unmoved; “he is
welcome. The Hurons keep a hot fire to dry the white man’s clothes by.”

“I thank you, Huron--or Mingo, as I most like to call you,” returned the
other, “I thank you for the welcome, and I thank you for the fire. Each
is good in its way, and the last is very good, when one has been in a
spring as cold as the Glimmerglass. Even Huron warmth may be pleasant,
at such a time, to a man with a Delaware heart.”

“The pale-face--but my brother has a name? So great a warrior would not
have lived without a name?”

“Mingo,” said the hunter, a little of the weakness of human nature
exhibiting itself in the glance of his eye, and the colour on his
cheek--“Mingo, your brave called me Hawkeye, I suppose on account of a
quick and sartain aim, when he was lying with his head in my lap, afore
his spirit started for the Happy Hunting Grounds.”

“‘Tis a good name! The hawk is sure of his blow. Hawkeye is not a woman;
why does he live with the Delawares?”

“I understand you, Mingo, but we look on all that as a sarcumvention of
some of your subtle devils, and deny the charge. Providence placed me
among the Delawares young, and, ‘bating what Christian usages demand of
my colour and gifts, I hope to live and die in their tribe. Still I do
not mean to throw away altogether my natyve rights, and shall strive to
do a pale-face’s duty, in red-skin society.”

“Good; a Huron is a red-skin, as well as a Delaware. Hawkeye is more of
a Huron than of a woman.”

“I suppose you know, Mingo, your own meaning; if you don’t I make no
question ‘tis well known to Satan. But if you wish to get any thing
out of me, speak plainer, for bargains can not be made blindfolded, or
tongue tied.”

“Good; Hawkeye has not a forked tongue, and he likes to say what he
thinks. He is an acquaintance of the Muskrat,” this was the name by
which all the Indians designated Hutter--“and has lived in his wigwam.
But he is not a friend. He wants no scalps, like a miserable Indian, but
fights like a stout-hearted pale-face. The Muskrat is neither white, nor
red. Neither a beast nor a fish. He is a water snake; sometimes in the
spring and sometimes on the land. He looks for scalps, like an outcast.
Hawkeye can go back and tell him how he has outwitted the Hurons, how he
has escaped, and when his eyes are in a fog, when he can’t see as far
as from his cabin to the shore, then Hawkeye can open the door for the
Hurons. And how will the plunder be divided? Why, Hawkeye, will carry
away the most, and the Hurons will take what he may choose to leave
behind him. The scalps can go to Canada, for a pale-face has no
satisfaction in them.”

“Well, well, Rivenoak--for so I hear ‘em tarm you--This is plain
English, enough, though spoken in Iroquois. I understand all you mean,
now, and must say it out-devils even Mingo deviltry! No doubt, ‘twould
be easy enough to go back and tell the Muskrat that I had got away from
you, and gain some credit, too, by the expl’ite.”

“Good. That is what I want the pale-face to do.”

“Yes--yes--That’s plain enough. I know what you want me to do, without
more words. When inside the house, and eating the Muskrat’s bread, and
laughing and talking with his pretty darters, I might put his eyes into
so thick a fog, that he couldn’t even see the door, much less the land.”

“Good! Hawkeye should have been born a Huron! His blood is not more than
half white!”

“There you’re out, Huron; yes, there you’re as much out, as if you
mistook a wolf for a catamount. I’m white in blood, heart, natur’ and
gifts, though a little red-skin in feelin’s and habits. But when old
Hutter’s eyes are well befogged, and his pretty darters perhaps in a
deep sleep, and Hurry Harry, the Great Pine as you Indians tarm him, is
dreaming of any thing but mischief, and all suppose Hawkeye is acting as
a faithful sentinel, all I have to do is set a torch somewhere in sight
for a signal, open the door, and let in the Hurons, to knock ‘em all on
the head.”

“Surely my brother is mistaken. He cannot be white! He is worthy to be a
great chief among the Hurons!”

“That is true enough, I dares to say, if he could do all this. Now,
harkee, Huron, and for once hear a few honest words from the mouth of a
plain man. I am Christian born, and them that come of such a stock, and
that listen to the words that were spoken to their fathers and will be
spoken to their children, until ‘arth and all it holds perishes, can
never lend themselves to such wickedness. Sarcumventions in war, may
be, and are, lawful; but sarcumventions, and deceit, and treachery among
fri’inds are fit only for the pale-face devils. I know that there are
white men enough to give you this wrong idee of our natur’, but such
be ontrue to their blood and gifts, and ought to be, if they are not,
outcasts and vagabonds. No upright pale-face could do what you wish,
and to be as plain with you as I wish to be, in my judgment no upright
Delaware either. With a Mingo it may be different.”

The Huron listened to this rebuke with obvious disgust, but he had his
ends in view, and was too wily to lose all chance of effecting them by
a precipitate avowal of resentment. Affecting to smile, he seemed to
listen eagerly, and he then pondered on what he had heard.

“Does Hawkeye love the Muskrat?” he abruptly demanded; “Or does he love
his daughters?”

“Neither, Mingo. Old Tom is not a man to gain my love, and, as for the
darters, they are comely enough to gain the liking of any young man,
but there’s reason ag’in any very great love for either. Hetty is a good
soul, but natur’ has laid a heavy hand on her mind, poor thing.”

“And the Wild Rose!” exclaimed the Huron--for the fame of Judith’s
beauty had spread among those who could travel the wilderness, as well
as the highway by means of old eagles’ nests, rocks, and riven trees
known to them by report and tradition, as well as among the white
borderers, “And the Wild Rose; is she not sweet enough to be put in the
bosom of my brother?”

Deerslayer had far too much of the innate gentleman to insinuate
aught against the fair fame of one who, by nature and position was so
helpless, and as he did not choose to utter an untruth, he preferred
being silent. The Huron mistook the motive, and supposed that
disappointed affection lay at the bottom of his reserve. Still bent on
corrupting or bribing his captive, in order to obtain possession of the
treasures with which his imagination filled the Castle, he persevered in
his attack.

“Hawkeye is talking with a friend,” he continued. “He knows that
Rivenoak is a man of his word, for they have traded together, and trade
opens the soul. My friend has come here on account of a little string
held by a girl, that can pull the whole body of the sternest warrior?”

“You are nearer the truth, now, Huron, than you’ve been afore, since we
began to talk. This is true. But one end of that string was not fast to
my heart, nor did the Wild Rose hold the other.”

“This is wonderful! Does my brother love in his head, and not in his
heart? And can the Feeble Mind pull so hard against so stout a warrior?”

“There it is ag’in; sometimes right, and sometimes wrong! The string you
mean is fast to the heart of a great Delaware; one of Mohican stock in
fact, living among the Delawares since the disparsion of his own people,
and of the family of Uncas--Chingachgook by name, or Great Sarpent.
He has come here, led by the string, and I’ve followed, or rather come
afore, for I got here first, pulled by nothing stronger than fri’ndship;
which is strong enough for such as are not niggardly of their feelin’s,
and are willing to live a little for their fellow creatur’s, as well as
for themselves.”

“But a string has two ends--one is fast to the mind of a Mohican; and
the other?”

“Why the other was here close to the fire, half an hour since.
Wah-ta-Wah held it in her hand, if she didn’t hold it to her heart.”

“I understand what you mean, my brother,” returned the Indian gravely,
for the first time catching a direct clue to the adventures of the
evening. “The Great Serpent, being strongest, pulled the hardest, and
Hist was forced to leave us.”

“I don’t think there was much pulling about it,” answered the other,
laughing, always in his silent manner, with as much heartiness as if he
were not a captive, and in danger of torture or death--“I don’t think
there was much pulling about it; no I don’t. Lord help you, Huron!
He likes the gal, and the gal likes him, and it surpassed Huron
sarcumventions to keep two young people apart, where there was so strong
a feelin’ to bring ‘em together.”

“And Hawkeye and Chingachgook came into our camp on this errand, only?”

“That’s a question that’ll answer itself, Mingo! Yes, if a question
could talk it would answer itself, to your parfect satisfaction. For
what else should we come? And yet, it isn’t exactly so, neither; for we
didn’t come into your camp at all, but only as far as that pine, there,
that you see on the other side of the ridge, where we stood watching
your movements, and conduct, as long as we liked. When we were ready,
the Sarpent gave his signal, and then all went just as it should, down
to the moment when yonder vagabond leaped upon my back. Sartain; we come
for that, and for no other purpose, and we got what we come for; there’s
no use in pretending otherwise. Hist is off with a man who’s the next
thing to her husband, and come what will to me, that’s one good thing
detarmined.”

“What sign, or signal, told the young maiden that her lover was nigh?”
 asked the Huron with more curiosity than it was usual for him to betray.

Deerslayer laughed again, and seem’d to enjoy the success of the
exploit, with as much glee as if he had not been its victim.

“Your squirrels are great gadabouts, Mingo,” he cried still
laughing--“yes, they’re sartainly great gadabouts! When other folk’s
squirrels are at home and asleep, yourn keep in motion among the trees,
and chirrup and sing, in a way that even a Delaware gal can understand
their musick! Well, there’s four legged squirrels, and there’s two
legged squirrels, and give me the last, when there’s a good tight string
atween two hearts. If one brings ‘em together, t’other tells when to
pull hardest!”

The Huron looked vexed, though he succeeded in suppressing any violent
exhibition of resentment. He now quitted his prisoner and, joining
the rest of the warriors, he communicated the substance of what he had
learned. As in his own case, admiration was mingled with anger at the
boldness and success of their enemies. Three or four of them ascended
the little acclivity and gazed at the tree where it was understood the
adventurers had posted themselves, and one even descended to it, and
examined for foot prints around its roots, in order to make sure that
the statement was true. The result confirmed the story of the captive,
and they all returned to the fire with increased wonder and respect. The
messenger who had arrived with some communication from the party above,
while the two adventurers were watching the camp, was now despatched
with some answer, and doubtless bore with him the intelligence of all
that had happened.

Down to this moment, the young Indian who had been seen walking in
company with Hist and another female had made no advances to any
communication with Deerslayer. He had held himself aloof from his
friends, even, passing near the bevy of younger women, who were
clustering together, apart as usual, and conversed in low tones on the
subject of the escape of their late companion. Perhaps it would be true
to say that these last were pleased as well as vexed at what had just
occurred. Their female sympathies were with the lovers, while their
pride was bound up in the success of their own tribe. It is possible,
too, that the superior personal advantages of Hist rendered her
dangerous to some of the younger part of the group, and they were not
sorry to find she was no longer in the way of their own ascendency. On
the whole, however, the better feeling was most prevalent, for neither
the wild condition in which they lived, the clannish prejudices of
tribes, nor their hard fortunes as Indian women, could entirely conquer
the inextinguishable leaning of their sex to the affections. One of the
girls even laughed at the disconsolate look of the swain who might fancy
himself deserted, a circumstance that seemed suddenly to arouse his
energies, and induce him to move towards the log, on which the prisoner
was still seated, drying his clothes.

“This is Catamount!” said the Indian, striking his hand boastfully on
his naked breast, as he uttered the words in a manner to show how much
weight he expected them to carry.

“This is Hawkeye,” quietly returned Deerslayer, adopting the name by
which he knew he would be known in future, among all the tribes of the
Iroquois. “My sight is keen; is my brother’s leap long?”

“From here to the Delaware villages. Hawkeye has stolen my wife; he must
bring her back, or his scalp will hang on a pole, and dry in my wigwam.”

“Hawkeye has stolen nothing, Huron. He doesn’t come of a thieving breed,
nor has he thieving gifts. Your wife, as you call Wah-ta-Wah, will never
be the wife of any red-skin of the Canadas; her mind is in the cabin of
a Delaware, and her body has gone to find it. The catamount is actyve I
know, but its legs can’t keep pace with a woman’s wishes.”

“The Serpent of the Delawares is a dog--he is a poor bull trout that
keeps in the water; he is afraid to stand on the hard earth, like a
brave Indian!”

“Well, well, Huron, that’s pretty impudent, considering it’s not an hour
since the Sarpent stood within a hundred feet of you, and would have
tried the toughness of your skin with a rifle bullet, when I pointed you
out to him, hadn’t I laid the weight of a little judgment on his hand.
You may take in timorsome gals in the settlements, with your catamount
whine, but the ears of a man can tell truth from ontruth.”

“Hist laughs at him! She sees he is lame, and a poor hunter, and he has
never been on a war path. She will take a man for a husband, and not a
fish.”

“How do you know that, Catamount? how do you know that?” returned
Deerslayer laughing. “She has gone into the lake, you see, and maybe she
prefars a trout to a mongrel cat. As for war paths, neither the Sarpent
nor I have much exper’ence, we are ready to own, but if you don’t call
this one, you must tarm it, what the gals in the settlements tarm it,
the high road to matrimony. Take my advice, Catamount, and s’arch for
a wife among the Huron women; you’ll never get one with a willing mind
from among the Delawares.”

Catamount’s hand felt for his tomahawk, and when the fingers reached
the handle they worked convulsively, as if their owner hesitated between
policy and resentment. At this critical moment Rivenoak approached, and
by a gesture of authority, induced the young man to retire, assuming his
former position, himself, on the log at the side of Deerslayer. Here he
continued silent for a little time, maintaining the grave reserve of an
Indian chief.

“Hawkeye is right,” the Iroquois at length began; “his sight is so
strong that he can see truth in a dark night, and our eyes have been
blinded. He is an owl, darkness hiding nothing from him. He ought not to
strike his friends. He is right.”

“I’m glad you think so, Mingo,” returned the other, “for a traitor, in
my judgment, is worse than a coward. I care as little for the Muskrat,
as one pale-face ought to care for another, but I care too much for him
to ambush him in the way you wished. In short, according to my idees,
any sarcumventions, except open-war sarcumventions, are ag’in both law,
and what we whites call ‘gospel’, too.”

“My pale-face brother is right; he is no Indian, to forget his Manitou
and his colour. The Hurons know that they have a great warrior for their
prisoner, and they will treat him as one. If he is to be tortured, his
torments shall be such as no common man can bear; if he is to be treated
as a friend, it will be the friendship of chiefs.”

As the Huron uttered this extraordinary assurance of consideration, his
eye furtively glanced at the countenance of his listener, in order to
discover how he stood the compliment, though his gravity and apparent
sincerity would have prevented any man but one practised in artifices,
from detecting his motives. Deerslayer belonged to the class of the
unsuspicious, and acquainted with the Indian notions of what constitutes
respect, in matters connected with the treatment of captives, he felt
his blood chill at the announcement, even while he maintained an aspect
so steeled that his quick sighted enemy could discover in it no signs of
weakness.

“God has put me in your hands, Huron,” the captive at length answered,
“and I suppose you will act your will on me. I shall not boast of what
I can do, under torment, for I’ve never been tried, and no man can say
till he has been; but I’ll do my endivours not to disgrace the people
among whom I got my training. Howsever, I wish you now to bear witness
that I’m altogether of white blood, and, in a nat’ral way of white gifts
too; so, should I be overcome and forget myself, I hope you’ll lay
the fault where it properly belongs, and in no manner put it on the
Delawares, or their allies and friends the Mohicans. We’re all created
with more or less weakness, and I’m afeard it’s a pale-face’s to give
in under great bodily torment, when a red-skin will sing his songs, and
boast of his deeds in the very teeth of his foes.”

“We shall see. Hawkeye has a good countenance, and he is tough--but why
should he be tormented, when the Hurons love him? He is not born their
enemy, and the death of one warrior will not cast a cloud between them
forever.”

“So much the better, Huron; so much the better. Still I don’t wish to
owe any thing to a mistake about each other’s meaning. It is so much
the better that you bear no malice for the loss of a warrior who fell
in war, and yet it is ontrue that there is no inmity--lawful inmity
I mean--atween us. So far as I have red-skin feelin’s at all, I’ve
Delaware feelin’s, and I leave you to judge for yourself how far they
are likely to be fri’ndly to the Mingos--”

Deerslayer ceased, for a sort of spectre stood before him, that put a
stop to his words, and, indeed, caused him for a moment to doubt the
fidelity of his boasted vision. Hetty Hutter was standing at the side of
the fire as quietly as if she belonged to the tribe.

As the hunter and the Indian sat watching the emotions that were
betrayed in each other’s countenance, the girl had approached unnoticed,
doubtless ascending from the beach on the southern side of the point,
or that next to the spot where the Ark had anchored, and had advanced
to the fire with the fearlessness that belonged to her simplicity, and
which was certainly justified by the treatment formerly received from
the Indians. As soon as Rivenoak perceived the girl, she was recognised,
and calling to two or three of the younger warriors, the chief sent
them out to reconnoitre, lest her appearance should be the forerunner of
another attack. He then motioned to Hetty to draw near.

“I hope your visit is a sign that the Sarpent and Hist are in safety,
Hetty,” said Deerslayer, as soon as the girl had complied with the
Huron’s request. “I don’t think you’d come ashore ag’in, on the arr’nd
that brought you here afore.”

“Judith told me to come this time, Deerslayer,” Hetty replied, “she
paddled me ashore herself, in a canoe, as soon as the Serpent had shown
her Hist and told his story. How handsome Hist is to-night, Deerslayer,
and how much happier she looks than when she was with the Hurons!”

“That’s natur’ gal; yes, that may be set down as human natur’. She’s
with her betrothed, and no longer fears a Mingo husband. In my judgment
Judith, herself, would lose most of her beauty if she thought she was
to bestow it all on a Mingo! Content is a great fortifier of good looks,
and I’ll warrant you, Hist is contented enough, now she is out of the
hands of these miscreants, and with her chosen warrior! Did you say that
Judith told you to come ashore--why should your sister do that?”

“She bid me come to see you, and to try and persuade the savages to take
more elephants to let you off, but I’ve brought the Bible with me--that
will do more than all the elephants in father’s chest!”

“And your father, good little Hetty--and Hurry; did they know of your
arr’nd?”

“Not they. Both are asleep, and Judith and the Serpent thought it
best they should not be woke, lest they might want to come again after
scalps, when Hist had told them how few warriors, and how many women and
children there were in the camp. Judith would give me no peace, till I
had come ashore to see what had happened to you.”

“Well, that’s remarkable as consarns Judith! Whey should she feel so
much unsartainty about me?--Ah---I see how it is, now; yes, I see into
the whole matter, now. You must understand, Hetty, that your sister is
oneasy lest Harry March should wake, and come blundering here into
the hands of the inimy ag’in, under some idee that, being a travelling
comrade, he ought to help me in this matter! Hurry is a blunderer, I
will allow, but I don’t think he’d risk as much for my sake, as he would
for his own.”

“Judith don’t care for Hurry, though Hurry cares for her,” replied Hetty
innocently, but quite positively.

“I’ve heard you say as much as that afore; yes, I’ve heard that from
you, afore, gal, and yet it isn’t true. One don’t live in a tribe, not
to see something of the way in which liking works in a woman’s heart.
Though no way given to marrying myself, I’ve been a looker on among the
Delawares, and this is a matter in which pale-face and red-skin gifts
are all as one as the same. When the feelin’ begins, the young woman
is thoughtful, and has no eyes or ears onless for the warrior that has
taken her fancy; then follows melancholy and sighing, and such sort
of actions; after which, especially if matters don’t come to plain
discourse, she often flies round to back biting and fault finding,
blaming the youth for the very things she likes best in him. Some young
creatur’s are forward in this way of showing their love, and I’m of
opinion Judith is one of ‘em. Now, I’ve heard her as much as deny that
Hurry was good-looking, and the young woman who could do that, must be
far gone indeed!”

“The young woman who liked Hurry would own that he is handsome. I think
Hurry very handsome, Deerslayer, and I’m sure everybody must think so,
that has eyes. Judith don’t like Harry March, and that’s the reason she
finds fault with him.”

“Well--well--my good little Hetty, have it your own way. If we should
talk from now till winter, each would think as at present, and there’s
no use in words. I must believe that Judith is much wrapped up in Hurry,
and that, sooner or later, she’ll have him; and this, too, all the more
from the manner in which she abuses him; and I dare to say, you think
just the contrary. But mind what I now tell you, gal, and pretend not
to know it,” continued this being, who was so obtuse on a point on
which men are usually quick enough to make discoveries, and so acute in
matters that would baffle the observation of much the greater portion
of mankind, “I see how it is, with them vagabonds. Rivenoak has left us,
you see, and is talking yonder with his young men, and though too far
to be heard, I can see what he is telling them. Their orders is to watch
your movements, and to find where the canoe is to meet you, to take
you back to the Ark, and then to seize all and what they can. I’m sorry
Judith sent you, for I suppose she wants you to go back ag’in.”

“All that’s settled, Deerslayer,” returned the girl, in a low,
confidential and meaning manner, “and you may trust me to outwit the
best Indian of them all. I know I am feeble minded, but I’ve got some
sense, and you’ll see how I’ll use it in getting back, when my errand is
done!”

“Ahs! me, poor girl; I’m afeard all that’s easier said than done.
They’re a venomous set of riptyles and their p’ison’s none the milder,
for the loss of Hist. Well, I’m glad the Sarpent was the one to get off
with the gal, for now there’ll be two happy at least, whereas had he
fallen into the hands of the Mingos, there’d been two miserable, and
another far from feelin’ as a man likes to feel.”

“Now you put me in mind of a part of my errand that I had almost
forgotten, Deerslayer. Judith told me to ask you what you thought the
Hurons would do with you, if you couldn’t be bought off, and what she
had best do to serve you. Yes, this was the most important part of the
errand--what she had best do, in order to serve you?”

“That’s as you think, Hetty; but it’s no matter. Young women are apt to
lay most stress on what most touches their feelin’s; but no matter; have
it your own way, so you be but careful not to let the vagabonds get
the mastery of a canoe. When you get back to the Ark, tell ‘em to keep
close, and to keep moving too, most especially at night. Many hours
can’t go by without the troops on the river hearing of this party, and
then your fri’nds may look for relief. ‘Tis but a day’s march from the
nearest garrison, and true soldiers will never lie idle with the foe in
their neighborhood. This is my advice, and you may say to your father
and Hurry that scalp-hunting will be a poor business now, as the Mingos
are up and awake, and nothing can save ‘em, ‘till the troops come,
except keeping a good belt of water atween ‘em and the savages.”

“What shall I tell Judith about you, Deerslayer; I know she will send me
back again, if I don’t bring her the truth about you.”

“Then tell her the truth. I see no reason Judith Hutter shouldn’t hear
the truth about me, as well as a lie. I’m a captyve in Indian hands, and
Providence only knows what will come of it! Harkee, Hetty,” dropping
his voice and speaking still more confidentially, “you are a little weak
minded, it must be allowed, but you know something of Injins. Here I am
in their hands, after having slain one of their stoutest warriors, and
they’ve been endivouring to work upon me through fear of consequences,
to betray your father, and all in the Ark. I understand the blackguards
as well as if they’d told it all out plainly, with their tongues. They
hold up avarice afore me, on one side, and fear on t’other, and think
honesty will give way atween ‘em both. But let your father and Hurry
know, ‘tis all useless; as for the Sarpent, he knows it already.”

“But what shall I tell Judith? She will certainly send me back, if I
don’t satisfy her mind.”

“Well, tell Judith the same. No doubt the savages will try the torments,
to make me give in, and to revenge the loss of their warrior, but I must
hold out ag’in nat’ral weakness in the best manner I can. You may tell
Judith to feel no consarn on my account--it will come hard I know,
seeing that a white man’s gifts don’t run to boasting and singing under
torment, for he generally feels smallest when he suffers most--but you
may tell her not to have any consarn. I think I shall make out to stand
it, and she may rely on this, let me give in, as much as I may, and
prove completely that I am white, by wailings, and howlings, and even
tears, yet I’ll never fall so far as to betray my fri’nds. When it gets
to burning holes in the flesh, with heated ramrods, and to hacking
the body, and tearing the hair out by the roots, natur’ may get the
upperhand, so far as groans, and complaints are consarned, but there the
triumph of the vagabonds will ind; nothing short of God’s abandoning him
to the devils can make an honest man ontrue to his colour and duty.”

Hetty listened with great attention, and her mild but speaking
countenance manifested a strong sympathy in the anticipated agony of the
supposititious sufferer. At first she seemed at a loss how to act; then,
taking a hand of Deerslayer’s she affectionately recommended to him to
borrow her Bible, and to read it while the savages were inflicting their
torments. When the other honestly admitted that it exceeded his power to
read, she even volunteered to remain with him, and to perform this holy
office in person. The offer was gently declined, and Rivenoak being
about to join them, Deerslayer requested the girl to leave him, first
enjoining her again to tell those in the Ark to have full confidence in
his fidelity. Hetty now walked away, and approached the group of females
with as much confidence and self-possession as if she were a native of
the tribe. On the other hand the Huron resumed his seat by the side
of his prisoner, the one continuing to ask questions with all the wily
ingenuity of a practised Indian counsellor, and the other baffling him
by the very means that are known to be the most efficacious in defeating
the finesse of the more pretending diplomacy of civilization, or by
confining his answers to the truth, and the truth only.



Chapter XVIII


    “Thus died she; never more on her
    Shall sorrow light, or shame. She was not made
    Through years or moons the inner weight to bear,
    Which colder hearts endure till they are laid
    By age in earth; her days and pleasure were
    Brief but delightful--such as had not stayed
    Long with her destiny; but she sleeps well
    By the sea-shore whereon she loved to dwell.”

    Byron.  Don Juan, IV, lxxi.

The young men who had been sent out to reconnoitre, on the sudden
appearance of Hetty, soon returned to report their want of success in
making any discovery. One of them had even been along the beach as
far as the spot opposite to the ark, but the darkness had completely
concealed that vessel from his notice. Others had examined in different
directions, and everywhere the stillness of night was added to the
silence and solitude of the woods.

It was consequently believed that the girl had come alone, as on her
former visit, and on some similar errand. The Iroquois were ignorant
that the ark had left the castle, and there were movements projected, if
not in the course of actual execution, by this time, which also greatly
added to the sense of security. A watch was set, therefore, and all but
the sentinels disposed themselves to sleep. Sufficient care was had
to the safe keeping of the captive, without inflicting on him any
unnecessary suffering; and, as for Hetty, she was permitted to find a
place among the Indian girls in the best manner she could. She did
not find the friendly offices of Hist, though her character not only
bestowed impunity from pain and captivity, but it procured for her a
consideration and an attention that placed her, on the score of comfort,
quite on a level with the wild but gentle beings around her. She was
supplied with a skin, and made her own bed on a pile of boughs a little
apart from the huts. Here she was soon in a profound sleep, like all
around her.

There were now thirteen men in the party, and three kept watch at a
time. One remained in shadow, not far from the fire, however. His duty
was to guard the captive, to take care that the fire neither blazed up
so as to illuminate the spot, nor yet became wholly extinguished, and to
keep an eye generally on the state of the camp. Another passed from one
beach to the other, crossing the base of the point, while the third kept
moving slowly around the strand on its outer extremity, to prevent a
repetition of the surprise that had already taken place that night. This
arrangement was far from being usual among savages, who ordinarily
rely more on the secrecy of their movements, than on vigilance of
this nature; but it had been called for by the peculiarity of the
circumstances in which the Hurons were now placed. Their position was
known to their foes, and it could not easily be changed at an hour which
demanded rest. Perhaps, too, they placed most of their confidence on the
knowledge of what they believed to be passing higher up the lake, and
which, it was thought, would fully occupy the whole of the pale-faces
who were at liberty, with their solitary Indian ally. It was also
probable Rivenoak was aware that, in holding his captive, he had in his
own hands the most dangerous of all his enemies.

The precision with which those accustomed to watchfulness, or lives
of disturbed rest, sleep, is not the least of the phenomena of our
mysterious being. The head is no sooner on the pillow than consciousness
is lost; and yet, at a necessary hour, the mind appears to arouse the
body, as promptly as if it had stood sentinel the while over it. There
can be no doubt that they who are thus roused awake by the influence
of thought over matter, though the mode in which this influence is
exercised must remain hidden from our curiosity until it shall be
explained, should that hour ever arrive, by the entire enlightenment of
the soul on the subject of all human mysteries. Thus it was with Hetty
Hutter. Feeble as the immaterial portion of her existence was thought
to be, it was sufficiently active to cause her to open her eyes at
midnight. At that hour she awoke, and leaving her bed of skin and boughs
she walked innocently and openly to the embers of the fire, stirring the
latter, as the coolness of the night and the woods, in connection with
an exceedingly unsophisticated bed, had a little chilled her. As the
flame shot up, it lighted the swarthy countenance of the Huron on watch,
whose dark eyes glistened under its light like the balls of the panther
that is pursued to his den with burning brands. But Hetty felt no fear,
and she approached the spot where the Indian stood. Her movements
were so natural, and so perfectly devoid of any of the stealthiness of
cunning or deception, that he imagined she had merely arisen on account
of the coolness of the night, a common occurrence in a bivouac, and the
one of all others, perhaps, the least likely to excite suspicion. Hetty
spoke to him, but he understood no English. She then gazed near a minute
at the sleeping captive, and moved slowly away in a sad and melancholy
manner. The girl took no pains to conceal her movements. Any ingenious
expedient of this nature quite likely exceeded her powers; still
her step was habitually light, and scarcely audible. As she took the
direction of the extremity of the point, or the place where she had
landed in the first adventure, and where Hist had embarked, the sentinel
saw her light form gradually disappear in the gloom without uneasiness
or changing his own position. He knew that others were on the look-out,
and he did not believe that one who had twice come into the camp
voluntarily, and had already left it openly, would take refuge in
flight. In short, the conduct of the girl excited no more attention
that that of any person of feeble intellect would excite in civilized
society, while her person met with more consideration and respect.

Hetty certainly had no very distinct notions of the localities, but she
found her way to the beach, which she reached on the same side of the
point as that on which the camp had been made. By following the margin
of the water, taking a northern direction, she soon encountered the
Indian who paced the strand as sentinel. This was a young warrior, and
when he heard her light tread coming along the gravel he approached
swiftly, though with anything but menace in his manner. The darkness was
so intense that it was not easy to discover forms within the shadows
of the woods at the distance of twenty feet, and quite impossible to
distinguish persons until near enough to touch them. The young Huron
manifested disappointment when he found whom he had met; for, truth to
say, he was expecting his favourite, who had promised to relieve the
ennui of a midnight watch with her presence. This man was also ignorant
of English, but he was at no loss to understand why the girl should be
up at that hour. Such things were usual in an Indian village and camp,
where sleep is as irregular as the meals. Then poor Hetty’s known
imbecility, as in most things connected with the savages, stood her
friend on this occasion. Vexed at his disappointment, and impatient of
the presence of one he thought an intruder, the young warrior signed
for the girl to move forward, holding the direction of the beach. Hetty
complied; but as she walked away she spoke aloud in English in her usual
soft tones, which the stillness of the night made audible at some little
distance.

“If you took me for a Huron girl, warrior,” she said, “I don’t wonder
you are so little pleased. I am Hetty Hutter, Thomas Hutter’s daughter,
and have never met any man at night, for mother always said it was
wrong, and modest young women should never do it; modest young women of
the pale-faces, I mean; for customs are different in different parts
of the world, I know. No, no; I’m Hetty Hutter, and wouldn’t meet even
Hurry Harry, though he should fall down on his knees and ask me! Mother
said it was wrong.”

By the time Hetty had said this, she reached the place where the canoes
had come ashore, and, owing to the curvature of the land and the bushes,
would have been completely hid from the sight of the sentinel, had it
been broad day. But another footstep had caught the lover’s ear, and he
was already nearly beyond the sound of the girl’s silvery voice. Still
Hetty, bent only on her own thoughts and purposes, continued to speak,
though the gentleness of her tones prevented the sounds from penetrating
far into the woods. On the water they were more widely diffused.

“Here I am, Judith,” she added, “and there is no one near me. The Huron
on watch has gone to meet his sweetheart, who is an Indian girl you
know, and never had a Christian mother to tell her how wrong it is to
meet a man at night.”

Hetty’s voice was hushed by a “Hist!” that came from the water, and then
she caught a dim view of the canoe, which approached noiselessly, and
soon grated on the shingle with its bow. The moment the weight of Hetty
was felt in the light craft the canoe withdrew, stern foremost, as if
possessed of life and volition, until it was a hundred yards from the
shore. Then it turned and, making a wide sweep, as much to prolong the
passage as to get beyond the sound of voices, it held its way towards
the ark. For several minutes nothing was uttered; but, believing herself
to be in a favourable position to confer with her sister, Judith, who
alone sat in the stern, managing the canoe with a skill little short of
that of a man, began a discourse which she had been burning to commence
ever since they had quitted the point.

“Here we are safe, Hetty,” she said, “and may talk without the fear of
being overheard. You must speak low, however, for sounds are heard far
on the water in a still night. I was so close to the point some of the
time while you were on it, that I have heard the voices of the warriors,
and I heard your shoes on the gravel of the beach, even before you
spoke.”

“I don’t believe, Judith, the Hurons know I have left them.”

“Quite likely they do not, for a lover makes a poor sentry, unless it be
to watch for his sweetheart! But tell me, Hetty, did you see and speak
with Deerslayer?”

“Oh, yes--there he was seated near the fire, with his legs tied, though
they left his arms free, to move them as he pleased.”

“Well, what did he tell you, child? Speak quick; I am dying to know what
message he sent me.”

“What did he tell me? why, what do you think, Judith; he told me that he
couldn’t read! Only think of that! a white man, and not know how to read
his Bible even! He never could have had a mother, sister!”

“Never mind that, Hetty. All men can’t read; though mother knew so much
and taught us so much, father knows very little about books, and he can
barely read the Bible you know.”

“Oh! I never thought fathers could read much, but mothers ought all
to read, else how can they teach their children? Depend on it, Judith,
Deerslayer could never have had a mother, else he would know how to
read.”

“Did you tell him I sent you ashore, Hetty, and how much concern I feel
for his misfortune?” asked the other, impatiently.

“I believe I did, Judith; but you know I am feeble-minded, and I may
have forgotten. I did tell him you brought me ashore. And he told me a
great deal that I was to say to you, which I remember well, for it made
my blood run cold to hear him. He told me to say that his friends--I
suppose you are one of them, sister?”

“How can you torment me thus, Hetty! Certainly, I am one of the truest
friends he has on earth.”

“Torment you! yes, now I remember all about it. I am glad you used that
word, Judith, for it brings it all back to my mind. Well, he said
he might be tormented by the savages, but he would try to bear it as
becomes a Christian white man, and that no one need be afeard--why does
Deerslayer call it afeard, when mother always taught us to say afraid?”

“Never mind, dear Hetty, never mind that, now,” cried the other, almost
gasping for breath. “Did Deerslayer really tell you that he thought the
savages would put him to the torture? Recollect now, well, Hetty, for
this is a most awful and serious thing.”

“Yes he did; and I remember it by your speaking about my tormenting you.
Oh! I felt very sorry for him, and Deerslayer took all so quietly and
without noise! Deerslayer is not as handsome as Hurry Harry, Judith, but
he is more quiet.”

“He’s worth a million Hurrys! yes, he’s worth all the young men who
ever came upon the lake put together,” said Judith, with an energy and
positiveness that caused her sister to wonder. “He is true. There is no
lie about Deerslayer. You, Hetty, may not know what a merit it is in a
man to have truth, but when you get--no--I hope you will never know
it. Why should one like you be ever made to learn the hard lesson to
distrust and hate!”

Judith bowed her face, dark as it was, and unseen as she must have been
by any eye but that of Omniscience, between her hands, and groaned. This
sudden paroxysm of feeling, however, lasted but for a moment, and she
continued more calmly, still speaking frankly to her sister, whose
intelligence, and whose discretion in any thing that related to herself,
she did not in the least distrust. Her voice, however, was low and
husky, instead of having its former clearness and animation.

“It is a hard thing to fear truth, Hetty,” she said, “and yet do I more
dread Deerslayer’s truth, than any enemy! One cannot tamper with such
truth--so much honesty--such obstinate uprightness! But we are not
altogether unequal, sister--Deerslayer and I? He is not altogether my
superior?”

It was not usual for Judith so far to demean herself as to appeal to
Hetty’s judgment. Nor did she often address her by the title of sister,
a distinction that is commonly given by the junior to the senior, even
where there is perfect equality in all other respects. As trifling
departures from habitual deportment oftener strike the imagination than
more important changes, Hetty perceived the circumstances, and wondered
at them in her own simple way. Her ambition was a little quickened,
and the answer was as much out of the usual course of things as the
question; the poor girl attempting to refine beyond her strength.

“Superior, Judith!” she repeated with pride. “In what can Deerslayer
be your superior? Are you not mother’s child--and does he know how to
read--and wasn’t mother before any woman in all this part of the world?
I should think, so far from supposing himself your superior, he would
hardly believe himself mine. You are handsome, and he is ugly--”

“No, not ugly, Hetty,” interrupted Judith. “Only plain. But his honest
face has a look in it that is far better than beauty. In my eyes,
Deerslayer is handsomer than Hurry Harry.”

“Judith Hutter! you frighten me. Hurry is the handsomest mortal in the
world--even handsomer than you are yourself; because a man’s good looks,
you know, are always better than a woman’s good looks.”

This little innocent touch of natural taste did not please the elder
sister at the moment, and she did not scruple to betray it. “Hetty, you
now speak foolishly, and had better say no more on this subject,” she
answered. “Hurry is not the handsomest mortal in the world, by many;
and there are officers in the garrisons--” Judith stammered at the
words--“there are officers in the garrisons, near us, far comelier than
he. But why do you think me the equal of Deerslayer--speak of that, for
I do not like to hear you show so much admiration of a man like Hurry
Harry, who has neither feelings, manners, nor conscience. You are too
good for him, and he ought to be told it, at once.”

“I! Judith, how you forget! Why I am not beautiful, and am
feeble-minded.”

“You are good, Hetty, and that is more than can be said of Harry March.
He may have a face, and a body, but he has no heart. But enough of this,
for the present. Tell me what raises me to an equality with Deerslayer.”

“To think of you asking me this, Judith! He can’t read, and you can. He
don’t know how to talk, but speaks worse than Hurry even;--for, sister,
Harry doesn’t always pronounce his words right! Did you ever notice
that?”

“Certainly, he is as coarse in speech as in everything else. But I fear
you flatter me, Hetty, when you think I can be justly called the equal
of a man like Deerslayer. It is true, I have been better taught; in
one sense am more comely; and perhaps might look higher; but then his
truth--his truth--makes a fearful difference between us! Well, I will
talk no more of this; and we will bethink us of the means of getting
him out of the hands of the Hurons. We have father’s chest in the ark,
Hetty, and might try the temptation of more elephants; though I fear
such baubles will not buy the liberty of a man like Deerslayer. I am
afraid father and Hurry will not be as willing to ransom Deerslayer, as
Deerslayer was to ransom them!”

“Why not, Judith? Hurry and Deerslayer are friends, and friends should
always help one another.”

“Alas! poor Hetty, you little know mankind! Seeming friends are often
more to be dreaded than open enemies; particularly by females. But
you’ll have to land in the morning, and try again what can be done for
Deerslayer. Tortured he shall not be, while Judith Hutter lives, and can
find means to prevent it.”

The conversation now grew desultory, and was drawn out, until the
elder sister had extracted from the younger every fact that the feeble
faculties of the latter permitted her to retain, and to communicate.
When Judith was satisfied--though she could never be said to be
satisfied, whose feelings seemed to be so interwoven with all that
related to the subject, as to have excited a nearly inappeasable
curiosity--but, when Judith could think of no more questions to ask,
without resorting to repetition, the canoe was paddled towards the scow.
The intense darkness of the night, and the deep shadows which the
hills and forest cast upon the water, rendered it difficult to find the
vessel, anchored, as it had been, as close to the shore as a regard to
safety rendered prudent. Judith was expert in the management of a bark
canoe, the lightness of which demanded skill rather than strength; and
she forced her own little vessel swiftly over the water, the moment she
had ended her conference with Hetty, and had come to the determination
to return. Still no ark was seen. Several times the sisters fancied they
saw it, looming up in the obscurity, like a low black rock; but on each
occasion it was found to be either an optical illusion, or some swell of
the foliage on the shore. After a search that lasted half an hour, the
girls were forced to the unwelcome conviction that the ark had departed.
Most young women would have felt the awkwardness of their situation,
in a physical sense, under the circumstances in which the sisters were
left, more than any apprehensions of a different nature. Not so with
Judith, however; and even Hetty felt more concern about the motives that
might have influenced her father and Hurry, than any fears for her own
safety.

“It cannot be, Hetty,” said Judith, when a thorough search had satisfied
them both that no ark was to be found; “it cannot be that the Indians
have rafted, or swum off and surprised our friends as they slept?”

“I don’t believe that Hist and Chingachgook would sleep until they had
told each other all they had to say after so long a separation--do you,
sister?”

“Perhaps not, child. There was much to keep them awake, but one Indian
may have been surprised even when not asleep, especially as his thoughts
may have been on other things. Still we should have heard a noise; for
in a night like this, an oath of Hurry Harry’s would have echoed in the
eastern hills like a clap of thunder.”

“Hurry is sinful and thoughtless about his words, Judith,” Hetty meekly
and sorrowfully answered.

“No--no; ‘tis impossible the ark could be taken and I not hear the
noise. It is not an hour since I left it, and the whole time I have been
attentive to the smallest sound. And yet, it is not easy to believe a
father would willingly abandon his children!”

“Perhaps father has thought us in our cabin asleep, Judith, and has
moved away to go home. You know we often move the ark in the night.”

“This is true, Hetty, and it must be as you suppose. There is a little
more southern air than there was, and they have gone up the lake--”
 Judith stopped, for, as the last word was on her tongue, the scene was
suddenly lighted, though only for a single instant, by a flash. The
crack of a rifle succeeded, and then followed the roll of the echo along
the eastern mountains. Almost at the same moment a piercing female
cry rose in the air in a prolonged shriek. The awful stillness that
succeeded was, if possible, more appalling than the fierce and sudden
interruption of the deep silence of midnight. Resolute as she was both
by nature and habit, Judith scarce breathed, while poor Hetty hid her
face and trembled.

“That was a woman’s cry, Hetty,” said the former solemnly, “and it was
a cry of anguish! If the ark has moved from this spot it can only have
gone north with this air, and the gun and shriek came from the point.
Can any thing have befallen Hist?”

“Let us go and see, Judith; she may want our assistance--for, besides
herself, there are none but men in the ark.”

It was not a moment for hesitation, and ere Judith had ceased speaking
her paddle was in the water. The distance to the point, in a direct
line, was not great, and the impulses under which the girls worked were
too exciting to allow them to waste the precious moments in useless
precautions. They paddled incautiously for them, but the same excitement
kept others from noting their movements. Presently a glare of light
caught the eye of Judith through an opening in the bushes, and steering
by it, she so directed the canoe as to keep it visible, while she got as
near the land as was either prudent or necessary.

The scene that was now presented to the observation of the girls was
within the woods, on the side of the declivity so often mentioned, and
in plain view from the boat. Here all in the camp were collected, some
six or eight carrying torches of fat-pine, which cast a strong but
funereal light on all beneath the arches of the forest. With her
back supported against a tree, and sustained on one side by the young
sentinel whose remissness had suffered Hetty to escape, sat the female
whose expected visit had produced his delinquency. By the glare of the
torch that was held near her face, it was evident that she was in the
agonies of death, while the blood that trickled from her bared bosom
betrayed the nature of the injury she had received. The pungent,
peculiar smell of gunpowder, too, was still quite perceptible in the
heavy, damp night air. There could be no question that she had been
shot. Judith understood it all at a glance. The streak of light had
appeared on the water a short distance from the point, and either the
rifle had been discharged from a canoe hovering near the land, or it had
been fired from the ark in passing. An incautious exclamation, or laugh,
may have produced the assault, for it was barely possible that the aim
had been assisted by any other agent than sound. As to the effect, that
was soon still more apparent, the head of the victim dropping, and the
body sinking in death. Then all the torches but one were extinguished--a
measure of prudence; and the melancholy train that bore the body to the
camp was just to be distinguished by the glimmering light that remained.
Judith sighed heavily and shuddered, as her paddle again dipped, and
the canoe moved cautiously around the point. A sight had afflicted her
senses, and now haunted her imagination, that was still harder to be
borne, than even the untimely fate and passing agony of the deceased
girl.

She had seen, under the strong glare of all the torches, the erect form
of Deerslayer, standing with commiseration, and as she thought, with
shame depicted on his countenance, near the dying female. He betrayed
neither fear nor backwardness himself; but it was apparent by the
glances cast at him by the warriors, that fierce passions were
struggling in their bosoms. All this seemed to be unheeded by the
captive, but it remained impressed on the memory of Judith throughout
the night. No canoe was met hovering near the point. A stillness and
darkness, as complete as if the silence of the forest had never been
disturbed, or the sun had never shone on that retired region, now
reigned on the point, and on the gloomy water, the slumbering woods,
and even the murky sky. No more could be done, therefore, than to seek
a place of safety; and this was only to be found in the centre of the
lake. Paddling in silence to that spot, the canoe was suffered to drift
northerly, while the girls sought such repose as their situation and
feelings would permit.



Chapter XIX


    “Stand to your arms, and guard the door--all’s lost
    Unless that fearful bell be silenced soon.
    The officer hath miss’d his path, or purpose,
    Or met some unforeseen and hideous obstacle.
    Anselmo, with thy company proceed
    Straight to the tower; the rest remain with me.”

    Byron, Marino Faliero, IV.ii.230-35.

The conjecture of Judith Hutter, concerning the manner in which the
Indian girl had met her death, was accurate in the main. After sleeping
several hours, her father and March awoke. This occurred a few minutes
after she had left the Ark to go in quest of her sister, and when of
course Chingachgook and his betrothed were on board. From the Delaware
the old man learned the position of the camp, and the recent events, as
well as the absence of his daughters. The latter gave him no concern,
for he relied greatly on the sagacity of the elder, and the known
impunity with which the younger passed among the savages. Long
familiarity with danger, too, had blunted his sensibilities. Nor did he
seem much to regret the captivity of Deerslayer, for, while he knew how
material his aid might be in a defence, the difference in their views on
the morality of the woods, had not left much sympathy between them. He
would have rejoiced to know the position of the camp before it had been
alarmed by the escape of Hist, but it would be too hazardous now to
venture to land, and he reluctantly relinquished for the night the
ruthless designs that cupidity and revenge had excited him to entertain.
In this mood Hutter took a seat in the head of the scow, where he
was quickly joined by Hurry, leaving the Serpent and Hist in quiet
possession of the other extremity of the vessel.

“Deerslayer has shown himself a boy, in going among the savages at this
hour, and letting himself fall into their hands like a deer that tumbles
into a pit,” growled the old man, perceiving as usual the mote in his
neighbor’s eyes, while he overlooked the beam in his own; “if he is left
to pay for his stupidity with his own flesh, he can blame no one but
himself.”

“That’s the way of the world, old Tom,” returned Hurry. “Every man must
meet his own debts, and answer for his own sins. I’m amazed, howsever,
that a lad as skilful and watchful as Deerslayer should have been caught
in such a trap! Didn’t he know any better than to go prowling about a
Huron camp at midnight, with no place to retreat to but a lake? or did
he think himself a buck, that by taking to the water could throw off the
scent and swim himself out of difficulty? I had a better opinion of the
boy’s judgment, I’ll own; but we must overlook a little ignorance in a
raw hand. I say, Master Hutter, do you happen to know what has become of
the gals--I see no signs of Judith, or Hetty, though I’ve been through
the Ark, and looked into all its living creatur’s.”

Hutter briefly explained the manner in which his daughters had taken to
the canoe, as it had been related by the Delaware, as well as the return
of Judith after landing her sister, and her second departure.

“This comes of a smooth tongue, Floating Tom,” exclaimed Hurry, grating
his teeth in pure resentment--“This comes of a smooth tongue, and a
silly gal’s inclinations, and you had best look into the matter! You and
I were both prisoners--” Hurry could recall that circumstance now--“you
and I were both prisoners and yet Judith never stirred an inch to do us
any sarvice! She is bewitched with this lank-looking Deerslayer, and he,
and she, and you, and all of us, had best look to it. I am not a man to
put up with such a wrong quietly, and I say, all the parties had best
look to it! Let’s up kedge, old fellow, and move nearer to this p’int,
and see how matters are getting on.”

Hutter had no objections to this movement, and the Ark was got under
way in the usual manner; care being taken to make no noise. The wind was
passing northward, and the sail soon swept the scow so far up the lake
as to render the dark outlines of the trees that clothed the point dimly
visible. Floating Tom steered, and he sailed along as near the land as
the depth of the water and the overhanging branches would allow. It was
impossible to distinguish anything that stood within the shadows of the
shore, but the forms of the sail and of the hut were discerned by the
young sentinel on the beach, who has already been mentioned. In the
moment of sudden surprise, a deep Indian exclamation escaped him. In
that spirit of recklessness and ferocity that formed the essence of
Hurry’s character, this man dropped his rifle and fired. The ball was
sped by accident, or by that overruling providence which decides the
fates of all, and the girl fell. Then followed the scene with the
torches, which has just been described.

At the precise moment when Hurry committed this act of unthinking
cruelty, the canoe of Judith was within a hundred feet of the spot from
which the Ark had so lately moved. Her own course has been described,
and it has now become our office to follow that of her father and his
companions. The shriek announced the effects of the random shot of
March, and it also proclaimed that the victim was a woman. Hurry himself
was startled at these unlooked for consequences, and for a moment he
was sorely disturbed by conflicting sensations. At first he laughed, in
reckless and rude-minded exultation; and then conscience, that monitor
planted in our breasts by God, and which receives its more general
growth from the training bestowed in the tillage of childhood, shot a
pang to his heart. For a minute, the mind of this creature equally of
civilization and of barbarism, was a sort of chaos as to feeling, not
knowing what to think of its own act; and then the obstinacy and pride
of one of his habits, interposed to assert their usual ascendency. He
struck the butt of his rifle on the bottom of the scow, with a species
of defiance, and began to whistle a low air with an affectation of
indifference. All this time the Ark was in motion, and it was already
opening the bay above the point, and was consequently quitting the land.

Hurry’s companions did not view his conduct with the same indulgence
as that with which he appeared disposed to regard it himself. Hutter
growled out his dissatisfaction, for the act led to no advantage, while
it threatened to render the warfare more vindictive than ever, and none
censure motiveless departures from the right more severely than the
mercenary and unprincipled. Still he commanded himself, the captivity
of Deerslayer rendering the arm of the offender of double consequence
to him at that moment. Chingachgook arose, and for a single instant the
ancient animosity of tribes was forgotten, in a feeling of colour;
but he recollected himself in season to prevent any of the fierce
consequences that, for a passing moment, he certainly meditated. Not so
with Hist. Rushing through the hut, or cabin, the girl stood at the side
of Hurry, almost as soon as his rifle touched the bottom of the scow,
and with a fearlessness that did credit to her heart, she poured out her
reproaches with the generous warmth of a woman.

“What for you shoot?” she said. “What Huron gal do, dat you kill him?
What you t’ink Manitou say? What you t’ink Manitou feel? What Iroquois
do? No get honour--no get camp--no get prisoner--no get battle--no get
scalp--no get not’ing at all! Blood come after blood! How you feel, your
wife killed? Who pity you, when tear come for moder, or sister? You big
as great pine--Huron gal little slender birch--why you fall on her and
crush her? You t’ink Huron forget it? No; red-skin never forget! Never
forget friend; never forget enemy. Red man Manitou in dat. Why you so
wicked, great pale-face?”

Hurry had never been so daunted as by this close and warm attack of the
Indian girl. It is true that she had a powerful ally in his conscience,
and while she spoke earnestly, it was in tones so feminine as to deprive
him of any pretext for unmanly anger. The softness of her voice added
to the weight of her remonstrance, by lending to the latter an air of
purity and truth. Like most vulgar minded men, he had only regarded the
Indians through the medium of their coarser and fiercer characteristics.
It had never struck him that the affections are human, that even high
principles--modified by habits and prejudices, but not the less elevated
within their circle--can exist in the savage state, and that the
warrior who is most ruthless in the field, can submit to the softest and
gentlest influences in the moments of domestic quiet. In a word, it
was the habit of his mind to regard all Indians as being only a slight
degree removed from the wild beasts that roamed the woods, and to
feel disposed to treat them accordingly, whenever interest or caprice
supplied a motive or an impulse. Still, though daunted by these
reproaches, the handsome barbarian could hardly be said to be penitent.
He was too much rebuked by conscience to suffer an outbreak of temper
to escape him, and perhaps he felt that he had already committed an act
that might justly bring his manhood in question. Instead of resenting,
or answering the simple but natural appeal of Hist, he walked away, like
one who disdained entering into a controversy with a woman.

In the mean while the Ark swept onward, and by the time the scene with
the torches was enacting beneath the trees, it had reached the open
lake, Floating Tom causing it to sheer further from the land with a
sort of instinctive dread of retaliation. An hour now passed in gloomy
silence, no one appearing disposed to break it. Hist had retired to her
pallet, and Chingachgook lay sleeping in the forward part of the scow.
Hutter and Hurry alone remained awake, the former at the steering oar,
while the latter brooded over his own conduct, with the stubbornness of
one little given to a confession of his errors, and the secret goadings
of the worm that never dies. This was at the moment when Judith and
Hetty reached the centre of the lake, and had lain down to endeavor to
sleep in their drifting canoe.

The night was calm, though so much obscured by clouds. The season was
not one of storms, and those which did occur in the month of June, on
that embedded water, though frequently violent were always of short
continuance. Nevertheless, there was the usual current of heavy, damp
night air, which, passing over the summits of the trees, scarcely
appeared to descend as low as the surface of the glassy lake, but kept
moving a short distance above it, saturated with the humidity that
constantly arose from the woods, and apparently never proceeding far in
any one direction. The currents were influenced by the formation of the
hills, as a matter of course, a circumstance that rendered even fresh
breezes baffling, and which reduced the feebler efforts of the night
air to be a sort of capricious and fickle sighings of the woods. Several
times the head of the Ark pointed east, and once it was actually turned
towards the south, again; but, on the whole, it worked its way north;
Hutter making always a fair wind, if wind it could be called, his
principal motive appearing to keep in motion, in order to defeat any
treacherous design of his enemies. He now felt some little concern about
his daughters, and perhaps as much about the canoe; but, on the whole,
this uncertainty did not much disturb him, as he had the reliance
already mentioned on the intelligence of Judith.

It was the season of the shortest nights, and it was not long before the
deep obscurity which precedes the day began to yield to the returning
light. If any earthly scene could be presented to the senses of man that
might soothe his passions and temper his ferocity, it was that which
grew upon the eyes of Hutter and Hurry as the hours advanced, changing
night to morning. There were the usual soft tints of the sky, in which
neither the gloom of darkness nor the brilliancy of the sun prevails,
and under which objects appear more unearthly, and we might add holy,
than at any other portion of the twenty four hours. The beautiful and
soothing calm of eventide has been extolled by a thousand poets, and yet
it does not bring with it the far-reaching and sublime thoughts of the
half hour that precedes the rising of a summer sun. In the one case the
panorama is gradually hid from the sight, while in the other its objects
start out from the unfolding picture, first dim and misty; then marked
in, in solemn background; next seen in the witchery of an increasing, a
thing as different as possible from the decreasing twilight, and finally
mellow, distinct and luminous, as the rays of the great centre of light
diffuse themselves in the atmosphere. The hymns of birds, too, have
no moral counterpart in the retreat to the roost, or the flight to the
nest, and these invariably accompany the advent of the day, until the
appearance of the sun itself--

“Bathes in deep joy, the land and sea.”

All this, however, Hutter and Hurry witnessed without experiencing any
of that calm delight which the spectacle is wont to bring, when the
thoughts are just and the aspirations pure. They not only witnessed
it, but they witnessed it under circumstances that had a tendency to
increase its power, and to heighten its charms. Only one solitary object
became visible in the returning light that had received its form or uses
from human taste or human desires, which as often deform as beautify
a landscape. This was the castle, all the rest being native, and fresh
from the hand of God. That singular residence, too, was in keeping with
the natural objects of the view, starting out from the gloom, quaint,
picturesque and ornamental. Nevertheless the whole was lost on the
observers, who knew no feeling of poetry, had lost their sense of
natural devotion in lives of obdurate and narrow selfishness, and had
little other sympathy with nature, than that which originated with her
lowest wants.

As soon as the light was sufficiently strong to allow of a distinct view
of the lake, and more particularly of its shores, Hutter turned the head
of the Ark directly towards the castle, with the avowed intention of
taking possession, for the day at least, as the place most favorable
for meeting his daughters and for carrying on his operations against the
Indians. By this time, Chingachgook was up, and Hist was heard stirring
among the furniture of the kitchen. The place for which they steered was
distant only a mile, and the air was sufficiently favorable to permit it
to be reached by means of the sail. At this moment, too, to render the
appearances generally auspicious, the canoe of Judith was seen floating
northward in the broadest part of the lake; having actually passed the
scow in the darkness, in obedience to no other power than that of the
elements. Hutter got his glass, and took a long and anxious survey, to
ascertain if his daughters were in the light craft or not, and a slight
exclamation like that of joy escaped him, as he caught a glimpse of what
he rightly conceived to be a part of Judith’s dress above the top of the
canoe. At the next instant the girl arose and was seen gazing about her,
like one assuring herself of her situation. A minute later, Hetty was
seen on her knees in the other end of the canoe, repeating the prayers
that had been taught her in childhood by a misguided but repentant
mother. As Hutter laid down the glass, still drawn to its focus, the
Serpent raised it to his eye and turned it towards the canoe. It was the
first time he had ever used such an instrument, and Hist understood
by his “Hugh!,” the expression of his face, and his entire mien, that
something wonderful had excited his admiration. It is well known that
the American Indians, more particularly those of superior characters and
stations, singularly maintain their self-possession and stoicism, in
the midst of the flood of marvels that present themselves in their
occasional visits to the abodes of civilization, and Chingachgook had
imbibed enough of this impassibility to suppress any very undignified
manifestation of surprise. With Hist, however, no such law was binding,
and when her lover managed to bring the glass in a line with the canoe,
and her eye was applied to the smaller end, the girl started back in
alarm; then she clapped her hands with delight, and a laugh, the usual
attendant of untutored admiration, followed. A few minutes sufficed to
enable this quick witted girl to manage the instrument for herself, and
she directed it at every prominent object that struck her fancy. Finding
a rest in one of the windows, she and the Delaware first surveyed the
lake; then the shores, the hills, and, finally, the castle attracted
their attention. After a long steady gaze at the latter, Hist took away
her eye, and spoke to her lover in a low, earnest manner. Chingachgook
immediately placed his eye to the glass, and his look even exceeded that
of his betrothed in length and intensity. Again they spoke together,
confidentially, appearing to compare opinions, after which the glass was
laid aside, and the young warrior quitted the cabin to join Hutter and
Hurry.

The Ark was slowly but steadily advancing, and the castle was materially
within half a mile, when Chingachgook joined the two white men in
the stern of the scow. His manner was calm, but it was evident to the
others, who were familiar with the habits of the Indians, that he had
something to communicate. Hurry was generally prompt to speak and,
according to custom, he took the lead on this occasion.

“Out with it, red-skin,” he cried, in his usual rough manner. “Have you
discovered a chipmunk in a tree, or is there a salmon-trout swimming
under the bottom of the scow? You find what a pale-face can do in the
way of eyes, now, Sarpent, and mustn’t wonder that they can see the land
of the Indians from afar off.”

“No good to go to Castle,” put in Chingachgook with emphasis, the moment
the other gave him an opportunity of speaking. “Huron there.”

“The devil he is!--If this should turn out to be true, Floating Tom,
a pretty trap were we about to pull down on our heads! Huron,
there!--Well, this may be so; but no signs can I see of any thing, near
or about the old hut, but logs, water, and bark--bating two or three
windows, and one door.”

Hutter called for the glass, and took a careful survey of the spot,
before he ventured an opinion, at all; then he somewhat cavalierly
expressed his dissent from that given by the Indian.

“You’ve got this glass wrong end foremost, Delaware,” continued Hurry.
“Neither the old man nor I can see any trail in the lake.”

“No trail--water make no trail,” said Hist, eagerly. “Stop boat--no go
too near. Huron there!”

“Ay, that’s it!--Stick to the same tale, and more people will believe
you. I hope, Sarpent, you and your gal will agree in telling the same
story arter marriage, as well as you do now. ‘Huron, there!’--Whereabouts
is he to be seen--in the padlock, or the chains, or the logs. There
isn’t a gaol in the colony that has a more lock up look about it, than
old Tom’s chiente, and I know something about gaols from exper’ence.”

“No see moccasin,” said Hist, impatiently “why no look--and see him.”

“Give me the glass, Harry,” interrupted Hutter, “and lower the sail.
It is seldom that an Indian woman meddles, and when she does, there is
generally a cause for it. There is, truly, a moccasin floating against
one of the piles, and it may or may not be a sign that the castle hasn’t
escaped visitors in our absence. Moccasins are no rarities, however, for
I wear ‘em myself; and Deerslayer wears ‘em, and you wear ‘em, March,
and, for that matter so does Hetty, quite as often as she wears shoes,
though I never yet saw Judith trust her pretty foot in a moccasin.”

Hurry had lowered the sail, and by this time the Ark was within two
hundred yards of the castle, setting in, nearer and nearer, each moment,
but at a rate too slow to excite any uneasiness. Each now took the glass
in turn, and the castle, and every thing near it, was subjected to a
scrutiny still more rigid than ever. There the moccasin lay, beyond a
question, floating so lightly, and preserving its form so well, that it
was scarcely wet. It had caught by a piece of the rough bark of one of
the piles, on the exterior of the water-palisade that formed the dock
already mentioned, which circumstance alone prevented it from drifting
away before the air. There were many modes, however, of accounting for
the presence of the moccasin, without supposing it to have been dropped
by an enemy. It might have fallen from the platform, even while Hutter
was in possession of the place, and drifted to the spot where it was now
seen, remaining unnoticed until detected by the acute vision of Hist.
It might have drifted from a distance, up or down the lake, and
accidentally become attached to the pile, or palisade. It might have
been thrown from a window, and alighted in that particular place; or it
might certainly have fallen from a scout, or an assailant, during the
past night, who was obliged to abandon it to the lake, in the deep
obscurity which then prevailed.

All these conjectures passed from Hutter to Hurry, the former appearing
disposed to regard the omen as a little sinister, while the latter
treated it with his usual reckless disdain. As for the Indian, he was of
opinion that the moccasin should be viewed as one would regard a
trail in the woods, which might, or might not, equally, prove to be
threatening. Hist, however, had something available to propose. She
declared her readiness to take a canoe, to proceed to the palisade and
bring away the moccasin, when its ornaments would show whether it came
from the Canadas or not. Both the white men were disposed to accept
this offer, but the Delaware interfered to prevent the risk. If such a
service was to be undertaken, it best became a warrior to expose himself
in its execution, and he gave his refusal to let his betrothed proceed,
much in the quiet but brief manner in which an Indian husband issues his
commands.

“Well then, Delaware, go yourself if you’re so tender of your squaw,”
 put in the unceremonious Hurry. “That moccasin must be had, or Floating
Tom will keep off, here, at arm’s length, till the hearth cools in his
cabin. It’s but a little deerskin, a’ter all, and cut this-a-way or
that-a-way, it’s not a skear-crow to frighten true hunters from their
game. What say you, Sarpent, shall you or I canoe it?”

“Let red man go.--Better eyes than pale-face--know Huron trick better,
too.”

“That I’ll gainsay, to the hour of my death! A white man’s eyes, and a
white man’s nose, and for that matter his sight and ears are all better
than an Injin’s when fairly tried. Time and ag’in have I put that to
the proof, and what is proved is sartain. Still I suppose the poorest
vagabond going, whether Delaware or Huron, can find his way to yonder
hut and back ag’in, and so, Sarpent, use your paddle and welcome.”

Chingachgook was already in the canoe, and he dipped the implement
the other named into the water, just as Hurry’s limber tongue ceased.
Wah-ta-Wah saw the departure of her warrior on this occasion with the
submissive silence of an Indian girl, but with most of the misgivings
and apprehensions of her sex. Throughout the whole of the past night,
and down to the moment, when they used the glass together in the
hut, Chingachgook had manifested as much manly tenderness towards his
betrothed as one of the most refined sentiment could have shown under
similar circumstances, but now every sign of weakness was lost in an
appearance of stern resolution. Although Hist timidly endeavored to
catch his eye as the canoe left the side of the Ark, the pride of a
warrior would not permit him to meet her fond and anxious looks. The
canoe departed and not a wandering glance rewarded her solicitude.

Nor were the Delaware’s care and gravity misplaced, under the
impressions with which he proceeded on this enterprise. If the enemy had
really gained possession of the building he was obliged to put himself
under the very muzzles of their rifles, as it were, and this too without
the protection of any of that cover which forms so essential an ally in
Indian warfare. It is scarcely possible to conceive of a service more
dangerous, and had the Serpent been fortified by the experience of ten
more years, or had his friend the Deerslayer been present, it would
never have been attempted; the advantages in no degree compensating for
the risk. But the pride of an Indian chief was acted on by the rivalry
of colour, and it is not unlikely that the presence of the very creature
from whom his ideas of manhood prevented his receiving a single glance,
overflowing as he was with the love she so well merited, had no small
influence on his determination.

Chingachgook paddled steadily towards the palisades, keeping his eyes on
the different loops of the building. Each instant he expected to see
the muzzle of a rifle protruded, or to hear its sharp crack; but he
succeeded in reaching the piles in safety. Here he was, in a measure,
protected, having the heads of the palisades between him and the hut,
and the chances of any attempt on his life while thus covered, were
greatly diminished. The canoe had reached the piles with its head
inclining northward, and at a short distance from the moccasin. Instead
of turning to pick up the latter, the Delaware slowly made the circuit
of the whole building, deliberately examining every object that should
betray the presence of enemies, or the commission of violence. Not a
single sign could he discover, however, to confirm the suspicions that
had been awakened. The stillness of desertion pervaded the building; not
a fastening was displaced, not a window had been broken. The door looked
as secure as at the hour when it was closed by Hutter, and even the gate
of the dock had all the customary fastenings. In short, the most wary
and jealous eye could detect no other evidence of the visit of enemies,
than that which was connected with the appearance of the floating
moccasin.

The Delaware was now greatly at a loss how to proceed. At one moment, as
he came round in front of the castle, he was on the point of stepping up
on the platform and of applying his eye to one of the loops, with a view
of taking a direct personal inspection of the state of things within;
but he hesitated. Though of little experience in such matters, himself,
he had heard so much of Indian artifices through traditions, had
listened with such breathless interest to the narration of the escapes
of the elder warriors, and, in short, was so well schooled in the theory
of his calling, that it was almost as impossible for him to make
any gross blunder on such an occasion, as it was for a well grounded
scholar, who had commenced correctly, to fail in solving his problem in
mathematics. Relinquishing the momentary intention to land, the chief
slowly pursued his course round the palisades. As he approached the
moccasin, having now nearly completed the circuit of the building, he
threw the ominous article into the canoe, by a dexterous and almost
imperceptible movement of his paddle. He was now ready to depart, but
retreat was even more dangerous than the approach, as the eye could
no longer be riveted on the loops. If there was really any one in the
castle, the motive of the Delaware in reconnoitering must be understood,
and it was the wisest way, however perilous it might be, to retire
with an air of confidence, as if all distrust were terminated by the
examination. Such, accordingly, was the course adopted by the Indian,
who paddled deliberately away, taking the direction of the Ark,
suffering no nervous impulse to quicken the motions of his arms, or to
induce him to turn even a furtive glance behind him.

No tender wife, reared in the refinements of the highest civilization,
ever met a husband on his return from the field with more of sensibility
in her countenance than Hist discovered, as she saw the Great Serpent
of the Delawares step, unharmed, into the Ark. Still she repressed her
emotion, though the joy that sparkled in her dark eyes, and the smile
that lighted her pretty mouth, spoke a language that her betrothed could
understand.

“Well, Sarpent,” cried Hurry, always the first to speak, “what news
from the muskrats? Did they shew their teeth, as you surrounded their
dwelling?”

“I no like him,” sententiously returned the Delaware. “Too still. So
still, can see silence!”

“That’s downright Injin--as if any thing could make less noise than
nothing! If you’ve no better reason than this to give, old Tom had
better hoist his sail, and go and get his breakfast under his own roof.
What has become of the moccasin?”

“Here,” returned Chingachgook, holding up his prize for the general
inspection. The moccasin was examined, and Hist confidently pronounced
it to be Huron, by the manner in which the porcupine’s quills were
arranged on its front. Hutter and the Delaware, too, were decidedly of
the same opinion. Admitting all this, however, it did not necessarily
follow that its owners were in the castle. The moccasin might have
drifted from a distance, or it might have fallen from the foot of some
scout, who had quitted the place when his errand was accomplished. In
short it explained nothing, while it awakened so much distrust.

Under the circumstances, Hutter and Hurry were not men to be long
deterred from proceeding by proofs as slight as that of the moccasin.
They hoisted the sail again, and the Ark was soon in motion, heading
towards the castle. The wind or air continued light, and the movement
was sufficiently slow to allow of a deliberate survey of the building,
as the scow approached. The same death-like silence reigned, and it was
difficult to fancy that any thing possessing animal life could be in
or around the place. Unlike the Serpent, whose imagination had acted
through his traditions until he was ready to perceive an artificial,
in a natural stillness, the others saw nothing to apprehend in a
tranquility that, in truth, merely denoted the repose of inanimate
objects. The accessories of the scene, too, were soothing and calm,
rather than exciting. The day had not yet advanced so far as to bring
the sun above the horizon, but the heavens, the atmosphere, and the
woods and lake were all seen under that softened light which immediately
precedes his appearance, and which perhaps is the most witching period
of the four and twenty hours. It is the moment when every thing is
distinct, even the atmosphere seeming to possess a liquid lucidity, the
hues appearing gray and softened, with the outlines of objects defined,
and the perspective just as moral truths that are presented in their
simplicity, without the meretricious aids of ornament or glitter. In a
word, it is the moment when the senses seem to recover their powers, in
the simplest and most accurate forms, like the mind emerging from the
obscurity of doubts into the tranquility and peace of demonstration.
Most of the influence that such a scene is apt to produce on those who
are properly constituted in a moral sense, was lost on Hutter and
Hurry; but both the Delawares, though too much accustomed to witness
the loveliness of morning-tide to stop to analyze their feelings, were
equally sensible of the beauties of the hour, though it was probably in
a way unknown to themselves. It disposed the young warrior to peace, and
never had he felt less longings for the glory of the combat, than when
he joined Hist in the cabin, the instant the scow rubbed against the
side of the platform. From the indulgence of such gentle emotions,
however, he was aroused by a rude summons from Hurry, who called on him
to come forth and help to take in the sail, and to secure the Ark.

Chingachgook obeyed, and by the time he had reached the head of the
scow, Hurry was on the platform, stamping his feet, like one glad to
touch what, by comparison, might be called terra firma, and proclaiming
his indifference to the whole Huron tribe in his customary noisy,
dogmatical manner. Hutter had hauled a canoe up to the head of the scow,
and was already about to undo the fastenings of the gate, in order to
enter within the ‘dock.’ March had no other motive in landing than a
senseless bravado, and having shaken the door in a manner to put its
solidity to the proof, he joined Hutter in the canoe and began to aid
him in opening the gate. The reader will remember that this mode of
entrance was rendered necessary by the manner in which the owner of this
singular residence habitually secured it, whenever it was left empty;
more particularly at moments when danger was apprehended. Hutter had
placed a line in the Delaware’s hand, on entering the canoe, intimating
that the other was to fasten the Ark to the platform and to lower the
sail. Instead of following these directions, however, Chingachgook left
the sail standing, and throwing the bight of the rope over the head of
a pile, he permitted the Ark to drift round until it lay against the
defences, in a position where it could be entered only by means of a
boat, or by passing along the summits of the palisades; the latter being
an exploit that required some command of the feet, and which was not to
be attempted in the face of a resolute enemy.

In consequence of this change in the position of the scow, which was
effected before Hutter had succeeded in opening the gate of his dock,
the Ark and the Castle lay, as sailors would express it, yard-arm and
yard-arm, kept asunder some ten or twelve feet by means of the piles. As
the scow pressed close against the latter, their tops formed a species
of breast work that rose to the height of a man’s head, covering in
a certain degree the parts of the scow that were not protected by the
cabin. The Delaware surveyed this arrangement with great satisfaction
and, as the canoe of Hutter passed through the gate into the dock, he
thought that he might defend his position against any garrison in the
castle, for a sufficient time, could he but have had the helping arm of
his friend Deerslayer. As it was, he felt comparatively secure, and
no longer suffered the keen apprehensions he had lately experienced in
behalf of Hist.

A single shove sent the canoe from the gate to the trap beneath the
castle. Here Hutter found all fast, neither padlock nor chain nor bar
having been molested. The key was produced, the locks removed, the chain
loosened, and the trap pushed upward. Hurry now thrust his head in at
the opening; the arms followed, and the colossal legs rose without any
apparent effort. At the next instant, his heavy foot was heard stamping
in the passage above; that which separated the chambers of the father
and daughters, and into which the trap opened. He then gave a shout of
triumph.

“Come on, old Tom,” the reckless woodsman called out from within the
building--“here’s your tenement, safe and sound; ay, and as empty as a
nut that has passed half an hour in the paws of a squirrel! The Delaware
brags of being able to see silence; let him come here, and he may feel
it, in the bargain.”

“Any silence where you are, Hurry Harry,” returned Hutter, thrusting his
head in at the hole as he uttered the last word, which instantly caused
his voice to sound smothered to those without--“Any silence where you
are, ought to be both seen and felt, for it’s unlike any other silence.”

“Come, come, old fellow; hoist yourself up, and we’ll open doors and
windows and let in the fresh air to brighten up matters. Few words in
troublesome times, make men the best fri’nds. Your darter Judith is what
I call a misbehaving young woman, and the hold of the whole family on me
is so much weakened by her late conduct, that it wouldn’t take a speech
as long as the ten commandments to send me off to the river, leaving you
and your traps, your Ark and your children, your man servants and your
maid servants, your oxen and your asses, to fight this battle with the
Iroquois by yourselves. Open that window, Floating Tom, and I’ll blunder
through and do the same job to the front door.”

A moment of silence succeeded, and a noise like that produced by the
fall of a heavy body followed. A deep execration from Hurry succeeded,
and then the whole interior of the building seemed alive. The noises
that now so suddenly, and we may add so unexpectedly even to the
Delaware, broke the stillness within, could not be mistaken. They
resembled those that would be produced by a struggle between tigers in a
cage. Once or twice the Indian yell was given, but it seemed smothered,
and as if it proceeded from exhausted or compressed throats, and, in a
single instance, a deep and another shockingly revolting execration
came from the throat of Hurry. It appeared as if bodies were constantly
thrown upon the floor with violence, as often rising to renew the
struggle. Chingachgook felt greatly at a loss what to do. He had all the
arms in the Ark, Hutter and Hurry having proceeded without their rifles,
but there was no means of using them, or of passing them to the hands of
their owners. The combatants were literally caged, rendering it almost
as impossible under the circumstances to get out, as to get into the
building. Then there was Hist to embarrass his movements, and to cripple
his efforts. With a view to relieve himself from this disadvantage,
he told the girl to take the remaining canoe and to join Hutter’s
daughters, who were incautiously but deliberately approaching, in order
to save herself, and to warn the others of their danger. But the girl
positively and firmly refused to comply. At that moment no human power,
short of an exercise of superior physical force, could have induced her
to quit the Ark. The exigency of the moment did not admit of delay, and
the Delaware seeing no possibility of serving his friends, cut the line
and by a strong shove forced the scow some twenty feet clear of the
piles. Here he took the sweeps and succeeded in getting a short distance
to windward, if any direction could be thus termed in so light an air,
but neither the time, nor his skill at the oars, allowed the distance to
be great. When he ceased rowing, the Ark might have been a hundred yards
from the platform, and half that distance to the southward of it, the
sail being lowered. Judith and Hetty had now discovered that something
was wrong, and were stationary a thousand feet farther north.

All this while the furious struggle continued within the house. In
scenes like these, events thicken in less time than they can be related.
From the moment when the first fall was heard within the building to
that when the Delaware ceased his awkward attempts to row, it might have
been three or four minutes, but it had evidently served to weaken the
combatants. The oaths and execrations of Hurry were no longer heard, and
even the struggles had lost some of their force and fury. Nevertheless
they still continued with unabated perseverance. At this instant the
door flew open, and the fight was transferred to the platform, the light
and the open air. A Huron had undone the fastenings of the door, and
three or four of his tribe rushed after him upon the narrow space, as
if glad to escape from some terrible scene within. The body of another
followed, pitched headlong through the door with terrific violence. Then
March appeared, raging like a lion at bay, and for an instant freed from
his numerous enemies. Hutter was already a captive and bound. There was
now a pause in the struggle, which resembled a lull in a tempest. The
necessity of breathing was common to all, and the combatants stood
watching each other, like mastiffs that have been driven from their
holds, and are waiting for a favorable opportunity of renewing them. We
shall profit by this pause to relate the manner in which the Indians had
obtained possession of the castle, and this the more willingly because
it may be necessary to explain to the reader why a conflict which
had been so close and fierce, should have also been so comparatively
bloodless.

Rivenoak and his companion, particularly the latter who had appeared to
be a subordinate and occupied solely with his raft, had made the closest
observations in their visits to the castle. Even the boy had brought
away minute and valuable information. By these means the Hurons obtained
a general idea of the manner in which the place was constructed and
secured, as well as of details that enabled them to act intelligently in
the dark. Notwithstanding the care that Hutter had taken to drop the Ark
on the east side of the building when he was in the act of transferring
the furniture from the former to the latter, he had been watched in a
way to render the precaution useless. Scouts were on the look-out on
the eastern as well as on the western shore of the lake, and the whole
proceeding had been noted. As soon as it was dark, rafts like that
already described approached from both shores to reconnoitre, and
the Ark had passed within fifty feet of one of them without its being
discovered; the men it held lying at their length on the logs, so as
to blend themselves and their slow moving machine with the water. When
these two sets of adventurers drew near the castle they encountered
each other, and after communicating their respective observations, they
unhesitatingly approached the building. As had been expected, it was
found empty. The rafts were immediately sent for a reinforcement to the
shore, and two of the savages remained to profit by their situation.
These men succeeded in getting on the roof, and by removing some of the
bark, in entering what might be termed the garret. Here they were found
by their companions. Hatchets now opened a hole through the squared
logs of the upper floor, through which no less than eight of the most
athletic of the Indians dropped into the rooms beneath. Here they were
left, well supplied with arms and provisions, either to stand a siege,
or to make a sortie, as the case might require. The night was passed in
sleep, as is usual with Indians in a state of inactivity. The returning
day brought them a view of the approach of the Ark through the loops,
the only manner in which light and air were now admitted, the windows
being closed most effectually with plank, rudely fashioned to fit. As
soon as it was ascertained that the two white men were about to enter by
the trap, the chief who directed the proceedings of the Hurons took his
measures accordingly. He removed all the arms from his own people, even
to the knives, in distrust of savage ferocity when awakened by personal
injuries, and he hid them where they could not be found without a
search. Ropes of bark were then prepared, and taking their stations in
the three different rooms, they all waited for the signal to fall upon
their intended captives. As soon as the party had entered the building,
men without replaced the bark of the roof, removed every sign of their
visit, with care, and then departed for the shore. It was one of these
who had dropped his moccasin, which he had not been able to find again
in the dark. Had the death of the girl been known, it is probable
nothing could have saved the lives of Hurry and Hutter, but that event
occurred after the ambush was laid, and at a distance of several miles
from the encampment near the castle. Such were the means that had been
employed to produce the state of things we shall continue to describe.



Chapter XX


    “Now all is done that man can do,
    And all is done in vain!
    My love!  my native land, adieu
    For I must cross the main, My dear,
    For I must cross the main.”

    Robert Burns, “It was a’ for our Rightfu’ King,” II.  7-12.

The last chapter we left the combatants breathing in their narrow lists.
Accustomed to the rude sports of wrestling and jumping, then so common
in America, more especially on the frontiers, Hurry possessed an
advantage, in addition to his prodigious strength, that had rendered the
struggle less unequal than it might otherwise appear to be. This alone
had enabled him to hold out so long, against so many enemies, for the
Indian is by no means remarkable for his skill, or force, in athletic
exercises. As yet, no one had been seriously hurt, though several of the
savages had received severe falls, and he, in particular, who had been
thrown bodily upon the platform, might be said to be temporarily hors
de combat. Some of the rest were limping, and March himself had not
entirely escaped from bruises, though want of breath was the principal
loss that both sides wished to repair.

Under circumstances like those in which the parties were placed, a
truce, let it come from what cause it might, could not well be of long
continuance. The arena was too confined, and the distrust of treachery
too great, to admit of this. Contrary to what might be expected in his
situation, Hurry was the first to recommence hostilities. Whether this
proceeded from policy, an idea that he might gain some advantage by
making a sudden and unexpected assault, or was the fruit of irritation
and his undying hatred of an Indian, it is impossible to say. His onset
was furious, however, and at first it carried all before it. He seized
the nearest Huron by the waist, raised him entirely from the platform,
and hurled him into the water, as if he had been a child. In half a
minute, two more were at his side, one of whom received a grave injury
by the friend who had just preceded him. But four enemies remained, and,
in a hand to hand conflict, in which no arms were used but those which
nature had furnished, Hurry believed himself fully able to cope with
that number of red-skins.

“Hurrah! Old Tom,” he shouted--“The rascals are taking to the lake, and
I’ll soon have ‘em all swimming!” As these words were uttered a violent
kick in the face sent back the injured Indian, who had caught at the
edge of the platform, and was endeavoring to raise himself to its level,
helplessly and hopelessly into the water. When the affray was over,
his dark body was seen, through the limpid element of the Glimmerglass,
lying, with outstretched arms, extended on the bottom of the shoal on
which the Castle stood, clinging to the sands and weeds, as if life were
to be retained by this frenzied grasp of death. A blow sent into the pit
of another’s stomach doubled him up like a worm that had been trodden
on, and but two able bodied foes remained to be dealt with. One of
these, however, was not only the largest and strongest of the Hurons,
but he was also the most experienced of their warriors present, and that
one whose sinews were the best strung in fights, and by marches on
the warpath. This man fully appreciated the gigantic strength of his
opponent, and had carefully husbanded his own. He was also equipped
in the best manner for such a conflict, standing in nothing but his
breech-cloth, the model of a naked and beautiful statue of agility and
strength. To grasp him required additional dexterity and unusual force.
Still Hurry did not hesitate, but the kick that had actually destroyed
one fellow creature was no sooner given, than he closed in with this
formidable antagonist, endeavoring to force him into the water, also.
The struggle that succeeded was truly frightful. So fierce did it
immediately become, and so quick and changeful were the evolutions of
the athletes, that the remaining savage had no chance for interfering,
had he possessed the desire; but wonder and apprehension held him
spell bound. He was an inexperienced youth, and his blood curdled as
he witnessed the fell strife of human passions, exhibited too, in an
unaccustomed form.

Hurry first attempted to throw his antagonist. With this view he seized
him by the throat, and an arm, and tripped with the quickness and
force of an American borderer. The effect was frustrated by the agile
movements of the Huron, who had clothes to grasp by, and whose feet
avoided the attempt with a nimbleness equal to that with which it was
made. Then followed a sort of melee, if such a term can be applied to
a struggle between two in which no efforts were strictly visible,
the limbs and bodies of the combatants assuming so many attitudes and
contortions as to defeat observation. This confused but fierce rally
lasted less than a minute, however; when, Hurry, furious at having
his strength baffled by the agility and nakedness of his foe, made
a desperate effort, which sent the Huron from him, hurling his body
violently against the logs of the hut. The concussion was so great as
momentarily to confuse the latter’s faculties. The pain, too, extorted
a deep groan; an unusual concession to agony to escape a red man in
the heat of battle. Still he rushed forward again to meet his enemy,
conscious that his safety rested on it’s resolution. Hurry now seized
the other by the waist, raised him bodily from the platform, and fell
with his own great weight on the form beneath. This additional shock
so stunned the sufferer, that his gigantic white opponent now had him
completely at his mercy. Passing his hands around the throat of his
victim, he compressed them with the strength of a vice, fairly doubling
the head of the Huron over the edge of the platform, until the chin was
uppermost, with the infernal strength he expended. An instant sufficed
to show the consequences. The eyes of the sufferer seemed to start
forward, his tongue protruded, and his nostrils dilated nearly to
splitting. At this instant a rope of bark, having an eye, was passed
dexterously within the two arms of Hurry, the end threaded the eye,
forming a noose, and his elbows were drawn together behind his
back, with a power that all his gigantic strength could not resist.
Reluctantly, even under such circumstances, did the exasperated borderer
see his hands drawn from their deadly grasp, for all the evil passions
were then in the ascendant. Almost at the same instant a similar
fastening secured his ankles, and his body was rolled to the centre of
the platform as helplessly, and as cavalierly, as if it were a log of
wood. His rescued antagonist, however, did not rise, for while he began
again to breathe, his head still hung helplessly over the edge of the
logs, and it was thought at first that his neck was dislocated. He
recovered gradually only, and it was hours before he could walk. Some
fancied that neither his body, nor his mind, ever totally recovered from
this near approach to death.

Hurry owed his defeat and capture to the intensity with which he had
concentrated all his powers on his fallen foe. While thus occupied, the
two Indians he had hurled into the water mounted to the heads of the
piles, along which they passed, and joined their companion on the
platform. The latter had so far rallied his faculties as to have gotten
the ropes, which were in readiness for use as the others appeared, and
they were applied in the manner related, as Hurry lay pressing his
enemy down with his whole weight, intent only on the horrible office of
strangling him. Thus were the tables turned, in a single moment; he who
had been so near achieving a victory that would have been renowned
for ages, by means of traditions, throughout all that region, lying
helpless, bound and a captive. So fearful had been the efforts of the
pale-face, and so prodigious the strength he exhibited, that even as he
lay tethered like a sheep before them, they regarded him with respect,
and not without dread. The helpless body of their stoutest warrior was
still stretched on the platform, and, as they cast their eyes towards
the lake, in quest of the comrade that had been hurled into it so
unceremoniously, and of whom they had lost sight in the confusion of
the fray, they perceived his lifeless form clinging to the grass on the
bottom, as already described. These several circumstances contributed to
render the victory of the Hurons almost as astounding to themselves as a
defeat.

Chingachgook and his betrothed witnessed the whole of this struggle from
the Ark. When the three Hurons were about to pass the cords around the
arms of the prostrate Hurry the Delaware sought his rifle, but, before
he could use it the white man was bound and the mischief was done. He
might still bring down an enemy, but to obtain the scalp was impossible,
and the young chief, who would so freely risk his own life to obtain
such a trophy, hesitated about taking that of a foe without such an
object in view. A glance at Hist, and the recollection of what might
follow, checked any transient wish for revenge. The reader has been told
that Chingachgook could scarcely be said to know how to manage the oars
of the Ark at all, however expert he might be in the use of the paddle.
Perhaps there is no manual labor at which men are so bungling and
awkward, as in their first attempts to pull oar, even the experienced
mariner, or boat man, breaking down in his efforts to figure with the
celebrated rullock of the gondolier. In short it is, temporarily, an
impracticable thing for a new beginner to succeed with a single oar, but
in this case it was necessary to handle two at the same time, and those
of great size. Sweeps, or large oars, however, are sooner rendered of
use by the raw hand than lighter implements, and this was the reason
that the Delaware had succeeded in moving the Ark as well as he did in a
first trial. That trial, notwithstanding, sufficed to produce distrust,
and he was fully aware of the critical situation in which Hist and
himself were now placed, should the Hurons take to the canoe that was
still lying beneath the trap, and come against them. At the moment he
thought of putting Hist into the canoe in his own possession, and of
taking to the eastern mountain in the hope of reaching the Delaware
villages by direct flight. But many considerations suggested themselves
to put a stop to this indiscreet step. It was almost certain that scouts
watched the lake on both sides, and no canoe could possibly approach
shore without being seen from the hills. Then a trail could not be
concealed from Indian eyes, and the strength of Hist was unequal to
a flight sufficiently sustained to outstrip the pursuit of trained
warriors. This was a part of America in which the Indians did not know
the use of horses, and everything would depend on the physical energies
of the fugitives. Last, but far from being least, were the thoughts
connected with the situation of Deerslayer, a friend who was not to be
deserted in his extremity.

Hist in some particulars reasoned, and even felt, differently though she
arrived at the same conclusions. Her own anger disturbed her less than
her concern for the two sisters, on whose behalf her womanly sympathies
were now strongly enlisted. The canoe of the girls, by the time the
struggle on the platform had ceased, was within three hundred yards of
the castle, and here Judith ceased paddling, the evidences of strife
first becoming apparent to the eyes. She and Hetty were standing erect,
anxiously endeavoring to ascertain what had occurred, but unable to
satisfy their doubts from the circumstance that the building, in a great
measure, concealed the scene of action.

The parties in the Ark, and in the canoe, were indebted to the ferocity
of Hurry’s attack for their momentary security. In any ordinary case,
the girls would have been immediately captured, a measure easy of
execution now the savages had a canoe, were it not for the rude check
the audacity of the Hurons had received in the recent struggle. It
required some little time to recover from the effects of this violent
scene, and this so much the more, because the principal man of the
party, in the way of personal prowess at least, had been so great a
sufferer. Still it was of the last importance that Judith and her sister
should seek immediate refuge in the Ark, where the defences offered a
temporary shelter at least, and the first step was to devise the means
of inducing them to do so. Hist showed herself in the stern of the scow,
and made many gestures and signs, in vain, in order to induce the girls
to make a circuit to avoid the Castle, and to approach the Ark from
the eastward. But these signs were distrusted or misunderstood. It is
probable Judith was not yet sufficiently aware of the real state of
things to put full confidence in either party. Instead of doing as
desired, she rather kept more aloof, paddling slowly back to the north,
or into the broadest part of the lake, where she could command the
widest view, and had the fairest field for flight before her. At
this instant the sun appeared above the pines of the eastern range of
mountains and a light southerly breeze arose, as was usual enough at
that season and hour. Chingachgook lost no time in hoisting the sail.
Whatever might be in reserve for him, there could be no question that
it was every way desirable to get the Ark at such a distance from the
castle as to reduce his enemies to the necessity of approaching the
former in the canoe, which the chances of war had so inopportunely, for
his wishes and security, thrown into their hands. The appearance of the
opening duck seemed first to arouse the Hurons from their apathy, and by
the time the head of the scow had fallen off before the wind, which it
did unfortunately in the wrong direction, bringing it within a few
yards of the platform, Hist found it necessary to warn her lover of the
importance of covering his person against the rifles of his foes. This
was a danger to be avoided under all circumstances, and so much the
more, because the Delaware found that Hist would not take to the cover
herself so long as he remained exposed. Accordingly, Chingachgook
abandoned the scow to its own movements, forced Hist into the cabin, the
doors of which he immediately secured, and then he looked about him for
the rifles. The situation of the parties was now so singular as to merit
a particular description. The Ark was within sixty yards of the castle,
a little to the southward, or to windward of it, with its sail full, and
the steering oar abandoned. The latter, fortunately, was loose, so
that it produced no great influence on the crab like movements of the
unwieldy craft. The sail being as sailors term it, flying, or having no
braces, the air forced the yard forward, though both sheets were fast.
The effect was threefold on a boat with a bottom that was perfectly
flat, and which drew merely some three or four inches water. It pressed
the head slowly round to leeward, it forced the whole fabric bodily
in the same direction at the same time, and the water that unavoidably
gathered under the lee gave the scow also a forward movement. All these
changes were exceedingly slow, however, for the wind was not only light,
but it was baffling as usual, and twice or thrice the sail shook. Once
it was absolutely taken aback.

Had there been any keel to the Ark, it would inevitably have run foul of
the platform, bows on, when it is probable nothing could have prevented
the Hurons from carrying it; more particularly as the sail would have
enabled them to approach under cover. As it was, the scow wore slowly
round, barely clearing that part of the building. The piles projecting
several feet, they were not cleared, but the head of the slow moving
craft caught between two of them, by one of its square corners, and
hung. At this moment the Delaware was vigilantly watching through a loop
for an opportunity to fire, while the Hurons kept within the building,
similarly occupied. The exhausted warrior reclined against the hut,
there having been no time to remove him, and Hurry lay, almost as
helpless as a log, tethered like a sheep on its way to the slaughter,
near the middle of the platform. Chingachgook could have slain the
first, at any moment, but his scalp would have been safe, and the young
chief disdained to strike a blow that could lead to neither honor nor
advantage.

“Run out one of the poles, Sarpent, if Sarpent you be,” said Hurry, amid
the groans that the tightness of the ligatures was beginning to extort
from him--“run out one of the poles, and shove the head of the scow off,
and you’ll drift clear of us--and, when you’ve done that good turn for
yourself just finish this gagging blackguard for me.”

The appeal of Hurry, however, had no other effect than to draw
the attention of Hist to his situation. This quick witted creature
comprehended it at a glance. His ankles were bound with several turns of
stout bark rope, and his arms, above the elbows, were similarly secured
behind his back; barely leaving him a little play of the hands and
wrists. Putting her mouth near a loop she said in a low but distinct
voice--“Why you don’t roll here, and fall in scow? Chingachgook shoot
Huron, if he chase!”

“By the Lord, gal, that’s a judgematical thought, and it shall be tried,
if the starn of your scow will come a little nearer. Put a bed at the
bottom, for me to fall on.”

This was said at a happy moment, for, tired of waiting, all the Indians
made a rapid discharge of their rifles, almost simultaneously, injuring
no one; though several bullets passed through the loops. Hist had heard
part of Hurry’s words, but most of what he said was lost in the sharp
reports of the firearms. She undid the bar of the door that led to the
stern of the scow, but did not dare to expose her person. All this time,
the head of the Ark hung, but by a gradually decreasing hold as the
other end swung slowly round, nearer and nearer to the platform. Hurry,
who now lay with his face towards the Ark, occasionally writhing and
turning over like one in pain, evolutions he had performed ever since he
was secured, watched every change, and, at last, he saw that the whole
vessel was free, and was beginning to grate slowly along the sides
of the piles. The attempt was desperate, but it seemed to be the only
chance for escaping torture and death, and it suited the reckless daring
of the man’s character. Waiting to the last moment, in order that the
stern of the scow might fairly rub against the platform, he began to
writhe again, as if in intolerable suffering, execrating all Indians in
general, and the Hurons in particular, and then he suddenly and rapidly
rolled over and over, taking the direction of the stern of the scow.
Unfortunately, Hurry’s shoulders required more space to revolve in
than his feet, and by the time he reached the edge of the platform
his direction had so far changed as to carry him clear of the Ark
altogether, and the rapidity of his revolutions and the emergency
admitting of no delay, he fell into the water. At this instant,
Chingachgook, by an understanding with his betrothed, drew the fire of
the Hurons again, not a man of whom saw the manner in which one whom
they knew to be effectually tethered, had disappeared. But Hist’s
feelings were strongly interested in the success of so bold a scheme,
and she watched the movements of Hurry as the cat watches the mouse. The
moment he was in motion she foresaw the consequences, and this the more
readily, as the scow was now beginning to move with some steadiness, and
she bethought her of the means of saving him. With a sort of instinctive
readiness, she opened the door at the very moment the rifles were
ringing in her ears, and protected by the intervening cabin, she stepped
into the stem of the scow in time to witness the fall of Hurry into the
lake. Her foot was unconsciously placed on the end of one of the sheets
of the sail, which was fastened aft, and catching up all the spare rope
with the awkwardness, but also with the generous resolution of a woman,
she threw it in the direction of the helpless Hurry. The line fell
on the head and body of the sinking man and he not only succeeded in
grasping separate parts of it with his hands, but he actually got
a portion of it between his teeth. Hurry was an expert swimmer, and
tethered as he was he resorted to the very expedient that philosophy and
reflection would have suggested. He had fallen on his back, and instead
of floundering and drowning himself by desperate efforts to walk on the
water, he permitted his body to sink as low as possible, and was already
submerged, with the exception of his face, when the line reached him.
In this situation he might possibly have remained until rescued by the
Hurons, using his hands as fishes use their fins, had he received no
other succour, but the movement of the Ark soon tightened the rope, and
of course he was dragged gently ahead holding even pace with the scow.
The motion aided in keeping his face above the surface of the water, and
it would have been possible for one accustomed to endurance to have been
towed a mile in this singular but simple manner.

It has been said that the Hurons did not observe the sudden
disappearance of Hurry. In his present situation he was not only hid
from view by the platform, but, as the Ark drew slowly ahead, impelled
by a sail that was now filled, he received the same friendly service
from the piles. The Hurons, indeed, were too intent on endeavoring to
slay their Delaware foe, by sending a bullet through some one of the
loops or crevices of the cabin, to bethink them at all of one whom they
fancied so thoroughly tied. Their great concern was the manner in which
the Ark rubbed past the piles, although its motion was lessened at least
one half by the friction, and they passed into the northern end of the
castle in order to catch opportunities of firing through the loops of
that part of the building. Chingachgook was similarly occupied, and
remained as ignorant as his enemies of the situation of Hurry. As the
Ark grated along the rifles sent their little clouds of smoke from one
cover to the other, but the eyes and movements of the opposing parties
were too quick to permit any injury to be done. At length one side had
the mortification and the other the pleasure of seeing the scow swing
clear of the piles altogether, when it immediately moved away, with a
materially accelerated motion, towards the north.

Chingachgook now first learned from Hist the critical condition of
Hurry. To have exposed either of their persons in the stern of the scow
would have been certain death, but fortunately the sheet to which the
man clung led forward to the foot of the sail. The Delaware found means
to unloosen it from the cleet aft, and Hist, who was already forward for
that purpose, immediately began to pull upon the line. At this moment
Hurry was towing fifty or sixty feet astern, with nothing but his face
above water. As he was dragged out clear of the castle and the piles
he was first perceived by the Hurons, who raised a hideous yell and
commenced a fire on, what may very well be termed the floating mass. It
was at the same instant that Hist began to pull upon the line forward--a
circumstance that probably saved Hurry’s life, aided by his own
self-possession and border readiness. The first bullet struck the
water directly on the spot where the broad chest of the young giant was
visible through the pure element, and might have pierced his heart had
the angle at which it was fired been less acute. Instead of penetrating
the lake, however, it glanced from its smooth surface, rose, and buried
itself in the logs of the cabin near the spot at which Chingachgook had
shown himself the minute before, while clearing the line from the cleet.
A second, and a third, and a fourth bullet followed, all meeting
with the same resistance of the water, though Hurry sensibly felt the
violence of the blows they struck upon the lake so immediately above,
and so near his breast. Discovering their mistake, the Hurons now
changed their plan, and aimed at the uncovered face; but by this
time Hist was pulling on the line, the target advanced and the deadly
missiles still fell upon the water. In another moment the body was
dragged past the end of the scow and became concealed. As for the
Delaware and Hist, they worked perfectly covered by the cabin, and in
less time than it requires to tell it, they had hauled the huge frame of
Harry to the place they occupied. Chingachgook stood in readiness with
his keen knife, and bending over the side of the scow he soon severed
the bark that bound the limbs of the borderer. To raise him high enough
to reach the edge of the boat and to aid him in entering were less easy,
as Hurry’s arms were still nearly useless, but both were done in time,
when the liberated man staggered forward and fell exhausted and helpless
into the bottom of the scow. Here we shall leave him to recover his
strength and the due circulation of his blood, while we proceed with
the narrative of events that crowd upon us too fast to admit of any
postponement. The moment the Hurons lost sight of the body of Hurry they
gave a common yell of disappointment, and three of the most active of
their number ran to the trap and entered the canoe. It required some
little delay, however, to embark with their weapons, to find the paddles
and, if we may use a phrase so purely technical, “to get out of dock.”
 By this time Hurry was in the scow, and the Delaware had his rifles
again in readiness. As the Ark necessarily sailed before the wind, it
had got by this time quite two hundred yards from the castle, and was
sliding away each instant, farther and farther, though with a motion so
easy as scarcely to stir the water. The canoe of the girls was quite
a quarter of a mile distant from the Ark, obviously keeping aloof, in
ignorance of what had occurred, and in apprehension of the consequences
of venturing too near. They had taken the direction of the eastern
shore, endeavoring at the same time to get to windward of the Ark, and
in a manner between the two parties, as if distrusting which was to be
considered a friend, and which an enemy. The girls, from long habit,
used the paddles with great dexterity, and Judith, in particular, had
often sportively gained races, in trials of speed with the youths that
occasionally visited the lake.

When the three Hurons emerged from behind the palisades, and found
themselves on the open lake, and under the necessity of advancing
unprotected on the Ark, if they persevered in the original design, their
ardor sensibly cooled. In a bark canoe they were totally without cover,
and Indian discretion was entirely opposed to such a sacrifice of life
as would most probably follow any attempt to assault an enemy entrenched
as effectually as the Delaware. Instead of following the Ark, therefore,
these three warriors inclined towards the eastern shore, keeping at
a safe distance from the rifles of Chingachgook. But this manoeuvre
rendered the position of the girls exceedingly critical. It threatened
to place them if not between two fires, at least between two dangers, or
what they conceived to be dangers, and instead of permitting the Hurons
to enclose her, in what she fancied a sort of net, Judith immediately
commenced her retreat in a southern direction, at no very great distance
from the shore. She did not dare to land; if such an expedient were
to be resorted to at all, she could only venture on it in the last
extremity. At first the Indians paid little or no attention to the other
canoe, for, fully apprised of its contents, they deemed its capture
of comparatively little moment, while the Ark, with its imaginary
treasures, the persons of the Delaware and of Hurry, and its means of
movement on a large scale, was before them. But this Ark had its
dangers as well as its temptations, and after wasting near an hour in
vacillating evolutions, always at a safe distance from the rifle, the
Hurons seemed suddenly to take their resolution, and began to display it
by giving eager chase to the girls.

When this last design was adopted, the circumstances of all parties, as
connected with their relative positions, were materially changed.
The Ark had sailed and drifted quite half a mile, and was nearly that
distance due north of the castle. As soon as the Delaware perceived that
the girls avoided him, unable to manage his unwieldy craft, and knowing
that flight from a bark canoe, in the event of pursuit, would be a
useless expedient if attempted, he had lowered his sail, in the hope it
might induce the sisters to change their plan and to seek refuge in the
scow. This demonstration produced no other effect than to keep the Ark
nearer to the scene of action, and to enable those in her to become
witnesses of the chase. The canoe of Judith was about a quarter of a
mile south of that of the Hurons, a little nearer to the east shore, and
about the same distance to the southward of the castle as it was from
the hostile canoe, a circumstance which necessarily put the last nearly
abreast of Hutter’s fortress. With the several parties thus situated the
chase commenced.

At the moment when the Hurons so suddenly changed their mode of attack
their canoe was not in the best possible racing trim. There were but
two paddles, and the third man so much extra and useless cargo. Then
the difference in weight between the sisters and the other two men,
more especially in vessels so extremely light, almost neutralized any
difference that might proceed from the greater strength of the Hurons,
and rendered the trial of speed far from being as unequal as it might
seem. Judith did not commence her exertions until the near approach of
the other canoe rendered the object of the movement certain, and then
she exhorted Hetty to aid her with her utmost skill and strength.

“Why should we run, Judith?” asked the simple minded girl. “The Hurons
have never harmed me, nor do I think they ever will.”

“That may be true as to you, Hetty, but it will prove very different
with me. Kneel down and say your prayer, and then rise and do your
utmost to help escape. Think of me, dear girl, too, as you pray.”

Judith gave these directions from a mixed feeling; first because she
knew that her sister ever sought the support of her great ally in
trouble, and next because a sensation of feebleness and dependance
suddenly came over her own proud spirit, in that moment of apparent
desertion and trial. The prayer was quickly said, however, and the
canoe was soon in rapid motion. Still, neither party resorted to their
greatest exertions from the outset, both knowing that the chase
was likely to be arduous and long. Like two vessels of war that are
preparing for an encounter, they seemed desirous of first ascertaining
their respective rates of speed, in order that they might know how to
graduate their exertions, previously to the great effort. A few minutes
sufficed to show the Hurons that the girls were expert, and that it
would require all their skill and energies to overtake them.

Judith had inclined towards the eastern shore at the commencement of the
chase, with a vague determination of landing and flying to the woods as
a last resort, but as she approached the land, the certainty that scouts
must be watching her movements made her reluctance to adopt such an
expedient unconquerable. Then she was still fresh, and had sanguine
hopes of being able to tire out her pursuers. With such feelings she
gave a sweep with her paddle, and sheered off from the fringe of dark
hemlocks beneath the shades of which she was so near entering, and held
her way again, more towards the centre of the lake. This seemed the
instant favorable for the Hurons to make their push, as it gave them
the entire breadth of the sheet to do it in; and this too in the widest
part, as soon as they had got between the fugitives and the land. The
canoes now flew, Judith making up for what she wanted in strength by her
great dexterity and self command. For half a mile the Indians gained
no material advantage, but the continuance of so great exertions for so
many minutes sensibly affected all concerned. Here the Indians resorted
to an expedient that enabled them to give one of their party time to
breathe, by shifting their paddles from hand to hand, and this too
without sensibly relaxing their efforts.

Judith occasionally looked behind her, and she saw this expedient
practised. It caused her immediately to distrust the result, since her
powers of endurance were not likely to hold out against those of men who
had the means of relieving each other. Still she persevered, allowing no
very visible consequences immediately to follow the change.

As yet the Indians had not been able to get nearer to the girls than two
hundred yards, though they were what seamen would term “in their wake”;
or in a direct line behind them, passing over the same track of water.
This made the pursuit what is technically called a “stern chase”,
which is proverbially a “long chase”: the meaning of which is that, in
consequence of the relative positions of the parties, no change becomes
apparent except that which is a direct gain in the nearest possible
approach. “Long” as this species of chase is admitted to be, however,
Judith was enabled to perceive that the Hurons were sensibly drawing
nearer and nearer, before she had gained the centre of the lake. She
was not a girl to despair, but there was an instant when she thought of
yielding, with the wish of being carried to the camp where she knew the
Deerslayer to be a captive; but the considerations connected with the
means she hoped to be able to employ in order to procure his release
immediately interposed, in order to stimulate her to renewed exertions.
Had there been any one there to note the progress of the two canoes, he
would have seen that of Judith flying swiftly away from its pursuers,
as the girl gave it freshly impelled speed, while her mind was thus
dwelling on her own ardent and generous schemes. So material, indeed,
was the difference in the rate of going between the two canoes for
the next five minutes, that the Hurons began to be convinced all their
powers must be exerted or they would suffer the disgrace of being
baffled by women. Making a furious effort under the mortification of
such a conviction, one of the strongest of their party broke his paddle
at the very moment when he had taken it from the hand of a comrade to
relieve him. This at once decided the matter, a canoe containing three
men and having but one paddle being utterly unable to overtake fugitives
like the daughters of Thomas Hutter.

“There, Judith!” exclaimed Hetty, who saw the accident, “I hope now you
will own, that praying is useful! The Hurons have broke a paddle, and
they never can overtake us.”

“I never denied it, poor Hetty, and sometimes wish in bitterness of
spirit that I had prayed more myself, and thought less of my beauty!
As you say, we are now safe and need only go a little south and take
breath.”

This was done; the enemy giving up the pursuit, as suddenly as a ship
that has lost an important spar, the instant the accident occurred.
Instead of following Judith’s canoe, which was now lightly skimming over
the water towards the south, the Hurons turned their bows towards the
castle, where they soon arrived and landed. The girls, fearful that some
spare paddles might be found in or about the buildings, continued on,
nor did they stop until so distant from their enemies as to give them
every chance of escape, should the chase be renewed. It would seem that
the savages meditated no such design, but at the end of an hour their
canoe, filled with men, was seen quitting the castle and steering
towards the shore. The girls were without food, and they now drew nearer
to the buildings and the Ark, having finally made up their minds from
its manoeuvres that the latter contained friends.

Notwithstanding the seeming desertion of the castle, Judith approached
it with extreme caution. The Ark was now quite a mile to the northward,
but sweeping up towards the buildings, and this, too, with a regularity
of motion that satisfied Judith a white man was at the oars. When within
a hundred yards of the building the girls began to encircle it, in order
to make sure that it was empty. No canoe was nigh, and this emboldened
them to draw nearer and nearer, until they had gone round the piles and
reached the platform.

“Do you go into the house, Hetty,” said Judith, “and see that the
savages are gone. They will not harm you, and if any of them are still
here you can give me the alarm. I do not think they will fire on a poor
defenceless girl, and I at least may escape, until I shall be ready to
go among them of my own accord.”

Hetty did as desired, Judith retiring a few yards from the platform the
instant her sister landed, in readiness for flight. But the last was
unnecessary, not a minute elapsing before Hetty returned to communicate
that all was safe.

“I’ve been in all the rooms, Judith,” said the latter earnestly, “and
they are empty, except father’s; he is in his own chamber, sleeping,
though not as quietly as we could wish.”

“Has any thing happened to father?” demanded Judith, as her foot touched
the platform; speaking quickly, for her nerves were in a state to be
easily alarmed.

Hetty seemed concerned, and she looked furtively about her as if
unwilling any one but a child should hear what she had to communicate,
and even that she should learn it abruptly.

“You know how it is with father sometimes, Judith,” she said, “When
overtaken with liquor he doesn’t always know what he says or does, and
he seems to be overtaken with liquor now.”

“That is strange! Would the savages have drunk with him, and then leave
him behind? But ‘tis a grievous sight to a child, Hetty, to witness such
a failing in a parent, and we will not go near him ‘til he wakes.”

A groan from the inner room, however, changed this resolution, and the
girls ventured near a parent whom it was no unusual thing for them to
find in a condition that lowers a man to the level of brutes. He was
seated, reclining in a corner of the narrow room with his shoulders
supported by the angle, and his head fallen heavily on his chest. Judith
moved forward with a sudden impulse, and removed a canvass cap that was
forced so low on his head as to conceal his face, and indeed all but his
shoulders. The instant this obstacle was taken away, the quivering and
raw flesh, the bared veins and muscles, and all the other disgusting
signs of mortality, as they are revealed by tearing away the skin,
showed he had been scalped, though still living.



Chapter XXI.


    “Lightly they’ll talk of the spirit that’s gone,
    And o’er his cold ashes upbraid him;
    But nothing he’ll reck, if they’ll let him sleep on,
    In the grave where a Briton has laid him.”

    Charles Wolfe, “The Burial of Sir John Moore,” vi.

The reader must imagine the horror that daughters would experience, at
unexpectedly beholding the shocking spectacle that was placed before the
eyes of Judith and Esther, as related in the close of the last chapter.
We shall pass over the first emotions, the first acts of filial piety,
and proceed with the narrative by imagining rather than relating most of
the revolting features of the scene. The mutilated and ragged head was
bound up, the unseemly blood was wiped from the face of the sufferer,
the other appliances required by appearances and care were resorted to,
and there was time to enquire into the more serious circumstances of the
case. The facts were never known until years later in all their details,
simple as they were, but they may as well be related here, as it can be
done in a few words. In the struggle with the Hurons, Hutter had been
stabbed by the knife of the old warrior, who had used the discretion
to remove the arms of every one but himself. Being hard pushed by his
sturdy foe, his knife had settled the matter. This occurred just as
the door was opened, and Hurry burst out upon the platform, as has
been previously related. This was the secret of neither party’s having
appeared in the subsequent struggle; Hutter having been literally
disabled, and his conqueror being ashamed to be seen with the traces of
blood about him, after having used so many injunctions to convince his
young warriors of the necessity of taking their prisoners alive. When
the three Hurons returned from the chase, and it was determined to
abandon the castle and join the party on the land, Hutter was simply
scalped to secure the usual trophy, and was left to die by inches, as
has been done in a thousand similar instances by the ruthless warriors
of this part of the American continent. Had the injury of Hutter been
confined to his head, he might have recovered, however, for it was
the blow of the knife that proved mortal. There are moments of vivid
consciousness, when the stern justice of God stands forth in colours so
prominent as to defy any attempts to veil them from the sight, however
unpleasant they may appear, or however anxious we may be to avoid
recognising it. Such was now the fact with Judith and Hetty, who both
perceived the decrees of a retributive Providence, in the manner of
their father’s suffering, as a punishment for his own recent attempts
on the Iroquois. This was seen and felt by Judith with the keenness of
perception and sensibility that were suited to her character, while
the impression made on the simpler mind of her sister was perhaps less
lively, though it might well have proved more lasting.

“Oh! Judith,” exclaimed the weak minded girl, as soon as their first
care had been bestowed on sufferer. “Father went for scalps, himself,
and now where is his own? The Bible might have foretold this dreadful
punishment!”

“Hush, Hetty--hush, poor sister--He opens his eyes; he may hear and
understand you. ‘Tis as you say and think, but ‘tis too dreadful to
speak.”

“Water,” ejaculated Hutter, as it might be by a desperate effort, that
rendered his voice frightfully deep and strong for one as near death as
he evidently was--“Water--foolish girls--will you let me die of thirst?”

Water was brought and administered to the sufferer; the first he
had tasted in hours of physical anguish. It had the double effect of
clearing his throat and of momentarily reviving his sinking system. His
eyes opened with that anxious, distended gaze which is apt to accompany
the passage of a soul surprised by death, and he seemed disposed to
speak.

“Father,” said Judith, inexpressibly pained by his deplorable situation,
and this so much the more from her ignorance of what remedies ought
to be applied--“Father, can we do any thing for you? Can Hetty and I
relieve your pain?”

“Father!” slowly repeated the old man. “No, Judith; no, Hetty--I’m no
father. She was your mother, but I’m no father. Look in the chest--‘Tis
all there--give me more water.”

The girls complied, and Judith, whose early recollections extended
farther back than her sister’s, and who on every account had more
distinct impressions of the past, felt an uncontrollable impulse of joy
as she heard these words. There had never been much sympathy between her
reputed father and herself, and suspicions of this very truth had often
glanced across her mind, in consequence of dialogues she had overheard
between Hutter and her mother. It might be going too far to say she had
never loved him, but it is not so to add that she rejoiced it was no
longer a duty. With Hetty the feeling was different. Incapable of
making all the distinctions of her sister, her very nature was full
of affection, and she had loved her reputed parent, though far less
tenderly than the real parent, and it grieved her now to hear him
declare he was not naturally entitled to that love. She felt a double
grief, as if his death and his words together were twice depriving her
of parents. Yielding to her feelings, the poor girl went aside and wept.

The very opposite emotions of the two girls kept both silent for a long
time. Judith gave water to the sufferer frequently, but she forbore to
urge him with questions, in some measure out of consideration for his
condition, but, if truth must be said, quite as much lest something he
should add in the way of explanation might disturb her pleasing belief
that she was not Thomas Hutter’s child. At length Hetty dried her tears,
and came and seated herself on a stool by the side of the dying man, who
had been placed at his length on the floor, with his head supported by
some coarse vestments that had been left in the house.

“Father,” she said “you will let me call you father, though you say you
are not one--Father, shall I read the Bible to you--mother always said
the Bible was good for people in trouble. She was often in trouble
herself, and then she made me read the Bible to her--for Judith wasn’t
as fond of the Bible as I am--and it always did her good. Many is the
time I’ve known mother begin to listen with the tears streaming from her
eyes, and end with smiles and gladness. Oh! father, you don’t know how
much good the Bible can do, for you’ve never tried it. Now, I’ll read a
chapter and it will soften your heart as it softened the hearts of the
Hurons.”

While poor Hetty had so much reverence for, and faith in, the virtues
of the Bible, her intellect was too shallow to enable her fully to
appreciate its beauties, or to fathom its profound and sometimes
mysterious wisdom. That instinctive sense of right which appeared to
shield her from the commission of wrong, and even cast a mantle of
moral loveliness and truth around her character, could not penetrate
abstrusities, or trace the nice affinities between cause and effect,
beyond their more obvious and indisputable connection, though she
seldom failed to see all the latter, and to defer to all their just
consequences. In a word, she was one of those who feel and act correctly
without being able to give a logical reason for it, even admitting
revelation as her authority. Her selections from the Bible, therefore,
were commonly distinguished by the simplicity of her own mind, and were
oftener marked for containing images of known and palpable things than
for any of the higher cast of moral truths with which the pages of that
wonderful book abound--wonderful, and unequalled, even without referring
to its divine origin, as a work replete with the profoundest philosophy,
expressed in the noblest language. Her mother, with a connection that
will probably strike the reader, had been fond of the book of Job, and
Hetty had, in a great measure, learned to read by the frequent lessons
she had received from the different chapters of this venerable and
sublime poem--now believed to be the oldest book in the world. On this
occasion the poor girl was submissive to her training, and she turned to
that well known part of the sacred volume, with the readiness with which
the practised counsel would cite his authorities from the stores of
legal wisdom. In selecting the particular chapter, she was influenced by
the caption, and she chose that which stands in our English version
as “Job excuseth his desire of death.” This she read steadily, from
beginning to end, in a sweet, low and plaintive voice; hoping devoutly
that the allegorical and abstruse sentences might convey to the heart of
the sufferer the consolation he needed. It is another peculiarity of the
comprehensive wisdom of the Bible that scarce a chapter, unless it
be strictly narration, can be turned to, that does not contain some
searching truth that is applicable to the condition of every human
heart, as well as to the temporal state of its owner, either through
the workings of that heart, or even in a still more direct form. In this
instance, the very opening sentence--“Is there not an appointed time to
man on earth?” was startling, and as Hetty proceeded, Hutter applied, or
fancied he could apply many aphorisms and figures to his own worldly
and mental condition. As life is ebbing fast, the mind clings eagerly to
hope when it is not absolutely crushed by despair. The solemn words “I
have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? Why
hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to
myself,” struck Hutter more perceptibly than the others, and, though too
obscure for one of his blunted feelings and obtuse mind either to feel
or to comprehend in their fullest extent, they had a directness of
application to his own state that caused him to wince under them.

“Don’t you feel better now, father?” asked Hetty, closing the volume.
“Mother was always better when she had read the Bible.”

“Water,” returned Hutter--“give me water, Judith. I wonder if my tongue
will always be so hot! Hetty, isn’t there something in the Bible about
cooling the tongue of a man who was burning in Hell fire?”

Judith turned away shocked, but Hetty eagerly sought the passage, which
she read aloud to the conscience stricken victim of his own avaricious
longings.

“That’s it, poor Hetty; yes, that’s it. My tongue wants cooling,
now--what will it be hereafter?”

This appeal silenced even the confiding Hetty, for she had no answer
ready for a confession so fraught with despair. Water, so long as it
could relieve the sufferer, it was in the power of the sisters to give,
and from time to time it was offered to the lips of the sufferer as he
asked for it. Even Judith prayed. As for Hetty, as soon as she found
that her efforts to make her father listen to her texts were no longer
rewarded with success, she knelt at his side and devoutly repeated
the words which the Saviour has left behind him as a model for human
petitions. This she continued to do, at intervals, as long as it seemed
to her that the act could benefit the dying man. Hutter, however,
lingered longer than the girls had believed possible when they first
found him. At times he spoke intelligibly, though his lips oftener moved
in utterance of sounds that carried no distinct impressions
to the mind. Judith listened intently, and she heard the
words--“husband”--“death”--“pirate”--“law”--“scalps”--and several others
of similar import, though there was no sentence to tell the precise
connection in which they were used. Still they were sufficiently
expressive to be understood by one whose ears had not escaped all the
rumours that had been circulated to her reputed father’s discredit, and
whose comprehension was as quick as her faculties were attentive.

During the whole of the painful hour that succeeded, neither of the
sisters bethought her sufficiently of the Hurons to dread their return.
It seemed as if their desolation and grief placed them above the danger
of such an interruption, and when the sound of oars was at length heard,
even Judith, who alone had any reason to apprehend the enemy, did not
start, but at once understood that the Ark was near. She went upon the
platform fearlessly, for should it turn out that Hurry was not
there, and that the Hurons were masters of the scow also, escape was
impossible. Then she had the sort of confidence that is inspired by
extreme misery. But there was no cause for any new alarm, Chingachgook,
Hist, and Hurry all standing in the open part of the scow, cautiously
examining the building to make certain of the absence of the enemy.
They, too, had seen the departure of the Hurons, as well as the approach
of the canoe of the girls to the castle, and presuming on the latter
fact, March had swept the scow up to the platform. A word sufficed to
explain that there was nothing to be apprehended, and the Ark was soon
moored in her old berth.

Judith said not a word concerning the condition of her father, but Hurry
knew her too well not to understand that something was more than usually
wrong. He led the way, though with less of his confident bold manner
than usual, into the house, and penetrating to the inner room, found
Hutter lying on his back with Hetty sitting at his side, fanning him
with pious care. The events of the morning had sensibly changed the
manner of Hurry. Notwithstanding his skill as a swimmer, and the
readiness with which he had adopted the only expedient that could
possibly save him, the helplessness of being in the water, bound hand
and foot, had produced some such effect on him, as the near approach
of punishment is known to produce on most criminals, leaving a vivid
impression of the horrors of death upon his mind, and this too in
connection with a picture of bodily helplessness; the daring of this man
being far more the offspring of vast physical powers, than of the energy
of the will, or even of natural spirit. Such heroes invariably lose a
large portion of their courage with the failure of their strength, and
though Hurry was now unfettered and as vigorous as ever, events were too
recent to permit the recollection of his late deplorable condition to
be at all weakened. Had he lived a century, the occurrences of the few
momentous minutes during which he was in the lake would have produced a
chastening effect on his character, if not always on his manner.

Hurry was not only shocked when he found his late associate in this
desperate situation, but he was greatly surprised. During the struggle
in the building, he had been far too much occupied himself to learn what
had befallen his comrade, and, as no deadly weapon had been used in his
particular case, but every effort had been made to capture him without
injury, he naturally believed that Hutter had been overcome, while he
owed his own escape to his great bodily strength, and to a fortunate
concurrence of extraordinary circumstances. Death, in the silence and
solemnity of a chamber, was a novelty to him. Though accustomed to
scenes of violence, he had been unused to sit by the bedside and watch
the slow beating of the pulse, as it gradually grew weaker and weaker.
Notwithstanding the change in his feelings, the manners of a life could
not be altogether cast aside in a moment, and the unexpected scene
extorted a characteristic speech from the borderer.

“How now! old Tom,” he said, “have the vagabonds got you at an
advantage, where you’re not only down, but are likely to be kept down!
I thought you a captyve it’s true, but never supposed you so hard run as
this!”

Hutter opened his glassy eyes, and stared wildly at the speaker. A flood
of confused recollections rushed on his wavering mind at the sight of
his late comrade. It was evident that he struggled with his own images,
and knew not the real from the unreal.

“Who are you?” he asked in a husky whisper, his failing strength
refusing to aid him in a louder effort of his voice.

“Who are you?--You look like the mate of ‘The Snow’--he was a giant,
too, and near overcoming us.”

“I’m your mate, Floating Tom, and your comrade, but have nothing to do
with any snow. It’s summer now, and Harry March always quits the hills
as soon after the frosts set in, as is convenient.”

“I know you--Hurry Skurry--I’ll sell you a scalp!--a sound one, and of a
full grown man--What’ll you give?”

“Poor Tom! That scalp business hasn’t turned out at all profitable, and
I’ve pretty much concluded to give it up; and to follow a less bloody
calling.”

“Have you got any scalp? Mine’s gone--How does it feel to have a scalp?
I know how it feels to lose one--fire and flames about the brain--and
a wrenching at the heart--no--no--kill first, Hurry, and scalp
afterwards.”

“What does the old fellow mean, Judith? He talks like one that is
getting tired of the business as well as myself. Why have you bound up
his head? or, have the savages tomahawked him about the brains?”

“They have done that for him which you and he, Harry March, would have
so gladly done for them. His skin and hair have been torn from his head
to gain money from the governor of Canada, as you would have torn theirs
from the heads of the Hurons, to gain money from the Governor of York.”

Judith spoke with a strong effort to appear composed, but it was neither
in her nature, nor in the feeling of the moment to speak altogether
without bitterness. The strength of her emphasis, indeed, as well as her
manner, caused Hetty to look up reproachfully.

“These are high words to come from Thomas Hutter’s darter, as Thomas
Hutter lies dying before her eyes,” retorted Hurry.

“God be praised for that!--whatever reproach it may bring on my poor
mother, I am not Thomas Hutter’s daughter.”

“Not Thomas Hutter’s darter!--Don’t disown the old fellow in his last
moments, Judith, for that’s a sin the Lord will never overlook. If
you’re not Thomas Hutter’s darter, whose darter be you?”

This question rebuked the rebellious spirit of Judith, for, in getting
rid of a parent whom she felt it was a relief to find she might own
she had never loved, she overlooked the important circumstance that no
substitute was ready to supply his place.

“I cannot tell you, Harry, who my father was,” she answered more mildly;
“I hope he was an honest man, at least.”

“Which is more than you think was the case with old Hutter? Well,
Judith, I’ll not deny that hard stories were in circulation consarning
Floating Tom, but who is there that doesn’t get a scratch, when an inimy
holds the rake? There’s them that say hard things of me, and even you,
beauty as you be, don’t always escape.”

This was said with a view to set up a species of community of character
between the parties, and as the politicians are wont to express it, with
ulterior intentions. What might have been the consequences with one of
Judith’s known spirit, as well as her assured antipathy to the speaker,
it is not easy to say, for, just then, Hutter gave unequivocal signs
that his last moment was nigh. Judith and Hetty had stood by the dying
bed of their mother, and neither needed a monitor to warn them of the
crisis, and every sign of resentment vanished from the face of the
first. Hutter opened his eyes, and even tried to feel about him with his
hands, a sign that sight was failing. A minute later, his breathing
grew ghastly; a pause totally without respiration followed; and, then,
succeeded the last, long drawn sigh, on which the spirit is supposed
to quit the body. This sudden termination of the life of one who had
hitherto filled so important a place in the narrow scene on which he had
been an actor, put an end to all discussion.

The day passed by without further interruption, the Hurons, though
possessed of a canoe, appearing so far satisfied with their success as
to have relinquished all immediate designs on the castle. It would not
have been a safe undertaking, indeed, to approach it under the rifles of
those it was now known to contain, and it is probable that the truce was
more owing to this circumstance than to any other. In the mean while the
preparations were made for the interment of Hutter. To bury him on the
land was impracticable, and it was Hetty’s wish that his body should lie
by the side of that of her mother, in the lake. She had it in her power
to quote one of his speeches, in which he himself had called the lake
the “family burying ground,” and luckily this was done without the
knowledge of her sister, who would have opposed the plan, had she known
it, with unconquerable disgust. But Judith had not meddled with the
arrangement, and every necessary disposition was made without her
privity or advice.

The hour chosen for the rude ceremony was just as the sun was setting,
and a moment and a scene more suited to paying the last offices to one
of calm and pure spirit could not have been chosen. There are a mystery
and a solemn dignity in death, that dispose the living to regard the
remains of even a malefactor with a certain degree of reverence. All
worldly distinctions have ceased; it is thought that the veil has been
removed, and that the character and destiny of the departed are now as
much beyond human opinions, as they are beyond human ken. In nothing
is death more truly a leveller than in this, since, while it may be
impossible absolutely to confound the great with the low, the worthy
with the unworthy, the mind feels it to be arrogant to assume a right to
judge of those who are believed to be standing at the judgment seat
of God. When Judith was told that all was ready, she went upon the
platform, passive to the request of her sister, and then she first took
heed of the arrangement. The body was in the scow, enveloped in a sheet,
and quite a hundred weight of stones, that had been taken from the fire
place, were enclosed with it, in order that it might sink. No other
preparation seemed to be thought necessary, though Hetty carried her
Bible beneath her arm.

When all were on board the Ark, the singular habitation of the man whose
body it now bore to its final abode, was set in motion. Hurry was at the
oars. In his powerful hands, indeed, they seemed little more than a pair
of sculls, which were wielded without effort, and, as he was expert in
their use, the Delaware remained a passive spectator of the proceedings.
The progress of the Ark had something of the stately solemnity of a
funeral procession, the dip of the oars being measured, and the movement
slow and steady. The wash of the water, as the blades rose and fell,
kept time with the efforts of Hurry, and might have been likened to the
measured tread of mourners. Then the tranquil scene was in beautiful
accordance with a rite that ever associates with itself the idea of God.
At that instant, the lake had not even a single ripple on its glassy
surface, and the broad panorama of woods seemed to look down on the holy
tranquillity of the hour and ceremony in melancholy stillness. Judith
was affected to tears, and even Hurry, though he hardly knew why, was
troubled. Hetty preserved the outward signs of tranquillity, but
her inward grief greatly surpassed that of her sister, since her
affectionate heart loved more from habit and long association, than
from the usual connections of sentiment and taste. She was sustained by
religious hope, however, which in her simple mind usually occupied the
space that worldly feelings filled in that of Judith, and she was not
without an expectation of witnessing some open manifestation of divine
power, on an occasion so solemn. Still she was neither mystical nor
exaggerated; her mental imbecility denying both. Nevertheless her
thoughts had generally so much of the purity of a better world about
them that it was easy for her to forget earth altogether, and to think
only of heaven. Hist was serious, attentive and interested, for she
had often seen the interments of the pale-faces, though never one that
promised to be as peculiar as this; while the Delaware, though grave,
and also observant, in his demeanor was stoical and calm.

Hetty acted as pilot, directing Hurry how to proceed, to find that spot
in the lake which she was in the habit of terming “mother’s grave.” The
reader will remember that the castle stood near the southern extremity
of a shoal that extended near half a mile northerly, and it was at the
farthest end of this shallow water that Floating Tom had seen fit to
deposit the remains of his wife and child. His own were now in the
course of being placed at their side. Hetty had marks on the land
by which she usually found the spot, although the position of the
buildings, the general direction of the shoal, and the beautiful
transparency of the water all aided her, the latter even allowing the
bottom to be seen. By these means the girl was enabled to note their
progress, and at the proper time she approached March, whispering, “Now,
Hurry you can stop rowing. We have passed the stone on the bottom, and
mother’s grave is near.”

March ceased his efforts, immediately dropping the kedge and taking the
warp in his hand in order to check the scow. The Ark turned slowly round
under this restraint, and when it was quite stationary, Hetty was seen
at its stern, pointing into the water, the tears streaming from her
eyes, in ungovernable natural feeling. Judith had been present at the
interment of her mother, but she had never visited the spot since. The
neglect proceeded from no indifference to the memory of the deceased;
for she had loved her mother, and bitterly had she found occasion to
mourn her loss; but she was averse to the contemplation of death; and
there had been passages in her own life since the day of that interment
which increased this feeling, and rendered her, if possible, still more
reluctant to approach the spot that contained the remains of one whose
severe lessons of female morality and propriety had been deepened and
rendered doubly impressive by remorse for her own failings. With Hetty,
the case had been very different. To her simple and innocent mind, the
remembrance of her mother brought no other feeling than one of gentle
sorrow; a grief that is so often termed luxurious even, because it
associates with itself the images of excellence and the purity of a
better state of existence. For an entire summer, she had been in
the habit of repairing to the place after night-fall; and carefully
anchoring her canoe so as not to disturb the body, she would sit and
hold fancied conversations with the deceased, sing sweet hymns to the
evening air, and repeat the orisons that the being who now slumbered
below had taught her in infancy. Hetty had passed her happiest hours in
this indirect communion with the spirit of her mother; the wildness
of Indian traditions and Indian opinions, unconsciously to herself,
mingling with the Christian lore received in childhood. Once she had
even been so far influenced by the former as to have bethought her of
performing some of those physical rites at her mother’s grave which the
redmen are known to observe; but the passing feeling had been obscured
by the steady, though mild light of Christianity, which never ceased
to burn in her gentle bosom. Now her emotions were merely the natural
outpourings of a daughter that wept for a mother whose love was
indelibly impressed on the heart, and whose lessons had been too
earnestly taught to be easily forgotten by one who had so little
temptation to err.

There was no other priest than nature at that wild and singular funeral
rite. March cast his eyes below, and through the transparent medium of
the clear water, which was almost as pure as air, he saw what Hetty was
accustomed to call “mother’s grave.” It was a low, straggling mound of
earth, fashioned by no spade, out of a corner of which gleamed a bit of
the white cloth that formed the shroud of the dead. The body had been
lowered to the bottom, and Hutter brought earth from the shore and let
it fall upon it, until all was concealed. In this state the place had
remained until the movement of the waters revealed the solitary sign of
the uses of the spot that has just been mentioned.

Even the most rude and brawling are chastened by the ceremonies of a
funeral. March felt no desire to indulge his voice in any of its coarse
outbreakings, and was disposed to complete the office he had undertaken
in decent sobriety. Perhaps he reflected on the retribution that
had alighted on his late comrade, and bethought him of the frightful
jeopardy in which his own life had so lately been placed. He signified
to Judith that all was ready, received her directions to proceed, and,
with no other assistant than his own vast strength, raised the body and
bore it to the end of the scow. Two parts of a rope were passed beneath
the legs and shoulders, as they are placed beneath coffins, and then the
corpse was slowly lowered beneath the surface of the lake.

“Not there--Harry March--no, not there,” said Judith, shuddering
involuntarily; “do not lower it quite so near the spot where mother
lies!”

“Why not, Judith?” asked Hetty, earnestly. “They lived together in life,
and should lie together in death.”

“No--no--Harry March, further off--further off. Poor Hetty, you know not
what you say. Leave me to order this.”

“I know I am weak-minded, Judith, and that you are clever--but, surely
a husband should be placed near a wife. Mother always said that this was
the way they bury in Christian churchyards.”

This little controversy was conducted earnestly, but in smothered
voices, as if the speakers feared that the dead might overhear them.
Judith could not contend with her sister at such a moment, but a
significant gesture induced March to lower the body at a little distance
from that of his wife; when he withdrew the cords, and the act was
performed.

“There’s an end of Floating Tom!” exclaimed Hurry, bending over
the scow, and gazing through the water at the body. “He was a brave
companion on a scout, and a notable hand with traps. Don’t weep, Judith,
don’t be overcome, Hetty, for the righteousest of us all must die; and
when the time comes, lamentations and tears can’t bring the dead to
life. Your father will be a loss to you, no doubt; most fathers are a
loss, especially to onmarried darters; but there’s a way to cure that
evil, and you’re both too young and handsome to live long without
finding it out. When it’s agreeable to hear what an honest and
onpretending man has to say, Judith, I should like to talk a little with
you, apart.”

Judith had scarce attended to this rude attempt of Hurry’s at
consolation, although she necessarily understood its general drift, and
had a tolerably accurate notion of its manner. She was weeping at the
recollection of her mother’s early tenderness, and painful images of
long forgotten lessons and neglected precepts were crowding her mind.
The words of Hurry, however, recalled her to the present time, and
abrupt and unseasonable as was their import, they did not produce
those signs of distaste that one might have expected from the girl’s
character. On the contrary, she appeared to be struck with some sudden
idea, gazed intently for a moment at the young man, dried her eyes, and
led the way to the other end of the scow, signifying her wish for him to
follow. Here she took a seat and motioned for March to place himself at
her side. The decision and earnestness with which all this was done a
little intimidated her companion, and Judith found it necessary to open
the subject herself.

“You wish to speak to me of marriage, Harry March,” she said, “and
I have come here, over the grave of my parents, as it might
be--no--no--over the grave of my poor, dear, dear, mother, to hear what
you have to say.”

“This is oncommon, and you have a skearful way with you this evening,
Judith,” answered Hurry, more disturbed than he would have cared to own,
“but truth is truth, and it shall come out, let what will follow. You
well know, gal, that I’ve long thought you the comeliest young woman my
eyes ever beheld, and that I’ve made no secret of that fact, either here
on the lake, out among the hunters and trappers, or in the settlements.”

“Yes--yes, I’ve heard this before, and I suppose it to be true,”
 answered Judith with a sort of feverish impatience.

“When a young man holds such language of any particular young woman,
it’s reasonable to calculate he sets store by her.”

“True--true, Hurry--all this you’ve told me, again and again.”

“Well, if it’s agreeable, I should think a woman coul’n’t hear it too
often. They all tell me this is the way with your sex, that nothing
pleases them more than to repeat over and over, for the hundredth time,
how much you like ‘em, unless it be to talk to ‘em of their good looks!”

“No doubt--we like both, on most occasions, but this is an uncommon
moment, Hurry, and vain words should not be too freely used. I would
rather hear you speak plainly.”

“You shall have your own way, Judith, and I some suspect you always
will. I’ve often told you that I not only like you better than any other
young woman going, or, for that matter, better than all the young women
going, but you must have obsarved, Judith, that I’ve never asked you, in
up and down tarms, to marry me.”

“I have observed both,” returned the girl, a smile struggling about
her beautiful mouth, in spite of the singular and engrossing intentness
which caused her cheeks to flush and lighted her eyes with a brilliancy
that was almost dazzling--“I have observed both, and have thought the
last remarkable for a man of Harry March’s decision and fearlessness.”

“There’s been a reason, gal, and it’s one that troubles me even now--nay,
don’t flush up so, and look fiery like, for there are thoughts which
will stick long in any man’s mind, as there be words that will stick in
his throat--but, then ag’in, there’s feelin’s that will get the better
of ‘em all, and to these feelin’s I find I must submit. You’ve no longer
a father, or a mother, Judith, and it’s morally unpossible that you and
Hetty could live here, alone, allowing it was peace and the Iroquois was
quiet; but, as matters stand, not only would you starve, but you’d both
be prisoners, or scalped, afore a week was out. It’s time to think of a
change and a husband, and, if you’ll accept of me, all that’s past shall
be forgotten, and there’s an end on’t.”

Judith had difficulty in repressing her impatience until this rude
declaration and offer were made, which she evidently wished to hear,
and which she now listened to with a willingness that might well have
excited hope. She hardly allowed the young man to conclude, so eager was
she to bring him to the point, and so ready to answer.

“There--Hurry--that’s enough,” she said, raising a hand as if to stop
him--“I understand you as well as if you were to talk a month. You
prefer me to other girls, and you wish me to become your wife.”

“You put it in better words than I can do, Judith, and I wish you to
fancy them said just as you most like to hear ‘em.”

“They’re plain enough, Harry, and ‘tis fitting they should be so. This
is no place to trifle or deceive in. Now, listen to my answer, which
shall be, in every tittle, as sincere as your offer. There is a reason,
March, why I should never--

“I suppose I understand you, Judith, but if I’m willing to overlook that
reason, it’s no one’s consarn but mine--Now, don’t brighten up like the
sky at sundown, for no offence is meant, and none should be taken.”

“I do not brighten up, and will not take offence,” said Judith,
struggling to repress her indignation, in a way she had never found it
necessary to exert before. “There is a reason why I should not, cannot,
ever be your wife, Hurry, that you seem to overlook, and which it is
my duty now to tell you, as plainly as you have asked me to consent to
become so. I do not, and I am certain that I never shall, love you well
enough to marry you. No man can wish for a wife who does not prefer
him to all other men, and when I tell you this frankly, I suppose you
yourself will thank me for my sincerity.”

“Ah! Judith, them flaunting, gay, scarlet-coated officers of the
garrisons have done all this mischief!”

“Hush, March; do not calumniate a daughter over her mother’s grave! Do
not, when I only wish to treat you fairly, give me reason to call for
evil on your head in bitterness of heart! Do not forget that I am a
woman, and that you are a man; and that I have neither father, nor
brother, to revenge your words!”

“Well, there is something in the last, and I’ll say no more. Take time,
Judith, and think better on this.”

“I want no time--my mind has long been made up, and I have only waited
for you to speak plainly, to answer plainly. We now understand each
other, and there is no use in saying any more.”

The impetuous earnestness of the girl awed the young man, for never
before had he seen her so serious and determined. In most, of their
previous interviews she had met his advances with evasion or sarcasm,
but these Hurry had mistaken for female coquetry, and had supposed might
easily be converted into consent. The struggle had been with himself,
about offering, nor had he ever seriously believed it possible that
Judith would refuse to become the wife of the handsomest man on all that
frontier. Now that the refusal came, and that in terms so decided as to
put all cavilling out of the question; if not absolutely dumbfounded,
he was so much mortified and surprised as to feel no wish to attempt to
change her resolution.

“The Glimmerglass has now no great call for me,” he exclaimed after
a minute’s silence. “Old Tom is gone, the Hurons are as plenty on the
shore as pigeons in the woods, and altogether it is getting to be an
onsuitable place.”

“Then leave it. You see it is surrounded by dangers, and there is no
reason why you should risk your life for others. Nor do I know that
you can be of any service to us. Go, to-night; we’ll never accuse you of
having done any thing forgetful, or unmanly.”

“If I do go, ‘twill be with a heavy heart on your account, Judith; I
would rather take you with me.”

“That is not to be spoken of any longer, March; but, I will land you in
one of the canoes, as soon as it is dark and you can strike a trail for
the nearest garrison. When you reach the fort, if you send a party--”

Judith smothered the words, for she felt that it was humiliating to be
thus exposing herself to the comments and reflections of one who was not
disposed to view her conduct in connection with all in those garrisons,
with an eye of favor. Hurry, however, caught the idea, and without
perverting it, as the girl dreaded, he answered to the purpose.

“I understand what you would say, and why you don’t say it.” he replied.
“If I get safe to the fort, a party shall start on the trail of these
vagabonds, and I’ll come with it, myself, for I should like to see you
and Hetty in a place of safety, before we part forever.”

“Ah, Harry March, had you always spoken thus, felt thus, my feelings
towards you might have been different!”

“Is it too late, now, Judith? I’m rough and a woodsman, but we all
change under different treatment from what we have been used to.”

“It is too late, March. I can never feel towards you, or any other man
but one, as you would wish to have me. There, I’ve said enough, surely,
and you will question me no further. As soon as it is dark, I or the
Delaware will put you on the shore. You will make the best of your way
to the Mohawk, and the nearest garrison, and send all you can to our
assistance. And, Hurry, we are now friends, and I may trust in you, may
I not?”

“Sartain, Judith; though our fri’ndship would have been all the warmer,
could you look upon me as I look upon you.”

Judith hesitated, and some powerful emotion was struggling within her.
Then, as if determined to look down all weaknesses, and accomplish her
purposes at every hazard, she spoke more plainly.

“You will find a captain of the name of Warley at the nearest post,” she
said, pale as death, and even trembling as she spoke; “I think it likely
he will wish to head the party, but I would greatly prefer it should
be another. If Captain Warley can be kept back, ‘t would make me very
happy!”

“That’s easier said than done, Judith, for these officers do pretty much
as they please. The Major will order, and captains, and lieutenants, and
ensigns must obey. I know the officer you mean, a red faced, gay, oh!
be joyful sort of a gentleman, who swallows madeira enough to drown the
Mohawk, and yet a pleasant talker. All the gals in the valley admire
him, and they say he admires all the gals. I don’t wonder he is your
dislike, Judith, for he’s a very gin’ral lover, if he isn’t a gin’ral
officer.”

Judith did not answer, though her frame shook, and her colour changed
from pale to crimson, and from crimson back again to the hue of death.

“Alas! my poor mother!” she ejaculated mentally instead of uttering it
aloud, “We are over thy grave, but little dost thou know how much thy
lessons have been forgotten; thy care neglected; thy love defeated!”

As this goading of the worm that never dies was felt, she arose and
signified to Hurry, that she had no more to communicate.



Chapter XXII.


    “That point in misery, which makes the oppressed man regardless
     of his own life, makes him too Lord of the oppressor’s.”

    Coleridge, Remorse, V.i.201-04.

All this time Hetty had remained seated in the head of the scow, looking
sorrowfully into the water which held the body of her mother, as well
as that of the man whom she had been taught to consider her father.
Hist stood near her in gentle quiet, but had no consolation to offer in
words. The habits of her people taught her reserve in this respect, and
the habits of her sex induced her to wait patiently for a moment when
she might manifest some soothing sympathy by means of acts, rather than
of speech. Chingachgook held himself a little aloof, in grave reserve,
looking like a warrior, but feeling like a man.

Judith joined her sister with an air of dignity and solemnity it was not
her practice to show, and, though the gleamings of anguish were still
visible on her beautiful face, when she spoke it was firmly and without
tremor. At that instant Hist and the Delaware withdrew, moving towards
Hurry, in the other end of the boat.

“Sister,” said Judith kindly, “I have much to say to you; we will get
into this canoe, and paddle off to a distance from the Ark--The secrets
of two orphans ought not to be heard by every ear.”

“Certainly, Judith, by the ears of their parents? Let Hurry lift the
grapnel and move away with the Ark, and leave us here, near the graves
of father and mother, to say what we may have to say.”

“Father!” repeated Judith slowly, the blood for the first time since her
parting with March mounting to her cheeks--“He was no father of ours,
Hetty! That we had from his own mouth, and in his dying moments.”

“Are you glad, Judith, to find you had no father! He took care of us,
and fed us, and clothed us, and loved us; a father could have done no
more. I don’t understand why he wasn’t a father.”

“Never mind, dear child, but let us do as you have said. It may be well
to remain here, and let the Ark move a little away. Do you prepare the
canoe, and I will tell Hurry and the Indians our wishes.”

This was soon and simply done, the Ark moving with measured strokes of
the sweeps a hundred yards from the spot, leaving the girls floating,
seemingly in air, above the place of the dead; so buoyant was the
light vessel that held them, and so limpid the element by which it was
sustained.

“The death of Thomas Hutter,” Judith commenced, after a short pause had
prepared her sister to receive her communications, “has altered all our
prospects, Hetty. If he was not our father, we are sisters, and must
feel alike and live together.”

“How do I know, Judith, that you wouldn’t be as glad to find I am not
your sister, as you are in finding that Thomas Hutter, as you call him,
was not your father. I am only half witted, and few people like to
have half witted relations; and then I’m not handsome--at least, not as
handsome as you--and you may wish a handsomer sister.”

“No, no Hetty. You and you only are my sister--my heart, and my love for
you tell me that--and mother was my mother--of that too am I glad, and
proud; for she was a mother to be proud of--but father was not father!”

“Hush, Judith! His spirit may be near; it would grieve it to hear his
children talking so, and that, too, over his very grave. Children should
never grieve parents, mother often told me, and especially when they are
dead!”

“Poor Hetty! They are happily removed beyond all cares on our account.
Nothing that I can do or say will cause mother any sorrow now--there is
some consolation in that, at least! And nothing you can say or do will
make her smile, as she used to smile on your good conduct when living.”

“You don’t know that, Judith. Spirits can see, and mother may see as
well as any spirit. She always told us that God saw all we did, and that
we should do nothing to offend him; and now she has left us, I strive to
do nothing that can displease her. Think how her spirit would mourn and
feel sorrow, Judith, did it see either of us doing what is not right;
and spirits may see, after all; especially the spirits of parents that
feel anxious about their children.”

“Hetty--Hetty--you know not what you say!” murmured Judith, almost livid
with emotion--“The dead cannot see, and know nothing of what passes
here! But, we will not talk of this any longer. The bodies of Mother
and Thomas Hutter lie together in the lake, and we will hope that the
spirits of both are with God. That we, the children of one of them,
remain on earth is certain; it is now proper to know what we are to do
in future.”

“If we are not Thomas Hutter’s children, Judith, no one will dispute our
right to his property. We have the castle and the Ark, and the canoes,
and the woods, and the lakes, the same as when he was living, and what
can prevent us from staying here, and passing our lives just as we ever
have done?”

“No, no poor sister--this can no longer be. Two girls would not be safe
here, even should these Hurons fail in getting us into their power.
Even father had as much as he could sometimes do, to keep peace upon the
lake, and we should fail altogether. We must quit this spot, Hetty, and
remove into the settlements.”

“I am sorry you think so, Judith,” returned Hetty, dropping her head on
her bosom, and looking thoughtfully down at the spot where the funeral
pile of her mother could just be seen. “I am very sorry to hear it. I
would rather stay here, where, if I wasn’t born, I’ve passed my life.
I don’t like the settlements--they are full of wickedness and heart
burnings, while God dwells unoffended in these hills! I love the trees,
and the mountains, and the lake, and the springs; all that his bounty
has given us, and it would grieve me sorely, Judith, to be forced to
quit them. You are handsome, and not at all half-witted, and one day you
will marry, and then you will have a husband, and I a brother to take
care of us, if women can’t really take care of themselves in such a
place as this.”

“Ah! if this could be so, Hetty, then, indeed, I could now be a thousand
times happier in these woods, than in the settlements. Once I did not
feel thus, but now I do. Yet where is the man to turn this beautiful
place into such a garden of Eden for us?”

“Harry March loves you, sister,” returned poor Hetty, unconsciously
picking the bark off the canoe as she spoke. “He would be glad to be
your husband, I’m sure, and a stouter and a braver youth is not to be
met with the whole country round.”

“Harry March and I understand each other, and no more need be said about
him. There is one--but no matter. It is all in the hands of providence,
and we must shortly come to some conclusion about our future manner of
living. Remain here--that is, remain here, alone, we cannot--and perhaps
no occasion will ever offer for remaining in the manner you think of. It
is time, too, Hetty, we should learn all we can concerning our relations
and family. It is not probable we are altogether without relations, and
they may be glad to see us. The old chest is now our property, and we
have a right to look into it, and learn all we can by what it holds.
Mother was so very different from Thomas Hutter, that, now I know we are
not his children, I burn with a desire to know whose children we can be.
There are papers in that chest, I am certain, and those papers may tell
us all about our parents and natural friends.”

“Well, Judith, you know best, for you are cleverer than common, mother
always said, and I am only half-witted. Now father and mother are dead,
I don’t much care for any relation but you, and don’t think I could love
them I never saw, as well as I ought. If you don’t like to marry Hurry,
I don’t see who you can choose for a husband, and then I fear we shall
have to quit the lake, after all.”

“What do you think of Deerslayer, Hetty?” asked Judith, bending
forward like her unsophisticated sister, and endeavoring to conceal her
embarrassment in a similar manner. “Would he not make a brother-in-law
to your liking?”

“Deerslayer!” repeated the other, looking up in unfeigned surprise.
“Why, Judith, Deerslayer isn’t in the least comely, and is altogether
unfit for one like you!”

“He is not ill-looking, Hetty, and beauty in a man is not of much
matter.”

“Do you think so, Judith? I know that beauty is of no great matter, in
man or woman, in the eyes of God, for mother has often told me so, when
she thought I might have been sorry I was not as handsome as you, though
she needn’t have been uneasy on that account, for I never coveted any
thing that is yours, sister--but, tell me so she did--still, beauty is
very pleasant to the eye, in both! I think, if I were a man, I should
pine more for good looks than I do as a girl. A handsome man is a more
pleasing sight than a handsome woman.”

“Poor child! You scarce know what you say, or what you mean! Beauty in
our sex is something, but in men, it passes for little. To be sure,
a man ought to be tall, but others are tall, as well as Hurry; and
active--and I think I know those that are more active--and strong; well,
he hasn’t all the strength in the world--and brave--I am certain I can
name a youth who is braver!”

“This is strange, Judith!--I didn’t think the earth held a handsomer, or
a stronger, or a more active or a braver man than Hurry Harry! I’m sure
I never met his equal in either of these things.”

“Well, well, Hetty--say no more of this. I dislike to hear you talking
in this manner. ‘Tis not suitable to your innocence, and truth, and
warm-hearted sincerity. Let Harry March go. He quits us to-night, and no
regret of mine will follow him, unless it be that he has staid so long,
and to so little purpose.”

“Ah! Judith; that is what I’ve long feared--and I did so hope he might
be my brother-in-law!”

“Never mind it now. Let us talk of our poor mother--and of Thomas
Hutter.”

“Speak kindly then, sister, for you can’t be quite certain that spirits
don’t both hear and see. If father wasn’t father, he was good to us,
and gave us food and shelter. We can’t put any stones over their graves,
here in the water, to tell people all this, and so we ought to say it
with our tongues.”

“They will care little for that, girl. ‘Tis a great consolation to know,
Hetty, that if mother ever did commit any heavy fault when young, she
lived sincerely to repent of it; no doubt her sins were forgiven her.”

“Tisn’t right, Judith, for children to talk of their parents’ sins. We
had better talk of our own.”

“Talk of your sins, Hetty!--If there ever was a creature on earth
without sin, it is you! I wish I could say, or think the same of myself;
but we shall see. No one knows what changes affection for a good husband
can make in a woman’s heart. I don’t think, child, I have even now the
same love for finery I once had.”

“It would be a pity, Judith, if you did think of clothes, over your
parents’ graves! We will never quit this spot, if you say so, and will
let Hurry go where he pleases.”

“I am willing enough to consent to the last, but cannot answer for the
first, Hetty. We must live, in future, as becomes respectable young
women, and cannot remain here, to be the talk and jest of all the rude
and foul tongu’d trappers and hunters that may come upon the lake. Let
Hurry go by himself, and then I’ll find the means to see Deerslayer,
when the future shall be soon settled. Come, girl, the sun has set,
and the Ark is drifting away from us; let us paddle up to the scow, and
consult with our friends. This night I shall look into the chest, and
to-morrow shall determine what we are to do. As for the Hurons, now we
can use our stores without fear of Thomas Hutter, they will be easily
bought off. Let me get Deerslayer once out of their hands, and a single
hour shall bring things to an understanding.”

Judith spoke with decision, and she spoke with authority, a habit she
had long practised towards her feeble-minded sister. But, while thus
accustomed to have her way, by the aid of manner and a readier command
of words, Hetty occasionally checked her impetuous feelings and hasty
acts by the aid of those simple moral truths that were so deeply
engrafted in all her own thoughts and feelings; shining through both
with a mild and beautiful lustre that threw a sort of holy halo around
so much of what she both said and did. On the present occasion, this
healthful ascendancy of the girl of weak intellect, over her of a
capacity that, in other situations, might have become brilliant and
admired, was exhibited in the usual simple and earnest manner.

“You forget, Judith, what has brought us here,” she said reproachfully.
“This is mother’s grave, and we have just laid the body of father by her
side. We have done wrong to talk so much of ourselves at such a spot,
and ought now to pray God to forgive us, and ask him to teach us where
we are to go, and what we are to do.”

Judith involuntarily laid aside her paddle, while Hetty dropped on her
knees, and was soon lost in her devout but simple petitions. Her sister
did not pray. This she had long ceased to do directly, though anguish of
spirit frequently wrung from her mental and hasty appeals to the great
source of benevolence, for support, if not for a change of spirit.
Still she never beheld Hetty on her knees, that a feeling of tender
recollection, as well as of profound regret at the deadness of her own
heart, did not come over her. Thus had she herself done in childhood,
and even down to the hour of her ill fated visits to the garrisons, and
she would willingly have given worlds, at such moments, to be able to
exchange her present sensations for the confiding faith, those pure
aspirations, and the gentle hope that shone through every lineament
and movement of her otherwise, less favored sister. All she could do,
however, was to drop her head to her bosom, and assume in her attitude
some of that devotion in which her stubborn spirit refused to unite.
When Hetty rose from her knees, her countenance had a glow and serenity
that rendered a face that was always agreeable, positively handsome.
Her mind was at peace, and her conscience acquitted her of a neglect of
duty.

“Now, you may go if you want to, Judith,” she said, “for God has been
kind to me, and lifted a burden off my heart. Mother had many such
burdens, she used to tell me, and she always took them off in this
way. ‘Tis the only way, sister, such things can be done. You may raise
a stone, or a log, with your hands; but the heart must be lightened by
prayer. I don’t think you pray as often as you used to do, when younger,
Judith!”

“Never mind--never mind, child,” answered the other huskily, “‘tis no
matter, now. Mother is gone, and Thomas Hutter is gone, and the time has
come when we must think and act for ourselves.”

As the canoe moved slowly away from the place, under the gentle
impulsion of the elder sister’s paddle, the younger sat musing, as was
her wont whenever her mind was perplexed by any idea more abstract and
difficult of comprehension than common.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘future’, Judith,” she at length,
suddenly observed. “Mother used to call Heaven the future, but you seem
to think it means next week, or to-morrow!”

“It means both, dear sister--every thing that is yet to come, whether in
this world or another. It is a solemn word, Hetty, and most so, I fear,
to them that think the least about it. Mother’s future is eternity; ours
may yet mean what will happen while we live in this world--Is not that a
canoe just passing behind the castle--here, more in the direction of
the point, I mean; it is hid, now; but certainly I saw a canoe stealing
behind the logs!”

“I’ve seen it some time,” Hetty quietly answered, for the Indians had
few terrors for her, “but I didn’t think it right to talk about such
things over mother’s grave! The canoe came from the camp, Judith,
and was paddled by a single man. He seemed to be Deerslayer, and no
Iroquois.”

“Deerslayer!” returned the other, with much of her native
impetuosity--“That cannot be! Deerslayer is a prisoner, and I have
been thinking of the means of setting him free. Why did you fancy it
Deerslayer, child?”

“You can look for yourself, sister, for there comes the canoe in sight,
again, on this side of the hut.”

Sure enough, the light boat had passed the building, and was now
steadily advancing towards the Ark; the persons on board of which were
already collecting in the head of the scow to receive their visitor. A
single glance sufficed to assure Judith that her sister was right, and
that Deerslayer was alone in the canoe. His approach was so calm and
leisurely, however, as to fill her with wonder, since a man who had
effected his escape from enemies by either artifice or violence, would
not be apt to move with the steadiness and deliberation with which his
paddle swept the water. By this time the day was fairly departing, and
objects were already seen dimly under the shores. In the broad lake,
however, the light still lingered, and around the immediate scene of the
present incidents, which was less shaded than most of the sheet, being
in its broadest part, it cast a glow that bore some faint resemblance to
the warm tints of an Italian or Grecian sunset. The logs of the hut and
Ark had a sort of purple hue, blended with the growing obscurity, and
the bark of the hunter’s boat was losing its distinctness in colours
richer, but more mellowed, than those it showed under a bright sun.
As the two canoes approached each other--for Judith and her sister had
plied their paddles so as to intercept the unexpected visiter ere
he reached the Ark--even Deerslayer’s sun-burned countenance wore a
brighter aspect than common, under the pleasing tints that seemed to
dance in the atmosphere. Judith fancied that delight at meeting her had
some share in this unusual and agreeable expression. She was not aware
that her own beauty appeared to more advantage than common, from the
same natural cause, nor did she understand what it would have given her
so much pleasure to know, that the young man actually thought her, as
she drew nearer, the loveliest creature of her sex his eyes had ever
dwelt on.

“Welcome--welcome, Deerslayer!” exclaimed the girl, as the canoes
floated at each other’s side; “we have had a melancholy--a frightful
day--but your return is, at least, one misfortune the less! Have the
Hurons become more human, and let you go; or have you escaped from the
wretches, by your own courage and skill?”

“Neither, Judith--neither one nor t’other. The Mingos are Mingos still,
and will live and die Mingos; it is not likely their natur’s will ever
undergo much improvement. Well! They’ve their gifts, and we’ve our’n,
Judith, and it doesn’t much become either to speak ill of what the Lord
has created; though, if the truth must be said, I find it a sore trial
to think kindly or to talk kindly of them vagabonds. As for outwitting
them, that might have been done, and it was done, too, atween the
Sarpent, yonder, and me, when we were on the trail of Hist--” here the
hunter stopped to laugh in his own silent fashion--“but it’s no easy
matter to sarcumvent the sarcumvented. Even the fa’ans get to know the
tricks of the hunters afore a single season is over, and an Indian whose
eyes have once been opened by a sarcumvention never shuts them ag’in
in precisely the same spot. I’ve known whites to do that, but never a
red-skin. What they l’arn comes by practice, and not by books, and
of all schoolmasters exper’ence gives lessons that are the longest
remembered.”

“All this is true, Deerslayer, but if you have not escaped from the
savages, how came you here?”

“That’s a nat’ral question, and charmingly put. You are wonderful
handsome this evening, Judith, or Wild Rose, as the Sarpent calls you,
and I may as well say it, since I honestly think it! You may well call
them Mingos, savages too, for savage enough do they feel, and savage
enough will they act, if you once give them an opportunity. They feel
their loss here, in the late skrimmage, to their hearts’ cores, and are
ready to revenge it on any creatur’ of English blood that may fall in
their way. Nor, for that matter do I much think they would stand at
taking their satisfaction out of a Dutch man.”

“They have killed father; that ought to satisfy their wicked cravings
for blood,” observed Hetty reproachfully.

“I know it, gal--I know the whole story--partly from what I’ve seen
from the shore, since they brought me up from the point, and partly from
their threats ag’in myself, and their other discourse. Well, life is
unsartain at the best, and we all depend on the breath of our nostrils
for it, from day to day. If you’ve lost a staunch fri’nd, as I make
no doubt you have, Providence will raise up new ones in his stead, and
since our acquaintance has begun in this oncommon manner, I shall take
it as a hint that it will be a part of my duty in futur’, should the
occasion offer, to see you don’t suffer for want of food in the wigwam.
I can’t bring the dead to life, but as to feeding the living, there’s
few on all this frontier can outdo me, though I say it in the way
of pity and consolation, like, and in no particular, in the way of
boasting.”

“We understand you, Deerslayer,” returned Judith, hastily, “and take all
that falls from your lips, as it is meant, in kindness and friendship.
Would to Heaven all men had tongues as true, and hearts as honest!”

“In that respect men do differ, of a sartainty, Judith. I’ve known them
that wasn’t to be trusted any farther than you can see them; and others
ag’in whose messages, sent with a small piece of wampum, perhaps, might
just as much be depended on, as if the whole business was finished afore
your face. Yes, Judith, you never said truer word, than when you said
some men might be depended on, and other some might not.”

“You are an unaccountable being, Deerslayer,” returned the girl, not a
little puzzled with the childish simplicity of character that the hunter
so often betrayed--a simplicity so striking that it frequently appeared
to place him nearly on a level with the fatuity of poor Hetty, though
always relieved by the beautiful moral truth that shone through all that
this unfortunate girl both said and did--“You are a most unaccountable
man, and I often do not know how to understand you. But never mind, just
now; you have forgotten to tell us by what means you are here.”

“I!--Oh! That’s not very onaccountable, if I am myself, Judith. I’m out
on furlough.”

“Furlough!--That word has a meaning among the soldiers that I
understand; but I cannot tell what it signifies when used by a
prisoner.”

“It means just the same. You’re right enough; the soldiers do use it,
and just in the same way as I use it. A furlough is when a man has leave
to quit a camp or a garrison for a sartain specified time; at the end
of which he is to come back and shoulder his musket, or submit to his
torments, just as he may happen to be a soldier, or a captyve. Being the
last, I must take the chances of a prisoner.”

“Have the Hurons suffered you to quit them in this manner, without watch
or guard.”

“Sartain--I woul’n’t have come in any other manner, unless indeed it had
been by a bold rising, or a sarcumvention.”

“What pledge have they that you will ever return?”

“My word,” answered the hunter simply. “Yes, I own I gave ‘em that, and
big fools would they have been to let me come without it! Why in
that case, I shouldn’t have been obliged to go back and ondergo any
deviltries their fury may invent, but might have shouldered my rifle,
and made the best of my way to the Delaware villages. But, Lord! Judith,
they know’d this, just as well as you and I do, and would no more let me
come away, without a promise to go back, than they would let the wolves
dig up the bones of their fathers!”

“Is it possible you mean to do this act of extraordinary
self-destruction and recklessness?”

“Anan!”

“I ask if it can be possible that you expect to be able to put yourself
again in the power of such ruthless enemies, by keeping your word.”

Deerslayer looked at his fair questioner for a moment with stern
displeasure. Then the expression of his honest and guileless face
suddenly changed, lighting as by a quick illumination of thought, after
which he laughed in his ordinary manner.

“I didn’t understand you, at first, Judith; no, I didn’t! You believe
that Chingachgook and Hurry Harry won’t suffer it; but you don’t know
mankind thoroughly yet, I see. The Delaware would be the last man on
‘arth to offer any objections to what he knows is a duty, and, as for
March, he doesn’t care enough about any creatur’ but himself to
spend many words on such a subject. If he did, ‘twould make no great
difference howsever; but not he, for he thinks more of his gains than
of even his own word. As for my promises, or your’n, Judith, or any
body else’s, they give him no consarn. Don’t be under any oneasiness,
therefore, gal; I shall be allowed to go back according to the furlough;
and if difficulties was made, I’ve not been brought up, and edicated as
one may say, in the woods, without knowing how to look ‘em down.”

Judith made no answer for some little time. All her feelings as a woman,
and as a woman who, for the first time in her life was beginning to
submit to that sentiment which has so much influence on the happiness
or misery of her sex, revolted at the cruel fate that she fancied
Deerslayer was drawing down upon himself, while the sense of right,
which God has implanted in every human breast, told her to admire an
integrity as indomitable and as unpretending as that which the other so
unconsciously displayed. Argument, she felt, would be useless, nor was
she at that moment disposed to lessen the dignity and high principle
that were so striking in the intentions of the hunter, by any attempt to
turn him from his purpose. That something might yet occur to supersede
the necessity for this self immolation she tried to hope, and then she
proceeded to ascertain the facts in order that her own conduct might be
regulated by her knowledge of circumstances.

“When is your furlough out, Deerslayer,” she asked, after both canoes
were heading towards the Ark, and moving, with scarcely a perceptible
effort of the paddles, through the water.

“To-morrow noon; not a minute afore; and you may depend on it, Judith,
I shan’t quit what I call Christian company, to go and give myself up
to them vagabonds, an instant sooner than is downright necessary. They
begin to fear a visit from the garrisons, and wouldn’t lengthen the time
a moment, and it’s pretty well understood atween us that, should I fail
in my ar’n’d, the torments are to take place when the sun begins to
fall, that they may strike upon their home trail as soon as it is dark.”

This was said solemnly, as if the thought of what was believed to be
in reserve duly weighed on the prisoner’s mind, and yet so simply, and
without a parade of suffering, as rather to repel than to invite any
open manifestations of sympathy.

“Are they bent on revenging their losses?” Judith asked faintly, her own
high spirit yielding to the influence of the other’s quiet but dignified
integrity of purpose.

“Downright, if I can judge of Indian inclinations by the symptoms. They
think howsever I don’t suspect their designs, I do believe, but one that
has lived so long among men of red-skin gifts, is no more likely to be
misled in Injin feelin’s, than a true hunter is like to lose his trail,
or a stanch hound his scent. My own judgment is greatly ag’in my own
escape, for I see the women are a good deal enraged on behalf of Hist,
though I say it, perhaps, that shouldn’t say it, seein’ that I had a
considerable hand myself in getting the gal off. Then there was a cruel
murder in their camp last night, and that shot might just as well have
been fired into my breast. Howsever, come what will, the Sarpent and his
wife will be safe, and that is some happiness in any case.”

“Oh! Deerslayer, they will think better of this, since they have given
you until to-morrow noon to make up your mind!”

“I judge not, Judith; yes, I judge not. An Injin is an Injin, gal, and
it’s pretty much hopeless to think of swarving him, when he’s got the
scent and follows it with his nose in the air. The Delawares, now, are a
half Christianized tribe--not that I think such sort of Christians much
better than your whole blooded onbelievers--but, nevertheless, what good
half Christianizing can do to a man, some among ‘em have got, and yet
revenge clings to their hearts like the wild creepers here to the tree!
Then, I slew one of the best and boldest of their warriors, they say,
and it is too much to expect that they should captivate the man who did
this deed, in the very same scouting on which it was performed, and
they take no account of the matter. Had a month, or so, gone by, their
feelin’s would have been softened down, and we might have met in a more
friendly way, but it is as it is. Judith, this is talking of nothing but
myself, and my own consarns, when you have had trouble enough, and may
want to consult a fri’nd a little about your own matters. Is the old man
laid in the water, where I should think his body would like to rest?”

“It is, Deerslayer,” answered Judith, almost inaudibly. “That duty has
just been performed. You are right in thinking that I wish to consult a
friend; and that friend is yourself. Hurry Harry is about to leave us;
when he is gone, and we have got a little over the feelings of this
solemn office, I hope you will give me an hour alone. Hetty and I are at
a loss what to do.”

“That’s quite nat’ral, coming as things have, suddenly and fearfully.
But here’s the Ark, and we’ll say more of this when there is a better
opportunity.”



Chapter XXIII.


    “The winde is great upon the highest hilles;
    The quiet life is in the dale below;
    Who tread on ice shall slide against their willes;
    They want not cares, that curious arts should know.
    Who lives at ease and can content him so,
    Is perfect wise, and sets us all to schoole:
    Who hates this lore may well be called a foole.”

    Thomas Churchyard, “Shore’s Wife,” xlvii.

The meeting between Deerslayer and his friends in the Ark was grave and
anxious. The two Indians, in particular, read in his manner that he was
not a successful fugitive, and a few sententious words sufficed to
let them comprehend the nature of what their friend had termed his
‘furlough.’ Chingachgook immediately became thoughtful, while Hist,
as usual, had no better mode of expressing her sympathy than by those
little attentions which mark the affectionate manner of woman.

In a few minutes, however, something like a general plan for the
proceedings of the night was adopted, and to the eye of an uninstructed
observer things would be thought to move in their ordinary train. It was
now getting to be dark, and it was decided to sweep the Ark up to the
castle, and secure it in its ordinary berth. This decision was come to,
in some measure on account of the fact that all the canoes were again
in the possession of their proper owners, but principally, from the
security that was created by the representations of Deerslayer. He had
examined the state of things among the Hurons, and felt satisfied that
they meditated no further hostilities during the night, the loss they
had met having indisposed them to further exertions for the moment.
Then, he had a proposition to make; the object of his visit; and, if
this were accepted, the war would at once terminate between the parties;
and it was improbable that the Hurons would anticipate the failure of a
project on which their chiefs had apparently set their hearts, by having
recourse to violence previously to the return of their messenger. As
soon as the Ark was properly secured, the different members of the party
occupied themselves in their several peculiar manners, haste in council,
or in decision, no more characterizing the proceedings of these border
whites, than it did those of their red neighbors. The women busied
themselves in preparations for the evening meal, sad and silent, but
ever attentive to the first wants of nature. Hurry set about repairing
his moccasins, by the light of a blazing knot; Chingachgook seated
himself in gloomy thought, while Deerslayer proceeded, in a manner
equally free from affectation and concern, to examine ‘Killdeer’, the
rifle of Hutter that has been already mentioned, and which subsequently
became so celebrated, in the hands of the individual who was now making
a survey of its merits. The piece was a little longer than usual, and
had evidently been turned out from the work shops of some manufacturer
of a superior order. It had a few silver ornaments, though, on the
whole, it would have been deemed a plain piece by most frontier men, its
great merit consisting in the accuracy of its bore, the perfection of
the details, and the excellence of the metal. Again and again did the
hunter apply the breech to his shoulder, and glance his eye along the
sights, and as often did he poise his body and raise the weapon slowly,
as if about to catch an aim at a deer, in order to try the weight, and
to ascertain its fitness for quick and accurate firing. All this was
done, by the aid of Hurry’s torch, simply, but with an earnestness and
abstraction that would have been found touching by any spectator who
happened to know the real situation of the man.

“‘Tis a glorious we’pon, Hurry!” Deerslayer at length exclaimed, “and it
may be thought a pity that it has fallen into the hands of women. The
hunters have told me of its expl’ites, and by all I have heard, I should
set it down as sartain death in exper’enced hands. Hearken to the tick
of this lock--a wolf trap has’n’t a livelier spring; pan and cock speak
together, like two singing masters undertaking a psalm in meetin’. I
never did see so true a bore, Hurry, that’s sartain!”

“Ay, Old Tom used to give the piece a character, though he wasn’t the
man to particularize the ra’al natur’ of any sort of fire arms, in
practise,” returned March, passing the deer’s thongs through the
moccasin with the coolness of a cobbler. “He was no marksman, that we
must all allow; but he had his good p’ints, as well as his bad ones. I
have had hopes that Judith might consait the idee of giving Killdeer to
me.”

“There’s no saying what young women may do, that’s a truth, Hurry, and I
suppose you’re as likely to own the rifle as another. Still, when things
are so very near perfection, it’s a pity not to reach it entirely.”

“What do you mean by that?--Would not that piece look as well on my
shoulder, as on any man’s?”

“As for looks, I say nothing. You are both good-looking, and might
make what is called a good-looking couple. But the true p’int is as to
conduct. More deer would fall in one day, by that piece, in some man’s
hands, than would fall in a week in your’n, Hurry! I’ve seen you try;
yes, remember the buck t’other day.”

“That buck was out of season, and who wishes to kill venison out of
season. I was merely trying to frighten the creatur’, and I think you
will own that he was pretty well skeared, at any rate.”

“Well, well, have it as you say. But this is a lordly piece, and would
make a steady hand and quick eye the King of the Woods!”

“Then keep it, Deerslayer, and become King of the Woods,” said Judith,
earnestly, who had heard the conversation, and whose eye was never long
averted from the honest countenance of the hunter. “It can never be in
better hands than it is, at this moment, and there I hope it will remain
these fifty years.

“Judith you can’t be in ‘arnest!” exclaimed Deerslayer, taken so much
by surprise, as to betray more emotion than it was usual for him to
manifest on ordinary occasions. “Such a gift would be fit for a ra’al
King to make; yes, and for a ra’al King to receive.”

“I never was more in earnest, in my life, Deerslayer, and I am as much
in earnest in the wish as in the gift.”

“Well, gal, well; we’ll find time to talk of this ag’in. You mustn’t be
down hearted, Hurry, for Judith is a sprightly young woman, and she has
a quick reason; she knows that the credit of her father’s rifle is
safer in my hands, than it can possibly be in yourn; and, therefore,
you mustn’t be down hearted. In other matters, more to your liking, too,
you’ll find she’ll give you the preference.”

Hurry growled out his dissatisfaction, but he was too intent on quitting
the lake, and in making his preparations, to waste his breath on a
subject of this nature. Shortly after, the supper was ready, and it was
eaten in silence as is so much the habit of those who consider the table
as merely a place of animal refreshment. On this occasion, however,
sadness and thought contributed their share to the general desire not to
converse, for Deerslayer was so far an exception to the usages of men of
his cast, as not only to wish to hold discourse on such occasions, but
as often to create a similar desire in his companions.

The meal ended, and the humble preparations removed, the whole party
assembled on the platform to hear the expected intelligence from
Deerslayer on the subject of his visit. It had been evident he was in
no haste to make his communication, but the feelings of Judith would no
longer admit of delay. Stools were brought from the Ark and the hut,
and the whole six placed themselves in a circle, near the door, watching
each other’s countenances, as best they could, by the scanty means that
were furnished by a lovely star-light night. Along the shores, beneath
the mountains, lay the usual body of gloom, but in the broad lake no
shadow was cast, and a thousand mimic stars were dancing in the limpid
element, that was just stirred enough by the evening air to set them all
in motion.

“Now, Deerslayer,” commenced Judith, whose impatience resisted further
restraint--“now, Deerslayer, tell us all the Hurons have to say, and the
reason why they have sent you on parole, to make us some offer.”

“Furlough, Judith; furlough is the word; and it carries the same meaning
with a captyve at large, as it does with a soldier who has leave to quit
his colors. In both cases the word is passed to come back, and now
I remember to have heard that’s the ra’al signification; ‘furlough’
meaning a ‘word’ passed for the doing of any thing of the like. Parole
I rather think is Dutch, and has something to do with the tattoos of
the garrisons. But this makes no great difference, since the vartue of a
pledge lies in the idee, and not in the word. Well, then, if the message
must be given, it must; and perhaps there is no use in putting it off.
Hurry will soon be wanting to set out on his journey to the river, and
the stars rise and set, just as if they cared for neither Injin nor
message. Ah’s! me; ‘Tisn’t a pleasant, and I know it’s a useless ar’n’d,
but it must be told.”

“Harkee, Deerslayer,” put in Hurry, a little authoritatively--“You’re
a sensible man in a hunt, and as good a fellow on a march, as a
sixty-miler-a-day could wish to meet with, but you’re oncommon slow
about messages; especially them that you think won’t be likely to be
well received. When a thing is to be told, why tell it; and don’t hang
back like a Yankee lawyer pretending he can’t understand a Dutchman’s
English, just to get a double fee out of him.”

“I understand you, Hurry, and well are you named to-night, seeing you’ve
no time to lose. But let us come at once to the p’int, seeing that’s the
object of this council--for council it may be called, though women have
seats among us. The simple fact is this. When the party came back
from the castle, the Mingos held a council, and bitter thoughts were
uppermost, as was plain to be seen by their gloomy faces. No one likes
to be beaten, and a red-skin as little as a pale-face. Well, when they
had smoked upon it, and made their speeches, and their council fire had
burnt low, the matter came out. It seems the elders among ‘em consaited
I was a man to be trusted on a furlough--They’re wonderful obsarvant,
them Mingos; that their worst mimics must allow--but they consaited I
was such a man; and it isn’t often--” added the hunter, with a pleasing
consciousness that his previous life justified this implicit reliance
on his good faith--“it isn’t often they consait any thing so good of a
pale-face; but so they did with me, and, therefore, they didn’t hesitate
to speak their minds, which is just this: You see the state of things.
The lake, and all on it, they fancy, lie at their marcy. Thomas Hutter
is deceased, and, as for Hurry, they’ve got the idee he has been near
enough to death to-day, not to wish to take another look at him
this summer. Therefore, they account all your forces as reduced to
Chingachgook and the two young women, and, while they know the Delaware
to be of a high race, and a born warrior, they know he’s now on his
first war path. As for the gals, of course they set them down much as
they do women in gin’ral.”

“You mean that they despise us!” interrupted Judith, with eyes that
flashed so brightly as to be observed by all present.

“That will be seen in the end. They hold that all on the lake lies
at their marcy, and, therefore, they send by me this belt of wampum,”
 showing the article in question to the Delaware, as he spoke, “with
these words. ‘Tell the Sarpent, they say, that he has done well for a
beginner; he may now strike across the mountains for his own villages,
and no one shall look for his trail. If he has found a scalp, let him
take it with him, for the Huron braves have hearts, and can feel for a
young warrior who doesn’t wish to go home empty-handed. If he is nimble,
he is welcome to lead out a party in pursuit. Hist, howsever, must go
back to the Hurons, for, when she left there in the night, she carried
away by mistake, that which doesn’t belong to her.”

“That can’t be true!” said Hetty earnestly. “Hist is no such girl, but
one that gives every body his due--”

How much more she would have said in remonstrance cannot be known,
inasmuch as Hist, partly laughing and partly hiding her face in shame,
passed her own hand across the speaker’s mouth in a way to check the
words.

“You don’t understand Mingo messages, poor Hetty--” resumed Deerslayer,
“which seldom mean what lies exactly uppermost. Hist has brought away
with her the inclinations of a young Huron, and they want her back
again, that the poor young man may find them where he last saw them! The
Sarpent they say is too promising a young warrior not to find as many
wives as he wants, but this one he cannot have. That’s their meaning,
and nothing else, as I understand it.”

“They are very obliging and thoughtful, in supposing a young woman can
forget all her own inclinations in order to let this unhappy youth find
his!” said Judith, ironically; though her manner became more bitter as
she proceeded. “I suppose a woman is a woman, let her colour be white,
or red, and your chiefs know little of a woman’s heart, Deerslayer,
if they think it can ever forgive when wronged, or ever forget when it
fairly loves.”

“I suppose that’s pretty much the truth with some women, Judith, though
I’ve known them that could do both. The next message is to you. They say
the Muskrat, as they called your father, has dove to the bottom of the
lake; that he will never come up again, and that his young will soon
be in want of wigwams if not of food. The Huron huts, they think, are
better than the huts of York, and they wish you to come and try them.
Your colour is white, they own, but they think young women who’ve lived
so long in the woods would lose their way in the clearin’s. A great
warrior among them has lately lost his wife, and he would be glad to put
the Wild Rose on her bench at his fireside. As for the Feeble Mind, she
will always be honored and taken care of by red warriors. Your father’s
goods they think ought to go to enrich the tribe, but your own property,
which is to include everything of a female natur’, will go like that
of all wives, into the wigwam of the husband. Moreover, they’ve lost a
young maiden by violence, lately, and ‘twill take two pale-faces to fill
her seat.”

“And do you bring such a message to me,” exclaimed Judith, though the
tone in which the words were uttered had more in it of sorrow than of
anger. “Am I a girl to be an Indian’s slave?”

“If you wish my honest thoughts on this p’int, Judith, I shall answer
that I don’t think you’ll, willingly, ever become any man’s slave;
red-skin or white. You’re not to think hard, howsever, of my bringing
the message, as near as I could, in the very words in which it was given
to me. Them was the conditions on which I got my furlough, and a bargain
is a bargain, though it is made with a vagabond. I’ve told you what
they’ve said, but I’ve not yet told you what I think you ought, one and
all, to answer.”

“Ay; let’s hear that, Deerslayer,” put in Hurry. “My cur’osity is up on
that consideration, and I should like, right well, to hear your idees
of the reasonableness of the reply. For my part, though, my own mind is
pretty much settled on the p’int of my own answer, which shall be made
known as soon as necessary.”

“And so is mine, Hurry, on all the different heads, and on no one is
it more sartainly settled that on your’n. If I was you, I should
say--‘Deerslayer, tell them scamps they don’t know Harry March! He is
human; and having a white skin, he has also a white natur’, which natur’
won’t let him desart females of his own race and gifts in their greatest
need. So set me down as one that will refuse to come into your treaty,
though you should smoke a hogshead of tobacco over it.’”

March was a little embarrassed at this rebuke, which was uttered with
sufficient warmth of manner, and with a point that left no doubt of the
meaning. Had Judith encouraged him, he would not have hesitated about
remaining to defend her and her sister, but under the circumstances a
feeling of resentment rather urged him to abandon them. At all events,
there was not a sufficiency of chivalry in Hurry Harry to induce him
to hazard the safety of his own person unless he could see a direct
connection between the probable consequences and his own interests.
It is no wonder, therefore, that his answer partook equally of his
intention, and of the reliance he so boastingly placed on his gigantic
strength, which if it did not always make him outrageous, usually made
him impudent, as respects those with whom he conversed.

“Fair words make long friendships, Master Deerslayer,” he said a little
menacingly. “You’re but a stripling, and you know by exper’ence what you
are in the hands of a man. As you’re not me, but only a go between sent
by the savages to us Christians, you may tell your empl’yers that they
do know Harry March, which is a proof of their sense as well as his.
He’s human enough to follow human natur’, and that tells him to see the
folly of one man’s fighting a whole tribe. If females desart him, they
must expect to be desarted by him, whether they’re of his own gifts or
another man’s gifts. Should Judith see fit to change her mind, she’s
welcome to my company to the river, and Hetty with her; but shouldn’t
she come to this conclusion, I start as soon as I think the enemy’s
scouts are beginning to nestle themselves in among the brush and leaves
for the night.”

“Judith will not change her mind, and she does not ask your company,
Master March,” returned the girl with spirit.

“That p’int’s settled, then,” resumed Deerslayer, unmoved by the other’s
warmth. “Hurry Harry must act for himself, and do that which will be
most likely to suit his own fancy. The course he means to take will give
him an easy race, if it don’t give him an easy conscience. Next comes
the question with Hist--what say you gal?--Will you desart your duty,
too, and go back to the Mingos and take a Huron husband, and all not
for the love of the man you’re to marry, but for the love of your own
scalp?”

“Why you talk so to Hist!” demanded the girl half-offended. “You t’ink
a red-skin girl made like captain’s lady, to laugh and joke with any
officer that come.”

“What I think, Hist, is neither here nor there in this matter. I must
carry back your answer, and in order to do so it is necessary that you
should send it. A faithful messenger gives his ar’n’d, word for word.”

Hist no longer hesitated to speak her mind fully. In the excitement she
rose from her bench, and naturally recurring to that language in which
she expressed herself the most readily, she delivered her thoughts
and intentions, beautifully and with dignity, in the tongue of her own
people.

“Tell the Hurons, Deerslayer,” she said, “that they are as ignorant as
moles; they don’t know the wolf from the dog. Among my people, the rose
dies on the stem where it budded, the tears of the child fall on the
graves of its parents; the corn grows where the seed has been planted.
The Delaware girls are not messengers to be sent, like belts of wampum,
from tribe to tribe. They are honeysuckles, that are sweetest in their
own woods; their own young men carry them away in their bosoms, because
they are fragrant; they are sweetest when plucked from their native
stems. Even the robin and the martin come back, year after year, to
their old nests; shall a woman be less true hearted than a bird? Set the
pine in the clay and it will turn yellow; the willow will not flourish
on the hill; the tamarack is healthiest in the swamp; the tribes of the
sea love best to hear the winds that blow over the salt water. As for
a Huron youth, what is he to a maiden of the Lenni Lenape. He may
be fleet, but her eyes do not follow him in the race; they look back
towards the lodges of the Delawares. He may sing a sweet song for the
girls of Canada, but there is no music for Wah, but in the tongue she
has listened to from childhood. Were the Huron born of the people that
once owned the shores of the salt lake, it would be in vain, unless he
were of the family of Uncas. The young pine will rise to be as high as
any of its fathers. Wah-ta-Wah has but one heart, and it can love but
one husband.”

Deerslayer listened to this characteristic message, which was given
with an earnestness suited to the feelings from which it sprung, with
undisguised delight, meeting the ardent eloquence of the girl, as she
concluded, with one of his own heartfelt, silent, and peculiar fits of
laughter.

“That’s worth all the wampum in the woods!” he exclaimed. “You don’t
understand it, I suppose, Judith, but if you’ll look into your feelin’s,
and fancy that an inimy had sent to tell you to give up the man of your
ch’ice, and to take up with another that wasn’t the man of your ch’ice,
you’ll get the substance of it, I’ll warrant! Give me a woman for ra’al
eloquence, if they’ll only make up their minds to speak what they feel.
By speakin’, I don’t mean chatterin’, howsever; for most of them will do
that by the hour; but comm’ out with their honest, deepest feelin’s in
proper words. And now, Judith, having got the answer of a red-skin girl,
it is fit I should get that of a pale-face, if, indeed, a countenance
that is as blooming as your’n can in any wise so be tarmed. You are well
named the Wild Rose, and so far as colour goes, Hetty ought to be called
the Honeysuckle.”

“Did this language come from one of the garrison gallants, I should
deride it, Deerslayer, but coming from you, I know it can be depended
on,” returned Judith, deeply gratified by his unmeditated and
characteristic compliments. “It is too soon, however, to ask my answer;
the Great Serpent has not yet spoken.”

“The Sarpent! Lord; I could carry back his speech without hearing a
word of it! I didn’t think of putting the question to him at all, I
will allow; though ‘twould be hardly right either, seeing that truth is
truth, and I’m bound to tell these Mingos the fact and nothing else. So,
Chingachgook, let us hear your mind on this matter--are you inclined
to strike across the hills towards your village, to give up Hist to
a Huron, and to tell the chiefs at home that, if they’re actyve and
successful, they may possibly get on the end of the Iroquois trail some
two or three days a’ter the inimy has got off of it?”

Like his betrothed, the young chief arose, that his answer might be
given with due distinctness and dignity. Hist had spoken with her hands
crossed upon her bosom, as if to suppress the emotions within, but the
warrior stretched an arm before him with a calm energy that aided in
giving emphasis to his expressions. “Wampum should be sent for wampum,”
 he said; “a message must be answered by a message. Hear what the Great
Serpent of the Delawares has to say to the pretended wolves from the
great lakes, that are howling through our woods. They are no wolves;
they are dogs that have come to get their tails and ears cropped by the
hands of the Delawares. They are good at stealing young women; bad at
keeping them. Chingachgook takes his own where he finds it; he asks
leave of no cur from the Canadas. If he has a tender feeling in his
heart, it is no business of the Hurons. He tells it to her who most
likes to know it; he will not bellow it in the forest, for the ears of
those that only understand yells of terror. What passes in his lodge
is not for the chiefs of his own people to know; still less for Mingo
rogues--”

“Call ‘em vagabonds, Sarpent--” interrupted Deerslayer, unable to
restrain his delight--“yes, just call ‘em up-and-down vagabonds, which
is a word easily intarpreted, and the most hateful of all to their ears,
it’s so true. Never fear me; I’ll give em your message, syllable for
syllable, sneer for sneer, idee for idee, scorn for scorn, and they
desarve no better at your hands--only call ‘em vagabonds, once or twice,
and that will set the sap mounting in ‘em, from their lowest roots to
the uppermost branches!”

“Still less for Mingo vagabonds,” resumed Chingachgook, quite willingly
complying with his friend’s request. “Tell the Huron dogs to howl
louder, if they wish a Delaware to find them in the woods, where they
burrow like foxes, instead of hunting like warriors. When they had a
Delaware maiden in their camp, there was a reason for hunting them up;
now they will be forgotten unless they make a noise. Chingachgook don’t
like the trouble of going to his villages for more warriors; he can
strike their run-a-way trail; unless they hide it under ground, he will
follow it to Canada alone. He will keep Wah-ta-Wah with him to cook his
game; they two will be Delawares enough to scare all the Hurons back to
their own country.”

“That’s a grand despatch, as the officers call them things!”
 cried Deerslayer; “‘twill set all the Huron blood in motion; most
particularily that part where he tells ‘em Hist, too, will keep on their
heels ‘til they’re fairly driven out of the country. Ahs! me; big words
ain’t always big deeds, notwithstanding! The Lord send that we be able
to be only one half as good as we promise to be! And now, Judith, it’s
your turn to speak, for them miscreants will expect an answer from each
person, poor Hetty, perhaps, excepted.”

“And why not Hetty, Deerslayer? She often speaks to the purpose;
the Indians may respect her words, for they feel for people in her
condition.”

“That is true, Judith, and quick-thoughted in you. The red-skins do
respect misfortunes of all kinds, and Hetty’s in particular. So, Hetty,
if you have any thing to say, I’ll carry it to the Hurons as faithfully
as if it was spoken by a schoolmaster, or a missionary.”

The girl hesitated a moment, and then she answered in her own gentle,
soft tones, as earnestly as any who had preceded her.

“The Hurons can’t understand the difference between white people and
themselves,” she said, “or they wouldn’t ask Judith and me to go and
live in their villages. God has given one country to the red men and
another to us. He meant us to live apart. Then mother always said that
we should never dwell with any but Christians, if possible, and that
is a reason why we can’t go. This lake is ours, and we won’t leave it.
Father and mother’s graves are in it, and even the worst Indians love to
stay near the graves of their fathers. I will come and see them again,
if they wish me to, and read more out of the Bible to them, but I can’t
quit father’s and mother’s graves.”

“That will do--that will do, Hetty, just as well as if you sent them
a message twice as long,” interrupted the hunter. “I’ll tell ‘em all
you’ve said, and all you mean, and I’ll answer for it that they’ll be
easily satisfied. Now, Judith, your turn comes next, and then this part
of my ar’n’d will be tarminated for the night.”

Judith manifested a reluctance to give her reply, that had awakened a
little curiosity in the messenger. Judging from her known spirit, he had
never supposed the girl would be less true to her feelings and principles
than Hist, or Hetty, and yet there was a visible wavering of purpose
that rendered him slightly uneasy. Even now when directly required
to speak, she seemed to hesitate, nor did she open her lips until the
profound silence told her how anxiously her words were expected. Then,
indeed, she spoke, but it was doubtingly and with reluctance.

“Tell me, first--tell us, first, Deerslayer,” she commenced, repeating
the words merely to change the emphasis--“what effect will our answers
have on your fate? If you are to be the sacrifice of our spirit, it
would have been better had we all been more wary as to the language we
use. What, then, are likely to be the consequences to yourself?”

“Lord, Judith, you might as well ask me which way the wind will blow
next week, or what will be the age of the next deer that will be shot! I
can only say that their faces look a little dark upon me, but it doesn’t
thunder every time a black cloud rises, nor does every puff of wind
blow up rain. That’s a question, therefore, much more easily put than
answered.”

“So is this message of the Iroquois to me,” answered Judith rising,
as if she had determined on her own course for the present. “My answer
shall be given, Deerslayer, after you and I have talked together alone,
when the others have laid themselves down for the night.”

There was a decision in the manner of the girl that disposed Deerslayer
to comply, and this he did the more readily as the delay could produce
no material consequences one way or the other. The meeting now broke up,
Hurry announcing his resolution to leave them speedily. During the hour
that was suffered to intervene, in order that the darkness might deepen
before the frontierman took his departure, the different individuals
occupied themselves in their customary modes, the hunter, in particular,
passing most of the time in making further enquiries into the perfection
of the rifle already mentioned.

The hour of nine soon arrived, however, and then it had been determined
that Hurry should commence his journey. Instead of making his adieus
frankly, and in a generous spirit, the little he thought it necessary
to say was uttered sullenly and in coldness. Resentment at what he
considered Judith’s obstinacy was blended with mortification at the
career he had since reaching the lake, and, as is usual with the vulgar
and narrow-minded, he was more disposed to reproach others with his
failures than to censure himself. Judith gave him her hand, but it was
quite as much in gladness as with regret, while the two Delawares were
not sorry to find he was leaving them. Of the whole party, Hetty alone
betrayed any real feeling. Bashfulness, and the timidity of her sex and
character, kept even her aloof, so that Hurry entered the canoe, where
Deerslayer was already waiting for him, before she ventured near enough
to be observed. Then, indeed, the girl came into the Ark and approached
its end, just as the little bark was turning from it, with a movement
so light and steady as to be almost imperceptible. An impulse of feeling
now overcame her timidity, and Hetty spoke.

“Goodbye Hurry--” she called out, in her sweet voice--“goodbye, dear
Hurry. Take care of yourself in the woods, and don’t stop once, ‘til you
reach the garrison. The leaves on the trees are scarcely plentier than
the Hurons round the lake, and they’ll not treat a strong man like you
as kindly as they treat me.”

The ascendency which March had obtained over this feebleminded, but
right-thinking, and right-feeling girl, arose from a law of nature. Her
senses had been captivated by his personal advantages, and her moral
communications with him had never been sufficiently intimate to
counteract an effect that must have been otherwise lessened, even with
one whose mind was as obtuse as her own. Hetty’s instinct of right, if
such a term can be applied to one who seemed taught by some kind spirit
how to steer her course with unerring accuracy, between good and evil,
would have revolted at Hurry’s character on a thousand points, had there
been opportunities to enlighten her, but while he conversed and trifled
with her sister, at a distance from herself, his perfection of form
and feature had been left to produce their influence on her simple
imagination and naturally tender feelings, without suffering by the
alloy of his opinions and coarseness. It is true she found him rough and
rude; but her father was that, and most of the other men she had seen,
and that which she believed to belong to all of the sex struck her less
unfavorably in Hurry’s character than it might otherwise have done.
Still, it was not absolutely love that Hetty felt for Hurry, nor do
we wish so to portray it, but merely that awakening sensibility and
admiration, which, under more propitious circumstances, and always
supposing no untoward revelations of character on the part of the young
man had supervened to prevent it, might soon have ripened into that
engrossing feeling. She felt for him an incipient tenderness, but
scarcely any passion. Perhaps the nearest approach to the latter that
Hetty had manifested was to be seen in the sensitiveness which had
caused her to detect March’s predilection for her sister, for, among
Judith’s many admirers, this was the only instance in which the
dull mind of the girl had been quickened into an observation of the
circumstances.

Hurry received so little sympathy at his departure that the gentle tones
of Hetty, as she thus called after him, sounded soothingly. He checked
the canoe, and with one sweep of his powerful arm brought it back to the
side of the Ark. This was more than Hetty, whose courage had risen with
the departure of her hero, expected, and she now shrunk timidly back at
this unexpected return.

“You’re a good gal, Hetty, and I can’t quit you without shaking hands,”
 said March kindly. “Judith, a’ter all, isn’t worth as much as you,
though she may be a trifle better looking. As to wits, if honesty and
fair dealing with a young man is a sign of sense in a young woman,
you’re worth a dozen Judiths; ay, and for that matter, most young women
of my acquaintance.”

“Don’t say any thing against Judith, Harry,” returned Hetty imploringly.
“Father’s gone, and mother’s gone, and nobody’s left but Judith and me,
and it isn’t right for sisters to speak evil, or to hear evil of each
other. Father’s in the lake, and so is mother, and we should all fear
God, for we don’t know when we may be in the lake, too.”

“That sounds reasonable, child, as does most you say. Well, if we ever
meet ag’in, Hetty, you’ll find a fri’nd in me, let your sister do what
she may. I was no great fri’nd of your mother I’ll allow, for we didn’t
think alike on most p’ints, but then your father, Old Tom, and I,
fitted each other as remarkably as a buckskin garment will fit any
reasonable-built man. I’ve always been unanimous of opinion that Old
Floating Tom Hutter, at the bottom, was a good fellow, and will maintain
that ag’in all inimies for his sake, as well as for your’n.”

“Goodbye, Hurry,” said Hetty, who now wanted to hasten the young man
off, as ardently as she had wished to keep him only the moment before,
though she could give no clearer account of the latter than of the
former feeling; “goodbye, Hurry; take care of yourself in the woods;
don’t halt ‘til you reach the garrison. I’ll read a chapter in the Bible
for you before I go to bed, and think of you in my prayers.”

This was touching a point on which March had no sympathies, and without
more words, he shook the girl cordially by the hand and re-entered the
canoe. In another minute the two adventurers were a hundred feet from
the Ark, and half a dozen had not elapsed before they were completely
lost to view. Hetty sighed deeply, and rejoined her sister and Hist.

For some time Deerslayer and his companion paddled ahead in silence.
It had been determined to land Hurry at the precise point where he is
represented, in the commencement of our tale, as having embarked, not
only as a place little likely to be watched by the Hurons, but because
he was sufficiently familiar with the signs of the woods, at that spot,
to thread his way through them in the dark. Thither, then, the light
craft proceeded, being urged as diligently and as swiftly as two
vigorous and skilful canoemen could force their little vessel through,
or rather over, the water. Less than a quarter of an hour sufficed for
the object, and, at the end of that time, being within the shadows of
the shore, and quite near the point they sought, each ceased his efforts
in order to make their parting communications out of earshot of any
straggler who might happen to be in the neighborhood.

“You will do well to persuade the officers at the garrison to lead out
a party ag’in these vagabonds as soon as you git in, Hurry,” Deerslayer
commenced; “and you’ll do better if you volunteer to guide it up
yourself. You know the paths, and the shape of the lake, and the natur’
of the land, and can do it better than a common, gin’ralizing scout.
Strike at the Huron camp first, and follow the signs that will then show
themselves. A few looks at the hut and the Ark will satisfy you as to
the state of the Delaware and the women, and, at any rate, there’ll be
a fine opportunity to fall on the Mingo trail, and to make a mark on the
memories of the blackguards that they’ll be apt to carry with ‘em a long
time. It won’t be likely to make much difference with me, since that
matter will be detarmined afore to-morrow’s sun has set, but it may make
a great change in Judith and Hetty’s hopes and prospects!”

“And as for yourself, Nathaniel,” Hurry enquired with more interest
than he was accustomed to betray in the welfare of others--“And, as for
yourself, what do you think is likely to turn up?”

“The Lord, in his wisdom, only can tell, Henry March! The clouds look
black and threatening, and I keep my mind in a state to meet the worst.
Vengeful feelin’s are uppermost in the hearts of the Mingos, and any
little disapp’intment about the plunder, or the prisoners, or Hist, may
make the torments sartain. The Lord, in his wisdom, can only detarmine
my fate, or your’n!”

“This is a black business, and ought to be put a stop to in some way or
other--” answered Hurry, confounding the distinctions between right and
wrong, as is usual with selfish and vulgar men. “I heartily wish old
Hutter and I had scalped every creatur’ in their camp, the night
we first landed with that capital object! Had you not held back,
Deerslayer, it might have been done, and then you wouldn’t have found
yourself, at the last moment, in the desperate condition you mention.”

“‘Twould have been better had you said you wished you had never
attempted to do what it little becomes any white man’s gifts to
undertake; in which case, not only might we have kept from coming to
blows, but Thomas Hutter would now have been living, and the hearts of
the savages would be less given to vengeance. The death of that young
woman, too, was on-called for, Henry March, and leaves a heavy load on
our names if not on our consciences!”

This was so apparent, and it seemed so obvious to Hurry himself, at the
moment, that he dashed his paddle into the water, and began to urge the
canoe towards the shore, as if bent only on running away from his own
lively remorse. His companion humoured this feverish desire for change,
and, in a minute or two, the bows of the boat grated lightly on the
shingle of the beach. To land, shoulder his pack and rifle, and to get
ready for his march occupied Hurry but an instant, and with a growling
adieu, he had already commenced his march, when a sudden twinge of
feeling brought him to a dead stop, and immediately after to the other’s
side.

“You cannot mean to give yourself up ag’in to them murdering savages,
Deerslayer!” he said, quite as much in angry remonstrance, as with
generous feeling. “‘Twould be the act of a madman or a fool!”

“There’s them that thinks it madness to keep their words, and there’s
them that don’t, Hurry Harry. You may be one of the first, but I’m one
of the last. No red-skin breathing shall have it in his power to say
that a Mingo minds his word more than a man of white blood and white
gifts, in any thing that consarns me. I’m out on a furlough, and if I’ve
strength and reason, I’ll go in on a furlough afore noon to-morrow!”

“What’s an Injin, or a word passed, or a furlough taken from creatur’s
like them, that have neither souls, nor reason!”

“If they’ve got neither souls nor reason, you and I have both, Henry
March, and one is accountable for the other. This furlough is not, as
you seem to think, a matter altogether atween me and the Mingos, seeing
it is a solemn bargain made atween me and God. He who thinks that he
can say what he pleases, in his distress, and that twill all pass for
nothing, because ‘tis uttered in the forest, and into red men’s ears,
knows little of his situation, and hopes, and wants. The woods are but
the ears of the Almighty, the air is his breath, and the light of the
sun is little more than a glance of his eye. Farewell, Harry; we may not
meet ag’in, but I would wish you never to treat a furlough, or any other
solemn thing that your Christian God has been called on to witness, as
a duty so light that it may be forgotten according to the wants of the
body, or even accordin’ to the cravings of the spirit.”

March was now glad again to escape. It was quite impossible that he
could enter into the sentiments that ennobled his companion, and he
broke away from both with an impatience that caused him secretly to
curse the folly that could induce a man to rush, as it were, on his own
destruction. Deerslayer, on the contrary, manifested no such excitement.
Sustained by his principles, inflexible in the purpose of acting up to
them, and superior to any unmanly apprehension, he regarded all before
him as a matter of course, and no more thought of making any unworthy
attempt to avoid it, than a Mussulman thinks of counteracting the
decrees of Providence. He stood calmly on the shore, listening to
the reckless tread with which Hurry betrayed his progress through the
bushes, shook his head in dissatisfaction at the want of caution, and
then stepped quietly into his canoe. Before he dropped the paddle again
into the water, the young man gazed about him at the scene presented by
the star-lit night. This was the spot where he had first laid his eyes
on the beautiful sheet of water on which he floated. If it was then
glorious in the bright light of a summer’s noon-tide, it was now sad and
melancholy under the shadows of night. The mountains rose around it like
black barriers to exclude the outer world, and the gleams of pale light
that rested on the broader parts of the basin were no bad symbols of
the faintness of the hopes that were so dimly visible in his own future.
Sighing heavily, he pushed the canoe from the land, and took his way
back with steady diligence towards the Ark and the castle.



Chapter XXIV


    “Thy secret pleasure turns to open shame;
    Thy private feasting to a public fast;
    Thy smoothing titles to a ragged name;
    Thy sugar’d tongue to bitter worm wood taste:
    Thy violent vanities can never last.”

    Shakespeare, Rape of Lucrece, 11.  890-94.

Judith was waiting the return of Deerslayer on the platform, with
stifled impatience, when the latter reached the hut. Hist and Hetty were
both in a deep sleep, on the bed usually occupied by the two daughters
of the house, and the Delaware was stretched on the floor of the
adjoining room, his rifle at his side, and a blanket over him, already
dreaming of the events of the last few days. There was a lamp burning
in the Ark, for the family was accustomed to indulge in this luxury on
extraordinary occasions, and possessed the means, the vessel being of a
form and material to render it probable it had once been an occupant of
the chest.

As soon as the girl got a glimpse of the canoe, she ceased her hurried
walk up and down the platform and stood ready to receive the young man,
whose return she had now been anxiously expecting for some time. She
helped him to fasten the canoe, and by aiding in the other little
similar employments, manifested her desire to reach a moment of liberty
as soon as possible. When this was done, in answer to an inquiry of his,
she informed him of the manner in which their companions had disposed of
themselves. He listened attentively, for the manner of the girl was so
earnest and impressive as to apprise him that she had something on her
mind of more than common concern.

“And now, Deerslayer,” Judith continued, “you see I have lighted the
lamp, and put it in the cabin of the Ark. That is never done with
us, unless on great occasions, and I consider this night as the most
important of my life. Will you follow me and see what I have to show
you--hear what I have to say.”

The hunter was a little surprised, but, making no objections, both were
soon in the scow, and in the room that contained the light. Here two
stools were placed at the side of the chest, with the lamp on another,
and a table near by to receive the different articles as they might
be brought to view. This arrangement had its rise in the feverish
impatience of the girl, which could brook no delay that it was in
her power to obviate. Even all the padlocks were removed, and it only
remained to raise the heavy lid, again, to expose all the treasures of
this long secreted hoard.

“I see, in part, what all this means,” observed Deerslayer--“yes, I see
through it, in part. But why is not Hetty present? Now Thomas Hutter is
gone, she is one of the owners of these cur’osities, and ought to see
them opened and handled.”

“Hetty sleeps--” answered Judith, huskily. “Happily for her, fine
clothes and riches have no charms. Besides she has this night given her
share of all that the chest may hold to me, that I may do with it as I
please.”

“Is poor Hetty compass enough for that, Judith?” demanded the
just-minded young man. “It’s a good rule and a righteous one, never to
take when them that give don’t know the valie of their gifts; and such
as God has visited heavily in their wits ought to be dealt with as
carefully as children that haven’t yet come to their understandings.”

Judith was hurt at this rebuke, coming from the person it did, but
she would have felt it far more keenly had not her conscience fully
acquitted her of any unjust intentions towards her feeble-minded but
confiding sister. It was not a moment, however, to betray any of her
usual mountings of the spirit, and she smothered the passing sensation
in the desire to come to the great object she had in view.

“Hetty will not be wronged,” she mildly answered; “she even knows not
only what I am about to do, Deerslayer, but why I do it. So take your
seat, raise the lid of the chest, and this time we will go to the
bottom. I shall be disappointed if something is not found to tell us
more of the history of Thomas Hutter and my mother.”

“Why Thomas Hutter, Judith, and not your father? The dead ought to meet
with as much reverence as the living!”

“I have long suspected that Thomas Hutter was not my father, though I
did think he might have been Hetty’s, but now we know he was the father
of neither. He acknowledged that much in his dying moments. I am old
enough to remember better things than we have seen on this lake, though
they are so faintly impressed on my memory that the earlier part of my
life seems like a dream.”

“Dreams are but miserable guides when one has to detarmine about
realities, Judith,” returned the other admonishingly. “Fancy nothing and
hope nothing on their account, though I’ve known chiefs that thought ‘em
useful.”

“I expect nothing for the future from them, my good friend, but cannot
help remembering what has been. This is idle, however, when half an hour
of examination may tell us all, or even more than I want to know.”

Deerslayer, who comprehended the girl’s impatience, now took his seat
and proceeded once more to bring to light the different articles that
the chest contained. As a matter of course, all that had been previously
examined were found where they had been last deposited, and they excited
much less interest or comment than when formerly exposed to view. Even
Judith laid aside the rich brocade with an air of indifference, for she
had a far higher aim before her than the indulgence of vanity, and was
impatient to come at the still hidden, or rather unknown, treasures.

“All these we have seen before,” she said, “and will not stop to open.
The bundle under your hand, Deerslayer, is a fresh one; that we will
look into. God send it may contain something to tell poor Hetty and
myself who we really are!”

“Ay, if some bundles could speak, they might tell wonderful secrets,”
 returned the young man deliberately undoing the folds of another piece
of course canvass, in order to come at the contents of the roll that lay
on his knees: “though this doesn’t seem to be one of that family, seeing
‘tis neither more nor less than a sort of flag, though of what nation,
it passes my l’arnin’ to say.”

“That flag must have some meaning to it--” Judith hurriedly interposed.
“Open it wider, Deerslayer, that we may see the colours.”

“Well, I pity the ensign that has to shoulder this cloth, and to parade
it about on the field. Why ‘tis large enough, Judith, to make a dozen of
them colours the King’s officers set so much store by. These can be no
ensign’s colours, but a gin’ral’s!”

“A ship might carry it, Deerslayer, and ships I know do use such things.
Have you never heard any fearful stories about Thomas Hutter’s having
once been concerned with the people they call buccaneers?”

“Buck-ah-near! Not I--not I--I never heard him mentioned as good at a
buck far off, or near by. Hurry Harry did till me something about its
being supposed that he had formerly, in some way or other, dealings with
sartain sea robbers, but, Lord, Judith, it can’t surely give you any
satisfaction to make out that ag’in your mother’s own husband, though he
isn’t your father.”

“Anything will give me satisfaction that tells me who I am, and helps to
explain the dreams of childhood. My mother’s husband! Yes, he must have
been that, though why a woman like her, should have chosen a man like
him, is more than mortal reason can explain. You never saw mother,
Deerslayer, and can’t feel the vast, vast difference there was between
them!”

“Such things do happen, howsever;--yes, they do happen; though why
providence lets them come to pass is more than I understand. I’ve knew
the f’ercest warriors with the gentlest wives of any in the tribe, and
awful scolds fall to the lot of Injins fit to be missionaries.”

“That was not it, Deerslayer; that was not it. Oh! if it should prove
that--no; I cannot wish she should not have been his wife at all. That
no daughter can wish for her own mother! Go on, now, and let us see what
the square looking bundle holds.”

Deerslayer complied, and he found that it contained a small trunk of
pretty workmanship, but fastened. The next point was to find a key; but,
search proving ineffectual, it was determined to force the lock. This
Deerslayer soon effected by the aid of an iron instrument, and it
was found that the interior was nearly filled with papers. Many were
letters; some fragments of manuscripts, memorandums, accounts, and other
similar documents. The hawk does not pounce upon the chicken with a more
sudden swoop than Judith sprang forward to seize this mine of hitherto
concealed knowledge. Her education, as the reader will have perceived,
was far superior to her situation in life, and her eye glanced over page
after page of the letters with a readiness that her schooling supplied,
and with an avidity that found its origin in her feelings. At first it
was evident that the girl was gratified; and we may add with reason, for
the letters written by females, in innocence and affection, were of a
character to cause her to feel proud of those with whom she had every
reason to think she was closely connected by the ties of blood. It does
not come within the scope of our plan to give more of these epistles,
however, than a general idea of their contents, and this will best be
done by describing the effect they produced on the manner, appearance,
and feeling of her who was so eagerly perusing them.

It has been said, already, that Judith was much gratified with the
letters that first met her eye. They contained the correspondence of
an affectionate and inteffigent mother to an absent daughter, with such
allusions to the answers as served in a great measure to fill up the
vacuum left by the replies. They were not without admonitions and
warnings, however, and Judith felt the blood mounting to her temples,
and a cold shudder succeeding, as she read one in which the propriety
of the daughter’s indulging in as much intimacy as had evidently been
described in one of the daughter’s own letters, with an officer “who
came from Europe, and who could hardly be supposed to wish to form an
honorable connection in America,” was rather coldly commented on by the
mother. What rendered it singular was the fact that the signatures had
been carefully cut from every one of these letters, and wherever a name
occurred in the body of the epistles it had been erased with so much
diligence as to render it impossible to read it. They had all been
enclosed in envelopes, according to the fashion of the age, and not an
address either was to be found. Still the letters themselves had been
religiously preserved, and Judith thought she could discover traces of
tears remaining on several. She now remembered to have seen the little
trunk in her mother’s keeping, previously to her death, and she supposed
it had first been deposited in the chest, along with the other forgotten
or concealed objects, when the letters could no longer contribute to
that parent’s grief or happiness.

Next came another bundle, and these were filled with the protestations
of love, written with passion certainly, but also with that deceit which
men so often think it justifiable to use to the other sex. Judith
had shed tears abundantly over the first packet, but now she felt a
sentiment of indignation and pride better sustaining her. Her hand
shook, however, and cold shivers again passed through her frame, as she
discovered a few points of strong resemblance between these letters and
some it had been her own fate to receive. Once, indeed, she laid the
packet down, bowed her head to her knees, and seemed nearly convulsed.
All this time Deerslayer sat a silent but attentive observer of every
thing that passed. As Judith read a letter she put it into his hands to
hold until she could peruse the next; but this served in no degree to
enlighten her companion, as he was totally unable to read. Nevertheless
he was not entirely at fault in discovering the passions that were
contending in the bosom of the fair creature by his side, and, as
occasional sentences escaped her in murmurs, he was nearer the truth, in
his divinations, or conjectures, than the girl would have been pleased
at discovering.

Judith had commenced with the earliest letters, luckily for a ready
comprehension of the tale they told, for they were carefully arranged in
chronological order, and to any one who would take the trouble to peruse
them, would have revealed a sad history of gratified passion, coldness,
and finally of aversion. As she obtained the clue to their import, her
impatience would not admit of delay, and she soon got to glancing her
eyes over a page by way of coming at the truth in the briefest manner
possible. By adopting this expedient, one to which all who are eager to
arrive at results without encumbering themselves with details are so apt
to resort, Judith made a rapid progress in these melancholy revelations
of her mother’s failing and punishment. She saw that the period of her
own birth was distinctly referred to, and even learned that the homely
name she bore was given her by the father, of whose person she retained
so faint an impression as to resemble a dream. This name was not
obliterated from the text of the letters, but stood as if nothing was to
be gained by erasing it. Hetty’s birth was mentioned once, and in that
instance the name was the mother’s, but ere this period was reached came
the signs of coldness, shadowing forth the desertion that was so soon to
follow. It was in this stage of the correspondence that her mother had
recourse to the plan of copying her own epistles. They were but few, but
were eloquent with the feelings of blighted affection, and contrition.
Judith sobbed over them, until again and again she felt compelled to
lay them aside from sheer physical inability to see; her eyes being
literally obscured with tears. Still she returned to the task, with
increasing interest, and finally succeeded in reaching the end of the
latest communication that had probably ever passed between her parents.

All this occupied fully an hour, for near a hundred letters were glanced
at, and some twenty had been closely read. The truth now shone clear
upon the acute mind of Judith, so far as her own birth and that of Hetty
were concerned. She sickened at the conviction, and for the moment
the rest of the world seemed to be cut off from her, and she had now
additional reasons for wishing to pass the remainder of her life on the
lake, where she had already seen so many bright and so many sorrowing
days.

There yet remained more letters to examine. Judith found these were a
correspondence between her mother and Thomas Hovey. The originals of
both parties were carefully arranged, letter and answer, side by
side; and they told the early history of the connection between the
ill-assorted pair far more plainly than Judith wished to learn it. Her
mother made the advances towards a marriage, to the surprise, not to
say horror of her daughter, and she actually found a relief when
she discovered traces of what struck her as insanity--or a morbid
desperation, bordering on that dire calamity--in the earlier letters of
that ill-fated woman. The answers of Hovey were coarse and illiterate,
though they manifested a sufficient desire to obtain the hand of a woman
of singular personal attractions, and whose great error he was willing
to overlook for the advantage of possessing one every way so much his
superior, and who it also appeared was not altogether destitute of
money. The remainder of this part of the correspondence was brief, and
it was soon confined to a few communications on business, in which
the miserable wife hastened the absent husband in his preparations to
abandon a world which there was a sufficient reason to think was as
dangerous to one of the parties as it was disagreeable to the other. But
a sincere expression had escaped her mother, by which Judith could get a
clue to the motives that had induced her to marry Hovey, or Hutter, and
this she found was that feeling of resentment which so often tempts the
injured to inflict wrongs on themselves by way of heaping coals on the
heads of those through whom they have suffered. Judith had enough of the
spirit of that mother to comprehend this sentiment, and for a moment did
she see the exceeding folly which permitted such revengeful feelings to
get the ascendancy.

There what may be called the historical part of the papers ceased. Among
the loose fragments, however, was an old newspaper that contained
a proclamation offering a reward for the apprehension of certain
free-booters by name, among which was that of Thomas Hovey. The
attention of the girl was drawn to the proclamation and to this
particular name by the circumstance that black lines had been drawn
under both, in ink. Nothing else was found among the papers that could
lead to a discovery of either the name or the place of residence of the
wife of Hutter. All the dates, signatures, and addresses had been
cut from the letters, and wherever a word occurred in the body of the
communications that might furnish a clue, it was scrupulously erased.
Thus Judith found all her hopes of ascertaining who her parents were
defeated, and she was obliged to fall back on her own resources and
habits for everything connected with the future. Her recollection of her
mother’s manners, conversation, and sufferings filled up many a gap
in the historical facts she had now discovered, and the truth, in
its outlines, stood sufficiently distinct before her to take away all
desire, indeed, to possess any more details. Throwing herself back in
her seat, she simply desired her companion to finish the examination of
the other articles in the chest, as it might yet contain something of
importance.

“I’ll do it, Judith; I’ll do it,” returned the patient Deerslayer, “but
if there’s many more letters to read, we shall see the sun ag’in afore
you’ve got through with the reading of them! Two good hours have you
been looking at them bits of papers!”

“They tell me of my parents, Deerslayer, and have settled my plans for
life. A girl may be excused, who reads about her own father and mother,
and that too for the first time in her life! I am sorry to have kept you
waiting.”

“Never mind me, gal; never mind me. It matters little whether I sleep
or watch; but though you be pleasant to look at, and are so handsome,
Judith, it is not altogether agreeable to sit so long to behold you
shedding tears. I know that tears don’t kill, and that some people are
better for shedding a few now and then, especially young women; but I’d
rather see you smile any time, Judith, than see you weep.”

This gallant speech was rewarded with a sweet, though a melancholy
smile; and then the girl again desired her companion to finish the
examination of the chest. The search necessarily continued some time,
during which Judith collected her thoughts and regained her composure.
She took no part in the search, leaving everything to the young
man, looking listlessly herself at the different articles that came
uppermost. Nothing further of much interest or value, however, was
found. A sword or two, such as were then worn by gentlemen, some buckles
of silver, or so richly plated as to appear silver, and a few handsome
articles of female dress, composed the principal discoveries. It struck
both Judith and the Deerslayer, notwithstanding, that some of these
things might be made useful in effecting a negotiation with the
Iroquois, though the latter saw a difficulty in the way that was not so
apparent to the former. The conversation was first renewed in connection
with this point.

“And now, Deerslayer,” said Judith, “we may talk of yourself, and of the
means of getting you out of the hands of the Hurons. Any part, or all
of what you have seen in the chest, will be cheerfully given by me and
Hetty to set you at liberty.”

“Well, that’s gin’rous,--yes, ‘tis downright free-hearted, and
free-handed, and gin’rous. This is the way with women; when they take up
a fri’ndship, they do nothing by halves, but are as willing to part with
their property as if it had no value in their eyes. However, while I
thank you both, just as much as if the bargain was made, and Rivenoak,
or any of the other vagabonds, was here to accept and close the treaty,
there’s two principal reasons why it can never come to pass, which may
be as well told at once, in order no onlikely expectations may be raised
in you, or any onjustifiable hopes in me.”

“What reason can there be, if Hetty and I are willing to part with the
trifles for your sake, and the savages are willing to receive them?”

“That’s it, Judith; you’ve got the idees, but they’re a little out of
their places, as if a hound should take the back’ard instead of the
leading scent. That the Mingos will be willing to receive them things,
or any more like ‘em you may have to offer is probable enough, but
whether they’ll pay valie for ‘em is quite another matter. Ask yourself,
Judith, if any one should send you a message to say that, for such or
such a price, you and Hetty might have that chist and all it holds,
whether you’d think it worth your while to waste many words on the
bargain?”

“But this chest and all it holds, are already ours; there is no reason
why we should purchase what is already our own.”

“Just so the Mingos caculate! They say the chist is theirn, already; or,
as good as theirn, and they’ll not thank anybody for the key.”

“I understand you, Deerslayer; surely we are yet in possession of the
lake, and we can keep possession of it until Hurry sends troops to drive
off the enemy. This we may certainly do provided you will stay with us,
instead of going back and giving yourself up a prisoner, again, as you
now seem determined on.”

“That Hurry Harry should talk in this-a-way, is nat’ral, and according to
the gifts of the man. He knows no better, and, therefore, he is little
likely to feel or to act any better; but, Judith, I put it to your heart
and conscience--would you, could you think of me as favorably, as I hope
and believe you now do, was I to forget my furlough and not go back to
the camp?”

“To think more favorably of you than I now do, Deerslayer, would not
be easy; but I might continue to think as favorably--at least it seems
so--I hope I could, for a world wouldn’t tempt me to let you do anything
that might change my real opinion of you.”

“Then don’t try to entice me to overlook my furlough, gal! A furlough
is a sacred thing among warriors and men that carry their lives in their
hands, as we of the forests do, and what a grievous disapp’intment would
it be to old Tamenund, and to Uncas, the father of the Sarpent, and to
my other fri’nds in the tribe, if I was so to disgrace myself on my very
first war-path. This you will pairceive, moreover, Judith, is without
laying any stress on nat’ral gifts, and a white man’s duties, to say
nothing of conscience. The last is king with me, and I try never to
dispute his orders.”

“I believe you are right, Deerslayer,” returned the girl, after a little
reflection and in a saddened voice: “a man like you ought not to act
as the selfish and dishonest would be apt to act; you must, indeed,
go back. We will talk no more of this, then. Should I persuade you to
anything for which you would be sorry hereafter, my own regret would not
be less than yours. You shall not have it to say, Judith--I scarce know
by what name to call myself, now!”

“And why not? Why not, gal? Children take the names of their parents,
nat’rally, and by a sort of gift, like, and why shouldn’t you and Hetty
do as others have done afore ye? Hutter was the old man’s name, and
Hutter should be the name of his darters;--at least until you are given
away in lawful and holy wedlock.”

“I am Judith, and Judith only,” returned the girl positively--“until the
law gives me a right to another name. Never will I use that of Thomas
Hutter again; nor, with my consent, shall Hetty! Hutter was not even his
own name, I find, but had he a thousand rights to it, it would give none
to me. He was not my father, thank heaven; though I may have no reason
to be proud of him that was!”

“This is strange!” said Deerslayer, looking steadily at the excited
girl, anxious to know more, but unwilling to inquire into matters that
did not properly concern him; “yes, this is very strange and oncommon!
Thomas Hutter wasn’t Thomas Hutter, and his darters weren’t his darters!
Who, then, could Thomas Hutter be, and who are his darters?”

“Did you never hear anything whispered against the former life of this
person, Deerslayer?” demanded Judith “Passing, as I did, for his child,
such reports reached even me.”

“I’ll not deny it, Judith; no, I’ll not deny it. Sartain things have
been said, as I’ve told you, but I’m not very credible as to reports.
Young as I am, I’ve lived long enough to l’arn there’s two sorts of
characters in the world--them that is ‘arned by deeds, and them that is
‘arned by tongues, and so I prefar to see and judge for myself, instead
of letting every jaw that chooses to wag become my judgment. Hurry Harry
spoke pretty plainly of the whole family, as we journeyed this-a-way,
and he did hint something consarning Thomas Hutter’s having been a
free-liver on the water, in his younger days. By free-liver, I mean that
he made free to live on other men’s goods.”

“He told you he was a pirate--there is no need of mincing matters
between friends. Read that, Deerslayer, and you will see that he told
you no more than the truth. This Thomas Hovey was the Thomas Hutter you
knew, as is seen by these letters.”

As Judith spoke, with a flushed cheek and eyes dazzling with the
brilliancy of excitement, she held the newspaper towards her companion,
pointing to the proclamation of a Colonial Governor, already mentioned.

“Bless you, Judith!” answered the other laughing, “you might as well ask
me to print that--or, for that matter to write it. My edication has been
altogether in the woods; the only book I read, or care about reading,
is the one which God has opened afore all his creatur’s in the noble
forests, broad lakes, rolling rivers, blue skies, and the winds and
tempests, and sunshine, and other glorious marvels of the land! This
book I can read, and I find it full of wisdom and knowledge.”

“I crave your pardon, Deerslayer,” said Judith, earnestly, more abashed
than was her wont, in finding that she had in advertently made an appeal
that might wound her compan ion’s pride. “I had forgotten your manner of
life, and least of all did I wish to hurt your feelings.”

“Hurt my feelin’s? Why should it hurt my feelin’s to ask me to read,
when I can’t read. I’m a hunter--and I may now begin to say a warrior,
and no missionary, and therefore books and papers are of no account with
such as I--No, no--Judith,” and here the young man laughed cordially,
“not even for wads, seeing that your true deerkiller always uses the
hide of a fa’a’n, if he’s got one, or some other bit of leather suitably
prepared. There’s some that do say, all that stands in print is true,
in which case I’ll own an unl’arned man must be somewhat of a loser;
nevertheless, it can’t be truer than that which God has printed with his
own hand in the sky, and the woods, and the rivers, and the springs.”

“Well, then, Hutter, or Hovey, was a pirate, and being no father of
mine, I cannot wish to call him one. His name shall no longer be my
name.”

“If you dislike the name of that man, there’s the name of your mother,
Judith. Her’n may sarve you just as good a turn.”

“I do not know it. I’ve look’d through those papers, Deerslayer, in the
hope of finding some hint by which I might discover who my mother was,
but there is no more trace of the past, in that respect, than the bird
leaves in the air.”

“That’s both oncommon, and onreasonable. Parents are bound to give their
offspring a name, even though they give ‘em nothing else. Now I come of
a humble stock, though we have white gifts and a white natur’, but we
are not so poorly off as to have no name. Bumppo we are called, and I’ve
heard it said--” a touch of human vanity glowing on his cheek, “that the
time has been when the Bumppos had more standing and note among mankind
than they have just now.”

“They never deserved them more, Deerslayer, and the name is a good one;
either Hetty, or myself, would a thousand times rather be called Hetty
Bumppo, or Judith Bumppo, than to be called Hetty or Judith Hutter.”

“That’s a moral impossible,” returned the hunter, good humouredly,
“onless one of you should so far demean herself as to marry me.”

Judith could not refrain from smiling, when she found how simply and
naturally the conversation had come round to the very point at which she
had aimed to bring it. Although far from unfeminine or forward, either
in her feelings or her habits, the girl was goaded by a sense of wrongs
not altogether merited, incited by the hopelessness of a future that
seemed to contain no resting place, and still more influenced by
feelings that were as novel to her as they proved to be active and
engrossing. The opening was too good, therefore, to be neglected,
though she came to the subject with much of the indirectness and perhaps
justifiable address of a woman.

“I do not think Hetty will ever marry, Deerslayer,” she said, “and if
your name is to be borne by either of us, it must be borne by me.”

“There’s been handsome women too, they tell me, among the Bumppos,
Judith, afore now, and should you take up with the name, oncommon as you
be in this particular, them that knows the family won’t be altogether
surprised.”

“This is not talking as becomes either of us, Deerslayer, for whatever
is said on such a subject, between man and woman, should be said
seriously and in sincerity of heart. Forgetting the shame that ought to
keep girls silent until spoken to, in most cases, I will deal with you
as frankly as I know one of your generous nature will most like to be
dealt by. Can you--do you think, Deerslayer, that you could be happy
with such a wife as a woman like myself would make?”

“A woman like you, Judith! But where’s the sense in trifling about such
a thing? A woman like you, that is handsome enough to be a captain’s
lady, and fine enough, and so far as I know edicated enough, would be
little apt to think of becoming my wife. I suppose young gals that
feel themselves to be smart, and know themselves to be handsome, find a
sartain satisfaction in passing their jokes ag’in them that’s neither,
like a poor Delaware hunter.”

This was said good naturedly, but not without a betrayal of feeling
which showed that something like mortified sensibility was blended
with the reply. Nothing could have occurred more likely to awaken all
Judith’s generous regrets, or to aid her in her purpose, by adding the
stimulant of a disinterested desire to atone to her other impulses, and
cloaking all under a guise so winning and natural, as greatly to lessen
the unpleasant feature of a forwardness unbecoming the sex.

“You do me injustice if you suppose I have any such thought, or wish,”
 she answered, earnestly. “Never was I more serious in my life, or more
willing to abide by any agreement that we may make to-night. I have had
many suitors, Deerslayer--nay, scarce an unmarried trapper or hunter
has been in at the Lake these four years, who has not offered to take me
away with him, and I fear some that were married, too--”

“Ay, I’ll warrant that!” interrupted the other--“I’ll warrant all that!
Take ‘em as a body, Judith, ‘arth don’t hold a set of men more given to
theirselves, and less given to God and the law.”

“Not one of them would I--could I listen to; happily for myself perhaps,
has it been that such was the case. There have been well looking youths
among them too, as you may have seen in your acquaintance, Henry March.”

“Yes, Harry is sightly to the eye, though, to my idees, less so to the
judgment. I thought, at first, you meant to have him, Judith, I did; but
afore he went, it was easy enough to verify that the same lodge wouldn’t
be big enough for you both.”

“You have done me justice in that at least, Deerslayer. Hurry is a man I
could never marry, though he were ten times more comely to the eye, and
a hundred times more stout of heart than he really is.”

“Why not, Judith, why not? I own I’m cur’ous to know why a youth like
Hurry shouldn’t find favor with a maiden like you?”

“Then you shall know, Deerslayer,” returned the girl, gladly availing
herself of the opportunity of indirectly extolling the qualities which
had so strongly interested her in her listener; hoping by these means
covertly to approach the subject nearest her heart. “In the first place,
looks in a man are of no importance with a woman, provided he is manly,
and not disfigured, or deformed.”

“There I can’t altogether agree with you,” returned the other
thoughtfully, for he had a very humble opinion of his own personal
appearance; “I have noticed that the comeliest warriors commonly get the
best-looking maidens of the tribe for wives, and the Sarpent, yonder,
who is sometimes wonderful in his paint, is a gineral favorite with all
the Delaware young women, though he takes to Hist, himself, as if she
was the only beauty on ‘arth!”

“It may be so with Indians; but it is different with white girls. So
long as a young man has a straight and manly frame, that promises to
make him able to protect a woman, and to keep want from the door, it is
all they ask of the figure. Giants like Hurry may do for grenadiers, but
are of little account as lovers. Then as to the face, an honest look,
one that answers for the heart within, is of more value than any shape
or colour, or eyes, or teeth, or trifles like them. The last may do for
girls, but who thinks of them at all, in a hunter, or a warrior, or a
husband? If there are women so silly, Judith is not among them.”

“Well, this is wonderful! I always thought that handsome liked handsome,
as riches love riches!”

“It may be so with you men, Deerslayer, but it is not always so with us
women. We like stout-hearted men, but we wish to see them modest; sure
on a hunt, or the war-path, ready to die for the right, and unwilling to
yield to the wrong. Above all we wish for honesty--tongues that are not
used to say what the mind does not mean, and hearts that feel a little
for others, as well as for themselves. A true-hearted girl could die for
such a husband! while the boaster, and the double-tongued suitor gets to
be as hateful to the sight, as he is to the mind.”

Judith spoke bitterly, and with her usual force, but her listener was
too much struck with the novelty of the sensations he experienced to
advert to her manner. There was something so soothing to the humility of
a man of his temperament, to hear qualities that he could not but know
he possessed himself, thus highly extolled by the loveliest female he
had ever beheld, that, for the moment, his faculties seemed suspended
in a natural and excusable pride. Then it was that the idea of the
possibility of such a creature as Judith becoming his companion for life
first crossed his mind. The image was so pleasant, and so novel, that
he continued completely absorbed by it for more than a minute, totally
regardless of the beautiful reality that was seated before him, watching
the expression of his upright and truth-telling countenance with a
keenness that gave her a very fair, if not an absolutely accurate clue
to his thoughts. Never before had so pleasing a vision floated before
the mind’s eye of the young hunter, but, accustomed most to practical
things, and little addicted to submitting to the power of his
imagination, even while possessed of so much true poetical feeling in
connection with natural objects in particular, he soon recovered his
reason, and smiled at his own weakness, as the fancied picture faded
from his mental sight, and left him the simple, untaught, but highly
moral being he was, seated in the Ark of Thomas Hutter, at midnight,
with the lovely countenance of its late owner’s reputed daughter,
beaming on him with anxious scrutiny, by the light of the solitary lamp.

“You’re wonderful handsome, and enticing, and pleasing to look on,
Judith!” he exclaimed, in his simplicity, as fact resumed its ascendency
over fancy. “Wonderful! I don’t remember ever to have seen so beautiful
a gal, even among the Delawares; and I’m not astonished that Hurry Harry
went away soured as well as disapp’inted!”

“Would you have had me, Deerslayer, become the wife of such a man as
Henry March?”

“There’s that which is in his favor, and there’s that which is ag’in
him. To my taste, Hurry wouldn’t make the best of husbands, but I fear
that the tastes of most young women, hereaway, wouldn’t be so hard upon
him.”

“No--no--Judith without a name would never consent to be called Judith
March! Anything would be better than that.”

“Judith Bumppo wouldn’t sound as well, gal; and there’s many names that
would fall short of March, in pleasing the ear.”

“Ah! Deerslayer, the pleasantness of the sound, in such cases, doesn’t
come through the ear, but through the heart. Everything is agreeable,
when the heart is satisfied. Were Natty Bumppo, Henry March, and Henry
March, Natty Bumppo, I might think the name of March better than it is;
or were he, you, I should fancy the name of Bumppo horrible!”

“That’s just it--yes, that’s the reason of the matter. Now, I’m
nat’rally avarse to sarpents, and I hate even the word, which, the
missionaries tell me, comes from human natur’, on account of a sartain
sarpent at the creation of the ‘arth, that outwitted the first woman;
yet, ever since Chingachgook has ‘arned the title he bears, why the
sound is as pleasant to my ears as the whistle of the whippoorwill of a
calm evening--it is. The feelin’s make all the difference in the world,
Judith, in the natur’ of sounds; ay, even in that of looks, too.”

“This is so true, Deerslayer, that I am surprised you should think it
remarkable a girl, who may have some comeliness herself, should not
think it necessary that her husband should have the same advantage, or
what you fancy an advantage. To me, looks in a man is nothing provided
his countenance be as honest as his heart.”

“Yes, honesty is a great advantage, in the long run; and they that are
the most apt to forget it in the beginning, are the most apt to l’arn
it in the ind. Nevertheless, there’s more, Judith, that look to present
profit than to the benefit that is to come after a time. One they think
a sartainty, and the other an onsartainty. I’m glad, howsever, that you
look at the thing in its true light, and not in the way in which so many
is apt to deceive themselves.”

“I do thus look at it, Deerslayer,” returned the girl with emphasis,
still shrinking with a woman’s sensitiveness from a direct offer of her
hand, “and can say, from the bottom of my heart, that I would rather
trust my happiness to a man whose truth and feelings may be depended
on, than to a false-tongued and false-hearted wretch that had chests
of gold, and houses and lands--yes, though he were even seated on a
throne!”

“These are brave words, Judith; they’re downright brave words; but
do you think that the feelin’s would keep ‘em company, did the ch’ice
actually lie afore you? If a gay gallant in a scarlet coat stood on one
side, with his head smelling like a deer’s foot, his face smooth and
blooming as your own, his hands as white and soft as if God hadn’t
bestowed ‘em that man might live by the sweat of his brow, and his step
as lofty as dancing-teachers and a light heart could make it; and the
other side stood one that has passed his days in the open air till his
forehead is as red as his cheek; had cut his way through swamps and
bushes till his hand was as rugged as the oaks he slept under; had
trodden on the scent of game till his step was as stealthy as the
catamount’s, and had no other pleasant odor about him than such as
natur’ gives in the free air and the forest--now, if both these men
stood here, as suitors for your feelin’s, which do you think would win
your favor?”

Judith’s fine face flushed, for the picture that her companion had
so simply drawn of a gay officer of the garrisons had once been
particularly grateful to her imagination, though experience and
disappointment had not only chilled all her affections, but given them a
backward current, and the passing image had a momentary influence on her
feelings; but the mounting colour was succeeded by a paleness so deadly,
as to make her appear ghastly.

“As God is my judge,” the girl solemnly answered, “did both these men
stand before me, as I may say one of them does, my choice, if I know my
own heart, would be the latter. I have no wish for a husband who is any
way better than myself.”

“This is pleasant to listen to, and might lead a young man in time to
forget his own onworthiness, Judith! Howsever, you hardly think all that
you say. A man like me is too rude and ignorant for one that has had
such a mother to teach her. Vanity is nat’ral, I do believe, but vanity
like that, would surpass reason.”

“Then you do not know of what a woman’s heart is capable! Rude you are
not, Deerslayer, nor can one be called ignorant that has studied what
is before his eyes as closely as you have done. When the affections are
concerned, all things appear in their pleasantest colors, and trifles
are overlooked, or are forgotten. When the heart feels sunshine, nothing
is gloomy, even dull looking objects, seeming gay and bright, and so it
would be between you and the woman who should love you, even though your
wife might happen, in some matters, to possess what the world calls the
advantage over you.”

“Judith, you come of people altogether above mine, in the world, and
onequal matches, like onequal fri’ndships can’t often tarminate kindly.
I speak of this matter altogether as a fanciful thing, since it’s not
very likely that you, at least, would be apt to treat it as a matter
that can ever come to pass.”

Judith fastened her deep blue eyes on the open, frank countenance of
her companion, as if she would read his soul. Nothing there betrayed
any covert meaning, and she was obliged to admit to herself, that he
regarded the conversation as argumentative, rather than positive, and
that he was still without any active suspicion that her feelings were
seriously involved in the issue. At first, she felt offended; then she
saw the injustice of making the self-abasement and modesty of the hunter
a charge against him, and this novel difficulty gave a piquancy to the
state of affairs that rather increased her interest in the young man. At
that critical instant, a change of plan flashed on her mind, and with
a readiness of invention that is peculiar to the quick-witted and
ingenious, she adopted a scheme by which she hoped effectually to bind
him to her person. This scheme partook equally of her fertility of
invention, and of the decision and boldness of her character. That the
conversation might not terminate too abruptly, however, or any suspicion
of her design exist, she answered the last remark of Deerslayer, as
earnestly and as truly as if her original intention remained unaltered.

“I, certainly, have no reason to boast of parentage, after what I have
seen this night,” said the girl, in a saddened voice. “I had a mother,
it is true; but of her name even, I am ignorant--and, as for my father,
it is better, perhaps, that I should never know who he was, lest I speak
too bitterly of him!”

“Judith,” said Deerslayer, taking her hand kindly, and with a manly
sincerity that went directly to the girl’s heart, “tis better to say no
more to-night. Sleep on what you’ve seen and felt; in the morning
things that now look gloomy, may look more che’rful. Above all, never
do anything in bitterness, or because you feel as if you’d like to take
revenge on yourself for other people’s backslidings. All that has been
said or done atween us, this night, is your secret, and shall never be
talked of by me, even with the Sarpent, and you may be sartain if he
can’t get it out of me no man can. If your parents have been faulty, let
the darter be less so; remember that you’re young, and the youthful may
always hope for better times; that you’re more quick-witted than usual,
and such gin’rally get the better of difficulties, and that, as for
beauty, you’re oncommon, which is an advantage with all. It is time to
get a little rest, for to-morrow is like to prove a trying day to some
of us.”

Deerslayer arose as he spoke, and Judith had no choice but to comply.
The chest was closed and secured, and they parted in silence, she to
take her place by the side of Hist and Hetty, and he to seek a blanket
on the floor of the cabin he was in. It was not five minutes ere the
young man was in a deep sleep, but the girl continued awake for a long
time. She scarce knew whether to lament, or to rejoice, at having
failed in making herself understood. On the one hand were her womanly
sensibilities spared; on the other was the disappointment of defeated,
or at least of delayed expectations, and the uncertainty of a future
that looked so dark. Then came the new resolution, and the bold project
for the morrow, and when drowsiness finally shut her eyes, they closed
on a scene of success and happiness, that was pictured by the fancy,
under the influence of a sanguine temperament, and a happy invention.



Chapter XXV


    “But, mother, now a shade has past,
    Athwart my brightest visions here,
    A cloud of darkest gloom has wrapt,
    The remnant of my brief career!
    No song, no echo can I win,
    The sparkling fount has died within.”

    Margaret Davidson, “To my Mother,” 11.  7-12.

Hist and Hetty arose with the return of light, leaving Judith still
buried in sleep. It took but a minute for the first to complete her
toilet. Her long coal-black hair was soon adjusted in a simple knot,
the calico dress belted tight to her slender waist, and her little feet
concealed in their gaudily ornamented moccasins. When attired, she left
her companion employed in household affairs, and went herself on
the platform to breathe the pure air of the morning. Here she found
Chingachgook studying the shores of the lake, the mountains and the
heavens, with the sagacity of a man of the woods, and the gravity of an
Indian.

The meeting between the two lovers was simple, but affectionate. The
chief showed a manly kindness, equally removed from boyish weakness and
haste, while the girl betrayed, in her smile and half averted looks, the
bashful tenderness of her sex. Neither spoke, unless it were with the
eyes, though each understood the other as fully as if a vocabulary of
words and protestations had been poured out. Hist seldom appeared
to more advantage than at that moment, for just from her rest and
ablutions, there was a freshness about her youthful form and face that
the toils of the wood do not always permit to be exhibited, by even the
juvenile and pretty. Then Judith had not only imparted some of her
own skill in the toilet, during their short intercourse, but she had
actually bestowed a few well selected ornaments from her own stores,
that contributed not a little to set off the natural graces of the
Indian maid. All this the lover saw and felt, and for a moment his
countenance was illuminated with a look of pleasure, but it soon grew
grave again, and became saddened and anxious. The stools used the
previous night were still standing on the platform; placing two against
the walls of the hut, he seated himself on one, making a gesture to
his companion to take the other. This done, he continued thoughtful and
silent for quite a minute, maintaining the reflecting dignity of one
born to take his seat at the council-fire, while Hist was furtively
watching the expression of his face, patient and submissive, as became
a woman of her people. Then the young warrior stretched his arm before
him, as if to point out the glories of the scene at that witching
hour, when the whole panorama, as usual, was adorned by the mellow
distinctness of early morning, sweeping with his hand slowly over lake,
hills and heavens. The girl followed the movement with pleased wonder,
smiling as each new beauty met her gaze.

“Hugh!” exclaimed the chief, in admiration of a scene so unusual even
to him, for this was the first lake he had ever beheld. “This is the
country of the Manitou! It is too good for Mingos, Hist; but the curs of
that tribe are howling in packs through the woods. They think that the
Delawares are asleep, over the mountains.”

“All but one of them is, Chingachgook. There is one here; and he is of
the blood of Uncas!”

“What is one warrior against a tribe? The path to our villages is
very long and crooked, and we shall travel it under a cloudy sky. I am
afraid, too, Honeysuckle of the Hills, that we shall travel it alone!”

Hist understood the allusion, and it made her sad; though it sounded
sweet to her ears to be compared, by the warrior she so loved, to the
most fragrant and the pleasantest of all the wild flowers of her native
woods. Still she continued silent, as became her when the allusion was
to a grave interest that men could best control, though it exceeded the
power of education to conceal the smile that gratified feeling brought
to her pretty mouth.

“When the sun is thus,” continued the Delaware, pointing to the zenith,
by simply casting upward a hand and finger, by a play of the wrist, “the
great hunter of our tribe will go back to the Hurons to be treated like
a bear, that they roast and skin even on full stomachs.”

“The Great Spirit may soften their hearts, and not suffer them to be so
bloody minded. I have lived among the Hurons, and know them. They have
hearts, and will not forget their own children, should they fall into
the hands of the Delawares.”

“A wolf is forever howling; a hog will always eat. They have lost
warriors; even their women will call out for vengeance. The pale-face
has the eyes of an eagle, and can see into a Mingo’s heart; he looks for
no mercy. There is a cloud over his spirit, though it is not before his
face.”

A long, thoughtful pause succeeded, during which Hist stealthily took
the hand of the chief, as if seeking his support, though she scarce
ventured to raise her eyes to a countenance that was now literally
becoming terrible, under the conflicting passions and stern resolution
that were struggling in the breast of its owner.

“What will the Son of Uncas do?” the girl at length timidly asked. “He
is a chief, and is already celebrated in council, though so young; what
does his heart tell him is wisest; does the head, too, speak the same
words as the heart?”

“What does Wah-ta-Wah say, at a moment when my dearest friend is in such
danger. The smallest birds sing the sweetest; it is always pleasant to
hearken to their songs. I wish I could hear the Wren of the Woods in my
difficulty; its note would reach deeper than the ear.”

Again Hist experienced the profound gratification that the language of
praise can always awaken when uttered by those we love. The ‘Honeysuckle
of the Hills’ was a term often applied to the girl by the young men of
the Delawares, though it never sounded so sweet in her ears as from the
lips of Chingachgook; but the latter alone had ever styled her the Wren
of the Woods. With him, however, it had got to be a familiar phrase, and
it was past expression pleasant to the listener, since it conveyed to
her mind the idea that her advice and sentiments were as acceptable to
her future husband, as the tones of her voice and modes of conveying
them were agreeable; uniting the two things most prized by an Indian
girl, as coming from her betrothed, admiration for a valued physical
advantage, with respect for her opinion. She pressed the hand she held
between both her own, and answered--

“Wah-ta-Wah says that neither she nor the Great Serpent could ever
laugh again, or ever sleep without dreaming of the Hurons, should the
Deerslayer die under a Mingo tomahawk, and they do nothing to save him.
She would rather go back, and start on her long path alone, than let
such a dark cloud pass before her happiness.”

“Good! The husband and the wife will have but one heart; they will see
with the same eyes, and feel with the same feelings.”

What further was said need not be related here. That the conversation
was of Deerslayer, and his hopes, has been seen already, but the
decision that was come to will better appear in the course of the
narrative. The youthful pair were yet conversing when the sun appeared
above the tops of the pines, and the light of a brilliant American
day streamed down into the valley, bathing “in deep joy” the lake, the
forests and the mountain sides. Just at this instant Deerslayer came out
of the cabin of the Ark and stepped upon the platform. His first look
was at the cloudless heavens, then his rapid glance took in the entire
panorama of land and water, when he had leisure for a friendly nod at
his friends, and a cheerful smile for Hist.

“Well,” he said, in his usual, composed manner, and pleasant voice, “he
that sees the sun set in the west, and wakes ‘arly enough in the morning
will be sartain to find him coming back ag’in in the east, like a buck
that is hunted round his ha’nt. I dare say, now, Hist, you’ve beheld
this, time and ag’in, and yet it never entered into your galish mind to
ask the reason?”

Both Chingachgook and his betrothed looked up at the luminary, with an
air that betokened sudden wonder, and then they gazed at each other,
as if to seek the solution of the difficulty. Familiarity deadens the
sensibilities even as connected with the gravest natural phenomena,
and never before had these simple beings thought of enquiring into a
movement that was of daily occurrence, however puzzling it might appear
on investigation. When the subject was thus suddenly started, it struck
both alike, and at the same instant, with some such force, as any new
and brilliant proposition in the natural sciences would strike the
scholar. Chingachgook alone saw fit to answer.

“The pale-faces know everything,” he said; “can they tell us why the sun
hides his face, when he goes back, at night.”

“Ay, that is downright red-skin l’arnin’” returned the other, laughing,
though he was not altogether insensible to the pleasure of proving the
superiority of his race by solving the difficulty, which he set about
doing in his own peculiar manner. “Harkee, Sarpent,” he continued more
gravely, though too simply for affectation; “this is easierly explained
than an Indian brain may fancy. The sun, while he seems to keep
traveling in the heavens, never budges, but it is the ‘arth that turns
round, and any one can understand, if he is placed on the side of a
mill-wheel, for instance, when it’s in motion, that he must some times
see the heavens, while he is at other times under water. There’s no
great secret in that; but plain natur’; the difficulty being in setting
the ‘arth in motion.”

“How does my brother know that the earth turns round?” demanded the
Indian. “Can he see it?”

“Well, that’s been a puzzler, I will own, Delaware, for I’ve often
tried, but never could fairly make it out. Sometimes I’ve consaited that
I could; and then ag’in, I’ve been obliged to own it an onpossibility.
Howsever, turn it does, as all my people say, and you ought to believe
‘em, since they can foretell eclipses, and other prodigies, that used
to fill the tribes with terror, according to your own traditions of such
things.”

“Good. This is true; no red man will deny it. When a wheel turns, my
eyes can see it--they do not see the earth turn.”

“Ay, that’s what I call sense obstinacy! Seeing is believing, they say,
and what they can’t see, some men won’t in the least give credit to.
Neverthless, chief, that isn’t quite as good reason as it mayat first
seem. You believe in the Great Spirit, I know, and yet, I conclude, it
would puzzle you to show where you see him!”

“Chingachgook can see Him everywhere--everywhere in good things--the Evil
Spirit in bad. Here, in the lake; there, in the forest; yonder, in the
clouds; in Hist, in the Son of Uncas, in Tannemund, in Deerslayer. The
Evil Spirit is in the Mingos. That I see; I do not see the earth turn
round.”

“I don’t wonder they call you the Sarpent, Delaware; no, I don’t!
There’s always a meaning in your words, and there’s often a meaning in
your countenance, too! Notwithstanding, your answers doesn’t quite meet
my idee. That God is observable in all nat’ral objects is allowable, but
then he is not perceptible in the way I mean. You know there is a Great
Spirit by his works, and the pale-faces know that the ‘arth turns round
by its works. This is the reason of the matter, though how it is to
be explained is more than I can exactly tell you. This I know; all my
people consait that fact, and what all the pale-faces consait, is very
likely to be true.”

“When the sun is in the top of that pine to-morrow, where will my
brother Deerslayer be?”

The hunter started, and he looked intently, though totally without
alarm, at his friend. Then he signed for him to follow, and led the way
into the Ark, where he might pursue the subject unheard by those whose
feelings he feared might get the mastery over their reason. Here he
stopped, and pursued the conversation in a more confidential tone.

“‘Twas a little onreasonable in you Sarpent,” he said, “to bring up such
a subject afore Hist, and when the young women of my own colour might
overhear what was said. Yes, ‘twas a little more onreasonable than most
things that you do. No matter; Hist didn’t comprehend, and the other
didn’t hear. Howsever, the question is easier put than answered. No
mortal can say where he will be when the sun rises to-morrow. I will ask
you the same question, Sarpent, and should like to hear what answer you
can give.”

“Chingachgook will be with his friend Deerslayer--if he be in the land
of spirits, the Great Serpent will crawl at his side; if beneath yonder
sun, its warmth and light shall fall on both.”

“I understand you, Delaware,” returned the other, touched with the
simple self-devotion of his friend, “Such language is as plain in one
tongue as in another. It comes from the heart, and goes to the heart,
too. ‘Tis well to think so, and it may be well to say so, for that
matter, but it would not be well to do so, Sarpent. You are no longer
alone in life, for though you have the lodges to change, and other
ceremonies to go through, afore Hist becomes your lawful wife, yet are
you as good as married in all that bears on the feelin’s, and joy, and
misery. No--no--Hist must not be desarted, because a cloud is passing
atween you and me, a little onexpectedly and a little darker than we may
have looked for.”

“Hist is a daughter of the Mohicans. She knows how to obey her husband.
Where he goes, she will follow. Both will be with the Great Hunter of
the Delawares, when the sun shall be in the pine to-morrow.”

“The Lord bless and protect you! Chief, this is downright madness. Can
either, or both of you, alter a Mingo natur’? Will your grand looks,
or Hist’s tears and beauty, change a wolf into a squirrel, or make a
catamount as innocent as a fa’an? No--Sarpent, you will think better
of this matter, and leave me in the hands of God. A’ter all, it’s by no
means sartain that the scamps design the torments, for they may yet be
pitiful, and bethink them of the wickedness of such a course--though it
is but a hopeless expectation to look forward to a Mingo’s turning aside
from evil, and letting marcy get uppermost in his heart. Nevertheless,
no one knows to a sartainty what will happen, and young creatur’s, like
Hist, a’n’t to be risked on onsartainties. This marrying is altogether
a different undertaking from what some young men fancy. Now, if you was
single, or as good as single, Delaware, I should expect you to be actyve
and stirring about the camp of the vagabonds, from sunrise to sunset,
sarcumventing and contriving, as restless as a hound off the scent, and
doing all manner of things to help me, and to distract the inimy, but
two are oftener feebler than one, and we must take things as they are,
and not as we want ‘em to be.”

“Listen, Deerslayer,” returned the Indian with an emphasis so decided as
to show how much he was in earnest. “If Chingachgook was in the hands
of the Hurons, what would my pale-face brother do? Sneak off to the
Delaware villages, and say to the chiefs, and old men, and young
warriors--‘see, here is Wah-ta-Wah; she is safe, but a little tired;
and here is the Son of Uncas, not as tired as the Honeysuckle, being
stronger, but just as safe.’ Would he do this?”

“Well, that’s oncommon ingen’ous; it’s cunning enough for a Mingo,
himself! The Lord only knows what put it into your head to ask such a
question. What would I do? Why, in the first place, Hist wouldn’t be
likely to be in my company at all, for she would stay as near you as
possible, and therefore all that part about her couldn’t be said without
talking nonsense. As for her being tired, that would fall through too,
if she didn’t go, and no part of your speech would be likely to come
from me; so, you see, Sarpent, reason is ag’in you, and you may as well
give it up, since to hold out ag’in reason, is no way becoming a chief
of your character and repitation.”

“My brother is not himself; he forgets that he is talking to one who has
sat at the Council Fire of his nation,” returned the other kindly. “When
men speak, they should say that which does not go in at one side of the
head and out at the other. Their words shouldn’t be feathers, so light
that a wind which does not ruffle the water can blow them away. He
has not answered my question; when a chief puts a question, his friend
should not talk of other things.”

“I understand you, Delaware; I understand well enough what you mean, and
truth won’t allow me to say otherwise. Still it’s not as easy to answer
as you seem to think, for this plain reason. You wish me to say what
I would do if I had a betrothed as you have, here, on the lake, and a
fri’nd yonder in the Huron camp, in danger of the torments. That’s it,
isn’t it?”

The Indian bowed his head silently, and always with unmoved gravity,
though his eye twinkled at the sight of the other’s embarrassment.

“Well, I never had a betrothed--never had the kind of feelin’s toward
any young woman that you have towards Hist, though the Lord knows my
feelin’s are kind enough towards ‘em all! Still my heart, as they call
it in such matters, isn’t touched, and therefore I can’t say what I
would do. A fri’nd pulls strong, that I know by exper’ence, Sarpent,
but, by all that I’ve seen and heard consarning love, I’m led to think
that a betrothed pulls stronger.”

“True; but the betrothed of Chingachgook does not pull towards the
lodges of the Delawares; she pulls towards the camp of the Hurons.”

“She’s a noble gal, for all her little feet, and hands that an’t bigger
than a child’s, and a voice that is as pleasant as a mocker’s; she’s a
noble gal, and like the stock of her sires! Well, what is it, Sarpent;
for I conclude she hasn’t changed her mind, and means to give herself
up, and turn Huron wife. What is it you want?”

“Wah-ta-Wah will never live in the wigwam of an Iroquois,” answered
the Delaware drily. “She has little feet, but they can carry her to the
villages of her people; she has small hands, too, but her mind is large.
My brother will see what we can do, when the time shall come, rather
than let him die under Mingo torments.”

“Attempt nothing heedlessly, Delaware,” said the other earnestly; “I
suppose you must and will have your way; and, on the whole it’s right
you should, for you’d neither be happy, unless something was undertaken.
But attempt nothing heedlessly--I didn’t expect you’d quit the lake,
while my matter remained in unsartainty, but remember, Sarpent, that no
torments that Mingo ingenuity can invent, no ta’ntings and revilings;
no burnings and roastings and nail-tearings, nor any other onhuman
contrivances can so soon break down my spirit, as to find that you and
Hist have fallen into the power of the inimy in striving to do something
for my good.”

“The Delawares are prudent. The Deerslayer will not find them running
into a strange camp with their eyes shut.”

Here the dialogue terminated. Hetty announced that the breakfast was
ready, and the whole party was soon seated around the simple board, in
the usual primitive manner of borderers. Judith was the last to take her
seat, pale, silent, and betraying in her countenance that she had passed
a painful, if not a sleepless, night. At this meal scarce a syllable was
exchanged, all the females manifesting want of appetites, though the
two men were unchanged in this particular. It was early when the
party arose, and there still remained several hours before it would be
necessary for the prisoner to leave his friends. The knowledge of this
circumstance, and the interest all felt in his welfare, induced the
whole to assemble on the platform again, in the desire to be near the
expected victim, to listen to his discourse, and if possible to show
their interest in him by anticipating his wishes. Deerslayer, himself,
so far as human eyes could penetrate, was wholly unmoved, conversing
cheerfully and naturally, though he avoided any direct allusions to the
expected and great event of the day. If any evidence could be discovered
of his thought’s reverting to that painful subject at all, it was in the
manner in which he spoke of death and the last great change.

“Grieve not, Hetty,” he said, for it was while consoling this
simple-minded girl for the loss of her parents that he thus betrayed his
feelings, “since God has app’inted that all must die. Your parents, or
them you fancied your parents, which is the same thing, have gone afore
you; this is only in the order of natur’, my good gal, for the aged
go first, and the young follow. But one that had a mother like your’n,
Hetty, can be at no loss to hope the best, as to how matters will turn
out in another world. The Delaware, here, and Hist, believe in happy
hunting grounds, and have idees befitting their notions and gifts as
red-skins, but we who are of white blood hold altogether to a different
doctrine. Still, I rather conclude our heaven is their land of spirits,
and that the path which leads to it will be travelled by all colours
alike. ‘Tis onpossible for the wicked to enter on it, I will allow, but
fri’nds can scarce be separated, though they are not of the same race
on ‘arth. Keep up your spirits, poor Hetty, and look forward to the
day when you will meet your mother ag’in, and that without pain, or
sorrowing.”

“I do expect to see mother,” returned the truth-telling and simple girl,
“but what will become of father?”

“That’s a non-plusser, Delaware,” said the hunter, in the Indian
dialect--“yes, that is a downright non-plusser! The Muskrat was not
a saint on ‘arth, and it’s fair to guess he’ll not be much of one,
hereafter! Howsever, Hetty,” dropping into the English by an easy
transition, “howsever, Hetty, we must all hope for the best. That is
wisest, and it is much the easiest to the mind, if one can only do it.
I ricommend to you, trusting to God, and putting down all misgivings and
fainthearted feelin’s. It’s wonderful, Judith, how different people have
different notions about the futur’, some fancying one change, and some
fancying another. I’ve known white teachers that have thought all was
spirit, hereafter, and them, ag’in, that believed the body will be
transported to another world, much as the red-skins themselves imagine,
and that we shall walk about in the flesh, and know each other, and talk
together, and be fri’nds there as we’ve been fri’nds here.”

“Which of these opinions is most pleasing to you, Deerslayer?” asked the
girl, willing to indulge his melancholy mood, and far from being free
from its influence herself. “Would it be disagreeable to think that you
should meet all who are now on this platform in another world? Or have
you known enough of us here, to be glad to see us no more.

“The last would make death a bitter portion; yes it would. It’s eight
good years since the Sarpent and I began to hunt together, and the
thought that we were never to meet ag’in would be a hard thought to me.
He looks forward to the time when he shall chase a sort of spirit-deer,
in company, on plains where there’s no thorns, or brambles, or marshes,
or other hardships to overcome, whereas I can’t fall into all these
notions, seeing that they appear to be ag’in reason. Spirits can’t
eat, nor have they any use for clothes, and deer can only rightfully be
chased to be slain, or slain, unless it be for the venison or the
hides. Now, I find it hard to suppose that blessed spirits can be put to
chasing game without an object, tormenting the dumb animals just for the
pleasure and agreeableness of their own amusements. I never yet pulled
a trigger on buck or doe, Judith, unless when food or clothes was
wanting.”

“The recollection of which, Deerslayer, must now be a great consolation
to you.”

“It is the thought of such things, my fri’nds, that enables a man to
keep his furlough. It might be done without it, I own; for the worst
red-skins sometimes do their duty in this matter; but it makes that
which might otherwise be hard, easy, if not altogether to our liking.
Nothing truly makes a bolder heart than a light conscience.”

Judith turned paler than ever, but she struggled for self-command, and
succeeded in obtaining it. The conflict had been severe, however, and
it left her so little disposed to speak that Hetty pursued the subject.
This was done in the simple manner natural to the girl.

“It would be cruel to kill the poor deer,” she said, “in this world, or
any other, when you don’t want their venison, or their skins. No good
white man, and no good red man would do it. But it’s wicked for a
Christian to talk about chasing anything in heaven. Such things are
not done before the face of God, and the missionary that teaches these
doctrines can’t be a true missionary. He must be a wolf in sheep’s
clothing. I suppose you know what a sheep is, Deerslayer.”

“That I do, gal, and a useful creatur’ it is, to such as like cloths
better than skins for winter garments. I understand the natur’ of sheep,
though I’ve had but little to do with ‘em, and the natur’ of wolves too,
and can take the idee of a wolf in the fleece of a sheep, though I think
it would be like to prove a hot jacket for such a beast, in the warm
months!”

“And sin and hypocrisy are hot jackets, as they will find who put them
on,” returned Hetty, positively, “so the wolf would be no worse off than
the sinner. Spirits don’t hunt, nor trap, nor fish, nor do anything that
vain men undertake, since they’ve none of the longings of this world to
feed. Oh! Mother told me all that, years ago, and I don’t wish to hear
it denied.”

“Well, my good Hetty, in that case you’d better not broach your doctrine
to Hist, when she and you are alone, and the young Delaware maiden is
inclined to talk religion. It’s her fixed idee, I know, that the good
warriors do nothing but hunt and fish in the other world, though I don’t
believe that she fancies any of them are brought down to trapping, which
is no empl’yment for a brave. But of hunting and fishing, accordin’ to
her notion, they’ve their fill, and that, too, over the most agreeablest
hunting grounds, and among game that is never out of season, and which
is just actyve and instinctyve enough to give a pleasure to death. So I
wouldn’t ricommend it to you to start Hist on that idee.”

“Hist can’t be so wicked as to believe any such thing,” returned the
other, earnestly. “No Indian hunts after he is dead.”

“No wicked Indian, I grant you; no wicked Indian, sartainly. He is
obliged to carry the ammunition, and to look on without sharing in the
sport, and to cook, and to light the fires, and to do every thing that
isn’t manful. Now, mind; I don’t tell you these are my idees, but they
are Hist’s idees, and, therefore, for the sake of peace the less you say
to her ag’in ‘em, the better.”

“And what are your ideas of the fate of an Indian, in the other world?”
 demanded Judith, who had just found her voice.

“Ah! gal, any thing but that! I am too Christianized to expect any thing
so fanciful as hunting and fishing after death, nor do I believe there
is one Manitou for the red-skin and another for a pale-face. You find
different colours on ‘arth, as any one may see, but you don’t find
different natur’s. Different gifts, but only one natur’.”

“In what is a gift different from a nature? Is not nature itself a gift
from God?”

“Sartain; that’s quick-thoughted, and creditable, Judith, though the
main idee is wrong. A natur’ is the creatur’ itself; its wishes, wants,
idees and feelin’s, as all are born in him. This natur’ never can be
changed, in the main, though it may undergo some increase, or lessening.
Now, gifts come of sarcumstances. Thus, if you put a man in a town, he
gets town gifts; in a settlement, settlement gifts; in a forest, gifts
of the woods. A soldier has soldierly gifts, and a missionary preaching
gifts. All these increase and strengthen, until they get to fortify
natur’, as it might be, and excuse a thousand acts and idees. Still
the creatur’ is the same at the bottom; just as a man who is clad in
regimentals is the same as the man that is clad in skins. The garments
make a change to the eye, and some change in the conduct, perhaps; but
none in the man. Herein lies the apology for gifts; seein’ that you
expect different conduct from one in silks and satins, from one in
homespun; though the Lord, who didn’t make the dresses, but who made
the creatur’s themselves, looks only at his own work. This isn’t ra’al
missionary doctrine, but it’s as near it as a man of white colour need
be. Ah’s! me; little did I think to be talking of such matters, to-day,
but it’s one of our weaknesses never to know what will come to pass.
Step into the Ark with me, Judith, for a minute; I wish to convarse with
you.”

Judith complied with a willingness she could scarce conceal. Following
the hunter into the cabin, she took a seat on a stool, while the young
man brought Killdeer, the rifle she had given him, out of a corner, and
placed himself on another, with the weapon laid upon his knees. After
turning the piece round and round, and examining its lock and its breech
with a sort of affectionate assiduity, he laid it down and proceeded to
the subject which had induced him to desire the interview.

“I understand you, Judith, to say that you gave me this rifle,” he said.
“I agreed to take it, because a young woman can have no particular use
for firearms. The we’pon has a great name, and it desarves it, and
ought of right to be carried by some known and sure hand, for the best
repitation may be lost by careless and thoughtless handling.”

“Can it be in better hands than those in which it is now, Deerslayer?
Thomas Hutter seldom missed with it; with you it must turn out to be--”

“Sartain death!” interrupted the hunter, laughing. “I once know’d a
beaver-man that had a piece he called by that very name, but ‘twas all
boastfulness, for I’ve seen Delawares that were as true with arrows,
at a short range. Howsever, I’ll not deny my gifts--for this is a gift,
Judith, and not natur’--but, I’ll not deny my gifts, and therefore allow
that the rifle couldn’t well be in better hands than it is at present.
But, how long will it be likely to remain there? Atween us, the truth
may be said, though I shouldn’t like to have it known to the Sarpent and
Hist; but, to you the truth may be spoken, since your feelin’s will not
be as likely to be tormented by it, as those of them that have known me
longer and better. How long am I like to own this rifle or any other?
That is a serious question for our thoughts to rest on, and should
that happen which is so likely to happen, Killdeer would be without an
owner.”

Judith listened with apparent composure, though the conflict within
came near overpowering her. Appreciating the singular character of her
companion, however, she succeeded in appearing calm, though, had not his
attention been drawn exclusively to the rifle, a man of his keenness of
observation could scarce have failed to detect the agony of mind with
which the girl had hearkened to his words. Her great self-command,
notwithstanding, enabled her to pursue the subject in a way still to
deceive him.

“What would you have me do with the weapon,” she asked, “should that
which you seem to expect take place?”

“That’s just what I wanted to speak to you about, Judith; that’s just
it. There’s Chingachgook, now, though far from being parfect sartainty,
with a rifle--for few red-skins ever get to be that--though far
from being parfect sartainty, he is respectable, and is coming on.
Nevertheless, he is my fri’nd, and all the better fri’nd, perhaps,
because there never can be any hard feelin’s atween us, touchin’ our
gifts, his’n bein’ red, and mine bein’ altogether white. Now, I should
like to leave Killdeer to the Sarpent, should any thing happen to keep
me from doing credit and honor to your precious gift, Judith.”

“Leave it to whom you please, Deerslayer. The rifle is your own, to do
with as you please. Chingachgook shall have it, should you never return
to claim it, if that be your wish.”

“Has Hetty been consulted in this matter? Property goes from the parent
to the children, and not to one child, in partic’lar!”

“If you place your right on that of the law, Deerslayer, I fear none of
us can claim to be the owner. Thomas Hutter was no more the father
of Esther, than he was the father of Judith. Judith and Esther we are
truly, having no other name!”

“There may be law in that, but there’s no great reason, gal. Accordin’
to the custom of families, the goods are your’n, and there’s no one
here to gainsay it. If Hetty would only say that she is willing, my
mind would be quite at ease in the matter. It’s true, Judith, that
your sister has neither your beauty, nor your wit; but we should be the
tenderest of the rights and welfare of the most weak-minded.”

The girl made no answer but placing herself at a window, she summoned
her sister to her side. When the question was put to Hetty, that
simple-minded and affectionate creature cheerfully assented to the
proposal to confer on Deerslayer a full right of ownership to the
much-coveted rifle. The latter now seemed perfectly happy, for the time
being at least, and after again examining and re-examining his prize, he
expressed a determination to put its merits to a practical test, before
he left the spot. No boy could have been more eager to exhibit the
qualities of his trumpet, or his crossbow, than this simple forester was
to prove those of his rifle. Returning to the platform, he first took
the Delaware aside, and informed him that this celebrated piece was
to become his property, in the event of any thing serious befalling
himself.

“This is a new reason why you should be wary, Sarpent, and not run into
any oncalculated danger,” the hunter added, “for, it will be a victory
of itself to a tribe to own such a piece as this! The Mingos will turn
green with envy, and, what is more, they will not ventur’ heedlessly
near a village where it is known to be kept. So, look well to it,
Delaware, and remember that you’ve now to watch over a thing that has
all the valie of a creatur’, without its failin’s. Hist may be,
and should be precious to you, but Killdeer will have the love and
veneration of your whole people.”

“One rifle like another, Deerslayer,” returned the Indian, in English,
the language used by the other, a little hurt at his friend’s lowering
his betrothed to the level of a gun. “All kill; all wood and iron. Wife
dear to heart; rifle good to shoot.”

“And what is a man in the woods without something to shoot with?--a
miserable trapper, or a forlorn broom and basket maker, at the best.
Such a man may hoe corn, and keep soul and body together, but he can
never know the savory morsels of venison, or tell a bear’s ham from a
hog’s. Come, my fri’nd, such another occasion may never offer ag’in,
and I feel a strong craving for a trial with this celebrated piece.
You shall bring out your own rifle, and I will just sight Killdeer in a
careless way, in order that we may know a few of its secret vartues.”

As this proposition served to relieve the thoughts of the whole party,
by giving them a new direction, while it was likely to produce no
unpleasant results, every one was willing to enter into it; the girls
bringing forth the firearms with an alacrity bordering on cheerfulness.
Hutter’s armory was well supplied, possessing several rifles, all of
which were habitually kept loaded in readiness to meet any sudden demand
for their use. On the present occasion it only remained to freshen the
primings, and each piece was in a state for service. This was soon done,
as all assisted in it, the females being as expert in this part of the
system of defence as their male companions.

“Now, Sarpent, we’ll begin in a humble way, using Old Tom’s commoners
first, and coming to your we’pon and Killdeer as the winding up
observations,” said Deerslayer, delighted to be again, weapon in hand,
ready to display his skill. “Here’s birds in abundance, some in, and
some over the lake, and they keep at just a good range, hovering round
the hut. Speak your mind, Delaware, and p’int out the creatur’ you wish
to alarm. Here’s a diver nearest in, off to the eastward, and that’s a
creatur’ that buries itself at the flash, and will be like enough to try
both piece and powder.”

Chingachgook was a man of few words. No sooner was the bird pointed out
to him than he took his aim and fired. The duck dove at the flash, as
had been expected, and the bullet skipped harmlessly along the surface
of the lake, first striking the water within a few inches of the spot
where the bird had so lately swam. Deerslayer laughed, cordially and
naturally, but at the same time he threw himself into an attitude
of preparation and stood keenly watching the sheet of placid water.
Presently a dark spot appeared, and then the duck arose to breathe, and
shook its wings. While in this act, a bullet passed directly through
its breast, actually turning it over lifeless on its back. At the next
moment, Deerslayer stood with the breech of his rifle on the platform,
as tranquil as if nothing had happened, though laughing in his own
peculiar manner.

“There’s no great trial of the pieces in that!” he said, as if anxious
to prevent a false impression of his own merit. “No, that proof’s
neither for nor ag’in the rifles, seeing it was all quickness of hand
and eye. I took the bird at a disadvantage, or he might have got under,
again, afore the bullet reached him. But the Sarpent is too wise to mind
such tricks, having long been used to them. Do you remember the time,
chief, when you thought yourself sartain of the wild-goose, and I took
him out of your very eyes, as it might be with a little smoke! Howsever,
such things pass for nothing atween fri’nds, and young folk will have
their fun, Judith. Ay; here’s just the bird we want, for it’s as good
for the fire, as it is for the aim, and nothing should be lost that can
be turned to just account. There, further north, Delaware.”

The latter looked in the required direction, and he soon saw a large
black duck floating in stately repose on the water. At that distant day,
when so few men were present to derange the harmony of the wilderness,
all the smaller lakes with which the interior of New York so abounds
were places of resort for the migratory aquatic birds, and this sheet
like the others had once been much frequented by all the varieties of
the duck, by the goose, the gull, and the loon. On the appearance of
Hutter, the spot was comparatively deserted for other sheets, more
retired and remote, though some of each species continued to resort
thither, as indeed they do to the present hour. At that instant, a
hundred birds were visible from the castle, sleeping on the water or
laying their feathers in the limpid element, though no other offered so
favorable a mark as that Deerslayer had just pointed out to his friend.
Chingachgook, as usual, spared his words, and proceeded to execution.
This time his aim was more careful than before, and his success in
proportion. The bird had a wing crippled, and fluttered along the water
screaming, materially increasing its distance from its enemies.

“That bird must be put out of pain,” exclaimed Deerslayer, the moment
the animal endeavored to rise on the wing, “and this is the rifle and
the eye to do it.”

The duck was still floundering along, when the fatal bullet overtook it,
severing the head from the neck as neatly as if it had been done with
an axe. Hist had indulged in a low cry of delight at the success of the
young Indian, but now she affected to frown and resent the greater skill
of his friend. The chief, on the contrary, uttered the usual exclamation
of pleasure, and his smile proved how much he admired, and how little he
envied.

“Never mind the gal, Sarpent, never mind Hist’s feelin’s, which will
neither choke, nor drown, slay nor beautify,” said Deerslayer, laughing.
“‘Tis nat’ral for women to enter into their husband’s victories and
defeats, and you are as good as man and wife, so far as prejudyce and
fri’ndship go. Here is a bird over head that will put the pieces to the
proof. I challenge you to an upward aim, with a flying target. That’s
a ra’al proof, and one that needs sartain rifles, as well as sartain
eyes.”

The species of eagle that frequents the water, and lives on fish, was
also present, and one was hovering at a considerable height above the
hut, greedily watching for an opportunity to make a swoop; its hungry
young elevating their heads from a nest that was in sight, in the naked
summit of a dead pine. Chingachgook silently turned a new piece against
this bird, and after carefully watching his time, fired. A wider circuit
than common denoted that the messenger had passed through the air at no
great distance from the bird, though it missed its object. Deerslayer,
whose aim was not more true than it was quick, fired as soon as it was
certain his friend had missed, and the deep swoop that followed left
it momentarily doubtful whether the eagle was hit or not. The marksman
himself, however, proclaimed his own want of success, calling on his
friend to seize another rifle, for he saw signs on the part of the bird
of an intention to quit the spot.

“I made him wink, Sarpent, I do think his feathers were ruffled, but
no blood has yet been drawn, nor is that old piece fit for so nice and
quick a sight. Quick, Delaware, you’ve now a better rifle, and, Judith,
bring out Killdeer, for this is the occasion to try his merits, if he
has ‘em.”

A general movement followed, each of the competitors got ready, and the
girls stood in eager expectation of the result. The eagle had made a
wide circuit after his low swoop, and fanning his way upward, once more
hovered nearly over the hut, at a distance even greater than before.
Chingachgook gazed at him, and then expressed his opinion of the
impossibility of striking a bird at that great height, and while he was
so nearly perpendicular, as to the range. But a low murmur from Hist
produced a sudden impulse and he fired. The result showed how well he
had calculated, the eagle not even varying his flight, sailing round and
round in his airy circle, and looking down, as if in contempt, at his
foes.

“Now, Judith,” cried Deerslayer, laughing, with glistening and delighted
eyes, “we’ll see if Killdeer isn’t Killeagle, too! Give me room
Sarpent, and watch the reason of the aim, for by reason any thing may be
l’arned.”

A careful sight followed, and was repeated again and again, the bird
continuing to rise higher and higher. Then followed the flash and the
report. The swift messenger sped upward, and, at the next instant, the
bird turned on its side, and came swooping down, now struggling with
one wing and then with the other, sometimes whirling in a circuit,
next fanning desperately as if conscious of its injury, until, having
described several complete circles around the spot, it fell heavily into
the end of the Ark. On examining the body, it was found that the
bullet had pierced it about half way between one of its wings and the
breast-bone.



Chapter XXVI.


    “Upon two stony tables, spread before her,
    She lean’d her bosom, more than stony hard,
    There slept th’ impartial judge, and strict restorer
    Of wrong, or right, with pain or with reward;
    There hung the score of all our debts, the card
    Where good, and bad, and life, and death, were painted;
    Was never heart of mortal so untainted,
    But when the roll was read, with thousand terrors fainted.”

    Giles Fletcher, Christ’s Victory in Heaven, lxv.

“We’ve done an unthoughtful thing, Sarpent--yes, Judith, we’ve done an
unthoughtful thing in taking life with an object no better than vanity!”
 exclaimed Deerslayer, when the Delaware held up the enormous bird, by
its wings, and exhibited the dying eyes riveted on its enemies with
the gaze that the helpless ever fasten on their destroyers. “‘Twas more
becomin’ two boys to gratify their feelin’s in this onthoughtful manner,
than two warriors on a warpath, even though it be their first. Ah’s!
me; well, as a punishment I’ll quit you at once, and when I find myself
alone with them bloody-minded Mingos, it’s more than like I’ll have
occasion to remember that life is sweet, even to the beasts of the woods
and the fowls of the air. There, Judith; there’s Kildeer; take him back,
ag’in, and keep him for some hand that’s more desarving to own such a
piece.”

“I know of none as deserving as your own, Deerslayer,” answered the girl
in haste; “none but yours shall keep the rifle.”

“If it depended on skill, you might be right enough, gal, but we should
know when to use firearms, as well as how to use ‘em. I haven’t l’arnt
the first duty yet, it seems; so keep the piece till I have. The sight
of a dyin’ and distressed creatur’, even though it be only a bird,
brings wholesome thoughts to a man who don’t know how soon his own time
may come, and who is pretty sartain that it will come afore the sun
sets; I’d give back all my vain feelin’s, and rej’icin’s in hand and
eye, if that poor eagle was only on its nest ag’in, with its young,
praisin’ the Lord for anything that we can know about the matter, for
health and strength!”

The listeners were confounded with this proof of sudden repentance in
the hunter, and that too for an indulgence so very common, that men
seldom stop to weigh its consequences, or the physical suffering it may
bring on the unoffending and helpless. The Delaware understood what was
said, though he scarce understood the feelings which had prompted the
words, and by way of disposing of the difficulty, he drew his keen
knife, and severed the head of the sufferer from its body.

“What a thing is power!” continued the hunter, “and what a thing it is
to have it, and not to know how to use it. It’s no wonder, Judith, that
the great so often fail of their duties, when even the little and the
humble find it so hard to do what’s right, and not to do what’s wrong.
Then, how one evil act brings others a’ter it! Now, wasn’t it for this
furlough of mine, which must soon take me back to the Mingos, I’d find
this creatur’s nest, if I travelled the woods a fortnight--though
an eagle’s nest is soon found by them that understands the bird’s
natur’,--but I’d travel a fortnight rather than not find it, just to put
the young, too, out of their pain.”

“I’m glad to hear you say this, Deerslayer,” observed Hetty, “and God
will be more apt to remember your sorrow for what you’ve done, than the
wickedness itself. I thought how wicked it was to kill harmless birds,
while you were shooting, and meant to tell you so; but, I don’t know how
it happened,--I was so curious to see if you could hit an eagle at so
great a height, that I forgot altogether to speak, ‘till the mischief
was done.”

“That’s it; that’s just it, my good Hetty. We can all see our faults and
mistakes when it’s too late to help them! Howsever I’m glad you didn’t
speak, for I don’t think a word or two would have stopped me, just at
that moment, and so the sin stands in its nakedness, and not aggravated
by any unheeded calls to forbear. Well, well, bitter thoughts are hard
to be borne at all times, but there’s times when they’re harder than at
others.”

Little did Deerslayer know, while thus indulging in feelings that
were natural to the man, and so strictly in accordance with his
own unsophisticated and just principles, that, in the course of the
inscrutable providence, which so uniformly and yet so mysteriously
covers all events with its mantle, the very fault he was disposed so
severely to censure was to be made the means of determining his own
earthly fate. The mode and the moment in which he was to feel the
influence of this interference, it would be premature to relate, but
both will appear in the course of the succeeding chapters. As for
the young man, he now slowly left the Ark, like one sorrowing for his
misdeeds, and seated himself in silence on the platform. By this time
the sun had ascended to some height, and its appearance, taken in
connection with his present feelings, induced him to prepare to depart.
The Delaware got the canoe ready for his friend, as soon as apprised of
his intention, while Hist busied herself in making the few arrangements
that were thought necessary to his comfort. All this was done without
ostentation, but in a way that left Deerslayer fully acquainted with,
and equally disposed to appreciate, the motive. When all was ready, both
returned to the side of Judith and Hetty, neither of whom had moved from
the spot where the young hunter sat.

“The best fri’nds must often part,” the last began, when he saw the
whole party grouped around him--“yes, fri’ndship can’t alter the ways
of Providence, and let our feelin’s be as they may, we must part. I’ve
often thought there’s moments when our words dwell longer on the mind
than common, and when advice is remembered, just because the mouth that
gives it isn’t likely to give it ag’in. No one knows what will happen in
this world, and therefore it may be well, when fri’nds separate under a
likelihood that the parting may be long, to say a few words in kindness,
as a sort of keepsakes. If all but one will go into the Ark, I’ll talk
to each in turn, and what is more, I’ll listen to what you may have to
say back ag’in, for it’s a poor counsellor that won’t take as well as
give.”

As the meaning of the speaker was understood, the two Indians
immediately withdrew as desired, leaving the sisters, however, still
standing at the young man’s side. A look of Deerslayer’s induced Judith
to explain.

“You can advise Hetty as you land,” she said hastily, “for I intend that
she shall accompany you to the shore.”

“Is this wise, Judith? It’s true, that under common sarcumstances
a feeble mind is a great protection among red-skins, but when their
feelin’s are up, and they’re bent on revenge, it’s hard to say what may
come to pass. Besides--”

“What were you about to say, Deerslayer?” asked Judith, whose gentleness
of voice and manner amounted nearly to tenderness, though she struggled
hard to keep her emotions and apprehensions in subjection.

“Why, simply that there are sights and doin’s that one even as little
gifted with reason and memory as Hetty here, might better not witness.
So, Judith, you would do well to let me land alone, and to keep your
sister back.”

“Never fear for me, Deerslayer,” put in Hetty, who comprehended enough
of the discourse to know its general drift, “I’m feeble minded, and that
they say is an excuse for going anywhere; and what that won’t excuse,
will be overlooked on account of the Bible I always carry. It is
wonderful, Judith, how all sorts of men; the trappers as well as the
hunters; red-men as well as white; Mingos as well as Delawares do
reverence and fear the Bible!”

“I think you have not the least ground to fear any injury, Hetty,”
 answered the sister, “and therefore I shall insist on your going to the
Huron camp with our friend. Your being there can do no harm, not even to
yourself, and may do great good to Deerslayer.”

“This is not a moment, Judith, to dispute, and so have the matter your
own way,” returned the young man. “Get yourself ready, Hetty, and go
into the canoe, for I’ve a few parting words to say to your sister,
which can do you no good.”

Judith and her companion continued silent, until Hetty had so far
complied as to leave them alone, when Deerslayer took up the subject,
as if it had been interrupted by some ordinary occurrence, and in a very
matter of fact way.

“Words spoken at parting, and which may be the last we ever hear from a
fri’nd are not soon forgotten,” he repeated, “and so Judith, I intend
to speak to you like a brother, seein’ I’m not old enough to be your
father. In the first place, I wish to caution you ag’in your inimies,
of which two may be said to ha’nt your very footsteps, and to beset your
ways. The first is oncommon good looks, which is as dangerous a foe
to some young women, as a whole tribe of Mingos could prove, and which
calls for great watchfulness--not to admire and praise--but to distrust
and sarcumvent. Yes, good looks may be sarcumvented, and fairly
outwitted, too. In order to do this you’ve only to remember that they
melt like the snows, and, when once gone, they never come back ag’in.
The seasons come and go, Judith, and if we have winter, with storms and
frosts, and spring with chills and leafless trees, we have summer with
its sun and glorious skies, and fall with its fruits, and a garment
thrown over the forest, that no beauty of the town could rummage out of
all the shops in America. ‘Arth is in an etarnal round, the goodness of
God bringing back the pleasant when we’ve had enough of the onpleasant.
But it’s not so with good looks. They are lent for a short time in
youth, to be used and not abused, and, as I never met with a young woman
to whom providence has been as bountiful as it has to you, Judith, in
this partic’lar, I warn you, as it might be with my dyin’ breath, to
beware of the inimy--fri’nd, or inimy, as we deal with the gift.”

It was so grateful to Judith to hear these unequivocal admissions of her
personal charms, that much would have been forgiven to the man who
made them, let him be who he might. But, at that moment, and from a far
better feeling, it would not have been easy for Deerslayer seriously
to offend her, and she listened with a patience, which, had it been
foretold only a week earlier, it would have excited her indignation to
hear.

“I understand your meaning, Deerslayer,” returned the girl, with a
meekness and humility that a little surprised her listener, “and hope to
be able to profit by it. But, you have mentioned only one of the enemies
I have to fear; who, or what is the other.”

“The other is givin’ way afore your own good sense and judgment, I
find, Judith; yes, he’s not as dangerous as I supposed. Howsever, havin’
opened the subject, it will be as well to end it honestly. The first
inimy you have to be watchful of, as I’ve already told you, Judith,
is oncommon good looks, and the next is an oncommon knowledge of the
sarcumstance. If the first is bad, the last doesn’t, in any way, mend
the matter, so far as safety and peace of mind are consarned.”

How much longer the young man would have gone on in his simple and
unsuspecting, but well intentioned manner, it might not be easy to say,
had he not been interrupted by his listener’s bursting into tears, and
giving way to an outbreak of feeling, which was so much the more violent
from the fact that it had been with so much difficulty suppressed. At
first her sobs were so violent and uncontrollable that Deerslayer was a
little appalled, and he was abundantly repentant from the instant that
he discovered how much greater was the effect produced by his words than
he had anticipated. Even the austere and exacting are usually appeased
by the signs of contrition, but the nature of Deerslayer did not require
proofs of intense feelings so strong in order to bring him down to a
level with the regrets felt by the girl herself. He arose, as if an
adder had stung him, and the accents of the mother that soothes her
child were scarcely more gentle and winning than the tones of his voice,
as he now expressed his contrition at having gone so far.

“It was well meant, Judith,” he said, “but it was not intended to hurt
your feelin’s so much. I have overdone the advice, I see; yes, I’ve
overdone it, and I crave your pardon for the same. Fri’ndship’s an awful
thing! Sometimes it chides us for not having done enough; and then,
ag’in it speaks in strong words for havin’ done too much. Howsever, I
acknowledge I’ve overdone the matter, and as I’ve a ra’al and strong
regard for you, I rej’ice to say it, inasmuch as it proves how much
better you are, than my own vanity and consaits had made you out to be.”

Judith now removed her hands from her face, her tears had ceased, and
she unveiled a countenance so winning with the smile which rendered
it even radiant, that the young man gazed at her, for a moment, with
speechless delight.

“Say no more, Deerslayer,” she hastily interposed; “it pains me to hear
you find fault with yourself. I know my own weakness, all the better,
now I see that you have discovered it; the lesson, bitter as I have
found it for a moment, shall not be forgotten. We will not talk any
longer of these things, for I do not feel myself brave enough for the
undertaking, and I should not like the Delaware, or Hist, or even Hetty,
to notice my weakness. Farewell, Deerslayer; may God bless and protect
you as your honest heart deserves blessings and protection, and as I
must think he will.”

Judith had so far regained the superiority that properly belonged to her
better education, high spirit, and surpassing personal advantages, as
to preserve the ascendancy she had thus accidentally obtained, and
effectually prevented any return to the subject that was as singularly
interrupted, as it had been singularly introduced. The young man
permitted her to have every thing her own way, and when she pressed his
hard hand in both her own, he made no resistance, but submitted to the
homage as quietly, and with quite as matter of course a manner, as a
sovereign would have received a similar tribute from a subject, or the
mistress from her suitor. Feeling had flushed the face and illuminated
the whole countenance of the girl, and her beauty was never more
resplendant than when she cast a parting glance at the youth. That
glance was filled with anxiety, interest and gentle pity. At the next
instant, she darted into the hut and was seen no more, though she spoke
to Hist from a window, to inform her that their friend expected her
appearance.

“You know enough of red-skin natur’, and red-skin usages, Wah-ta-Wah,
to see the condition I am in on account of this furlough,” commenced the
hunter in Delaware, as soon as the patient and submissive girl of
that people had moved quietly to his side; “you will therefore best
onderstand how onlikely I am ever to talk with you ag’in. I’ve but
little to say; but that little comes from long livin’ among your people,
and from havin’ obsarved and noted their usages. The life of a woman is
hard at the best, but I must own, though I’m not opinionated in favor of
my own colour, that it is harder among the red men than it is among
the pale-faces. This is a p’int on which Christians may well boast, if
boasting can be set down for Christianity in any manner or form, which I
rather think it cannot. Howsever, all women have their trials. Red women
have their’n in what I should call the nat’ral way, while white women
take ‘em innoculated like. Bear your burthen, Hist, becomingly, and
remember if it be a little toilsome, how much lighter it is than that of
most Indian women. I know the Sarpent well--what I call cordially--and
he will never be a tyrant to any thing he loves, though he will expect
to be treated himself like a Mohican Chief. There will be cloudy days
in your lodge I suppose, for they happen under all usages, and among all
people, but, by keepin’ the windows of the heart open there will always
be room for the sunshine to enter. You come of a great stock yourself,
and so does Chingachgook. It’s not very likely that either will ever
forget the sarcumstance and do any thing to disgrace your forefathers.
Nevertheless, likin’ is a tender plant, and never thrives long when
watered with tears. Let the ‘arth around your married happiness be
moistened by the dews of kindness.”

“My pale brother is very wise; Wah will keep in her mind all that his
wisdom tells her.”

“That’s judicious and womanly, Hist. Care in listening, and
stout-heartedness in holding to good counsel, is a wife’s great
protection. And, now, ask the Sarpent to come and speak with me, for a
moment, and carry away with you all my best wishes and prayers. I shall
think of you, Hist, and of your intended husband, let what may come to
pass, and always wish you well, here and hereafter, whether the last is
to be according to Indian idees, or Christian doctrines.”

Hist shed no tear at parting. She was sustained by the high resolution
of one who had decided on her course, but her dark eyes were luminous
with the feelings that glowed within, and her pretty countenance beamed
with an expression of determination that was in marked and singular
contrast to its ordinary gentleness. It was but a minute ere the
Delaware advanced to the side of his friend with the light, noiseless
tread of an Indian.

“Come this-a-way, Sarpent, here more out of sight of the women,”
 commenced the Deerslayer, “for I’ve several things to say that mustn’t
so much as be suspected, much less overheard. You know too well
the natur’ of furloughs and Mingos to have any doubts or misgivin’s
consarnin’ what is like to happen, when I get back to the camp. On them
two p’ints therefore, a few words will go a great way. In the first
place, chief, I wish to say a little about Hist, and the manner in which
you red men treat your wives. I suppose it’s accordin’ to the gifts of
your people that the women should work, and the men hunt; but there’s
such a thing as moderation in all matters. As for huntin’, I see no good
reason why any limits need be set to that, but Hist comes of too good a
stock to toil like a common drudge. One of your means and standin’ need
never want for corn, or potatoes, or anything that the fields yield;
therefore, I hope the hoe will never be put into the hands of any wife
of yourn. You know I am not quite a beggar, and all I own, whether in
ammunition, skins, arms, or calicoes, I give to Hist, should I not come
back to claim them by the end of the season. This will set the maiden
up, and will buy labor for her, for a long time to come. I suppose I
needn’t tell you to love the young woman, for that you do already, and
whomsoever the man ra’ally loves, he’ll be likely enough to cherish.
Nevertheless, it can do no harm to say that kind words never rankle,
while bitter words do. I know you’re a man, Sarpent, that is less apt to
talk in his own lodge, than to speak at the Council Fire; but forgetful
moments may overtake us all, and the practyse of kind doin’, and kind
talkin’, is a wonderful advantage in keepin’ peace in a cabin, as well
as on a hunt.”

“My ears are open,” returned the Delaware gravely; “the words of my
brother have entered so far that they never can fall out again. They
are like rings, that have no end, and cannot drop. Let him speak on; the
song of the wren and the voice of a friend never tire.”

“I will speak a little longer, chief, but you will excuse it for the
sake of old companionship, should I now talk about myself. If the worst
comes to the worst, it’s not likely there’ll be much left of me but
ashes, so a grave would be useless, and a sort of vanity. On that score
I’m no way partic’lar, though it might be well enough to take a look
at the remains of the pile, and should any bones, or pieces be found,
‘twould be more decent to gather them together, and bury them, than to
let them lie for the wolves to gnaw at, and howl over. These matters
can make no great difference in the mind, but men of white blood and
Christian feelin’s have rather a gift for graves.”

“It shall be done as my brother says,” returned the Indian, gravely. “If
his mind is full, let him empty it in the bosom of a friend.”

“I thank you, Sarpent; my mind’s easy enough; yes, it’s tolerable easy.
Idees will come uppermost that I’m not apt to think about in common,
it’s true, but by striving ag’in some, and lettin’ other some out, all
will come right in the long run. There’s one thing, howsever, chief,
that does seem to me to be onreasonable, and ag’in natur’, though the
missionaries say it’s true, and bein’ of my religion and colour I feel
bound to believe them. They say an Injin may torment and tortur’ the
body to his heart’s content, and scalp, and cut, and tear, and burn,
and consume all his inventions and deviltries, until nothin’ is left but
ashes, and they shall be scattered to the four winds of heaven, yet when
the trumpet of God shall sound, all will come together ag’in, and the
man will stand forth in his flesh, the same creatur’ as to looks, if not
as to feelin’s, that he was afore he was harmed!”

“The missionaries are good men--mean well,” returned the Delaware
courteously; “they are not great medicines. They think all they say,
Deerslayer; that is no reason why warriors and orators should be all
ears. When Chingachgook shall see the father of Tamenund standing in his
scalp, and paint, and war lock, then will he believe the missionaries.”

“Seein’ is believin’, of a sartainty; ahs! me--and some of us may see
these things sooner than we thought. I comprehind your meanin’ about
Tamenund’s father, Sarpent, and the idee’s a close idee. Tamenund is now
an elderly man, say eighty every day of it, and his father was scalped,
and tormented, and burnt, when the present prophet was a youngster. Yes,
if one could see that come to pass, there wouldn’t be much difficulty
in yieldin’ faith to all that the missionaries say. Howsever, I am
not ag’in the opinion now, for you must know, Sarpent, that the great
principle of Christianity is to believe without seeing, and a man should
always act up to his religion and principles, let them be what they
may.”

“That is strange for a wise nation!” said the Delaware with emphasis.
“The red man looks hard, that he may see and understand.”

“Yes, that’s plauserble, and is agreeable to mortal pride, but it’s not
as deep as it seems. If we could understand all we see, Sarpent, there
might be not only sense, but safety, in refusin’ to give faith to any
one thing that we might find oncomperhensible; but when there’s so many
things about which it may be said we know nothin’ at all, why, there’s
little use, and no reason, in bein’ difficult touchin’ any one in
partic’lar. For my part, Delaware, all my thoughts haven’t been on the
game, when outlyin’ in the hunts and scoutin’s of our youth. Many’s the
hour I’ve passed, pleasantly enough too, in what is tarmed conterplation
by my people. On such occasions the mind is actyve, though the body
seems lazy and listless. An open spot on a mountain side, where a wide
look can be had at the heavens and the ‘arth, is a most judicious place
for a man to get a just idee of the power of the Manitou, and of his
own littleness. At such times, there isn’t any great disposition to find
fault with little difficulties, in the way of comperhension, as there
are so many big ones to hide them. Believin’ comes easy enough to me at
such times, and if the Lord made man first out of ‘arth, as they tell me
it is written in the Bible; then turns him into dust at death; I see
no great difficulty in the way to bringin’ him back in the body,
though ashes be the only substance left. These things lie beyond our
understandin’, though they may and do lie so close to our feelin’s. But,
of all the doctrines, Sarpent, that which disturbs me, and disconsarts
my mind the most, is the one which teaches us to think that a pale-face
goes to one heaven, and a red-skin to another; it may separate in death
them which lived much together, and loved each other well, in life!”

“Do the missionaries teach their white brethren to think it is so?”
 demanded the Indian, with serious earnestness. “The Delawares believe
that good men and brave warriors will hunt together in the same pleasant
woods, let them belong to whatever tribe they may; that all the unjust
Indians and cowards will have to sneak in with the dogs and the wolves
to get venison for their lodges.”

“‘Tis wonderful how many consaits mankind have consarnin’ happiness and
misery, here after!” exclaimed the hunter, borne away by the power of
his own thoughts. “Some believe in burnin’s and flames, and some think
punishment is to eat with the wolves and dogs. Then, ag’in, some fancy
heaven to be only the carryin’ out of their own ‘arthly longin’s, while
others fancy it all gold and shinin’ lights! Well, I’ve an idee of my
own, in that matter, which is just this, Sarpent. Whenever I’ve done
wrong, I’ve ginirally found ‘twas owin’ to some blindness of the mind,
which hid the right from view, and when sight has returned, then has
come sorrow and repentance. Now, I consait that, after death, when
the body is laid aside or, if used at all, is purified and without its
longin’s, the spirit sees all things in their ra’al lights and never
becomes blind to truth and justice. Such bein’ the case, all that has
been done in life, is beheld as plainly as the sun is seen at noon;
the good brings joy, while the evil brings sorrow. There’s nothin’
onreasonable in that, but it’s agreeable to every man’s exper’ence.”

“I thought the pale-faces believed all men were wicked; who then could
ever find the white man’s heaven?”

“That’s ingen’ous, but it falls short of the missionary teachin’s.
You’ll be Christianized one day, I make no doubt, and then ‘twill all
come plain enough. You must know, Sarpent, that there’s been a great
deed of salvation done, that, by God’s help, enables all men to find
a pardon for their wickednesses, and that is the essence of the white
man’s religion. I can’t stop to talk this matter over with you any
longer, for Hetty’s in the canoe, and the furlough takes me away, but
the time will come I hope when you’ll feel these things; for, after all,
they must be felt rather than reasoned about. Ah’s! me; well, Delaware,
there’s my hand; you know it’s that of a fri’nd, and will shake it as
such, though it never has done you one half the good its owner wishes it
had.”

The Indian took the offered hand, and returned its pressure warmly. Then
falling back on his acquired stoicism of manner, which so many mistake
for constitutional indifference, he drew up in reserve, and prepared
to part from his friend with dignity. Deerslayer, however, was more
natural, nor would he have at all cared about giving way to his
feelings, had not the recent conduct and language of Judith given him
some secret, though ill defined apprehensions of a scene. He was too
humble to imagine the truth concerning the actual feelings of that
beautiful girl, while he was too observant not to have noted the
struggle she had maintained with herself, and which had so often led
her to the very verge of discovery. That something extraordinary was
concealed in her breast he thought obvious enough, and, through a
sentiment of manly delicacy that would have done credit to the highest
human refinement, he shrunk from any exposure of her secret that might
subsequently cause regret to the girl, herself. He therefore determined
to depart, now, and that without any further manifestations of feeling
either from him, or from others.

“God bless you! Sarpent--God bless you!” cried the hunter, as the canoe
left the side of the platform. “Your Manitou and my God only know when
and where we shall meet ag’in; I shall count it a great blessing, and a
full reward for any little good I may have done on ‘arth, if we shall be
permitted to know each other, and to consort together, hereafter, as we
have so long done in these pleasant woods afore us!”

Chingachgook waved his hand. Drawing the light blanket he wore over
his head, as a Roman would conceal his grief in his robes, he slowly
withdrew into the Ark, in order to indulge his sorrow and his musings,
alone. Deerslayer did not speak again until the canoe was half-way to
the shore. Then he suddenly ceased paddling, at an interruption that
came from the mild, musical voice of Hetty.

“Why do you go back to the Hurons, Deerslayer?” demanded the girl. “They
say I am feeble-minded, and such they never harm, but you have as much
sense as Hurry Harry; and more too, Judith thinks, though I don’t see
how that can well be.”

“Ah! Hetty, afore we land I must convarse a little with you child,
and that too on matters touching your own welfare, principally. Stop
paddling--or, rather, that the Mingos needn’t think we are plotting and
contriving, and so treat us accordingly, just dip your paddle lightly,
and give the canoe a little motion and no more. That’s just the idee and
the movement; I see you’re ready enough at an appearance, and might be
made useful at a sarcumvention if it was lawful now to use one--that’s
just the idee and the movement! Ah’s! me. Desait and a false tongue are
evil things, and altogether onbecoming our colour, Hetty, but it is a
pleasure and a satisfaction to outdo the contrivances of a red-skin in
the strife of lawful warfare. My path has been short, and is like soon
to have an end, but I can see that the wanderings of a warrior aren’t
altogether among brambles and difficulties. There’s a bright side to a
warpath, as well as to most other things, if we’ll only have the wisdom
to see it, and the ginerosity to own it.”

“And why should your warpath, as you call it, come so near to an end,
Deerslayer?”

“Because, my good girl, my furlough comes so near to an end. They’re
likely to have pretty much the same tarmination, as regards time, one
following on the heels of the other, as a matter of course.”

“I don’t understand your meaning, Deerslayer--” returned the girl,
looking a little bewildered. “Mother always said people ought to speak
more plainly to me than to most other persons, because I’m feeble
minded. Those that are feeble minded, don’t understand as easily as
those that have sense.”

“Well then, Hetty, the simple truth is this. You know that I’m now a
captyve to the Hurons, and captyves can’t do, in all things, as they
please--”

“But how can you be a captive,” eagerly interrupted the girl--“when you
are out here on the lake, in father’s best canoe, and the Indians are in
the woods with no canoe at all? That can’t be true, Deerslayer!”

“I wish with all my heart and soul, Hetty, that you was right, and that
I was wrong, instead of your bein’ all wrong, and I bein’ only too near
the truth. Free as I seem to your eyes, gal, I’m bound hand and foot in
ra’ality.”

“Well it is a great misfortune not to have sense! Now I can’t see or
understand that you are a captive, or bound in any manner. If you are
bound, with what are your hands and feet fastened?”

“With a furlough, gal; that’s a thong that binds tighter than any
chain. One may be broken, but the other can’t. Ropes and chains allow of
knives, and desait, and contrivances; but a furlough can be neither cut,
slipped nor sarcumvented.”

“What sort of a thing is a furlough, then, if it be stronger than hemp
or iron? I never saw a furlough.”

“I hope you may never feel one, gal; the tie is altogether in the
feelin’s, in these matters, and therefore is to be felt and not seen.
You can understand what it is to give a promise, I dare to say, good
little Hetty?”

“Certainly. A promise is to say you will do a thing, and that binds you
to be as good as your word. Mother always kept her promises to me, and
then she said it would be wicked if I didn’t keep my promises to her,
and to every body else.”

“You have had a good mother, in some matters, child, whatever she may
have been in other some. That is a promise, and as you say it must be
kept. Now, I fell into the hands of the Mingos last night, and they let
me come off to see my fri’nds and send messages in to my own colour, if
any such feel consarn on my account, on condition that I shall be back
when the sun is up to-day, and take whatever their revenge and hatred
can contrive, in the way of torments, in satisfaction for the life of
a warrior that fell by my rifle, as well as for that of the young woman
shot by Hurry, and other disapp’intments met with on and about this
lake. What is called a promise atween mother and darter, or even atween
strangers in the settlements is called a furlough when given by one
soldier to another, on a warpath. And now I suppose you understand my
situation, Hetty.”

The girl made no answer for some time, but she ceased paddling
altogether, as if the novel idea distracted her mind too much to admit
of other employment. Then she resumed the dialogue earnestly and with
solicitude.

“Do you think the Hurons will have the heart to do what you say,
Deerslayer?” she asked. “I have found them kind and harmless.”

“That’s true enough as consarns one like you, Hetty, but it’s a very
different affair when it comes to an open inimy, and he too the owner of
a pretty sartain rifle. I don’t say that they bear me special malice on
account of any expl’ites already performed, for that would be bragging,
as it might be, on the varge of the grave, but it’s no vanity to believe
that they know one of their bravest and cunnin’est chiefs fell by my
hands. Such bein’ the case, the tribe would reproach them if they failed
to send the spirit of a pale-face to keep the company of the spirit of
their red brother; always supposin’ that he can catch it. I look for
no marcy, Hetty, at their hands; and my principal sorrow is that such a
calamity should befall me on my first warpath: that it would come sooner
or later, every soldier counts on and expects.”

“The Hurons shall not harm you, Deerslayer,” cried the girl, much
excited--“‘Tis wicked as well as cruel; I have the Bible, here, to tell
them so. Do you think I would stand by and see you tormented?”

“I hope not, my good Hetty, I hope not; and, therefore, when the moment
comes, I expect you will move off, and not be a witness of what you
can’t help, while it would grieve you. But, I haven’t stopped the
paddles to talk of my own afflictions and difficulties, but to speak a
little plainly to you, gal, consarnin’ your own matters.”

“What can you have to say to me, Deerslayer! Since mother died, few talk
to me of such things.”

“So much the worse, poor gal; yes, ‘tis so much the worse, for one of
your state of mind needs frequent talking to, in order to escape the
snares and desaits of this wicked world. You haven’t forgotten Hurry
Harry, gal, so soon, I calculate?”

“I!--I forget Henry March!” exclaimed Hetty, starting. “Why should I
forget him, Deerslayer, when he is our friend, and only left us last
night. Then the large bright star that mother loved so much to gaze at
was just over the top of yonder tall pine on the mountain, as Hurry got
into the canoe; and when you landed him on the point, near the east bay,
it wasn’t more than the length of Judith’s handsomest ribbon above it.”

“And how can you know how long I was gone, or how far I went to land
Hurry, seein’ you were not with us, and the distance was so great, to
say nothing of the night?”

“Oh! I know when it was, well enough,” returned Hetty
positively--“There’s more ways than one for counting time and distance.
When the mind is engaged, it is better than any clock. Mine is feeble,
I know, but it goes true enough in all that touches poor Hurry Harry.
Judith will never marry March, Deerslayer.”

“That’s the p’int, Hetty; that’s the very p’int I want to come to.
I suppose you know that it’s nat’ral for young people to have kind
feelin’s for one another, more especially when one happens to be a youth
and t’other a maiden. Now, one of your years and mind, gal, that has
neither father nor mother, and who lives in a wilderness frequented by
hunters and trappers, needs be on her guard against evils she little
dreams of.”

“What harm can it be to think well of a fellow creature,” returned Hetty
simply, though the conscious blood was stealing to her cheeks in spite
of a spirit so pure that it scarce knew why it prompted the blush, “the
Bible tells us to ‘love them who despitefully use’ us, and why shouldn’t
we like them that do not.”

“Ah! Hetty, the love of the missionaries isn’t the sort of likin’ I
mean. Answer me one thing, child; do you believe yourself to have mind
enough to become a wife, and a mother?”

“That’s not a proper question to ask a young woman, Deerslayer, and
I’ll not answer it,” returned the girl, in a reproving manner--much as
a parent rebukes a child for an act of indiscretion. “If you have any
thing to say about Hurry, I’ll hear that--but you must not speak evil of
him; he is absent, and ‘tis unkind to talk evil of the absent.”

“Your mother has given you so many good lessons, Hetty, that my fears
for you are not as great as they were. Nevertheless, a young woman
without parents, in your state of mind, and who is not without beauty,
must always be in danger in such a lawless region as this. I would say
nothin’ amiss of Hurry, who, in the main, is not a bad man for one
of his callin’, but you ought to know one thing, which it may not be
altogether pleasant to tell you, but which must be said. March has a
desperate likin’ for your sister Judith.”

“Well, what of that? Everybody admires Judith, she’s so handsome, and
Hurry has told me, again and again, how much he wishes to marry her.
But that will never come to pass, for Judith don’t like Hurry. She likes
another, and talks about him in her sleep; though you need not ask me
who he is, for all the gold in King George’s crown, and all the jewels
too, wouldn’t tempt me to tell you his name. If sisters can’t keep each
other’s secrets, who can?”

“Sartainly, I do not wish you to tell me, Hetty, nor would it be any
advantage to a dyin’ man to know. What the tongue says when the mind’s
asleep, neither head nor heart is answerable for.”

“I wish I knew why Judith talks so much in her sleep, about officers,
and honest hearts, and false tongues, but I suppose she don’t like to
tell me, as I’m feeble minded. Isn’t it odd, Deerslayer, that Judith
don’t like Hurry--he who is the bravest looking youth that ever comes
upon the lake, and is as handsome as she is herself. Father always said
they would be the comeliest couple in the country, though mother didn’t
fancy March any more than Judith. There’s no telling what will happen,
they say, until things actually come to pass.”

“Ahs! me--well, poor Hetty, ‘tis of no great use to talk to them that
can’t understand you, and so I’ll say no more about what I did wish
to speak of, though it lay heavy on my mind. Put the paddle in motion
ag’in, gal, and we’ll push for the shore, for the sun is nearly up, and
my furlough is almost out.”

The canoe now glided ahead, holding its way towards the point where
Deerslayer well knew that his enemies expected him, and where he now
began to be afraid he might not arrive in season to redeem his
plighted faith. Hetty, perceiving his impatience without very clearly
comprehending its cause, however, seconded his efforts in a way that
soon rendered their timely return no longer a matter of doubt. Then,
and then only, did the young man suffer his exertions to flag, and Hetty
began, again, to prattle in her simple confiding manner, though nothing
farther was uttered that it may be thought necessary to relate.



Chapter XXVII.


    “Thou hast been busy, Death, this day, and yet
    But half thy work is done!  The gates of hell
    Are thronged, yet twice ten thousand spirits more
    Who from their warm and healthful tenements
    Fear no divorce; must, ere the sun go down,
    Enter the world of woe!”--

    Southey, Roderick, the Last of the Goths, XXIV, i-6.

One experienced in the signs of the heavens, would have seen that the
sun wanted but two or three minutes of the zenith, when Deerslayer
landed on the point, where the Hurons were now encamped, nearly abreast
of the castle. This spot was similar to the one already described, with
the exception that the surface of the land was less broken, and less
crowded with trees. Owing to these two circumstances, it was all the
better suited to the purpose for which it had been selected, the space
beneath the branches bearing some resemblance to a densely wooded lawn.
Favoured by its position and its spring, it had been much resorted to by
savages and hunters, and the natural grasses had succeeded their fires,
leaving an appearance of sward in places, a very unusual accompaniment
of the virgin forest. Nor was the margin of water fringed with bushes,
as on so much of its shore, but the eye penetrated the woods immediately
on reaching the strand, commanding nearly the whole area of the
projection.

If it was a point of honor with the Indian warrior to redeem his word,
when pledged to return and meet his death at a given hour, so was it
a point of characteristic pride to show no womanish impatience, but to
reappear as nearly as possible at the appointed moment. It was well not
to exceed the grace accorded by the generosity of the enemy, but it was
better to meet it to a minute. Something of this dramatic effect mingles
with most of the graver usages of the American aborigines, and no doubt,
like the prevalence of a similar feeling among people more sophisticated
and refined, may be referred to a principle of nature. We all love the
wonderful, and when it comes attended by chivalrous self-devotion and a
rigid regard to honor, it presents itself to our admiration in a shape
doubly attractive. As respects Deerslayer, though he took a pride in
showing his white blood, by often deviating from the usages of the
red-men, he frequently dropped into their customs, and oftener into
their feelings, unconsciously to himself, in consequence of having no
other arbiters to appeal to, than their judgments and tastes. On the
present occasion, he would have abstained from betraying a feverish
haste by a too speedy return, since it would have contained a tacit
admission that the time asked for was more than had been wanted; but,
on the other hand, had the idea occurred to him, he would have quickened
his movements a little, in order to avoid the dramatic appearance of
returning at the precise instant set as the utmost limit of his absence.
Still, accident had interfered to defeat the last intention, for when
the young man put his foot on the point, and advanced with a steady
tread towards the group of chiefs that was seated in grave array on
a fallen tree, the oldest of their number cast his eye upward, at an
opening in the trees, and pointed out to his companions the startling
fact that the sun was just entering a space that was known to mark the
zenith. A common, but low exclamation of surprise and admiration escaped
every mouth, and the grim warriors looked at each other, some with envy
and disappointment, some with astonishment at the precise accuracy of
their victim, and others with a more generous and liberal feeling. The
American Indian always deemed his moral victories the noblest, prizing
the groans and yielding of his victim under torture, more than the
trophy of his scalp; and the trophy itself more than his life. To slay,
and not to bring off the proof of victory, indeed, was scarcely deemed
honorable, even these rude and fierce tenants of the forest, like their
more nurtured brethren of the court and the camp, having set up for
themselves imaginary and arbitrary points of honor, to supplant the
conclusions of the right and the decisions of reason.

The Hurons had been divided in their opinions concerning the probability
of their captive’s return. Most among them, indeed, had not expected it
possible for a pale-face to come back voluntarily, and meet the known
penalties of an Indian torture; but a few of the seniors expected better
things from one who had already shown himself so singularly cool, brave
and upright. The party had come to its decision, however, less in
the expectation of finding the pledge redeemed, than in the hope of
disgracing the Delawares by casting into their teeth the delinquency
of one bred in their villages. They would have greatly preferred that
Chingachgook should be their prisoner, and prove the traitor, but the
pale-face scion of the hated stock was no bad substitute for their
purposes, failing in their designs against the ancient stem. With a
view to render their triumph as signal as possible, in the event of the
hour’s passing without the reappearance of the hunter, all the warriors
and scouts of the party had been called in, and the whole band, men,
women and children, was now assembled at this single point, to be a
witness of the expected scene. As the castle was in plain view, and
by no means distant, it was easily watched by daylight, and, it being
thought that its inmates were now limited to Hurry, the Delaware and
the two girls, no apprehensions were felt of their being able to escape
unseen. A large raft having a breast-work of logs had been prepared,
and was in actual readiness to be used against either Ark or castle
as occasion might require, so soon as the fate of Deerslayer was
determined, the seniors of the party having come to the opinion that it
was getting to be hazardous to delay their departure for Canada beyond
the coming night. In short the band waited merely to dispose of this
single affair, ere it brought matters with those in the Castle to a
crisis, and prepared to commence its retreat towards the distant waters
of Ontario.

It was an imposing scene into which Deerslayer now found himself
advancing. All the older warriors were seated on the trunk of the fallen
tree, waiting his approach with grave decorum. On the right stood the
young men, armed, while left was occupied by the women and children. In
the centre was an open space of considerable extent, always canopied by
trees, but from which the underbrush, dead wood, and other obstacles had
been carefully removed. The more open area had probably been much used
by former parties, for this was the place where the appearance of a
sward was the most decided. The arches of the woods, even at high noon,
cast their sombre shadows on the spot, which the brilliant rays of the
sun that struggled through the leaves contributed to mellow, and, if
such an expression can be used, to illuminate. It was probably from a
similar scene that the mind of man first got its idea of the effects of
gothic tracery and churchly hues, this temple of nature producing
some such effect, so far as light and shadow were concerned, as the
well-known offspring of human invention.

As was not unusual among the tribes and wandering bands of the
Aborigines, two chiefs shared, in nearly equal degrees, the principal
and primitive authority that was wielded over these children of the
forest. There were several who might claim the distinction of being
chief men, but the two in question were so much superior to all the rest
in influence, that, when they agreed, no one disputed their mandates,
and when they were divided the band hesitated, like men who had lost
their governing principle of action. It was also in conformity with
practice, perhaps we might add in conformity with nature, that one of
the chiefs was indebted to his mind for his influence, whereas the other
owed his distinction altogether to qualities that were physical. One
was a senior, well known for eloquence in debate, wisdom in council, and
prudence in measures; while his great competitor, if not his rival, was
a brave distinguished in war, notorious for ferocity, and remarkable, in
the way of intellect, for nothing but the cunning and expedients of the
war path. The first was Rivenoak, who has already been introduced to the
reader, while the last was called le Panth’ere, in the language of the
Canadas, or the Panther, to resort to the vernacular of the English
colonies. The appellation of the fighting chief was supposed to indicate
the qualities of the warrior, agreeably to a practice of the red man’s
nomenclature, ferocity, cunning and treachery being, perhaps, the
distinctive features of his character. The title had been received from
the French, and was prized so much the more from that circumstance,
the Indian submitting profoundly to the greater intelligence of his
pale-face allies, in most things of this nature. How well the sobriquet
was merited will be seen in the sequel.

Rivenoak and the Panther sat side by side awaiting the approach of their
prisoner, as Deerslayer put his moccasined foot on the strand, nor did
either move, or utter a syllable, until the young man had advanced into
the centre of the area, and proclaimed his presence with his voice. This
was done firmly, though in the simple manner that marked the character
of the individual.

“Here I am, Mingos,” he said, in the dialect of the Delawares, a
language that most present understood; “here I am, and there is the sun.
One is not more true to the laws of natur’, than the other has proved
true to his word. I am your prisoner; do with me what you please. My
business with man and ‘arth is settled; nothing remains now but to meet
the white man’s God, accordin’ to a white man’s duties and gifts.”

A murmur of approbation escaped even the women at this address, and, for
an instant there was a strong and pretty general desire to adopt into
the tribe one who owned so brave a spirit. Still there were dissenters
from this wish, among the principal of whom might be classed the
Panther, and his sister, le Sumach, so called from the number of her
children, who was the widow of le Loup Cervier, now known to have fallen
by the hand of the captive. Native ferocity held one in subjection,
while the corroding passion of revenge prevented the other from
admitting any gentler feeling at the moment. Not so with Rivenoak. This
chief arose, stretched his arm before him in a gesture of courtesy, and
paid his compliments with an ease and dignity that a prince might have
envied. As, in that band, his wisdom and eloquence were confessedly
without rivals, he knew that on himself would properly fall the duty of
first replying to the speech of the pale-face.

“Pale-face, you are honest,” said the Huron orator. “My people are happy
in having captured a man, and not a skulking fox. We now know you; we
shall treat you like a brave. If you have slain one of our warriors, and
helped to kill others, you have a life of your own ready to give away in
return. Some of my young men thought that the blood of a pale-face was
too thin; that it would refuse to run under the Huron knife. You will
show them it is not so; your heart is stout, as well as your body. It
is a pleasure to make such a prisoner; should my warriors say that the
death of le Loup Cervier ought not to be forgotten, and that he cannot
travel towards the land of spirits alone, that his enemy must be sent
to overtake him, they will remember that he fell by the hand of a brave,
and send you after him with such signs of our friendship as shall not
make him ashamed to keep your company. I have spoken; you know what I
have said.”

“True enough, Mingo, all true as the gospel,” returned the simple minded
hunter, “you have spoken, and I do know not only what you have said,
but, what is still more important, what you mean. I dare to say
your warrior the Lynx was a stout-hearted brave, and worthy of your
fri’ndship and respect, but I do not feel unworthy to keep his company,
without any passport from your hands. Nevertheless, here I am, ready
to receive judgment from your council, if, indeed, the matter was not
detarmined among you afore I got back.”

“My old men would not sit in council over a pale-face until they saw him
among them,” answered Rivenoak, looking around him a little ironically;
“they said it would be like sitting in council over the winds; they go
where they will, and come back as they see fit, and not otherwise. There
was one voice that spoke in your favor, Deerslayer, but it was alone,
like the song of the wren whose mate has been struck by the hawk.”

“I thank that voice whosever it may have been, Mingo, and will say it
was as true a voice as the rest were lying voices. A furlough is as
binding on a pale-face, if he be honest, as it is on a red-skin, and was
it not so, I would never bring disgrace on the Delawares, among whom I
may be said to have received my edication. But words are useless, and
lead to braggin’ feelin’s; here I am; act your will on me.”

Rivenoak made a sign of acquiescence, and then a short conference was
privately held among the chiefs. As soon as the latter ended, three or
four young men fell back from among the armed group, and disappeared.
Then it was signified to the prisoner that he was at liberty to go at
large on the point, until a council was held concerning his fate. There
was more of seeming, than of real confidence, however, in this apparent