Part 5 out of 11
you in this handsome garment."
"See me in a coat fit for a Lord! - Well, Judith, if you wait till
that day, you'll wait until you see me beyond reason and memory.
No - no - gal, my gifts are my gifts, and I'll live and die in 'em,
though I never bring down another deer, or spear another salmon.
What have I done that you should wish to see me in such a flaunting
"Because I think, Deerslayer, that the false-tongued and false-hearted
young gallants of the garrisons, ought not alone to appear in
fine feathers, but that truth and honesty have their claims to be
honored and exalted."
"And what exaltification" - the reader will have remarked that
Deerslayer had not very critically studied his dictionary - "and
what exaltification would it be to me, Judith, to be bedizened and
bescarleted like a Mingo chief that has just got his presents up
from Quebec? No - no - I'm well as I am; and if not, I can be no
better. Lay the coat down on the blanket, Sarpent, and let us look
farther into the chist."
The tempting garment, one surely that was never intended for
Hutter, was laid aside, and the examination proceeded. The male
attire, all of which corresponded with the coat in quality, was
soon exhausted, and then succeeded female. A beautiful dress of
brocade, a little the worse from negligent treatment, followed, and
this time open exclamations of delight escaped the lips of Judith.
Much as the girl had been addicted to dress, and favorable as had
been her opportunities of seeing some little pretension in that way
among the wives of the different commandants, and other ladies of
the forts, never before had she beheld a tissue, or tints, to equal
those that were now so unexpectedly placed before her eyes. Her
rapture was almost childish, nor would she allow the inquiry to
proceed, until she had attired her person in a robe so unsuited to
her habits and her abode. With this end, she withdrew into her own
room, where with hands practised in such offices, she soon got rid
of her own neat gown of linen, and stood forth in the gay tints of
the brocade. The dress happened to fit the fine, full person of
Judith, and certainly it had never adorned a being better qualified
by natural gifts to do credit to its really rich hues and fine
texture. When she returned, both Deerslayer and Chingachgook, who
had passed the brief time of her absence in taking a second look at
the male garments, arose in surprise, each permitting exclamations
of wonder and pleasure to escape him, in a way so unequivocal as to
add new lustre to the eyes of Judith, by flushing her cheeks with
a glow of triumph. Affecting, however, not to notice the impression
she had made, the girl seated herself with the stateliness of a
queen, desiring that the chest might be looked into, further.
"I don't know a better way to treat with the Mingos, gal," cried
Deerslayer, "than to send you ashore as you be, and to tell 'em
that a queen has arrived among 'em! They'll give up old Hutter,
and Hurry, and Hetty, too, at such a spectacle!"
"I thought your tongue too honest to flatter, Deerslayer," returned
the girl, gratified at this admiration more than she would have
cared to own. "One of the chief reasons of my respect for you,
was your love for truth."
"And 'tis truth, and solemn truth, Judith, and nothing else. Never
did eyes of mine gaze on as glorious a lookin' creatur' as you be
yourself, at this very moment! I've seen beauties in my time, too,
both white and red; and them that was renowned and talk'd of, far
and near; but never have I beheld one that could hold any comparison
with what you are at this blessed instant, Judith; never."
The glance of delight which the girl bestowed on the frank-speaking
hunter in no degree lessened the effect of her charms, and as the
humid eyes blended with it a look of sensibility, perhaps Judith
never appeared more truly lovely, than at what the young man had
called that "blessed instant." He shook his head, held it suspended
a moment over the open chest, like one in doubt, and then proceeded
with the examination.
Several of the minor articles of female dress came next, all of a
quality to correspond with the gown. These were laid at Judith's
feet, in silence, as if she had a natural claim to their possession.
One or two, such as gloves, and lace, the girl caught up, and
appended to her already rich attire in affected playfulness, but
with the real design of decorating her person as far as circumstances
would allow. When these two remarkable suits, male and female they
might be termed, were removed, another canvas covering separated
the remainder of the articles from the part of the chest which they
had occupied. As soon as Deerslayer perceived this arrangement he
paused, doubtful of the propriety of proceeding any further.
"Every man has his secrets, I suppose," he said, "and all men have
a right to their enj'yment. We've got low enough in this chist
in my judgment to answer our wants, and it seems to me we should
do well by going no farther; and by letting Master Hutter have to
himself, and his own feelin's, all that's beneath this cover.
"Do you mean, Deerslayer, to offer these clothes to the Iroquois
as ransom?" demanded Judith, quickly.
"Sartain. What are we prying into another man's chist for, but to
sarve its owner in the best way we can. This coat, alone, would
be very apt to gain over the head chief of the riptyles, and if his
wife or darter should happen to be out with him, that there gownd
would soften the heart of any woman that is to be found atween
Albany and Montreal. I do not see that we want a larger stock in
trade than them two articles."
"To you it may seem so, Deerslayer," returned the disappointed girl,
"but of what use could a dress like this be to any Indian woman?
She could not wear it among the branches of the trees, the dirt
and smoke of the wigwam would soon soil it, and how would a pair
of red arms appear, thrust through these short, laced sleeves!"
"All very true, gal, and you might go on and say it is altogether
out of time, and place and season, in this region at all. What
is it to us how the finery is treated, so long as it answers our
wishes? I do not see that your father can make any use of such
clothes, and it's lucky he has things that are of no valie to
himself, that will bear a high price with others. We can make no
better trade for him, than to offer these duds for his liberty.
We'll throw in the light frivol'ties, and get Hurry off in the
"Then you think, Deerslayer, that Thomas Hutter has no one in his
family - no child - no daughter, to whom this dress may be thought
becoming, and whom you could wish to see in it, once and awhile,
even though it should be at long intervals, and only in playfulness?"
"I understand you, Judith - yes, I now understand your meaning, and
I think I can say, your wishes. That you are as glorious in that
dress as the sun when it rises or sets in a soft October day, I'm
ready to allow, and that you greatly become it is a good deal more
sartain than that it becomes you. There's gifts in clothes, as
well as in other things. Now I do not think that a warrior on his
first path ought to lay on the same awful paints as a chief that
has had his virtue tried, and knows from exper'ence he will not
disgrace his pretensions. So it is with all of us, red or white. You
are Thomas Hutter's darter, and that gownd was made for the child
of some governor, or a lady of high station, and it was intended to
be worn among fine furniture, and in rich company. In my eyes,
Judith, a modest maiden never looks more becoming than when becomingly
clad, and nothing is suitable that is out of character. Besides,
gal, if there's a creatur' in the colony that can afford to do without
finery, and to trust to her own good looks and sweet countenance,
"I'll take off the rubbish this instant, Deerslayer," cried the
girl, springing up to leave the room, "and never do I wish to see
it on any human being, again."
"So it is with 'em, all, Sarpent," said the other, turning to his
friend and laughing, as soon as the beauty had disappeared. "They
like finery, but they like their natyve charms most of all. I'm
glad the gal has consented to lay aside her furbelows, howsever,
for it's ag'in reason for one of her class to wear em; and then
she is handsome enough, as I call it, to go alone. Hist would show
oncommon likely, too, in such a gownd, Delaware!"
"Wah-ta-Wah is a red-skin girl, Deerslayer," returned the Indian,
"like the young of the pigeon, she is to be known by her own
feathers. I should pass by without knowing her, were she dressed
in such a skin. It's wisest always to be so clad that our friends
need not ask us for our names. The 'Wild Rose' is very pleasant,
but she is no sweeter for so many colours."
"That's it! - that's natur', and the true foundation for love and
protection. When a man stoops to pick a wild strawberry, he does
not expect to find a melon; and when he wishes to gather a melon,
he's disapp'inted if it proves to be a squash; though squashes be
often brighter to the eye than melons. That's it, and it means
stick to your gifts, and your gifts will stick to you."
The two men had now a little discussion together, touching the
propriety of penetrating any farther into the chest of Hutter, when
Judith re-appeared, divested of her robes, and in her own simple
linen frock again.
"Thank you, Judith," said Deerslayer, taking her kindly by the hand
-"for I know it went a little ag'in the nat'ral cravings of woman,
to lay aside so much finery, as it might be in a lump. But you're
more pleasing to the eye as you stand, you be, than if you had a
crown on your head, and jewels dangling from your hair. The question
now is, whether to lift this covering to see what will be ra'ally
the best bargain we can make for Master Hutter, for we must do as
we think he would be willing to do, did he stand here in our places."
Judith looked very happy. Accustomed as she was to adulation, the
homely homage of Deerslayer had given her more true satisfaction,
than she had ever yet received from the tongue of man. It was not
the terms in which this admiration had been expressed, for they
were simple enough, that produced so strong an impression; nor
yet their novelty, or their warmth of manner, nor any of those
peculiarities that usually give value to praise; but the unflinching
truth of the speaker, that carried his words so directly to the
heart of the listener. This is one of the great advantages of
plain dealing and frankness. The habitual and wily flatterer may
succeed until his practices recoil on himself, and like other sweets
his aliment cloys by its excess; but he who deals honestly, though
he often necessarily offends, possesses a power of praising that
no quality but sincerity can bestow, since his words go directly
to the heart, finding their support in the understanding. Thus it
was with Deerslayer and Judith. So soon and so deeply did this
simple hunter impress those who knew him with a conviction of
his unbending honesty, that all he uttered in commendation was as
certain to please, as all he uttered in the way of rebuke was as
certain to rankle and excite enmity, where his character had not
awakened a respect and affection, that in another sense rendered
it painful. In after life, when the career of this untutored being
brought him in contact with officers of rank, and others entrusted
with the care of the interests of the state, this same influence
was exerted on a wider field, even generals listening to his
commendations with a glow of pleasure, that it was not always in
the power of their official superiors to awaken. Perhaps Judith
was the first individual of his own colour who fairly submitted to
this natural consequence of truth and fair-dealing on the part of
Deerslayer. She had actually pined for his praise, and she had
now received it, and that in the form which was most agreeable to
her weaknesses and habits of thought. The result will appear in
the course of the narrative.
"If we knew all that chest holds, Deerslayer," returned the girl,
when she had a little recovered from the immediate effect produced
by his commendations of her personal appearance, "we could better
determine on the course we ought to take."
"That's not onreasonable, gal, though it's more a pale-face than
a red-skin gift to be prying into other people's secrets."
"Curiosity is natural, and it is expected that all human beings
should have human failings. Whenever I've been at the garrisons,
I've found that most in and about them had a longing to learn their
"Yes, and sometimes to fancy them, when they couldn't find 'em
out! That's the difference atween an Indian gentleman and a white
gentleman. The Sarpent, here, would turn his head aside if he found
himself onknowingly lookin' into another chief's wigwam, whereas
in the settlements while all pretend to be great people, most prove
they've got betters, by the manner in which they talk of their
consarns. I'll be bound, Judith, you wouldn't get the Sarpent,
there, to confess there was another in the tribe so much greater
than himself, as to become the subject of his idees, and to empl'y
his tongue in conversations about his movements, and ways, and
food, and all the other little matters that occupy a man when he's
not empl'y'd in his greater duties. He who does this is but little
better than a blackguard, in the grain, and them that encourages
him is pretty much of the same kidney, let them wear coats as fine
as they may, or of what dye they please."
"But this is not another man's wigwam; it belongs to my father,
these are his things, and they are wanted in his service."
"That's true, gal; that's true, and it carries weight with it.
Well, when all is before us we may, indeed, best judge which to
offer for the ransom, and which to withhold."
Judith was not altogether as disinterested in her feelings as she
affected to be. She remembered that the curiosity of Hetty had
been indulged in connection with this chest, while her own had
been disregarded, and she was not sorry to possess an opportunity
of being placed on a level with her less gifted sister in this one
particular. It appearing to be admitted all round that the enquiry
into the contents of the chest ought to be renewed, Deerslayer
proceeded to remove the second covering of canvass.
The articles that lay uppermost, when the curtain was again raised
on the secrets of the chest, were a pair of pistols, curiously
inlaid with silver. Their value would have been considerable in
one of the towns, though as weapons in the woods they were a species
of arms seldom employed; never, indeed, unless it might be by some
officer from Europe, who visited the colonies, as many were then
wont to do, so much impressed with the superiority of the usages of
London as to fancy they were not to be laid aside on the frontiers
of America. What occurred on the discovery of these weapons will
appear in the succeeding chapter.
"An oaken, broken, elbow-chair;
A caudle-cup without an ear;
A battered, shattered ash bedstead;
A box of deal without a lid;
A pair of tongs, but out of joint;
A back-sword poker, without point;
A dish which might good meat afford once;
An Ovid, and an old
Thomas Sheridan, "A True and Faithful Inventory of the Goods
belonging to Dr. Swift," ll.i-6, 13-14.
No sooner did Deerslayer raise the pistols, than he turned to the
Delaware and held them up for his admiration.
"Child gun," said the Serpent, smiling, while he handled one of
the instruments as if it had been a toy."
"Not it, Sarpent; not it - 'twas made for a man and would satisfy
a giant, if rightly used. But stop; white men are remarkable for
their carelessness in putting away fire arms, in chists and corners.
Let me look if care has been given to these."
As Deerslayer spoke, he took the weapon from the hand of his friend
and opened the pan. The last was filled with priming, caked like
a bit of cinder, by time, moisture and compression. An application
of the ramrod showed that both the pistols were charged, although
Judith could testify that they had probably lain for years in the
chest. It is not easy to portray the surprise of the Indian at
this discovery, for he was in the practice of renewing his priming
daily, and of looking to the contents of his piece at other short
"This is white neglect," said Deerslayer, shaking his head, "and
scarce a season goes by that some one in the settlements doesn't
suffer from it. It's extr'ornary too, Judith - yes, it's downright
extr'ornary that the owner shall fire his piece at a deer, or
some other game, or perhaps at an inimy, and twice out of three
times he'll miss; but let him catch an accident with one of these
forgotten charges, and he makes it sartain death to a child, or a
brother, or a fri'nd! Well, we shall do a good turn to the owner
if we fire these pistols for him, and as they're novelties to
you and me, Sarpent, we'll try our hands at a mark. Freshen that
priming, and I'll do the same with this, and then we'll see who
is the best man with a pistol; as for the rifle, that's long been
settled atween us."
Deerslayer laughed heartily at his own conceit, and, in a minute
or two, they were both standing on the platform, selecting some
object in the Ark for their target. Judith was led by curiosity
to their side.
"Stand back, gal, stand a little back; these we'pons have been
long loaded," said Deerslayer, "and some accident may happen in
the discharge." "Then you shall not fire them! Give them both to
the Delaware; or it would be better to unload them without firing."
"That's ag'in usage - and some people say, ag'in manhood; though
I hold to no such silly doctrine. We must fire 'em, Judith; yes,
we must fire 'em; though I foresee that neither will have any great
reason to boast of his skill."
Judith, in the main, was a girl of great personal spirit, and her
habits prevented her from feeling any of the terror that is apt to
come over her sex at the report of fire arms. She had discharged
many a rifle, and had even been known to kill a deer, under
circumstances that were favorable to the effort. She submitted
therefore, falling a little back by the side of Deerslayer, giving
the Indian the front of the platform to himself. Chingachgook
raised the weapon several times, endeavored to steady it by using
both hands, changed his attitude from one that was awkward to
another still more so, and finally drew the trigger with a sort
of desperate indifference, without having, in reality, secured any
aim at all. The consequence was, that instead of hitting the knot
which had been selected for the mark, he missed the ark altogether;
the bullet skipping along the water like a stone that was thrown
"Well done - Sarpent - well done -" cried Deerslayer laughing, with
his noiseless glee, "you've hit the lake, and that's an expl'ite
for some men! I know'd it, and as much as said it, here, to Judith;
for your short we'pons don't belong to red-skin gifts. You've hit
the lake, and that's better than only hitting the air! Now, stand
back and let us see what white gifts can do with a white we'pon.
A pistol isn't a rifle, but colour is colour."
The aim of Deerslayer was both quick and steady, and the report
followed almost as soon as the weapon rose. Still the pistol
hung fire, as it is termed, and fragments of it flew in a dozen
directions, some falling on the roof of the castle, others in the
Ark, and one in the water. Judith screamed, and when the two men
turned anxiously towards the girl she was as pale as death, trembling
in every limb.
"She's wounded - yes, the poor gal's wounded, Sarpent, though one
couldn't foresee it, standing where she did. We'll lead her in
to a seat, and we must do the best for her that our knowledge and
skill can afford."
Judith allowed herself to be supported to a seat, swallowed a mouthful
of the water that the Delaware offered her in a gourd, and, after
a violent fit of trembling that seemed ready to shake her fine
frame to dissolution, she burst into tears.
"The pain must be borne, poor Judith - yes, it must be borne," said
Deerslayer, soothingly, "though I am far from wishing you not to
weep; for weeping often lightens galish feelin's. Where can she
be hurt, Sarpent? I see no signs of blood, nor any rent of skin
"I am uninjured, Deerslayer," stammered the girl through her tears.
"It's fright - nothing more, I do assure you, and, God be praised!
no one, I find, has been harmed by the accident."
"This is extr'ornary!" exclaimed the unsuspecting and simple minded
hunter - "I thought, Judith, you'd been above settlement weaknesses,
and that you was a gal not to be frightened by the sound of a
bursting we'pon - No - I didn't think you so skeary! Hetty might
well have been startled; but you've too much judgment and reason
to be frightened when the danger's all over. They're pleasant to
the eye, chief, and changeful, but very unsartain in their feelin's!"
Shame kept Judith silent. There had been no acting in her agitation,
but all had fairly proceeded from sudden and uncontrollable alarm
- an alarm that she found almost as inexplicable to herself, as it
proved to be to her companions. Wiping away the traces of tears,
however, she smiled again, and was soon able to join in the laugh
at her own folly.
"And you, Deerslayer," she at length succeeded in saying - "are
you, indeed, altogether unhurt? It seems almost miraculous that a
pistol should have burst in your hand, and you escape without the
loss of a limb, if not of life!"
"Such wonders ar'n't oncommon, at all, among worn out arms. The
first rifle they gave me play'd the same trick, and yet I liv'd
through it, though not as onharmless as I've got out of this affair.
Thomas Hutter is master of one pistol less than he was this morning,
but, as it happened in trying to sarve him, there's no ground of
complaint. Now, draw near, and let us look farther into the inside
of the chist."
Judith, by this time, had so far gotten the better of her agitation
as to resume her seat, and the examination went on. The next article
that offered was enveloped in cloth, and on opening it, it proved
to be one of the mathematical instruments that were then in use
among seamen, possessing the usual ornaments and fastenings in
brass. Deerslayer and Chingachgook expressed their admiration and
surprise at the appearance of the unknown instrument, which was
bright and glittering, having apparently been well cared for.
"This goes beyond the surveyors, Judith!" Deerslayer exclaimed,
after turning the instrument several times in his hands. "I've
seen all their tools often, and wicked and heartless enough are
they, for they never come into the forest but to lead the way to
waste and destruction; but none of them have as designing a look
as this! I fear me, after all, that Thomas Hutter has journeyed
into the wilderness with no fair intentions towards its happiness.
Did you ever see any of the cravings of a surveyor about your
"He is no surveyor, Deerslayer, nor does he know the use of that
instrument, though he seems to own it. Do you suppose that Thomas
Hutter ever wore that coat? It is as much too large for him, as
this instrument is beyond his learning."
"That's it - that must be it, Sarpent, and the old fellow, by some
onknown means, has fallen heir to another man's goods! They say
he has been a mariner, and no doubt this chist, and all it holds
- ha! What have we here? -This far out does the brass and black
wood of the tool!"
Deerslayer had opened a small bag, from which he was taking, one
by one, the pieces of a set of chessmen. They were of ivory, much
larger than common, and exquisitely wrought. Each piece represented
the character or thing after which it is named; the knights
being mounted, the castles stood on elephants, and even the pawns
possessed the heads and busts of men. The set was not complete, and
a few fractures betrayed bad usage; but all that was left had been
carefully put away and preserved. Even Judith expressed wonder, as
these novel objects were placed before her eyes, and Chingachgook
fairly forgot his Indian dignity in admiration and delight. The
latter took up each piece, and examined it with never tiring
satisfaction, pointing out to the girl the more ingenious and
striking portions of the workmanship. But the elephants gave him
the greatest pleasure. The "Hughs!" that he uttered, as he passed
his fingers over their trunks, and ears, and tails, were very
distinct, nor did he fail to note the pawns, which were armed as
archers. This exhibition lasted several minutes, during which time
Judith and the Indian had all the rapture to themselves. Deerslayer
sat silent, thoughtful, and even gloomy, though his eyes followed
each movement of the two principal actors, noting every new peculiarity
about the pieces as they were held up to view. Not an exclamation
of pleasure, nor a word of condemnation passed his lips. At length
his companions observed his silence, and then, for the first time
since the chessmen had been discovered, did he speak.
"Judith," he asked earnestly, but with a concern that amounted
almost to tenderness of manner, "did your parents ever talk to you
The girl coloured, and the flashes of crimson that passed over her
beautiful countenance were like the wayward tints of a Neapolitan
sky in November. Deerslayer had given her so strong a taste for
truth, however, that she did not waver in her answer, replying
simply and with sincerity.
"My mother did often," she said, "my father never. I thought it
made my mother sorrowful to speak of our prayers and duties, but
my father has never opened his mouth on such matters, before or
since her death."
"That I can believe - that I can believe. He has no God - no
such God as it becomes a man of white skin to worship, or even a
red-skin. Them things are idols!"
Judith started, and for a moment she seemed seriously hurt. Then
she reflected, and in the end she laughed. "And you think,
Deerslayer, that these ivory toys are my father's Gods? I have
heard of idols, and know what they are."
"Them are idols!" repeated the other, positively. "Why should your
father keep 'em, if he doesn't worship 'em."
"Would he keep his gods in a bag, and locked up in a chest? No,
no, Deerslayer; my poor father carries his God with him, wherever
he goes, and that is in his own cravings. These things may really
be idols - I think they are myself, from what I have heard and read
of idolatry, but they have come from some distant country, and like
all the other articles, have fallen into Thomas Hutter's hands when
he was a sailor."
"I'm glad of it - I am downright glad to hear it, Judith, for I do
not think I could have mustered the resolution to strive to help
a white idolater out of his difficulties! The old man is of my
colour and nation and I wish to sarve him, but as one who denied
all his gifts, in the way of religion, it would have come hard to
do so. That animal seems to give you great satisfaction, Sarpent,
though it's an idolatrous beast at the best."
"It is an elephant," interrupted Judith. "I've often seen pictures
of such animals, at the garrisons, and mother had a book in which
there was a printed account of the creature. Father burnt that
with all the other books, for he said Mother loved reading too well.
This was not long before mother died, and I've sometimes thought
that the loss hastened her end."
This was said equally without levity and without any very deep
feeling. It was said without levity, for Judith was saddened by
her recollections, and yet she had been too much accustomed to live
for self, and for the indulgence of her own vanities, to feel her
mother's wrongs very keenly. It required extraordinary circumstances
to awaken a proper sense of her situation, and to stimulate the
better feelings of this beautiful, but misguided girl, and those
circumstances had not yet occurred in her brief existence.
"Elephant, or no elephant, 'tis an idol," returned the hunter, "and
not fit to remain in Christian keeping."
"Good for Iroquois!" said Chingachgook, parting with one of the
castles with reluctance, as his friend took it from him to replace
it in the bag -"Elephon buy whole tribe - buy Delaware, almost!"
"Ay, that it would, as any one who comprehends red-skin natur' must
know," answered Deerslayer, "but the man that passes false money,
Sarpent, is as bad as he who makes it. Did you ever know a just
Injin that wouldn't scorn to sell a 'coon skin for the true marten,
or to pass off a mink for a beaver. I know that a few of these
idols, perhaps one of them elephants, would go far towards buying
Thomas Hutter's liberty, but it goes ag'in conscience to pass such
counterfeit money. Perhaps no Injin tribe, hereaway, is downright
idolators but there's some that come so near it, that white gifts
ought to be particular about encouraging them in their mistake."
"If idolatry is a gift, Deerslayer, and gifts are what you seem
to think them, idolatry in such people can hardly be a sin," said
Judith with more smartness than discrimination.
"God grants no such gifts to any of his creatur's, Judith," returned
the hunter, seriously. "He must be adored, under some name or
other, and not creatur's of brass or ivory. It matters not whether
the Father of All is called God, or Manitou, Deity or Great Spirit,
he is none the less our common maker and master; nor does it count
for much whether the souls of the just go to Paradise, or Happy
Hunting Grounds, since He may send each his own way, as suits
his own pleasure and wisdom; but it curdles my blood, when I find
human mortals so bound up in darkness and consait, as to fashion
the 'arth, or wood, or bones, things made by their own hands, into
motionless, senseless effigies, and then fall down afore them, and
worship 'em as a Deity!"
"After all, Deerslayer, these pieces of ivory may not be idols,
at all. I remember, now, to have seen one of the officers at the
garrison with a set of fox and geese made in some such a design
as these, and here is something hard, wrapped in cloth, that may
belong to your idols."
Deerslayer took the bundle the girl gave him, and unrolling it, he
found the board within. Like the pieces it was large, rich, and
inlaid with ebony and ivory. Putting the whole in conjunction the
hunter, though not without many misgivings, slowly came over to
Judith's opinion, and finally admitted that the fancied idols must
be merely the curiously carved men of some unknown game. Judith
had the tact to use her victory with great moderation, nor did she
once, even in the most indirect manner, allude to the ludicrous
mistake of her companion.
This discovery of the uses of the extraordinary-looking little
images settled the affair of the proposed ransom. It was agreed
generally, and all understood the weaknesses and tastes of Indians,
that nothing could be more likely to tempt the cupidity of the
Iroquois than the elephants, in particular. Luckily the whole of
the castles were among the pieces, and these four tower-bearing
animals it was finally determined should be the ransom offered.
The remainder of the men, and, indeed, all the rest of the articles
in the chest, were to be kept out of view, and to be resorted to
only as a last appeal. As soon as these preliminaries were settled,
everything but those intended for the bribe was carefully replaced
in the chest, all the covers were 'tucked in' as they had been found,
and it was quite possible, could Hutter have been put in possession
of the castle again, that he might have passed the remainder of
his days in it without even suspecting the invasion that had been
made on the privacy of the chest. The rent pistol would have been
the most likely to reveal the secret, but this was placed by the
side of its fellow, and all were pressed down as before, some half
a dozen packages in the bottom of the chest not having been opened
at all. When this was done the lid was lowered, the padlocks
replaced, and the key turned. The latter was then replaced in the
pocket from which it had been taken.
More than an hour was consumed in settling the course proper to
be pursued, and in returning everything to its place. The pauses
to converse were frequent, and Judith, who experienced a lively
pleasure in the open, undisguised admiration with which Deerslayer's
honest eyes gazed at her handsome face, found the means to prolong
the interview, with a dexterity that seems to be innate in female
coquetry. Deerslayer, indeed, appeared to be the first who was
conscious of the time that had been thus wasted, and to call the
attention of his companions to the necessity of doing something
towards putting the plan of ransoming into execution. Chingachgook
had remained in Hutter's bed room, where the elephants were laid,
to feast his eyes with the images of animals so wonderful, and so
novel. Perhaps an instinct told him that his presence would not
be as acceptable to his companions as this holding himself aloof,
for Judith had not much reserve in the manifestations of her
preferences, and the Delaware had not got so far as one betrothed
without acquiring some knowledge of the symptoms of the master
"Well, Judith," said Deerslayer, rising, after the interview had
lasted much longer than even he himself suspected, "'tis pleasant
convarsing with you, and settling all these matters, but duty calls
us another way. All this time, Hurry and your father, not to say
Hetty - " The word was cut short in the speaker's mouth, for, at
that critical moment, a light step was heard on the platform, or
'court-yard', a human figure darkened the doorway, and the person
last mentioned stood before him. The low exclamation that escaped
Deerslayer and the slight scream of Judith were hardly uttered,
when an Indian youth, between the ages of fifteen and seventeen,
stood beside her. These two entrances had been made with moccasined
feet, and consequently almost without noise, but, unexpected and
stealthy as they were, they had not the effect to disturb Deerslayer's
self possession. His first measure was to speak rapidly in Delaware
to his friend, cautioning him to keep out of sight, while he stood
on his guard; the second was to step to the door to ascertain
the extent of the danger. No one else, however, had come, and a
simple contrivance, in the shape of a raft, that lay floating at
the side of the Ark, at once explained the means that had been used
in bringing Hetty off. Two dead and dry, and consequently buoyant,
logs of pine were bound together with pins and withes and a little
platform of riven chestnut had been rudely placed on their surfaces.
Here Hetty had been seated, on a billet of wood, while the young
Iroquois had rowed the primitive and slow-moving, but perfectly
safe craft from the shore.
As soon as Deerslayer had taken a close survey of this raft, and
satisfied himself nothing else was near, he shook his head and
muttered in his soliloquizing way - "This comes of prying into
another man's chist! Had we been watchful, and keen eyed, such a
surprise could never have happened, and, getting this much from a
boy teaches us what we may expect when the old warriors set themselves
fairly about their sarcumventions. It opens the way, howsever, to
a treaty for the ransom, and I will hear what Hetty has to say."
Judith, as soon as her surprise and alarm had a little abated,
discovered a proper share of affectionate joy at the return of her
sister. She folded her to her bosom, and kissed her, as had been
her wont in the days of their childhood and innocence. Hetty
herself was less affected, for to her there was no surprise, and
her nerves were sustained by the purity and holiness of her purpose.
At her sister's request she took a seat, and entered into an account
of her adventures since they had parted. Her tale commenced just
as Deerslayer returned, and he also became an attentive listener,
while the young Iroquois stood near the door, seemingly as indifferent
to what was passing as one of its posts.
The narrative of the girl was sufficiently clear, until she reached
the time where we left her in the camp, after the interview with
the chiefs, and, at the moment when Hist quitted her, in the abrupt
manner already related. The sequel of the story may be told in
her own language.
"When I read the texts to the chiefs, Judith, you could not have
seen that they made any changes on their minds," she said, "but if
seed is planted, it will grow. God planted the seeds of
all these trees - "
"Ay that did he - that did he -" muttered Deerslayer; "and a goodly
harvest has followed."
"God planted the seeds of all these trees," continued Hetty, after
a moment's pause, "and you see to what a height and shade they have
grown! So it is with the Bible. You may read a verse this year,
and forget it, and it will come back to you a year hence, when you
least expect to remember it."
"And did you find any thing of this among the savages, poor Hetty?"
"Yes, Judith, and sooner and more fully than I had even hoped. I
did not stay long with father and Hurry, but went to get my breakfast
with Hist. As soon as we had done the chiefs came to us, and then
we found the fruits of the seed that had been planted. They said
what I had read from the good book was right - it must be right -
it sounded right; like a sweet bird singing in their ears; and they
told me to come back and say as much to the great warrior who had
slain one of their braves; and to tell it to you, and to say how
happy they should be to come to church here, in the castle, or to
come out in the sun, and hear me read more of the sacred volume -
and to tell you that they wish you would lend them some canoes that
they can bring father and Hurry and their women to the castle, that
we might all sit on the platform there and listen to the singing
of the Pale-face Manitou. There, Judith; did you ever know of
any thing that so plainly shows the power of the Bible, as that!"
"If it were true 't would be a miracle, indeed, Hetty. But all
this is no more than Indian cunning and Indian treachery, striving
to get the better of us by management, when they find it is not to
be done by force."
"Do you doubt the Bible, sister, that you judge the savages so
"I do not doubt the Bible, poor Hetty, but I much doubt an Indian
and an Iroquois. What do you say to this visit, Deerslayer?"
"First let me talk a little with Hetty," returned the party appealed
to; "Was the raft made a'ter you had got your breakfast, gal, and
did you walk from the camp to the shore opposite to us, here?"
"Oh! no, Deerslayer. The raft was ready made and in the water
-could that have been by a miracle, Judith?"
"Yes - yes - an Indian miracle," rejoined the hunter - "They're
expart enough in them sort of miracles. And you found the raft
ready made to your hands, and in the water, and in waiting like
for its cargo?"
"It was all as you say. The raft was near the camp, and the Indians
put me on it, and had ropes of bark, and they dragged me to the
place opposite to the castle, and then they told that young man to
row me off, here."
"And the woods are full of the vagabonds, waiting to know what is
to be the upshot of the miracle. We comprehend this affair, now,
Judith, but I'll first get rid of this young Canada blood sucker,
and then we'll settle our own course. Do you and Hetty leave us
together, first bringing me the elephants, which the Sarpent is
admiring, for 'twill never do to let this loping deer be alone a
minute, or he'll borrow a canoe without asking."
Judith did as desired, first bringing the pieces, and retiring
with her sister into their own room. Deerslayer had acquired some
knowledge of most of the Indian dialects of that region, and he
knew enough of the Iroquois to hold a dialogue in the language.
Beckoning to the lad, therefore, he caused him to take a seat on
the chest, when he placed two of the castles suddenly before him.
Up to that moment, this youthful savage had not expressed a single
intelligible emotion, or fancy. There were many things, in and
about the place, that were novelties to him, but he had maintained
his self-command with philosophical composure. It is true, Deerslayer
had detected his dark eye scanning the defences and the arms, but
the scrutiny had been made with such an air of innocence, in such
a gaping, indolent, boyish manner, that no one but a man who had
himself been taught in a similar school, would have even suspected
his object. The instant, however, the eyes of the savage fell
upon the wrought ivory, and the images of the wonderful, unknown
beasts, surprise and admiration got the mastery of him. The manner
in which the natives of the South Sea Islands first beheld the toys
of civilized life has been often described, but the reader is not
to confound it with the manner of an American Indian, under similar
circumstances. In this particular case, the young Iroquois or
Huron permitted an exclamation of rapture to escape him, and then
he checked himself like one who had been guilty of an indecorum.
After this, his eyes ceased to wander, but became riveted on the
elephants, one of which, after a short hesitation, he even presumed
to handle. Deerslayer did not interrupt him for quite ten minutes,
knowing that the lad was taking such note of the curiosities, as
would enable him to give the most minute and accurate description
of their appearance to his seniors, on his return. When he thought
sufficient time had been allowed to produce the desired effect,
the hunter laid a finger on the naked knee of the youth and drew
his attention to himself.
"Listen," he said; "I want to talk with my young friend from the
Canadas. Let him forget that wonder for a minute."
"Where t'other pale brother?" demanded the boy, looking up and letting
the idea that had been most prominent in his mind, previously to
the introduction of the chess men, escape him involuntarily.
"He sleeps, or if he isn't fairly asleep, he is in the room where
the men do sleep," returned Deerslayer. "How did my young friend
know there was another?"
"See him from the shore. Iroquois have got long eyes - see beyond
the clouds - see the bottom of the Great Spring!"
"Well, the Iroquois are welcome. Two pale-faces are prisoners in
the camp of your fathers, boy."
The lad nodded, treating the circumstance with great apparent
indifference; though a moment after he laughed as if exulting in
the superior address of his own tribe.
"Can you tell me, boy, what your chiefs intend to do with these
captyves, or haven't they yet made up their minds?"
The lad looked a moment at the hunter with a little surprise. Then
he coolly put the end of his fore finger on his own head, just
above the left ear, and passed it round his crown with an accuracy
and readiness that showed how well he had been drilled in the
peculiar art of his race.
"When?" demanded Deerslayer, whose gorge rose at this cool
demonstration of indifference to human life. "And why not take
them to your wigwams?"
"Road too long, and full of pale-faces. Wigwam full, and scalps
sell high. Small scalp, much gold."
"Well that explains it - yes, that does explain it. There's no need
of being any plainer. Now you know, lad, that the oldest of your
prisoners is the father of these two young women, and the other
is the suitor of one of them. The gals nat'rally wish to save the
scalps of such fri'nds, and they will give them two ivory creaturs,
as ransom. One for each scalp. Go back and tell this to your
chiefs, and bring me the answer before the sun sets."
The boy entered zealously into this project, and with a sincerity
that left no doubt of his executing his commission with intelligence
and promptitude. For a moment he forgot his love of honor, and
all his clannish hostility to the British and their Indians, in
his wish to have such a treasure in his tribe, and Deerslayer was
satisfied with the impression he had made. It is true the lad
proposed to carry one of the elephants with him, as a specimen of
the other, but to this his brother negotiator was too sagacious to
consent; well knowing that it might never reach its destination if
confided to such hands. This little difficulty was soon arranged,
and the boy prepared to depart. As he stood on the platform, ready
to step aboard of the raft, he hesitated, and turned short with
a proposal to borrow a canoe, as the means most likely to shorten
the negotiations. Deerslayer quietly refused the request, and,
after lingering a little longer, the boy rowed slowly away from
the castle, taking the direction of a thicket on the shore that
lay less than half a mile distant. Deerslayer seated himself on a
stool and watched the progress of the ambassador, sometimes closely
scanning the whole line of shore, as far as eye could reach, and
then placing an elbow on a knee, he remained a long time with his
chin resting on the hand.
During the interview between Deerslayer and the lad, a different
scene took place in the adjoining room. Hetty had inquired for
the Delaware, and being told why and where he remained concealed,
she joined him. The reception which Chingachgook gave his visitor
was respectful and gentle. He understood her character, and, no
doubt, his disposition to be kind to such a being was increased
by the hope of learning some tidings of his betrothed. As soon as
the girl entered she took a seat, and invited the Indian to place
himself near her; then she continued silent, as if she thought it
decorous for him to question her, before she consented to speak
on the subject she had on her mind. But, as Chingachgook did not
understand this feeling, he remained respectfully attentive to any
thing she might be pleased to tell him.
"You are Chingachgook, the Great Serpent of the Delawares, ar'n't
you?" the girl at length commenced, in her own simple way losing
her self-command in the desire to proceed, but anxious first to
make sure of the individual. "Chingachgook," returned the Delaware
with grave dignity. "That say Great Sarpent, in Deerslayer tongue."
"Well, that is my tongue. Deerslayer, and father, and Judith, and
I, and poor Hurry Harry - do you know Henry March, Great Serpent?
I know you don't, however, or he would have spoken of you, too."
"Did any tongue name Chingachgook, Drooping-Lily"? for so the
chief had named poor Hetty. "Was his name sung by a little bird
Hetty did not answer at first, but, with that indescribable
feeling that awakens sympathy and intelligence among the youthful
and unpracticed of her sex, she hung her head, and the blood suffused
her cheek ere she found her tongue. It would have exceeded her
stock of intelligence to explain this embarrassment, but, though
poor Hetty could not reason, on every emergency, she could always
feel. The colour slowly receded from her cheeks, and the girl
looked up archly at the Indian, smiling with the innocence of a
child, mingled with the interest of a woman.
"My sister, the Drooping Lily, hear such bird!" Chingachgook added,
and this with a gentleness of tone and manner that would have
astonished those who sometimes heard the discordant cries that
often came from the same throat; these transitions from the harsh
and guttural, to the soft and melodious not being infrequent in
ordinary Indian dialogues. "My sister's ears were open -has she
lost her tongue?"
"You are Chingachgook - you must be; for there is no other red man
here, and she thought Chingachgook would come."
"Chin-gach-gook," pronouncing the name slowly, and dwelling on each
syllable` "Great Sarpent, Yengeese tongue."
[It is singular there should be any question concerning the origin
of the well-known sobriquet of "Yankees." Nearly all the old
writers who speak of the Indians first known to the colonists make
them pronounce the word "English" as "Yengeese." Even at this day,
it is a provincialism of New England to say "Anglish" instead of
"Inglish," and there is a close conformity of sound between "Anglish"
and "yengeese," more especially if the latter word, as was probably
the case, be pronounced short. The transition from "Yengeese,"
thus pronounced, to "Yankees" is quite easy. If the former is
pronounced "Yangis," it is almost identical with "Yankees," and
Indian words have seldom been spelt as they are pronounced. Thus
the scene of this tale is spelt "Otsego," and is properly pronounced
"Otsago." The liquids of the Indians would easily convert "En"
"Chin-gach-gook," repeated Hetty, in the same deliberate manner.
"Yes, so Hist called it, and you must be the chief."
"Wah-ta-Wah," added the Delaware.
"Wah-ta-Wah, or Hist-oh-Hist. I think Hist prettier than Wah, and
so I call her Hist."
"Wah very sweet in Delaware ears!"
"You make it sound differently from me. But, never mind, I did
hear the bird you speak of sing, Great Serpent."
"Will my sister say words of song? What she sing most - how she
look - often she laugh?"
"She sang Chin-gach-gook oftener than any thing else; and she laughed
heartily, when I told how the Iroquois waded into the water after
us, and couldn't catch us. I hope these logs haven't ears, Serpent!"
"No fear logs; fear sister next room. No fear Iroquois; Deerslayer
stuff his eyes and ears with strange beast."
"I understand you, Serpent, and I understood Hist. Sometimes I
think I'm not half as feeble minded as they say I am. Now, do you
look up at the roof, and I'll tell you all. But you frighten me,
you look so eager when I speak of Hist."
The Indian controlled his looks, and affected to comply with the
simple request of the girl.
"Hist told me to say, in a very low voice, that you mustn't trust
the Iroquois in anything. They are more artful than any Indians
she knows. Then she says that there is a large bright star that
comes over the hill, about an hour after dark" - Hist had pointed
out the planet Jupiter, without knowing it - "and just as that
star comes in sight, she will be on the point, where I landed last
night, and that you must come for her, in a canoe."
"Good - Chingachgook understand well enough, now; but he understand
better if my sister sing him ag'in."
Hetty repeated her words, more fully explaining what star was
meant, and mentioning the part of the point where he was to venture
ashore. She now proceeded in her own unsophisticated way to relate
her intercourse with the Indian maid, and to repeat several of her
expressions and opinions that gave great delight to the heart of
her betrothed. She particularly renewed her injunctions to be on
their guard against treachery, a warning that was scarcely needed,
however, as addressed to men as wary as those to whom it was sent.
She also explained with sufficient clearness, for on all such
subjects the mind of the girl seldom failed her, the present state
of the enemy, and the movements they had made since morning. Hist
had been on the raft with her until it quitted the shore, and was
now somewhere in the woods, opposite to the castle, and did not
intend to return to the camp until night approached; when she hoped
to be able to slip away from her companions, as they followed the
shore on their way home, and conceal herself on the point. No one
appeared to suspect the presence of Chingachgook, though it was
necessarily known that an Indian had entered the Ark the previous
night, and it was suspected that he had since appeared in and about
the castle in the dress of a pale-face. Still some little doubt
existed on the latter point, for, as this was the season when
white men might be expected to arrive, there was some fear that
the garrison of the castle was increasing by these ordinary means.
All this had Hist communicated to Hetty while the Indians were
dragging them along shore, the distance, which exceeded six miles,
affording abundance of time.
"Hist don't know, herself, whether they suspect her or not, or
whether they suspect you, but she hopes neither is the case. And
now, Serpent, since I have told you so much from your betrothed,"
continued Hetty, unconsciously taking one of the Indian's hands,
and playing with the fingers, as a child is often seen to play
with those of a parent, "you must let me tell you something from
myself. When you marry Hist, you must be kind to her, and smile on
her, as you do now on me, and not look cross as some of the chiefs
do at their squaws. Will you promise this?"
"Alway good to Wah! - too tender to twist hard; else she break."
"Yes, and smile, too; you don't know how much a girl craves smiles
from them she loves. Father scarce smiled on me once, while I was
with him - and, Hurry -Yes - Hurry talked loud and laughed, but I
don't think he smiled once either. You know the difference between
a smile and a laugh?"
"Laugh, best. Hear Wah laugh, think bird sing!"
"I know that; her laugh is pleasant, but you must smile. And then,
Serpent, you mustn't make her carry burthens and hoe corn, as so
many Indians do; but treat her more as the pale-faces treat their
"Wah-ta-Wah no pale-face - got red-skin; red heart, red feelin's.
All red; no pale-face. Must carry papoose."
"Every woman is willing to carry her child," said Hetty smiling,
"and there is no harm in that. But you must love Hist, and be
gentle, and good to her; for she is gentle and good herself."
Chingachgook gravely bowed, and then he seemed to think this part
of the subject might be dismissed. Before there was time for Hetty
to resume her communications, the voice of Deerslayer was heard
calling on his friend, in the outer room. At this summons the
Serpent arose to obey, and Hetty joined her sister.
"'A stranger animal,' cries one,
'Sure never liv'd beneath the sun;
A lizard's body lean and long,
A fish's head, a serpent's tongue,
Its foot, with triple claw disjoined;
And what a length of tail behind!'"
James Merrick, "The Chameleon," 11.21-26.
The first act of the Delaware, on rejoining his friend, was to
proceed gravely to disencumber himself of his civilized attire, and
to stand forth an Indian warrior again. The protest of Deerslayer
was met by his communicating the fact that the presence of an
Indian in the hut was known to the Iroquois, and that maintaining
the disguise would be more likely to direct suspicions to his real
object, than if he came out openly as a member of a hostile tribe.
When the latter understood the truth, and was told that he had been
deceived in supposing the chief had succeeded in entering the Ark
undiscovered, he cheerfully consented to the change, since further
attempt at concealment was useless. A gentler feeling than the
one avowed, however, lay at the bottom of the Indian's desire to
appear as a son of the forest. He had been told that Hist was on
the opposite shore, and nature so far triumphed over all distinctions
of habit, and tribes and people, as to reduce this young savage
warrior to the level of a feeling which would have been found in
the most refined inhabitant of a town, under similar circumstances.
There was a mild satisfaction in believing that she he loved could
see him, and as he walked out on the platform in his scanty, native
attire, an Apollo of the wilderness, a hundred of the tender fancies
that fleet through lovers' brains beset his imagination and softened
his heart. All this was lost on Deerslayer, who was no great adept
in the mysteries of Cupid, but whose mind was far more occupied
with the concerns that forced themselves on his attention, than with
any of the truant fancies of love. He soon recalled his companion,
therefore, to a sense of their actual condition, by summoning him
to a sort of council of war, in which they were to settle their
future course. In the dialogue that followed, the parties mutually
made each other acquainted with what had passed in their several
interviews. Chingachgook was told the history of the treaty about
the ransom, and Deerslayer heard the whole of Hetty's communications.
The latter listened with generous interest to his friend's hopes,
and promised cheerfully all the assistance he could lend.
"Tis our main ar'n'd, Sarpent, as you know, this battling for the
castle and old Hutter's darters, coming in as a sort of accident.
Yes - yes - I'll be actyve in helping little Hist, who's not only
one of the best and handsomest maidens of the tribe, but the very
best and handsomest. I've always encouraged you, chief, in that
liking, and it's proper, too, that a great and ancient race like
your'n shouldn't come to an end. If a woman of red skin and red
gifts could get to be near enough to me to wish her for a wife,
I'd s'arch for just such another, but that can never be; no, that
can never be. I'm glad Hetty has met with Hist, howsever, for
though the first is a little short of wit and understanding, the
last has enough for both. Yes, Sarpent," laughing heartily - "put
'em together, and two smarter gals isn't to be found in all York
"I will go to the Iroquois camp," returned the Delaware, gravely.
"No one knows Chingachgook but Wah, and a treaty for lives and
scalps should be made by a chief. Give me the strange beasts, and
let me take a canoe."
Deerslayer dropped his head and played with the end of a fish-pole
in the water, as he sat dangling his legs over the edge of the
platform, like a man who was lost in thought by the sudden occurrence
of a novel idea. Instead of directly answering the proposal of
his friend, he began to soliloquize, a circumstance however that
in no manner rendered his words more true, as he was remarkable
for saying what he thought, whether the remarks were addressed to
himself, or to any one else.
"Yes - yes -" he said - "this must be what they call love! I've
heard say that it sometimes upsets reason altogether, leaving a
young man as helpless, as to calculation and caution, as a brute
beast. To think that the Sarpent should be so lost to reason, and
cunning, and wisdom! We must sartainly manage to get Hist off,
and have 'em married as soon as we get back to the tribe, or this
war will be of no more use to the chief, than a hunt a little
oncommon extr'ornary. Yes - Yes - he'll never be the man he was,
till this matter is off his mind, and he comes to his senses like
all the rest of mankind. Sarpent, you can't be in airnest, and
therefore I shall say but little to your offer. But you're a chief,
and will soon be sent out on the war path at head of the parties,
and I'll just ask if you'd think of putting your forces into the
inimy's hands, afore the battle is fou't?"
"Wah!" ejaculated the Indian.
"Ay - Wah - I know well enough it's Wah, and altogether Wah -Ra'ally,
Sarpent, I'm consarned and mortified about you! I never heard so
weak an idee come from a chief, and he, too, one that's already
got a name for being wise, young and inexper'enced as he is. Canoe
you sha'n't have, so long as the v'ice of fri'ndship and warning
can count for any thing."
"My pale-face friend is right. A cloud came over the face of
Chingachgook, and weakness got into his mind, while his eyes were
dim. My brother has a good memory for good deeds, and a weak memory
for bad. He will forget."
"Yes, that's easy enough. Say no more about it chief, but if another
of them clouds blow near you, do your endivours to get out of its
way. Clouds are bad enough in the weather, but when they come to
the reason, it gets to be serious. Now, sit down by me here, and
let us calculate our movements a little, for we shall soon either
have a truce and a peace, or we shall come to an actyve and bloody
war. You see the vagabonds can make logs sarve their turn, as
well as the best raftsmen on the rivers, and it would be no great
expl'ite for them to invade us in a body. I've been thinking of
the wisdom of putting all old Tom's stores into the Ark, of barring
and locking up the Castle, and of taking to the Ark, altogether.
That is moveable, and by keeping the sail up, and shifting places,
we might worry through a great many nights, without them Canada
wolves finding a way into our sheep fold!"
Chingachgook listened to this plan with approbation. Did the
negotiation fail, there was now little hope that the night would
pass without an assault, and the enemy had sagacity enough to
understand that in carrying the castle they would probably become
masters of all it contained, the offered ransom included, and still
retain the advantages they had hitherto gained. Some precaution
of the sort appeared to be absolutely necessary, for now the
numbers of the Iroquois were known, a night attack could scarcely
be successfully met. It would be impossible to prevent the enemy
from getting possession of the canoes and the Ark, and the latter
itself would be a hold in which the assailants would be as effectually
protected against bullets as were those in the building. For a
few minutes, both the men thought of sinking the Ark in the shallow
water, of bringing the canoes into the house, and of depending
altogether on the castle for protection. But reflection satisfied
them that, in the end, this expedient would fail. It was so easy
to collect logs on the shore, and to construct a raft of almost any
size, that it was certain the Iroquois, now they had turned their
attention to such means, would resort to them seriously, so long
as there was the certainty of success by perseverance. After
deliberating maturely, and placing all the considerations fairly
before them, the two young beginners in the art of forest warfare
settled down into the opinion that the Ark offered the only available
means of security. This decision was no sooner come to, than it
was communicated to Judith. The girl had no serious objection to
make, and all four set about the measures necessary to carrying
the plan into execution.
The reader will readily understand that Floating Tom's worldly goods
were of no great amount. A couple of beds, some wearing apparel,
the arms and ammunition, a few cooking utensils, with the mysterious
and but half examined chest formed the principal items. These were
all soon removed, the Ark having been hauled on the eastern side
of the building, so that the transfer could be made without being
seen from the shore. It was thought unnecessary to disturb the
heavier and coarser articles of furniture, as they were not required
in the Ark, and were of but little value in themselves. As great
caution was necessary in removing the different objects, most of
which were passed out of a window with a view to conceal what was
going on, it required two or three hours before all could be effected.
By the expiration of that time, the raft made its appearance, moving
from the shore. Deerslayer immediately had recourse to the glass,
by the aid of which he perceived that two warriors were on it,
though they appeared to be unarmed. The progress of the raft was
slow, a circumstance that formed one of the great advantages that
would be possessed by the scow, in any future collision between
them, the movements of the latter being comparatively swift and
light. As there was time to make the dispositions for the reception
of the two dangerous visitors, everything was prepared for them,
long before they had got near enough to be hailed. The Serpent and
the girls retired into the building, where the former stood near
the door, well provided with rifles, while Judith watched the
proceedings without through a loop. As for Deerslayer, he had
brought a stool to the edge of the platform, at the point towards
which the raft was advancing, and taken his seat with his rifle
leaning carelessly between his legs.
As the raft drew nearer, every means possessed by the party in the
castle was resorted to, in order to ascertain if their visitors had
any firearms. Neither Deerslayer nor Chingachgook could discover
any, but Judith, unwilling to trust to simple eyesight, thrust the
glass through the loop, and directed it towards the hemlock boughs
that lay between the two logs of the raft, forming a sort of
flooring, as well as a seat for the use of the rowers. When the
heavy moving craft was within fifty feet of him, Deerslayer hailed
the Hurons, directing them to cease rowing, it not being his intention
to permit them to land. Compliance, of course, was necessary, and
the two grim-looking warriors instantly quitted their seats, though
the raft continued slowly to approach, until it had driven in much
nearer to the platform.
"Are ye chiefs?" demanded Deerslayer with dignity - "Are ye chiefs?
-Or have the Mingos sent me warriors without names, on such
an ar'n'd? If so, the sooner ye go back, the sooner them will be
likely to come that a warrior can talk with."
"Hugh!" exclaimed the elder of the two on the raft, rolling his
glowing eyes over the different objects that were visible in and
about the Castle, with a keenness that showed how little escaped
him. "My brother is very proud, but Rivenoak (we use the literal
translation of the term, writing as we do in English) is a name to
make a Delaware turn pale."
"That's true, or it's a lie, Rivenoak, as it may be; but I am not
likely to turn pale, seeing that I was born pale. What's your
ar'n'd, and why do you come among light bark canoes, on logs that
are not even dug out?"
"The Iroquois are not ducks, to walk on water! Let the pale-faces
give them a canoe, and they'll come in a canoe."
"That's more rational, than likely to come to pass. We have but
four canoes, and being four persons that's only one for each of
us. We thank you for the offer, howsever, though we ask leave not
to accept it. You are welcome, Iroquois, on your logs."
"Thanks - My young pale-face warrior - he has got a name - how do
the chiefs call him?"
Deerslayer hesitated a moment, and a gleam of pride and human
weakness came over him. He smiled, muttered between his teeth, and
then looking up proudly, he said - "Mingo, like all who are young
and actyve, I've been known by different names, at different times.
One of your warriors whose spirit started for the Happy Grounds of
your people, as lately as yesterday morning, thought I desarved to
be known by the name of Hawkeye, and this because my sight happened
to be quicker than his own, when it got to be life or death atween
Chingachgook, who was attentively listening to all that passed,
heard and understood this proof of passing weakness in his friend,
and on a future occasion he questioned him more closely concerning
the transaction on the point, where Deerslayer had first taken
human life. When he had got the whole truth, he did not fail
to communicate it to the tribe, from which time the young hunter
was universally known among the Delawares by an appellation so
honorably earned. As this, however, was a period posterior to all
the incidents of this tale, we shall continue to call the young
hunter by the name under which he has been first introduced to
the reader. Nor was the Iroquois less struck with the vaunt of
the white man. He knew of the death of his comrade, and had no
difficulty in understanding the allusion, the intercourse between
the conqueror and his victim on that occasion having been seen by
several savages on the shore of the lake, who had been stationed
at different points just within the margin of bushes to watch the
drifting canoes, and who had not time to reach the scene of action,
ere the victor had retired. The effect on this rude being of the
forest was an exclamation of surprise; then such a smile of courtesy,
and wave of the hand, succeeded, as would have done credit to Asiatic
diplomacy. The two Iroquois spoke to each other in low tones, and
both drew near the end of the raft that was closest to the platform.
"My brother, Hawkeye, has sent a message to the Hurons," resumed
Rivenoak, "and it has made their hearts very glad. They hear he has
images of beasts with two tails! Will he show them to his friends?"
"Inimies would be truer," returned Deerslayer, "but sound isn't
sense, and does little harm. Here is One of the images; I toss it
to you under faith of treaties. If it's not returned, the rifle
will settle the p'int atween us."
The Iroquois seemed to acquiesce in the conditions, and Deerslayer
arose and prepared to toss one of the elephants to the raft, both
parties using all the precaution that was necessary to prevent its
loss. As practice renders men expert in such things, the little
piece of ivory was soon successfully transferred from one hand to
the other, and then followed another scene on the raft, in which
astonishment and delight got the mastery of Indian stoicism.
These two grim old warriors manifested even more feeling, as they
examined the curiously wrought chessman, than had been betrayed
by the boy; for, in the case of the latter, recent schooling had
interposed its influence; while the men, like all who are sustained
by well established characters, were not ashamed to let some of
their emotions be discovered. For a few minutes they apparently
lost the consciousness of their situation, in the intense scrutiny
they bestowed on a material so fine, work so highly wrought, and
an animal so extraordinary. The lip of the moose is, perhaps, the
nearest approach to the trunk of the elephant that is to be found
in the American forest, but this resemblance was far from being
sufficiently striking to bring the new creature within the range
of their habits and ideas, and the more they studied the image,
the greater was their astonishment. Nor did these children of
the forest mistake the structure on the back of the elephant for a
part of the animal. They were familiar with horses and oxen, and
had seen towers in the Canadas, and found nothing surprising in
creatures of burthen. Still, by a very natural association, they
supposed the carving meant to represent that the animal they saw was
of a strength sufficient to carry a fort on its back; a circumstance
that in no degree lessened their wonder.
"Has my pale-face brother any more such beasts?" at last the senior
of the Iroquois asked, in a sort of petitioning manner.
"There's more where them came from, Mingo," was the answer; "one
is enough, howsever, to buy off fifty scalps."
"One of my prisoners is a great warrior - tall as a pine - strong
as the moose -active as a deer - fierce as the panther! Some day
he'll be a great chief, and lead the army of King George!"
"Tut-tut Mingo; Hurry Harry is Hurry Harry, and you'll never make
more than a corporal of him, if you do that. He's tall enough, of
a sartainty; but that's of no use, as he only hits his head ag'in
the branches as he goes through the forest. He's strong too, but
a strong body isn't a strong head, and the king's generals are
not chosen for their sinews; he's swift, if you will, but a rifle
bullet is swifter; and as for f'erceness, it's no great ricommend
to a soldier; they that think they feel the stoutest often givin'
out at the pinch. No, no, you'll niver make Hurry's scalp pass for
more than a good head of curly hair, and a rattle pate beneath it!"
"My old prisoner very wise - king of the lake - great warrior, wise
"Well, there's them that might gainsay all this, too, Mingo. A
very wise man wouldn't be apt to be taken in so foolish a manner as
befell Master Hutter, and if he gives good counsel, he must have
listened to very bad in that affair. There's only one king of
this lake, and he's a long way off, and isn't likely ever to see
it. Floating Tom is some such king of this region, as the wolf
that prowls through the woods is king of the forest. A beast with
two tails is well worth two such scalps!"
"But my brother has another beast? - He will give two" - holding
up as many fingers, "for old father?"
"Floating Tom is no father of mine, but he'll fare none the worse
for that. As for giving two beasts for his scalp, and each beast
with two tails, it is quite beyond reason. Think yourself well
off, Mingo, if you make a much worse trade."
By this time the self-command of Rivenoak had got the better of his
wonder, and he began to fall back on his usual habits of cunning,
in order to drive the best bargain he could. It would be useless
to relate more than the substance of the desultory dialogue that
followed, in which the Indian manifested no little management,
in endeavoring to recover the ground lost under the influence of
surprise. He even affected to doubt whether any original for the
image of the beast existed, and asserted that the oldest Indian
had never heard a tradition of any such animal. Little did either
of them imagine at the time that long ere a century elapsed, the
progress of civilization would bring even much more extraordinary
and rare animals into that region, as curiosities to be gazed
at by the curious, and that the particular beast, about which the
disputants contended, would be seen laving its sides and swimming
in the very sheet of water, on which they had met.
[The Otsego is a favorite place for the caravan keepers to let
their elephants bathe. The writer has seen two at a time, since
the publication of this book, swimming about in company.]
As is not uncommon on such occasions, one of the parties got
a little warm in the course of the discussion, for Deerslayer met
all the arguments and prevarication of his subtle opponent with his
own cool directness of manner, and unmoved love of truth. What an
elephant was he knew little better than the savage, but he perfectly
understood that the carved pieces of ivory must have some such
value in the eyes of an Iroquois as a bag of gold or a package of
beaver skins would in those of a trader. Under the circumstances,
therefore, he felt it to be prudent not to concede too much at first,
since there existed a nearly unconquerable obstacle to making the
transfers, even after the contracting parties had actually agreed
upon the terms. Keeping this difficulty in view, he held the extra
chessmen in reserve, as a means of smoothing any difficulty in the
moment of need.
At length the savage pretended that further negotiation was useless,
since he could not be so unjust to his tribe as to part with the
honor and emoluments of two excellent, full grown male scalps for
a consideration so trifling as a toy like that he had seen, and he
prepared to take his departure. Both parties now felt as men are
wont to feel, when a bargain that each is anxious to conclude is on
the eve of being broken off, in consequence of too much pertinacity
in the way of management. The effect of the disappointment was
very different, however, on the respective individuals. Deerslayer
was mortified, and filled with regret, for he not only felt for
the prisoners, but he also felt deeply for the two girls. The
conclusion of the treaty, therefore, left him melancholy and full
of regret. With the savage, his defeat produced the desire of
revenge. In a moment of excitement, he had loudly announced his
intention to say no more, and he felt equally enraged with himself
and with his cool opponent, that he had permitted a pale face to
manifest more indifference and self-command than an Indian chief.
When he began to urge his raft away from the platform his countenance
lowered and his eye glowed, even while he affected a smile of
amity and a gesture of courtesy at parting.
It took some little time to overcome the inertia of the logs, and
while this was being done by the silent Indian, Rivenoak stalked
over the hemlock boughs that lay between the logs in sullen ferocity,
eyeing keenly the while the hut, the platform and the person of his
late disputant. Once he spoke in low, quick tones to his companion,
and he stirred the boughs with his feet like an animal that is
restive. At that moment the watchfulness of Deerslayer had a little
abated, for he sat musing on the means of renewing the negotiation
without giving too much advantage to the other side. It was perhaps
fortunate for him that the keen and bright eyes of Judith were as
vigilant as ever. At the instant when the young man was least on
his guard, and his enemy was the most on the alert, she called out
in a warning voice to the former, most opportunely giving the alarm.
"Be on your guard, Deerslayer," the girl cried - "I see rifles with
the glass, beneath the hemlock brush, and the Iroquois is loosening
them with his feet!"
It would seem that the enemy had carried their artifices so far as
to Employ an agent who understood English. The previous dialogue
had taken place in his own language, but it was evident by the sudden
manner in which his feet ceased their treacherous occupation, and
in which the countenance of Rivenoak changed from sullen ferocity
to a smile of courtesy, that the call of the girl was understood.
Signing to his companion to cease his efforts to set the logs in
motion, he advanced to the end of the raft which was nearest to
the platform, and spoke.
"Why should Rivenoak and his brother leave any cloud between them,"
he said. "They are both wise, both brave, and both generous; they
ought to part friends. One beast shall be the price of one prisoner."
"And, Mingo," answered the other, delighted to renew the negotiations
on almost any terms, and determined to clinch the bargain if possible
by a little extra liberality, "you'll see that a pale-face knows
how to pay a full price, when he trades with an open heart, and an
open hand. Keep the beast that you had forgotten to give back to
me, as you was about to start, and which I forgot to ask for, on
account of consarn at parting in anger. Show it to your chiefs.
When you bring us our fri'nds, two more shall be added to it,
and," hesitating a moment in distrust of the expediency of so great
a concession; then, deciding in its favor - "and, if we see them
afore the sun sets, we may find a fourth to make up an even number."
This settled the matter. Every gleam of discontent vanished from
the dark countenance of the Iroquois, and he smiled as graciously,
if not as sweetly, as Judith Hutter, herself. The piece already in
his possession was again examined, and an ejaculation of pleasure
showed how much he was pleased with this unexpected termination of
the affair. In point of fact, both he and Deerslayer had momentarily
forgotten what had become of the subject of their discussion, in
the warmth of their feelings, but such had not been the case with
Rivenoak's companion. This man retained the piece, and had fully
made up his mind, were it claimed under such circumstances as to
render its return necessary, to drop it in the lake, trusting to
his being able to find it again at some future day. This desperate
expedient, however, was no longer necessary, and after repeating
the terms of agreement, and professing to understand them, the two
Indians finally took their departure, moving slowly towards the
"Can any faith be put in such wretches?" asked Judith, when she and
Hetty had come out on the platform, and were standing at the side
of Deerslayer, watching the dull movement of the logs. "Will they
not rather keep the toy they have, and send us off some bloody proofs
of their getting the better of us in cunning, by way of boasting?
I've heard of acts as bad as this."
"No doubt, Judith; no manner of doubt, if it wasn't for Indian
natur'. But I'm no judge of a red-skin, if that two tail'd beast
doesn't set the whole tribe in some such stir as a stick raises in
a beehive! Now, there's the Sarpent; a man with narves like flint,
and no more cur'osity in every day consarns than is befitting
prudence; why he was so overcome with the sight of the creatur',
carved as it is in bone, that I felt ashamed for him! That's just
their gifts, howsever, and one can't well quarrel with a man for
his gifts, when they are lawful. Chingachgook will soon get over
his weakness and remember that he's a chief, and that he comes of
a great stock, and has a renowned name to support and uphold; but
as for yonder scamps, there'll be no peace among 'em until they
think they've got possession of every thing of the natur' of that
bit of carved bone that's to be found among Thomas Hutter's stores!"
"They only know of the elephants, and can have no hopes about the
"That's true, Judith; still, covetousness is a craving feelin'!
They'll say, if the pale-faces have these cur'ous beasts with two
tails, who knows but they've got some with three, or for that matter
with four! That's what the schoolmasters call nat'ral arithmetic,
and 'twill be sartain to beset the feelin's of savages. They'll
never be easy, till the truth is known."
"Do you think, Deerslayer," inquired Hetty, in her simple and
innocent manner, "that the Iroquois won't let father and Hurry go?
I read to them several of the very best verses in the whole Bible,
and you see what they have done, already."
The hunter, as he always did, listened kindly and even affectionately
to Hetty's remarks; then he mused a moment in silence. There was
something like a flush on his cheek as he answered, after quite a
minute had passed.
"I don't know whether a white man ought to be ashamed, or not, to
own he can't read, but such is my case, Judith. You are skilful,
I find, in all such matters, while I have only studied the hand of
God as it is seen in the hills and the valleys, the mountain-tops,
the streams, the forests and the springs. Much l'arning may be got
in this way, as well as out of books; and, yet, I sometimes think
it is a white man's gift to read! When I hear from the mouths of
the Moravians the words of which Hetty speaks, they raise a longing
in my mind, and I then think I will know how to read 'em myself;
but the game in summer, and the traditions, and lessons in war,
and other matters, have always kept me behind hand."
"Shall I teach you, Deerslayer?" asked Hetty, earnestly. "I'm
weak-minded, they say, but I can read as well as Judith. It might
save your life to know how to read the Bible to the savages, and
it will certainly save your soul; for mother told me that, again
"Thankee, Hetty - yes, thankee, with all my heart. These are like
to be too stirring times for much idleness, but after it's peace,
and I come to see you ag'in on this lake, then I'll give myself
up to it, as if 'twas pleasure and profit in a single business.
Perhaps I ought to be ashamed, Judith, that 'tis so; but truth is
truth. As for these Iroquois, 'tisn't very likely they'll forget
a beast with two tails, on account of a varse or two from the Bible.
I rather expect they'll give up the prisoners, and trust to some
sarcumvenion or other to get 'em back ag'in, with us and all in the
castle and the Ark in the bargain. Howsever, we must humour the
vagabonds, first to get your father and Hurry out of their hands,
and next to keep the peace atween us, until such time as the Sarpent
there can make out to get off his betrothed wife. If there's any
sudden outbreakin' of anger and ferocity, the Indians will send
off all their women and children to the camp at once, whereas, by
keeping 'em calm and trustful we may manage to meet Hist at the
spot she has mentioned. Rather than have the bargain fall through,
now, I'd throw in half a dozen of them effigy bow-and-arrow men,
such as we've in plenty in the chist."
Judith cheerfully assented, for she would have resigned even the
flowered brocade, rather than not redeem her father and please
Deerslayer. The prospects of success were now so encouraging as to
raise the spirits of all in the castle, though a due watchfulness
of the movements of the enemy was maintained. Hour passed after
hour, notwithstanding, and the sun had once more begun to fall
towards the summits of the western hills, and yet no signs were
seen of the return of the raft. By dint of sweeping the shore with
the glass, Deerslayer at length discovered a place in the dense
and dark woods where, he entertained no doubt, the Iroquois were
assembled in considerable numbers. It was near the thicket whence
the raft had issued, and a little rill that trickled into the
lake announced the vicinity of a spring. Here, then, the savages
were probably holding their consultation, and the decision was to
be made that went to settle the question of life or death for the
prisoners. There was one ground for hope in spite of the delay,
however, that Deerslayer did not fail to place before his anxious
companions. It was far more probable that the Indians had left their
prisoners in the camp, than that they had encumbered themselves by
causing them to follow through the woods a party that was out on
a merely temporary excursion. If such was the fact, it required
considerable time to send a messenger the necessary distance, and
to bring the two white men to the spot where they were to embark.
Encouraged by these reflections, a new stock of patience was
gathered, and the declension of the sun was viewed with less alarm.
The result justified Deerslayer's conjecture. Not long before the
sun had finally disappeared, the two logs were seen coming out of
the thicket, again, and as it drew near, Judith announced that her
father and Hurry, both of them pinioned, lay on the bushes in the
centre. As before, the two Indians were rowing. The latter seemed
to be conscious that the lateness of the hour demanded unusual
exertions, and contrary to the habits of their people, who are
ever averse to toil, they labored hard at the rude substitutes for
oars. In consequence of this diligence, the raft occupied its old
station in about half the time that had been taken in the previous
Even after the conditions were so well understood, and matters had
proceeded so far, the actual transfer of the prisoners was not a
duty to be executed without difficulty. The Iroquois were compelled
to place great reliance on the good faith of their foes, though it
was reluctantly given; and was yielded to necessity rather than to
confidence. As soon as Hutter and Hurry should be released, the
party in the castle numbered two to one, as opposed to those on the
raft, and escape by flight was out of the question, as the former
had three bark canoes, to say nothing of the defences of the house
and the Ark. All this was understood by both parties, and it is
probable the arrangement never could have been completed, had not
the honest countenance and manner of Deerslayer wrought their usual
effect on Rivenoak.
"My brother knows I put faith in him," said the latter, as he
advanced with Hutter, whose legs had been released to enable the
old man to ascend to the platform. "One scalp - one more beast."
"Stop, Mingo," interrupted the hunter, "keep your prisoner a moment.
I have to go and seek the means of payment."
This excuse, however, though true in part, was principally a fetch.
Deerslayer left the platform, and entering the house, he directed
Judith to collect all the arms and to conceal them in her own room.
He then spoke earnestly to the Delaware, who stood on guard as
before, near the entrance of the building, put the three remaining
castles in his pocket, and returned.
"You are welcome back to your old abode, Master Hutter," said
Deerslayer, as he helped the other up on the platform, slyly passing
into the hand of Rivenoak, at the same time, another of the castles.
"You'll find your darters right glad to see you, and here's Hetty
come herself to say as much in her own behalf."
Here the hunter stopped speaking and broke out into a hearty fit of
his silent and peculiar laughter. Hurry's legs were just released,
and he had been placed on his feet. So tightly had the ligatures
been drawn, that the use of his limbs was not immediately recovered,
and the young giant presented, in good sooth, a very helpless
and a somewhat ludicrous picture. It was this unusual spectacle,
particularly the bewildered countenance, that excited the merriment
"You look like a girdled pine in a clearin', Hurry Harry, that
is rocking in a gale," said Deerslayer, checking his unseasonable
mirth, more from delicacy to the others than from any respect to
the liberated captive. "I'm glad, howsever, to see that you haven't
had your hair dressed by any of the Iroquois barbers, in your late
visit to their camp."
"Harkee, Deerslayer," returned the other a little fiercely, "it
will be prudent for you to deal less in mirth and more in friendship
on this occasion. Act like a Christian, for once, and not like a
laughing gal in a country school when the master's back is turned,
and just tell me whether there's any feet, or not, at the end of
these legs of mine. I think I can see them, but as for feelin'
they might as well be down on the banks of the Mohawk, as be where
they seem to be."
"You've come off whole, Hurry, and that's not a little," answered
the other, secretly passing to the Indian the remainder of the
stipulated ransom, and making an earnest sign at the same moment
for him to commence his retreat. "You've come off whole, feet and
all, and are only a little numb from a tight fit of the withes.
Natur'll soon set the blood in motion, and then you may begin to
dance, to celebrate what I call a most wonderful and onexpected
deliverance from a den of wolves."
Deerslayer released the arms of his friends, as each landed, and the
two were now stamping and limping about on the platform, growling
and uttering denunciations as they endeavored to help the returning
circulation. They had been tethered too long, however, to regain
the use of their limbs in a moment, and the Indians being quite as
diligent on their return as on their advance, the raft was fully
a hundred yards from the castle when Hurry, turning accidentally
in that direction, discovered how fast it was getting beyond the
reach of his vengeance. By this time he could move with tolerable
facility, though still numb and awkward. Without considering his
own situation, however, he seized the rifle that leaned against
the shoulder of Deerslayer, and attempted to cock and present it.
The young hunter was too quick for him. Seizing the piece he
wrenched it from the hands of the giant, not, however, until it
had gone off in the struggle, when pointed directly upward. It is
probable that Deerslayer could have prevailed in such a contest,
on account of the condition of Hurry's limbs, but the instant the
gun went off, the latter yielded, and stumped towards the house,
raising his legs at each step quite a foot from the ground, from
an uncertainty of the actual position of his feet. But he had been
anticipated by Judith. The whole stock of Hutter's arms, which had
been left in the building as a resource in the event of a sudden
outbreaking of hostilities, had been removed, and were already
secreted, agreeably to Deerslayer's directions. In consequence
of this precaution, no means offered by which March could put his
designs in execution.
Disappointed in his vengeance, Hurry seated himself, and like
Hutter, for half an hour, he was too much occupied in endeavoring
to restore the circulation, and in regaining the use of his limbs,
to indulge in any other reflections. By the end of this time the
raft had disappeared, and night was beginning to throw her shadows once
more over the whole sylvan scene. Before darkness had completely
set in, and while the girls were preparing the evening meal,
Deerslayer related to Hutter an outline of events that had taken
place, and gave him a history of the means he had adopted for the
security of his children and property.
"As long as Edwarde rules thys lande,
Ne quiet you wylle ye know;
Your sonnes and husbandes shall be slayne,
And brookes with bloode shall 'flowe.'
'You leave youre geode and lawfulle kynge,
Whenne ynne adversity;
Like me, untoe the true cause stycke,
And for the true cause dye."
The calm of evening was again in singular contrast, while its
gathering gloom was in as singular unison with the passions of men.
The sun was set, and the rays of the retiring luminary had ceased
to gild the edges of the few clouds that had sufficient openings
to admit the passage of its fading light. The canopy overhead
was heavy and dense, promising another night of darkness, but the
surface of the lake was scarcely disturbed by a ripple. There was
a little air, though it scarce deserved to be termed wind. Still,
being damp and heavy, it had a certain force. The party in the
castle were as gloomy and silent as the scene. The two ransomed
prisoners felt humbled and discoloured, but their humility partook
of the rancour of revenge. They were far more disposed to remember
the indignity with which they had been treated during the last few
hours of their captivity, than to feel grateful for the previous
indulgence. Then that keen-sighted monitor, conscience, by reminding
them of the retributive justice of all they had endured, goaded
them rather to turn the tables on their enemies than to accuse
themselves. As for the others, they were thoughtful equally from
regret and joy. Deerslayer and Judith felt most of the former
sensation, though from very different causes, while Hetty for the
moment was perfectly happy. The Delaware had also lively pictures
of felicity in the prospect of so soon regaining his betrothed.
Under such circumstances, and in this mood, all were taking the
"Old Tom!" cried Hurry, bursting into a fit of boisterous laughter,
"you look'd amazin'ly like a tethered bear, as you was stretched
on them hemlock boughs, and I only wonder you didn't growl more.
Well, it's over, and syth's and lamentations won't mend the matter!
There's the blackguard Rivenoak, he that brought us off has an
oncommon scalp, and I'd give as much for it myself as the Colony.
Yes, I feel as rich as the governor in these matters now, and will
lay down with them doubloon for doubloon. Judith, darling, did
you mourn for me much, when I was in the hands of the Philipsteins?"
The last were a family of German descent on the Mohawk, to whom
Hurry had a great antipathy, and whom he had confounded with the
enemies of Judea.
"Our tears have raised the lake, Hurry March, as you might have
seen by the shore!" returned Judith, with a feigned levity that
she was far from feeling. "That Hetty and I should have grieved
for father was to be expected; but we fairly rained tears for you."
"We were sorry for poor Hurry, as well as for father, Judith!" put
in her innocent and unconscious sister.
"True, girl, true; but we feel sorrow for everybody that's in
trouble, you know," returned the other in a quick, admonitory manner
and a low tone. "Nevertheless, we are glad to see you, Master
March, and out of the hands of the Philipsteins, too."
"Yes, they're a bad set, and so is the other brood of 'em, down on
the river. It's a wonderment to me how you got us off, Deerslayer;
and I forgive you the interference that prevented my doin' justice
on that vagabond, for this small service. Let us into the secret,
that we may do you the same good turn, at need. Was it by lying,
or by coaxing?"
"By neither, Hurry, but by buying. We paid a ransom for you both,
and that, too, at a price so high you had well be on your guard
ag'in another captyvement, lest our stock of goods shouldn't hold
"A ransom! Old Tom has paid the fiddler, then, for nothing of
mine would have bought off the hair, much less the skin. I didn't
think men as keen set as them vagabonds would let a fellow up so
easy, when they had him fairly at a close hug, and floored. But
money is money, and somehow it's unnat'ral hard to withstand.
Indian or white man, 'tis pretty much the same. It must be owned,
Judith, there's a considerable of human natur' in mankind ginirally,
Hutter now rose, and signing to Deerslayer, he led him to an inner
room, where, in answer to his questions, he first learned the price
that had been paid for his release. The old man expressed neither
resentment nor surprise at the inroad that had been made on his
chest, though he did manifest some curiosity to know how far the
investigation of its contents had been carried. He also inquired
where the key had been found. The habitual frankness of Deerslayer
prevented any prevarication, and the conference soon terminated by
the return of the two to the outer room, or that which served for
the double purpose of parlour and kitchen.
"I wonder if it's peace or war, between us and the savages!"
exclaimed Hurry, just as Deerslayer, who had paused for a single
instant, listened attentively, and was passing through the outer
door without stopping. "This givin' up captives has a friendly
look, and when men have traded together on a fair and honourable
footing they ought to part fri'nds, for that occasion at least. Come
back, Deerslayer, and let us have your judgment, for I'm beginnin'
to think more of you, since your late behaviour, than I used to
"There's an answer to your question, Hurry, since you're in such
haste to come ag'in to blows."
As Deerslayer spoke, he threw on the table on which the other was
reclining with one elbow a sort of miniature fagot, composed of a
dozen sticks bound tightly together with a deer-skin thong. March
seized it eagerly, and holding it close to a blazing knot of pine
that lay on the hearth, and which gave out all the light there was
in the room, ascertained that the ends of the several sticks had
been dipped in blood.
"If this isn't plain English," said the reckless frontier man,
"it's plain Indian! Here's what they call a dicliration of war,
down at York, Judith. How did you come by this defiance, Deerslayer?"
"Fairly enough. It lay not a minut' since, in what you call Floatin'
"How came it there?"
"It never fell from the clouds, Judith, as little toads sometimes
do, and then it don't rain."
"You must prove where it come from, Deerslayer, or we shall suspect
some design to skear them that would have lost their wits long ago,
if fear could drive 'em away."
Deerslayer had approached a window, and cast a glance out of it on
the dark aspect of the lake. As if satisfied with what he beheld,
he drew near Hurry, and took the bundle of sticks into his own
hand, examining it attentively.
"Yes, this is an Indian declaration of war, sure enough," he said,
"and it's a proof how little you're suited to be on the path it
has travelled, Harry March, that it has got here, and you never
the wiser as to the means. The savages may have left the scalp on
your head, but they must have taken Off the ears; else you'd have
heard the stirring of the water made by the lad as he come off
ag'in on his two logs. His ar'n'd was to throw these sticks at
our door, as much as to say, we've struck the war-post since the
trade, and the next thing will be to strike you."
"The prowling wolves! But hand me that rifle, Judith, and I'll
send an answer back to the vagabonds through their messenger."
"Not while I stand by, Master March," coolly put in Deerslayer,
motioning for the other to forbear. "Faith is faith, whether given
to a red-skin, or to a Christian. The lad lighted a knot, and came
off fairly under its blaze to give us this warning; and no man
here should harm him, while empl'yed on such an ar'n'd. There's no
use in words, for the boy is too cunning to leave the knot burning,
now his business is done, and the night is already too dark for a
rifle to have any sartainty."
"That may be true enough, as to a gun, but there's virtue still in
a canoe," answered Hurry, passing towards the door with enormous
strides, carrying a rifle in his hands. "The being doesn't live
that shall stop me from following and bringing back that riptyle's
scalp. The more on 'em that you crush in the egg, the fewer there'll
be to dart at you in the woods!"
Judith trembled like the aspen, she scarce knew why herself, though
there was the prospect of a scene of violence; for if Hurry was
fierce and overbearing in the consciousness of his vast strength,
Deerslayer had about him the calm determination that promises
greater perseverance, and a resolution more likely to effect its
object. It was the stern, resolute eye of the latter, rather than
the noisy vehemence of the first, that excited her apprehensions.
Hurry soon reached the spot where the canoe was fastened, but
not before Deerslayer had spoken in a quick, earnest voice to the
Serpent, in Delaware. The latter had been the first, in truth, to
hear the sounds of the oars, and he had gone upon the platform in
jealous watchfulness. The light Satisfied him that a message was
coming, and when the boy cast his bundle of sticks at his feet, it
neither moved his anger nor induced surprise. He merely stood at
watch, rifle in hand, to make certain that no treachery lay behind
the defiance. As Deerslayer now called to him, he stepped into the
canoe, and quick as thought removed the paddles. Hurry was furious
when he found that he was deprived of the means of proceeding. He
first approached the Indian with loud menaces, and even Deerslayer
stood aghast at the probable consequences. March shook his
sledge-hammer fists and flourished his arms as he drew near the
Indian, and all expected he would attempt to fell the Delaware
to the earth; one of them, at least, was well aware that such
an experiment would be followed by immediate bloodshed. But even
Hurry was awed by the stern composure of the chief, and he, too,
knew that such a man was not to be outraged with impunity; he
therefore turned to vent his rage on Deerslayer, where he foresaw
no consequences so terrible. What might have been the result of
this second demonstration if completed, is unknown, since it was
"Hurry," said a gentle, soothing voice at his elbow, "it's wicked
to be so angry, and God will not overlook it. The Iroquois treated
you well, and they didn't take your scalp, though you and father
wanted to take theirs."
The influence of mildness on passion is well known. Hetty, too,
had earned a sort of consideration, that had never before been
enjoyed by her, through the self-devotion and decision of her recent
conduct. Perhaps her established mental imbecility, by removing
all distrust of a wish to control, aided her influence. Let the
cause be as questionable as it might, the effect we sufficiently
certain. Instead of throttling his old fellow-traveler, Hurry
turned to the girl and poured out a portion of his discontent, if
none of his anger, in her attentive ears.
"Tis too bad, Hetty!" he exclaimed; "as bad as a county gaol or
a lack of beaver, to get a creatur' into your very trap, then to
see it get off. As much as six first quality skins, in valie, has
paddled off on them clumsy logs, when twenty strokes of a well-turned
paddle would overtake 'em. I say in valie, for as to the boy in
the way of natur', he is only a boy, and is worth neither more nor
less than one. Deerslayer, you've been ontrue to your fri'nds in
letting such a chance slip through my fingers well as your own."
The answer was given quietly, but with a voice as steady as a
fearless nature and the consciousness of rectitude could make it.
"I should have been untrue to the right, had I done otherwise,"
returned the Deerslayer, steadily; "and neither you, nor any other
man has authority to demand that much of me. The lad came on
a lawful business, and the meanest red-skin that roams the woods
would be ashamed of not respecting his ar'n'd. But he's now far
beyond your reach, Master March, and there's little use in talking,
like a couple of women, of what can no longer be helped."
So saying, Deerslayer turned away, like one resolved to waste no more
words on the subject, while Hutter pulled Harry by the sleeve, and
led him into the ark. There they sat long in private conference.
In the mean time, the Indian and his friend had their secret
consultation; for, though it wanted some three or four hours to the
rising of the star, the former could not abstain from canvassing
his scheme, and from opening his heart to the other. Judith,
too, yielded to her softer feelings, and listened to the whole of
Hetty's artless narrative of what occurred after she landed. The
woods had few terrors for either of these girls, educated as they
had been, and accustomed as they were to look out daily at their
rich expanse or to wander beneath their dark shades; but the elder
sister felt that she would have hesitated about thus venturing
alone into an Iroquois camp. Concerning Hist, Hetty was not very
communicative. She spoke of her kindness and gentleness and of the
meeting in the forest; but the secret of Chingachgook was guarded
with a shrewdness and fidelity that many a sharper-witted girl
might have failed to display.
At length the several conferences were broken up by the reappearance
of Hutter on the platform. Here he assembled the whole party, and
communicated as much of his intentions as he deemed expedient. Of
the arrangement made by Deerslayer, to abandon the castle during
the night and to take refuge in the ark, he entirely approved.
It struck him as it had the others, as the only effectual means
of escaping destruction. Now that the savages had turned their
attention to the construction of rafts, no doubt could exist of
their at least making an attempt to carry the building, and the
message of the bloody sticks sufficiently showed their confidence
in their own success. In short, the old man viewed the night as
critical, and he called on all to get ready as soon as possible, in
order to abandon the dwellings temporarily at least, if not forever.
These communications made, everything proceeded promptly and with
intelligence; the castle was secured in the manner already described,
the canoes were withdrawn from the dock and fastened to the ark by
the side of the other; the few necessaries that had been left in
the house were transferred to the cabin, the fire was extinguished
and all embarked.
The vicinity of the hills, with their drapery of pines, had the
effect to render nights that were obscure darker than common on the
lake. As usual, however, a belt of comparative light was etched
through the centre of the sheet, while it was within the shadows
of the mountains that the gloom rested most heavily on the water.
The island, or castle, stood in this belt of comparative light, but
still the night was so dark as to cover the aperture of the ark.
At the distance of an observer on the shore her movements could not
be seen at all, more particularly as a background of dark hillside
filled up the perspective of every view that was taken diagonally
or directly across the water. The prevailing wind on the lakes
of that region is west, but owing to the avenues formed by the
mountains it is frequently impossible to tell the true direction of
the currents, as they often vary within short distances and brief
differences of time. This is truer in light fluctuating puffs of
air than in steady breezes; though the squalls of even the latter
are familiarly known to be uncertain and baffling in all mountainous
regions and narrow waters. On the present occasion, Hutter himself
(as he shoved the ark from her berth at the side of the platform)
was at a loss to pronounce which way the wind blew. In common,
this difficulty was solved by the clouds, which, floating high
above the hill tops, as a matter of course obeyed the currents; but
now the whole vault of heaven seemed a mass of gloomy wall. Not
an opening of any sort was visible, and Chingachgook we already
trembling lest the non-appearance of the star might prevent his
betrothed from being punctual to her appointment. Under these
circumstances, Hutter hoisted his sail, seemingly with the sole