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The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

Part 6 out of 11

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intention of getting away from the castle, as it might be dangerous
to remain much longer in its vicinity. The air soon filled the
cloth, and when the scow was got under command, and the sail was
properly trimmed, it was found that the direction was southerly,
inclining towards the eastern shore. No better course offering
for the purposes of the party, the singular craft was suffered to
skim the surface of the water in this direction for more than hour,
when a change in the currents of the air drove them over towards
the camp.

Deerslayer watched all the movements of Hutter and Harry with
jealous attention. At first, he did not know whether to ascribe
the course they held to accident or to design; but he now began to
suspect the latter. Familiar as Hutter was with the lake, it was
easy to deceive one who had little practice on the water; and let
his intentions be what they might, it was evident, ere two hours
had elapsed, that the ark had got sufficient space to be within a
hundred rods of the shore, directly abreast of the known position
of the camp. For a considerable time previously to reaching this
point, Hurry, who had some knowledge of the Algonquin language,
had been in close conference with the Indian, and the result was
now announced by the latter to Deerslayer, who had been a cold,
not to say distrusted, looker-on of all that passed.

"My old father, and my young brother, the Big Pine," - for so
the Delaware had named March - "want to see Huron scalps at their
belts," said Chingachgook to his friend. "There is room for some
on the girdle of the Sarpent, and his people will look for them when
he goes back to his village. Their eyes must not be left long in
a fog, but they must see what they look for. I know that my brother
has a white hand; he will not strike even the dead. He will wait
for us; when we come back, he will not hide his face from shame
for his friend. The great Serpent of the Mohicans must be worthy
to go on the war-path with Hawkeye."

"Ay, ay, Sarpent, I see how it is; that name's to stick, and in
time I shall get to be known by it instead of Deerslayer; well, if
such honours will come, the humblest of us all must be willing to
abide by 'em. As for your looking for scalps, it belongs to your
gifts, and I see no harm in it. Be marciful, Sarpent, howsever;
be marciful, I beseech of you. It surely can do no harm to a
red-skin's honour to show a little marcy. As for the old man, the
father of two young women, who might ripen better feelin's in his
heart, and Harry March, here, who, pine as he is, might better bear
the fruit of a more Christianized tree, as for them two, I leave
them in the hands of the white man's God. Wasn't it for the bloody
sticks, no man should go ag'in the Mingos this night, seein' that
it would dishonor our faith and characters; but them that crave
blood can't complain if blood is shed at their call. Still, Sarpent,
you can be marciful. Don't begin your career with the wails of
women and the cries of children. Bear yourself so that Hist will
smile, and not weep, when she meets you. Go, then; and the Manitou
presarve you!"

"My brother will stay here with the scow. Wah will soon be standing
on the shore waiting, and Chingachgook must hasten."

The Indian then joined his two co-adventurers, and first lowering
the sail, they all three entered the canoe, and left the side of
the ark. Neither Hutter nor March spoke to Deerslayer concerning
their object, or the probable length of their absence. All this
had been confided to the Indian, who had acquitted himself of the
trust with characteristic brevity. As soon as the canoe was out of
sight, and that occurred ere the paddles had given a dozen strokes,
Deerslayer made the best dispositions he could to keep the ark as
nearly stationary as possible; and then he sat down in the end of
the scow, to chew the cud of his own bitter reflections. It was
not long, however, before he was joined by Judith, who sought every
occasion to be near him, managing her attack on his affections
with the address that was suggested by native coquetry, aided by
no little practice, but which received much of its most dangerous
power from the touch of feeling that threw around her manner, voice,
accents, thoughts, and acts, the indescribable witchery of natural
tenderness. Leaving the young hunter exposed to these dangerous
assailants, it has become our more immediate business to follow
the party in the canoe to the shore.

The controlling influence that led Hutter and Hurry to repeat their
experiment against the camp was precisely that which had induced
the first attempt, a little heightened, perhaps, by the desire
of revenge. But neither of these two rude beings, so ruthless in
all things that touched the rights and interests of the red man,
thought possessing veins of human feeling on other matters, was much
actuated by any other desire than a heartless longing for profit.
Hurry had felt angered at his sufferings, when first liberated, it
is true, but that emotion soon disappeared in the habitual love
of gold, which he sought with the reckless avidity of a needy
spendthrift, rather than with the ceaseless longings of a miser.
In short, the motive that urged them both so soon to go against
the Hurons, was an habitual contempt of their enemy, acting on
the unceasing cupidity of prodigality. The additional chances of
success, however, had their place in the formation of the second
enterprise. It was known that a large portion of the warriors
-perhaps all - were encamped for the night abreast of the castle,
and it was hoped that the scalps of helpless victims would be
the consequence. To confess the truth, Hutter in particular - he
who had just left two daughters behind him - expected to find few
besides women and children in the camp. The fact had been but
slightly alluded to in his communications with Hurry, and with
Chingachgook it had been kept entirely out of view. If the Indian
thought of it at all, it was known only to himself.

Hutter steered the canoe; Hurry had manfully taken his post in the
bows, and Chingachgook stood in the centre. We say stood, for all
three were so skilled in the management of that species of frail
bark, as to be able to keep erect positions in the midst of the
darkness. The approach to the shore was made with great caution,
and the landing effected in safety. The three now prepared their
arms, and began their tiger-like approach upon the camp. The Indian
was on the lead, his two companions treading in his footsteps with
a stealthy cautiousness of manner that rendered their progress almost
literally noiseless. Occasionally a dried twig snapped under the
heavy weight of the gigantic Hurry, or the blundering clumsiness
of the old man; but, had the Indian walked on air, his step could
not have seemed lighter. The great object was first to discover
the position of the fire, which was known to be the centre of the
whole encampment. At length the keen eye of Chingachgook caught a
glimpse of this important guide. It was glimmering at a distance
among the trunks of trees. There was no blaze, but merely a single
smouldering brand, as suited the hour; the savages usually retiring
and rising with the revolutions of the sun.

As soon as a view was obtained of this beacon, the progress of the
adventurers became swifter and more certain. In a few minutes they
got to the edge of the circle of little huts. Here they stopped to
survey their ground, and to concert their movements. The darkness
was so deep as to render it difficult to distinguish anything but
the glowing brand, the trunks of the nearest trees, and the endless
canopy of leaves that veiled the clouded heaven. It was ascertained,
however, that a hut was quite near, and Chingachgook attempted to
reconnnoitre its interior. The manner in which the Indian approached
the place that was supposed to contain enemies, resembled the wily
advances of the cat on the bird. As he drew near, he stooped to
his hands and knees, for the entrance was so low as to require this
attitude, even as a convenience. Before trusting his head inside,
however, he listened long to catch the breathing of sleepers. No
sound was audible, and this human Serpent thrust his head in at
the door, or opening, as another serpent would have peered in on
the nest. Nothing rewarded the hazardous experiment; for, after
feeling cautiously with a hand, the place was found to be empty.

The Delaware proceeded in the same guarded manner to one or two more
of the huts, finding all in the same situation. He then returned
to his companions, and informed them that the Hurons had deserted
their camp. A little further inquiry corroborated this fact, and
it only remained to return to the canoe. The different manner
in which the adventurers bore the disappointment is worthy of a
passing remark. The chief, who had landed solely with the hope of
acquiring renown, stood stationary, leaning against a tree, waiting
the pleasure of his companions. He was mortified, and a little
surprised, it is true; but he bore all with dignity, falling back
for support on the sweeter expectations that still lay in reserve
for that evening. It was true, he could not now hope to meet his
mistress with the proofs of his daring and skill on his person, but
he might still hope to meet her; and the warrior, who was zealous
in the search, might always hope to be honored. On the other hand,
Hutter and Hurry, who had been chiefly instigated by the basest of
all human motives, the thirst of gain, could scarce control their
feelings. They went prowling among the huts, as if they expected
to find some forgotten child or careless sleeper; and again and
again did they vent their spite on the insensible huts, several of
which were actually torn to pieces, and scattered about the place.
Nay, they even quarrelled with each other, and fierce reproaches
passed between them. It is possible some serious consequences might
have occurred, had not the Delaware interfered to remind them of
the danger of being so unguarded, and of the necessity of returning
to the ark. This checked the dispute, and in a few minutes they
were paddling sullenly back to the spot where they hoped to find
that vessel.

It has been said that Judith took her place at the side of Deerslayer,
soon after the adventurers departed. For a short time the girl
was silent, and the hunter was ignorant which of the sisters had
approached him, but he soon recognized the rich, full-spirited
voice of the elder, as her feelings escaped in words.

"This is a terrible life for women, Deerslayer!" she exclaimed.
"Would to Heaven I could see an end of it!"

"The life is well enough, Judith," was the answer, "being pretty
much as it is used or abused. What would you wish to see in its

"I should be a thousand times happier to live nearer to civilized
beings - where there are farms and churches, and houses built as
it might be by Christian hands; and where my sleep at night would
be sweet and tranquil! A dwelling near on of the forts would be
far better than this dreary place where we live!"

"Nay, Judith, I can't agree too lightly in the truth of all this.
If forts are good to keep off inimies, they sometimes hold inimies
of their own. I don't think 'twould be for your good, or the good
of Hetty, to live near one; and if I must say what I think, I'm
afeard you are a little too near as it is." Deerslayer went on,
in his own steady, earnest manner, for the darkness concealed the
tints that colored the cheeks of the girl almost to the brightness
of crimson, while her own great efforts suppressed the sounds of
the breathing that nearly choked her. "As for farms, they have
their uses, and there's them that like to pass their lives on 'em;
but what comfort can a man look for in a clearin', that he can't find
in double quantities in the forest? If air, and room, and light,
are a little craved, the windrows and the streams will furnish
'em, or here are the lakes for such as have bigger longings in that
way; but where are you to find your shades, and laughing springs,
and leaping brooks, and vinerable trees, a thousand years old,
in a clearin'? You don't find them, but you find their disabled
trunks, marking the 'arth like headstones in a graveyard. It
seems to me that the people who live in such places must be always
thinkin' of their own inds, and of universal decay; and that, too,
not of the decay that is brought about by time and natur', but the
decay that follows waste and violence. Then as to churches, they
are good, I suppose, else wouldn't good men uphold 'em. But they
are not altogether necessary. They call 'em the temples of the
Lord; but, Judith, the whole 'arth is a temple of the Lord to such
as have the right mind. Neither forts nor churches make people
happier of themselves. Moreover, all is contradiction in the
settlements, while all is concord in the woods. Forts and churches
almost always go together, and yet they're downright contradictions;
churches being for peace, and forts for war. No, no - give me
the strong places of the wilderness, which is the trees, and the
churches, too, which are arbors raised by the hand of natur'."

"Woman is not made for scenes like these, Deerslayer, scenes of
which we shall have no end, as long as this war lasts."

"If you mean women of white colour, I rather think you're not far
from the truth, gal; but as for the females of the redmen, such
visitations are quite in character. Nothing would make Hist, now,
the bargained wife of yonder Delaware, happier than to know that
he is at this moment prowling around his nat'ral inimies, striving
after a scalp."

"Surely, surely, Deerslayer, she cannot be a woman, and not feel
concern when she thinks the man she loves is in danger!"

"She doesn't think of the danger, Judith, but of the honor; and
when the heart is desperately set on such feelin's, why, there is
little room to crowd in fear. Hist is a kind, gentle, laughing,
pleasant creatur', but she loves honor, as well as any Delaware
gal I ever know'd. She's to meet the Sarpent an hour hence, on the
p'int where Hetty landed, and no doubt she has her anxiety about
it, like any other woman; but she'd be all the happier did she know
that her lover was at this moment waylaying a Mingo for his scalp."

"If you really believe this, Deerslayer, no wonder you lay so
much stress on gifts. Certain am I, that no white girl could feel
anything but misery while she believed her betrothed in danger of
his life! Nor do I suppose even you, unmoved and calm as you ever
seem to be, could be at peace if you believed your Hist in danger."

"That's a different matter - 'tis altogether a different matter,
Judith. Woman is too weak and gentle to be intended to run such
risks, and man must feel for her. Yes, I rather think that's as
much red natur' as it's white. But I have no Hist, nor am I like
to have; for I hold it wrong to mix colours, any way except in
friendship and sarvices."

"In that you are and feel as a white man should! As for Hurry
Harry, I do think it would be all the same to him whether his wife
were a squaw or a governor's daughter, provided she was a little
comely, and could help to keep his craving stomach full."

"You do March injustice, Judith; yes, you do. The poor fellow dotes
on you, and when a man has ra'ally set his heart on such a creatur'
it isn't a Mingo, or even a Delaware gal, that'll be likely to
unsettle his mind. You may laugh at such men as Hurry and I, for
we're rough and unteached in the ways of books and other knowledge;
but we've our good p'ints, as well as our bad ones. An honest
heart is not to be despised, gal, even though it be not varsed in
all the niceties that please the female fancy."

"You, Deerslayer! And do you - can you, for an instant, suppose
I place you by the side of Harry March? No, no, I am not so far
gone in dullness as that. No one - man or woman - could think of
naming your honest heart, manly nature, and simple truth, with the
boisterous selfishness, greedy avarice, and overbearing ferocity of
Harry March. The very best that can be said of him, is to be found
in his name of Hurry Skurry, which, if it means no great harm,
means no great good. Even my father, following his feelings with
the other, as he is doing at this moment, well knows the difference
between you. This I know, for he said as much to me, in plain

Judith was a girl of quick sensibilities and of impetuous feelings;
and, being under few of the restraints that curtail the manifestations
of maiden emotions among those who are educated in the habits of
civilized life, she sometimes betrayed the latter with a feeling
that was so purely natural as to place it as far above the wiles of
coquetry as it was superior to its heartlessness. She had now even
taken one of the hard hands of the hunter and pressed it between
both her own, with a warmth and earnestness that proved how sincere
was her language. It was perhaps fortunate that she was checked by
the very excess of her feelings, since the same power might have
urged her on to avow all that her father had said - the old man
not having been satisfied with making a comparison favorable to
Deerslayer, as between the hunter and Hurry, but having actually,
in his blunt rough way, briefly advised his daughter to cast off the
latter entirely, and to think of the former as a husband. Judith
would not willingly have said this to any other man, but there
was so much confidence awakened by the guileless simplicity of
Deerslayer, that one of her nature found it a constant temptation
to overstep the bounds of habit. She went no further, however,
immediately relinquishing the hand, and falling back on a reserve
that was more suited to her sex, and, indeed, to her natural modesty.

"Thankee, Judith, thankee with all my heart," returned the hunter, whose
humility prevented him from placing any flattering interpretation
on either the conduct or the language of the girl. "Thankee as much
as if it was all true. Harry's sightly - yes, he's as sightly as
the tallest pine of the mountains, and the Sarpent has named him
accordingly; however, some fancy good looks, and some fancy good
conduct, only. Hurry has one advantage, and it depends on himself
whether he'll have t'other or - Hark! That's your father's voice,
gal, and he speaks like a man who's riled at something."

"God save us from any more of these horrible scenes!" exclaimed
Judith, bending her face to her knees, and endeavoring to exclude
the discordant sounds, by applying her hands to her ears. "I
sometimes wish I had no father!"

This was bitterly said, and the repinings which extorted the words
were bitterly felt. It is impossible to say what might next have
escaped her had not a gentle, low voice spoken at her elbow.

"Judith, I ought to have read a chapter to father and Hurry!" said
the innocent but terrified speaker, "and that would have kept them
from going again on such an errand. Do you call to them, Deerslayer,
and tell them I want them, and that it will be good for them both
if they'll return and hearken to my words."

"Ah's me! Poor Hetty, you little know the cravin's for gold and
revenge, if you believe they are so easily turned aside from their
longin's! But this is an uncommon business in more ways than one,
Judith. I hear your father and Hurry growling like bears, and yet
no noise comes from the mouth of the young chief. There's an ind
of secrecy, and yet his whoop, which ought to ring in the mountains,
accordin' to rule in such sarcumstances, is silent!"

"Justice may have alighted on him, and his death have saved the
lives of the innocent."

"Not it - not it - the Sarpent is not the one to suffer if that's
to be the law. Sartainly there has been no onset, and 'tis
most likely that the camp's deserted, and the men are comin' back
disapp'inted. That accounts for the growls of Hurry and the silence
of the Sarpent."

Just at this instant a fall of a paddle was heard in the canoe,
for vexation made March reckless. Deerslayer felt convinced that
his conjecture was true. The sail being down, the ark had not
drifted far; and ere many minutes he heard Chingachgook, in a low,
quiet tone, directing Hutter how to steer in order to reach it.
In less time than it takes to tell the fact, the canoe touched the
scow, and the adventurers entered the latter. Neither Hutter nor
Hurry spoke of what had occurred. But the Delaware, in passing
his friend, merely uttered the words "fire's out," which, if not
literally true, sufficiently explained the truth to his listener.

It was now a question as to the course to be steered. A short
surly conference was held, when Hutter decided that the wisest way
would be to keep in motion as the means most likely to defeat any
attempt at a surprise - announcing his own and March's intention
to requite themselves for the loss of sleep during their captivity,
by lying down. As the air still baffled and continued light, it was
finally determined to sail before it, let it come in what direction
it might, so long as it did not blow the ark upon the strand. This
point settled, the released prisoners helped to hoist the sail, and
they threw themselves upon two of the pallets, leaving Deerslayer
and his friend to look after the movements of the craft. As neither
of the latter was disposed to sleep, on account of the appointment
with Hist, this arrangement was acceptable to all parties. That
Judith and Hetty remained up also, in no manner impaired the
agreeable features of this change.

For some time the scow rather drifted than sailed along the western
shore, following a light southerly current of the air. The progress
was slow - not exceeding a couple of miles in the hour - but the
two men perceived that it was not only carrying them towards the
point they desired to reach, but at a rate that was quite as fast
as the hour yet rendered necessary. But little more was said the
while even by the girls; and that little had more reference to the
rescue of Hist than to any other subject. The Indian was calm to
the eye, but as minute after minute passed, his feelings became
more and more excited, until they reached a state that might have
satisfied the demands of even the most exacting mistress. Deerslayer
kept the craft as much in the bays as was prudent, for the double
purpose of sailing within the shadows of the woods, and of detecting
any signs of an encampment they might pass on the shore. In this
manner they doubled one low point, and were already in the bay that
was terminated north by the goal at which they aimed. The latter
was still a quarter of a mile distant, when Chingachgook came
silently to the side of his friend and pointed to a place directly
ahead. A small fire was glimmering just within the verge of
the bushes that lined the shore on the southern side of the point
-leaving no doubt that the Indians had suddenly removed their camp
to the very place, or at least the very projection of land where
Hist had given them the rendezvous!

Chapter XVI

"I hear thee babbling to the vale
Of sunshine and of flowers,
But unto me thou bring'st a tale
Of visionary hours."


One discovery mentioned at the close of the preceding chapter
was of great moment in the eyes of Deerslayer and his friend. In
the first place, there was the danger, almost the certainty, that
Hutter and Hurry would make a fresh attempt on this camp, should
they awake and ascertain its position. Then there was the increased
risk of landing to bring off Hist; and there were the general
uncertainty and additional hazards that must follow from the
circumstance that their enemies had begun to change their positions.
As the Delaware was aware that the hour was near when he ought to
repair to the rendezvous, he no longer thought of trophies torn
from his foes, and one of the first things arranged between him and
his associate was to permit the two others to sleep on, lest they
should disturb the execution of their plans by substituting some
of their own. The ark moved slowly, and it would have taken fully
a quarter of an hour to reach the point, at the rate at which
they were going, thus affording time for a little forethought.
The Indians, in the wish to conceal their fire from those who
were thought to be still in the castle, had placed it so near the
southern side of the point as to render it extremely difficult to
shut it in by the bushes, though Deerslayer varied the direction
of the scow both to the right and to the left, in the hope of being
able to effect that object.

"There's one advantage, Judith, in finding that fire so near the
water," he said, while executing these little manoeuvres, "since it
shows the Mingos believe we are in the hut, and our coming on 'em
from this quarter will be an unlooked for event. But it's lucky
Harry March and your father are asleep, else we should have 'em
prowling after scalps ag'in. Ha! there - the bushes are beginning
to shut in the fire - and now it can't be seen at all!"

Deerslayer waited a little to make certain that he had at last
gained the desired position, when he gave the signal agreed on,
and Chingachgook let go the grapnel and lowered the sail.

The situation in which the ark now lay had its advantages and its
disadvantages. The fire had been hid by sheering towards the shore,
and the latter was nearer, perhaps, than was desirable. Still,
the water was known to be very deep further off in the lake, and
anchoring in deep water, under the circumstances in which the party
was placed, was to be avoided, if possible. It was also believed
no raft could be within miles; and though the trees in the darkness
appeared almost to overhang the scow, it would not be easy to get
off to her without using a boat. The intense darkness that prevailed
so close in with the forest, too, served as an effectual screen,
and so long as care was had not to make a noise, there was little
or no danger of being detected. All these things Deerslayer pointed
out to Judith, instructing her as to the course she was to follow
in the event of an alarm; for it was thought to the last degree
inexpedient to arouse the sleepers, unless it might be in the
greatest emergency.

"And now, Judith, as we understand one another, it is time the
Sarpent and I had taken to the canoe," the hunter concluded. "The
star has not risen yet, it's true, but it soon must, though none
of us are likely to be any the wiser for it tonight, on account
of the clouds. Howsever, Hist has a ready mind, and she's one of
them that doesn't always need to have a thing afore her, to see it.
I'll warrant you she'll not be either two minutes or two feet out
of the way, unless them jealous vagabonds, the Mingos, have taken
the alarm, and put her as a stool-pigeon to catch us, or have hid
her away, in order to prepare her mind for a Huron instead of a
Mohican husband."

"Deerslayer," interrupted the girl, earnestly; "this is a most
dangerous service; why do you go on it, at all?"

"Anan! - Why you know, gal, we go to bring off Hist, the Sarpent's
betrothed - the maid he means to marry, as soon as we get back to
the tribe."

"That is all right for the Indian - but you do not mean to marry
Hist - you are not betrothed, and why should two risk their lives
and liberties, to do that which one can just as well perform?"

"Ah - now I understand you, Judith - yes, now I begin to take the
idee. You think as Hist is the Sarpent's betrothed, as they call
it, and not mine, it's altogether his affair; and as one man can
paddle a canoe he ought to be left to go after his gal alone! But
you forget this is our ar'n'd here on the lake, and it would not
tell well to forget an ar'n'd just as the pinch came. Then, if
love does count for so much with some people, particularly with
young women, fri'ndship counts for something, too, with other
some. I dares to say, the Delaware can paddle a canoe by himself,
and can bring off Hist by himself, and perhaps he would like that
quite as well, as to have me with him; but he couldn't sarcumvent
sarcumventions, or stir up an ambushment, or fight with the savages,
and get his sweetheart at the same time, as well by himself as if
he had a fri'nd with him to depend on, even if that fri'nd is no
better than myself. No - no - Judith, you wouldn't desert one that
counted on you, at such a moment, and you can't, in reason, expect
me to do it."

"I fear - I believe you are right, Deerslayer, and yet I wish you
were not to go! Promise me one thing, at least, and that is, not
to trust yourself among the savages, or to do anything more than
to save the girl. That will be enough for once, and with that you
ought to be satisfied."

"Lord bless you! gal; one would think it was Hetty that's talking,
and not the quick-witted and wonderful Judith Hutter! But fright
makes the wise silly, and the strong weak. Yes, I've seen proofs
of that, time and ag'in! Well, it's kind and softhearted in you,
Judith, to feel this consarn for a fellow creatur', and I shall
always say that you are kind and of true feelings, let them that
envy your good looks tell as many idle stories of you as they may."

"Deerslayer!" hastily said the girl, interrupting him, though nearly
choked by her own emotions; "do you believe all you hear about a
poor, motherless girl? Is the foul tongue of Hurry Harry to blast
my life?"

"Not it, Judith - not it. I've told Hurry it wasn't manful to
backbite them he couldn't win by fair means; and that even an Indian
is always tender, touching a young woman's good name."

"If I had a brother, he wouldn't dare to do it!" exclaimed Judith,
with eyes flashing fire. "But, finding me without any protector but
an old man, whose ears are getting to be as dull as his feelings,
he has his way as he pleases!"

"Not exactly that, Judith; no, not exactly that, neither! No
man, brother or stranger, would stand by and see as fair a gal as
yourself hunted down, without saying a word in her behalf. Hurry's
in 'arnest in wanting to make you his wife, and the little he does
let out ag'in you, comes more from jealousy, like, than from any
thing else. Smile on him when he awakes, and squeeze his hand
only half as hard as you squeezed mine a bit ago, and my life on
it, the poor fellow will forget every thing but your comeliness.
Hot words don't always come from the heart, but oftener from the
stomach than anywhere else. Try him, Judith, when he awakes, and
see the virtue of a smile."

Deerslayer laughed, in his own manner, as he concluded, and then he
intimated to the patient-looking, but really impatient Chingachgook,
his readiness to proceed. As the young man entered the canoe, the
girl stood immovable as stone, lost in the musings that the language
and manner of the other were likely to produce. The simplicity
of the hunter had completely put her at fault; for, in her narrow
sphere, Judith was an expert manager of the other sex; though in
the present instance she was far more actuated by impulses, in all
she had said and done, than by calculation. We shall not deny that
some of Judith's reflections were bitter, though the sequel of the
tale must be referred to, in order to explain how merited, or how
keen were her sufferings.

Chingachgook and his pale-face friend set forth on their hazardous
and delicate enterprise, with a coolness and method that would have
done credit to men who were on their twentieth, instead of being
on their first, war-path. As suited his relation to the pretty
fugitive, in whose service they were engaged, the Indian took his
place in the head of the canoe; while Deerslayer guided its movements
in the stern. By this arrangement, the former would be the first
to land, and of course, the first to meet his mistress. The latter
had taken his post without comment, but in secret influenced by the
reflection that one who had so much at stake as the Indian, might
not possibly guide the canoe with the same steadiness and intelligence,
as another who had more command of his feelings. From the instant
they left the side of the ark, the movements of the two adventurers
were like the manoeuvres of highly-drilled soldiers, who, for the
first time were called on to meet the enemy in the field. As yet,
Chingachgook had never fired a shot in anger, and the debut of
his companion in warfare is known to the reader. It is true, the
Indian had been hanging about his enemy's camp for a few hours, on
his first arrival, and he had even once entered it, as related in
the last chapter, but no consequences had followed either experiment.
Now, it was certain that an important result was to be effected,
or a mortifying failure was to ensue. The rescue, or the continued
captivity of Hist, depended on the enterprise. In a word, it was
virtually the maiden expedition of these two ambitious young forest
soldiers; and while one of them set forth impelled by sentiments
that usually carry men so far, both had all their feelings of pride
and manhood enlisted in their success.

Instead of steering in a direct line to the point, then distant
from the ark less than a quarter of a mile, Deerslayer laid the
head of his canoe diagonally towards the centre of the lake, with
a view to obtain a position from which he might approach the shore,
having his enemies in his front only. The spot where Hetty had
landed, and where Hist had promised to meet them, moreover, was on
the upper side of the projection rather than on the lower; and to
reach it would have required the two adventurers to double nearly
the whole point, close in with the shore, had not this preliminary
step been taken. So well was the necessity for this measure
understood, that Chingachgook quietly paddled on, although it was
adopted without consulting him, and apparently was taking him in
a direction nearly opposite to that one might think he most wished
to go. A few minutes sufficed, however, to carry the canoe the
necessary distance, when both the young men ceased paddling as it
were by instinctive consent, and the boat became stationary. The
darkness increased rather than diminished, but it was still
possible, from the place where the adventurers lay, to distinguish
the outlines of the mountains. In vain did the Delaware turn
his head eastward, to catch a glimpse of the promised star; for,
notwithstanding the clouds broke a little near the horizon in
that quarter of the heavens, the curtain continued so far drawn as
effectually to conceal all behind it. In front, as was known by
the formation of land above and behind it, lay the point, at the
distance of about a thousand feet. No signs of the castle could
be seen, nor could any movement in that quarter of the lake reach
the ear. The latter circumstance might have been equally owing to
the distance, which was several miles, or to the fact that nothing
was in motion. As for the ark, though scarcely farther from the
canoe than the point, it lay so completely buried in the shadows
of the shore, that it would not have been visible even had there
been many degrees more of light than actually existed.

The adventurers now held a conference in low voices, consulting
together as to the probable time. Deerslayer thought it wanted
yet some minutes to the rising of the star, while the impatience
of the chief caused him to fancy the night further advanced, and
to believe that his betrothed was already waiting his appearance on
the shore. As might have been expected, the opinion of the latter
prevailed, and his friend disposed himself to steer for the place
of rendezvous. The utmost skill and precaution now became necessary in
the management of the canoe. The paddles were lifted and returned
to the water in a noiseless manner; and when within a hundred
yards of the beach, Chingachgook took in his, altogether laying
his hand on his rifle in its stead. As they got still more within
the belt of darkness that girded the woods, it was seen that they
were steering too far north, and the course was altered accordingly.
The canoe now seemed to move by instinct, so cautious and deliberate
were all its motions. Still it continued to advance, until its
bows grated on the gravel of the beach, at the precise spot where
Hetty had landed, and whence her voice had issued, the previous
night, as the ark was passing. There was, as usual, a narrow
strand, but bushes fringed the woods, and in most places overhung
the water.

Chingachgook stepped upon the beach, and cautiously examined it for
some distance on each side of the canoe. In order to do this, he
was often obliged to wade to his knees in the lake, but no Hist
rewarded his search. When he returned, he found his friend also on
the shore. They next conferred in whispers, the Indian apprehending
that they must have mistaken the place of rendezvous. But Deerslayer
thought it was probable they had mistaken the hour. While he was
yet speaking, he grasped the arm of the Delaware, caused him to
turn his head in the direction of the lake, and pointed towards the
summits of the eastern mountains. The clouds had broken a little,
apparently behind rather than above the hills, and the evening
star was glittering among the branches of a pine. This was every
way a flattering omen, and the young men leaned on their rifles,
listening intently for the sound of approaching footsteps. Voices
they often heard, and mingled with them were the suppressed cries
of children, and the low but sweet laugh of Indian women. As the
native Americans are habitually cautious, and seldom break out in
loud conversation, the adventurers knew by these facts that they
must be very near the encampment. It was easy to perceive that
there was a fire within the woods, by the manner in which some of
the upper branches of the trees were illuminated, but it was not
possible, where they stood, to ascertain exactly how near it was to
themselves. Once or twice, it seemed as if stragglers from around
the fire were approaching the place of rendezvous; but these
sounds were either altogether illusion, or those who had drawn near
returned again without coming to the shore. A quarter of an hour
was passed in this state of intense expectation and anxiety, when
Deerslayer proposed that they should circle the point in the canoe;
and by getting a position close in, where the camp could be seen,
reconnoitre the Indians, and thus enable themselves to form some
plausible conjectures for the non-appearance of Hist. The Delaware,
however, resolutely refused to quit the spot, reasonably enough
offering as a reason the disappointment of the girl, should she
arrive in his absence. Deerslayer felt for his friend's concern,
and offered to make the circuit of the point by himself, leaving
the latter concealed in the bushes to await the occurrence of any
fortunate event that might favour his views. With this understanding,
then, the parties separated.

As soon as Deerslayer was at his post again, in the stern of the
canoe, he left the shore with the same precautions, and in the
same noiseless manner, as he had approached it. On this occasion
he did not go far from the land, the bushes affording a sufficient
cover, by keeping as close in as possible. Indeed, it would not
have been easy to devise any means more favourable to reconnoitering
round an Indian camp, than those afforded by the actual state
of things. The formation of the point permitted the place to be
circled on three of its sides, and the progress of the boat was
so noiseless as to remove any apprehensions from an alarm through
sound. The most practised and guarded foot might stir a bunch of
leaves, or snap a dried stick in the dark, but a bark canoe could
be made to float over the surface of smooth water, almost with the
instinctive readiness, and certainly with the noiseless movements
of an aquatic bird.

Deerslayer had got nearly in a line between the camp and the ark
before he caught a glimpse of the fire. This came upon him suddenly,
and a little unexpectedly, at first causing an alarm, lest he had
incautiously ventured within the circle of light it cast. But
perceiving at a second glance that he was certainly safe from
detection, so long as the Indians kept near the centre of the
illumination, he brought the canoe to a state of rest in the most
favourable position he could find, and commenced his observations.

We have written much, but in vain, concerning this extraordinary
being, if the reader requires now to be told, that, untutored as
he was in the learning of the world, and simple as he ever showed
himself to be in all matters touching the subtleties of conventional
taste, he was a man of strong, native, poetical feeling. He loved
the woods for their freshness, their sublime solitudes, their
vastness, and the impress that they everywhere bore of the divine
hand of their creator. He seldom moved through them, without
pausing to dwell on some peculiar beauty that gave him pleasure,
though seldom attempting to investigate the causes; and never did
a day pass without his communing in spirit, and this, too, without
the aid of forms or language, with the infinite source of all he
saw, felt, and beheld. Thus constituted, in a moral sense, and of
a steadiness that no danger could appall, or any crisis disturb,
it is not surprising that the hunter felt a pleasure at looking
on the scene he now beheld, that momentarily caused him to forget
the object of his visit. This will more fully appear when we
describe it.

The canoe lay in front of a natural vista, not only through the
bushes that lined the shore, but of the trees also, that afforded
a clear view of the camp. It was by means of this same opening
that the light had been first seen from the ark. In consequence
of their recent change of ground, the Indians had not yet retired
to their huts, but had been delayed by their preparations, which
included lodging as well as food. A large fire had been made,
as much to answer the purpose of torches as for the use of their
simple cookery; and at this precise moment it was blazing high and
bright, having recently received a large supply of dried brush.
the effect was to illuminate the arches of the forest, and to
render the whole area occupied by the camp as light as if hundreds
of tapers were burning. Most of the toil had ceased, and even the
hungriest child had satisfied its appetite. In a word, the time
was that moment of relaxation and general indolence which is apt to
succeed a hearty meal, and when the labours of the day have ended.
The hunters and the fishermen had been totally successful; and
food, that one great requisite of savage life, being abundant,
every other care appeared to have subsided in the sense of enjoyment
dependent on this all-important fact.

Deerslayer saw at a glance that many of the warriors were absent.
His acquaintance Rivenoak, however, was present, being seated in
the foreground of a picture that Salvator Rosa would have delighted
to draw, his swarthy features illuminated as much by pleasure as
by the torchlike flame, while he showed another of the tribe one of
the elephants that had caused so much sensation among his people.
A boy was looking over his shoulder, in dull curiosity, completing
the group. More in the background eight or ten warriors lay half
recumbent on the ground, or sat with their backs reclining against
trees, so many types of indolent repose. Their arms were near
them all, sometimes leaning against the same trees as themselves,
or were lying across their bodies in careless preparation. But
the group that most attracted the attention of Deerslayer was that
composed of the women and children. A1l the females appeared to
be collected together, and, almost as a matter of course, their
young were near them. The former laughed and chatted in their
rebuked and quiet manner, though one who knew the habits of the
people might have detected that everything was not going on in its
usual train. Most of the young women seemed to be light-hearted
enough; but one old hag was seated apart with a watchful soured
aspect, which the hunter at once knew betokened that some duty of
an unpleasant character had been assigned her by the chiefs. What
that duty was, he had no means of knowing; but he felt satisfied it
must be in some measure connected with her own sex, the aged among
the women generally being chosen for such offices and no other.

As a matter of course, Deerslayer looked eagerly and anxiously
for the form of Hist. She was nowhere visible though the light
penetrated to considerable distances in all directions around the
fire. Once or twice he started, as he thought he recognized her
laugh; but his ears were deceived by the soft melody that is so
common to the Indian female voice. At length the old woman spoke
loud and angrily, and then he caught a glimpse of one or two dark
figures in the background of trees, which turned as if obedient
to the rebuke, and walked more within the circle of the light. A
young warrior's form first came fairly into view; then followed
two youthful females, one of whom proved to be the Delaware girl.
Deerslayer now comprehended it all. Hist was watched, possibly
by her young companion, certainly by the old woman. The youth was
probably some suitor of either her or her companion; but even his
discretion was distrusted under the influence of his admiration.
The known vicinity of those who might be supposed to be her friends,
and the arrival of a strange red man on the lake had induced
more than the usual care, and the girl had not been able to slip
away from those who watched her in order to keep her appointment.
Deerslayer traced her uneasiness by her attempting once or twice
to look up through the branches of the trees, as if endeavouring
to get glimpses of the star she had herself named as the sign for
meeting. All was vain, however, and after strolling about the camp
a little longer, in affected indifference, the two girls quitted
their male escort, and took seats among their own sex. As soon
as this was done, the old sentinel changed her place to one more
agreeable to herself, a certain proof that she had hitherto been
exclusively on watch.

Deerslayer now felt greatly at a loss how to proceed. He well
knew that Chingachgook could never be persuaded to return to the
ark without making some desperate effort for the recovery of his
mistress, and his own generous feelings well disposed him to aid in
such an undertaking. He thought he saw the signs of an intention
among the females to retire for the night; and should he remain,
and the fire continue to give out its light, he might discover the
particular hut or arbour under which Hist reposed; a circumstance
that would be of infinite use in their future proceedings. Should he
remain, however, much longer where he was, there was great danger
that the impatience of his friend would drive him into some act
of imprudence. At each instant, indeed, he expected to see the
swarthy form of the Delaware appearing in the background, like the
tiger prowling around the fold. Taking all things into consideration,
therefore, he came to the conclusion it would be better to rejoin
his friend, and endeavour to temper his impetuosity by some of his
own coolness and discretion. It required but a minute or two to
put this plan in execution, the canoe returning to the strand some
ten or fifteen minutes after it had left it.

Contrary to his expectations, perhaps, Deerslayer found the Indian
at his post, from which he had not stirred, fearful that his betrothed
might arrive during his absence. A conference followed, in which
Chingachgook was made acquainted with the state of things in the
camp. When Hist named the point as the place of meeting, it was
with the expectation of making her escape from the old position,
and of repairing to a spot that she expected to find without any
occupants; but the sudden change of localities had disconcerted
all her plans. A much greater degree of vigilance than had been
previously required was now necessary; and the circumstance that
an aged woman was on watch also denoted some special grounds of
alarm. All these considerations, and many more that will readily
suggest themselves to the reader, were briefly discussed before
the young men came to any decision. The occasion, however, being
one that required acts instead of words, the course to be pursued
was soon chosen.

Disposing of the canoe in such a manner that Hist must see it,
should she come to the place of meeting previously to their return,
the young men looked to their arms and prepared to enter the wood.
The whole projection into the lake contained about two acres of
land; and the part that formed the point, and on which the camp was
placed, did not compose a surface of more than half that size. It
was principally covered with oaks, which, as is usual in the American
forests, grew to a great height without throwing out a branch, and
then arched in a dense and rich foliage. Beneath, except the fringe
of thick bushes along the shore, there was very little underbrush;
though, in consequence of their shape, the trees were closer
together than is common in regions where the axe has been freely
used, resembling tall, straight, rustic columns, upholding the
usual canopy of leaves. The surface of the land was tolerably even,
but it had a small rise near its centre, which divided it into a
northern and southern half. On the latter, the Hurons had built
their fire, profiting by the formation to conceal it from their
enemies, who, it will be remembered, were supposed to be in the
castle, which bore northerly. A brook also came brawling down the
sides of the adjacent hills, and found its way into the lake on the
southern side of the point. It had cut for itself a deep passage
through some of the higher portions of the ground, and, in later
days, when this spot has become subjected to the uses of civilization,
by its windings and shaded banks, it has become no mean accessory
in contributing to the beauty of the place. This brook lay west
of the encampment, and its waters found their way into the great
reservoir of that region on the same side, and quite near to
the spot chosen for the fire. All these peculiarities, so far as
circumstances allowed, had been noted by Deerslayer, and explained
to his friend.

The reader will understand that the little rise in the ground,
that lay behind the Indian encampment, greatly favoured the secret
advance of the two adventurers. It prevented the light of the fire
diffusing itself on the ground directly in the rear, although the
land fell away towards the water, so as to leave what might be
termed the left, or eastern flank of the position unprotected by
this covering. We have said unprotected, though that is not properly
the word, since the knoll behind the huts and the fire offered a
cover for those who were now stealthily approaching, rather than
any protection to the Indians. Deerslayer did not break through
the fringe of bushes immediately abreast of the canoe, which might
have brought him too suddenly within the influence of the light,
since the hillock did not extend to the water; but he followed the
beach northerly until he had got nearly on the opposite side of
the tongue of land, which brought him under the shelter of the low
acclivity, and consequently more in the shadow.

As soon as the friends emerged from the bushes, they stopped to
reconnoitre. The fire was still blazing behind the little ridge,
casting its light upward into the tops of the trees, producing an
effect that was more pleasing than advantageous. Still the glare
had its uses; for, while the background was in obscurity, the
foreground was in strong light; exposing the savages and concealing
their foes. Profiting by the latter circumstance, the young men
advanced cautiously towards the ridge, Deerslayer in front, for he
insisted on this arrangement, lest the Delaware should be led by
his feelings into some indiscretion. It required but a moment to
reach the foot of the little ascent, and then commenced the most
critical part of the enterprise. Moving with exceeding caution,
and trailing his rifle, both to keep its barrel out of view, and
in readiness for service, the hunter put foot before foot, until
he had got sufficiently high to overlook the summit, his own head
being alone brought into the light. Chingachgook was at his side
and both paused to take another close examination of the camp. In
order, however, to protect themselves against any straggler in the
rear, they placed their bodies against the trunk of an oak, standing
on the side next the fire.

The view that Deerslayer now obtained of the camp was exactly the
reverse of that he had perceived from the water. The dim figures
which he had formerly discovered must have been on the summit of the
ridge, a few feet in advance of the spot where he was now posted.
The fire was still blazing brightly, and around it were seated on
logs thirteen warriors, which accounted for all whom he had seen
from the canoe. They were conversing, with much earnestness among
themselves, the image of the elephant passing from hand to hand.
The first burst of savage wonder had abated, and the question now
under discussion was the probable existence, the history and the
habits of so extraordinary an animal. We have not leisure to record
the opinions of these rude men on a subject so consonant to their
lives and experience; but little is hazarded in saying that they
were quite as plausible, and far more ingenious, than half the
conjectures that precede the demonstrations of science. However
much they may have been at fault as to their conclusions and
inferences, it is certain that they discussed the questions with a
zealous and most undivided attention. For the time being all else
was forgotten, and our adventurers could not have approached at a
more fortunate instant.

The females were collected near each other, much as Deerslayer
had last seen them, nearly in a line between the place where he
now stood and the fire. The distance from the oak against which
the young men leaned and the warriors was about thirty yards; the
women may have been half that number of yards nigher. The latter,
indeed, were so near as to make the utmost circumspection, as to
motion and noise, indispensable. Although they conversed in their
low, soft voices it was possible, in the profound stillness of the
woods, even to catch passages of the discourse; and the light-hearted
laugh that escaped the girls might occasionally have reached the
canoe. Deerslayer felt the tremolo that passed through the frame
of his friend when the latter first caught the sweet sounds that
issued from the plump, pretty lips of Hist. He even laid a hand
on the shoulder of the Indian, as a sort of admonition to command
himself. As the conversation grew more earnest, each leaned forward
to listen.

"The Hurons have more curious beasts than that," said one of the
girls, contemptuously, for, like the men, they conversed of the
elephant and his qualities. "The Delawares will think this creature
wonderful, but tomorrow no Huron tongue will talk of it. Our young
men will find him if the animals dare to come near our wigwams!"

This was, in fact, addressed to Wah-ta-Wah, though she who spoke
uttered her words with an assumed diffidence and humility that
prevented her looking at the other.

"The Delawares are so far from letting such creatures come into
their country," returned Hist, "that no one has even seen their
images there! Their young men would frighten away the images as
well as the beasts."

"The Delaware young men! - the nation is women - even the deer
walk when they hear their hunters coming! Who has ever heard the
name of a young Delaware warrior?"

This was said in good-humour, and with a laugh; but it was also
said bitingly. That Hist so felt it, was apparent by the spirit
betrayed in her answer.

"Who has ever heard the name of a young Delaware?" she repeated
earnestly. "Tamenund, himself, though now as old as the pines on
the hill, or as the eagles in the air, was once young; his name
was heard from the great salt lake to the sweet waters of the west.
What is the family of Uncas? Where is another as great, though the
pale-faces have ploughed up its grates, and trodden on its bones?
Do the eagles fly as high, is the deer as swift or the panther as
brave? Is there no young warrior of that race? Let the Huron maidens
open their eyes wider, and they may see one called Chingachgook,
who is as stately as a young ash, and as tough as the hickory."

As the girl used her figurative language and told her companions
to "open their eyes, and they would see" the Delaware, Deerslayer
thrust his fingers into the sides of his friend, and indulged in a
fit of his hearty, benevolent laughter. The other smiled; but the
language of the speaker was too flattering, and the tones of her
voice too sweet for him to be led away by any accidental coincidence,
however ludicrous. The speech of Hist produced a retort, and the
dispute, though conducted in good-humour, and without any of the
coarse violence of tone and gesture that often impairs the charms
of the sex in what is called civilized life, grew warm and slightly
clamorous. In the midst of this scene, the Delaware caused his
friend to stoop, so as completely to conceal himself, and then he
made a noise so closely resembling the little chirrup of the smallest
species of the American squirrel, that Deerslayer himself, though
he had heard the imitation a hundred times, actually thought it
came from one of the little animals skipping about over his head.
The sound is so familiar in the woods, that none of the Hurons paid
it the least attention. Hist, however, instantly ceased talking,
and sat motionless. Still she had sufficient self-command to
abstain from turning her head. She had heard the signal by which
her lover so often called her from the wigwam to the stolen interview,
and it came over her senses and her heart, as the serenade affects
the maiden in the land of song.

From that moment, Chingachgook felt certain that his presence was
known. This was effecting much, and he could now hope for a bolder
line of conduct on the part of his mistress than she might dare to
adopt under an uncertainty of his situation. It left no doubt of
her endeavouring to aid him in his effort to release her. Deerslayer
arose as soon as the signal was given, and though he had never
held that sweet communion which is known only to lovers, he was
not slow to detect the great change that had come over the manner
of the girl. She still affected to dispute, though it was no longer
with spirit and ingenuity, but what she said was uttered more as
a lure to draw her antagonists on to an easy conquest, than with
any hopes of succeeding herself. Once or twice, it is true, her
native readiness suggested a retort, or an argument that raised a
laugh, and gave her a momentary advantage; but these little sallies,
the offspring of mother-wit, served the better to conceal her real
feelings, and to give to the triumph of the other party a more
natural air than it might have possessed without them. At length
the disputants became wearied, and they rose in a body as if about
to separate. It was now that Hist, for the first time, ventured
to turn her face in the direction whence the signal had come. In
doing this, her movements were natural, but guarded, and she stretched
her arm and yawned, as if overcome with a desire to sleep. The
chirrup was again heard, and the girl felt satisfied as to the
position of her lover, though the strong light in which she herself
was placed, and the comparative darkness in which the adventurers
stood, prevented her from seeing their heads, the only portions
of their forms that appeared above the ridge at all. The tree
against which they were posted had a dark shadow cast upon it by
the intervention of an enormous pine that grew between it and the
fire, a circumstance which alone would have rendered objects within
its cloud invisible at any distance. This Deerslayer well knew,
and it was one of the reasons why he had selected this particular

The moment was near when it became necessary for Hist to act. She
was to sleep in a small hut, or bower, that had been built near where
she stood, and her companion was the aged hag already mentioned.
Once within the hut, with this sleepless old woman stretched across
the entrance, as was her nightly practice, the hope of escape was
nearly destroyed, and she might at any moment be summoned to her
bed. Luckily, at this instant one of the warriors called to the
old woman by name, and bade her bring him water to drink. There
was a delicious spring on the northern side of the point, and the
hag took a gourd from a branch and, summoning Hist to her side,
she moved towards the summit of the ridge, intending to descend
and cross the point to the natural fountain. All this was seen
and understood by the adventurers, and they fell back into the
obscurity, concealing their persons by trees, until the two females
had passed them. In walking, Hist was held tightly by the hand.
As she moved by the tree that hid Chingachgook and his friend the
former felt for his tomahawk, with the intention to bury it in the
brain of the woman. But the other saw the hazard of such a measure,
since a single scream might bring all the warriors upon them, and
he was averse to the act on considerations of humanity. His hand,
therefore, prevented the blow. Still as the two moved past, the
chirrup was repeated, and the Huron woman stopped and faced the
tree whence the sounds seemed to proceed, standing, at the moment,
within six feet of her enemies. She expressed her surprise that a
squirrel should be in motion at so late an hour, and said it boded
evil. Hist answered that she had heard the same squirrel three
times within the last twenty minutes, and that she supposed it was
waiting to obtain some of the crumbs left from the late supper.
This explanation appeared satisfactory, and they moved towards the
spring, the men following stealthily and closely. The gourd was
filled, and the old woman was hurrying back, her hand still grasping
the wrist of the girl, when she was suddenly seized so violently by
the throat as to cause her to release her captive, and to prevent
her making any other sound than a sort of gurgling, suffocating
noise. The Serpent passed his arm round the waist of his mistress
and dashed through the bushes with her, on the north side of the
point. Here he immediately turned along the beach and ran towards
the canoe. A more direct course could have been taken, but it
might have led to a discovery of the place of embarking.

Deerslayer kept playing on the throat of the old woman like the
keys of an organ, occasionally allowing her to breathe, and then
compressing his fingers again nearly to strangling. The brief
intervals for breath, however, were well improved, and the hag
succeeded in letting out a screech or two that served to alarm the
camp. The tramp of the warriors, as they sprang from the fire,
was plainly audible, and at the next moment three or four of them
appeared on the top of the ridge, drawn against the background of
light, resembling the dim shadows of the phantasmagoria. It was
now quite time for the hunter to retreat. Tripping up the heels
of his captive, and giving her throat a parting squeeze, quite as
much in resentment at her indomitable efforts to sound the alarm
as from any policy, he left her on her back, and moved towards the
bushes, his rifle at a poise, and his head over his shoulders, like
a lion at bay.

Chapter XVII.

There, ye wise saints, behold your light, your star,
Ye would be dupes and victims and ye are.
Is it enough? or, must I, while a thrill
Lives in your sapient bosoms, cheat you still?"

Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh, "The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan"

The fire, the canoe, and the spring, near which Deerslayer commenced
his retreat, would have stood in the angles of a triangle of tolerably
equal sides. The distance from the fire to the boat was a little
less than the distance from the fire to the spring, while the
distance from the spring to the boat was about equal to that between
the two points first named. This, however, was in straight lines,
a means of escape to which the fugitives could not resort. They
were obliged to have recourse to a detour in order to get the cover
of the bushes, and to follow the curvature of the beach. Under
these disadvantages, then, the hunter commenced his retreat,
disadvantages that he felt to be so much the greater from his
knowledge of the habits of all Indians, who rarely fail in cases
of sudden alarms, more especially when in the midst of cover,
immediately to throw out flankers, with a view to meet their foes
at all points, and if possible to turn their rear. That some such
course was now adopted he believed from the tramp of feet, which
not only came up the ascent, as related, but were also heard, under
the first impulse, diverging not only towards the hill in the rear,
but towards the extremity of the point, in a direction opposite
to that he was about to take himself. Promptitude, consequently
became a matter of the last importance, as the parties might meet
on the strand, before the fugitive could reach the canoe.

Notwithstanding the pressing nature of the emergency, Deerslayer
hesitated a single instant, ere he plunged into the bushes that lined
the shore. His feelings had been awakened by the whole scene, and
a sternness of purpose had come over him, to which he was ordinarily
a stranger. Four dark figures loomed on the ridge, drawn against
the brightness of the fire, and an enemy might have been sacrificed
at a glance. The Indians had paused to gaze into the gloom, in
search of the screeching hag, and with many a man less given to
reflection than the hunter, the death of one of them would have
been certain. Luckily he was more prudent. Although the rifle
dropped a little towards the foremost of his pursuers, he did not
aim or fire, but disappeared in the cover. To gain the beach, and
to follow it round to the place where Chingachgook was already in
the canoe, with Hist, anxiously waiting his appearance, occupied but
a moment. Laying his rifle in the bottom of the canoe, Deerslayer
stooped to give the latter a vigorous shove from the shore, when a
powerful Indian leaped through the bushes, alighting like a panther
on his back. Everything was now suspended by a hair; a false step
ruining all. With a generosity that would have rendered a Roman
illustrious throughout all time, but which, in the career of one
so simple and humble, would have been forever lost to the world but
for this unpretending legend, Deerslayer threw all his force into
a desperate effort, shoved the canoe off with a power that sent it
a hundred feet from the shore, as it might be in an instant, and
fell forward into the lake, himself, face downward; his assailant
necessarily following him.

Although the water was deep within a few yards of the beach, it
was not more than breast high, as close in as the spot where the
two combatants fell. Still this was quite sufficient to destroy
one who had sunk, under the great disadvantages in which Deerslayer
was placed. His hands were free, however, and the savage was
compelled to relinquish his hug, to keep his own face above the
surface. For half a minute there was a desperate struggle, like
the floundering of an alligator that has just seized some powerful
prey, and then both stood erect, grasping each other's arms, in
order to prevent the use of the deadly knife in the darkness. What
might have been the issue of this severe personal struggle cannot
be known, for half a dozen savages came leaping into the water to
the aid of their friend, and Deerslayer yielded himself a prisoner,
with a dignity that was as remarkable as his self-devotion.

To quit the lake and lead their new captive to the fire occupied
the Indians but another minute. So much engaged were they all
with the struggle and its consequences, that the canoe was unseen,
though it still lay so near the shore as to render every syllable
that was uttered perfectly intelligible to the Delaware and his
betrothed; and the whole party left the spot, some continuing the
pursuit after Hist, along the beach, though most proceeded to the
light. Here Deerslayer's antagonist so far recovered his breath and
his recollection, for he had been throttled nearly to strangulation,
as to relate the manner in which the girl had got off. It was
now too late to assail the other fugitives, for no sooner was his
friend led into the bushes than the Delaware placed his paddle into
the water, and the light canoe glided noiselessly away, holding its
course towards the centre of the lake until safe from shot, after
which it sought the Ark. When Deerslayer reached the fire, he found
himself surrounded by no less than eight grim savages, among whom
was his old acquaintance Rivenoak. As soon as the latter caught a
glimpse of the captive's countenance, he spoke apart to his companions,
and a low but general exclamation of pleasure and surprise escaped
them. They knew that the conqueror of their late friend, he who
had fallen on the opposite side of the lake, was in their hands,
and subject to their mercy, or vengeance. There was no little
admiration mingled in the ferocious looks that were thrown on the
prisoner; an admiration that was as much excited by his present
composure, as by his past deeds. This scene may be said to
have been the commencement of the great and terrible reputation
that Deerslayer, or Hawkeye, as he was afterwards called, enjoyed
among all the tribes of New York and Canada; a reputation that was
certainly more limited in its territorial and numerical extent,
than those which are possessed in civilized life, but which was
compensated for what it wanted in these particulars, perhaps, by
its greater justice, and the total absence of mystification and

The arms of Deerslayer were not pinioned, and he was left the
free use of his hands, his knife having been first removed. The
only precaution that was taken to secure his person was untiring
watchfulness, and a strong rope of bark that passed from ankle to
ankle, not so much to prevent his walking, as to place an obstacle
in the way of his attempting to escape by any sudden leap. Even
this extra provision against flight was not made until the captive
had been brought to the light, and his character ascertained. It
was, in fact, a compliment to his prowess, and he felt proud of
the distinction. That he might be bound when the warriors slept he
thought probable, but to be bound in the moment of capture showed
that he was already, and thus early, attaining a name. While the
young Indians were fastening the rope, he wondered if Chingachgook
would have been treated in the same manner, had he too fallen
into the hands of the enemy. Nor did the reputation of the young
pale-face rest altogether on his success in the previous combat, or
in his discriminating and cool manner of managing the late negotiation,
for it had received a great accession by the occurrences of the
night. Ignorant of the movements of the Ark, and of the accident
that had brought their fire into view, the Iroquois attributed the
discovery of their new camp to the vigilance of so shrewd a foe.
The manner in which he ventured upon the point, the abstraction or
escape of Hist, and most of all the self-devotion of the prisoner,
united to the readiness with which he had sent the canoe adrift,
were so many important links in the chain of facts, on which his
growing fame was founded. Many of these circumstances had been
seen, some had been explained, and all were understood.

While this admiration and these honors were so unreservedly bestowed
on Deerslayer, he did not escape some of the penalties of his
situation. He was permitted to seat himself on the end of a log,
near the fire, in order to dry his clothes, his late adversary
standing opposite, now holding articles of his own scanty vestments
to the heat, and now feeling his throat, on which the marks of his
enemy's fingers were still quite visible. The rest of the warriors
consulted together, near at hand, all those who had been out having
returned to report that no signs of any other prowlers near the
camp were to be found. In this state of things, the old woman,
whose name was Shebear, in plain English, approached Deerslayer,
with her fists clenched and her eyes flashing fire. Hitherto, she
had been occupied with screaming, an employment at which she had
played her part with no small degree of success, but having succeeded
in effectually alarming all within reach of a pair of lungs that had
been strengthened by long practice, she next turned her attention to
the injuries her own person had sustained in the struggle. These
were in no manner material, though they were of a nature to arouse
all the fury of a woman who had long ceased to attract by means
of the gentler qualities, and who was much disposed to revenge the
hardships she had so long endured, as the neglected wife and mother
of savages, on all who came within her power. If Deerslayer had not
permanently injured her, he had temporarily caused her to suffer,
and she was not a person to overlook a wrong of this nature, on
account of its motive.

"Skunk of the pale-faces," commenced this exasperated and semi-poetic
fury, shaking her fist under the nose of the impassable hunter, "you
are not even a woman. Your friends the Delawares are only women,
and you are their sheep. Your own people will not own you, and no
tribe of redmen would have you in their wigwams; you skulk among
petticoated warriors. You slay our brave friend who has left us?
- No- his great soul scorned to fight you, and left his body rather
than have the shame of slaying you! But the blood that you spilt
when the spirit was not looking on, has not sunk into the ground.
It must be buried in your groans. What music do I hear? Those
are not the wailings of a red man! - no red warrior groans so much
like a hog. They come from a pale-face throat - a Yengeese bosom,
and sound as pleasant as girls singing - Dog - skunk - woodchuck
-mink - hedgehog - pig - toad - spider -yengee -"

Here the old woman, having expended her breath and exhausted
her epithets, was fain to pause a moment, though both her fists
were shaken in the prisoner's face, and the whole of her wrinkled
countenance was filled with fierce resentment. Deerslayer looked
upon these impotent attempts to arouse him as indifferently as
a gentleman in our own state of society regards the vituperative
terms of a blackguard: the one party feeling that the tongue of an
old woman could never injure a warrior, and the other knowing that
mendacity and vulgarity can only permanently affect those who resort
to their use; but he was spared any further attack at present, by
the interposition of Rivenoak, who shoved aside the hag, bidding
her quit the spot, and prepared to take his seat at the side of his
prisoner. The old woman withdrew, but the hunter well understood
that he was to be the subject of all her means of annoyance, if
not of positive injury, so long as he remained in the power of his
enemies, for nothing rankles so deeply as the consciousness that
an attempt to irritate has been met by contempt, a feeling that
is usually the most passive of any that is harbored in the human
breast. Rivenoak quietly took the seat we have mentioned, and,
after a short pause, he commenced a dialogue, which we translate
as usual, for the benefit of those readers who have not studied
the North American languages.

"My pale-face friend is very welcome," said the Indian, with a
familiar nod, and a smile so covert that it required all Deerslayer's
vigilance to detect, and not a little of his philosophy to detect
unmoved; "he is welcome. The Hurons keep a hot fire to dry the
white man's clothes by."

"I thank you, Huron - or Mingo, as I most like to call you,"
returned the other, "I thank you for the welcome, and I thank you
for the fire. Each is good in its way, and the last is very good,
when one has been in a spring as cold as the Glimmerglass. Even
Huron warmth may be pleasant, at such a time, to a man with a
Delaware heart."

"The pale-face - but my brother has a name? So great a warrior
would not have lived without a name?"

"Mingo," said the hunter, a little of the weakness of human nature
exhibiting itself in the glance of his eye, and the colour on his
cheek - "Mingo, your brave called me Hawkeye, I suppose on account
of a quick and sartain aim, when he was lying with his head in my
lap, afore his spirit started for the Happy Hunting Grounds."

"'Tis a good name! The hawk is sure of his blow. Hawkeye is not
a woman; why does he live with the Delawares?"

"I understand you, Mingo, but we look on all that as a sarcumvention
of some of your subtle devils, and deny the charge. Providence
placed me among the Delawares young, and, 'bating what Christian
usages demand of my colour and gifts, I hope to live and die in
their tribe. Still I do not mean to throw away altogether my natyve
rights, and shall strive to do a pale-face's duty, in red-skin

"Good; a Huron is a red-skin, as well as a Delaware. Hawkeye is
more of a Huron than of a woman."

"I suppose you know, Mingo, your own meaning; if you don't I make
no question 'tis well known to Satan. But if you wish to get
any thing out of me, speak plainer, for bargains can not be made
blindfolded, or tongue tied."

"Good; Hawkeye has not a forked tongue, and he likes to say what he
thinks. He is an acquaintance of the Muskrat," this was the name
by which all the Indians designated Hutter - "and has lived in
his wigwam. But he is not a friend. He wants no scalps, like a
miserable Indian, but fights like a stout-hearted pale-face. The
Muskrat is neither white, nor red. Neither a beast nor a fish.
He is a water snake; sometimes in the spring and sometimes on the
land. He looks for scalps, like an outcast. Hawkeye can go back
and tell him how he has outwitted the Hurons, how he has escaped,
and when his eyes are in a fog, when he can't see as far as from
his cabin to the shore, then Hawkeye can open the door for the
Hurons. And how will the plunder be divided? Why, Hawkeye, will
carry away the most, and the Hurons will take what he may choose
to leave behind him. The scalps can go to Canada, for a pale-face
has no satisfaction in them."

"Well, well, Rivenoak - for so I hear 'em tarm you - This is plain
English, enough, though spoken in Iroquois. I understand all you
mean, now, and must say it out-devils even Mingo deviltry! No
doubt, 'twould be easy enough to go back and tell the Muskrat that
I had got away from you, and gain some credit, too, by the expl'ite."

"Good. That is what I want the pale-face to do."

"Yes - yes - That's plain enough. I know what you want me to do,
without more words. When inside the house, and eating the Muskrat's
bread, and laughing and talking with his pretty darters, I might
put his eyes into so thick a fog, that he couldn't even see the
door, much less the land."

"Good! Hawkeye should have been born a Huron! His blood is not
more than half white!"

"There you're out, Huron; yes, there you're as much out, as if you
mistook a wolf for a catamount. I'm white in blood, heart, natur'
and gifts, though a little red-skin in feelin's and habits. But
when old Hutter's eyes are well befogged, and his pretty darters
perhaps in a deep sleep, and Hurry Harry, the Great Pine as you
Indians tarm him, is dreaming of any thing but mischief, and all
suppose Hawkeye is acting as a faithful sentinel, all I have to
do is set a torch somewhere in sight for a signal, open the door,
and let in the Hurons, to knock 'em all on the head."

"Surely my brother is mistaken. He cannot be white! He is worthy
to be a great chief among the Hurons!"

"That is true enough, I dares to say, if he could do all this.
Now, harkee, Huron, and for once hear a few honest words from the
mouth of a plain man. I am Christian born, and them that come
of such a stock, and that listen to the words that were spoken to
their fathers and will be spoken to their children, until 'arth and
all it holds perishes, can never lend themselves to such wickedness.
Sarcumventions in war, may be, and are, lawful; but sarcumventions,
and deceit, and treachery among fri'inds are fit only for the
pale-face devils. I know that there are white men enough to give
you this wrong idee of our natur', but such be ontrue to their
blood and gifts, and ought to be, if they are not, outcasts and
vagabonds. No upright pale-face could do what you wish, and to
be as plain with you as I wish to be, in my judgment no upright
Delaware either. With a Mingo it may be different."

The Huron listened to this rebuke with obvious disgust, but he had
his ends in view, and was too wily to lose all chance of effecting
them by a precipitate avowal of resentment. Affecting to smile,
he seemed to listen eagerly, and he then pondered on what he had

"Does Hawkeye love the Muskrat?" he abruptly demanded; "Or does he
love his daughters?"

"Neither, Mingo. Old Tom is not a man to gain my love, and, as
for the darters, they are comely enough to gain the liking of any
young man, but there's reason ag'in any very great love for either.
Hetty is a good soul, but natur' has laid a heavy hand on her mind,
poor thing."

"And the Wild Rose!" exclaimed the Huron - for the fame of Judith's
beauty had spread among those who could travel the wilderness, as
well as the highway by means of old eagles' nests, rocks, and riven
trees known to them by report and tradition, as well as among the
white borderers, "And the Wild Rose; is she not sweet enough to be
put in the bosom of my brother?"

Deerslayer had far too much of the innate gentleman to insinuate
aught against the fair fame of one who, by nature and position
was so helpless, and as he did not choose to utter an untruth, he
preferred being silent. The Huron mistook the motive, and supposed
that disappointed affection lay at the bottom of his reserve.
Still bent on corrupting or bribing his captive, in order to obtain
possession of the treasures with which his imagination filled the
Castle, he persevered in his attack.

"Hawkeye is talking with a friend," he continued. "He knows that
Rivenoak is a man of his word, for they have traded together, and
trade opens the soul. My friend has come here on account of a
little string held by a girl, that can pull the whole body of the
sternest warrior?"

"You are nearer the truth, now, Huron, than you've been afore,
since we began to talk. This is true. But one end of that string
was not fast to my heart, nor did the Wild Rose hold the other."

"This is wonderful! Does my brother love in his head, and not in
his heart? And can the Feeble Mind pull so hard against so stout
a warrior?"

"There it is ag'in; sometimes right, and sometimes wrong! The
string you mean is fast to the heart of a great Delaware; one of
Mohican stock in fact, living among the Delawares since the disparsion
of his own people, and of the family of Uncas - Chingachgook by
name, or Great Sarpent. He has come here, led by the string, and
I've followed, or rather come afore, for I got here first, pulled
by nothing stronger than fri'ndship; which is strong enough for such
as are not niggardly of their feelin's, and are willing to live a
little for their fellow creatur's, as well as for themselves."

"But a string has two ends - one is fast to the mind of a Mohican;
and the other?"

"Why the other was here close to the fire, half an hour since.
Wah-ta-Wah held it in her hand, if she didn't hold it to her heart."

"I understand what you mean, my brother," returned the Indian gravely,
for the first time catching a direct clue to the adventures of the
evening. "The Great Serpent, being strongest, pulled the hardest,
and Hist was forced to leave us."

"I don't think there was much pulling about it," answered the other,
laughing, always in his silent manner, with as much heartiness as
if he were not a captive, and in danger of torture or death -"I
don't think there was much pulling about it; no I don't. Lord
help you, Huron! He likes the gal, and the gal likes him, and
it surpassed Huron sarcumventions to keep two young people apart,
where there was so strong a feelin' to bring 'em together."

"And Hawkeye and Chingachgook came into our camp on this errand,

"That's a question that'll answer itself, Mingo! Yes, if a question
could talk it would answer itself, to your parfect satisfaction. For
what else should we come? And yet, it isn't exactly so, neither;
for we didn't come into your camp at all, but only as far as that
pine, there, that you see on the other side of the ridge, where we
stood watching your movements, and conduct, as long as we liked.
When we were ready, the Sarpent gave his signal, and then all went
just as it should, down to the moment when yonder vagabond leaped
upon my back. Sartain; we come for that, and for no other purpose,
and we got what we come for; there's no use in pretending otherwise.
Hist is off with a man who's the next thing to her husband, and
come what will to me, that's one good thing detarmined."

"What sign, or signal, told the young maiden that her lover was
nigh?" asked the Huron with more curiosity than it was usual for
him to betray.

Deerslayer laughed again, and seem'd to enjoy the success of the
exploit, with as much glee as if he had not been its victim.

"Your squirrels are great gadabouts, Mingo," he cried still laughing
-"yes, they're sartainly great gadabouts! When other folk's squirrels
are at home and asleep, yourn keep in motion among the trees, and
chirrup and sing, in a way that even a Delaware gal can understand
their musick! Well, there's four legged squirrels, and there's two
legged squirrels, and give me the last, when there's a good tight
string atween two hearts. If one brings 'em together, t'other
tells when to pull hardest!"

The Huron looked vexed, though he succeeded in suppressing any
violent exhibition of resentment. He now quitted his prisoner and,
joining the rest of the warriors, he communicated the substance of
what he had learned. As in his own case, admiration was mingled
with anger at the boldness and success of their enemies. Three or
four of them ascended the little acclivity and gazed at the tree
where it was understood the adventurers had posted themselves, and
one even descended to it, and examined for foot prints around its
roots, in order to make sure that the statement was true. The
result confirmed the story of the captive, and they all returned
to the fire with increased wonder and respect. The messenger who
had arrived with some communication from the party above, while the
two adventurers were watching the camp, was now despatched with
some answer, and doubtless bore with him the intelligence of all
that had happened.

Down to this moment, the young Indian who had been seen walking in
company with Hist and another female had made no advances to any
communication with Deerslayer. He had held himself aloof from his
friends, even, passing near the bevy of younger women, who were
clustering together, apart as usual, and conversed in low tones
on the subject of the escape of their late companion. Perhaps it
would be true to say that these last were pleased as well as vexed
at what had just occurred. Their female sympathies were with the
lovers, while their pride was bound up in the success of their own
tribe. It is possible, too, that the superior personal advantages
of Hist rendered her dangerous to some of the younger part of the
group, and they were not sorry to find she was no longer in the
way of their own ascendency. On the whole, however, the better
feeling was most prevalent, for neither the wild condition in
which they lived, the clannish prejudices of tribes, nor their hard
fortunes as Indian women, could entirely conquer the inextinguishable
leaning of their sex to the affections. One of the girls even
laughed at the disconsolate look of the swain who might fancy
himself deserted, a circumstance that seemed suddenly to arouse
his energies, and induce him to move towards the log, on which the
prisoner was still seated, drying his clothes.

"This is Catamount!" said the Indian, striking his hand boastfully
on his naked breast, as he uttered the words in a manner to show
how much weight he expected them to carry.

"This is Hawkeye," quietly returned Deerslayer, adopting the name
by which he knew he would be known in future, among all the tribes
of the Iroquois. "My sight is keen; is my brother's leap long?"

"From here to the Delaware villages. Hawkeye has stolen my wife;
he must bring her back, or his scalp will hang on a pole, and dry
in my wigwam."

"Hawkeye has stolen nothing, Huron. He doesn't come of a thieving
breed, nor has he thieving gifts. Your wife, as you call Wah-ta-Wah,
will never be the wife of any red-skin of the Canadas; her mind is
in the cabin of a Delaware, and her body has gone to find it. The
catamount is actyve I know, but its legs can't keep pace with a
woman's wishes."

"The Serpent of the Delawares is a dog - he is a poor bull trout
that keeps in the water; he is afraid to stand on the hard earth,
like a brave Indian!"

"Well, well, Huron, that's pretty impudent, considering it's not
an hour since the Sarpent stood within a hundred feet of you, and
would have tried the toughness of your skin with a rifle bullet,
when I pointed you out to him, hadn't I laid the weight of
a little judgment on his hand. You may take in timorsome gals in
the settlements, with your catamount whine, but the ears of a man
can tell truth from ontruth."

"Hist laughs at him! She sees he is lame, and a poor hunter, and
he has never been on a war path. She will take a man for a husband,
and not a fish."

"How do you know that, Catamount? how do you know that?" returned
Deerslayer laughing. "She has gone into the lake, you see, and
maybe she prefars a trout to a mongrel cat. As for war paths,
neither the Sarpent nor I have much exper'ence, we are ready to
own, but if you don't call this one, you must tarm it, what the
gals in the settlements tarm it, the high road to matrimony. Take
my advice, Catamount, and s'arch for a wife among the Huron women;
you'll never get one with a willing mind from among the Delawares."

Catamount's hand felt for his tomahawk, and when the fingers reached
the handle they worked convulsively, as if their owner hesitated
between policy and resentment. At this critical moment Rivenoak
approached, and by a gesture of authority, induced the young man
to retire, assuming his former position, himself, on the log at the
side of Deerslayer. Here he continued silent for a little time,
maintaining the grave reserve of an Indian chief.

"Hawkeye is right," the Iroquois at length began; "his sight is
so strong that he can see truth in a dark night, and our eyes have
been blinded. He is an owl, darkness hiding nothing from him. He
ought not to strike his friends. He is right."

"I'm glad you think so, Mingo," returned the other, "for a traitor,
in my judgment, is worse than a coward. I care as little for the
Muskrat, as one pale-face ought to care for another, but I care too
much for him to ambush him in the way you wished. In short, according
to my idees, any sarcumventions, except open-war sarcumventions,
are ag'in both law, and what we whites call 'gospel', too."

"My pale-face brother is right; he is no Indian, to forget his
Manitou and his colour. The Hurons know that they have a great
warrior for their prisoner, and they will treat him as one. If he
is to be tortured, his torments shall be such as no common man can
bear; if he is to be treated as a friend, it will be the friendship
of chiefs."

As the Huron uttered this extraordinary assurance of consideration,
his eye furtively glanced at the countenance of his listener, in
order to discover how he stood the compliment, though his gravity
and apparent sincerity would have prevented any man but one practised
in artifices, from detecting his motives. Deerslayer belonged
to the class of the unsuspicious, and acquainted with the Indian
notions of what constitutes respect, in matters connected with the
treatment of captives, he felt his blood chill at the announcement,
even while he maintained an aspect so steeled that his quick sighted
enemy could discover in it no signs of weakness.

"God has put me in your hands, Huron," the captive at length answered,
"and I suppose you will act your will on me. I shall not boast of
what I can do, under torment, for I've never been tried, and no man
can say till he has been; but I'll do my endivours not to disgrace
the people among whom I got my training. Howsever, I wish you
now to bear witness that I'm altogether of white blood, and, in a
nat'ral way of white gifts too; so, should I be overcome and forget
myself, I hope you'll lay the fault where it properly belongs, and
in no manner put it on the Delawares, or their allies and friends
the Mohicans. We're all created with more or less weakness, and
I'm afeard it's a pale-face's to give in under great bodily torment,
when a red-skin will sing his songs, and boast of his deeds in the
very teeth of his foes."

"We shall see. Hawkeye has a good countenance, and he is tough
-but why should he be tormented, when the Hurons love him? He is
not born their enemy, and the death of one warrior will not cast
a cloud between them forever."

"So much the better, Huron; so much the better. Still I don't wish
to owe any thing to a mistake about each other's meaning. It is so
much the better that you bear no malice for the loss of a warrior
who fell in war, and yet it is ontrue that there is no inmity - lawful
inmity I mean - atween us. So far as I have red-skin feelin's at
all, I've Delaware feelin's, and I leave you to judge for yourself
how far they are likely to be fri'ndly to the Mingos -"

Deerslayer ceased, for a sort of spectre stood before him, that
put a stop to his words, and, indeed, caused him for a moment to
doubt the fidelity of his boasted vision. Hetty Hutter was standing
at the side of the fire as quietly as if she belonged to the tribe.

As the hunter and the Indian sat watching the emotions that were
betrayed in each other's countenance, the girl had approached
unnoticed, doubtless ascending from the beach on the southern side
of the point, or that next to the spot where the Ark had anchored,
and had advanced to the fire with the fearlessness that belonged to
her simplicity, and which was certainly justified by the treatment
formerly received from the Indians. As soon as Rivenoak perceived
the girl, she was recognised, and calling to two or three of the
younger warriors, the chief sent them out to reconnoitre, lest her
appearance should be the forerunner of another attack. He then
motioned to Hetty to draw near.

"I hope your visit is a sign that the Sarpent and Hist are in
safety, Hetty," said Deerslayer, as soon as the girl had complied
with the Huron's request. "I don't think you'd come ashore ag'in,
on the arr'nd that brought you here afore."

"Judith told me to come this time, Deerslayer," Hetty replied, "she
paddled me ashore herself, in a canoe, as soon as the Serpent had
shown her Hist and told his story. How handsome Hist is tonight,
Deerslayer, and how much happier she looks than when she was with
the Hurons!"

"That's natur' gal; yes, that may be set down as human natur'.
She's with her betrothed, and no longer fears a Mingo husband. In
my judgment Judith, herself, would lose most of her beauty if she
thought she was to bestow it all on a Mingo! Content is a great
fortifier of good looks, and I'll warrant you, Hist is contented
enough, now she is out of the hands of these miscreants, and with
her chosen warrior! Did you say that Judith told you to come ashore
- why should your sister do that?"

"She bid me come to see you, and to try and persuade the savages
to take more elephants to let you off, but I've brought the Bible
with me - that will do more than all the elephants in father's

"And your father, good little Hetty - and Hurry; did they know of
your arr'nd?"

"Not they. Both are asleep, and Judith and the Serpent thought it
best they should not be woke, lest they might want to come again
after scalps, when Hist had told them how few warriors, and how
many women and children there were in the camp. Judith would give
me no peace, till I had come ashore to see what had happened to

"Well, that's remarkable as consarns Judith! Whey should she feel
so much unsartainty about me? - Ah - - I see how it is, now; yes,
I see into the whole matter, now. You must understand, Hetty,
that your sister is oneasy lest Harry March should wake, and come
blundering here into the hands of the inimy ag'in, under some
idee that, being a travelling comrade, he ought to help me in this
matter! Hurry is a blunderer, I will allow, but I don't think he'd
risk as much for my sake, as he would for his own."

"Judith don't care for Hurry, though Hurry cares for her," replied
Hetty innocently, but quite positively.

"I've heard you say as much as that afore; yes, I've heard that
from you, afore, gal, and yet it isn't true. One don't live in a
tribe, not to see something of the way in which liking works in a
woman's heart. Though no way given to marrying myself, I've been
a looker on among the Delawares, and this is a matter in which
pale-face and red-skin gifts are all as one as the same. When the
feelin' begins, the young woman is thoughtful, and has no eyes or
ears onless for the warrior that has taken her fancy; then follows
melancholy and sighing, and such sort of actions; after which,
especially if matters don't come to plain discourse, she often flies
round to back biting and fault finding, blaming the youth for the
very things she likes best in him. Some young creatur's are forward
in this way of showing their love, and I'm of opinion Judith is
one of 'em. Now, I've heard her as much as deny that Hurry was
good-looking, and the young woman who could do that, must be far
gone indeed!"

"The young woman who liked Hurry would own that he is handsome. I
think Hurry very handsome, Deerslayer, and I'm sure everybody must
think so, that has eyes. Judith don't like Harry March, and that's
the reason she finds fault with him."

"Well - well - my good little Hetty, have it your own way. If we
should talk from now till winter, each would think as at present,
and there's no use in words. I must believe that Judith is much
wrapped up in Hurry, and that, sooner or later, she'll have him;
and this, too, all the more from the manner in which she abuses
him; and I dare to say, you think just the contrary. But mind what
I now tell you, gal, and pretend not to know it," continued this
being, who was so obtuse on a point on which men are usually quick
enough to make discoveries, and so acute in matters that would baffle
the observation of much the greater portion of mankind, "I see how
it is, with them vagabonds. Rivenoak has left us, you see, and is
talking yonder with his young men, and though too far to be heard,
I can see what he is telling them. Their orders is to watch your
movements, and to find where the canoe is to meet you, to take you
back to the Ark, and then to seize all and what they can. I'm sorry
Judith sent you, for I suppose she wants you to go back ag'in."

"All that's settled, Deerslayer," returned the girl, in a low,
confidential and meaning manner, "and you may trust me to outwit
the best Indian of them all. I know I am feeble minded, but I've
got some sense, and you'll see how I'll use it in getting back,
when my errand is done!"

"Ahs! me, poor girl; I'm afeard all that's easier said than done.
They're a venomous set of riptyles and their p'ison's none the
milder, for the loss of Hist. Well, I'm glad the Sarpent was the
one to get off with the gal, for now there'll be two happy at least,
whereas had he fallen into the hands of the Mingos, there'd been
two miserable, and another far from feelin' as a man likes to feel."

"Now you put me in mind of a part of my errand that I had almost
forgotten, Deerslayer. Judith told me to ask you what you thought
the Hurons would do with you, if you couldn't be bought off, and
what she had best do to serve you. Yes, this was the most important
part of the errand - what she had best do, in order to serve you?"

"That's as you think, Hetty; but it's no matter. Young women are
apt to lay most stress on what most touches their feelin's; but
no matter; have it your own way, so you be but careful not to let
the vagabonds get the mastery of a canoe. When you get back to the
Ark, tell 'em to keep close, and to keep moving too, most especially
at night. Many hours can't go by without the troops on the river
hearing of this party, and then your fri'nds may look for relief.
'Tis but a day's march from the nearest garrison, and true soldiers
will never lie idle with the foe in their neighborhood. This is my
advice, and you may say to your father and Hurry that scalp-hunting
will be a poor business now, as the Mingos are up and awake, and
nothing can save 'em, 'till the troops come, except keeping a good
belt of water atween 'em and the savages."

"What shall I tell Judith about you, Deerslayer; I know she will
send me back again, if I don't bring her the truth about you."

"Then tell her the truth. I see no reason Judith Hutter shouldn't
hear the truth about me, as well as a lie. I'm a captyve in Indian
hands, and Providence only knows what will come of it! Harkee,
Hetty," dropping his voice and speaking still more confidentially,
"you are a little weak minded, it must be allowed, but you know
something of Injins. Here I am in their hands, after having slain
one of their stoutest warriors, and they've been endivouring to
work upon me through fear of consequences, to betray your father,
and all in the Ark. I understand the blackguards as well as
if they'd told it all out plainly, with their tongues. They hold
up avarice afore me, on one side, and fear on t'other, and think
honesty will give way atween 'em both. But let your father and Hurry
know, 'tis all useless; as for the Sarpent, he knows it already."

"But what shall I tell Judith? She will certainly send me back,
if I don't satisfy her mind."

"Well, tell Judith the same. No doubt the savages will try the
torments, to make me give in, and to revenge the loss of their
warrior, but I must hold out ag'in nat'ral weakness in the best manner
I can. You may tell Judith to feel no consarn on my account-it
will come hard I know, seeing that a white man's gifts don't run to
boasting and singing under torment, for he generally feels smallest
when he suffers most - but you may tell her not to have any consarn.
I think I shall make out to stand it, and she may rely on this,
let me give in, as much as I may, and prove completely that I am
white, by wailings, and howlings, and even tears, yet I'll never fall
so far as to betray my fri'nds. When it gets to burning holes in
the flesh, with heated ramrods, and to hacking the body, and tearing
the hair out by the roots, natur' may get the upperhand, so far
as groans, and complaints are consarned, but there the triumph of
the vagabonds will ind; nothing short of God's abandoning him to
the devils can make an honest man ontrue to his colour and duty."

Hetty listened with great attention, and her mild but speaking
countenance manifested a strong sympathy in the anticipated agony
of the supposititious sufferer. At first she seemed at a loss
how to act; then, taking a hand of Deerslayer's she affectionately
recommended to him to borrow her Bible, and to read it while the
savages were inflicting their torments. When the other honestly
admitted that it exceeded his power to read, she even volunteered
to remain with him, and to perform this holy office in person. The
offer was gently declined, and Rivenoak being about to join them,
Deerslayer requested the girl to leave him, first enjoining her again
to tell those in the Ark to have full confidence in his fidelity.
Hetty now walked away, and approached the group of females with
as much confidence and self-possession as if she were a native of
the tribe. On the other hand the Huron resumed his seat by the
side of his prisoner, the one continuing to ask questions with all
the wily ingenuity of a practised Indian counsellor, and the other
baffling him by the very means that are known to be the most
efficacious in defeating the finesse of the more pretending diplomacy
of civilization, or by confining his answers to the truth, and the
truth only.

Chapter XVIII

"Thus died she; never more on her
Shall sorrow light, or shame. She was not made
Through years or moons the inner weight to bear,
Which colder hearts endure till they are laid
By age in earth; her days and pleasure were
Brief but delightful - such as had not stayed
Long with her destiny; but she sleeps well
By the sea-shore whereon she loved to dwell."

Byron. Don Juan, IV, lxxi.

The young men who had been sent out to reconnoitre, on the sudden
appearance of Hetty, soon returned to report their want of success
in making any discovery. One of them had even been along the
beach as far as the spot opposite to the ark, but the darkness
had completely concealed that vessel from his notice. Others had
examined in different directions, and everywhere the stillness of
night was added to the silence and solitude of the woods.

It was consequently believed that the girl had come alone, as on
her former visit, and on some similar errand. The Iroquois were
ignorant that the ark had left the castle, and there were movements
projected, if not in the course of actual execution, by this time,
which also greatly added to the sense of security. A watch was
set, therefore, and all but the sentinels disposed themselves to
sleep. Sufficient care was had to the safe keeping of the captive,
without inflicting on him any unnecessary suffering; and, as for
Hetty, she was permitted to find a place among the Indian girls in
the best manner she could. She did not find the friendly offices
of Hist, though her character not only bestowed impunity from
pain and captivity, but it procured for her a consideration and
an attention that placed her, on the score of comfort, quite on a
level with the wild but gentle beings around her. She was supplied
with a skin, and made her own bed on a pile of boughs a little
apart from the huts. Here she was soon in a profound sleep, like
all around her.

There were now thirteen men in the party, and three kept watch at
a time. One remained in shadow, not far from the fire, however.
His duty was to guard the captive, to take care that the fire
neither blazed up so as to illuminate the spot, nor yet became
wholly extinguished, and to keep an eye generally on the state of
the camp. Another passed from one beach to the other, crossing
the base of the point, while the third kept moving slowly around
the strand on its outer extremity, to prevent a repetition of the
surprise that had already taken place that night. This arrangement
was far from being usual among savages, who ordinarily rely more on
the secrecy of their movements, than or vigilance of this nature;
but it had been called for by the peculiarity of the circumstances
in which the Hurons were now placed. Their position was known to
their foes, and it could not easily be changed at an hour which
demanded rest. Perhaps, too, they placed most of their confidence
on the knowledge of what they believed to be passing higher up
the lake, and which, it was thought, would fully occupy the whole
of the pale-faces who were at liberty, with their solitary Indian
ally. It was also probable Rivenoak was aware that, in holding
his captive, he had in his own hands the most dangerous of all his

The precision with which those accustomed to watchfulness, or
lives of disturbed rest, sleep, is not the least of the phenomena
of our mysterious being. The head is no sooner on the pillow
than consciousness is lost; and yet, at a necessary hour, the mind
appears to arouse the body, as promptly as if it had stood sentinel
the while over it. There can be no doubt that they who are thus
roused awake by the influence of thought over matter, though the
mode in which this influence is exercised must remain hidden from
our curiosity until it shall be explained, should that hour ever
arrive, by the entire enlightenment of the soul on the subject of
all human mysteries. Thus it was with Hetty Hutter. Feeble as
the immaterial portion of her existence was thought to be, it was
sufficiently active to cause her to open her eyes at midnight. At
that hour she awoke, and leaving her bed of skin and boughs she
walked innocently and openly to the embers of the fire, stirring the
latter, as the coolness of the night and the woods, in connection
with an exceedingly unsophisticated bed, had a little chilled her.
As the flame shot up, it lighted the swarthy countenance of the
Huron on watch, whose dark eyes glistened under its light like
the balls of the panther that is pursued to his den with burning
brands. But Hetty felt no fear, and she approached the spot where
the Indian stood. Her movements were so natural, and so perfectly
devoid of any of the stealthiness of cunning or deception, that he
imagined she had merely arisen on account of the coolness of the
night, a common occurrence in a bivouac, and the one of all others,
perhaps, the least likely to excite suspicion. Hetty spoke to him,
but he understood no English. She then gazed near a minute at the
sleeping captive, and moved slowly away in a sad and melancholy
manner. The girl took no pains to conceal her movements. Any
ingenious expedient of this nature quite likely exceeded her
powers; still her step was habitually light, and scarcely audible.
As she took the direction of the extremity of the point, or the
place where she had landed in the first adventure, and where Hist
had embarked, the sentinel saw her light form gradually disappear
in the gloom without uneasiness or changing his own position. He
knew that others were on the look-out, and he did not believe that
one who had twice come into the camp voluntarily, and had already
left it openly, would take refuge in flight. In short, the conduct
of the girl excited no more attention that that of any person of
feeble intellect would excite in civilized society, while her person
met with more consideration and respect.

Hetty certainly had no very distinct notions of the localities,
but she found her way to the beach, which she reached on the same
side of the point as that on which the camp had been made. By
following the margin of the water, taking a northern direction,
she soon encountered the Indian who paced the strand as sentinel.
This was a young warrior, and when he heard her light tread coming
along the gravel he approached swiftly, though with anything but
menace in his manner. The darkness was so intense that it was not
easy to discover forms within the shadows of the woods at the distance
of twenty feet, and quite impossible to distinguish persons until
near enough to touch them. The young Huron manifested disappointment
when he found whom he had met; for, truth to say, he was expecting
his favourite, who had promised to relieve the ennui of a midnight
watch with her presence. This man was also ignorant of English,
but he was at no loss to understand why the girl should be up at
that hour. Such things were usual in an Indian village and camp,
where sleep is as irregular as the meals. Then poor Hetty's known
imbecility, as in most things connected with the savages, stood
her friend on this occasion. Vexed at his disappointment, and
impatient of the presence of one he thought an intruder, the young
warrior signed for the girl to move forward, holding the direction
of the beach. Hetty complied; but as she walked away she spoke
aloud in English in her usual soft tones, which the stillness of
the night made audible at some little distance.

"If you took me for a Huron girl, warrior," she said, "I don't
wonder you are so little pleased. I am Hetty Hutter, Thomas Hutter's
daughter, and have never met any man at night, for mother always
said it was wrong, and modest young women should never do it; modest
young women of the pale-faces, I mean; for customs are different
in different parts of the world, I know. No, no; I'm Hetty Hutter,
and wouldn't meet even Hurry Harry, though he should fall down on
his knees and ask me! Mother said it was wrong."

By the time Hetty had said this, she reached the place where the
canoes had come ashore, and, owing to the curvature of the land and
the bushes, would have been completely hid from the sight of the
sentinel, had it been broad day. But another footstep had caught
the lover's ear, and he was already nearly beyond the sound of the
girl's silvery voice. Still Hetty, bent only on her own thoughts
and purposes, continued to speak, though the gentleness of her tones
prevented the sounds from penetrating far into the woods. On the
water they were more widely diffused.

"Here I am, Judith," she added, "and there is no one near me. The
Huron on watch has gone to meet his sweetheart, who is an Indian
girl you know, and never had a Christian mother to tell her how
wrong it is to meet a man at night."

Hetty's voice was hushed by a "Hist!" that came from the water,
and then she caught a dim view of the canoe, which approached
noiselessly, and soon grated on the shingle with its bow. The

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