Part 2 out of 11
her situation excited. An idiot she could not properly be termed,
her mind being just enough enfeebled to lose most of those traits
that are connected with the more artful qualities, and to retain
its ingenuousness and love of truth. It had often been remarked of
this girl, by the few who had seen her, and who possessed sufficient
knowledge to discriminate, that her perception of the right seemed
almost intuitive, while her aversion to the wrong formed so distinctive
a feature of her mind, as to surround her with an atmosphere of
pure morality; peculiarities that are not infrequent with persons
who are termed feeble-minded; as if God had forbidden the evil spirits
to invade a precinct so defenceless, with the benign purpose of
extending a direct protection to those who had been left without the
usual aids of humanity. Her person, too, was agreeable, having a
strong resemblance to that of her sister's, of which it was a subdued
and humble copy. If it had none of the brilliancy of Judith's, the
calm, quiet, almost holy expression of her meek countenance seldom
failed to win on the observer, and few noted it long that did not
begin to feel a deep and lasting interest in the girl. She had no
colour, in common, nor was her simple mind apt to present images
that caused her cheek to brighten, though she retained a modesty
so innate that it almost raised her to the unsuspecting purity of
a being superior to human infirmities. Guileless, innocent, and
without distrust, equally by nature and from her mode of life,
providence had, nevertheless shielded her from harm, by a halo of
moral light, as it is said 'to temper the wind to the shorn lamb.'
"You are Hetty Hutter," said Deerslayer, in the way one puts a
question unconsciously to himself, assuming a kindness of tone and
manner that were singularly adapted to win the confidence of her
he addressed. "Hurry Harry has told me of you, and I know you must
be the child?"
"Yes, I'm Hetty Hutter" returned the girl in a low, sweet voice,
which nature, aided by some education, had preserved from vulgarity
of tone and utterance-"I'm Hetty; Judith Hutter's sister; and Thomas
Hutter's youngest daughter."
"I know your history, then, for Hurry Harry talks considerable,
and he is free of speech when he can find other people's consarns
to dwell on. You pass most of your life on the lake, Hetty."
"Certainly. Mother is dead; father is gone a-trapping, and Judith
and I stay at home. What's your name?"
"That's a question more easily asked than it is answered, young
woman, seeing that I'm so young, and yet have borne more names than
some of the greatest chiefs in all America."
"But you've got a name- you don't throw away one name, before you
come honestly by another?"
"I hope not, gal- I hope not. My names have come nat'rally, and I
suppose the one I bear now will be of no great lasting, since the
Delawares seldom settle on a man's ra'al title, until such time as
he has an opportunity of showing his true natur', in the council,
or on the warpath; which has never behappened me; seeing firstly,
because I'm not born a red-skin and have no right to sit in their
councillings, and am much too humble to be called on for opinions
from the great of my own colour; and, secondly, because this is
the first war that has befallen in my time, and no inimy has yet
inroaded far enough into the colony, to be reached by an arm even
longer than mine."
"Tell me your names," added Hetty, looking up at him artlessly,
"and, maybe, I'll tell you your character."
"There is some truth in that, I'll not deny, though it often fails.
Men are deceived in other men's characters, and frequently give
'em names they by no means desarve. You can see the truth of this
in the Mingo names, which, in their own tongue, signify the same
things as the Delaware names,- at least, so they tell me, for I know
little of that tribe, unless it be by report,- and no one can say
they are as honest or as upright a nation. I put no great dependence,
therefore, on names."
"Tell me all your names," repeated the girl, earnestly, for her
mind was too simple to separate things from professions, and she
did attach importance to a name; "I want to know what to think of
"Well, sartain; I've no objection, and you shall hear them all.
In the first place, then, I'm Christian, and white-born, like
yourself, and my parents had a name that came down from father to
son, as is a part of their gifts. My father was called Bumppo; and
I was named after him, of course, the given name being Nathaniel,
or Natty, as most people saw fit to tarm it."
"Yes, yes - Natty - and Hetty" interrupted the girl quickly, and
looking up from her work again, with a smile: "you are Natty, and
I'm Hetty-though you are Bumppo, and I'm Hutter. Bumppo isn't
as pretty as Hutter, is it?"
"Why, that's as people fancy. Bumppo has no lofty sound, I admit;
and yet men have bumped through the world with it. I did not go
by this name, howsoever, very long; for the Delawares soon found
out, or thought they found out, that I was not given to lying, and
they called me, firstly, 'Straight-tongue.'"
"That's a good name," interrupted Hetty, earnestly, and in a
positive manner; "don't tell me there's no virtue in names!"
"I do not say that, for perhaps I desarved to be so called, lies
being no favorites with me, as they are with some. After a while
they found out I was quick of foot, and then they called me 'The
Pigeon'; which, you know, has a swift wing, and flies in a straight
"That was a pretty name!" exclaimed Hetty; "pigeons are pretty
"Most things that God created are pretty in their way, my good gal,
though they get to be deformed by mankind, so as to change their
natur's, as well as their appearance. From carrying messages, and
striking blind trails, I got at last to following the hunters, when
it was thought I was quicker and surer at finding the game than
most lads, and then they called me the 'Lap-ear'; as, they said,
I partook of the sagacity of the hound."
"That's not so pretty," answered Hetty; "I hope you didn't keep
that name long."
"Not after I was rich enough to buy a rifle," returned the other,
betraying a little pride through his usually quiet and subdued
manner; "then it was seen I could keep a wigwam in ven'son; and
in time I got the name of 'Deerslayer,' which is that I now bear;
homely as some will think it, who set more value on the scalp of
a fellow-mortal than on the horns of a buck"
"Well, Deerslayer, I'm not one of them," answered Hetty, simply;
"Judith likes soldiers, and flary coats, and fine feathers; but
they're all naught to me. She says the officers are great, and gay,
and of soft speech; but they make me shudder, for their business
is to kill their fellow-creatures. I like your calling better;
and your last name is a very good one-- better than Natty Bumppo."
"This is nat'ral in one of your turn of mind, Hetty, and much as I
should have expected. They tell me your sister is handsome--oncommon,
for a mortal; and beauty is apt to seek admiration."
"Did you never see Judith?" demanded the girl, with quick earnestness;
"if you never have, go at once and look at her. Even Hurry Harry
isn't more pleasant to look at though she is a woman, and he is
Deerslayer regarded the girl for a moment with concern. Her
pale-face had flushed a little, and her eye, usually so mild and
serene, brightened as she spoke, in the way to betray the inward
"Ay, Hurry Harry," he muttered to himself, as he walked through
the cabin towards the other end of the boat; "this comes of good
looks, if a light tongue has had no consarn in it. It's easy to
see which way that poor creatur's feelin's are leanin', whatever
may be the case with your Jude's."
But an interruption was put to the gallantry of Hurry, the coquetry
of his intros, the thoughts of Deerslayer, and the gentle feelings
of Hetty, by the sudden appearance of the canoe of the ark's owner,
in the narrow opening among the bushes that served as a sort of
moat to his position. It would seem that Hutter, or Floating Tom,
as he was familiarly called by all the hunters who knew his habits,
recognized the canoe of Hurry, for he expressed no surprise at
finding him in the scow. On the contrary, his reception was such
as to denote not only gratification, but a pleasure, mingled with
a little disappointment at his not having made his appearance some
"I looked for you last week," he said, in a half-grumbling,
half-welcoming manner; "and was disappointed uncommonly that you
didn't arrive. There came a runner through, to warn all the trappers
and hunters that the colony and the Canadas were again in trouble;
and I felt lonesome, up in these mountains, with three scalps to
see to, and only one pair of hands to protect them."
"That's reasonable," returned March; "and 't was feeling like a
parent. No doubt, if I had two such darters as Judith and Hetty,
my exper'ence would tell the same story, though in gin'ral I am
just as well satisfied with having the nearest neighbor fifty miles
off, as when he is within call."
"Notwithstanding, you didn't choose to come into the wilderness
alone, now you knew that the Canada savages are likely to be
stirring," returned Hutter, giving a sort of distrustful, and at
the same time inquiring glance at Deerslayer.
"Why should I? They say a bad companion, on a journey, helps to
shorten the path; and this young man I account to be a reasonably
good one. This is Deerslayer, old Tom, a noted hunter among the
Delawares, and Christian-born, and Christian-edicated, too, like
you and me. The lad is not parfect, perhaps, but there's worse
men in the country that he came from, and it's likely he'll find
some that's no better, in this part of the world. Should we have
occasion to defend our traps, and the territory, he'll be useful
in feeding us all; for he's a reg'lar dealer in ven'son."
"Young man, you are welcome," growled Tom, thrusting a hard, bony
hand towards the youth, as a pledge of his sincerity; "in such
times, a white face is a friend's, and I count on you as a support.
Children sometimes make a stout heart feeble, and these two daughters
of mine give me more concern than all my traps, and skins, and
rights in the country."
"That's nat'ral!" cried Hurry. "Yes, Deerslayer, you and I don't
know it yet by experience; but, on the whole, I consider that as
nat'ral. If we had darters, it's more than probable we should
have some such feelin's; and I honor the man that owns 'em. As
for Judith, old man, I enlist, at once, as her soldier, and here
is Deerslayer to help you to take care of Hetty."
"Many thanks to you, Master March," returned the beauty, in a full,
rich voice, and with an accuracy of intonation and utterance that
she shared in common with her sister, and which showed that she
had been better taught than her father's life and appearance would
give reason to expect. "Many thanks to you; but Judith Hutter
has the spirit and the experience that will make her depend more
on herself than on good-looking rovers like you. Should there be
need to face the savages, do you land with my father, instead of
burrowing in the huts, under the show of defending us females and-"
"Girl-- girl," interrupted the father, "quiet that glib tongue
of thine, and hear the truth. There are savages on the lake shore
already, and no man can say how near to us they may be at this very
moment, or when we may hear more from them!"
"If this be true, Master Hutter," said Hurry, whose change of
countenance denoted how serious he deemed the information, though
it did not denote any unmanly alarm, "if this be true, your ark is
in a most misfortunate position, for, though the cover did deceive
Deerslayer and myself, it would hardly be overlooked by a full-blooded
Injin, who was out seriously in s'arch of scalps!"
"I think as you do, Hurry, and wish, with all my heart, we lay
anywhere else, at this moment, than in this narrow, crooked stream,
which has many advantages to hide in, but which is almost fatal to
them that are discovered. The savages are near us, moreover, and
the difficulty is, to get out of the river without being shot down
like deer standing at a lick!"
"Are you sartain, Master Hutter, that the red-skins you dread are
ra'al Canadas?" asked Deerslayer, in a modest but earnest manner.
"Have you seen any, and can you describe their paint?"
"I have fallen in with the signs of their being in the neighborhood,
but have seen none of 'em. I was down stream a mile or so, looking
to my traps, when I struck a fresh trail, crossing the corner of a
swamp, and moving northward. The man had not passed an hour; and
I know'd it for an Indian footstep, by the size of the foot, and
the intoe, even before I found a worn moccasin, which its owner
had dropped as useless. For that matter, I found the spot where
he halted to make a new one, which was only a few yards from the
place where he had dropped the old one."
"That doesn't look much like a red-skin on the war path!" returned
the other, shaking his head. "An exper'enced warrior, at least,
would have burned, or buried, or sunk in the river such signs of
his passage; and your trail is, quite likely, a peaceable trail.
But the moccasin may greatly relieve my mind, if you bethought you
of bringing it off. I've come here to meet a young chief myself;
and his course would be much in the direction you've mentioned.
The trail may have been his'n."
"Hurry Harry, you're well acquainted with this young man, I hope,
who has meetings with savages in a part of the country where he
has never been before?" demanded Hutter, in a tone and in a manner
that sufficiently indicated the motive of the question; these rude
beings seldom hesitating, on the score of delicacy, to betray their
feelings. "Treachery is an Indian virtue; and the whites, that
live much in their tribes, soon catch their ways and practices."
"True- true as the Gospel, old Tom; but not personable to Deerslayer,
who's a young man of truth, if he has no other ricommend. I'll
answer for his honesty, whatever I may do for his valor in battle."
"I should like to know his errand in this strange quarter of the
"That is soon told, Master Hutter," said the young man, with the
composure of one who kept a clean conscience. "I think, moreover,
you've a right to ask it. The father of two such darters,
who occupies a lake, after your fashion, has just the same right
to inquire into a stranger's business in his neighborhood, as the
colony would have to demand the reason why the Frenchers put more
rijiments than common along the lines. No, no, I'll not deny your
right to know why a stranger comes into your habitation or country,
in times as serious as these."
"If such is your way of thinking, friend, let me hear your story
without more words."
"'T is soon told, as I said afore; and shall be honestly told. I'm
a young man, and, as yet, have never been on a war-path; but
no sooner did the news come among the Delawares, that wampum and
a hatchet were about to be sent in to the tribe, than they wished
me to go out among the people of my own color, and get the exact
state of things for 'em. This I did, and, after delivering my
talk to the chiefs, on my return, I met an officer of the crown on
the Schoharie, who had messages to send to some of the fri'ndly
tribes that live farther west. This was thought a good occasion
for Chingachgook, a young chief who has never struck a foe, and
myself; to go on our first war path in company, and an app'intment
was made for us, by an old Delaware, to meet at the rock near the
foot of this lake. I'll not deny that Chingachgook has another
object in view, but it has no consarn with any here, and is his
secret and not mine; therefore I'll say no more about it."
"'Tis something about a young woman," interrupted Judith hastily,
then laughing at her own impetuosity, and even having the grace
to colour a little, at the manner in which she had betrayed her
readiness to impute such a motive. "If 'tis neither war, nor a
hunt, it must be love."
"Ay, it comes easy for the young and handsome, who hear so much
of them feelin's, to suppose that they lie at the bottom of most
proceedin's; but, on that head, I say nothin'. Chingachgook is to
meet me at the rock, an hour afore sunset tomorrow evening, after
which we shall go our way together, molesting none but the king's
inimies, who are lawfully our own. Knowing Hurry of old, who
once trapped in our hunting grounds, and falling in with him on the
Schoharie, just as he was on the p'int of starting for his summer
ha'nts, we agreed to journey in company; not so much from fear of
the Mingos, as from good fellowship, and, as he says, to shorten
a long road."
"And you think the trail I saw may have been that of your friend,
ahead of his time?" said Hutter.
"That's my idee, which may be wrong, but which may be right. If I
saw the moccasin, howsever, I could tell, in a minute, whether it
is made in the Delaware fashion, or not."
"Here it is, then," said the quick-witted Judith, who had already
gone to the canoe in quest of it. "Tell us what it says; friend
or enemy. You look honest, and I believe all you say, whatever
father may think."
"That's the way with you, Jude; forever finding out friends, where
I distrust foes," grumbled Tom: "but, speak out, young man, and
tell us what you think of the moccasin."
"That's not Delaware made," returned Deerslayer, examining the worn
and rejected covering for the foot with a cautious eye. "I'm too
young on a war-path to be positive, but I should say that moccasin
has a northern look, and comes from beyond the Great Lakes."
"If such is the case, we ought not to lie here a minute longer
than is necessary," said Hutter, glancing through the leaves of
his cover, as if he already distrusted the presence of an enemy on
the opposite shore of the narrow and sinuous stream. "It wants but
an hour or so of night, and to move in the dark will be impossible,
without making a noise that would betray us. Did you hear the echo
of a piece in the mountains, half-an-hour since?"
"Yes, old man, and heard the piece itself," answered Hurry, who now
felt the indiscretion of which he had been guilty, "for the last
was fired from my own shoulder."
"I feared it came from the French Indians; still it may put them
on the look-out, and be a means of discovering us. You did wrong
to fire in war-time, unless there was good occasion.
"So I begin to think myself, Uncle Tom; and yet, if a man can't
trust himself to let off his rifle in a wilderness that is a thousand
miles square, lest some inimy should hear it, where's the use in
Hutter now held a long consultation with his two guests, in which
the parties came to a true understanding of their situation. He
explained the difficulty that would exist in attempting to get
the ark out of so swift and narrow a stream, in the dark, without
making a noise that could not fail to attract Indian ears. Any
strollers in their vicinity would keep near the river or the lake;
but the former had swampy shores in many places, and was both so
crooked and so fringed with bushes, that it was quite possible to
move by daylight without incurring much danger of being seen. More
was to be apprehended, perhaps, from the ear than from the eye,
especially as long as they were in the short, straitened, and
canopied reaches of the stream.
"I never drop down into this cover, which is handy to my traps,
and safer than the lake from curious eyes, without providing the
means of getting out ag'in," continued this singular being; "and
that is easier done by a pull than a push. My anchor is now lying
above the suction, in the open lake; and here is a line, you see,
to haul us up to it. Without some such help, a single pair of
bands would make heavy work in forcing a scow like this up stream.
I have a sort of a crab, too, that lightens the pull, on occasion.
Jude can use the oar astern as well as myself; and when we fear no
enemy, to get out of the river gives us but little trouble."
"What should we gain, Master Hutter, by changing the position?"
asked Deerslayer, with a good deal of earnestness; "this is a safe
cover, and a stout defence might be made from the inside of this
cabin. I've never fou't unless in the way of tradition; but it
seems to me we might beat off twenty Mingos, with palisades like
them afore us."
"Ay, ay; you 've never fought except in traditions, that's plain
enough, young man! Did you ever see as broad a sheet of water as
this above us, before you came in upon it with Hurry?"
"I can't say that I ever did," Deerslayer answered, modestly. "Youth
is the time to l'arn; and I'm far from wishing to raise my voice
in counsel, afore it is justified by exper'ence."
"Well, then, I'll teach you the disadvantage of fighting in this
position, and the advantage of taking to the open lake. Here,
you may see, the savages will know where to aim every shot; and it
would be too much to hope that some would not find their way through
the crevices of the logs. Now, on the other hand, we should have
nothing but a forest to aim at. Then we are not safe from fire,
here, the bark of this roof being little better than so much
kindling-wood. The castle, too, might be entered and ransacked in
my absence, and all my possessions overrun and destroyed. Once in
the lake, we can be attacked only in boats or on rafts- shall have
a fair chance with the enemy-and can protect the castle with the
ark. Do you understand this reasoning, youngster?"
"It sounds well- yes, it has a rational sound; and I'll not gainsay
"Well, old Tom," cried Hurry, "If we are to move, the sooner we
make a beginning, the sooner we shall know whether we are to have
our scalps for night-caps, or not."
As this proposition was self-evident, no one denied its justice.
The three men, after a short preliminary explanation, now set
about their preparations to move the ark in earnest. The slight
fastenings were quickly loosened; and, by hauling on the line, the
heavy craft slowly emerged from the cover. It was no sooner free
from the incumbrance of the branches, than it swung into the stream,
sheering quite close to the western shore, by the force of the
current. Not a soul on board heard the rustling of the branches,
as the cabin came against the bushes and trees of the western bank,
without a feeling of uneasiness; for no one knew at what moment, or
in what place, a secret and murderous enemy might unmask himself.
Perhaps the gloomy light that still struggled through the impending
canopy of leaves, or found its way through the narrow, ribbon-like
opening, which seemed to mark, in the air above, the course of
the river that flowed beneath, aided in augmenting the appearance
of the danger; for it was little more than sufficient to render
objects visible, without giving up all their outlines at a glance.
Although the sun had not absolutely set, it had withdrawn its direct
rays from the valley; and the hues of evening were beginning to
gather around objects that stood uncovered, rendering those within
the shadows of the woods still more sombre and gloomy.
No interruption followed the movement, however, and, as the men
continued to haul on the line, the ark passed steadily ahead, the
great breadth of the scow preventing its sinking into the water,
and from offering much resistance to the progress of the swift
element beneath its bottom. Hutter, too, had adopted a precaution
suggested by experience, which might have done credit to a seaman,
and which completely prevented any of the annoyances and obstacles
which otherwise would have attended the short turns of the river.
As the ark descended, heavy stones, attached to the line, were
dropped in the centre of the stream, forming local anchors, each
of which was kept from dragging by the assistance of those above
it, until the uppermost of all was reached, which got its "backing"
from the anchor, or grapnel, that lay well out in the lake. In
consequence of this expedient, the ark floated clear of the
incumbrances of the shore, against which it would otherwise have
been unavoidably hauled at every turn, producing embarrassments
that Hutter, single-handed, would have found it very difficult to
overcome. Favored by this foresight, and stimulated by the apprehension
of discovery, Floating Tom and his two athletic companions hauled
the ark ahead with quite as much rapidity as comported with the
strength of the line. At every turn in the stream, a stone was
raised from the bottom, when the direction of the scow changed to
one that pointed towards the stone that lay above. In this manner,
with the channel buoyed out for him, as a sailor might term it,
did Hutter move forward, occasionally urging his friends, in a low
and guarded voice, to increase their exertions, and then, as occasions
offered, warning them against efforts that might, at particular
moments, endanger all by too much zeal. In spite of their long
familiarity with the woods, the gloomy character of the shaded river
added to the uneasiness that each felt; and when the ark reached
the first bend in the Susquehannah, and the eye caught a glimpse
of the broader expanse of the lake, all felt a relief, that perhaps
none would have been willing to confess. Here the last stone
was raised from the bottom, and the line led directly towards the
grapnel, which, as Hutter had explained, was dropped above the
suction of the current.
"Thank God!" ejaculated Hurry, "there is daylight, and we shall
soon have a chance of seeing our inimies, if we are to feel 'em."
"That is more than you or any man can say," growled Hutter.
"There is no spot so likely to harbor a party as the shore around
the outlet, and the moment we clear these trees and get into
open water, will be the most trying time, since it will leave the
enemy a cover, while it puts us out of one. Judith, girl, do you
and Hetty leave the oar to take care of itself; and go within the
cabin; and be mindful not to show your faces at a window; for they
who will look at them won't stop to praise their beauty. And now,
Hurry, we 'll step into this outer room ourselves, and haul through
the door, where we shall all be safe, from a surprise, at least.
Friend Deerslayer, as the current is lighter, and the line has all
the strain on it that is prudent, do you keep moving from window
to window, taking care not to let your head be seen, if you set
any value on life. No one knows when or where we shall hear from
Deerslayer complied, with a sensation that had nothing in common
with fear, but which had all the interest of a perfectly novel and
a most exciting situation. For the first time in his life he was
in the vicinity of enemies, or had good reason to think so; and
that, too, under all the thrilling circumstances of Indian surprises
and Indian artifices. As he took his stand at the window, the ark
was just passing through the narrowest part of the stream, a point
where the water first entered what was properly termed the river,
and where the trees fairly interlocked overhead, causing the
current to rush into an arch of verdure; a feature as appropriate
and peculiar to the country, perhaps, as that of Switzerland, where
the rivers come rushing literally from chambers of ice.
The ark was in the act of passing the last curve of this leafy
entrance, as Deerslayer, having examined all that could be seen of
the eastern bank of the river, crossed the room to look from the
opposite window, at the western. His arrival at this aperture was
most opportune, for he had no sooner placed his eye at a crack,
than a sight met his gaze that might well have alarmed a sentinel
so young and inexperienced. A sapling overhung the water, in nearly
half a circle, having first grown towards the light, and then been
pressed down into this form by the weight of the snows; a circumstance
of common occurrence in the American woods. On this no less than
six Indians had already appeared, others standing ready to follow
them, as they left room; each evidently bent on running out on the
trunk, and dropping on the roof of the ark as it passed beneath. This
would have been an exploit of no great difficulty, the inclination
of the tree admitting of an easy passage, the adjoining branches
offering ample support for the hands, and the fall being too trifling
to be apprehended. When Deerslayer first saw this party, it was
just unmasking itself, by ascending the part of the tree nearest to
the earth, or that which was much the most difficult to overcome;
and his knowledge of Indian habits told him at once that they were
all in their war-paint, and belonged to a hostile tribe.
"Pull, Hurry," he cried; "pull for your life, and as you love
Judith Hutter! Pull, man, pull!"
This call was made to one that the young man knew had the strength
of a giant. It was so earnest and solemn, that both Hutter and
March felt it was not idly given, and they applied all their force
to the line simultaneously, and at a most critical moment. The scow
redoubled its motion, and seemed to glide from under the tree as
if conscious of the danger that was impending overhead. Perceiving
that they were discovered, the Indians uttered the fearful war-whoop,
and running forward on the tree, leaped desperately towards their
fancied prize. There were six on the tree, and each made the
effort. All but their leader fell into the river more or less
distant from the ark, as they came, sooner or later, to the leaping
place. The chief, who had taken the dangerous post in advance,
having an earlier opportunity than the others, struck the scow just
within the stern. The fall proving so much greater than he had
anticipated, he was slightly stunned, and for a moment he remained
half bent and unconscious of his situation. At this instant Judith
rushed from the cabin, her beauty heightened by the excitement that
produced the bold act, which flushed her cheek to crimson, and,
throwing all her strength into the effort, she pushed the intruder
over the edge of the scow, headlong into the river. This decided
feat was no sooner accomplished than the woman resumed her sway;
Judith looked over the stern to ascertain what had become of the
man, and the expression of her eyes softened to concern, next, her
cheek crimsoned between shame and surprise at her own temerity,
and then she laughed in her own merry and sweet manner. All this
occupied less than a minute, when the arm of Deerslayer was thrown
around her waist, and she was dragged swiftly within the protection
of the cabin. This retreat was not effected too soon. Scarcely
were the two in safety, when the forest was filled with yells, and
bullets began to patter against the logs.
The ark being in swift motion all this while, it was beyond the
danger of pursuit by the time these little events had occurred;
and the savages, as soon as the first burst of their anger had
subsided, ceased firing, with the consciousness that they were
expending their ammunition in vain. When the scow came up over
her grapnel, Hutter tripped the latter in a way not to impede the
motion; and being now beyond the influence of the current, the vessel
continued to drift ahead, until fairly in the open lake, though
still near enough to the land to render exposure to a rifle-bullet
dangerous. Hutter and March got out two small sweeps and, covered
by the cabin, they soon urged the ark far enough from the shore to
leave no inducement to their enemies to make any further attempt
to injure them.
"Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play,
For some must watch, while some must sleep,
Thus runs the world away."
Another consultation took place in the forward part of the scow, at
which both Judith and Hetty were present. As no danger could now
approach unseen, immediate uneasiness had given place to the concern
which attended the conviction that enemies were in considerable
force on the shores of the lake, and that they might be sure
no practicable means of accomplishing their own destruction would
be neglected. As a matter of course Hutter felt these truths the
deepest, his daughters having an habitual reliance on his resources,
and knowing too little to appreciate fully all the risks they ran;
while his male companions were at liberty to quit him at any moment
they saw fit. His first remark showed that he had an eye to the
latter circumstance, and might have betrayed, to a keen observer,
the apprehension that was just then uppermost.
"We've a great advantage over the Iroquois, or the enemy, whoever
they are, in being afloat," he said.
"There's not a canoe on the lake that I don't know where it's
hid; and now yours is here. Hurry, there are but three more on
the land, and they're so snug in hollow logs that I don't believe
the Indians could find them, let them try ever so long."
"There's no telling that- no one can say that," put in Deerslayer;
"a hound is not more sartain on the scent than a red-skin, when
he expects to get anything by it. Let this party see scalps afore
'em, or plunder, or honor accordin' to their idees of what honor
is, and 't will be a tight log that hides a canoe from their eyes."
"You're right, Deerslayer," cried Harry March; "you're downright
Gospel in this matter, and I rej'ice that my bunch of bark is safe
enough here, within reach of my arm. I calcilate they'll be at
all the rest of the canoes afore to-morrow night, if they are in
ra'al 'arnest to smoke you out, old Tom, and we may as well overhaul
our paddles for a pull."
Hutter made no immediate reply. He looked about him in silence
for quite a minute, examining the sky, the lake, and the belt of
forest which inclosed it, as it might be hermetically, like one
consulting their signs. Nor did he find any alarming symptoms.
The boundless woods were sleeping in the deep repose of nature,
the heavens were placid, but still luminous with the light of the
retreating sun, while the lake looked more lovely and calm than
it had before done that day. It was a scene altogether soothing,
and of a character to lull the passions into a species of holy
calm. How far this effect was produced, however, on the party in
the ark, must appear in the progress of our narrative.
"Judith," called out the father, when he had taken this close but
short survey of the omens, "night is at hand; find our friends
food; a long march gives a sharp appetite."
"We're not starving, Master Hutter," March observed, "for we filled
up just as we reached the lake, and for one, I prefer the company
of Jude even to her supper. This quiet evening is very agreeable
to sit by her side."
"Natur' is natur'," objected Hutter, "and must be fed. Judith,
see to the meal, and take your sister to help you. I've a little
discourse to hold with you, friends," he continued, as soon as his
daughters were out of hearing, "and wish the girls away. You see
my situation, and I should like to hear your opinions concerning
what is best to be done. Three times have I been burnt out already,
but that was on the shore; and I've considered myself as pretty
safe ever since I got the castle built, and the ark afloat. My
other accidents, however, happened in peaceable times, being nothing
more than such flurries as a man must meet with, in the woods; but
this matter looks serious, and your ideas would greatly relieve my
"It's my notion, old Tom, that you, and your huts, and your traps,
and your whole possessions, hereaway, are in desperate jippardy,"
returned the matter-of-fact Hurry, who saw no use in concealment.
"Accordin' to my idees of valie, they're altogether not worth half
as much today as they was yesterday, nor would I give more for 'em,
taking the pay in skins."
"Then I've children!" continued the father, making the allusion
in a way that it might have puzzled even an indifferent observer
to say was intended as a bait, or as an exclamation of paternal
concern, "daughters, as you know, Hurry, and good girls too, I may
say, though I am their father."
"A man may say anything, Master Hutter, particularly when pressed
by time and circumstances. You've darters, as you say, and one
of them hasn't her equal on the frontiers for good looks, whatever
she may have for good behavior. As for poor Hetty, she's Hetty
Hutter, and that's as much as one can say about the poor thing.
Give me Jude, if her conduct was only equal to her looks!"
"I see, Harry March, I can only count on you as a fair-weather
friend; and I suppose that your companion will be of the same way
of thinking," returned the other, with a slight show of pride,
that was not altogether without dignity; "well, I must depend on
Providence, which will not turn a deaf ear, perhaps, to a father's
"If you've understood Hurry, here, to mean that he intends to desart
you," said Deerslayer, with an earnest simplicity that gave double
assurance of its truth, "I think you do him injustice, as I know
you do me, in supposing I would follow him, was he so ontrue-hearted
as to leave a family of his own color in such a strait as this.
I've come on this at take, Master Hutter, to rende'vous a fri'nd,
and I only wish he was here himself, as I make no doubt he will be
at sunset tomorrow, when you'd have another rifle to aid you; an
inexper'enced one, I'll allow, like my own, but one that has proved
true so often ag'in the game, big and little, that I'll answer for
its sarvice ag'in mortals."
May I depend on you to stand by me and my daughters, then, Deerslayer?"
demanded the old man, with a father's anxiety in his countenance.
"That may you, Floating Tom, if that's your name; and as a
brother would stand by a sister, a husband his wife, or a suitor
his sweetheart. In this strait you may count on me, through all
advarsities; and I think Hurry does discredit to his natur' and
wishes, if you can't count on him."
"Not he," cried Judith, thrusting her handsome face out of the
door; "his nature is hurry, as well as his name, and he'll hurry
off, as soon as he thinks his fine figure in danger. Neither 'old
Tom,' nor his 'gals,' will depend much on Master March, now they
know him, but you they will rely on, Deerslayer; for your honest face
and honest heart tell us that what you promise you will perform."
This was said, as much, perhaps, in affected scorn for Hurry, as
in sincerity. Still, it was not said without feeling. The fine
face of Judith sufficiently proved the latter circumstance; and if
the conscious March fancied that he had never seen in it a stronger
display of contempt- a feeling in which the beauty was apt to
indulge- than while she was looking at him, it certainly seldom
exhibited more of a womanly softness and sensibility, than when
her speaking blue eyes were turned on his travelling companion.
"Leave us, Judith," Hutter ordered sternly, before either of the
young men could reply; "leave us; and do not return until you come
with the venison and fish. The girl has been spoilt by the flattery
of the officers, who sometimes find their way up here, Master March,
and you'll not think any harm of her silly words."
"You never said truer syllable, old Tom," retorted Hurry, who smarted
under Judith's observations; "the devil-tongued youngsters of the
garrison have proved her undoing! I scarce know Jude any longer,
and shall soon take to admiring her sister, who is getting to be
much more to my fancy."
"I'm glad to hear this, Harry, and look upon it as a sign that
you're coming to your right senses. Hetty would make a much safer
and more rational companion than Jude, and would be much the most
likely to listen to your suit, as the officers have, I greatly
fear, unsettled her sister's mind."
"No man needs a safer wife than Hetty," said Hurry, laughing,
"though I'll not answer for her being of the most rational. But
no matter; Deerslayer has not misconceived me, when he told you
I should be found at my post. I'll not quit you, Uncle Tom, just
now, whatever may be my feelin's and intentions respecting your
Hurry had a respectable reputation for prowess among his
associates, and Hutter heard this pledge with a satisfaction that
was not concealed. Even the great personal strength of such an aid
became of moment, in moving the ark, as well as in the species of
hand-to-hand conflicts, that were not unfrequent in the woods; and
no commander who was hard pressed could feel more joy at hearing
of the arrival of reinforcements, than the borderer experienced at
being told this important auxiliary was not about to quit him. A
minute before, Hutter would have been well content to compromise
his danger, by entering into a compact to act only on the defensive;
but no sooner did he feel some security on this point, than the
restlessness of man induced him to think of the means of carrying
the war into the enemy's country.
"High prices are offered for scalps on both sides." he observed,
with a grim smile, as if he felt the force of the inducement, at
the very time he wished to affect a superiority to earning money
by means that the ordinary feelings of those who aspire to be
civilized men repudiated, even while they were adopted. "It isn't
right, perhaps, to take gold for human blood; and yet, when mankind
is busy in killing one another, there can be no great harm in adding
a little bit of skin to the plunder. What's your sentiments, Hurry,
touching these p'ints?"
"That you've made a vast mistake, old man, in calling savage blood
human blood, at all. I think no more of a red-skin's scalp than
I do of a pair of wolf's ears; and would just as lief finger money
for the one as for the other. With white people 't is different,
for they've a nat'ral avarsion to being scalped; whereas your Indian
shaves his head in readiness for the knife, and leaves a lock of
hair by way of braggadocio, that one can lay hold of in the bargain."
"That's manly, however, and I felt from the first that we had only
to get you on our side, to have your heart and hand," returned
Tom, losing all his reserve, as he gained a renewed confidence in
the disposition of his companions. "Something more may turn up from
this inroad of the red-skins than they bargained for. Deerslayer,
I conclude you're of Hurry's way of thinking, and look upon money
'arned in this way as being as likely to pass as money 'arned in
trapping or hunting."
"I've no such feelin', nor any wish to harbor it, not I," returned
the other. "My gifts are not scalpers' gifts, but such as belong
to my religion and color. I'll stand by you, old man, in the ark
or in the castle, the canoe or the woods, but I'll not unhumanize
my natur' by falling into ways that God intended for another race.
If you and Hurry have got any thoughts that lean towards the colony's
gold, go by yourselves in s'arch of it, and leave the females to
my care. Much as I must differ from you both on all gifts that do
not properly belong to a white man, we shall agree that it is the
duty of the strong to take care of the weak, especially when the
last belong to them that natur' intended man to protect and console
by his gentleness and strength."
"Hurry Harry, that is a lesson you might learn and practise on to
some advantage," said the sweet, but spirited voice of Judith, from
the cabin; a proof that she had over-heard all that had hitherto
"No more of this, Jude," called out the father angrily. "Move
farther off; we are about to talk of matters unfit for a woman to
Hutter did not take any steps, however, to ascertain whether he
was obeyed or not; but dropping his voice a little, he pursued the
"The young man is right, Hurry," he said; "and we can leave
the children in his care. Now, my idea is just this; and I think
you'll agree that it is rational and correct. There's a large party
of these savages on shore and, though I didn't tell it before the
girls, for they're womanish, and apt to be troublesome when anything
like real work is to be done, there's women among 'em. This I
know from moccasin prints; and 't is likely they are hunters, after
all, who have been out so long that they know nothing of the war,
or of the bounties."
"In which case, old Tom, why was their first salute an attempt to
cut our throats?"
"We don't know that their design was so bloody. It's natural and
easy for an Indian to fall into ambushes and surprises; and, no
doubt they wished to get on board the ark first, and to make their
conditions afterwards. That a disapp'inted savage should fire at
us, is in rule; and I think nothing of that. Besides, how often
they burned me out, and robbed my traps- ay, and pulled trigger on
me, in the most peaceful times?"
"The blackguards will do such things, I must allow; and we pay
'em off pretty much in their own c'ine. Women would not be on the
war-path, sartainly; and, so far, there's reason in your idee."
"Nor would a hunter be in his war-paint," returned Deerslayer. "I
saw the Mingos, and know that they are out on the trail of mortal
men; and not for beaver or deer."
"There you have it ag'in, old fellow," said Hurry. "In the way of
an eye, now, I'd as soon trust this young man, as trust the oldest
settler in the colony; if he says paint, why paint it was."
"Then a hunting-party and a war-party have met, for women must have
been with 'em. It's only a few days since the runner went through
with the tidings of the troubles; and it may be that warriors have
come out to call in their women and children, to get an early blow."
"That would stand the courts, and is just the truth," cried Hurry;
"you've got it now, old Tom, and I should like to hear what you
mean to make out of it."
"The bounty," returned the other, looking up at his attentive
companion in a cool, sullen manner, in which, however, heartless
cupidity and indifference to the means were far more conspicuous
than any feelings of animosity or revenge.
"If there's women, there's children; and big and little have scalps;
the colony pays for all alike."
"More shame to it, that it should do so," interrupted Deerslayer;
"more shame to it, that it don't understand its gifts, and pay
greater attention to the will of God."
"Hearken to reason, lad, and don't cry out afore you understand a
case," returned the unmoved Hurry; "the savages scalp your fri'nds,
the Delawares, or Mohicans whichever they may be, among the rest;
and why shouldn't we scalp? I will own, it would be ag'in right
for you and me now, to go into the settlements and bring out
scalps, but it's a very different matter as concerns Indians. A
man shouldn't take scalps, if he isn't ready to be scalped, himself,
on fitting occasions. One good turn desarves another, the world
over. That's reason, and I believe it to be good religion."
"Ay, Master Hurry," again interrupted the rich voice of Judith,
"is it religion to say that one bad turn deserves another?"
"I'll never reason ag'in you, Judy, for you beat me with beauty,
if you can't with sense. Here's the Canadas paying their Injins
for scalps, and why not we pay-"
"Our Indians!" exclaimed the girl, laughing with a sort of melancholy
merriment. "Father, father! think no more of this, and listen to
the advice of Deerslayer, who has a conscience; which is more than
I can say or think of Harry March."
Hutter now rose, and, entering the cabin, he compelled his daughters
to go into the adjoining room, when he secured both the doors,
and returned. Then he and Hurry pursued the subject; but, as the
purport of all that was material in this discourse will appear in
the narrative, it need not be related here in detail. The reader,
however, can have no difficulty in comprehending the morality that
presided over their conference. It was, in truth, that which, in
some form or other, rules most of the acts of men, and in which
the controlling principle is that one wrong will justify another.
Their enemies paid for scalps, and this was sufficient to justify
the colony for retaliating. It is true, the French used the same
argument, a circumstance, as Hurry took occasion to observe in
answer to one of Deerslayer's objections, that proved its truth,
as mortal enemies would not be likely to have recourse to the same
reason unless it were a good one. But neither Hutter nor Hurry
was a man likely to stick at trifles in matters connected with the
right of the aborigines, since it is one of the consequences of
aggression that it hardens the conscience, as the only means of
quieting it. In the most peaceable state of the country, a species
of warfare was carried on between the Indians, especially those of
the Canadas, and men of their caste; and the moment an actual and
recognized warfare existed, it was regarded as the means of lawfully
revenging a thousand wrongs, real and imaginary. Then, again, there
was some truth, and a good deal of expediency, in the principle of
retaliation, of which they both availed themselves, in particular,
to answer the objections of their juster-minded and more scrupulous
"You must fight a man with his own we'pons, Deerslayer," cried Hurry,
in his uncouth dialect, and in his dogmatical manner of disposing
of all oral propositions; "if he's f'erce you must be f'ercer; if
he's stout of heart, you must be stouter. This is the way to get
the better of Christian or savage: by keeping up to this trail,
you'll get soonest to the ind of your journey."
"That's not Moravian doctrine, which teaches that all are to be
judged according to their talents or l'arning; the Injin like an
Injin; and the white man like a white man. Some of their teachers
say, that if you're struck on the cheek, it's a duty to turn the
other side of the face, and take another blow, instead of seeking
revenge, whereby I understand-"
"That's enough!" shouted Hurry; "that's all I want, to prove a
man's doctrine! How long would it take to kick a man through the
colony- in at one ind and out at the other, on that principle?"
"Don't mistake me, March," returned the young hunter, with dignity;
"I don't understand by this any more than that it's best to do
this, if possible. Revenge is an Injin gift, and forgiveness a
white man's. That's all. Overlook all you can is what's meant;
and not revenge all you can. As for kicking, Master Hurry," and
Deerslayer's sunburnt cheek flushed as he continued, "into the
colony, or out of the colony, that's neither here nor there, seeing
no one proposes it, and no one would be likely to put up with it.
What I wish to say is, that a red-skin's scalping don't justify a
"Do as you're done by, Deerslayer; that's ever the Christian parson's
"No, Hurry, I've asked the Moravians consarning that; and it's
altogether different. 'Do as you would be done by,' they tell me,
is the true saying, while men practyse the false. They think all
the colonies wrong that offer bounties for scalps, and believe no
blessing will follow the measures. Above all things, they forbid
"That for your Moravians!" cried March, snapping his fingers; "they're
the next thing to Quakers; and if you'd believe all they tell
you, not even a 'rat would be skinned, out of marcy. Who ever
heard of marcy on a muskrat!"
The disdainful manner of Hurry prevented a reply, and he and the
old man resumed the discussion of their plans in a more quiet and
confidential manner. This confidence lasted until Judith appeared,
bearing the simple but savory supper. March observed, with a little
surprise, that she placed the choicest bits before Deerslayer,
and that in the little nameless attentions it was in her power to
bestow, she quite obviously manifested a desire to let it be seen
that she deemed him the honored guest. Accustomed, however, to
the waywardness and coquetry of the beauty, this discovery gave him
little concern, and he ate with an appetite that was in no degree
disturbed by any moral causes. The easily-digested food of the
forests offering the fewest possible obstacles to the gratification
of this great animal indulgence, Deerslayer, notwithstanding the
hearty meal both had taken in the woods, was in no manner behind
his companion in doing justice to the viands.
An hour later the scene had greatly changed. The lake was still
placid and glassy, but the gloom of the hour had succeeded to the
soft twilight of a summer evening, and all within the dark setting
of the woods lay in the quiet repose of night. The forests gave
up no song, or cry, or even murmur, but looked down from the hills
on the lovely basin they encircled, in solemn stillness; and the
only sound that was audible was the regular dip of the sweeps, at
which Hurry and Deerslayer lazily pushed, impelling the ark towards
the castle. Hutter had withdrawn to the stern of the scow, in
order to steer, but, finding that the young men kept even strokes,
and held the desired course by their own skill, he permitted the
oar to drag in the water, took a seat on the end of the vessel, and
lighted his pipe. He had not been thus placed many minutes, ere
Hetty came stealthily out of the cabin, or house, as they usually
termed that part of the ark, and placed herself at his feet, on a
little bench that she brought with her. As this movement was by
no means unusual in his feeble-minded child, the old man paid no
other attention to it than to lay his hand kindly on her head, in
an affectionate and approving manner; an act of grace that the girl
received in meek silence.
After a pause of several minutes, Hetty began to sing. Her voice
was low and tremulous, but it was earnest and solemn. The words
and the tune were of the simplest form, the first being a hymn
that she had been taught by her mother, and the last one of those
natural melodies that find favor with all classes, in every age,
coming from and being addressed to the feelings. Hutter never
listened to this simple strain without finding his heart and manner
softened; facts that his daughter well knew, and by which she had
often profited, through the sort of holy instinct that enlightens
the weak of mind, more especially in their aims toward good.
Hetty's low, sweet tones had not been raised many moments, when
the dip of the oars ceased, and the holy strain arose singly on the
breathing silence of the wilderness. As if she gathered courage
with the theme, her powers appeared to increase as she proceeded;
and though nothing vulgar or noisy mingled in her melody, its
strength and melancholy tenderness grew on the ear, until the air
was filled with this simple homage of a soul that seemed almost
spotless. That the men forward were not indifferent to this
touching interruption, was proved by their inaction; nor did their
oars again dip until the last of the sweet sounds had actually died
among the remarkable shores, which, at that witching hour, would
waft even the lowest modulations of the human voice more than a mile.
Hutter was much affected; for rude as he was by early habits, and
even ruthless as he had got to be by long exposure to the practices
of the wilderness, his nature was of that fearful mixture of good
and evil that so generally enters into the moral composition of
"You are sad tonight, child," said the father, whose manner and
language usually assumed some of the gentleness and elevation of
the civilized life he had led in youth, when he thus communed with
this particular child; "we have just escaped from enemies, and
ought rather to rejoice."
"You can never do it, father!" said Hetty, in a low, remonstrating
manner, taking his hard, knotty hand into both her own; "you have
talked long with Harry March; but neither of you have the heart to
"This is going beyond your means, foolish child; you must have been
naughty enough to have listened, or you could know nothing of our
"Why should you and Hurry kill people- especially women and children?"
"Peace, girl, peace; we are at war, and must do to our enemies as
our enemies would do to us."
"That's not it, father! I heard Deerslayer say how it was. You
must do to your enemies as you wish your enemies would do to you.
No man wishes his enemies to kill him."
"We kill our enemies in war, girl, lest they should kill us. One
side or the other must begin; and them that begin first, are most
apt to get the victory. You know nothing about these things, poor
Hetty, and had best say nothing."
"Judith says it is wrong, father; and Judith has sense though I
"Jude understands better than to talk to me of these matters; for
she has sense, as you say, and knows I'll not bear it. Which would
you prefer, Hetty; to have your own scalp taken, and sold to the
French, or that we should kill our enemies, and keep them from
"That's not it, father! Don't kill them, nor let them kill us.
Sell your skins, and get more, if you can; but don't sell human
"Come, come, child; let us talk of matters you understand. Are
you glad to see our old friend, March, back again? You like Hurry,
and must know that one day he may be your brother- if not something
"That can't be, father," returned the girl, after a considerable
pause; "Hurry has had one father, and one mother; and people never
"So much for your weak mind, Hetty. When Jude marries, her
husband's father will be her father, and her husband's sister her
sister. If she should marry Hurry, then he will be your brother."
"Judith will never have Hurry," returned the girl mildly, but
positively; "Judith don't like Hurry."
"That's more than you can know, Hetty. Harry March is the handsomest,
and the strongest, and the boldest young man that ever visits the
lake; and, as Jude is the greatest beauty, I don't see why they
shouldn't come together. He has as much as promised that he will
enter into this job with me, on condition that I'll consent."
Hetty began to move her body back and forth, and other-wise to
express mental agitation; but she made no answer for more than a
minute. Her father, accustomed to her manner, and suspecting no
immediate cause of concern, continued to smoke with the apparent
phlegm which would seem to belong to that particular species of
"Hurry is handsome, father," said Hetty, with a simple emphasis,
that she might have hesitated about using, had her mind been more
alive to the inferences of others.
"I told you so, child," muttered old Hutter, without removing the
pipe from between his teeth; "he's the likeliest youth in these
parts; and Jude is the likeliest young woman I've met with since
her poor mother was in her best days."
"Is it wicked to be ugly, father?'"
"One might be guilty of worse things- but you're by no means ugly;
though not so comely as Jude."
"Is Judith any happier for being so handsome?"
"She may be, child, and she may not be. But talk of other matters
now, for you hardly understand these, poor Hetty. How do you like
our new acquaintance, Deerslayer?"
"He isn't handsome, father. Hurry is far handsomer than Deerslayer."
"That's true; but they say he is a noted hunter! His fame had
reached me before I ever saw him; and I did hope he would prove to
be as stout a warrior as he is dexterous with the deer. All men
are not alike, howsever, child; and it takes time, as I know by
experience, to give a man a true wilderness heart."
"Have I got a wilderness heart, father- and Hurry, is his heart
"You sometimes ask queer questions, Hetty! Your heart is good,
child, and fitter for the settlements than for the woods; while
your reason is fitter for the woods than for the settlements."
"Why has Judith more reason than I, father?"
"Heaven help thee, child: this is more than I can answer. God
gives sense, and appearance, and all these things; and he grants
them as he seeth fit. Dost thou wish for more sense?"
"Not I. The little I have troubles me; for when I think the hardest,
then I feel the unhappiest. I don't believe thinking is good for
me, though I do wish I was as handsome as Judith!"
"Why so, poor child? Thy sister's beauty may cause her trouble,
as it caused her mother before her. It's no advantage, Hetty, to
be so marked for anything as to become an object of envy, or to be
sought after more than others."
"Mother was good, if she was handsome," returned the girl, the
tears starting to her eyes, as usually happened when she adverted
to her deceased parent.
Old Hutter, if not equally affected, was moody and silent at this
allusion to his wife. He continued smoking, without appearing disposed
to make any answer, until his simple-minded daughter repeated her
remark, in a way to show that she felt uneasiness lest he might be
inclined to deny her assertion. Then he knocked the ashes out of
his pipe, and laying his hand in a sort of rough kindness on the
girl's head, he made a reply.
"Thy mother was too good for this world," he said; "though others
might not think so. Her good looks did not befriend her; and you
have no occasion to mourn that you are not as much like her as
your sister. Think less of beauty, child, and more of your duty,
and you'll be as happy on this lake as you could be in the king's
"I know it, father; but Hurry says beauty is everything in a young
Hutter made an ejaculation expressive of dissatisfaction, and went
forward, passing through the house in order to do so. Hetty's simple
betrayal of her weakness in behalf of March gave him uneasiness
on a subject concerning which he had never felt before, and he
determined to come to an explanation at once with his visitor; for
directness of speech and decision in conduct were two of the best
qualities of this rude being, in whom the seeds of a better education
seemed to be constantly struggling upwards, to be choked by the
fruits of a life in which his hard struggles for subsistence and
security had steeled his feelings and indurated his nature. When
he reached the forward end of the scow, he manifested an intention
to relieve Deerslayer at the oar, directing the latter to take his
own place aft. By these changes, the old man and Hurry were again
left alone, while the young hunter was transferred to the other
end of the ark.
Hetty had disappeared when Deerslayer reached his new post, and for
some little time he directed the course of the slow-moving craft by
himself. It was not long, however, before Judith came out of the
cabin, as if disposed to do the honors of the place to a stranger
engaged in the service of her family. The starlight was sufficient
to permit objects to be plainly distinguished when near at hand,
and the bright eyes of the girl had an expression of kindness in
them, when they met those of the youth, that the latter was easily
enabled to discover. Her rich hair shaded her spirited and yet soft
countenance, even at that hour rendering it the more beautiful-as
the rose is loveliest when reposing amid the shadows and contrasts
of its native foliage. Little ceremony is used in the intercourse
of the woods; and Judith had acquired a readiness of address, by
the admiration that she so generally excited, which, if it did not
amount to forwardness, certainly in no degree lent to her charms
the aid of that retiring modesty on which poets love to dwell.
"I thought I should have killed myself with laughing, Deerslayer,"
the beauty abruptly but coquettishly commenced, "when I saw that
Indian dive into the river! He was a good-looking savage, too,"
the girl always dwelt on personal beauty as a sort of merit, "and
yet one couldn't stop to consider whether his paint would stand
"And I thought they would have killed you with their we'pons,
Judith," returned Deerslayer; "it was an awful risk for a female
to run in the face of a dozen Mingos!"
"Did that make you come out of the cabin, in spite of their rifles,
too?" asked the girl, with more real interest than she would have
cared to betray, though with an indifference of manner that was
the result of a good deal of practice united to native readiness.
"Men ar'n't apt to see females in danger, and not come to their
assistance. Even a Mingo knows that."
This sentiment was uttered with as much simplicity of manner
as of feeling, and Judith rewarded it with a smile so sweet, that
even Deerslayer, who had imbibed a prejudice against the girl in
consequence of Hurry's suspicions of her levity, felt its charm,
notwithstanding half its winning influence was lost in the feeble
light. It at once created a sort of confidence between them, and
the discourse was continued on the part of the hunter, without
the lively consciousness of the character of this coquette of the
wilderness, with which it had certainly commenced.
"You are a man of deeds, and not of words, I see plainly, Deerslayer,"
continued the beauty, taking her seat near the spot where the other
stood, "and I foresee we shall be very good friends. Hurry Harry
has a tongue, and, giant as he is, he talks more than he performs."
"March is your fri'nd, Judith; and fri'nds should be tender of each
other, when apart."
"We all know what Hurry's friendship comes to! Let him have his
own way in everything, and he's the best fellow in the colony; but
'head him off,' as you say of the deer, and he is master of everything
near him but himself. Hurry is no favorite of mine, Deerslayer;
and I dare say, if the truth was known, and his conversation about
me repeated, it would be found that he thinks no better of me than
I own I do of him."
The latter part of this speech was not uttered without uneasiness.
Had the girl's companion been more sophisticated, he might have
observed the averted face, the manner in which the pretty little
foot was agitated, and other signs that, for some unexplained
reason, the opinions of March were not quite as much a matter of
indifference to her as she thought fit to pretend. Whether this
was no more than the ordinary working of female vanity, feeling
keenly even when it affected not to feel at all, or whether it
proceeded from that deeply-seated consciousness of right and wrong
which God himself has implanted in our breasts that we may know good
from evil, will be made more apparent to the reader as we proceed
in the tale. Deerslayer felt embarrassed. He well remembered the
cruel imputations left by March's distrust; and, while he did not
wish to injure his associate's suit by exciting resentment against
him, his tongue was one that literally knew no guile. To answer
without saying more or less than he wished, was consequently a
"March has his say of all things in natur', whether of fri'nd
or foe," slowly and cautiously rejoined the hunter. "He's one of
them that speak as they feel while the tongue's a-going, and that's
sometimes different from what they'd speak if they took time to
consider. Give me a Delaware, Judith, for one that reflects and
ruminates on his idees! Inmity has made him thoughtful, and a
loose tongue is no ricommend at their council fires."
"I dare say March's tongue goes free enough when it gets on the
subject of Judith Hutter and her sister," said the girl, rousing
herself as if in careless disdain. "Young women's good names are
a pleasant matter of discourse with some that wouldn't dare be so
open-mouthed if there was a brother in the way. Master March may
find it pleasant to traduce us, but sooner or later he'll repent.
"Nay, Judith, this is taking the matter up too much in 'arnest.
Hurry has never whispered a syllable ag'in the good name of Hetty,
to begin with-"
"I see how it is- I see how it is," impetuously interrupted Judith.
"I am the one he sees fit to scorch with his withering tongue!
Hetty, indeed! Poor Hetty!" she continued, her voice sinking into
low, husky tones, that seemed nearly to stifle her in the utterance;
"she is beyond and above his slanderous malice! Poor Hetty! If
God has created her feeble-minded, the weakness lies altogether on
the side of errors of which she seems to know nothing. The earth
never held a purer being than Hetty Hutter, Deerslayer."
"I can believe it- yes, I can believe that, Judith, and I hope
'arnestly that the same can be said of her handsome sister."
There was a soothing sincerity in the voice of Deerslayer, which
touched the girl's feelings; nor did the allusion to her beauty
lessen the effect with one who only knew too well the power of her
personal charms. Nevertheless, the still, small voice of conscience
was not hushed, and it prompted the answer which she made, after
giving herself time to reflect.
"I dare say Hurry had some of his vile hints about the people of
the garrisons," she added. "He knows they are gentlemen, and can
never forgive any one for being what he feels he can never become
"Not in the sense of a king's officer, Judith, sartainly, for March
has no turn thataway; but in the sense of reality, why may not a
beaver-hunter be as respectable as a governor? Since you speak of
it yourself, I'll not deny that he did complain of one as humble
as you being so much in the company of scarlet coats and silken
sashes. But 't was jealousy that brought it out of him, and I
do think he mourned over his own thoughts as a mother would have
mourned over her child."
Perhaps Deerslayer was not aware of the full meaning that his
earnest language conveyed. It is certain that he did not see the
color that crimsoned the whole of Judith's fine face, nor detect
the uncontrollable distress that immediately after changed its hue
to deadly paleness. A minute or two elapsed in profound stillness,
the splash of the water seeming to occupy all the avenues of sound;
and then Judith arose, and grasped the hand of the hunter, almost
convulsively, with one of her own.
"Deerslayer," she said, hurriedly, "I'm glad the ice is broke between
us. They say that sudden friendships lead to long enmities, but
I do not believe it will turn out so with us. I know not how it
is-but you are the first man I ever met, who did not seem to wish
to flatter- to wish my ruin- to be an enemy in disguise- never mind;
say nothing to Hurry, and another time we'll talk together again."
As the girl released her grasp, she vanished in the house, leaving
the astonished young man standing at the steering-oar, as motionless
as one of the pines on the hills. So abstracted, indeed, had his
thoughts become, that he was hailed by Hutter to keep the scow's head
in the right direction, before he remembered his actual situation.
"So spake the apostate Angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair.'
Paradise lost, I. 125-26.
Shortly after the disappearance of Judith, a light southerly
air arose, and Hutter set a large square sail, that had once been
the flying top-sail of an Albany sloop, but which having become
threadbare in catching the breezes of Tappan, had been condemned
and sold. He had a light, tough spar of tamarack that he could
raise on occasion, and with a little contrivance, his duck was spread
to the wind in a sufficiently professional manner. The effect on
the ark was such as to supersede the necessity of rowing; and in
about two hours the castle was seen, in the darkness, rising out of
the water, at the distance of a hundred yards. The sail was then
lowered, and by slow degrees the scow drifted up to the building,
and was secured.
No one had visited the house since Hurry and his companion left
it. The place was found in the quiet of midnight, a sort of type
of the solitude of a wilderness. As an enemy was known to be near,
Hutter directed his daughters to abstain from the use of lights,
luxuries in which they seldom indulged during the warm months, lest
they might prove beacons to direct their foes where they might be
"In open daylight I shouldn't fear a host of savages behind these
stout logs, and they without any cover to skulk into," added Hutter,
when he had explained to his guests the reasons why he forbade the
use of light; "for I've three or four trusty weapons always loaded,
and Killdeer, in particular, is a piece that never misses. But it's
a different thing at night. A canoe might get upon us unseen, in
the dark; and the savages have so many cunning ways of attacking,
that I look upon it as bad enough to deal with 'em under a bright
sun. I built this dwelling in order to have 'em at arm's length,
in case we should ever get to blows again. Some people think
it's too open and exposed, but I'm for anchoring out here, clear
of underbrush and thickets, as the surest means of making a safe
"You was once a sailor, they tell me, old Tom?" said Hurry, in
his abrupt manner, struck by one or two expressions that the other
had just used, "and some people believe you could give us strange
accounts of inimies and shipwrecks, if you'd a mind to come out
with all you know?"
"There are people in this world, Hurry," returned the other,
evasively, "who live on other men's thoughts; and some such often
find their way into the woods. What I've been, or what I've seen
in youth, is of less matter now than what the savages are. It's of
more account to find out what will happen in the next twenty-four
hours than to talk over what happened twenty-four years since."
"That's judgment, Deerslayer; yes, that's sound judgment. Here's
Judith and Hetty to take care of, to say nothing of our own top-knots;
and, for my part, I can sleep as well in the dark as I could under
a noonday sun. To me it's no great matter whether there is light
or not, to see to shut my eyes by."
As Deerslayer seldom thought it necessary to answer his companion's
peculiar vein of humor, and Hutter was evidently indisposed to dwell
longer on the subject, it's discussion ceased with this remark. The
latter had something more on his mind, however, than recollections.
His daughters had no sooner left them, with an expressed intention
of going to bed, than he invited his two companions to follow him
again into the scow. Here the old man opened his project, keeping
back the portion that he had reserved for execution by Hurry and
"The great object for people posted like ourselves is to command
the water," he commenced. "So long as there is no other craft on
the lake, a bark canoe is as good as a man of-war, since the castle
will not be easily taken by swimming. Now, there are but five
canoes remaining in these parts, two of which are mine, and one is
Hurry's. These three we have with us here; one being fastened in
the canoe-dock beneath the house, and the other two being alongside
the scow. The other canoes are housed on the shore, in hollow
logs, and the savages, who are such venomous enemies, will leave
no likely place unexamined in the morning, if they 're serious in
s'arch of bounties-"
"Now, friend Hutter," interrupted Hurry, "the Indian don't live that
can find a canoe that is suitably wintered. I've done something
at this business before now, and Deerslayer here knows that I am
one that can hide a craft in such a way that I can't find it myself."
"Very true, Hurry," put in the person to whom the appeal had been
made, "but you overlook the sarcumstance that if you couldn't
see the trail of the man who did the job, I could. I'm of Master
Hutter's mind, that it's far wiser to mistrust a savage's ingenuity,
than to build any great expectations on his want of eye-sight.
If these two canoes can be got off to the castle, therefore, the
sooner it's done the better."
"Will you be of the party that's to do it?" demanded Hutter, in a
way to show that the proposal both surprised and pleased him.
"Sartain. I'm ready to enlist in any enterprise that's not ag'in
a white man's lawful gifts. Natur' orders us to defend our lives,
and the lives of others, too, when there's occasion and opportunity.
I'll follow you, Floating Tom, into the Mingo camp, on such an
arr'nd, and will strive to do my duty, should we come to blows;
though, never having been tried in battle, I don't like to promise
more than I may be able to perform. We all know our wishes, but
none know their might till put to the proof."
"That's modest and suitable, lad," exclaimed Hurry. "You've never
yet heard the crack of an angry rifle; and, let me tell you, 'tis
as different from the persuasion of one of your venison speeches,
as the laugh of Judith Hutter, in her best humor, is from the
scolding of a Dutch house keeper on the Mohawk. I don't expect
you'll prove much of a warrior, Deerslayer, though your equal with
the bucks and the does don't exist in all these parts. As for the
ra'al sarvice, however, you'll turn out rather rearward, according
to my consait."
"We'll see, Hurry, we'll see," returned the other, meekly; so far
as human eye could discover, not at all disturbed by these expressed
doubts concerning his conduct on a point on which men are sensitive,
precisely in the degree that they feel the consciousness of
demerit; "having never been tried, I'll wait to know, before I form
any opinion of myself; and then there'll be sartainty, instead of
bragging. I've heard of them that was valiant afore the fight,
who did little in it; and of them that waited to know their own
tempers, and found that they weren't as bad as some expected, when
put to the proof."
"At any rate, we know you can use a paddle, young man," said Hutter,
"and that's all we shall ask of you tonight. Let us waste no more
time, but get into the canoe, and do, in place of talking."
As Hutter led the way, in the execution of his project, the boat
was soon ready, with Hurry and Deerslayer at the paddles. Before
the old man embarked himself, however, he held a conference of
several minutes with Judith, entering the house for that purpose;
then, returning, he took his place in the canoe, which left the
side of the ark at the next instant.
Had there been a temple reared to God, in that solitary wilderness,
its clock would have told the hour of midnight as the party set
forth on their expedition. The darkness had increased, though
the night was still clear, and the light of the stars sufficed for
all the purposes of the adventurers. Hutter alone knew the places
where the canoes were hid, and he directed the course, while his
two athletic companions raised and dipped their paddles with proper
caution, lest the sound should be carried to the ears of their
enemies, across that sheet of placid water, in the stillness of
deep night. But the bark was too light to require any extraordinary
efforts, and skill supplying the place of strength, in about half
an hour they were approaching the shore, at a point near a league
from the castle.
"Lay on your paddles, men," said Hutter, in a low voice, "and let
us look about us for a moment. We must now be all eyes and ears,
for these vermin have noses like bloodhounds."
The shores of the lake were examined closely, in order to discover
any glimmering of light that might have been left in a camp; and the
men strained their eyes, in the obscurity, to see if some thread
of smoke was not still stealing along the mountainside, as it arose
from the dying embers of a fire. Nothing unusual could be traced;
and as the position was at some distance from the outlet, or the
spot where the savages had been met, it was thought safe to land.
The paddles were plied again, and the bows of the canoe ground
upon the gravelly beach with a gentle motion, and a sound barely
audible. Hutter and Hurry immediately landed, the former carrying
his own and his friend's rifle, leaving Deerslayer in charge of
the canoe. The hollow log lay a little distance up the side of
the mountain, and the old man led the way towards it, using so much
caution as to stop at every third or fourth step, to listen if any
tread betrayed the presence of a foe. The same death-like stillness,
however, reigned on the midnight scene, and the desired place was
reached without an occurrence to induce alarm.
"This is it," whispered Hutter, laying a foot on the trunk of a
fallen linden; "hand me the paddles first, and draw the boat out
with care, for the wretches may have left it for a bait, after
"Keep my rifle handy, butt towards me, old fellow," answered March.
"If they attack me loaded, I shall want to unload the piece at 'em,
at least. And feel if the pan is full."
"All's right," muttered the other; "move slow, when you get your
load, and let me lead the way."
The canoe was drawn out of the log with the utmost care, raised by
Hurry to his shoulder, and the two began to return to the shore,
moving but a step at a time, lest they should tumble down the
steep declivity. The distance was not great, but the descent was
extremely difficult; and, towards the end of their little journey,
Deerslayer was obliged to land and meet them, in order to aid in
lifting the canoe through the bushes. With his assistance the task
was successfully accomplished, and the light craft soon floated
by the side of the other canoe. This was no sooner done, than
all three turned anxiously towards the forest and the mountain,
expecting an enemy to break out of the one, or to come rushing down
the other. Still the silence was unbroken, and they all embarked
with the caution that had been used in coming ashore.
Hutter now steered broad off towards the centre of the lake. Having
got a sufficient distance from the shore, he cast his prize loose,
knowing that it would drift slowly up the lake before the light
southerly air, and intending to find it on his return. Thus relieved
of his tow, the old man held his way down the lake, steering towards
the very point where Hurry had made his fruitless attempt on the
life of the deer. As the distance from this point to the outlet
was less than a mile, it was like entering an enemy's country; and
redoubled caution became necessary. They reached the extremity
of the point, however, and landed in safety on the little gravelly
beach already mentioned. Unlike the last place at which they had
gone ashore, here was no acclivity to ascend, the mountains looming
up in the darkness quite a quarter of a mile farther west, leaving
a margin of level ground between them and the strand. The point
itself, though long, and covered with tall trees, was nearly flat,
and for some distance only a few yards in width. Hutter and Hurry
landed as before, leaving their companion in charge of the boat.
In this instance, the dead tree that contained the canoe of which
they had come in quest lay about half-way between the extremity
of the narrow slip of land and the place where it joined the main
shore; and knowing that there was water so near him on his left,
the old man led the way along the eastern side of the belt with
some confidence walking boldly, though still with caution. He had
landed at the point expressly to get a glimpse into the bay and
to make certain that the coast was clear; otherwise he would have
come ashore directly abreast of the hollow tree. There was no
difficulty in finding the latter, from which the canoe was drawn
as before, and instead of carrying it down to the place where
Deerslayer lay, it was launched at the nearest favorable spot. As
soon as it was in the water, Hurry entered it, and paddled round
to the point, whither Hutter also proceeded, following the beach.
As the three men had now in their possession all the boats on the
lake, their confidence was greatly increased, and there was no longer
the same feverish desire to quit the shore, or the same necessity
for extreme caution. Their position on the extremity of the long,
narrow bit of land added to the feeling of security, as it permitted
an enemy to approach in only one direction, that in their front,
and under circumstances that would render discovery, with their
habitual vigilance, almost certain. The three now landed together,
and stood grouped in consultation on the gravelly point.
"We've fairly tree'd the scamps," said Hurry, chuckling at their
success; "if they wish to visit the castle, let 'em wade or swim!
Old Tom, that idee of your'n, in burrowing out in the lake, was
high proof, and carries a fine bead. There be men who would think
the land safer than the water; but, after all, reason shows it
isn't; the beaver, and rats, and other l'arned creatur's taking to
the last when hard pressed. I call our position now, entrenched,
and set the Canadas at defiance."
"Let us paddle along this south shore," said Hutter, "and see if
there's no sign of an encampment; but, first, let me have a better
look into the bay, for no one has been far enough round the inner
shore of the point to make suit of that quarter yet."
As Hutter ceased speaking, all three moved in the direction he had
named. Scarce had they fairly opened the bottom of the bay, when
a general start proved that their eyes had lighted on a common
object at the same instant. It was no more than a dying brand,
giving out its flickering and failing light; but at that hour, and
in that place, it was at once as conspicuous as "a good deed in
a naughty world." There was not a shadow of doubt that this fire
had been kindled at an encampment of the Indians. The situation,
sheltered from observation on all sides but one, and even on that
except for a very short distance, proved that more care had been
taken to conceal the spot than would be used for ordinary purposes,
and Hutter, who knew that a spring was near at hand, as well as
one of the best fishing-stations on the lake, immediately inferred
that this encampment contained the women and children of the party.
"That's not a warrior's encampment," he growled to Hurry; "and
there's bounty enough sleeping round that fire to make a heavy
division of head-money. Send the lad to the canoes, for there'll
come no good of him in such an onset, and let us take the matter
in hand at once, like men."
"There's judgment in your notion, old Tom, and I like it to the
backbone. Deerslayer, do you get into the canoe, lad, and paddle
off into the lake with the spare one, and set it adrift, as we
did with the other; after which you can float along shore, as near
as you can get to the head of the bay, keeping outside the point,
howsever, and outside the rushes, too. You can hear us when we
want you; and if there's any delay, I'll call like a loon-yes,
that'll do it- the call of a loon shall be the signal. If you hear
rifles, and feel like sogering, why, you may close in, and see if
you can make the same hand with the savages that you do with the
"If my wishes could be followed, this matter would not be undertaken,
"Quite true-nobody denies it, boy; but your wishes can't be
followed; and that inds the matter. So just canoe yourself off
into the middle of the lake, and by the time you get back there'll
be movements in that camp!"
The young man set about complying with great reluctance and a
heavy heart. He knew the prejudices of the frontiermen too well,
however, to attempt a remonstrance. The latter, indeed, under the
circumstances, might prove dangerous, as it would certainly prove
useless. He paddled the canoe, therefore, silently and with the
former caution, to a spot near the centre of the placid sheet of
water, and set the boat just recovered adrift, to float towards the
castle, before the light southerly air. This expedient had been
adopted, in both cases, under the certainty that the drift could
not carry the light barks more than a league or two, before the
return of light, when they might easily be overtaken in order to
prevent any wandering savage from using them, by swimming off and
getting possession, a possible but scarcely a probable event, all
the paddles were retained.
No sooner had he set the recovered canoe adrift, than Deerslayer
turned the bows of his own towards the point on the shore that had
been indicated by Hurry. So light was the movement of the little
craft, and so steady the sweep of its master's arm, that ten minutes
had not elapsed ere it was again approaching the land, having, in
that brief time, passed over fully half a mile of distance. As
soon as Deerslayer's eye caught a glimpse of the rushes, of which
there were many growing in the water a hundred feet from the
shore, he arrested the motion of the canoe, and anchored his boat
by holding fast to the delicate but tenacious stem of one of the
drooping plants. Here he remained, awaiting, with an intensity of
suspense that can be easily imagined, the result of the hazardous
It would be difficult to convey to the minds of those who have
never witnessed it, the sublimity that characterizes the silence of
a solitude as deep as that which now reigned over the Glimmerglass.
In the present instance, this sublimity was increased by the gloom
of night, which threw its shadowy and fantastic forms around the
lake, the forest, and the hills. It is not easy, indeed, to conceive
of any place more favorable to heighten these natural impressions,
than that Deerslayer now occupied. The size of the lake brought
all within the reach of human senses, while it displayed so much
of the imposing scene at a single view, giving up, as it might be,
at a glance, a sufficiency to produce the deepest impressions. As
has been said, this was the first lake Deerslayer had ever seen.
Hitherto, his experience had been limited to the courses of rivers
and smaller streams, and never before had he seen so much of
that wilderness, which he so well loved, spread before his gaze.
Accustomed to the forest, however, his mind was capable of portraying
all its hidden mysteries, as he looked upon its leafy surface. This
was also the first time he had been on a trail where human lives
depended on the issue. His ears had often drunk in the traditions
of frontier warfare, but he had never yet been confronted with an
The reader will readily understand, therefore, how intense must have
been the expectation of the young man, as be sat in his solitary
canoe, endeavoring to catch the smallest sound that might denote
the course of things on shore. His training had been perfect, so
far as theory could go, and his self-possession, notwithstanding
the high excitement, that was the fruit of novelty, would have
done credit to a veteran. The visible evidences of the existence
of the camp, or of the fire could not be detected from the spot
where the canoe lay, and he was compelled to depend on the sense of
hearing alone. He did not feel impatient, for the lessons he had
heard taught him the virtue of patience, and, most of all, inculcated
the necessity of wariness in conducting any covert assault on the
Indians. Once he thought he heard the cracking of a dried twig, but
expectation was so intense it might mislead him. In this manner
minute after minute passed, until the whole time since he left
his companions was extended to quite an hour. Deerslayer knew not
whether to rejoice in or to mourn over this cautious delay, for,
if it augured security to his associates, it foretold destruction
to the feeble and innocent.
It might have been an hour and a half after his companions and he
had parted, when Deerslayer was aroused by a sound that filled him
equally with concern and surprise. The quavering call of a loon
arose from the opposite side of the lake, evidently at no great
distance from its outlet. There was no mistaking the note of
this bird, which is so familiar to all who know the sounds of the
American lakes. Shrill, tremulous, loud, and sufficiently prolonged,
it seems the very cry of warning. It is often raised, also, at
night, an exception to the habits of most of the other feathered
inmates of the wilderness; a circumstance which had induced Hurry
to select it as his own signal. There had been sufficient time,
certainly, for the two adventurers to make their way by land from
the point where they had been left to that whence the call had come,
but it was not probable that they would adopt such a course. Had
the camp been deserted they would have summoned Deerslayer to the
shore, and, did it prove to be peopled, there could be no sufficient
motive for circling it, in order to re-embark at so great a
distance. Should he obey the signal, and be drawn away from the
landing, the lives of those who depended on him might be the forfeit-
and, should he neglect the call, on the supposition that it had been
really made, the consequences might be equally disastrous, though
from a different cause. In this indecision he waited, trusting that
the call, whether feigned or natural, would be speedily renewed.
Nor was he mistaken. A very few minutes elapsed before the same
shrill warning cry was repeated, and from the same part of the
lake. This time, being on the alert, his senses were not deceived.
Although he had often heard admirable imitations of this bird, and
was no mean adept himself in raising its notes, he felt satisfied
that Hurry, to whose efforts in that way he had attended, could
never so completely and closely follow nature. He determined,
therefore, to disregard that cry, and to wait for one less perfect
and nearer at hand.
Deerslayer had hardly come to this determination, when the profound
stillness of night and solitude was broken by a cry so startling,
as to drive all recollection of the more melancholy call of the
loon from the listener's mind. It was a shriek of agony, that came
either from one of the female sex, or from a boy so young as not yet
to have attained a manly voice. This appeal could not be mistaken.
Heart rending terror- if not writhing agony- was in the sounds, and
the anguish that had awakened them was as sudden as it was fearful.
The young man released his hold of the rush, and dashed his paddle
into the water; to do, he knew not what- to steer, he knew not
whither. A very few moments, however, removed his indecision. The
breaking of branches, the cracking of dried sticks, and the fall
of feet were distinctly audible; the sounds appearing to approach
the water though in a direction that led diagonally towards the
shore, and a little farther north than the spot that Deerslayer
had been ordered to keep near. Following this clue, the young man
urged the canoe ahead, paying but little attention to the manner
in which he might betray its presence. He had reached a part of
the shore, where its immediate bank was tolerably high and quite
steep. Men were evidently threshing through the bushes and trees
on the summit of this bank, following the line of the shore, as if
those who fled sought a favorable place for descending. Just at
this instant five or six rifles flashed, and the opposite hills
gave back, as usual, the sharp reports in prolonged rolling echoes.
One or two shrieks, like those which escape the bravest when suddenly
overcome by unexpected anguish and alarm, followed; and then the
threshing among the bushes was renewed, in a way to show that man
was grappling with man.
"Slippery devil!" shouted Hurry with the fury of disappointment-"his
skin's greased! I sha'n't grapple! Take that for your cunning!"
The words were followed by the fall of some heavy object among
the smaller trees that fringed the bank, appearing to Deerslayer
as if his gigantic associate had hurled an enemy from him in this
unceremonious manner. Again the flight and pursuit were renewed,
and then the young man saw a human form break down the hill, and
rush several yards into the water. At this critical moment the
canoe was just near enough to the spot to allow this movement,
which was accompanied by no little noise, to be seen, and feeling
that there he must take in his companion, if anywhere, Deerslayer
urged the canoe forward to the rescue. His paddle had not been
raised twice, when the voice of Hurry was heard filling the air with
imprecations, and he rolled on the narrow beach, literally loaded
down with enemies. While prostrate, and almost smothered with his
foes, the athletic frontierman gave his loon-call, in a manner that
would have excited laughter under circumstances less terrific. The
figure in the water seemed suddenly to repent his own flight, and
rushed to the shore to aid his companion, but was met and immediately
overpowered by half a dozen fresh pursuers, who, just then, came
leaping down the bank.
"Let up, you painted riptyles- let up!" cried Hurry, too hard pressed
to be particular about the terms he used; "isn't it enough that I
am withed like a saw-log that ye must choke too!"
This speech satisfied Deerslayer that his friends were prisoners,
and that to land would be to share their fate He was already within
a hundred feet of the shore, when a few timely strokes of the paddle
not only arrested his advance, but forced him off to six or eight
times that distance from his enemies. Luckily for him, all of the
Indians had dropped their rifles in the pursuit, or this retreat
might not have been effected with impunity; though no one had noted
the canoe in the first confusion of the melee.
"Keep off the land, lad," called out Hutter; "the girls depend
only on you, now; you will want all your caution to escape these
savages. Keep off, and God prosper you, as you aid my children!"
There was little sympathy in general between Hutter and the young
man, but the bodily and mental anguish with which this appeal was
made served at the moment to conceal from the latter the former's
faults. He saw only the father in his sufferings, and resolved
at once to give a pledge of fidelity to its interests, and to be
faithful to his word.
"Put your heart at ease, Master Hutter," he called out; "the gals
shall be looked to, as well as the castle. The inimy has got the
shore, 'tis no use to deny, but he hasn't got the water. Providence
has the charge of all, and no one can say what will come of it;
but, if good-will can sarve you and your'n, depend on that much.
My exper'ence is small, but my will is good."
"Ay, ay, Deerslayer," returned Hurry, in this stentorian voice,
which was losing some of its heartiness, notwithstanding,- "Ay, ay,
Deerslayer. You mean well enough, but what can you do? You're no
great matter in the best of times, and such a person is not likely
to turn out a miracle in the worst. If there's one savage on this
lake shore, there's forty, and that's an army you ar'n't the man to
overcome. The best way, in my judgment, will be to make a straight
course to the castle; get the gals into the canoe, with a few
eatables; then strike off for the corner of the lake where we came
in, and take the best trail for the Mohawk. These devils won't
know where to look for you for some hours, and if they did, and
went off hot in the pursuit, they must turn either the foot or the
head of the lake to get at you. That's my judgment in the matter;
and if old Tom here wishes to make his last will and testament in
a manner favorable to his darters, he'll say the same."
"'Twill never do, young man," rejoined Hutter. "The enemy has
scouts out at this moment, looking for canoes, and you'll be seen
and taken. Trust to the castle; and above all things, keep clear
of the land. Hold out a week, and parties from the garrisons will
drive the savages off."
"'Twon't be four-and-twenty hours, old fellow, afore these foxes
will be rafting off to storm your castle," interrupted Hurry, with
more of the heat of argument than might be expected from a man who
was bound and a captive, and about whom nothing could be called free
but his opinions and his tongue. "Your advice has a stout sound,
but it will have a fatal tarmination. If you or I was in the
house, we might hold out a few days, but remember that this lad has
never seen an inimy afore tonight, and is what you yourself called
settlement-conscienced; though for my part, I think the consciences
in the settlements pretty much the same as they are out here in
the woods. These savages are making signs, Deerslayer, for me to
encourage you to come ashore with the canoe; but that I'll never
do, as it's ag'in reason and natur'. As for old Tom and myself,
whether they'll scalp us tonight, keep us for the torture by fire,
or carry us to Canada, is more than any one knows but the devil
that advises them how to act. I've such a big and bushy head that
it's quite likely they'll indivor to get two scalps off it, for the
bounty is a tempting thing, or old Tom and I wouldn't be in this
scrape. Ay- there they go with their signs ag'in, but if I advise
you to land may they eat me as well as roast me. No, no, Deerslayer
-- do you keep off where you are, and after daylight, on no account
come within two hundred yards -"
This injunction of Hurry's was stopped by a hand being rudely
slapped against his mouth, the certain sign that some one in the
party sufficiently understood English to have at length detected
the drift of his discourse. Immediately after, the whole group
entered the forest, Hutter and Hurry apparently making no resistance
to the movement. Just as the sounds of the cracking bushes were
ceasing, however, the voice of the father was again heard.
"As you're true to my children, God prosper you, young man!" were
the words that reached Deerslayer's ears; after which he found
himself left to follow the dictates of his own discretion.
Several minutes elapsed, in death-like stillness, when the party
on the shore had disappeared in the woods. Owing to the distance
-rather more than two hundred yards - and the obscurity, Deerslayer
had been able barely to distinguish the group, and to see it
retiring; but even this dim connection with human forms gave an
animation to the scene that was strongly in contrast to the absolute
solitude that remained. Although the young man leaned forward
to listen, holding his breath and condensing every faculty in the
single sense of hearing, not another sound reached his ears to denote
the vicinity of human beings. It seemed as if a silence that had
never been broken reigned on the spot again; and, for an instant,
even that piercing shriek, which had so lately broken the stillness
of the forest, or the execrations of March, would have been a relief
to the feeling of desertion to which it gave rise.
This paralysis of mind and body, however, could not last long in
one constituted mentally and physically like Deerslayer. Dropping
his paddle into the water, he turned the head of the canoe, and
proceeded slowly, as one walks who thinks intently, towards the
centre of the lake. When he believed himself to have reached a
point in a line with that where he had set the last canoe adrift,
he changed his direction northward, keeping the light air as nearly
on his back as possible. After paddling a quarter of a mile in
this direction, a dark object became visible on the lake, a little
to the right; and turning on one side for the purpose, he had soon
secured his lost prize to his own boat. Deerslayer now examined
the heavens, the course of the air, and the position of the two
canoes. Finding nothing in either to induce a change of plan, he
lay down, and prepared to catch a few hours' sleep, that the morrow
might find him equal to its exigencies.
Although the hardy and the tired sleep profoundly, even in scenes
of danger, it was some time before Deerslayer lost his recollection.
His mind dwelt on what had passed, and his half-conscious faculties
kept figuring the events of the night, in a sort of waking
dream. Suddenly he was up and alert, for he fancied he heard the
preconcerted signal of Hurry summoning him to the shore. But all
was still as the grave again. The canoes were slowly drifting
northward, the thoughtful stars were glimmering in their mild glory
over his head, and the forest-bound sheet of water lay embedded
between its mountains, as calm and melancholy as if never troubled
by the winds, or brightened by a noonday sun. Once more the loon
raised his tremulous cry, near the foot of the lake, and the mystery
of the alarm was explained. Deerslayer adjusted his hard pillow,
stretched his form in the bottom of the canoe, and slept.
"Clear, placid Leman I Thy contrasted lake
With the wild world I dwelt in, is a thing
Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake
Earth's troubled waters for a purer spring.
This quiet sail is as a noiseless wing
To waft me from distraction; once I loved
Torn ocean's roar, but thy soft murmuring
Sounds sweet as if a sister's voice reproved,
That I with stern delights should e'er have been so moved."
Day had fairly dawned before the young man, whom we have left in
the situation described in the last chapter, again opened his eyes.
This was no sooner done, than he started up, and looked about
him with the eagerness of one who suddenly felt the importance of
accurately ascertaining his precise position. His rest had been
deep and undisturbed; and when he awoke, it was with a clearness of
intellect and a readiness of resources that were very much needed
at that particular moment. The sun had not risen, it is true, but
the vault of heaven was rich with the winning softness that "brings
and shuts the day," while the whole air was filled with the carols
of birds, the hymns of the feathered tribe. These sounds first told
Deerslayer the risks he ran. The air, for wind it could scarce be
called, was still light, it is true, but it had increased a little
in the course of the night, and as the canoes were feathers on
the water, they had drifted twice the expected distance; and, what
was still more dangerous, had approached so near the base of the
mountain that here rose precipitously from the eastern shore, as
to render the carols of the birds plainly audible. This was not
the worst. The third canoe had taken the same direction, and was
slowly drifting towards a point where it must inevitably touch,
unless turned aside by a shift of wind, or human hands. In other
respects, nothing presented itself to attract attention, or to
awaken alarm. The castle stood on its shoal, nearly abreast of
the canoes, for the drift had amounted to miles in the course of
the night, and the ark lay fastened to its piles, as both had been
left so many hours before.
As a matter of course, Deerslayer's attention was first given to
the canoe ahead. It was already quite near the point, and a very
few strokes of the paddle sufficed to tell him that it must touch
before he could possibly overtake it. Just at this moment, too,
the wind inopportunely freshened, rendering the drift of the light
craft much more rapid than certain. Feeling the impossibility of
preventing a contact with the land, the young man wisely determined
not to heat himself with unnecessary exertions; but first looking
to the priming of his piece, he proceeded slowly and warily towards
the point, taking care to make a little circuit, that he might be
exposed on only one side, as he approached.
The canoe adrift being directed by no such intelligence, pursued
its proper way, and grounded on a small sunken rock, at the distance
of three or four yards from the shore. Just at that moment, Deerslayer
had got abreast of the point, and turned the bows of his own boat