Part 4 out of 11
to see all the vanity, and rudeness and folly, that lie hid behind
the handsome face and fine form of Hurry Harry. She talks of him
in her sleep, and sometimes betrays the inclination in her waking
"You think, Judith, that your sister is now bent on some mad scheme
to serve her father and Hurry, which will, in all likelihood, give
them riptyles the Mingos, the mastership of a canoe?"
"Such, I fear, will turn out to be the fact, Deerslayer. Poor
Hetty has hardly sufficient cunning to outwit a savage."
All this while the canoe, with the form of Hetty erect in one
end of it, was dimly perceptible, though the greater drift of the
Ark rendered it, at each instant, less and less distinct. It was
evident no time was to be lost, lest it should altogether disappear.
The rifles were now laid aside as useless, the two men seizing the
oars and sweeping the head of the scow round in the direction of
the canoe. Judith, accustomed to the office, flew to the other end
of the Ark, and placed herself at what might be called the helm.
Hetty took the alarm at these preparations, which could not be made
without noise, and started off like a bird that had been suddenly
put up by the approach of unexpected danger.
As Deerslayer and his companion rowed with the energy of those who
felt the necessity of straining every nerve, and Hetty's strength
was impaired by a nervous desire to escape, the chase would have
quickly terminated in the capture of the fugitive, had not the
girl made several short and unlooked-for deviations in her course.
These turnings gave her time, and they had also the effect of
gradually bringing both canoe and Ark within the deeper gloom, cast
by the shadows from the hills. They also gradually increased the
distance between the fugitive and her pursuers, until Judith called
out to her companions to cease rowing, for she had completely lost
sight of the canoe.
When this mortifying announcement was made, Hetty was actually so
near as to understand every syllable her sister uttered, though the
latter had used the precaution of speaking as low as circumstances
would allow her to do, and to make herself heard. Hetty stopped
paddling at the same moment, and waited the result with an impatience
that was breathless, equally from her late exertions, and her desire
to land. A dead silence immediately fell on the lake, during which
the three in the Ark were using their senses differently, in order
to detect the position of the canoe. Judith bent forward to listen,
in the hope of catching some sound that might betray the direction
in which her sister was stealing away, while her two companions
brought their eyes as near as possible to a level with the water,
in order to detect any object that might be floating on its surface.
All was vain, however, for neither sound nor sight rewarded their
efforts. All this time Hetty, who had not the cunning to sink
into the canoe, stood erect, a finger pressed on her lips, gazing
in the direction in which the voices had last been heard, resembling
a statue of profound and timid attention. Her ingenuity had barely
sufficed to enable her to seize the canoe and to quit the Ark, in
the noiseless manner related, and then it appeared to be momentarily
exhausted. Even the doublings of the canoe had been as much the
consequence of an uncertain hand and of nervous agitation, as of
any craftiness or calculation.
The pause continued several minutes, during which Deerslayer and
the Delaware conferred together in the language of the latter.
Then the oars dipped, again, and the Ark moved away, rowing with as
little noise as possible. It steered westward, a little southerly,
or in the direction of the encampment of the enemy. Having reached
a point at no great distance from the shore, and where the obscurity
was intense on account of the proximity of the land, it lay there
near an hour, in waiting for the expected approach of Hetty, who,
it was thought, would make the best of her way to that spot as
soon as she believed herself released from the danger of pursuit.
No success rewarded this little blockade, however, neither appearance
nor sound denoting the passage of the canoe. Disappointed at this
failure, and conscious of the importance of getting possession of
the fortress before it could be seized by the enemy, Deerslayer
now took his way towards the castle, with the apprehension that
all his foresight in securing the canoes would be defeated by this
unguarded and alarming movement on the part of the feeble-minded
"But who in this wild wood
May credit give to either eye, or ear?
From rocky precipice or hollow cave,
'Midst the confused sound of rustling leaves;,
And creaking boughs, and cries of nightly birds,
Returning seeming answer!"
Joanna Baihie, Rayner: A Tragedy, II.L3-4, 6-g.
Fear, as much as calculation, had induced Hetty to cease paddling,
when she found that her pursuers did not know in which direction
to proceed. She remained stationary until the Ark had pulled in
near the encampment, as has been related in the preceding chapter,
when she resumed the paddle and with cautious strokes made the
best of her way towards the western shore. In order to avoid her
pursuers, however, who, she rightly suspected, would soon be rowing
along that shore themselves, the head of the canoe was pointed so
far north as to bring her to land on a point that thrust itself
into the lake, at the distance of near a league from the outlet.
Nor was this altogether the result of a desire to escape, for,
feeble minded as she was, Hetty Hutter had a good deal of that
instinctive caution which so often keeps those whom God has thus
visited from harm. She was perfectly aware of the importance of
keeping the canoes from falling into the hands of the Iroquois, and
long familiarity with the lake had suggested one of the simplest
expedients, by which this great object could be rendered compatible
with her own purpose.
The point in question was the first projection that offered on that
side of the lake, where a canoe, if set adrift with a southerly
air would float clear of the land, and where it would be no great
violation of probabilities to suppose it might even hit the castle;
the latter lying above it, almost in a direct line with the wind.
Such then was Hetty's intention, and she landed on the extremity
of the gravelly point, beneath an overhanging oak, with the express
intention of shoving the canoe off from the shore, in order that
it might drift up towards her father's insulated abode. She knew,
too, from the logs that occasionally floated about the lake, that
did it miss the castle and its appendages the wind would be likely
to change before the canoe could reach the northern extremity of
the lake, and that Deerslayer might have an opportunity of regaining
it in the morning, when no doubt he would be earnestly sweeping
the surface of the water, and the whole of its wooded shores, with
glass. In all this, too, Hetty was less governed by any chain of
reasoning than by her habits, the latter often supplying the place
of mind, in human beings, as they perform the same for animals of
the inferior classes.
The girl was quite an hour finding her way to the point, the distance
and the obscurity equally detaining her, but she was no sooner on
the gravelly beach than she prepared to set the canoe adrift, in
the manner mentioned. While in the act of pushing it from her, she
heard low voices that seemed to come among the trees behind her.
Startled at this unexpected danger Hetty was on the point of
springing into the canoe in order to seek safety in flight, when
she thought she recognized the tones of Judith's melodious voice.
Bending forward so as to catch the sounds more directly, they
evidently came from the water, and then she understood that the Ark
was approaching from the south, and so close in with the western
shore, as necessarily to cause it to pass the point within twenty
yards of the spot where she stood. Here, then, was all she could
desire; the canoe was shoved off into the lake, leaving its late
occupant alone on the narrow strand.
When this act of self-devotion was performed, Hetty did not retire.
The foliage of the overhanging trees and bushes would have almost
concealed her person, had there been light, but in that obscurity it
was utterly impossible to discover any object thus shaded, at the
distance of a few feet. Flight, too, was perfectly easy, as twenty
steps would effectually bury her in the forest. She remained,
therefore, watching with intense anxiety the result of her expedient,
intending to call the attention of the others to the canoe with
her voice, should they appear to pass without observing it. The
Ark approached under its sail, again, Deerslayer standing in its
bow, with Judith near him, and the Delaware at the helm. It would
seem that in the bay below it had got too close to the shore, in
the lingering hope of intercepting Hetty, for, as it came nearer,
the latter distinctly heard the directions that the young man
forward gave to his companion aft, in order to clear the point.
"Lay her head more off the shore, Delaware," said Deerslayer for
the third time, speaking in English that his fair companion might
understand his words - "Lay her head well off shore. We have got
embayed here, and needs keep the mast clear of the trees. Judith,
there's a canoe!"
The last words were uttered with great earnestness, and Deerslayer's
hand was on his rifle ere they were fairly out of his mouth. But
the truth flashed on the mind of the quick-witted girl, and she
instantly told her companion that the boat must be that in which
her sister had fled.
"Keep the scow straight, Delaware; steer as straight as your bullet
flies when sent ag'in a buck; there - I have it."
The canoe was seized, and immediately secured again to the side of
the Ark. At the next moment the sail was lowered, and the motion
of the Ark arrested by means of the oars.
"Hetty!" called out Judith, concern, even affection betraying
itself in her tones. "Are you within hearing, sister - for God's
sake answer, and let me hear the sound of your voice, again! Hetty!
- dear Hetty."
"I'm here, Judith - here on the shore, where it will be useless to
follow me, as I will hide in the woods."
"Oh! Hetty what is't you do! Remember 'tis drawing near midnight,
and that the woods are filled with savages and wild beasts!"
"Neither will harm a poor half-witted girl, Judith. God is as
much with me, here, as he would be in the Ark or in the hut. I am
going to help my father, and poor Hurry Harry, who will be tortured
and slain unless some one cares for them."
"We all care for them, and intend to-morrow to send them a flag of
truce, to buy their ransom. Come back then, sister; trust to us,
who have better heads than you, and who will do all we can for
"I know your head is better than mine, Judith, for mine is very
weak, to be sure; but I must go to father and poor Hurry. Do you
and Deerslayer keep the castle, sister; leave me in the hands of
"God is with us all, Hetty - in the castle, or on the shore -father
as well as ourselves, and it is sinful not to trust to his goodness.
You can do nothing in the dark; will lose your way in the forest,
and perish for want of food."
"God will not let that happen to a poor child that goes to serve
her father, sister. I must try and find the savages."
"Come back for this night only; in the morning, we will put you
ashore, and leave you to do as you may think right."
"You say so, Judith, and you think so; but you would not. Your
heart would soften, and you'd see tomahawks and scalping knives in
the air. Besides, I've got a thing to tell the Indian chief that
will answer all our wishes, and I'm afraid I may forget it, if I
don't tell it to him at once. You'll see that he will let father
go, as soon as he hears it!"
"Poor Hetty! What can you say to a ferocious savage that will be
likely to change his bloody purpose!"
"That which will frighten him, and make him let father go -" returned
the simple-minded girl, positively. "You'll see, sister; you'll
see, how soon it will bring him to, like a gentle child!"
"Will you tell me, Hetty, what you intend to say?" asked Deerslayer.
"I know the savages well, and can form some idee how far fair words
will be likely, or not, to work on their bloody natur's. If it's
not suited to the gifts of a red-skin, 'twill be of no use; for
reason goes by gifts, as well as conduct."
"Well, then," answered Hetty, dropping her voice to a low,
confidential, tone, for the stillness of the night, and the nearness
of the Ark, permitted her to do this and still to be heard - "Well,
then, Deerslayer, as you seem a good and honest young man I will
tell you. I mean not to say a word to any of the savages until I
get face to face with their head chief, let them plague me with as
many questions as they please I'll answer none of them, unless it
be to tell them to lead me to their wisest man - Then, Deerslayer,
I'll tell him that God will not forgive murder, and thefts; and
that if father and Hurry did go after the scalps of the Iroquois,
he must return good for evil, for so the Bible commands, else he
will go into everlasting punishment. When he hears this, and feels
it to be true, as feel it he must, how long will it be before he
sends father, and Hurry, and me to the shore, opposite the castle,
telling us all three to go our way in peace?"
The last question was put in a triumphant manner, and then the
simple-minded girl laughed at the impression she never doubted that
her project had made on her auditors. Deerslayer was dumb-founded
at this proof of guileless feebleness of mind, but Judith had
suddenly bethought her of a means of counteracting this wild project,
by acting on the very feelings that had given it birth. Without
adverting to the closing question, or the laugh, therefore, she
hurriedly called to her sister by name, as one suddenly impressed
with the importance of what she had to say. But no answer was
given to the call.
By the snapping of twigs, and the rustling of leaves, Hetty had
evidently quitted the shore, and was already burying herself in the
forest. To follow would have been fruitless, since the darkness,
as well as the dense cover that the woods everywhere offered, would
have rendered her capture next to impossible, and there was also
the never ceasing danger of falling into the hands of their enemies.
After a short and melancholy discussion, therefore, the sail was
again set, and the Ark pursued its course towards its habitual
moorings, Deerslayer silently felicitating himself on the recovery
of the canoe, and brooding over his plans for the morrow. The
wind rose as the party quitted the point, and in less than an hour
they reached the castle. Here all was found as it had been left,
and the reverse of the ceremonies had to be taken in entering the
building, that had been used on quitting it. Judith occupied a
solitary bed that night bedewing the pillow with her tears, as she
thought of the innocent and hitherto neglected creature, who had
been her companion from childhood, and bitter regrets came over her
mind, from more causes than one, as the weary hours passed away,
making it nearly morning before she lost her recollection in sleep.
Deerslayer and the Delaware took their rest in the Ark, where we
shall leave them enjoying the deep sleep of the honest, the healthful
and fearless, to return to the girl we have last seen in the midst
of the forest.
When Hetty left the shore, she took her way unhesitatingly into
the woods, with a nervous apprehension of being followed. Luckily,
this course was the best she could have hit on to effect her own
purpose, since it was the only one that led her from the point. The
night was so intensely dark, beneath the branches of the trees, that
her progress was very slow, and the direction she went altogether
a matter of chance, after the first few yards. The formation of
the ground, however, did not permit her to deviate far from the line
in which she desired to proceed. On one hand it was soon bounded
by the acclivity of the hill, while the lake, on the other, served
as a guide. For two hours did this single-hearted and simple-minded
girl toil through the mazes of the forest, sometimes finding herself
on the brow of the bank that bounded the water, and at others
struggling up an ascent that warned her to go no farther in that
direction, since it necessarily ran at right angles to the course
on which she wished to proceed. Her feet often slid from beneath
her, and she got many falls, though none to do her injury; but, by
the end of the period mentioned, she had become so weary as to want
strength to go any farther. Rest was indispensable, and she set
about preparing a bed, with the readiness and coolness of one to
whom the wilderness presented no unnecessary terrors. She knew
that wild beasts roamed through all the adjacent forest, but animals
that preyed on the human species were rare, and of dangerous serpents
there were literally none. These facts had been taught her by her
father, and whatever her feeble mind received at all, it received
so confidingly as to leave her no uneasiness from any doubts,
or scepticism. To her the sublimity of the solitude in which she
was placed, was soothing, rather than appalling, and she gathered
a bed of leaves, with as much indifference to the circumstances that
would have driven the thoughts of sleep entirely from the minds of
most of her sex, as if she had been preparing her place of nightly
rest beneath the paternal roof. As soon as Hetty had collected a
sufficient number of the dried leaves to protect her person from
the damps of the ground, she kneeled beside the humble pile, clasped
her raised hands in an attitude of deep devotion, and in a soft,
low, but audible voice repeated the Lord's Prayer. This was followed
by those simple and devout verses, so familiar to children, in
which she recommended her soul to God, should it be called away to
another state of existence, ere the return of morning. This duty
done, she lay down and disposed herself to sleep. The attire of
the girl, though suited to the season, was sufficiently warm for
all ordinary purposes, but the forest is ever cool, and the nights
of that elevated region of country, have always a freshness about
them, that renders clothing more necessary than is commonly the
case in the summers of a low latitude. This had been foreseen by
Hetty, who had brought with her a coarse heavy mantle, which, when
laid over her body, answered all the useful purposes of a blanket
Thus protected, she dropped asleep in a few minutes, as tranquilly
as if watched over by the guardian care of that mother, who had so
recently been taken from her forever, affording in this particular
a most striking contrast between her own humble couch, and the
sleepless pillow of her sister.
Hour passed after hour, in a tranquility as undisturbed and a rest
as sweet as if angels, expressly commissioned for that object,
watched around the bed of Hetty Hutter. Not once did her soft eyes
open, until the grey of the dawn came struggling through the tops
of the trees, falling on their lids, and, united to the freshness
of a summer's morning, giving the usual summons to awake. Ordinarily,
Hetty was up ere the rays of the sun tipped the summits of the
mountains, but on this occasion her fatigue had been so great, and
her rest was so profound, that the customary warnings failed of
their effect. The girl murmured in her sleep, threw an arm forward,
smiled as gently as an infant in its cradle, but still slumbered.
In making this unconscious gesture, her hand fell on some object that
was warm, and in the half unconscious state in which she lay, she
connected the circumstance with her habits. At the next moment,
a rude attack was made on her side, as if a rooting animal were
thrusting its snout beneath, with a desire to force her position,
and then, uttering the name of "Judith" she awoke. As the startled
girl arose to a sitting attitude she perceived that some dark object
sprang from her, scattering the leaves and snapping the fallen
twigs in its haste. Opening her eyes, and recovering from the
first confusion and astonishment of her situation, Hetty perceived
a cub, of the common American brown bear, balancing itself on its
hinder legs, and still looking towards her, as if doubtful whether
it would be safe to trust itself near her person again. The first
impulse of Hetty, who had been mistress of several of these cubs,
was to run and seize the little creature as a prize, but a loud
growl warned her of the danger of such a procedure. Recoiling a
few steps, the girl looked hurriedly round, and perceived the dam,
watching her movements with fiery eyes at no great distance. A
hollow tree, that once been the home of bees, having recently
fallen, the mother with two more cubs was feasting on the dainty
food that this accident had placed within her reach; while the
first kept a jealous eye on the situation of its truant and reckless
It would exceed all the means of human knowledge to presume to
analyze the influences that govern the acts of the lower animals.
On this occasion, the dam, though proverbially fierce when its young
is thought to be in danger, manifested no intention to attack the
girl. It quitted the honey, and advanced to a place within twenty
feet of her, where it raised itself on its hind legs and balanced
its body in a sort of angry, growling discontent, but approached
no nearer. Happily, Hetty did not fly. On the contrary, though
not without terror, she knelt with her face towards the animal,
and with clasped hands and uplifted eyes, repeated the prayer of
the previous night. This act of devotion was not the result of
alarm, but it was a duty she never neglected to perform ere she slept,
and when the return of consciousness awoke her to the business of
the day. As the girl arose from her knees, the bear dropped on
its feet again, and collecting its cubs around her, permitted them
to draw their natural sustenance. Hetty was delighted with this
proof of tenderness in an animal that has but a very indifferent
reputation for the gentler feelings, and as a cub would quit its
mother to frisk and leap about in wantonness, she felt a strong
desire again to catch it up in her arms, and play with it. But
admonished by the growl, she had self-command sufficient not to put
this dangerous project in execution, and recollecting her errand
among the hills, she tore herself away from the group, and proceeded
on her course along the margin of the lake, of which she now caught
glimpses again through the trees. To her surprise, though not to
her alarm, the family of bears arose and followed her steps, keeping
a short distance behind her; apparently watching every movement as
if they had a near interest in all she did.
In this manner, escorted by the dam and cubs, the girl proceeded
nearly a mile, thrice the distance she had been able to achieve in
the darkness, during the same period of time. She then reached a
brook that had dug a channel for itself into the earth, and went
brawling into the lake, between steep and high banks, covered with
trees. Here Hetty performed her ablutions; then drinking of the
pure mountain water, she went her way, refreshed and lighter of
heart, still attended by her singular companions. Her course now
lay along a broad and nearly level terrace, which stretched from
the top of the bank that bounded the water, to a low acclivity
that rose to a second and irregular platform above. This was at a
part of the valley where the mountains ran obliquely, forming the
commencement of a plain that spread between the hills, southward
of the sheet of water. Hetty knew, by this circumstance, that
she was getting near to the encampment, and had she not, the bears
would have given her warning of the vicinity of human beings.
Snuffing the air, the dam refused to follow any further, though
the girl looked back and invited her to come by childish signs, and
even by direct appeals made in her own sweet voice. It was while
making her way slowly through some bushes, in this manner, with
averted face and eyes riveted on the immovable animals, that the
girl suddenly found her steps arrested by a human hand, that was
laid lightly on her shoulder.
"Where go? -" said a soft female voice, speaking hurriedly, and
in concern. -"Indian - red man savage - wicked warrior- thataway."
This unexpected salutation alarmed the girl no more than the presence
of the fierce inhabitants of the woods. It took her a little by
surprise, it is true, but she was in a measure prepared for some
such meeting, and the creature who stopped her was as little likely
to excite terror as any who ever appeared in the guise of an Indian.
It was a girl, not much older than herself, whose smile was sunny
as Judith's in her brightest moments, whose voice was melody itself,
and whose accents and manner had all the rebuked gentleness that
characterizes the sex among a people who habitually treat their
women as the attendants and servitors of the warriors. Beauty among
the women of the aboriginal Americans, before they have become
exposed to the hardships of wives and mothers, is by no means
uncommon. In this particular, the original owners of the country
were not unlike their more civilized successors, nature appearing
to have bestowed that delicacy of mien and outline that forms
so great a charm in the youthful female, but of which they are so
early deprived; and that, too, as much by the habits of domestic
life as from any other cause.
The girl who had so suddenly arrested the steps of Hetty was dressed
in a calico mantle that effectually protected all the upper part of
her person, while a short petticoat of blue cloth edged with gold
lace, that fell no lower than her knees, leggings of the same, and
moccasins of deer-skin, completed her attire. Her hair fell in
long dark braids down her shoulders and back, and was parted above
a low smooth forehead, in a way to soften the expression of eyes
that were full of archness and natural feeling. Her face was oval,
with delicate features, the teeth were even and white, while the
mouth expressed a melancholy tenderness, as if it wore this peculiar
meaning in intuitive perception of the fate of a being who was doomed
from birth to endure a woman's sufferings, relieved by a woman's
affections. Her voice, as has been already intimated, was soft
as the sighing of the night air, a characteristic of the females
of her race, but which was so conspicuous in herself as to have
produced for her the name of Wah-ta-Wah; which rendered into English
In a word, this was the betrothed of Chingachgook, who - having
succeeded in lulling their suspicions, was permitted to wander around
the encampment of her captors. This indulgence was in accordance
with the general policy of the red man, who well knew, moreover,
that her trail could have been easily followed in the event of
flight. It will also be remembered that the Iroquois, or Hurons,
as it would be better to call them, were entirely ignorant of
the proximity of her lover, a fact, indeed, that she did not know
It is not easy to say which manifested the most self-possession
at this unexpected meeting; the pale-face, or the red girl. But,
though a little surprised, Wah-ta-Wah was the most willing to
speak, and far the readier in foreseeing consequences, as well as
in devising means to avert them. Her father, during her childhood,
had been much employed as a warrior by the authorities of the
Colony, and dwelling for several years near the forts, she had
caught a knowledge of the English tongue, which she spoke in the
usual, abbreviated manner of an Indian, but fluently, and without
any of the ordinary reluctance of her people.
"Where go? -" repeated Wah-ta-Wah, returning the smile of Hetty,
in her own gentle, winning, manner - "wicked warrior that-a-way -
good warrior, far off."
"What's your name?" asked Hetty, with the simplicity of a child.
"Wah-ta-Wah. I no Mingo - good Delaware - Yengeese friend. Mingo
cruel, and love scalp, for blood - Delaware love him, for honor.
Come here, where no eyes."
Wah-ta-Wah now led her companion towards the lake, descending the
bank so as to place its overhanging trees and bushes between them
and any probable observers. Nor did she stop until they were both
seated, side by side, on a fallen log, one end of which actually
lay buried in the water.
"Why you come for?" the young Indian eagerly inquired - "Where you
come for?" Hetty told her tale in her own simple and truth-loving
manner. She explained the situation of her father, and stated her
desire to serve him, and if possible to procure his release.
"Why your father come to Mingo camp in night?" asked the Indian
girl, with a directness, which if not borrowed from the other,
partook largely of its sincerity. "He know it war-time, and he no
boy - he no want beard - no want to be told Iroquois carry tomahawk,
and knife, and rifle. Why he come night time, seize me by hair,
and try to scalp Delaware girl?"
"You!" said Hetty, almost sickening with horror - "Did he seize
you - did he try to scalp you?"
"Why no? Delaware scalp sell for much as Mingo scalp. Governor
no tell difference. Wicked t'ing for pale-face to scalp. No his
gifts, as the good Deerslayer always tell me."
"And do you know the Deerslayer?" said Hetty, coloring with delight
and surprise; forgetting her regrets, at the moment, in the influence
of this new feeling. "I know him, too. He is now in the Ark,
with Judith and a Delaware who is called the Big Serpent. A bold
and handsome warrior is this Serpent, too!"
Spite of the rich deep colour that nature had bestowed on the
Indian beauty, the tell-tale blood deepened on her cheeks, until
the blush gave new animation and intelligence to her jet-black eyes.
Raising a finger in an attitude of warning, she dropped her voice,
already so soft and sweet, nearly to a whisper, as she continued
"Chingachgook!" returned the Delaware girl, sighing out the harsh
name, in sounds so softly guttural, as to cause it to reach the
ear in melody - "His father, Uncas - great chief of the Mahicanni
- next to old Tamenund! - More as warrior, not so much gray hair,
and less at Council Fire. You know Serpent?"
"He joined us last evening, and was in the Ark with me, for two
or three hours before I left it. I'm afraid, Hist -" Hetty could
not pronounce the Indian name of her new friend, but having heard
Deerslayer give her this familiar appellation, she used it without
any of the ceremony of civilized life - "I'm afraid Hist, he has
come after scalps, as well as my poor father and Hurry Harry."
"Why he shouldn't - ha? Chingachgook red warrior - very red -scalp
make his honor - Be sure he take him."
"Then," said Hetty, earnestly, "he will be as wicked as any other.
God will not pardon in a red man, what he will not pardon in a
"No true -" returned the Delaware girl, with a warmth that nearly
amounted to passion. "No true, I tell you! The Manitou smile
and pleased when he see young warrior come back from the war path,
with two, ten, hundred scalp on a pole! Chingachgook father take
scalp - grandfather take scalp - all old chief take scalp, and
Chingachgook take as many scalp as he can carry, himself"
"Then, Hist, his sleep of nights must be terrible to think of. No
one can be cruel, and hope to be forgiven."
"No cruel - plenty forgiven -" returned Wah-ta-Wah, stamping her
little foot on the stony strand, and shaking her head in a way to
show how completely feminine feeling, in one of its aspects, had
gotten the better of feminine feeling in another. "I tell you,
Serpent brave; he go home, this time, with four, - yes - two scalp."
"And is that his errand, here? - Did he really come all this
distance, across mountain, and valley, rivers and lakes, to torment
his fellow creatures, and do so wicked a thing?"
This question at once appeased the growing ire of the half-offended
Indian beauty. It completely got the better of the prejudices
of education, and turned all her thoughts to a gentler and more
feminine channel. At first, she looked around her, suspiciously,
as if distrusting eavesdroppers; then she gazed wistfully into the
face of her attentive companion; after which this exhibition of
girlish coquetry and womanly feeling, terminated by her covering
her face with both her hands, and laughing in a strain that might
well be termed the melody of the woods. Dread of discovery, however,
soon put a stop to this naive exhibition of feeling, and removing
her hands, this creature of impulses gazed again wistfully into
the face of her companion, as if inquiring how far she might trust
a stranger with her secret. Although Hetty had no claims to her
sister's extraordinary beauty, many thought her countenance the most
winning of the two. It expressed all the undisguised sincerity of
her character, and it was totally free from any of the unpleasant
physical accompaniments that so frequently attend mental imbecility.
It is true that one accustomed to closer observations than common,
might have detected the proofs of her feebleness of intellect
in the language of her sometimes vacant eyes, but they were signs
that attracted sympathy by their total want of guile, rather than
by any other feeling. The effect on Hist, to use the English and
more familiar translation of the name, was favorable, and yielding
to an impulse of tenderness, she threw her arms around Hetty, and
embraced her with an outpouring emotion, so natural that it was
only equaled by its warmth.
"You good -" whispered the young Indian - "you good, I know; it so
long since Wah-ta-Wah have a friend - a sister - any body to speak
her heart to! You Hist friend; don't I say trut'?"
"I never had a friend," answered Hetty returning the warm embrace
with unfeigned earnestness. "I've a sister, but no friend. Judith
loves me, and I love Judith; but that's natural, and as we are
taught in the Bible - but I should like to have a friend! I'll
be your friend, with all my heart, for I like your voice and your
smile, and your way of thinking in every thing, except about the
"No t'ink more of him - no say more of scalp -" interrupted Hist,
soothingly -"You pale-face, I red-skin; we bring up different fashion.
Deerslayer and Chingachgook great friend, and no the same colour,
Hist and - what your name, pretty pale-face?"
"I am called Hetty, though when they spell the name in the bible,
they always spell it Esther."
"What that make? - no good, no harm. No need to spell name at
all -Moravian try to make Wah-ta-Wah spell, but no won't let him.
No good for Delaware girl to know too much- know more than warrior
some time; that great shame. My name Wah-ta-Wah that say Hist in
your tongue; you call him, Hist - I call him, Hetty."
These preliminaries settled to their mutual satisfaction, the two
girls began to discourse of their several hopes and projects. Hetty
made her new friend more fully acquainted with her intentions in
behalf of her father, and, to one in the least addicted to prying
into the affairs, Hist would have betrayed her own feelings and
expectations in connection with the young warrior of her own tribe.
Enough was revealed on both sides, however, to let each party get
a tolerable insight into the views of the other, though enough
still remained in mental reservation, to give rise to the following
questions and answers, with which the interview in effect closed.
As the quickest witted, Hist was the first with her interrogatories.
Folding an arm about the waist of Hetty, she bent her head so as
to look up playfully into the face of the other, and, laughing, as
if her meaning were to be extracted from her looks, she spoke more
"Hetty got broder, as well as fader? -" she said - "Why no talk
of broder, as well as fader?"
"I have no brother, Hist. I had one once, they say, but he is dead
many a year, and lies buried in the lake, by the side of my mother."
"No got broder - got a young warrior - Love him, almost as much as
fader, eh? Very handsome, and brave-looking; fit to be chief, if
he good as he seem to be."
"It's wicked to love any man as well as I love my father, and so I
strive not to do it, Hist," returned the conscientious Hetty, who
knew not how to conceal an emotion, by an approach to an untruth
as venial as an evasion, though powerfully tempted by female shame
to err, "though I sometimes think wickedness will get the better
of me, if Hurry comes so often to the lake. I must tell you the
truth, dear Hist, because you ask me, but I should fall down and
die in the woods, if he knew it!"
"Why he no ask you, himself? - Brave looking - why not bold
speaking? Young warrior ought to ask young girl, no make young
girl speak first. Mingo girls too shame for that."
This was said indignantly, and with the generous warmth a young female
of spirit would be apt to feel, at what she deemed an invasion of
her sex's most valued privilege. It had little influence on the
simple-minded, but also just-minded Hetty, who, though inherently
feminine in all her impulses, was much more alive to the workings
of her own heart, than to any of the usages with which convention
has protected the sensitiveness of her sex.
"Ask me what?' the startled girl demanded, with a suddenness that
proved how completely her fears had been aroused. 'Ask me, if I
like him as well as I do my own father! Oh! I hope he will never
put such a question to me, for I should have to answer, and that
would kill me!"
"No - no - no kill, quite - almost," returned the other, laughing
in spite of herself. "Make blush come - make shame come too; but
he no stay great while; then feel happier than ever. Young warrior
must tell young girl he want to make wife, else never can live in
"Hurry don't want to marry me - nobody will ever want to marry me,
"How you can know? P'raps every body want to marry you, and
by-and-bye, tongue say what heart feel. Why nobody want to marry
"I am not full witted, they say. Father often tells me this; and
so does Judith, sometimes, when she is vexed; but I shouldn't so
much mind them, as I did mother. She said so once and then she
cried as if her heart would break; and, so, I know I'm not full
Hist gazed at the gentle, simple girl, for quite a minute without
speaking, and then the truth appeared to flash all at once on the
mind of the young Indian maid. Pity, reverence and tenderness
seemed struggling together in her breast, and then rising suddenly,
she indicated a wish to her companion that she would accompany
her to the camp, which was situated at no great distance. This
unexpected change from the precautions that Hist had previously
manifested a desire to use, in order to prevent being seen, to an
open exposure of the person of her friend, arose from the perfect
conviction that no Indian would harm a being whom the Great Spirit
had disarmed, by depriving it of its strongest defence, reason.
In this respect, nearly all unsophisticated nations resemble each
other, appearing to offer spontaneously, by a feeling creditable to
human nature, that protection by their own forbearance, which has
been withheld by the inscrutable wisdom of Providence. Wah-ta-Wah,
indeed, knew that in many tribes the mentally imbecile and the
mad were held in a species of religious reverence, receiving from
these untutored inhabitants of the forest respect and honors,
instead of the contumely and neglect that it is their fortune to
meet with among the more pretending and sophisticated.
Hetty accompanied her new friend without apprehension or reluctance.
It was her wish to reach the camp, and, sustained by her motives, she
felt no more concern for the consequences than did her companion
herself, now the latter was apprised of the character of the
protection that the pale-face maiden carried with her. Still, as
they proceeded slowly along a shore that was tangled with overhanging
bushes, Hetty continued the discourse, assuming the office of
interrogating which the other had instantly dropped, as soon as
she ascertained the character of the mind to which her questions
had been addressed.
"But you are not half-witted," said Hetty, "and there's no reason
why the Serpent should not marry you."
"Hist prisoner, and Mingo got big ear. No speak of Chingachgook
when they by. Promise Hist that, good Hetty."
"I know - I know -" returned Hetty, half-whispering, in her eagerness
to let the other see she understood the necessity of caution. "I
know - Deerslayer and the Serpent mean to get you away from the
Iroquois, and you wish me not to tell the secret."
"How you know?" said Hist, hastily, vexed at the moment that the
other was not even more feeble minded than was actually the case.
"How you know? Better not talk of any but fader and Hurry - Mingo
understand dat; he no understand t'udder. Promise you no talk
about what you no understand."
"But I do understand this, Hist, and so I must talk about it.
Deerslayer as good as told father all about it, in my presence,
and as nobody told me not to listen, I overheard it all, as I did
Hurry and father's discourse about the scalps."
"Very bad for pale-faces to talk about scalps, and very bad for
young woman to hear! Now you love Hist, I know, Hetty, and so,
among Injins, when love hardest never talk most."
"That's not the way among white people, who talk most about them
they love best. I suppose it's because I'm only half-witted that I
don't see the reason why it should be so different among red people."
"That what Deerslayer call gift. One gift to talk; t'udder gift
to hold tongue. Hold tongue your gift, among Mingos. If Sarpent
want to see Hist, so Hetty want to see Hurry. Good girl never tell
secret of friend."
Hetty understood this appeal, and she promised the Delaware girl
not to make any allusion to the presence of Chingachgook, or to
the motive of his visit to the lake.
"Maybe he get off Hurry and fader, as well as Hist, if let him have
his way," whispered Wah-ta-Wah to her companion, in a confiding
flattering way, just as they got near enough to the encampment to
hear the voices of several of their own sex, who were apparently
occupied in the usual toils of women of their class. "Tink of dat,
Hetty, and put two, twenty finger on mouth. No get friend free
without Sarpent do it."
A better expedient could not have been adopted, to secure the silence
and discretion of Hetty, than that which was now presented to her
mind. As the liberation of her father and the young frontier man
was the great object of her adventure, she felt the connection
between it and the services of the Delaware, and with an innocent
laugh, she nodded her head, and in the same suppressed manner,
promised a due attention to the wishes of her friend. Thus assured,
Hist tarried no longer, but immediately and openly led the way into
the encampment of her captors.
"The great King of Kings
Hath in the table of his law commanded,
That thou shalt do no murder.
Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hand,
To hurl upon their heads that break his law."
Richard III, I.iv.i95-97 199-200.
That the party to which Hist compulsorily belonged was not one
that was regularly on the war path, was evident by the presence of
females. It was a small fragment of a tribe that had been hunting
and fishing within the English limits, where it was found by the
commencement of hostilities, and, after passing the winter and
spring by living on what was strictly the property of its enemies,
it chose to strike a hostile blow before it finally retired. There
was also deep Indian sagacity in the manoeuvre which had led them
so far into the territory of their foes. When the runner arrived
who announced the breaking out of hostilities between the English
and French - a struggle that was certain to carry with it all the
tribes that dwelt within the influence of the respective belligerents
- this particular party of the Iroquois were posted on the shores
of the Oneida, a lake that lies some fifty miles nearer to their
own frontier than that which is the scene of our tale.
To have fled in a direct line for the Canadas would have exposed them
to the dangers of a direct pursuit, and the chiefs had determined
to adopt the expedient of penetrating deeper into a region that
had now become dangerous, in the hope of being able to retire in
the rear of their pursuers, instead of having them on their trail.
The presence of the women had induced the attempt at this ruse,
the strength of these feebler members of the party being unequal
to the effort of escaping from the pursuit of warriors. When the
reader remembers the vast extent of the American wilderness, at
that early day, he will perceive that it was possible for even a
tribe to remain months undiscovered in particular portions of it;
nor was the danger of encountering a foe, the usual precautions
being observed, as great in the woods, as it is on the high seas,
in a time of active warfare.
The encampment being temporary, it offered to the eye no more than
the rude protection of a bivouac, relieved in some slight degree
by the ingenious expedients which suggested themselves to the
readiness of those who passed their lives amid similar scenes.
One fire, that had been kindled against the roots of a living oak,
sufficed for the whole party; the weather being too mild to require
it for any purpose but cooking. Scattered around this centre
of attraction, were some fifteen or twenty low huts, or perhaps
kennels would be a better word, into which their different owners
crept at night, and which were also intended to meet the exigencies
of a storm.
These little huts were made of the branches of trees, put together
with some ingenuity, and they were uniformly topped with bark that
had been stripped from fallen trees; of which every virgin forest
possesses hundreds, in all stages of decay. Of furniture they had
next to none. Cooking utensils of the simplest sort were lying near
the fire, a few articles of clothing were to be seen in or around
the huts, rifles, horns, and pouches leaned against the trees, or
were suspended from the lower branches, and the carcasses of two
or three deer were stretched to view on the same natural shambles.
As the encampment was in the midst of a dense wood, the eye could
not take in its tout ensemble at a glance, but hut after hut
started out of the gloomy picture, as one gazed about him in quest
of objects. There was no centre, unless the fire might be so
considered, no open area where the possessors of this rude village
might congregate, but all was dark, covert and cunning, like its
owners. A few children strayed from hut to hut, giving the spot
a little of the air of domestic life, and the suppressed laugh
and low voices of the women occasionally broke in upon the deep
stillness of the sombre forest. As for the men, they either ate,
slept, or examined their arms. They conversed but little, and then
usually apart, or in groups withdrawn from the females, whilst an
air of untiring, innate watchfulness and apprehension of danger
seemed to be blended even with their slumbers.
As the two girls came near the encampment, Hetty uttered a slight
exclamation, on catching a view of the person of her father. He
was seated on the ground with his back to a tree, and Hurry stood
near him indolently whittling a twig. Apparently they were as much
at liberty as any others in or about the camp, and one unaccustomed
to Indian usages would have mistaken them for visitors, instead
of supposing them to be captives. Wah-ta-Wah led her new friend
quite near them, and then modestly withdrew, that her own presence
might be no restraint on her feelings. But Hetty was not sufficiently
familiar with caresses or outward demonstrations of fondness, to
indulge in any outbreaking of feeling. She merely approached and
stood at her father's side without speaking, resembling a silent
statue of filial affection. The old man expressed neither alarm
nor surprise at her sudden appearance. In these particulars he
had caught the stoicism of the Indians, well knowing that there was
no more certain mode of securing their respect than by imitating
their self-command. Nor did the savages themselves betray the
least sign of surprise at this sudden appearance of a stranger
among them. In a word, this arrival produced much less visible
sensation, though occurring under circumstances so peculiar, than
would be seen in a village of higher pretensions to civilization
did an ordinary traveler drive up to the door of its principal inn.
Still a few warriors collected, and it was evident by the manner
in which they glanced at Hetty as they conversed together, that she
was the subject of their discourse, and probable that the reasons
of her unlooked-for appearance were matters of discussion. This
phlegm of manner is characteristic of the North American Indian
- some say of his white successor also - but, in this case much
should be attributed to the peculiar situation in which the party
was placed. The force in the Ark, the presence of Chingachgook
excepted, was well known, no tribe or body of troops was believed
to be near, and vigilant eyes were posted round the entire lake,
watching day and night the slightest movement of those whom it
would not be exaggerated now to term the besieged.
Hutter was inwardly much moved by the conduct of Hetty, though he
affected so much indifference of manner. He recollected her gentle
appeal to him before he left the Ark, and misfortune rendered
that of weight which might have been forgotten amid the triumph of
success. Then he knew the simple, single-hearted fidelity of his
child, and understood why she had come, and the total disregard of
self that reigned in all her acts.
"This is not well, Hetty," he said, deprecating the consequences
to the girl herself more than any other evil. "These are fierce
Iroquois, and are as little apt to forget an injury, as a favor."
"Tell me, father -" returned the girl, looking furtively about her
as if fearful of being overheard, "did God let you do the cruel
errand on which you came? I want much to know this, that I may
speak to the Indians plainly, if he did not."
"You should not have come hither, Hetty; these brutes will not
understand your nature or your intentions!"
"How was it, father; neither you nor Hurry seems to have any thing
that looks like scalps."
"If that will set your mind at peace, child, I can answer you, no.
I had caught the young creatur' who came here with you, but her
screeches soon brought down upon me a troop of the wild cats, that
was too much for any single Christian to withstand. If that will
do you any good, we are as innocent of having taken a scalp, this
time, as I make no doubt we shall also be innocent of receiving
"Thank God for that, father! Now I can speak boldly to the Iroquois,
and with an easy conscience. I hope Hurry, too, has not been able
to harm any of the Indians?"
"Why, as to that matter, Hetty," returned the individual in question,
"you've put it pretty much in the natyve character of the religious
truth. Hurry has not been able, and that is the long and short of
it. I've seen many squalls, old fellow, both on land and on the
water, but never did I feel one as lively and as snappish as that
which come down upon us, night afore last, in the shape of an Indian
hurrah-boys! Why, Hetty, you're no great matter at a reason, or
an idee that lies a little deeper than common, but you're human
and have some human notions - now I'll just ask you to look at them
circumstances. Here was old Tom, your father, and myself, bent on
a legal operation, as is to be seen in the words of the law and the
proclamation; thinking no harm; when we were set upon by critturs
that were more like a pack of hungry wolves than mortal savages
even, and there they had us tethered like two sheep, in less time
than it has taken me to tell you the story."
"You are free now, Hurry," returned Hetty, glancing timidly at the
fine unfettered limbs of the young giant -"You have no cords, or
withes, to pain your arms, or legs, now."
"Not I, Hetty. Natur' is natur', and freedom is natur', too. My
limbs have a free look, but that's pretty much the amount of it,
sin' I can't use them in the way I should like. Even these trees
have eyes; ay, and tongues too; for was the old man, here, or I,
to start one single rod beyond our gaol limits, sarvice would be
put on the bail afore we could 'gird up our loins' for a race, and,
like as not, four or five rifle bullets would be travelling arter
us, carrying so many invitations to curb our impatience. There
isn't a gaol in the colony as tight as this we are now in; for I've
tried the vartues of two or three on 'em, and I know the mater'als
they are made of, as well as the men that made 'em; takin' down being
the next step in schoolin', to puttin' up, in all such fabrications."
Lest the reader should get an exaggerated opinion of Hurry's
demerits from this boastful and indiscreet revelation, it may be well
to say that his offences were confined to assaults and batteries,
for several of which he had been imprisoned, when, as he has just
said, he often escaped by demonstrating the flimsiness of the
constructions in which he was confined, by opening for himself
doors in spots where the architects had neglected to place them.
But Hetty had no knowledge of gaols, and little of the nature
of crimes, beyond what her unadulterated and almost instinctive
perceptions of right and wrong taught her, and this sally of the
rude being who had spoken was lost upon her. She understood his
general meaning, however, and answered in reference to that alone.
"It's so best, Hurry," she said. "It is best father and you should
be quiet and peaceable, 'till I have spoken to the Iroquois, when
all will be well and happy. I don't wish either of you to follow,
but leave me to myself. As soon as all is settled, and you are at
liberty to go back to the castle, I will come and let you know it."
Hetty spoke with so much simple earnestness, seemed so confident of
success, and wore so high an air of moral feeling and truth, that
both the listeners felt more disposed to attach an importance to her
mediation, than might otherwise have happened. When she manifested
an intention to quit them, therefore, they offered no obstacle,
though they saw she was about to join the group of chiefs who were
consulting apart, seemingly on the manner and motive of her own
When Hist - for so we love best to call her - quitted her companion,
she strayed near one or two of the elder warriors, who had shown
her most kindness in her captivity, the principal man of whom had
even offered to adopt her as his child if she would consent to
become a Huron. In taking this direction, the shrewd girl did so
to invite inquiry. She was too well trained in the habits of her
people to obtrude the opinions of one of her sex and years on men
and warriors, but nature had furnished a tact and ingenuity that
enabled her to attract the attention she desired, without wounding
the pride of those to whom it was her duty to defer and respect.
Even her affected indifference stimulated curiosity, and Hetty had
hardly reached the side of her father, before the Delaware girl
was brought within the circle of the warriors, by a secret but
significant gesture. Here she was questioned as to the person of
her companion, and the motives that had brought her to the camp.
This was all that Hist desired. She explained the manner in which
she had detected the weakness of Hetty's reason, rather exaggerating
than lessening the deficiency in her intellect, and then she
related in general terms the object of the girl in venturing among
her enemies. The effect was all that the speaker expected, her
account investing the person and character of their visitor with a
sacredness and respect that she well knew would prove her protection.
As soon as her own purpose was attained, Hist withdrew to a distance,
where, with female consideration and a sisterly tenderness she set
about the preparation of a meal, to be offered to her new friend
as soon as the latter might be at liberty to partake of it. While
thus occupied, however, the ready girl in no degree relaxed in her
watchfulness, noting every change of countenance among the chiefs,
every movement of Hetty's, and the smallest occurrence that could
be likely to affect her own interests, or that of her new friend.
As Hetty approached the chiefs they opened their little circle,
with an ease and deference of manner that would have done credit
to men of more courtly origin. A fallen tree lay near, and the
oldest of the warriors made a quiet sign for the girl to be seated
on it, taking his place at her side with the gentleness of a father.
The others arranged themselves around the two with grave dignity,
and then the girl, who had sufficient observation to perceive that
such a course was expected of her, began to reveal the object of
her visit. The moment she opened her mouth to speak, however, the
old chief gave a gentle sign for her to forbear, said a few words
to one of his juniors, and then waited in silent patience until the
latter had summoned Hist to the party. This interruption proceeded
from the chief's having discovered that there existed a necessity
for an interpreter, few of the Hurons present understanding the
English language, and they but imperfectly.
Wah-ta-Wah was not sorry to be called upon to be present at the
interview, and least of all in the character in which she was now
wanted. She was aware of the hazards she ran in attempting to
deceive one or two of the party, but was none the less resolved to
use every means that offered, and to practice every artifice that
an Indian education could supply, to conceal the facts of the
vicinity of her betrothed, and of the errand on which he had come.
One unpracticed in the expedients and opinions of savage life
would not have suspected the readiness of invention, the wariness
of action, the high resolution, the noble impulses, the deep
self-devotion, and the feminine disregard of self when the affections
were concerned, that lay concealed beneath the demure looks, the
mild eyes, and the sunny smiles of this young Indian beauty. As she
approached them, the grim old warriors regarded her with pleasure,
for they had a secret pride in the hope of engrafting so rare a
scion on the stock of their own nation; adoption being as regularly
practised, and as distinctly recognized among the tribes of America,
as it ever had been among those nations that submit to the sway of
the Civil Law.
As soon as Hist was seated by the side of Hetty, the old chief
desired her to ask "the fair young pale-face" what had brought her
among the Iroquois, and what they could do to serve her.
"Tell them, Hist, who I am - Thomas Hutter's youngest daughter;
Thomas Hutter, the oldest of their two prisoners; he who owns the
castle and the Ark, and who has the best right to be thought the
owner of these hills, and that lake, since he has dwelt so long,
and trapped so long, and fished so long, among them - They'll know
whom you mean by Thomas Hutter, if you tell them, that. And then
tell them that I've come here to convince them they ought not to
harm father and Hurry, but let them go in peace, and to treat them
as brethren rather than as enemies. Now tell them all this plainly,
Hist, and fear nothing for yourself or me. God will protect us."
Wah-ta-Wah did as the other desired, taking care to render the words
of her friend as literally as possible into the Iroquois tongue, a
language she used with a readiness almost equal to that with which
she spoke her own. The chiefs heard this opening explanation
with grave decorum, the two who had a little knowledge of English
intimating their satisfaction with the interpreter by furtive but
significant glances of the eyes.
"And, now, Hist," continued Hetty, as soon as it was intimated to
her that she might proceed, "and, now, Hist, I wish you to tell
these red men, word for word, what I am about to say. Tell them
first, that father and Hurry came here with an intention to take as
many scalps as they could, for the wicked governor and the province
have offered money for scalps, whether of warriors, or women, men
or children, and the love of gold was too strong for their hearts
to withstand it. Tell them this, dear Hist, just as you have heard
it from me, word for word."
Wah-ta-Wah hesitated about rendering this speech as literally
as had been desired, but detecting the intelligence of those who
understood English, and apprehending even a greater knowledge than
they actually possessed she found herself compelled to comply.
Contrary to what a civilized man would have expected, the admission
of the motives and of the errands of their prisoners produced no
visible effect on either the countenances or the feelings of the
listeners. They probably considered the act meritorious, and that
which neither of them would have hesitated to perform in his own
person, he would not be apt to censure in another.
"And, now, Hist," resumed Hetty, as soon as she perceived that her
first speeches were understood by the chiefs, "you can tell them
more. They know that father and Hurry did not succeed, and therefore
they can bear them no grudge for any harm that has been done. If
they had slain their children and wives it would not alter the
matter, and I'm not certain that what I am about to tell them would
not have more weight had there been mischief done. But ask them
first, Hist, if they know there is a God, who reigns over the whole
earth, and is ruler and chief of all who live, let them be red, or
white, or what color they may?"
Wah-ta-Wah looked a little surprised at this question, for the
idea of the Great Spirit is seldom long absent from the mind of
an Indian girl. She put the question as literally as possible,
however, and received a grave answer in the affirmative.
"This is right," continued Hetty, "and my duty will now be light.
This Great Spirit, as you call our God, has caused a book to
be written, that we call a Bible, and in this book have been set
down all his commandments, and his holy will and pleasure, and the
rules by which all men are to live, and directions how to govern
the thoughts even, and the wishes, and the will. Here, this is one
of these holy books, and you must tell the chiefs what I am about
to read to them from its sacred pages."
As Hetty concluded, she reverently unrolled a small English Bible
from its envelope of coarse calico, treating the volume with the
sort of external respect that a Romanist would be apt to show to
a religious relic. As she slowly proceeded in her task the grim
warriors watched each movement with riveted eyes, and when they saw
the little volume appear a slight expression of surprise escaped
one or two of them. But Hetty held it out towards them in triumph,
as if she expected the sight would produce a visible miracle, and
then, without betraying either surprise or mortification at the
Stoicism of the Indian, she turned eagerly to her new friend, in
order to renew the discourse.
"This is the sacred volume, Hist," she said - "and these words,
and lines, and verses, and chapters, all came from God."
"Why Great Spirit no send book to Injin, too?" demanded Hist, with
the directness of a mind that was totally unsophisticated.
"Why?" answered Hetty, a little bewildered by a question so
unexpected. "Why? - Ah! you know the Indians don't know how to
If Hist was not satisfied with this explanation, she did not deem
the point of sufficient importance to be pressed. Simply bending
her body, in a gentle admission of the truth of what she heard,
she sat patiently awaiting the further arguments of the pale-face
"You can tell these chiefs that throughout this book, men are ordered
to forgive their enemies; to treat them as they would brethren; and
never to injure their fellow creatures, more especially on account
of revenge or any evil passions. Do you think you can tell them
this, so that they will understand it, Hist?"
"Tell him well enough, but he no very easy to understand." Hist
then conveyed the ideas of Hetty, in the best manner she could, to
the attentive Indians, who heard her words with some such surprise as
an American of our own times would be apt to betray at a suggestion
that the great modern but vacillating ruler of things human, public
opinion, might be wrong. One or two of their number, however,
having met with missionaries, said a few words in explanation, and
then the group gave all its attention to the communications that
were to follow. Before Hetty resumed she inquired earnestly of
Hist if the chiefs had understood her, and receiving an evasive
answer, was fain to be satisfied.
"I will now read to the warriors some of the verses that it is
good for them to know," continued the girl, whose manner grew more
solemn and earnest as she proceeded - "and they will remember that
they are the very words of the Great Spirit. First, then, ye are
commanded to 'love thy neighbor as Thyself.' Tell them that, dear
"Neighbor, for Injin, no mean pale-face," answered the Delaware
girl, with more decision than she had hitherto thought it necessary
to use. "Neighbor mean Iroquois for Iroquois, Mohican for Mohican,
Pale-face for pale face. No need tell chief any thing else."
"You forget, Hist, these are the words of the Great Spirit,
and the chiefs must obey them as well as others. Here is another
commandment -'Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn
to him the other also.'"
"What that mean?" demanded Hist, with the quickness of lightning.
Hetty explained that it was an order not to resent injuries, but
rather to submit to receive fresh wrongs from the offender.
"And hear this, too, Hist," she added. "'Love your enemies, bless
them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for
them which despitefully use you and persecute you.'"
By this time Hetty had become excited; her eye gleamed with the
earnestness of her feelings, her cheeks flushed, and her voice,
usually so low and modulated, became stronger and more impressive.
With the Bible she had been early made familiar by her mother, and
she now turned from passage to passage with surprising rapidity,
taking care to cull such verses as taught the sublime lessons of
Christian charity and Christian forgiveness. To translate half
she said, in her pious earnestness, Wah-ta-Wah would have found
impracticable, had she made the effort, but wonder held her tongue
tied, equally with the chiefs, and the young, simple-minded enthusiast
had fairly become exhausted with her own efforts, before the other
opened her mouth, again, to utter a syllable. Then, indeed, the
Delaware girl gave a brief translation of the substance of what had
been both read and said, confining herself to one or two of the more
striking of the verses, those that had struck her own imagination
as the most paradoxical, and which certainly would have been the
most applicable to the case, could the uninstructed minds of the
listeners embrace the great moral truths they conveyed.
It will be scarcely necessary to tell the reader the effect that
such novel duties would be likely to produce among a group of Indian
warriors, with whom it was a species of religious principle never
to forget a benefit, or to forgive an injury. Fortunately, the
previous explanations of Hist had prepared the minds of the Hurons
for something extravagant, and most of that which to them seemed
inconsistent and paradoxical, was accounted for by the fact that
the speaker possessed a mind that was constituted differently from
those of most of the human race. Still there were one or two old
men who had heard similar doctrines from the missionaries, and these
felt a desire to occupy an idle moment by pursuing a subject that
they found so curious.
"This is the Good Book of the pale-faces," observed one of these
chiefs, taking the volume from the unresisting hands of Hetty, who
gazed anxiously at his face while he turned the leaves, as if she
expected to witness some visible results from the circumstance.
"This is the law by which my white brethren professes to live?"
Hist, to whom this question was addressed, if it might be considered
as addressed to any one, in particular, answered simply in the
affirmative; adding that both the French of the Canadas, and the
Yengeese of the British provinces equally admitted its authority,
and affected to revere its principles.
"Tell my young sister," said the Huron, looking directly at Hist,
"that I will open my mouth and say a few words."
"The Iroquois chief go to speak - my pale-face friend listen," said
"I rejoice to hear it!" exclaimed Hetty. "God has touched his
heart, and he will now let father and Hurry go."
"This is the pale-face law," resumed the chief. "It tells him to
do good to them that hurt him, and when his brother asks him for
his rifle to give him the powder horn, too. Such is the pale-face
"Not so - not so -" answered Hetty earnestly, when these words had
been interpreted - "There is not a word about rifles in the whole
book, and powder and bullets give offence to the Great Spirit."
"Why then does the pale-face use them? If he is ordered to give
double to him that asks only for one thing, why does he take double
from the poor Indian who ask for no thing. He comes from beyond
the rising sun, with this book in his hand, and he teaches the red
man to read it, but why does he forget himself all it says? When
the Indian gives, he is never satisfied; and now he offers gold
for the scalps of our women and children, though he calls us beasts
if we take the scalp of a warrior killed in open war. My name is
When Hetty had got this formidable question fairly presented to
her mind in the translation, and Hist did her duty with more than
usual readiness on this occasion, it scarcely need be said that
she was sorely perplexed. Abler heads than that of this poor girl
have frequently been puzzled by questions of a similar drift, and
it is not surprising that with all her own earnestness and sincerity
she did not know what answer to make.
"What shall I tell them, Hist," she asked imploringly - "I know
that all I have read from the book is true, and yet it wouldn't seem
so, would it, by the conduct of those to whom the book was given?"
"Give 'em pale-face reason," returned Hist, ironically - "that
always good for one side; though he bad for t'other."
"No - no - Hist, there can't be two sides to truth - and yet it
does seem strange! I'm certain I have read the verses right, and
no one would be so wicked as to print the word of God wrong. That
can never be, Hist."
"Well, to poor Injin girl, it seem every thing can be to pale-faces,"
returned the other, coolly. "One time 'ey say white, and one time
'ey say black. Why never can be?"
Hetty was more and more embarrassed, until overcome with the
apprehension that she had failed in her object, and that the lives
of her father and Hurry would be the forfeit of some blunder of
her own, she burst into tears. From that moment the manner of Hist
lost all its irony and cool indifference, and she became the fond
caressing friend again. Throwing her arms around the afflicted
girl, she attempted to soothe her sorrows by the scarcely ever
failing remedy of female sympathy.
"Stop cry - no cry -" she said, wiping the tears from the face of
Hetty, as she would have performed the same office for a child,
and stopping to press her occasionally to her own warm bosom with
the affection of a sister. "Why you so trouble? You no make he
book, if he be wrong, and you no make he pale-face if he wicked.
There wicked red man, and wicked white man - no colour all good -
no colour all wicked. Chiefs know that well enough."
Hetty soon recovered from this sudden burst of grief, and then her
mind reverted to the purpose of her visit, with all its single-hearted
earnestness. Perceiving that the grim looking chiefs were still
standing around her in grave attention, she hoped that another
effort to convince them of the right might be successful. "Listen,
Hist," she said, struggling to suppress her sobs, and to speak
distinctly - "Tell the chiefs that it matters not what the wicked
do -right is right - The words of The Great Spirit are the words
of The Great Spirit - and no one can go harmless for doing an evil
act, because another has done it before him. 'Render good for
evil,' says this book, and that is the law for the red man as well
as for the white man."
"Never hear such law among Delaware, or among Iroquois -" answered
Hist soothingly. "No good to tell chiefs any such laws as dat.
Tell 'em somet'ing they believe."
Hist was about to proceed, notwithstanding, when a tap on the
shoulder from the finger of the oldest chief caused her to look up.
She then perceived that one of the warriors had left the group, and
was already returning to it with Hutter and Hurry. Understanding
that the two last were to become parties in the inquiry, she became
mute, with the unhesitating obedience of an Indian woman. In a few
seconds the prisoners stood face to face with the principal men of
"Daughter," said the senior chief to the young Delaware, "ask this
grey beard why he came into our camp?"
The question was put by Hist, in her own imperfect English, but
in a way that was easy to be understood. Hutter was too stern and
obdurate by nature to shrink from the consequences of any of his
acts, and he was also too familiar with the opinions of the savages
not to understand that nothing was to be gained by equivocation or
an unmanly dread of their anger. Without hesitating, therefore,
he avowed the purpose with which he had landed, merely justifying
it by the fact that the government of the province had bid high
for scalps. This frank avowal was received by the Iroquois with
evident satisfaction, not so much, however, on account of the
advantage it gave them in a moral point of view, as by its proving
that they had captured a man worthy of occupying their thoughts and
of becoming a subject of their revenge. Hurry, when interrogated,
confessed the truth, though he would have been more disposed to
concealment than his sterner companion, did the circumstances very
well admit of its adoption. But he had tact enough to discover
that equivocation would be useless, at that moment, and he made
a merit of necessity by imitating a frankness, which, in the case
of Hutter, was the offspring of habits of indifference acting on
a disposition that was always ruthless, and reckless of personal
As soon as the chiefs had received the answers to their questions,
they walked away in silence, like men who deemed the matter
disposed of, all Hetty's dogmas being thrown away on beings trained
in violence from infancy to manhood. Hetty and Hist were now left
alone with Hutter and Hurry, no visible restraint being placed on
the movements of either; though all four, in fact, were vigilantly
and unceasingly watched. As respects the men, care was had to prevent
them from getting possession of any of the rifles that lay scattered
about, their own included; and there all open manifestations of
watchfulness ceased. But they, who were so experienced in Indian
practices, knew too well how great was the distance between appearances
and reality, to become the dupes of this seeming carelessness.
Although both thought incessantly of the means of escape, and this
without concert, each was aware of the uselessness of attempting
any project of the sort that was not deeply laid, and promptly
executed. They had been long enough in the encampment, and were
sufficiently observant to have ascertained that Hist, also, was a
sort of captive, and, presuming on the circumstance, Hutter spoke
in her presence more openly than he might otherwise have thought it
prudent to do; inducing Hurry to be equally unguarded by his example.
"I'll not blame you, Hetty, for coming on this errand, which
was well meant if not very wisely planned," commenced the father,
seating himself by the side of his daughter and taking her hand; a
sign of affection that this rude being was accustomed to manifest
to this particular child. "But preaching, and the Bible, are not
the means to turn an Indian from his ways. Has Deerslayer sent any
message; or has he any scheme by which he thinks to get us free?"
"Ay, that's the substance of it!" put in Hurry. "If you can help
us, gal, to half a mile of freedom, or even a good start of a short
quarter, I'll answer for the rest. Perhaps the old man may want
a little more, but for one of my height and years that will meet
Hetty looked distressed, turning her eyes from one to the other,
but she had no answer to give to the question of the reckless Hurry.
"Father," she said, "neither Deerslayer nor Judith knew of my coming
until I had left the Ark. They are afraid the Iroquois will make
a raft and try to get off to the hut, and think more of defending
that than of coming to aid you."
"No - no - no -" said Hist hurriedly, though in a low voice, and
with her face bent towards the earth, in order to conceal from
those whom she knew to be watching them the fact of her speaking
at all. "No - no - no - Deerslayer different man. He no t'ink
of defending 'self, with friend in danger. Help one another, and
all get to hut."
"This sounds well, old Tom," said Hurry, winking and laughing,
though he too used the precaution to speak low - "Give me a ready
witted squaw for a fri'nd, and though I'll not downright defy an
Iroquois, I think I would defy the devil."
"No talk loud," said Hist. "Some Iroquois got Yengeese tongue,
and all got Yengeese ear."
"Have we a friend in you, young woman?" enquired Hutter with an
increasing interest in the conference. "If so, you may calculate
on a solid reward, and nothing will be easier than to send you to
your own tribe, if we can once fairly get you off with us to the
castle. Give us the Ark and the canoes, and we can command the
lake, spite of all the savages in the Canadas. Nothing but artillery
could drive us out of the castle, if we can get back to it.
"S'pose 'ey come ashore to take scalp?" retorted Hist, with cool
irony, at which the girl appeared to be more expert than is common
for her sex.
"Ay - ay - that was a mistake; but there is little use in lamentations,
and less still, young woman, in flings."
"Father," said Hetty, "Judith thinks of breaking open the big chest,
in hopes of finding something in that which may buy your freedom
of the savages."
A dark look came over Hutter at the announcement of this fact, and
he muttered his dissatisfaction in a way to render it intelligible
"What for no break open chest?" put in Hist. "Life sweeter than
old chest -scalp sweeter than old chest. If no tell darter to
break him open, Wah-ta-Wah no help him to run away."
"Ye know not what ye ask - ye are but silly girls, and the wisest
way for ye both is to speak of what ye understand and to speak
of nothing else. I little like this cold neglect of the savages,
Hurry; it's a proof that they think of something serious, and if
we are to do any thing, we must do it soon. Can we count on this
young woman, think you?"
"Listen -" said Hist quickly, and with an earnestness that proved
how much her feelings were concerned - "Wah-ta-Wah no Iroquois
- All over Delaware - got Delaware heart - Delaware feeling. She
prisoner, too. One prisoner help t'udder prisoner. No good to
talk more, now. Darter stay with fader - Wah-ta-Wah come and see
friend - all look right - Then tell what he do."
This was said in a low voice, but distinctly, and in a manner to
make an impression. As soon as it was uttered the girl arose and
left the group, walking composedly towards the hut she occupied,
as if she had no further interest in what might pass between the
"She speaks much of her father; says she hears,
There's tricks i' the world; and hems, and beats her breast;
Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt,
That carry but half sense; her speech is nothing,
Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
The hearers to collection;
We left the occupants of the castle and the ark, buried in sleep.
Once, or twice, in the course of the night, it is true, Deerslayer
or the Delaware, arose and looked out upon the tranquil lake; when,
finding all safe, each returned to his pallet, and slept like a
man who was not easily deprived of his natural rest. At the first
signs of the dawn the former arose, however, and made his personal
arrangements for the day; though his companion, whose nights had
not been tranquil or without disturbances of late, continued on
his blanket until the sun had fairly risen; Judith, too, was later
than common that morning, for the earlier hours of the night had
brought her little of either refreshment or sleep. But ere the
sun had shown himself over the eastern hills these too were up
and afoot, even the tardy in that region seldom remaining on their
pallets after the appearance of the great luminary. Chingachgook
was in the act of arranging his forest toilet, when Deerslayer
entered the cabin of the Ark and threw him a few coarse but light
summer vestments that belonged to Hutter.
"Judith hath given me them for your use, chief," said the latter,
as he cast the jacket and trousers at the feet of the Indian, "for
it's ag'in all prudence and caution to be seen in your war dress
and paint. Wash off all them fiery streaks from your cheeks, put
on these garments, and here is a hat, such as it is, that will give
you an awful oncivilized sort of civilization, as the missionaries
call it. Remember that Hist is at hand, and what we do for the
maiden must be done while we are doing for others. I know it's
ag'in your gifts and your natur' to wear clothes, unless they
are cut and carried in a red man's fashion, but make a vartue of
necessity and put these on at once, even if they do rise a little
in your throat."
Chingachgook, or the Serpent, eyed the vestments with strong disgust;
but he saw the usefulness of the disguise, if not its absolute
necessity. Should the Iroquois discover a red man, in or about
the Castle, it might, indeed, place them more on their guard, and
give their suspicions a direction towards their female captive.
Any thing was better than a failure, as it regarded his betrothed,
and, after turning the different garments round and round, examining
them with a species of grave irony, affecting to draw them on in a
way that defeated itself, and otherwise manifesting the reluctance
of a young savage to confine his limbs in the usual appliances
of civilized life, the chief submitted to the directions of his
companion, and finally stood forth, so far as the eye could detect,
a red man in colour alone. Little was to be apprehended from this
last peculiarity, however, the distance from the shore, and the
want of glasses preventing any very close scrutiny, and Deerslayer,
himself, though of a brighter and fresher tint, had a countenance
that was burnt by the sun to a hue scarcely less red than that of
his Mohican companion. The awkwardness of the Delaware in his new
attire caused his friend to smile more than once that day, but he
carefully abstained from the use of any of those jokes which would
have been bandied among white men on such an occasion, the habits
of a chief, the dignity of a warrior on his first path, and the
gravity of the circumstances in which they were placed uniting to
render so much levity out of season.
The meeting at the morning meal of the three islanders, if we may
use the term, was silent, grave and thoughtful. Judith showed by
her looks that she had passed an unquiet night, while the two men
had the future before them, with its unseen and unknown events.
A few words of courtesy passed between Deerslayer and the girl,
in the course of the breakfast, but no allusion was made to their
situation. At length Judith, whose heart was full, and whose novel
feelings disposed her to entertain sentiments more gentle and tender
than common, introduced the subject, and this in a way to show how
much of her thoughts it had occupied, in the course of the last
"It would be dreadful, Deerslayer," the girl abruptly exclaimed,
"should anything serious befall my father and Hetty! We cannot
remain quietly here and leave them in the hands of the Iroquois,
without bethinking us of some means of serving them."
"I'm ready, Judith, to sarve them, and all others who are in
trouble, could the way to do it be p'inted out. It's no trifling
matter to fall into red-skin hands, when men set out on an ar'n'd
like that which took Hutter and Hurry ashore; that I know as well
as another, and I wouldn't wish my worst inimy in such a strait,
much less them with whom I've journeyed, and eat, and slept. Have
you any scheme, that you would like to have the Sarpent and me
indivour to carry out?"
"I know of no other means to release the prisoners, than by bribing
the Iroquois. They are not proof against presents, and we might
offer enough, perhaps, to make them think it better to carry away
what to them will be rich gifts, than to carry away poor prisoners;
if, indeed, they should carry them away at all!"
"This is well enough, Judith; yes, it's well enough, if the inimy
is to be bought, and we can find articles to make the purchase
with. Your father has a convenient lodge, and it is most cunningly
placed, though it doesn't seem overstock'd with riches that will
be likely to buy his ransom. There's the piece he calls Killdeer,
might count for something, and I understand there's a keg of powder
about, which might be a make-weight, sartain; and yet two able
bodied men are not to be bought off for a trifle - besides - "
"Besides what?" demanded Judith impatiently, observing that the
other hesitated to proceed, probably from a reluctance to distress
"Why, Judith, the Frenchers offer bounties as well as our own
side, and the price of two scalps would purchase a keg of powder,
and a rifle; though I'll not say one of the latter altogether as
good as Killdeer, there, which your father va'nts as uncommon, and
unequalled, like. But fair powder, and a pretty sartain rifle; then
the red men are not the expartest in fire arms, and don't always
know the difference atwixt that which is ra'al, and that which is
"This is horrible!" muttered the girl, struck by the homely manner
in which her companion was accustomed to state his facts. "But
you overlook my own clothes, Deerslayer, and they, I think, might
go far with the women of the Iroquois."
"No doubt they would; no doubt they would, Judith," returned the
other, looking at her keenly, as if he would ascertain whether
she were really capable of making such a sacrifice. "But, are you
sartain, gal, you could find it in your heart to part with your
own finery for such a purpose? Many is the man who has thought he
was valiant till danger stared him in the face; I've known them,
too, that consaited they were kind and ready to give away all they
had to the poor, when they've been listening to other people's hard
heartedness; but whose fists have clench'd as tight as the riven
hickory when it came to downright offerings of their own. Besides,
Judith, you're handsome- uncommon in that way, one might observe
and do no harm to the truth - and they that have beauty, like to
have that which will adorn it. Are you sartain you could find it
in your heart to part with your own finery?"
The soothing allusion to the personal charms of the girl was well
timed, to counteract the effect produced by the distrust that the
young man expressed of Judith's devotion to her filial duties.
Had another said as much as Deerslayer, the compliment would most
probably have been overlooked in the indignation awakened by the
doubts, but even the unpolished sincerity, that so often made this
simple minded hunter bare his thoughts, had a charm for the girl;
and while she colored, and for an instant her eyes flashed fire,
she could not find it in her heart to be really angry with one whose
very soul seemed truth and manly kindness. Look her reproaches
she did, but conquering the desire to retort, she succeeded in
answering in a mild and friendly manner.
"You must keep all your favorable opinions for the Delaware girls,
Deerslayer, if you seriously think thus of those of your own
colour," she said, affecting to laugh. "But try me; if you find
that I regret either ribbon or feather, silk or muslin, then may
you think what you please of my heart, and say what you think."
"That's justice! The rarest thing to find on 'arth is a truly
just man. So says Tamenund, the wisest prophet of the Delawares,
and so all must think that have occasion to see, and talk, and act
among Mankind. I love a just man, Sarpent. His eyes are never
covered with darkness towards his inimies, while they are all
sunshine and brightness towards his fri'nds. He uses the reason
that God has given him, and he uses it with a feelin' of his being
ordered to look at, and to consider things as they are, and not
as he wants them to be. It's easy enough to find men who call
themselves just, but it's wonderful oncommon to find them that are
the very thing, in fact. How often have I seen Indians, gal, who
believed they were lookin' into a matter agreeable to the will of
the Great Spirit, when in truth they were only striving to act up
to their own will and pleasure, and this, half the time, with a
temptation to go wrong that could no more be seen by themselves,
than the stream that runs in the next valley can be seen by us
through yonder mountain', though any looker on might have discovered
it as plainly as we can discover the parch that are swimming around
"Very true, Deerslayer," rejoined Judith, losing every trace of
displeasure in a bright smile - "very true, and I hope to see you
act on this love of justice in all matters in which I am concerned.
Above all, I hope you will judge for yourself, and not believe every
evil story that a prating idler like Hurry Harry may have to tell,
that goes to touch the good name of any young woman, who may not
happen to have the same opinion of his face and person that the
blustering gallant has of himself."
"Hurry Harry's idees do not pass for gospel with me, Judith; but
even worse than he may have eyes and ears", returned the other
"Enough of this!" exclaimed Judith, with flashing eye and a flush
that mounted to her temples, "and more of my father and his ransom.
'Tis as you say, Deerslayer; the Indians will not be likely to
give up their prisoners without a heavier bribe than my clothes
can offer, and father's rifle and powder. There is the chest."
"Ay, there is the chest as you say, Judith, and when the question
gets to be between a secret and a scalp, I should think most men
would prefer keeping the last. Did your father ever give you any
downright commands consarning that chist?"
"Never. He has always appeared to think its locks, and its steel
bands, and its strength, its best protection."
"'Tis a rare chest, and altogether of curious build," returned
Deerslayer, rising and approaching the thing in question, on which
he seated himself, with a view to examine it with greater ease.
"Chingachgook, this is no wood that comes of any forest that you
or I have ever trailed through! 'Tisn't the black walnut, and
yet it's quite as comely, if not more so, did the smoke and the
treatment give it fair play."
The Delaware drew near, felt of the wood, examined its grain,
endeavored to indent the surface with a nail, and passed his hand
curiously over the steel bands, the heavy padlocks, and the other
novel peculiarities of the massive box.
"No - nothing like this grows in these regions," resumed Deerslayer.
"I've seen all the oaks, both the maples, the elms, the bass
woods, all the walnuts, the butternuts, and every tree that has a
substance and colour, wrought into some form or other, but never
have I before seen such a wood as this! Judith, the chest itself
would buy your father's freedom, or Iroquois cur'osity isn't as
strong as red-skin cur'osity, in general; especially in the matter
"The purchase might be cheaper made, perhaps, Deerslayer. The
chest is full, and it would be better to part with half than to
part with the whole. Besides, father- I know not why - but father
values that chest highly."
"He would seem to prize what it holds more than the chest, itself,
judging by the manner in which he treats the outside, and secures
the inside. Here are three locks, Judith; is there no key?"
"I've never seen one, and yet key there must be, since Hetty told
us she had often seen the chest opened."
"Keys no more lie in the air, or float on the water, than humans,
gal; if there is a key, there must be a place in which it is kept."
"That is true, and it might not be difficult to find it, did we
dare to search!"
"This is for you, Judith; it is altogether for you. The chist
is your'n, or your father's; and Hutter is your father, not mine.
Cur'osity is a woman's, and not a man's failing, and there you
have got all the reasons before you. If the chist has articles
for ransom, it seems to me they would be wisely used in redeeming
their owner's life, or even in saving his scalp; but that is a
matter for your judgment, and not for ourn. When the lawful owner
of a trap, or a buck, or a canoe, isn't present, his next of kin
becomes his riprisentyve by all the laws of the woods. We therefore
leave you to say whether the chist shall, or shall not be opened."
"I hope you do not believe I can hesitate, when my father's life's
in danger, Deerslayer!"
"Why, it's pretty much putting a scolding ag'in tears and mourning.
It's not onreasonable to foretell that old Tom may find fault with
what you've done, when he sees himself once more in his hut, here,
but there's nothing unusual in men's falling out with what has been
done for their own good; I dare to say that even the moon would
seem a different thing from what it now does, could we look at it
from the other side."
"Deerslayer, if we can find the key, I will authorize you to open
the chest, and to take such things from it as you may think will
buy father's ransom."
"First find the key, gal; we'll talk of the rest a'terwards.
Sarpent, you've eyes like a fly, and a judgment that's seldom out.
Can you help us in calculating where Floating Tom would be apt to
keep the key of a chist that he holds to be as private as this?"
The Delaware had taken no part in the discourse until he was thus
directly appealed to, when he quitted the chest, which had continued
to attract his attention, and cast about him for the place in which
a key would be likely to be concealed under such circumstances.
As Judith and Deerslayer were not idle the while, the whole three
were soon engaged in an anxious and spirited search. As it was
certain that the desired key was not to be found in any of the common
drawers or closets, of which there were several in the building,
none looked there, but all turned their inquiries to those places
that struck them as ingenious hiding places, and more likely
to be used for such a purpose. In this manner the outer room was
thoroughly but fruitlessly examined, when they entered the sleeping
apartment of Hutter. This part of the rude building was better
furnished than the rest of the structure, containing several
articles that had been especially devoted to the service of the
deceased wife of its owner, but as Judith had all the rest of the
keys, it was soon rummaged without bringing to light the particular
They now entered the bed room of the daughters. Chingachgook was
immediately struck with the contrast between the articles and the
arrangement of that side of the room that might be called Judith's,
and that which more properly belonged to Hetty. A slight exclamation
escaped him, and pointing in each direction he alluded to the fact
in a low voice, speaking to his friend in the Delaware tongue.
"'Tis as you think, Sarpent," answered Deerslayer, whose remarks
we always translate into English, preserving as much as possible
of the peculiar phraseology and manner of the man, "'Tis just so,
as any one may see, and 'tis all founded in natur'. One sister
loves finery, some say overmuch; while t'other is as meek and lowly
as God ever created goodness and truth. Yet, after all, I dare
say that Judith has her vartues, and Hetty has her failin's."
"And the 'Feeble-Mind' has seen the chist opened?" inquired
Chingachgook, with curiosity in his glance.
"Sartain; that much I've heard from her own lips; and, for that
matter, so have you. It seems her father doesn't misgive her
discretion, though he does that of his eldest darter."
"Then the key is hid only from the Wild Rose?" for so Chingachgook
had begun gallantly to term Judith, in his private discourse with
"That's it! That's just it! One he trusts, and the other he
doesn't. There's red and white in that, Sarpent, all tribes and
nations agreeing in trusting some, and refusing to trust other
some. It depends on character and judgment."
"Where could a key be put, so little likely to be found by the Wild
Rose, as among coarse clothes?"
Deerslayer started, and turning to his friend with admiration
expressed in every lineament of his face, he fairly laughed, in
his silent but hearty manner, at the ingenuity and readiness of
"Your name's well bestowed, Sarpent - yes, 'tis well bestowed!
Sure enough, where would a lover of finery be so little likely to
s'arch, as among garments as coarse and onseemly as these of poor
Hetty's. I dares to say, Judith's delicate fingers haven't touched
a bit of cloth as rough and oncomely as that petticoat, now, since
she first made acquaintance with the officers! Yet, who knows?
The key may be as likely to be on the same peg, as in any other
place. Take down the garment, Delaware, and let us see if you are
ra'ally a prophet." Chingachgook did as desired, but no key was
found. A coarse pocket, apparently empty, hung on the adjoining
peg, and this was next examined. By this time, the attention of
Judith was called in that direction, and she spoke hurriedly and
like one who wished to save unnecessary trouble.
"Those are only the clothes of poor Hetty, dear simple girl!" she
said, "Nothing we seek would be likely to be there."
The words were hardly out of the handsome mouth of the speaker,
when Chingachgook drew the desired key from the pocket. Judith
was too quick of apprehension not to understand the reason a hiding
place so simple and exposed had been used. The blood rushed to her
face, as much with resentment, perhaps, as with shame, and she bit
her lip, though she continued silent. Deerslayer and his friend
now discovered the delicacy of men of native refinement, neither
smiling or even by a glance betraying how completely he understood
the motives and ingenuity of this clever artifice. The former, who
had taken the key from the Indian, led the way into the adjoining
room, and applying it to a lock ascertained that the right instrument
had actually been found. There were three padlocks, each of which
however was easily opened by this single key. Deerslayer removed
them all, loosened the hasps, raised the lid a little to make
certain it was loose, and then he drew back from the chest several
feet, signing to his friend to follow.
"This is a family chist, Judith," he said, "and 'tis like to hold
family secrets. The Sarpent and I will go into the Ark, and look
to the canoes, and paddles, and oars, while you can examine it by
yourself, and find out whether any thing that will be a make-weight
in a ransom is, or is not, among the articles. When you've
got through give us a call, and we'll all sit in council together
touching the valie of the articles."
"Stop, Deerslayer," exclaimed the girl, as he was about to withdraw.
"Not a single thing will I touch - I will not even raise the lid
- unless you are present. Father and Hetty have seen fit to keep
the inside of this chest a secret from me, and I am much too proud
to pry into their hidden treasures unless it were for their own
good. But on no account will I open the chest alone. Stay with
me, then; I want witnesses of what I do."
"I rather think, Sarpent, that the gal is right! Confidence
and reliance beget security, but suspicion is like to make us all
wary. Judith has a right to ask us to be present, and should the
chist hold any of Master Hutter's secrets, they will fall into the
keeping of two as close mouthed young men as are to be found. We
will stay with you, Judith - but first let us take a look at the
lake and the shore, for this chist will not be emptied in a minute."
The two men now went out on the platform, and Deerslayer swept the
shore with the glass, while the Indian gravely turned his eye on
the water and the woods, in quest of any sign that might betray the
machinations of their enemies. Nothing was visible, and assured
of their temporary security, the three collected around the chest
again, with the avowed object of opening it.
Judith had held this chest and its unknown contents in a species
of reverence as long as she could remember. Neither her father nor
her mother ever mentioned it in her presence, and there appeared
to be a silent convention that in naming the different objects that
occasionally stood near it, or even lay on its lid, care should be
had to avoid any allusion to the chest itself. Habit had rendered
this so easy, and so much a matter of course, that it was only
quite recently the girl had began even to muse on the singularity
of the circumstance. But there had never been sufficient intimacy
between Hutter and his eldest daughter to invite confidence. At
times he was kind, but in general, with her more especially, he was
stern and morose. Least of all had his authority been exercised
in a way to embolden his child to venture on the liberty she was
about to take, without many misgivings of the consequences, although
the liberty proceeded from a desire to serve himself. Then Judith
was not altogether free from a little superstition on the subject
of this chest, which had stood a sort of tabooed relic before her
eyes from childhood to the present hour. Nevertheless the time
had come when it would seem that this mystery was to be explained,
and that under circumstances, too, which left her very little choice
in the matter.
Finding that both her companions were watching her movements, in
grave silence, Judith placed a hand on the lid and endeavored to
raise it. Her strength, however, was insufficient, and it appeared
to the girl, who was fully aware that all the fastenings were
removed, that she was resisted in an unhallowed attempt by some
"I cannot raise the lid, Deerslayer!" she said - "Had we not better
give up the attempt, and find some other means of releasing the
"Not so - Judith; not so, gal. No means are as sartain and easy,
as a good bribe," answered the other. "As for the lid, 'tis held
by nothing but its own weight, which is prodigious for so small a
piece of wood, loaded with iron as it is."
As Deerslayer spoke, he applied his own strength to the effort,
and succeeded in raising the lid against the timbers of the house,
where he took care to secure it by a sufficient prop. Judith
fairly trembled as she cast her first glance at the interior, and
she felt a temporary relief in discovering that a piece of canvas,
that was carefully tucked in around the edges, effectually concealed
all beneath it. The chest was apparently well stored, however,
the canvas lying within an inch of the lid.
"Here's a full cargo," said Deerslayer, eyeing the arrangement,
"and we had needs go to work leisurely and at our ease. Sarpent,
bring some stools while I spread this blanket on the floor, and
then we'll begin work orderly and in comfort."
The Delaware complied, Deerslayer civilly placed a stool for
Judith, took one himself, and commenced the removal of the canvas
covering. This was done deliberately, and in as cautious a manner
as if it were believed that fabrics of a delicate construction lay
hidden beneath. When the canvass was removed, the first articles
that came in view were some of the habiliments of the male sex. They
were of fine materials, and, according to the fashions of the age,
were gay in colours and rich in ornaments. One coat in particular
was of scarlet, and had button holes worked in gold thread. Still
it was not military, but was part of the attire of a civilian
of condition, at a period when social rank was rigidly respected
in dress. Chingachgook could not refrain from an exclamation of
pleasure, as soon as Deerslayer opened this coat and held it up to
view, for, notwithstanding all his trained self-command, the splendor
of the vestment was too much for the philosophy of an Indian.
Deerslayer turned quickly, and he regarded his friend with momentary
displeasure as this burst of weakness escaped him, and then
he soliloquized, as was his practice whenever any strong feeling
suddenly got the ascendancy.
"'Tis his gift! - yes, 'tis the gift of a red-skin to love finery,
and he is not to be blamed. This is an extr'ornary garment, too,
and extr'ornary things get up extr'ornary feelin's. I think this
will do, Judith, for the Indian heart is hardly to be found in all
America that can withstand colours like these, and glitter like
that. If this coat was ever made for your father, you've come
honestly by the taste for finery, you have."
"That coat was never made for father," answered the girl, quickly
- "it is much too long, while father is short and square."
"Cloth was plenty if it was, and glitter cheap," answered Deerslayer,
with his silent, joyous laugh. "Sarpent, this garment was made for
a man of your size, and I should like to see it on your shoulders."
Chingachgook, nothing loath, submitted to the trial, throwing aside
the coarse and thread bare jacket of Hutter, to deck his person
in a coat that was originally intended for a gentleman. The
transformation was ludicrous, but as men are seldom struck with
incongruities in their own appearance, any more than in their own
conduct, the Delaware studied this change in a common glass, by
which Hutter was in the habit of shaving, with grave interest. At
that moment he thought of Hist, and we owe it to truth, to say,
though it may militate a little against the stern character of a
warrior to avow it, that he wished he could be seen by her in his
present improved aspect.
"Off with it, Sarpent - off with it," resumed the inflexible Deerslayer.
"Such garments as little become you as they would become me. Your
gifts are for paint, and hawk's feathers, and blankets, and wampum,
and mine are for doublets of skins, tough leggings, and sarviceable
moccasins. I say moccasins, Judith, for though white, living as
I do in the woods it's necessary to take to some of the practyces
of the woods, for comfort's sake and cheapness."
"I see no reason, Deerslayer, why one man may not wear a scarlet
coat, as well as another," returned the girl. "I wish I could see