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The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

Part 10 out of 11

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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 today, 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

"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

"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

"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

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, Ie 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 Ie
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 liberality, inasmuch as the
young men mentioned already formed a line of sentinels across the
breadth of the point, inland, and escape from any other part was
out of the question. Even the canoe was removed beyond this line of
sentinels, to a spot where it was considered safe from any sudden
attempt. These precautions did not proceed from a failure of
confidence, but from the circumstance that the prisoner had now
complied with all the required conditions of his parole, and it
would have been considered a commendable and honorable exploit to
escape from his foes. So nice, indeed, were the distinctions drawn
by the savages in cases of this nature, that they often gave their
victims a chance to evade the torture, deeming it as creditable
to the captors to overtake, or to outwit a fugitive, when his
exertions were supposed to be quickened by the extreme jeopardy
of his situation, as it was for him to get clear from so much
extraordinary vigilance.

Nor was Deerslayer unconscious of, or forgetful, of his rights and
of his opportunities. Could he now have seen any probable opening
for an escape, the attempt would not have been delayed a minute. But
the case seem'd desperate. He was aware of the line of sentinels,
and felt the difficulty of breaking through it, unharmed. The lake
offered no advantages, as the canoe would have given his foes the
greatest facilities for overtaking him; else would he have found
it no difficult task to swim as far as the castle. As he walked
about the point, he even examined the spot to ascertain if it
offered no place of concealment, but its openness, its size, and
the hundred watchful glances that were turned towards him, even
while those who made them affected not to see him, prevented any
such expedient from succeeding. The dread and disgrace of failure
had no influence on Deerslayer, who deemed it even a point of honor
to reason and feel like a white man, rather than as an Indian, and
who felt it a sort of duty to do all he could that did not involve
a dereliction from principle, in order to save his life. Still he
hesitated about making the effort, for he also felt that he ought
to see the chance of success before he committed himself.

In the mean time the business of the camp appeared to proceed in
its regular train. The chiefs consulted apart, admitting no one
but the Sumach to their councils, for she, the widow of the fallen
warrior, had an exclusive right to be heard on such an occasion.
The young men strolled about in indolent listlessness, awaiting the
result with Indian patience, while the females prepared the feast
that was to celebrate the termination of the affair, whether it
proved fortunate or otherwise for our hero. No one betrayed feeling,
and an indifferent observer, beyond the extreme watchfulness of
the sentinels, would have detected no extraordinary movement or
sensation to denote the real state of things. Two or three old
women put their heads together, and it appeared unfavorably to
the prospects of Deerslayer, by their scowling looks, and angry
gestures; but a group of Indian girls were evidently animated by a
different impulse, as was apparent by stolen glances that expressed
pity and regret. In this condition of the camp, an hour soon glided

Suspense is perhaps the feeling of all others that is most difficult
to be supported. When Deerslayer landed, he fully expected in
the course of a few minutes to undergo the tortures of an Indian
revenge, and he was prepared to meet his fate manfully; but, the
delay proved far more trying than the nearer approach of suffering,
and the intended victim began seriously to meditate some desperate
effort at escape, as it might be from sheer anxiety to terminate
the scene, when he was suddenly summoned, to appear once more in
front of his judges, who had already arranged the band in its former
order, in readiness to receive him.

"Killer of the Deer," commenced Rivenoak, as soon as his captive
stood before him, "my aged men have listened to wise words; they
are ready to speak. You are a man whose fathers came from beyond
the rising sun; we are children of the setting sun; we turn our faces
towards the Great Sweet Lakes, when we look towards our villages.
It may be a wide country and full of riches towards the morning,
but it is very pleasant towards the evening. We love most to look
in that direction. When we gaze at the east, we feel afraid, canoe
after canoe bringing more and more of your people in the track of
the sun, as if their land was so full as to run over. The red men
are few already; they have need of help. One of our best lodges
has lately been emptied by the death of its master; it will be a
long time before his son can grow big enough to sit in his place.
There is his widow; she will want venison to feed her and her
children, for her sons are yet like the young of the robin, before
they quit the nest. By your hand has this great calamity befallen
her. She has two duties; one to le Loup Cervier, and one to his
children. Scalp for scalp, life for life, blood for blood, is one
law; to feed her young, another. We know you, Killer of the Deer.
You are honest; when you say a thing, it is so. You have but
one tongue, and that is not forked, like a snake's. Your head is
never hid in the grass; all can see it. What you say, that will
you do. You are just. When you have done wrong, it is your wish
to do right, again, as soon as you can. Here, is the Sumach; she
is alone in her wigwam, with children crying around her for food
- yonder is a rifle; it is loaded and ready to be fired. Take the
gun, go forth and shoot a deer; bring the venison and lay it before
the widow of Le Loup Cervier, feed her children; call yourself her
husband. After which, your heart will no longer be Delaware, but
Huron; le Sumach's ears will not hear the cries of her children;
my people will count the proper number of warriors."

"I fear'd this, Rivenoak," answered Deerslayer, when the other
had ceased speaking -"yes, I did dread that it would come to this.
Howsever, the truth is soon told, and that will put an end to all
expectations on this head. Mingo, I'm white and Christian born;
't would ill become me to take a wife, under red-skin forms, from
among heathen. That which I wouldn't do, in peaceable times, and
under a bright sun, still less would I do behind clouds, in order
to save my life. I may never marry; most likely Providence in
putting me up here in the woods, has intended I should live single,
and without a lodge of my own; but should such a thing come to pass,
none but a woman of my own colour and gifts shall darken the door
of my wigwam. As for feeding the young of your dead warrior, I
would do that cheerfully, could it be done without discredit; but
it cannot, seeing that I can never live in a Huron village. Your
own young men must find the Sumach in venison, and the next time
she marries, let her take a husband whose legs are not long enough
to overrun territory that don't belong to him. We fou't a fair
battle, and he fell; in this there is nothin' but what a brave
expects, and should be ready to meet. As for getting a Mingo
heart, as well might you expect to see gray hairs on a boy, or the
blackberry growing on the pine. No - no Huron; my gifts are white
so far as wives are consarned; it is Delaware, in all things touchin'

These words were scarcely out of the mouth of Deerslayer, before
a common murmur betrayed the dissatisfaction with which they had
been heard. The aged women, in particular, were loud in their
expressions of disgust, and the gentle Sumach, herself, a woman quite
old enough to be our hero's mother, was not the least pacific in her
denunciations. But all the other manifestations of disappointment
and discontent were thrown into the background, by the fierce resentment
of the Panther. This grim chief had thought it a degradation to
permit his sister to become the wife of a pale-face of the Yengeese
at all, and had only given a reluctant consent to the arrangement
-one by no means unusual among the Indians, however - at the
earnest solicitations of the bereaved widow; and it goaded him to
the quick to find his condescension slighted, the honor he had with
so much regret been persuaded to accord, condemned. The animal
from which he got his name does not glare on his intended prey with
more frightful ferocity than his eyes gleamed on the captive, nor
was his arm backward in seconding the fierce resentment that almost
consumed his breast.

"Dog of the pale-faces!" he exclaimed in Iroquois, "go yell among
the curs of your own evil hunting grounds!"

The denunciation was accompanied by an appropriate action. Even
while speaking his arm was lifted, and the tomahawk hurled. Luckily
the loud tones of the speaker had drawn the eye of Deerslayer towards
him, else would that moment have probably closed his career. So
great was the dexterity with which this dangerous weapon was thrown,
and so deadly the intent, that it would have riven the scull of the
prisoner, had he not stretched forth an arm, and caught the handle
in one of its turns, with a readiness quite as remarkable as
the skill with which the missile had been hurled. The projectile
force was so great, notwithstanding, that when Deerslayer's arm
was arrested, his hand was raised above and behind his own head,
and in the very attitude necessary to return the attack. It is not
certain whether the circumstance of finding himself unexpectedly in
this menacing posture and armed tempted the young man to retaliate,
or whether sudden resentment overcame his forbearance and prudence.
His eye kindled, however, and a small red spot appeared on each
cheek, while he cast all his energy into the effort of his arm,
and threw back the weapon at his assailant. The unexpectedness of
this blow contributed to its success, the Panther neither raising
an arm, nor bending his head to avoid it. The keen little axe
struck the victim in a perpendicular line with the nose, directly
between the eyes, literally braining him on the spot. Sallying
forward, as the serpent darts at its enemy even while receiving its
own death wound, this man of powerful frame fell his length into
the open area formed by the circle, quivering in death. A common
rush to his relief left the captive, in a single instant, quite
without the crowd, and, willing to make one desperate effort for
life, he bounded off with the activity of a deer. There was but a
breathless instant, when the whole band, old and young, women and
children, abandoning the lifeless body of the Panther where it lay,
raised the yell of alarm and followed in pursuit.

Sudden as had been the event which induced Deerslayer to make this
desperate trial of speed, his mind was not wholly unprepared for
the fearful emergency. In the course of the past hour, he had
pondered well on the chances of such an experiment, and had shrewdly
calculated all the details of success and failure. At the first
leap, therefore, his body was completely under the direction of an
intelligence that turned all its efforts to the best account, and
prevented everything like hesitation or indecision at the important
instant of the start. To this alone was he indebted for the first
great advantage, that of getting through the line of sentinels
unharmed. The manner in which this was done, though sufficiently
simple, merits a description.

Although the shores of the point were not fringed with bushes,
as was the case with most of the others on the lake, it was owing
altogether to the circumstance that the spot had been so much used
by hunters and fishermen. This fringe commenced on what might
be termed the main land, and was as dense as usual, extending in
long lines both north and south. In the latter direction, then,
Deerslayer held his way, and, as the sentinels were a little without
the commencement of this thicket, before the alarm was clearly
communicated to them the fugitive had gained its cover. To run
among the bushes, however, was out of the question, and Deerslayer
held his way, for some forty or fifty yards, in the water, which
was barely knee deep, offering as great an obstacle to the speed
of his pursuers as it did to his own. As soon as a favorable spot
presented, he darted through the line of bushes and issued into the
open woods. Several rifles were discharged at Deerslayer while in
the water, and more followed as he came out into the comparative
exposure of the clear forest. But the direction of his line of
flight, which partially crossed that of the fire, the haste with
which the weapons had been aimed, and the general confusion that
prevailed in the camp prevented any harm from being done. Bullets
whistled past him, and many cut twigs from the branches at his
side, but not one touched even his dress. The delay caused by
these fruitless attempts was of great service to the fugitive, who
had gained more than a hundred yards on even the leading men of
the Hurons, ere something like concert and order had entered into
the chase. To think of following with rifles in hand was out of
the question, and after emptying their pieces in vague hopes of
wounding their captive, the best runners of the Indians threw them
aside, calling out to the women and boys to recover and load them,
again, as soon as possible.

Deerslayer knew too well the desperate nature of the struggle in
which he was engaged to lose one of the precious moments. He also
knew that his only hope was to run in a straight line, for as soon
as he began to turn, or double, the greater number of his pursuers
would put escape out of the question. He held his way therefore,
in a diagonal direction up the acclivity, which was neither very
high nor very steep in this part of the mountain, but which was
sufficiently toilsome for one contending for life, to render it
painfully oppressive. There, however, he slackened his speed to
recover breath, proceeding even at a quick walk, or a slow trot,
along the more difficult parts of the way. The Hurons were whooping
and leaping behind him, but this he disregarded, well knowing they
must overcome the difficulties he had surmounted ere they could
reach the elevation to which he had attained. The summit of the
first hill was now quite near him, and he saw, by the formation of
the land, that a deep glen intervened before the base of a second
hill could be reached. Walking deliberately to the summit, he
glanced eagerly about him in every direction in quest of a cover.
None offered in the ground, but a fallen tree lay near him, and
desperate circumstances required desperate remedies. This tree lay
in a line parallel to the glen, at the brow of the hill. To leap
on it, and then to force his person as close as possible under its
lower side, took but a moment. Previously to disappearing from his
pursuers, however, Deerslayer stood on the height and gave a cry
of triumph, as if exulting at the sight of the descent that lay
before him. In the next instant he was stretched beneath the tree.

No sooner was this expedient adopted, than the young man ascertained
how desperate had been his own efforts, by the violence of
the pulsations in his frame. He could hear his heart beat, and
his breathing was like the action of a bellows, in quick motion.
Breath was gained, however, and the heart soon ceased to throb as
if about to break through its confinement. The footsteps of those
who toiled up the opposite side of the acclivity were now audible,
and presently voices and treads announced the arrival of the
pursuers. The foremost shouted as they reached the height; then,
fearful that their enemy would escape under favor of the descent,
each leaped upon the fallen tree and plunged into the ravine,
trusting to get a sight of the pursued ere he reached the bottom.
In this manner, Huron followed Huron until Natty began to hope the
whole had passed. Others succeeded, however, until quite forty
had leaped over the tree, and then he counted them, as the surest
mode of ascertaining how many could be behind. Presently all were
in the bottom of the glen, quite a hundred feet below him, and
some had even ascended part of the opposite hill, when it became
evident an inquiry was making as to the direction he had taken.
This was the critical moment, and one of nerves less steady, or of
a training that had been neglected, would have seized it to rise
and fly. Not so with Deerslayer. He still lay quiet, watching
with jealous vigilance every movement below, and fast regaining
his breath.

The Hurons now resembled a pack of hounds at fault. Little was
said, but each man ran about, examining the dead leaves as the hound
hunts for the lost scent. The great number of moccasins that had
passed made the examination difficult, though the in-toe of an Indian
was easily to be distinguished from the freer and wider step of a
white man. Believing that no more pursuers remained behind, and
hoping to steal away unseen, Deerslayer suddenly threw himself over
the tree, and fell on the upper side. This achievement appeared
to be effected successfully, and hope beat high in the bosom of
the fugitive.

Rising to his hands and feet, after a moment lost in listening to
the sounds in the glen, in order to ascertain if he had been seen,
the young man next scrambled to the top of the hill, a distance
of only ten yards, in the expectation of getting its brow between
him and his pursuers, and himself so far under cover. Even this
was effected, and he rose to his feet, walking swiftly but steadily
along the summit, in a direction opposite to that in which he had
first fled. The nature of the calls in the glen, however, soon
made him uneasy, and he sprang upon the summit again, in order to
reconnoitre. No sooner did he reach the height than he was seen,
and the chase renewed. As it was better footing on the level
ground, Deerslayer now avoided the side hill, holding his flight
along the ridge; while the Hurons, judging from the general formation
of the land, saw that the ridge would soon melt into the hollow,
and kept to the latter, as the easiest mode of heading the fugitive.
A few, at the same time, turned south, with a view to prevent his
escaping in that direction, while some crossed his trail towards
the water, in order to prevent his retreat by the lake, running

The situation of Deerslayer was now more critical than it ever had
been. He was virtually surrounded on three sides, having the lake
on the fourth. But he had pondered well on all the chances, and
took his measures with coolness, even while at the top of his speed.
As is generally the case with the vigorous border men, he could
outrun any single Indian among his pursuers, who were principally
formidable to him on account of their numbers, and the advantages
they possessed in position, and he would not have hesitated to
break off in a straight line at any spot, could he have got the
whole band again fairly behind him. But no such chance did, or
indeed could now offer, and when he found that he was descending
towards the glen, by the melting away of the ridge, he turned
short, at right angles to his previous course, and went down the
declivity with tremendous velocity, holding his way towards the
shore. Some of his pursuers came panting up the hill in direct
chase, while most still kept on in the ravine, intending to head
him at its termination.

Deerslayer had now a different, though a desperate project in view.
Abandoning all thoughts of escape by the woods, he made the best
of his way towards the canoe. He knew where it lay; could it
be reached, he had only to run the gauntlet of a few rifles, and
success would be certain. None of the warriors had kept their
weapons, which would have retarded their speed, and the risk would
come either from the uncertain hands of the women, or from those
of some well grown boy; though most of the latter were already out
in hot pursuit. Everything seemed propitious to the execution of
this plan, and the course being a continued descent, the young man
went over the ground at a rate that promised a speedy termination
to his toil.

As Deerslayer approached the point, several women and children were
passed, but, though the former endeavoured to cast dried branches
between his legs, the terror inspired by his bold retaliation on
the redoubted Panther was so great, that none dared come near enough
seriously to molest him. He went by all triumphantly and reached
the fringe of bushes. Plunging through these, our hero found
himself once more in the lake, and within fifty feet of the canoe.
Here he ceased to run, for he well understood that his breath was
now all important to him. He even stooped, as he advanced, and
cooled his parched mouth by scooping water up in his hand to drink.
Still the moments pressed, and he soon stood at the side of the
canoe. The first glance told him that the paddles had been removed!
This was a sore disappointment, after all his efforts, and, for
a single moment, he thought of turning, and of facing his foes
by walking with dignity into the centre of the camp again. But
an infernal yell, such as the American savage alone can raise,
proclaimed the quick approach of the nearest of his pursuers, and
the instinct of life triumphed. Preparing himself duly, and giving
a right direction to its bows, he ran off into the water bearing
the canoe before him, threw all his strength and skill into a last
effort, and cast himself forward so as to fall into the bottom
of the light craft without materially impeding its way. Here he
remained on his back, both to regain his breath and to cover his
person from the deadly rifle. The lightness, which was such an
advantage in paddling the canoe, now operated unfavorably. The
material was so like a feather, that the boat had no momentum, else
would the impulse in that smooth and placid sheet have impelled
it to a distance from the shore that would have rendered paddling
with the hands safe. Could such a point once be reached, Deerslayer
thought he might get far enough out to attract the attention of
Chingachgook and Judith, who would not fail to come to his relief
with other canoes, a circumstance that promised everything. As the
young man lay in the bottom of the canoe, he watched its movements
by studying the tops of the trees on the mountainside, and judged
of his distance by the time and the motions. Voices on the shore
were now numerous, and he heard something said about manning the
raft, which, fortunately for the fugitive, lay at a considerable
distance on the other side of the point.

Perhaps the situation of Deerslayer had not been more critical that
day than it was at this moment. It certainly had not been one half
as tantalizing. He lay perfectly quiet for two or three minutes,
trusting to the single sense of hearing, confident that the noise
in the lake would reach his ears, did any one venture to approach
by swimming. Once or twice he fancied that the element was stirred
by the cautious movement of an arm, and then he perceived it was
the wash of the water on the pebbles of the strand; for, in mimicry
of the ocean, it is seldom that those little lakes are so totally
tranquil as not to possess a slight heaving and setting on their
shores. Suddenly all the voices ceased, and a death like stillness
pervaded the spot: A quietness as profound as if all lay in the
repose of inanimate life. By this time, the canoe had drifted so
far as to render nothing visible to Deerslayer, as he lay on his
back, except the blue void of space, and a few of those brighter
rays that proceed from the effulgence of the sun, marking his
proximity. It was not possible to endure this uncertainty long.
The young man well knew that the profound stillness foreboded evil,
the savages never being so silent as when about to strike a blow;
resembling the stealthy foot of the panther ere he takes his leap.
He took out a knife and was about to cut a hole through the bark,
in order to get a view of the shore, when he paused from a dread
of being seen in the operation, which would direct the enemy where
to aim their bullets. At this instant a rifle was fired, and the
ball pierced both sides of the canoe, within eighteen inches of
the spot where his head lay. This was close work, but our hero
had too lately gone through that which was closer to be appalled.
He lay still half a minute longer, and then he saw the summit of
an oak coming slowly within his narrow horizon.

Unable to account for this change, Deerslayer could restrain his
impatience no longer. Hitching his body along, with the utmost
caution, he got his eye at the bullet hole, and fortunately commanded
a very tolerable view of the point. The canoe, by one of those
imperceptible impulses that so often decide the fate of men as well
as the course of things, had inclined southerly, and was slowly
drifting down the lake. It was lucky that Deerslayer had given it
a shove sufficiently vigorous to send it past the end of the point,
ere it took this inclination, or it must have gone ashore again.
As it was, it drifted so near it as to bring the tops of two or
three trees within the range of the young man's view, as has been
mentioned, and, indeed, to come in quite as close proximity with
the extremity of the point as was at all safe. The distance could
not much have exceeded a hundred feet, though fortunately a light
current of air from the southwest began to set it slowly off shore.

Deerslayer now felt the urgent necessity of resorting to some
expedient to get farther from his foes, and if possible to apprise
his friends of his situation. The distance rendered the last
difficult, while the proximity to the point rendered the first
indispensable. As was usual in such craft, a large, round, smooth
stone was in each end of the canoe, for the double purpose of seats
and ballast; one of these was within reach of his feet. This stone
he contrived to get so far between his legs as to reach it with his
hands, and then he managed to roll it to the side of its fellow in
the bows, where the two served to keep the trim of the light boat,
while he worked his own body as far aft as possible. Before quitting
the shore, and as soon as he perceived that the paddles were gone,
Deerslayer had thrown a bit of dead branch into the canoe, and this
was within reach of his arm. Removing the cap he wore, he put it
on the end of this stick, and just let it appear over the edge of
the canoe, as far as possible from his own person. This ruse was
scarcely adopted before the young man had a proof how much he had
underrated the intelligence of his enemies. In contempt of an
artifice so shallow and common place, a bullet was fired directly
through another part of the canoe, which actually raised his skin.
He dropped the cap, and instantly raised it immediately over his
head, as a safeguard. It would seem that this second artifice was
unseen, or what was more probable, the Hurons feeling certain of
recovering their captive, wished to take him alive.

Deerslayer lay passive a few minutes longer, his eye at the bullet
hole, however, and much did he rejoice at seeing that he was
drifting, gradually, farther and farther from the shore. When he
looked upward, the treetops had disappeared, but he soon found that
the canoe was slowly turning, so as to prevent his getting a view
of anything at his peephole, but of the two extremities of the lake.
He now bethought him of the stick, which was crooked and offered
some facilities for rowing without the necessity of rising. The
experiment succeeded on trial, better even than he had hoped, though
his great embarrassment was to keep the canoe straight. That his
present manoeuvre was seen soon became apparent by the clamor on
the shore, and a bullet entering the stern of the canoe traversed
its length, whistling between the arms of our hero, and passed out
at the head. This satisfied the fugitive that he was getting away
with tolerable speed, and induced him to increase his efforts.
He was making a stronger push than common, when another messenger
from the point broke the stick out-board, and at once deprived him
of his oar. As the sound of voices seemed to grow more and more
distant, however, Deerslayer determined to leave all to the drift,
until he believed himself beyond the reach of bullets. This was
nervous work, but it was the wisest of all the expedients that
offered, and the young man was encouraged to persevere in it by
the circumstance that he felt his face fanned by the air, a proof
that there was a little more wind.

Chapter XXVIII.

"Nor widows' tears, nor tender orphans' cries
Can stop th' invader's force;
Nor swelling seas, nor threatening skies,
Prevent the pirate's course:
Their lives to selfish ends decreed
Through blood and rapine they proceed;
No anxious thoughts of ill repute,
Suspend the impetuous and unjust pursuit;
But power and wealth obtain'd, guilty and great,
Their fellow creatures' fears they raise, or urge their hate."

Congreve, "Pindaric Ode," ii.

By this time Deerslayer had been twenty minutes in the canoe, and
he began to grow a little impatient for some signs of relief from
his friends. The position of the boat still prevented his seeing
in any direction, unless it were up or down the lake, and, though
he knew that his line of sight must pass within a hundred yards of
the castle, it, in fact, passed that distance to the westward of
the buildings. The profound stillness troubled him also, for he
knew not whether to ascribe it to the increasing space between him
and the Indians, or to some new artifice. At length, wearied with
fruitless watchfulness, the young man turned himself on his back,
closed his eyes, and awaited the result in determined acquiescence.
If the savages could so completely control their thirst for revenge,
he was resolved to be as calm as themselves, and to trust his fate
to the interposition of the currents and air.

Some additional ten minutes may have passed in this quiescent
manner, on both sides, when Deerslayer thought he heard a slight
noise, like a low rubbing against the bottom of his canoe. He
opened his eyes of course, in expectation of seeing the face or
arm of an Indian rising from the water, and found that a canopy
of leaves was impending directly over his head. Starting to his
feet, the first object that met his eye was Rivenoak, who had so far
aided the slow progress of the boat, as to draw it on the point,
the grating on the strand being the sound that had first given
our hero the alarm. The change in the drift of the canoe had been
altogether owing to the baffling nature of the light currents of
the air, aided by some eddies in the water.

"Come," said the Huron with a quiet gesture of authority, to order
his prisoner to land, "my young friend has sailed about till he is
tired; he will forget how to run again, unless he uses his legs."

"You've the best of it, Huron," returned Deerslayer, stepping
steadily from the canoe, and passively following his leader to the
open area of the point; "Providence has helped you in an onexpected
manner. I'm your prisoner ag'in, and I hope you'll allow that I'm
as good at breaking gaol, as I am at keeping furloughs."

"My young friend is a Moose!" exclaimed the Huron. "His legs are
very long; they have given my young men trouble. But he is not a
fish; he cannot find his way in the lake. We did not shoot him;
fish are taken in nets, and not killed by bullets. When he turns
Moose again he will be treated like a Moose."

'Ay, have your talk, Rivenoak; make the most of your advantage.
'Tis your right, I suppose, and I know it is your gift. On that
p'int there'll be no words atween us, for all men must and ought to
follow their gifts. Howsever, when your women begin to ta'nt and
abuse me, as I suppose will soon happen, let 'em remember that if
a pale-face struggles for life so long as it's lawful and manful,
he knows how to loosen his hold on it, decently, when he feels that
the time has come. I'm your captyve; work your will on me."

"My brother has had a long run on the hills, and a pleasant sail
on the water," returned Rivenoak more mildly, smiling, at the same
time, in a way that his listener knew denoted pacific intentions.
'He has seen the woods; he has seen the water. Which does he like
best? Perhaps he has seen enough to change his mind, and make him
hear reason."

"Speak out, Huron. Something is in your thoughts, and the sooner
it is said, the sooner you'll get my answer."

"That is straight! There is no turning in the talk of my pale-face
friend, though he is a fox in running. I will speak to him; his
ears are now open wider than before, and his eyes are not shut. The
Sumach is poorer than ever. Once she had a brother and a husband.
She had children, too. The time came and the husband started for
the Happy Hunting Grounds, without saying farewell; he left her
alone with his children. This he could not help, or he would not
have done it; le Loup Cervier was a good husband. It was pleasant
to see the venison, and wild ducks, and geese, and bear's meat, that
hung in his lodge in winter. It is now gone; it will not keep in
warm weather. Who shall bring it back again? Some thought the
brother would not forget his sister, and that, next winter, he would
see that the lodge should not be empty. We thought this; but the
Panther yelled, and followed the husband on the path of death. They
are now trying which shall first reach the Happy Hunting Grounds.
Some think the Lynx can run fastest, and some think the Panther
can jump the farthest. The Sumach thinks both will travel so fast
and so far that neither will ever come back. Who shall feed her
and her young? The man who told her husband and her brother to
quit her lodge, that there might be room for him to come into it.
He is a great hunter, and we know that the woman will never want."

"Ay, Huron this is soon settled, accordin' to your notions, but it
goes sorely ag'in the grain of a white man's feelin's. I've heard
of men's saving their lives this-a-way, and I've know'd them that
would prefar death to such a sort of captivity. For my part, I do
not seek my end, nor do I seek matrimony."

"The pale-face will think of this, while my people get ready for
the council. He will be told what will happen. Let him remember
how hard it is to lose a husband and a brother. Go; when we want
him, the name of Deerslayer will be called."

This conversation had been held with no one near but the speakers.
Of all the band that had so lately thronged the place, Rivenoak
alone was visible. The rest seemed to have totally abandoned the
spot. Even the furniture, clothes, arms, and other property of the
camp had entirely disappeared, and the place bore no other proofs
of the crowd that had so lately occupied it, than the traces of
their fires and resting places, and the trodden earth that still
showed the marks of their feet. So sudden and unexpected a change
caused Deerslayer a good deal of surprise and some uneasiness,
for he had never known it to occur, in the course of his experience
among the Delawares. He suspected, however, and rightly, that
a change of encampment was intended, and that the mystery of the
movement was resorted to in order to work on his apprehensions.

Rivenoak walked up the vista of trees as soon as he ceased speaking,
leaving Deerslayer by himself. The chief disappeared behind the
covers of the forest, and one unpractised in such scenes might have
believed the prisoner left to the dictates of his own judgment.
But the young man, while he felt a little amazement at the dramatic
aspect of things, knew his enemies too well to fancy himself
at liberty, or a free agent. Still, he was ignorant how far the
Hurons meant to carry their artifices, and he determined to bring
the question, as soon as practicable, to the proof. Affecting an
indifference he was far from feeling, he strolled about the area,
gradually getting nearer and nearer to the spot where he had landed,
when he suddenly quickened his pace, though carefully avoiding all
appearance of flight, and pushing aside the bushes, he stepped upon
the beach. The canoe was gone, nor could he see any traces of it,
after walking to the northern and southern verges of the point, and
examining the shores in both directions. It was evidently removed
beyond his reach and knowledge, and under circumstances to show
that such had been the intention of the savages.

Deerslayer now better understood his actual situation. He was a
prisoner on the narrow tongue of land, vigilantly watched beyond a
question, and with no other means of escape than that of swimming.
He, again, thought of this last expedient, but the certainty that
the canoe would be sent in chase, and the desperate nature of the
chances of success deterred him from the undertaking. While on
the strand, he came to a spot where the bushes had been cut, and
thrust into a small pile. Removing a few of the upper branches,
he found beneath them the dead body of the Panther. He knew that
it was kept until the savages might find a place to inter it,
where it would be beyond the reach of the scalping knife. He gazed
wistfully towards the castle, but there all seemed to be silent
and desolate, and a feeling of loneliness and desertion came over
him to increase the gloom of the moment.

"God's will be done!" murmured the young man, as he walked sorrowfully
away from the beach, entering again beneath the arches of the wood.
"God's will be done, on 'arth as it is in heaven! I did hope that
my days would not be numbered so soon, but it matters little a'ter
all. A few more winters, and a few more summers, and 'twould have
been over, accordin' to natur'. Ah's! me, the young and actyve
seldom think death possible, till he grins in their faces, and
tells 'em the hour is come!"

While this soliloquy was being pronounced, the hunter advanced
into the area, where to his surprise he saw Hetty alone, evidently
awaiting his return. The girl carried the Bible under her arm,
and her face, over which a shadow of gentle melancholy was usually
thrown, now seemed sad and downcast. Moving nearer, Deerslayer

"Poor Hetty," he said, "times have been so troublesome, of late,
that I'd altogether forgotten you; we meet, as it might be to mourn
over what is to happen. I wonder what has become of Chingachgook
and Wah!"

"Why did you kill the Huron, Deerslayer? -" returned the girl
reproachfully. 'Don't you know your commandments, which say 'Thou
shalt not kill!' They tell me you have now slain the woman's husband
and brother!"

"It's true, my good Hetty - 'tis gospel truth, and I'll not deny
what has come to pass. But, you must remember, gal, that many
things are lawful in war, which would be onlawful in peace. The
husband was shot in open fight -or, open so far as I was consarned,
while he had a better cover than common - and the brother brought
his end on himself, by casting his tomahawk at an unarmed prisoner.
Did you witness that deed, gal?"

"I saw it, and was sorry it happened, Deerslayer, for I hoped you
wouldn't have returned blow for blow, but good for evil."

"Ah, Hetty, that may do among the Missionaries, but 'twould make
an onsartain life in the woods! The Panther craved my blood, and
he was foolish enough to throw arms into my hands, at the very
moment he was striving a'ter it. 'Twould have been ag'in natur'
not to raise a hand in such a trial, and 'twould have done discredit
to my training and gifts. No - no - I'm as willing to give every
man his own as another, and so I hope you'll testify to them that
will be likely to question you as to what you've seen this day."

"Deerslayer, do you mean to marry Sumach, now she has neither
husband nor brother to feed her?"

"Are such your idees of matrimony, Hetty! Ought the young to wive
with the old - the pale-face with the red-skin - the Christian with
the heathen? It's ag'in reason and natur', and so you'll see, if
you think of it a moment."

"I've always heard mother say," returned Hetty, averting her face
more from a feminine instinct than from any consciousness of wrong,
"that people should never marry until they loved each other better
than brothers and sisters, and I suppose that is what you mean.
Sumach is old, and you are young!"

"Ay and she's red, and I'm white. Beside, Hetty, suppose you was
a wife, now, having married some young man of your own years, and
state, and colour -Hurry Harry, for instance -" Deerslayer selected
this example simply from the circumstance that he was the only
young man known to both - "and that he had fallen on a war path,
would you wish to take to your bosom, for a husband, the man that
slew him?"

"Oh! no, no, no -" returned the girl shuddering - "That would be
wicked as well as heartless! No Christian girl could, or would do
that! I never shall be the wife of Hurry, I know, but were he my
husband no man should ever be it, again, after his death!"

"I thought it would get to this, Hetty, when you come to understand
sarcumstances. 'Tis a moral impossibility that I should ever marry
Sumach, and, though Injin weddin's have no priests and not much
religion, a white man who knows his gifts and duties can't profit
by that, and so make his escape at the fitting time. I do think
death would be more nat'ral like, and welcome, than wedlock with
this woman."

"Don't say it too loud," interrupted Hetty impatiently; "I suppose
she will not like to hear it. I'm sure Hurry would rather marry even
me than suffer torments, though I am feeble minded; and I am sure
it would kill me to think he'd prefer death to being my husband."

"Ay, gal, you ain't Sumach, but a comely young Christian, with a
good heart, pleasant smile, and kind eye. Hurry might be proud to
get you, and that, too, not in misery and sorrow, but in his best
and happiest days. Howsever, take my advice, and never talk to
Hurry about these things; he's only a borderer, at the best."

"I wouldn't tell him, for the world!" exclaimed the girl, looking
about her like one affrighted, and blushing, she knew not why.
"Mother always said young women shouldn't be forward, and speak
their minds before they're asked; Oh! I never forget what mother
told me. Tis a pity Hurry is so handsome, Deerslayer; I do think
fewer girls would like him then, and he would sooner know his own

"Poor gal, poor gal, it's plain enough how it is, but the Lord will
bear in mind one of your simple heart and kind feelin's! We'll talk
no more of these things; if you had reason, you'd be sorrowful at
having let others so much into your secret. Tell me, Hetty, what
has become of all the Hurons, and why they let you roam about the
p'int as if you, too, was a prisoner?"

'I'm no prisoner, Deerslayer, but a free girl, and go when and where
I please. Nobody dare hurt me! If they did, God would be angry,
as I can show them in the Bible. No - no - Hetty Hutter is
not afraid; she's in good hands. The Hurons are up yonder in the
woods, and keep a good watch on us both, I'll answer for it, since
all the women and children are on the look-out. Some are burying
the body of the poor girl who was shot, so that the enemy and the
wild beasts can't find it. I told 'em that father and mother lay
in the lake, but I wouldn't let them know in what part of it,
for Judith and I don't want any of their heathenish company in our
burying ground."

"Ahs! me; Well, it is an awful despatch to be standing here, alive
and angry, and with the feelin's up and ferocious, one hour, and
then to be carried away at the next, and put out of sight of mankind
in a hole in the 'arth! No one knows what will happen to him on
a warpath, that's sartain."

Here the stirring of leaves and the cracking of dried twigs
interrupted the discourse, and apprised Deerslayer of the approach
of his enemies. The Hurons closed around the spot that had been
prepared for the coming scene, and in the centre of which the intended
victim now stood, in a circle, the armed men being so distributed
among the feebler members of the band, that there was no safe opening
through which the prisoner could break. But the latter no longer
contemplated flight, the recent trial having satisfied him of
his inability to escape when pursued so closely by numbers. On
the contrary, all his energies were aroused in order to meet his
expected fate, with a calmness that should do credit to his colour
and his manhood; one equally removed from recreant alarm, and savage

When Rivenoak re-appeared in the circle, he occupied his old place
at the head of the area. Several of the elder warriors stood near
him, but, now that the brother of Sumach had fallen, there was no
longer any recognised chief present whose influence and authority
offered a dangerous rivalry to his own. Nevertheless, it is well
known that little which could be called monarchical or despotic
entered into the politics of the North American tribes, although the
first colonists, bringing with them to this hemisphere the notions
and opinions of their own countries, often dignified the chief men
of those primitive nations with the titles of kings and princes.
Hereditary influence did certainly exist, but there is much reason
to believe it existed rather as a consequence of hereditary merit
and acquired qualifications, than as a birthright. Rivenoak,
however, had not even this claim, having risen to consideration
purely by the force of talents, sagacity, and, as Bacon expresses
it in relation to all distinguished statesmen, "by a union of great
and mean qualities;" a truth of which the career of the profound
Englishman himself furnishes so apt an illustration. Next to arms,
eloquence offers the great avenue to popular favor, whether it be
in civilized or savage life, and Rivenoak had succeeded, as so many
have succeeded before him, quite as much by rendering fallacies
acceptable to his listeners, as by any profound or learned
expositions of truth, or the accuracy of his logic. Nevertheless,
he had influence; and was far from being altogether without just
claims to its possession. Like most men who reason more than they
feel, the Huron was not addicted to the indulgence of the more
ferocious passions of his people: he had been commonly found on the
side of mercy, in all the scenes of vindictive torture and revenge
that had occurred in his tribe since his own attainment to power.
On the present occasion, he was reluctant to proceed to extremities,
although the provocation was so great. Still it exceeded his
ingenuity to see how that alternative could well be avoided. Sumach
resented her rejection more than she did the deaths of her husband
and brother, and there was little probability that the woman
would pardon a man who had so unequivocally preferred death to her
embraces. Without her forgiveness, there was scarce a hope that the
tribe could be induced to overlook its loss, and even to Rivenoak,
himself, much as he was disposed to pardon, the fate of our hero
now appeared to be almost hopelessly sealed.

When the whole band was arrayed around the captive, a grave silence,
so much the more threatening from its profound quiet, pervaded
the place. Deerslayer perceived that the women and boys had been
preparing splinters of the fat pine roots, which he well knew were
to be stuck into his flesh, and set in flames, while two or three
of the young men held the thongs of bark with which he was to
be bound. The smoke of a distant lire announced that the burning
brands were in preparation, and several of the elder warriors
passed their fingers over the edges of their tomahawks, as if to
prove their keenness and temper. Even the knives seemed loosened
in their sheathes, impatient for the bloody and merciless work to

"Killer of the Deer," recommenced Rivenoak, certainly without any
signs of sympathy or pity in his manner, though with calmness and
dignity, "Killer of the Deer, it is time that my people knew their
minds. The sun is no longer over our heads; tired of waiting on
the Hurons, he has begun to fall near the pines on this side of the
valley. He is travelling fast towards the country of our French
fathers; it is to warn his children that their lodges are empty,
and that they ought to be at home. The roaming wolf has his den,
and he goes to it when he wishes to see his young. The Iroquois
are not poorer than the wolves. They have villages, and wigwams,
and fields of corn; the Good Spirits will be tired of watching
them alone. My people must go back and see to their own business.
There will be joy in the lodges when they hear our whoop from the
forest! It will he a sorrowful whoop; when it is understood, grief
will come after it. There will be one scalp-whoop, but there will
be only one. We have the fur of the Muskrat; his body is among
the fishes. Deerslayer must say whether another scalp shall be on
our pole. Two lodges are empty; a scalp, living or dead, is wanted
at each door."

"Then take 'em dead, Huron," firmly, but altogether without dramatic
boasting, returned the captive. "My hour is come, I do suppose,
and what must be, must. If you are bent on the tortur', I'll do
my indivours to bear up ag'in it, though no man can say how far
his natur' will stand pain, until he's been tried."

"The pale-face cur begins to put his tail between his legs!" cried
a young and garrulous savage, who bore the appropriate title of
the Corbeau Rouge; a sobriquet he had gained from the French by
his facility in making unseasonable noises, and an undue tendency
to hear his own voice; "he is no warrior; he has killed the Loup
Cervier when looking behind him not to see the flash of his own
rifle. He grunts like a hog, already; when the Huron women begin
to torment him, he will cry like the young of the catamount. He
is a Delaware woman, dressed in the skin of a Yengeese!"

"Have your say, young man; have your say," returned Deerslayer,
unmoved; "you know no better, and I can overlook it. Talking may
aggravate women, but can hardly make knives sharper, fire hotter,
or rifles more sartain."

Rivenoak now interposed, reproving the Red Crow for his premature
interference, and then directing the proper persons to bind the
captive. This expedient was adopted, not from any apprehensions
that he would escape, or from any necessity that was yet apparent
of his being unable to endure the torture with his limbs free, but
from an ingenious design of making him feel his helplessness, and
of gradually sapping his resolution by undermining it, as it might
be, little by little. Deerslayer offered no resistance. He submitted
his arms and legs, freely if not cheerfully, to the ligaments
of bark, which were bound around them by order of the chief, in a
way to produce as little pain as possible. These directions were
secret, and given in the hope that the captive would finally save
himself from any serious bodily suffering by consenting to take the
Sumach for a wife. As soon as the body of Deerslayer was withed in
bark sufficiently to create a lively sense of helplessness, he was
literally carried to a young tree, and bound against it in a way
that effectually prevented him from moving, as well as from falling.
The hands were laid flat against the legs, and thongs were passed
over all, in a way nearly to incorporate the prisoner with the
tree. His cap was then removed, and he was left half-standing,
half-sustained by his bonds, to face the coming scene in the best
manner he could.

Previously to proceeding to any thing like extremities, it was the
wish of Rivenoak to put his captive's resolution to the proof by
renewing the attempt at a compromise. This could be effected only
in one manner, the acquiescence of the Sumach being indispensably
necessary to a compromise of her right to be revenged. With this
view, then, the woman was next desired to advance, and to look to
her own interests; no agent being considered as efficient as the
principal, herself, in this negotiation. The Indian females, when
girls, are usually mild and submissive, with musical tones, pleasant
voices and merry laughs, but toil and suffering generally deprive
them of most of these advantages by the time they have reached
an age which the Sumach had long before passed. To render their
voices harsh, it would seem to require active, malignant, passions,
though, when excited, their screams can rise to a sufficiently
conspicuous degree of discordancy to assert their claim to possess
this distinctive peculiarity of the sex. The Sumach was not
altogether without feminine attraction, however, and had so recently
been deemed handsome in her tribe, as not to have yet learned the
full influence that time and exposure produce on man, as well as on
woman. By an arrangement of Rivenoak's, some of the women around
her had been employing the time in endeavoring to persuade the
bereaved widow that there was still a hope Deerslayer might be
prevailed on to enter her wigwam, in preference to entering the world
of spirits, and this, too, with a success that previous symptoms
scarcely justified. All this was the result of a resolution on
the part of the chief to leave no proper means unemployed, in order
to get transferred to his own nation the greatest hunter that was
then thought to exist in all that region, as well as a husband for
a woman who he felt would be likely to be troublesome, were any of
her claims to the attention and care of the tribe overlooked.

In conformity with this scheme, the Sumach had been secretly
advised to advance into the circle, and to make her appeal to the
prisoner's sense of justice, before the band had recourse to the
last experiment. The woman, nothing loth, consented, for there
was some such attraction in becoming the wife of a noted hunter,
among the females of the tribes, as is experienced by the sex, in
more refined life, when they bestow their hands on the affluent. As
the duties of a mother were thought to be paramount to all other
considerations, the widow felt none of that embarrassment, in
preferring her claims, to which even a female fortune hunter among
ourselves might be liable. When she stood forth before the whole
party, therefore, the children that she led by the hands fully
justified all she did.

"You see me before you, cruel pale-face," the woman commenced;
"your spirit must tell you my errand. I have found you; I cannot
find le Loup Cervier, nor the Panther; I have looked for them in
the lake, in the woods, in the clouds. I cannot say where they
have gone."

"No man knows, good Sumach, no man knows," interposed the captive.
"When the spirit leaves the body, it passes into a world beyond
our knowledge, and the wisest way, for them that are left behind,
is to hope for the best. No doubt both your warriors have gone
to the Happy Hunting Grounds, and at the proper time you will see
'em ag'in, in their improved state. The wife and sister of braves
must have looked forward to some such tarmination of their 'arthly

"Cruel pale-face, what had my warriors done that you should slay
them! They were the best hunters, and the boldest young men of
their tribe; the Great Spirit intended that they should live until
they withered like the branches of the hemlock, and fell of their
own weight-"

"Nay - nay - good Sumach," interrupted Deerslayer, whose love of
truth was too indomitable to listen to such hyperbole with patience,
even though it came from the torn breast of a widow -"Nay - nay,
good Sumach, this is a little outdoing red-skin privileges. Young
man was neither, any more than you can be called a young woman, and
as to the Great Spirit's intending that they should fall otherwise
than they did, that's a grievous mistake, inasmuch as what the
Great Spirit intends is sartain to come to pass. Then, agin, it's
plain enough neither of your fri'nds did me any harm; I raised my
hand ag'in 'em on account of what they were striving to do, rather
than what they did. This is nat'ral law, 'to do lest you should
be done by.'"

"It is so. Sumach has but one tongue; she can tell but one story.
The pale face struck the Hurons lest the Hurons should strike him.
The Hurons are a just nation; they will forget it. The chiefs
will shut their eyes and pretend not to have seen it; the young men
will believe the Panther and the Lynx have gone to far off hunts,
and the Sumach will take her children by the hand, and go into the
lodge of the pale-face and say - 'See; these are your children;
they are also mine - feed us, and we will live with you.'"

"The tarms are onadmissable, woman, and though I feel for your
losses, which must he hard to bear, the tarms cannot be accepted.
As to givin' you ven'son, in case we lived near enough together,
that would be no great expl'ite; but as for becomin' your husband,
and the father of your children, to be honest with you, I feel no
callin' that-a-way."

"Look at this boy, cruel pale-face; he has no father to teach him
to kill the deer, or to take scalps. See this girl; what young man
will come to look for a wife in a lodge that has no head? There
are more among my people in the Canadas, and the Killer of Deer
will find as many mouths to feed as his heart can wish for."

"I tell you, woman," exclaimed Deerslayer, whose imagination was
far from seconding the appeal of the widow, and who began to grow
restive under the vivid pictures she was drawing, "all this is nothing
to me. People and kindred must take care of their own fatherless,
leaving them that have no children to their own loneliness. As for
me, I have no offspring, and I want no wife. Now, go away Sumach;
leave me in the hands of your chiefs, for my colour, and gifts,
and natur' itself cry out ag'in the idee of taking you for a wife."

It is unnecessary to expatiate on the effect of this downright refusal
of the woman's proposals. If there was anything like tenderness
in her bosom -and no woman was probably ever entirely without that
feminine quality - it all disappeared at this plain announcement.
Fury, rage, mortified pride, and a volcano of wrath burst out, at
one explosion, converting her into a sort of maniac, as it might
beat the touch of a magician's wand. Without deigning a reply in
words, she made the arches of the forest ring with screams, and
then flew forward at her victim, seizing him by the hair, which
she appeared resolute to draw out by the roots. It was some time
before her grasp could be loosened. Fortunately for the prisoner
her rage was blind; since his total helplessness left him entirely
at her mercy. Had it been better directed it might have proved
fatal before any relief could have been offered. As it was, she
did succeed in wrenching out two or three handsful of hair, before
the young men could tear her away from her victim.

The insult that had been offered to the Sumach was deemed an insult
to the whole tribe; not so much, however, on account of any respect
that was felt for the woman, as on account of the honor of the
Huron nation. Sumach, herself, was generally considered to be as
acid as the berry from which she derived her name, and now that
her great supporters, her husband and brother, were both gone, few
cared about concealing their aversion. Nevertheless, it had become
a point of honor to punish the pale-face who disdained a Huron woman,
and more particularly one who coolly preferred death to relieving
the tribe from the support of a widow and her children. The
young men showed an impatience to begin to torture that Rivenoak
understood, and, as his older associates manifested no disposition
to permit any longer delay, he was compelled to give the signal
for the infernal work to proceed.

Chapter XXIX.

"The ugly bear now minded not the stake,
Nor how the cruel mastiffs do him tear,
The stag lay still unroused from the brake,
The foamy boar feared not the hunter's spear:
All thing was still in desert, bush, and briar:"

Thomas Sackville; "The Complaint of Henry Duke of Buckingham,"

Twas one of the common expedients of the savages, on such occasions,
to put the nerves of their victims to the severest proofs. On the
other hand, it was a matter of Indian pride to betray no yielding
to terror, or pain, but for the prisoner to provoke his enemies
to such acts of violence as would soonest produce death. Many a
warrior had been known to bring his own sufferings to a more speedy
termination, by taunting reproaches and reviling language, when he
found that his physical system was giving way under the agony of
sufferings produced by a hellish ingenuity that might well eclipse
all that has been said of the infernal devices of religious
persecution. This happy expedient of taking refuge from the ferocity
of his foes, in their passions, was denied Deerslayer however, by
his peculiar notions of the duty of a white man, and he had stoutly
made up his mind to endure everything, in preference to disgracing
his colour.

No sooner did the young men understand that they were at liberty
to commence, than some of the boldest and most forward among them
sprang into the arena, tomahawk in hand. Here they prepared to
throw that dangerous weapon, the object being to strike the tree as
near as possible to the victim's head, without absolutely hitting
him. This was so hazardous an experiment that none but those who
were known to be exceedingly expert with the weapon were allowed
to enter the lists at all, lest an early death might interfere with
the expected entertainment. In the truest hands it was seldom that
the captive escaped injury in these trials, and it often happened
that death followed, even when the blow was not premeditated. In
the particular case of our hero, Rivenoak and the older warriors
were apprehensive that the example of the Panther's fate might
prove a motive with some fiery spirit suddenly to sacrifice his
conqueror, when the temptation of effecting it in precisely the
same manner, and possibly with the identical weapon with which the
warrior had fallen, offered. This circumstance of itself rendered
the ordeal of the tomahawk doubly critical for the Deerslayer. It
would seem, however, that all who now entered what we shall call
the lists, were more disposed to exhibit their own dexterity, than
to resent the deaths of their comrades. Each prepared himself
for the trial with the feelings of rivalry, rather than with the
desire for vengeance, and, for the first few minutes, the prisoner
had little more connection with the result, than grew out of the
interest that necessarily attached itself to a living target. The
young men were eager, instead of being fierce, and Rivenoak thought
he still saw signs of being able to save the life of the captive
when the vanity of the young men had been gratified; always admitting
that it was not sacrificed to the delicate experiments that were
about to be made. The first youth who presented himself for the
trial was called The Raven, having as yet had no opportunity of
obtaining a more warlike sobriquet. He was remarkable for high
pretension, rather than for skill or exploits, and those who knew
his character thought the captive in imminent danger when he took
his stand, and poised the tomahawk. Nevertheless, the young man
was good natured, and no thought was uppermost in his mind other
than the desire to make a better cast than any of his fellows.
Deerslayer got an inkling of this warrior's want of reputation by
the injunctions that he had received from the seniors, who, indeed,
would have objected to his appearing in the arena, at all, but
for an influence derived from his father; an aged warrior of great
merit, who was then in the lodges of the tribe. Still, our hero
maintained an appearance of self-possession. He had made up his
mind that his hour was come, and it would have been a mercy, instead
of a calamity, to fall by the unsteadiness of the first hand that
was raised against him. After a suitable number of flourishes and
gesticulations that promised much more than he could perform, the
Raven let the tomahawk quit his hand. The weapon whirled through
the air with the usual evolutions, cut a chip from the sapling to
which the prisoner was bound within a few inches of his cheek, and
stuck in a large oak that grew several yards behind him. This was
decidedly a bad effort, and a common sneer proclaimed as much, to
the great mortification of the young man. On the other hand, there
was a general but suppressed murmur of admiration at the steadiness
with which the captive stood the trial. The head was the only
part he could move, and this had been purposely left free, that
the tormentors might have the amusement, and the tormented endure
the shame, of his dodging, and otherwise attempting to avoid the
blows. Deerslayer disappointed these hopes by a command of nerve
that rendered his whole body as immovable as the tree to which he
was bound. Nor did he even adopt the natural and usual expedient
of shutting his eyes, the firmest and oldest warrior of the red-men
never having more disdainfully denied himself this advantage under
similar circumstances.

The Raven had no sooner made his unsuccessful and puerile effort,
than he was succeeded by le Daim-Mose, or the Moose; a middle aged
warrior who was particularly skilful in the use of the tomahawk,
and from whose attempt the spectators confidently looked for
gratification. This man had none of the good nature of the Raven,
but he would gladly have sacrificed the captive to his hatred
of the pale-faces generally, were it not for the greater interest
he felt in his own success as one particularly skilled in the use
of this weapon. He took his stand quietly, but with an air of
confidence, poised his little axe but a single instant, advanced
a foot with a quick motion, and threw. Deerslayer saw the keen
instrument whirling towards him, and believed all was over; still,
he was not touched. The tomahawk had actually bound the head of
the captive to the tree, by carrying before it some of his hair,
having buried itself deep beneath the soft bark. A general yell
expressed the delight of the spectators, and the Moose felt his
heart soften a little towards the prisoner, whose steadiness of
nerve alone enabled him to give this evidence of his consummate

Le Daim-Mose was succeeded by the Bounding Boy, or le Garcon qui
Bondi who came leaping into the circle, like a hound or a goat at
play. This was one of those elastic youths whose muscles seemed
always in motion, and who either affected, or who from habit was
actually unable, to move in any other manner than by showing the
antics just mentioned. Nevertheless, he was both brave and skilful,
and had gained the respect of his people by deeds in war, as well
as success in the hunts. A far nobler name would long since have
fallen to his share, had not a French-man of rank inadvertently
given him this sobriquet, which he religiously preserved as coming
from his Great Father who lived beyond the Wide Salt Lake. The
Bounding Boy skipped about in front of the captive, menacing him
with his tomahawk, now on one side and now on another, and then
again in front, in the vain hope of being able to extort some sign
of fear by this parade of danger. At length Deerslayer's patience
became exhausted by all this mummery, and he spoke for the first
time since the trial had actually commenced.

"Throw away, Huron," he cried, "or your tomahawk will forget its
ar'n'd. Why do you keep loping about like a fa'a'n that's showing
its dam how well it can skip, when you're a warrior grown, yourself,
and a warrior grown defies you and all your silly antiks. Throw,
or the Huron gals will laugh in your face."

Although not intended to produce such an effect, the last words
aroused the "Bounding" warrior to fury. The same nervous excitability
which rendered him so active in his person, made it difficult to
repress his feelings, and the words were scarcely past the lips
of the speaker than the tomahawk left the hand of the Indian. Nor
was it cast without ill-will, and a fierce determination to slay.
Had the intention been less deadly, the danger might have been
greater. The aim was uncertain, and the weapon glanced near the
cheek of the captive, slightly cutting the shoulder in its evolutions.
This was the first instance in which any other object than that of
terrifying the prisoner, and of displaying skill had been manifested,
and the Bounding Boy was immediately led from the arena, and
was warmly rebuked for his intemperate haste, which had come so
near defeating all the hopes of the band. To this irritable person
succeeded several other young warriors, who not only hurled the
tomahawk, but who cast the knife, a far more dangerous experiment,
with reckless indifference; yet they always manifested a skill that
prevented any injury to the captive. Several times Deerslayer was
grazed, but in no instance did he receive what might be termed a
wound. The unflinching firmness with which he faced his assailants,
more especially in the sort of rally with which this trial terminated,
excited a profound respect in the spectators, and when the chiefs
announced that the prisoner had well withstood the trials of the
knife and the tomahawk, there was not a single individual in the
band who really felt any hostility towards him, with the exception
of Sumach and the Bounding Boy. These two discontented spirits got
together, it is true, feeding each other's ire, but as yet their
malignant feelings were confined very much to themselves, though
there existed the danger that the others, ere long, could not fail
to be excited by their own efforts into that demoniacal state which
usually accompanied all similar scenes among the red men.

Rivenoak now told his people that the pale-face had proved himself
to be a man. He might live with the Delawares, but he had not been
made woman with that tribe. He wished to know whether it was the
desire of the Hurons to proceed any further. Even the gentlest
of the females, however, had received too much satisfaction in the
late trials to forego their expectations of a gratifying exhibition,
and there was but one voice in the request to proceed. The
politic chief, who had some such desire to receive so celebrated a
hunter into his tribe, as a European Minister has to devise a new
and available means of taxation, sought every plausible means of
arresting the trial in season, for he well knew, if permitted to go
far enough to arouse the more ferocious passions of the tormentors,
it would be as easy to dam the waters of the great lakes of his
own region, as to attempt to arrest them in their bloody career.
He therefore called four or five of the best marksmen to him, and
bid them put the captive to the proof of the rifle, while at the same
time he cautioned them touching the necessity of their maintaining
their own credit, by the closest attention to the manner of exhibiting
their skill.

When Deerslayer saw the chosen warriors step into the circle, with
their arms prepared for service, he felt some such relief as the
miserable sufferer, who has long endured the agonies of disease,
feels at the certain approach of death. Any trifling variance in
the aim of this formidable weapon would prove fatal; since, the
head being the target, or rather the point it was desired to graze
without injuring, an inch or two of difference in the line of
projection must at once determine the question of life or death.

In the torture by the rifle there was none of the latitude permitted
that appeared in the case of even Gessler's apple, a hair's breadth
being, in fact, the utmost limits that an expert marksman would
allow himself on an occasion like this. Victims were frequently
shot through the head by too eager or unskilful hands, and it
often occurred that, exasperated by the fortitude and taunts of the
prisoner, death was dealt intentionally in a moment of ungovernable
irritation. All this Deerslayer well knew, for it was in relating
the traditions of such scenes, as well as of the battles and victories
of their people, that the old men beguiled the long winter evenings
in their cabins. He now fully expected the end of his career,
and experienced a sort of melancholy pleasure in the idea that he
was to fall by a weapon as much beloved as the rifle. A slight
interruption, however, took place before the business was allowed
to proceed.

Hetty Hutter witnessed all that passed, and the scene at first
had pressed upon her feeble mind in a way to paralyze it entirely;
but, by this time she had rallied, and was growing indignant at
the unmerited suffering the Indians were inflicting on her friend.
Though timid, and shy as the young of the deer on so many occasions,
this right-feeling girl was always intrepid in the cause of
humanity; the lessons of her mother, and the impulses of her own
heart - perhaps we might say the promptings of that unseen and
pure spirit that seemed ever to watch over and direct her actions
- uniting to keep down the apprehensions of woman, and to impel her
to be bold and resolute. She now appeared in the circle, gentle,
feminine, even bashful in mien, as usual, but earnest in her words
and countenance, speaking like one who knew herself to be sustained
by the high authority of God.

"Why do you torment Deerslayer, redmen?" she asked "What has he
done that you trifle with his life; who has given you the right to
be his judges? Suppose one of your knives or tomahawks had hit
him; what Indian among you all could cure the wound you would make.
Besides, in harming Deerslayer, you injure your own friend; when
father and Hurry Harry came after your scalps, he refused to be of
the party, and staid in the canoe by himself. You are tormenting
a good friend, in tormenting this young man!"

The Hurons listened with grave attention, and one among them, who
understood English, translated what had been said into their native
tongue. As soon as Rivenoak was made acquainted with the purport
of her address he answered it in his own dialect; the interpreter
conveying it to the girl in English.

"My daughter is very welcome to speak," said the stern old orator,
using gentle intonations and smiling as kindly as if addressing a
child - "The Hurons are glad to hear her voice; they listen to what
she says. The Great Spirit often speaks to men with such tongues.
This time, her eyes have not been open wide enough to see all that
has happened. Deerslayer did not come for our scalps, that is
true; why did he not come? Here they are on our heads; the war
locks are ready to be taken hold of; a bold enemy ought to stretch
out his hand to seize them. The Iroquois are too great a nation
to punish men that take scalps. What they do themselves, they
like to see others do. Let my daughter look around her and count
my warriors. Had I as many hands as four warriors, their fingers
would be fewer than my people, when they came into your hunting
grounds. Now, a whole hand is missing. Where are the fingers?
Two have been cut off by this pale-face; my Hurons wish to see if
he did this by means of a stout heart, or by treachery. Like a
skulking fox, or like a leaping panther."

"You know yourself, Huron, how one of them fell. I saw it, and
you all saw it, too. 'Twas too bloody to look at; but it was not
Deerslayer's fault. Your warrior sought his life, and he defended
himself. I don't know whether this good book says that it was
right, but all men will do that. Come, if you want to know which
of you can shoot best, give Deerslayer a rifle, and then you will
find how much more expert he is than any of your warriors; yes,
than all of them together!"

Could one have looked upon such a scene with indifference, he would
have been amused at the gravity with which the savages listened
to the translation of this unusual request. No taunt, no smile
mingled with their surprise, for Hetty had a character and a manner
too saintly to subject her infirmity to the mockings of the rude
and ferocious. On the contrary, she was answered with respectful

"My daughter does not always talk like a chief at a Council Fire,"
returned Rivenoak, "or she would not have said this. Two of my
warriors have fallen by the blows of our prisoner; their grave is
too small to hold a third. The Hurons do not like to crowd their
dead. If there is another spirit about to set out for the far off
world, it must not be the spirit of a Huron; it must be the spirit
of a pale-face. Go, daughter, and sit by Sumach, who is in grief;
let the Huron warriors show how well they can shoot; let the
pale-face show how little he cares for their bullets."

Hetty's mind was unequal to a sustained discussion, and accustomed
to defer to the directions of her seniors she did as told, seating
herself passively on a log by the side of the Sumach, and averting
her face from the painful scene that was occurring within the

The warriors, as soon as this interruption had ceased, resumed
their places, and again prepared to exhibit their skill. As there
was a double object in view, that of putting the constancy of the
captive to the proof, and that of showing how steady were the hands
of the marksmen under circumstances of excitement, the distance was
small, and, in one sense, safe. But in diminishing the distance
taken by the tormentors, the trial to the nerves of the captive was
essentially increased. The face of Deerslayer, indeed, was just
removed sufficiently from the ends of the guns to escape the effects
of the flash, and his steady eye was enabled to look directly
into their muzzles, as it might be, in anticipation of the fatal
messenger that was to issue from each. The cunning Hurons well
knew this fact, and scarce one levelled his piece without first
causing it to point as near as possible at the forehead of the
prisoner, in the hope that his fortitude would fail him, and that
the band would enjoy the triumph of seeing a victim quail under
their ingenious cruelty. Nevertheless each of the competitors was
still careful not to injure, the disgrace of striking prematurely
being second only to that of failing altogether in attaining the
object. Shot after shot was made; all the bullets coming in close
proximity to the Deerslayer's head, without touching it. Still
no one could detect even the twitching of a muscle on the part of
the captive, or the slightest winking of an eye. This indomitable
resolution, which so much exceeded everything of its kind that any
present had before witnessed, might be referred to three distinct
causes. The first was resignation to his fate, blended with natural
steadiness of deportment; for our hero had calmly made up his mind
that he must die, and preferred this mode to any other; the second
was his great familiarity with this particular weapon, which deprived
it of all the terror that is usually connected with the mere form
of the danger; and the third was this familiarity carried out
in practice, to a degree so nice as to enable the intended victim
to tell, within an inch, the precise spot where each bullet must
strike, for he calculated its range by looking in at the bore of the
piece. So exact was Deerslayer's estimation of the line of fire,
that his pride of feeling finally got the better of his resignation,
and when five or six had discharged their bullets into the tree,
he could not refrain from expressing his contempt at their want of
hand and eye.

"You may call this shooting, Mingos!" he exclaimed, "but we've squaws
among the Delawares, and I have known Dutch gals on the Mohawk,
that could outdo your greatest indivours. Ondo these arms of mine,
put a rifle into my hands, and I'll pin the thinnest warlock in
your party to any tree you can show me, and this at a hundred yards
- ay, or at two hundred if the objects can be seen, nineteen shots
in twenty; or, for that matter twenty in twenty, if the piece is
creditable and trusty!"

A low menacing murmur followed this cool taunt. The ire of the
warriors kindled at listening to such a reproach from one who so
far disdained their efforts as to refuse even to wink when a rifle
was discharged as near his face as could be done without burning
it. Rivenoak perceived that the moment was critical, and, still
retaining his hope of adopting so noted a hunter into his tribe,
the politic old chief interposed in time, probably to prevent
an immediate resort to that portion of the torture which must
necessarily have produced death through extreme bodily suffering,
if in no other manner. Moving into the centre of the irritated
group, he addressed them with his usual wily logic and plausible
manner, at once suppressing the fierce movement that had commenced.

"I see how it is," he said. "We have been like the pale-faces
when they fasten their doors at night, out of fear of the red men.
They use so many bars that the fire comes and burns them before they
can get out. We have bound the Deerslayer too tight: the thongs
keep his limbs from shaking and his eyes from shutting. Loosen
him; let us see what his own body is really made of."

It is often the case when we are thwarted in a cherished scheme,
that any expedient, however unlikely to succeed, is gladly resorted
to in preference to a total abandonment of the project. So it was
with the Hurons. The proposal of the chief found instant favor,
and several hands were immediately at work, cutting and tearing
the ropes of bark from the body of our hero. In half a minute
Deerslayer stood as free from bonds as when an hour before he had
commenced his flight on the side of the mountain. Some little
time was necessary that he should recover the use of his limbs,
the circulation of the blood having been checked by the tightness
of the ligatures, and this was accorded to him by the politic
Rivenoak, under the pretence that his body would be more likely
to submit to apprehension if its true tone were restored; though
really with a view to give time to the fierce passions which had
been awakened in the bosoms of his young men to subside. This
ruse succeeded, and Deerslayer by rubbing his limbs, stamping his
feet, and moving about, soon regained the circulation, recovering
all his physical powers as effectually as if nothing had occurred
to disturb them.

It is seldom men think of death in the pride of their health and
strength. So it was with Deerslayer. Having been helplessly bound
and, as he had every reason to suppose, so lately on the very verge
of the other world, to find himself so unexpectedly liberated, in
possession of his strength and with a full command of limb, acted
on him like a sudden restoration to life, reanimating hopes that
he had once absolutely abandoned. From that instant all his plans
changed. In this, he simply obeyed a law of nature; for while we
have wished to represent our hero as being resigned to his fate,
it has been far from our intention to represent him as anxious to
die. From the instant that his buoyancy of feeling revived, his
thoughts were keenly bent on the various projects that presented
themselves as modes of evading the designs of his enemies, and he
again became the quick witted, ingenious and determined woodsman,
alive to all his own powers and resources. The change was so great
that his mind resumed its elasticity, and no longer thinking of
submission, it dwelt only on the devices of the sort of warfare in
which he was engaged.

As soon as Deerslayer was released, the band divided itself in
a circle around him, in order to hedge him in, and the desire to
break down his spirit grew in them, precisely as they saw proofs
of the difficulty there would be in subduing it. The honor of the
band was now involved in the issue, and even the fair sex lost all
its sympathy with suffering in the desire to save the reputation of
the tribe. The voices of the girls, soft and melodious as nature
had made them, were heard mingling with the menaces of the men,
and the wrongs of Sumach suddenly assumed the character of injuries
inflicted on every Huron female. Yielding to this rising tumult,
the men drew back a little, signifying to the females that they
left the captive, for a time, in their hands, it being a common
practice on such occasions for the women to endeavor to throw the
victim into a rage by their taunts and revilings, and then to turn
him suddenly over to the men in a state of mind that was little
favorable to resisting the agony of bodily suffering. Nor was this
party without the proper instruments for effecting such a purpose.
Sumach had a notoriety as a scold, and one or two crones,
like the She Bear, had come out with the party, most probably as
the conservators of its decency and moral discipline; such things
occurring in savage as well as in civilized life. It is unnecessary
to repeat all that ferocity and ignorance could invent for such a
purpose, the only difference between this outbreaking of feminine
anger, and a similar scene among ourselves, consisting in the
figures of speech and the epithets, the Huron women calling their
prisoner by the names of the lower and least respected animals that
were known to themselves.

But Deerslayer's mind was too much occupied to permit him to be
disturbed by the abuse of excited hags, and their rage necessarily
increasing with his indifference, as his indifference increased
with their rage, the furies soon rendered themselves impotent by
their own excesses. Perceiving that the attempt was a complete
failure, the warriors interfered to put a stop to this scene, and
this so much the more because preparations were now seriously making
for the commencement of the real tortures, or that which would put
the fortitude of the sufferer to the test of severe bodily pain. A
sudden and unlooked for announcement, that proceeded from one of the
look-outs, a boy ten or twelve years old, however, put a momentary
check to the whole proceedings. As this interruption has a close
connection with the dénouemnent of our story, it shall be given in
a separate chapter.

Chapter XXX.

"So deem'st thou - so each mortal deems
Of that which is from that which seems;
But other harvest here
Than that which peasant's scythe demands,
Was gather'd in by sterner hands,
With bayonet, blade, and spear."

Scott, "The Field of Waterloo," V.i-6.

It exceeded Deerslayer's power to ascertain what had produced the
sudden pause in the movements of his enemies, until the fact was
revealed in the due course of events. He perceived that much agitation
prevailed among the women in particular, while the warriors rested
on their arms in a sort of dignified expectation. It was plain no
alarm was excited, though it was not equally apparent that a friendly
occurrence produced the delay. Rivenoak was evidently apprised of
all, and by a gesture of his arm he appeared to direct the circle
to remain unbroken, and for each person to await the issue in the
situation he or she then occupied. It required but a minute or
two to bring an explanation of this singular and mysterious pause,
which was soon terminated by the appearance of Judith on the exterior
of the line of bodies, and her ready admission within its circle.

If Deerslayer was startled by this unexpected arrival, well knowing
that the quick witted girl could claim none of that exemption from
the penalties of captivity that was so cheerfully accorded to her
feebler minded sister, he was equally astonished at the guise in
which she came. All her ordinary forest attire, neat and becoming
as this usually was, had been laid aside for the brocade that
has been already mentioned, and which had once before wrought so
great and magical an effect in her appearance. Nor was this all.
Accustomed to see the ladies of the garrison in the formal, gala
attire of the day, and familiar with the more critical niceties
of these matters, the girl had managed to complete her dress in a
way to leave nothing strikingly defective in its details, or even
to betray an incongruity that would have been detected by one
practised in the mysteries of the toilet. Head, feet, arms, hands,
bust, and drapery, were all in harmony, as female attire was then
deemed attractive and harmonious, and the end she aimed at, that
of imposing on the uninstructed senses of the savages, by causing
them to believe their guest was a woman of rank and importance,
might well have succeeded with those whose habits had taught them
to discriminate between persons. Judith, in addition to her rare
native beauty, had a singular grace of person, and her mother had
imparted enough of her own deportment to prevent any striking or
offensive vulgarity of manner; so that, sooth to say, the gorgeous
dress might have been worse bestowed in nearly every particular.
Had it been displayed in a capital, a thousand might have worn it,
before one could have been found to do more credit to its gay colours,
glossy satins, and rich laces, than the beautiful creature whose
person it now aided to adorn. The effect of such an apparition had
not been miscalculated. The instant Judith found herself within the
circle, she was, in a degree, compensated for the fearful personal
risk she ran, by the unequivocal sensation of surprise and admiration
produced by her appearance. The grim old warriors uttered their
favorite exclamation "hugh!" The younger men were still more
sensibly overcome, and even the women were not backward in letting
open manifestations of pleasure escape them. It was seldom that
these untutored children of the forest had ever seen any white
female above the commonest sort, and, as to dress, never before had
so much splendor shone before their eyes. The gayest uniforms of
both French and English seemed dull compared with the lustre of the
brocade, and while the rare personal beauty of the wearer added to
the effect produced by its hues, the attire did not fail to adorn
that beauty in a way which surpassed even the hopes of its wearer.
Deerslayer himself was astounded, and this quite as much by the
brilliant picture the girl presented, as at the indifference to
consequences with which she had braved the danger of the step she
had taken. Under such circumstances, all waited for the visitor
to explain her object, which to most of the spectators seemed as
inexplicable as her appearance.

"Which of these warriors is the principal chief?" demanded Judith of
Deerslayer, as soon as she found it was expected that she should
open the communications; "my errand is too important to be delivered
to any of inferior rank. First explain to the Hurons what I say;
then give an answer to the question I have put."

Deerslayer quietly complied, his auditors greedily listening to the
interpretation of the first words that fell from so extraordinary
a vision. The demand seemed perfectly in character for one who
had every appearance of an exalted rank, herself. Rivenoak gave an
appropriate reply, by presenting himself before his fair visitor in
a way to leave no doubt that he was entitled to all the consideration
he claimed.

"I can believe this, Huron," resumed Judith, enacting her assumed
part with a steadiness and dignity that did credit to her powers of
imitation, for she strove to impart to her manner the condescending
courtesy she had once observed in the wife of a general officer,
at a similar though a more amicable scene: "I can believe you to
be the principal person of this party; I see in your countenance
the marks of thought and reflection. To you, then, I must make my

"Let the Flower of the Woods speak," returned the old chief
courteously, as soon as her address had been translated so that all
might understand it - "If her words are as pleasant as her looks,
they will never quit my ears; I shall hear them long after the winter
of Canada has killed all the flowers, and frozen all the speeches
of summer."

This admiration was grateful to one constituted like Judith, and
contributed to aid her self-possession, quite as much as it fed
her vanity. Smiling involuntarily, or in spite of her wish to seem
reserved, she proceeded in her plot.

"Now, Huron," she continued, "listen to my words. Your eyes tell
you that I am no common woman. I will not say I am queen of this
country; she is afar off, in a distant land; but under our gracious
monarchs, there are many degrees of rank; one of these I fill. What
that rank is precisely, it is unnecessary for me to say, since you
would not understand it. For that information you must trust your
eyes. You see what I am; you must feel that in listening to my
words, you listen to one who can be your friend, or your enemy, as
you treat her."

This was well uttered, with a due attention to manner and a
steadiness of tone that was really surprising, considering all the
circumstances of the case. It was well, though simply rendered
into the Indian dialect too, and it was received with a respect
and gravity that augured favourably for the girl's success. But
Indian thought is not easily traced to its sources. Judith waited
with anxiety to hear the answer, filled with hope even while she
doubted. Rivenoak was a ready speaker, and he answered as promptly
as comported with the notions of Indian decorum; that peculiar
people seeming to think a short delay respectful, inasmuch as it
manifests that the words already heard have been duly weighed.

"My daughter is handsomer than the wild roses of Ontario; her
voice is pleasant to the ear as the song of the wren," answered
the cautious and wily chief, who of all the band stood alone in not
being fully imposed on by the magnificent and unusual appearance
of Judith; but who distrusted even while he wondered: "the humming
bird is not much larger than the bee; yet, its feathers are as gay
as the tail of the peacock. The Great Spirit sometimes puts very
bright clothes on very little animals. Still He covers the Moose
with coarse hair. These things are beyond the understanding of
poor Indians, who can only comprehend what they see and hear. No
doubt my daughter has a very large wigwam somewhere about the lake;

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