Part 8 out of 11
is getting tired of the business as well as myself. Why have you
bound up his head? or, have the savages tomahawked him about the
"They have done that for him which you and he, Harry March, would
have so gladly done for them. His skin and hair have been torn
from his head to gain money from the governor of Canada, as you
would have torn theirs from the heads of the Hurons, to gain money
from the Governor of York."
Judith spoke with a strong effort to appear composed, but it was
neither in her nature, nor in the feeling of the moment to speak
altogether without bitterness. The strength of her emphasis,
indeed, as well as her manner, caused Hetty to look up reproachfully.
"These are high words to come from Thomas Hutter's darter, as Thomas
Hutter lies dying before her eyes," retorted Hurry.
"God be praised for that! - whatever reproach it may bring on my
poor mother, I am not Thomas Hutter's daughter."
"Not Thomas Hutter's darter! - Don't disown the old fellow in his
last moments, Judith, for that's a sin the Lord will never overlook.
If you're not Thomas Hutter's darter, whose darter be you?"
This question rebuked the rebellious spirit of Judith, for,
in getting rid of a parent whom she felt it was a relief to find
she might own she had never loved, she overlooked the important
circumstance that no substitute was ready to supply his place.
"I cannot tell you, Harry, who my father was," she answered
more mildly; "I hope he was an honest man, at least."
"Which is more than you think was the case with old Hutter?
Well, Judith, I'll not deny that hard stories were in circulation
consarning Floating Tom, but who is there that doesn't get a scratch,
when an inimy holds the rake? There's them that say hard things
of me, and even you, beauty as you be, don't always escape."
This was said with a view to set up a species of community of
character between the parties, and as the politicians are wont to
express it, with ulterior intentions. What might have been the
consequences with one of Judith's known spirit, as well as her
assured antipathy to the speaker, it is not easy to say, for, just
then, Hutter gave unequivocal signs that his last moment was nigh.
Judith and Hetty had stood by the dying bed of their mother, and
neither needed a monitor to warn them of the crisis, and every sign
of resentment vanished from the face of the first. Hutter opened
his eyes, and even tried to feel about him with his hands, a sign
that sight was failing. A minute later, his breathing grew ghastly;
a pause totally without respiration followed; and, then, succeeded
the last, long drawn sigh, on which the spirit is supposed to
quit the body. This sudden termination of the life of one who had
hitherto filled so important a place in the narrow scene on which
he had been an actor, put an end to all discussion.
The day passed by without further interruption, the Hurons, though
possessed of a canoe, appearing so far satisfied with their success
as to have relinquished all immediate designs on the castle. It
would not have been a safe undertaking, indeed, to approach it
under the rifles of those it was now known to contain, and it is
probable that the truce was more owing to this circumstance than
to any other. In the mean while the preparations were made for the
interment of Hutter. To bury him on the land was impracticable,
and it was Hetty's wish that his body should lie by the side of
that of her mother, in the lake. She had it in her power to quote
one of his speeches, in which he himself had called the lake the
"family burying ground," and luckily this was done without the
knowledge of her sister, who would have opposed the plan, had she
known it, with unconquerable disgust. But Judith had not meddled
with the arrangement, and every necessary disposition was made
without her privity or advice.
The hour chosen for the rude ceremony was just as the sun was
setting, and a moment and a scene more suited to paying the last
offices to one of calm and pure spirit could not have been chosen.
There are a mystery and a solemn dignity in death, that dispose the
living to regard the remains of even a malefactor with a certain
degree of reverence. All worldly distinctions have ceased; it
is thought that the veil has been removed, and that the character
and destiny of the departed are now as much beyond human opinions,
as they are beyond human ken. In nothing is death more truly a
leveller than in this, since, while it may be impossible absolutely
to confound the great with the low, the worthy with the unworthy,
the mind feels it to be arrogant to assume a right to judge of
those who are believed to be standing at the judgment seat of God.
When Judith was told that all was ready, she went upon the platform,
passive to the request of her sister, and then she first took heed
of the arrangement. The body was in the scow, enveloped in a sheet,
and quite a hundred weight of stones, that had been taken from the
fire place, were enclosed with it, in order that it might sink.
No other preparation seemed to be thought necessary, though Hetty
carried her Bible beneath her arm.
When all were on board the Ark, the singular habitation of the
man whose body it now bore to its final abode, was set in motion.
Hurry was at the oars. In his powerful hands, indeed, they seemed
little more than a pair of sculls, which were wielded without
effort, and, as he was expert in their use, the Delaware remained
a passive spectator of the proceedings. The progress of the Ark
had something of the stately solemnity of a funeral procession, the
dip of the oars being measured, and the movement slow and steady.
The wash of the water, as the blades rose and fell, kept time with
the efforts of Hurry, and might have been likened to the measured
tread of mourners. Then the tranquil scene was in beautiful
accordance with a rite that ever associates with itself the idea
of God. At that instant, the lake had not even a single ripple on
its glassy surface, and the broad panorama of woods seemed to look
down on the holy tranquillity of the hour and ceremony in melancholy
stillness. Judith was affected to tears, and even Hurry, though he
hardly knew why, was troubled. Hetty preserved the outward signs
of tranquillity, but her inward grief greatly surpassed that of her
sister, since her affectionate heart loved more from habit and long
association, than from the usual connections of sentiment and taste.
She was sustained by religious hope, however, which in her simple
mind usually occupied the space that worldly feelings filled in
that of Judith, and she was not without an expectation of witnessing
some open manifestation of divine power, on an occasion so solemn.
Still she was neither mystical nor exaggerated; her mental imbecility
denying both. Nevertheless her thoughts had generally so much of
the purity of a better world about them that it was easy for her
to forget earth altogether, and to think only of heaven. Hist
was serious, attentive and interested, for she had often seen the
interments of the pale-faces, though never one that promised to
be as peculiar as this; while the Delaware, though grave, and also
observant, in his demeanor was stoical and calm.
Hetty acted as pilot, directing Hurry how to proceed, to find that
spot in the lake which she was in the habit of terming "mother's
grave." The reader will remember that the castle stood near
the southern extremity of a shoal that extended near half a mile
northerly, and it was at the farthest end of this shallow water
that Floating Tom had seen fit to deposit the remains of his wife
and child. His own were now in the course of being placed at their
side. Hetty had marks on the land by which she usually found the
spot, although the position of the buildings, the general direction
of the shoal, and the beautiful transparency of the water all aided
her, the latter even allowing the bottom to be seen. By these means
the girl was enabled to note their progress, and at the proper time
she approached March, whispering, "Now, Hurry you can stop rowing.
We have passed the stone on the bottom, and mother's grave is near."
March ceased his efforts, immediately dropping the kedge and taking
the warp in his hand in order to check the scow. The Ark turned
slowly round under this restraint, and when it was quite stationary,
Hetty was seen at its stern, pointing into the water, the tears
streaming from her eyes, in ungovernable natural feeling. Judith
had been present at the interment of her mother, but she had never
visited the spot since. The neglect proceeded from no indifference
to the memory of the deceased; for she had loved her mother, and
bitterly had she found occasion to mourn her loss; but she was
averse to the contemplation of death; and there had been passages
in her own life since the day of that interment which increased
this feeling, and rendered her, if possible, still more reluctant to
approach the spot that contained the remains of one whose severe
lessons of female morality and propriety had been deepened and
rendered doubly impressive by remorse for her own failings. With
Hetty, the case had been very different. To her simple and innocent
mind, the remembrance of her mother brought no other feeling than
one of gentle sorrow; a grief that is so often termed luxurious
even, because it associates with itself the images of excellence and
the purity of a better state of existence. For an entire summer,
she had been in the habit of repairing to the place after night-fall;
and carefully anchoring her canoe so as not to disturb the body,
she would sit and hold fancied conversations with the deceased,
sing sweet hymns to the evening air, and repeat the orisons that
the being who now slumbered below had taught her in infancy. Hetty
had passed her happiest hours in this indirect communion with the
spirit of her mother; the wildness of Indian traditions and Indian
opinions, unconsciously to herself, mingling with the Christian lore
received in childhood. Once she had even been so far influenced
by the former as to have bethought her of performing some of those
physical rites at her mother's grave which the redmen are known to
observe; but the passing feeling had been obscured by the steady,
though mild light of Christianity, which never ceased to burn in her
gentle bosom. Now her emotions were merely the natural outpourings
of a daughter that wept for a mother whose love was indelibly
impressed on the heart, and whose lessons had been too earnestly
taught to be easily forgotten by one who had so little temptation
There was no other priest than nature at that wild and singular
funeral rite. March cast his eyes below, and through the transparent
medium of the clear water, which was almost as pure as air, he saw
what Hetty was accustomed to call "mother's grave." It was a low,
straggling mound of earth, fashioned by no spade, out of a corner
of which gleamed a bit of the white cloth that formed the shroud
of the dead. The body had been lowered to the bottom, and Hutter
brought earth from the shore and let it fall upon it, until all was
concealed. In this state the place had remained until the movement
of the waters revealed the solitary sign of the uses of the spot
that has just been mentioned.
Even the most rude and brawling are chastened by the ceremonies
of a funeral. March felt no desire to indulge his voice in any of
its coarse outbreakings, and was disposed to complete the office
he had undertaken in decent sobriety. Perhaps he reflected on the
retribution that had alighted on his late comrade, and bethought
him of the frightful jeopardy in which his own life had so lately
been placed. He signified to Judith that all was ready, received
her directions to proceed, and, with no other assistant than his
own vast strength, raised the body and bore it to the end of the
scow. Two parts of a rope were passed beneath the legs and shoulders,
as they are placed beneath coffins, and then the corpse was slowly
lowered beneath the surface of the lake.
"Not there - Harry March - no, not there," said Judith, shuddering
involuntarily; "do not lower it quite so near the spot where mother
"Why not, Judith?" asked Hetty, earnestly. "They lived together
in life, and should lie together in death."
"No - no - Harry March, further off - further off. Poor Hetty,
you know not what you say. Leave me to order this."
"I know I am weak-minded, Judith, and that you are clever - but,
surely a husband should be placed near a wife. Mother always said
that this was the way they bury in Christian churchyards."
This little controversy was conducted earnestly, but in smothered
voices, as if the speakers feared that the dead might overhear
them. Judith could not contend with her sister at such a moment,
but a significant gesture induced March to lower the body at a
little distance from that of his wife; when he withdrew the cords,
and the act was performed.
"There's an end of Floating Tom!" exclaimed Hurry, bending over the
scow, and gazing through the water at the body. "He was a brave
companion on a scout, and a notable hand with traps. Don't weep,
Judith, don't be overcome, Hetty, for the righteousest of us all
must die; and when the time comes, lamentations and tears can't
bring the dead to life. Your father will be a loss to you, no
doubt; most fathers are a loss, especially to onmarried darters;
but there's a way to cure that evil, and you're both too young and
handsome to live long without finding it out. When it's agreeable to
hear what an honest and onpretending man has to say, Judith,
I should like to talk a little with you, apart."
Judith had scarce attended to this rude attempt of Hurry's at
consolation, although she necessarily understood its general drift,
and had a tolerably accurate notion of its manner. She was weeping
at the recollection of her mother's early tenderness, and painful
images of long forgotten lessons and neglected precepts were
crowding her mind. The words of Hurry, however, recalled her to
the present time, and abrupt and unseasonable as was their import,
they did not produce those signs of distaste that one might have
expected from the girl's character. On the contrary, she appeared
to be struck with some sudden idea, gazed intently for a moment
at the young man, dried her eyes, and led the way to the other end
of the scow, signifying her wish for him to follow. Here she took
a seat and motioned for March to place himself at her side. The
decision and earnestness with which all this was done a little
intimidated her companion, and Judith found it necessary to open
the subject herself.
"You wish to speak to me of marriage, Harry March," she said, "and
I have come here, over the grave of my parents, as it might be -no
- no - over the grave of my poor, dear, dear, mother, to hear what
you have to say."
"This is oncommon, and you have a skearful way with you this evening,
Judith," answered Hurry, more disturbed than he would have cared
to own, "but truth is truth, and it shall come out, let what will
follow. You well know, gal, that I've long thought you the comeliest
young woman my eyes ever beheld, and that I've made no secret
of that fact, either here on the lake, out among the hunters
and trappers, or in the settlements."
"Yes - yes, I've heard this before, and I suppose it to be true,"
answered Judith with a sort of feverish impatience.
"When a young man holds such language of any particular young woman,
it's reasonable to calculate he sets store by her."
"True - true, Hurry - all this you've told me, again and again."
"Well, if it's agreeable, I should think a woman coul'n't hear it
too often. They all tell me this is the way with your sex, that
nothing pleases them more than to repeat over and over, for the
hundredth time, how much you like 'em, unless it be to talk to 'em
of their good looks!"
"No doubt - we like both, on most occasions, but this is an uncommon
moment, Hurry, and vain words should not be too freely used. I
would rather hear you speak plainly."
"You shall have your own way, Judith, and I some suspect you always
will. I've often told you that I not only like you better than
any other young woman going, or, for that matter, better than all
the young women going, but you must have obsarved, Judith, that
I've never asked you, in up and down tarms, to marry me."
"I have observed both," returned the girl, a smile struggling
about her beautiful mouth, in spite of the singular and engrossing
intentness which caused her cheeks to flush and lighted her eyes
with a brilliancy that was almost dazzling - "I have observed both,
and have thought the last remarkable for a man of Harry
March's decision and fearlessness."
"There's been a reason, gal, and it's one that troubles me even
now-nay, don't flush up so, and look fiery like, for there are
thoughts which will stick long in any man's mind, as there be words
that will stick in his throat - but, then ag'in, there's feelin's
that will get the better of 'em all, and to these feelin's I find
I must submit. You've no longer a father, or a mother, Judith, and
it's morally unpossible that you and Hetty could live here, alone,
allowing it was peace and the Iroquois was quiet; but, as matters
stand, not only would you starve, but you'd both be prisoners, or
scalped, afore a week was out. It's time to think of a change and
a husband, and, if you'll accept of me, all that's past shall be
forgotten, and there's an end on't."
Judith had difficulty in repressing her impatience until this rude
declaration and offer were made, which she evidently wished to
hear, and which she now listened to with a willingness that might
well have excited hope. She hardly allowed the young man to conclude,
so eager was she to bring him to the point, and so ready to answer.
"There - Hurry - that's enough," she said, raising a hand as if to
stop him -"I understand you as well as if you were to talk a month.
You prefer me to other girls, and you wish me to become your wife."
"You put it in better words than I can do, Judith, and I
wish you to fancy them said just as you most like to hear 'em."
"They're plain enough, Harry, and 'tis fitting they should be so.
This is no place to trifle or deceive in. Now, listen to my answer,
which shall be, in every tittle, as sincere as your offer. There
is a reason, March, why I should never -
"I suppose I understand you, Judith, but if I'm willing to overlook
that reason, it's no one's consarn but mine - Now, don't brighten
up like the sky at sundown, for no offence is meant, and
none should be taken."
"I do not brighten up, and will not take offence," said Judith,
struggling to repress her indignation, in a way she had never found
it necessary to exert before. "There is a reason why I should
not, cannot, ever be your wife, Hurry, that you seem to overlook,
and which it is my duty now to tell you, as plainly as you have
asked me to consent to become so. I do not, and I am certain that
I never shall, love you well enough to marry you. No man can wish
for a wife who does not prefer him to all other men, and when I
tell you this frankly, I suppose you yourself will thank me for my
"Ah! Judith, them flaunting, gay, scarlet-coated officers of the
garrisons have done all this mischief!"
"Hush, March; do not calumniate a daughter over her mother's grave!
Do not, when I only wish to treat you fairly, give me reason to
call for evil on your head in bitterness of heart! Do not forget
that I am a woman, and that you are a man; and that I have neither
father, nor brother, to revenge your words!"
"Well, there is something in the last, and I'll say no more. Take
time, Judith, and think better on this."
"I want no time - my mind has long been made up, and I have
only waited for you to speak plainly, to answer plainly. We now
understand each other, and there is no use in saying any more."
The impetuous earnestness of the girl awed the young man, for
never before had he seen her so serious and determined. In most,
of their previous interviews she had met his advances with evasion
or sarcasm, but these Hurry had mistaken for female coquetry, and
had supposed might easily be converted into consent. The struggle
had been with himself, about offering, nor had he ever seriously
believed it possible that Judith would refuse to become the wife
of the handsomest man on all that frontier. Now that the refusal
came, and that in terms so decided as to put all cavilling out of
the question; if not absolutely dumbfounded, he was so much mortified
and surprised as to feel no wish to attempt to change her resolution.
"The Glimmerglass has now no great call for me," he exclaimed after
a minute's silence. "Old Tom is gone, the Hurons are as plenty on
the shore as pigeons in the woods, and altogether it is getting to
be an onsuitable place."
"Then leave it. You see it is surrounded by dangers, and there is
no reason why you should risk your life for others. Nor do I know
that you can be of any service to us. Go, tonight; we'll never
accuse you of having done any thing forgetful, or unmanly."
"If I do go, 'twill be with a heavy heart on your account, Judith;
I would rather take you with me."
"That is not to be spoken of any longer, March; but, I will land
you in one of the canoes, as soon as it is dark and you can strike
a trail for the nearest garrison. When you reach the fort, if
you send a party -"
Judith smothered the words, for she felt that it was humiliating
to be thus exposing herself to the comments and reflections of one
who was not disposed to view her conduct in connection with all
in those garrisons, with an eye of favor. Hurry, however, caught
the idea, and without perverting it, as the girl dreaded, he answered
to the purpose.
"I understand what you would say, and why you don't say it." he
replied. "If I get safe to the fort, a party shall start on the
trail of these vagabonds, and I'll come with it, myself, for I
should like to see you and Hetty in a place of safety, before we
"Ah, Harry March, had you always spoken thus, felt thus, my feelings
towards you might have been different!"
"Is it too late, now, Judith? I'm rough and a woodsman, but we all
change under different treatment from what we have been used to."
"It is too late, March. I can never feel towards you, or any
other man but one, as you would wish to have me. There, I've said
enough, surely, and you will question me no further. As soon as
it is dark, I or the Delaware will put you on the shore. You will
make the best of your way to the Mohawk, and the nearest garrison,
and send all you can to our assistance. And, Hurry, we are now
friends, and I may trust in you, may I not?"
"Sartain, Judith; though our fri'ndship would have been all the
warmer, could you look upon me as I look upon you."
Judith hesitated, and some powerful emotion was struggling within
her. Then, as if determined to look down all weaknesses, and
accomplish her purposes at every hazard, she spoke more plainly.
"You will find a captain of the name of Warley at the nearest
post," she said, pale as death, and even trembling as she spoke;
"I think it likely he will wish to head the party, but I would
greatly prefer it should be another. If Captain Warley can be kept
back, 't would make me very happy!"
"That's easier said than done, Judith, for these officers do
pretty much as they please. The Major will order, and captains,
and lieutenants, and ensigns must obey. I know the officer you
mean, a red faced, gay, oh! be joyful sort of a gentleman, who
swallows madeira enough to drown the Mohawk, and yet a pleasant
talker. All the gals in the valley admire him, and they say he
admires all the gals. I don't wonder he is your dislike, Judith,
for he's a very gin'ral lover, if he isn't a gin'ral officer."
Judith did not answer, though her frame shook, and her colour
changed from pale to crimson, and from crimson back again to the
hue of death.
"Alas! my poor mother!" she ejaculated mentally instead of uttering
it aloud, "We are over thy grave, but little dost thou know how
much thy lessons have been forgotten; thy care neglected; thy love
As this goading of the worm that never dies was felt, she arose
and signified to Hurry, that she had no more to communicate.
"That point in misery, which makes the oppressed man regardless
of his own life, makes him too Lord of the oppressor's."
Coleridge, Remorse, V.i.201-04.
All this time Hetty had remained seated in the head of the scow,
looking sorrowfully into the water which held the body of her mother,
as well as that of the man whom she had been taught to consider her
father. Hist stood near her in gentle quiet, but had no consolation
to offer in words. The habits of her people taught her reserve in
this respect, and the habits of her sex induced her to wait patiently
for a moment when she might manifest some soothing sympathy by
means of acts, rather than of speech. Chingachgook held himself a
little aloof, in grave reserve, looking like a warrior, but feeling
like a man.
Judith joined her sister with an air of dignity and solemnity it
was not her practice to show, and, though the gleamings of anguish
were still visible on her beautiful face, when she spoke it was
firmly and without tremor. At that instant Hist and the Delaware
withdrew, moving towards Hurry, in the other end of the boat.
"Sister," said Judith kindly, "I have much to say to you; we will
get into this canoe, and paddle off to a distance from the Ark -The
secrets of two orphans ought not to be heard by every ear."
"Certainly, Judith, by the ears of their parents? Let Hurry lift
the grapnel and move away with the Ark, and leave us here, near
the graves of father and mother, to say what we may have to say."
"Father!" repeated Judith slowly, the blood for the first time since
her parting with March mounting to her cheeks - "He was no father
of ours, Hetty! That we had from his own mouth, and in his dying
"Are you glad, Judith, to find you had no father! He took care of
us, and fed us, and clothed us, and loved us; a father could have
done no more. I don't understand why he wasn't a father."
"Never mind, dear child, but let us do as you have said. It may
be well to remain here, and let the Ark move a little away. Do you
prepare the canoe, and I will tell Hurry and the Indians our wishes."
This was soon and simply done, the Ark moving with measured strokes
of the sweeps a hundred yards from the spot, leaving the girls
floating, seemingly in air, above the place of the dead; so buoyant
was the light vessel that held them, and so limpid the element by
which it was sustained.
"The death of Thomas Hutter," Judith commenced, after a short
pause had prepared her sister to receive her communications, "has
altered all our prospects, Hetty. If he was not our father, we
are sisters, and must feel alike and live together."
"How do I know, Judith, that you wouldn't be as glad to find I am
not your sister, as you are in finding that Thomas Hutter, as you
call him, was not your father. I am only half witted, and few people
like to have half witted relations; and then I'm not handsome - at
least, not as handsome as you - and you may wish a handsomer sister."
"No, no Hetty. You and you only are my sister - my heart, and
my love for you tell me that - and mother was my mother - of that
too am I glad, and proud; for she was a mother to be proud of -but
father was not father!"
"Hush, Judith! His spirit may be near; it would grieve it to
hear his children talking so, and that, too, over his very grave.
Children should never grieve parents, mother often told me, and
especially when they are dead!"
"Poor Hetty! They are happily removed beyond all cares on our
account. Nothing that I can do or say will cause mother any sorrow
now -there is some consolation in that, at least! And nothing you
can say or do will make her smile, as she used to smile on your
good conduct when living."
"You don't know that, Judith. Spirits can see, and mother may
see as well as any spirit. She always told us that God saw all we
did, and that we should do nothing to offend him; and now she has
left us, I strive to do nothing that can displease her. Think how
her spirit would mourn and feel sorrow, Judith, did it see either
of us doing what is not right; and spirits may see, after all;
especially the spirits of parents that feel anxious about their
"Hetty - Hetty - you know not what you say!" murmured Judith,
almost livid with emotion - "The dead cannot see, and know nothing
of what passes here! But, we will not talk of this any longer.
The bodies of Mother and Thomas Hutter lie together in the lake,
and we will hope that the spirits of both are with God. That we,
the children of one of them, remain on earth is certain; it is now
proper to know what we are to do in future."
"If we are not Thomas Hutter's children, Judith, no one will dispute
our right to his property. We have the castle and the Ark, and
the canoes, and the woods, and the lakes, the same as when he was
living, and what can prevent us from staying here, and passing our
lives just as we ever have done?"
"No, no poor sister - this can no longer be. Two girls would not
be safe here, even should these Hurons fail in getting us into their
power. Even father had as much as he could sometimes do, to keep
peace upon the lake, and we should fail altogether. We must quit
this spot, Hetty, and remove into the settlements."
"I am sorry you think so, Judith," returned Hetty, dropping her
head on her bosom, and looking thoughtfully down at the spot where
the funeral pile of her mother could just be seen. "I am very
sorry to hear it. I would rather stay here, where, if I wasn't
born, I've passed my life. I don't like the settlements - they are
full of wickedness and heart burnings, while God dwells unoffended
in these hills! I love the trees, and the mountains, and the lake,
and the springs; all that his bounty has given us, and it would
grieve me sorely, Judith, to be forced to quit them. You are
handsome, and not at all half-witted, and one day you will marry,
and then you will have a husband, and I a brother to take care of
us, if women can't really take care of themselves in such a place
"Ah! if this could be so, Hetty, then, indeed, I could now be
a thousand times happier in these woods, than in the settlements.
Once I did not feel thus, but now I do. Yet where is the man to
turn this beautiful place into such a garden of Eden for us?"
"Harry March loves you, sister," returned poor Hetty, unconsciously
picking the bark off the canoe as she spoke. "He would be glad
to be your husband, I'm sure, and a stouter and a braver youth is
not to be met with the whole country round."
"Harry March and I understand each other, and no more need be said
about him. There is one - but no matter. It is all in the hands
of providence, and we must shortly come to some conclusion about
our future manner of living. Remain here - that is, remain here,
alone, we cannot - and perhaps no occasion will ever offer for
remaining in the manner you think of. It is time, too, Hetty, we
should learn all we can concerning our relations and family. It
is not probable we are altogether without relations, and they may
be glad to see us. The old chest is now our property, and we have
a right to look into it, and learn all we can by what it holds.
Mother was so very different from Thomas Hutter, that, now I know
we are not his children, I burn with a desire to know whose children
we can be. There are papers in that chest, I am certain, and those
papers may tell us all about our parents and natural friends."
"Well, Judith, you know best, for you are cleverer than common,
mother always said, and I am only half-witted. Now father and
mother are dead, I don't much care for any relation but you, and
don't think I could love them I never saw, as well as I ought. If
you don't like to marry Hurry, I don't see who you can choose for
a husband, and then I fear we shall have to quit the lake, after
"What do you think of Deerslayer, Hetty?" asked Judith, bending
forward like her unsophisticated sister, and endeavoring to
conceal her embarrassment in a similar manner. "Would he not make
a brother-in-law to your liking?"
"Deerslayer!" repeated the other, looking up in unfeigned surprise.
"Why, Judith, Deerslayer isn't in the least comely, and is altogether
unfit for one like you!"
"He is not ill-looking, Hetty, and beauty in a man is not of much
"Do you think so, Judith? I know that beauty is of no great matter,
in man or woman, in the eyes of God, for mother has often told me
so, when she thought I might have been sorry I was not as handsome
as you, though she needn't have been uneasy on that account, for
I never coveted any thing that is yours, sister - but, tell me so
she did - still, beauty is very pleasant to the eye, in both! I
think, if I were a man, I should pine more for good looks than I do
as a girl. A handsome man is a more pleasing sight than a handsome
"Poor child! You scarce know what you say, or what you mean!
Beauty in our sex is something, but in men, it passes for little.
To be sure, a man ought to be tall, but others are tall, as well as
Hurry; and active - and I think I know those that are more active
- and strong; well, he hasn't all the strength in the world - and
brave - I am certain I can name a youth who is braver!"
"This is strange, Judith! - I didn't think the earth held a handsomer,
or a stronger, or a more active or a braver man than Hurry Harry!
I'm sure I never met his equal in either of these things."
"Well, well, Hetty - say no more of this. I dislike to hear you
talking in this manner. Tis not suitable to your innocence, and
truth, and warm-hearted sincerity. Let Harry March go. He quits
us tonight, and no regret of mine will follow him, unless it be
that he has staid so long, and to so little purpose."
"Ah! Judith; that is what I've long feared - and I did so hope he
might be my brother-in-law!"
"Never mind it now. Let us talk of our poor mother - and of Thomas
"Speak kindly then, sister, for you can't be quite certain that
spirits don't both hear and see. If father wasn't father, he was
good to us, and gave us food and shelter. We can't put any stones
over their graves, here in the water, to tell people all this, and
so we ought to say it with our tongues."
"They will care little for that, girl. 'Tis a great consolation
to know, Hetty, that if mother ever did commit any heavy fault when
young, she lived sincerely to repent of it; no doubt her sins were
"Tisn't right, Judith, for children to talk of their parents'
sins. We had better talk of our own."
"Talk of your sins, Hetty! - If there ever was a creature on earth
without sin, it is you! I wish I could say, or think the same of
myself; but we shall see. No one knows what changes affection for
a good husband can make in a woman's heart. I don't think, child,
I have even now the same love for finery I once had."
"It would be a pity, Judith, if you did think of clothes, over your
parents' graves! We will never quit this spot, if you say so, and
will let Hurry go where he pleases."
"I am willing enough to consent to the last, but cannot answer for
the first, Hetty. We must live, in future, as becomes respectable
young women, and cannot remain here, to be the talk and jest of all
the rude and foul tongu'd trappers and hunters that may come upon
the lake. Let Hurry go by himself, and then I'll find the means
to see Deerslayer, when the future shall be soon settled. Come,
girl, the sun has set, and the Ark is drifting away from us; let
us paddle up to the scow, and consult with our friends. This night
I shall look into the chest, and to-morrow shall determine what we
are to do. As for the Hurons, now we can use our stores without
fear of Thomas Hutter, they will be easily bought off. Let me get
Deerslayer once out of their hands, and a single hour shall bring
things to an understanding."
Judith spoke with decision, and she spoke with authority, a habit
she had long practised towards her feeble-minded sister. But,
while thus accustomed to have her way, by the aid of manner and a
readier command of words, Hetty occasionally checked her impetuous
feelings and hasty acts by the aid of those simple moral truths
that were so deeply engrafted in all her own thoughts and feelings;
shining through both with a mild and beautiful lustre that threw
a sort of holy halo around so much of what she both said and did.
On the present occasion, this healthful ascendancy of the girl of
weak intellect, over her of a capacity that, in other situations,
might have become brilliant and admired, was exhibited in the usual
simple and earnest manner.
"You forget, Judith, what has brought us here," she said reproachfully.
"This is mother's grave, and we have just laid the body of father
by her side. We have done wrong to talk so much of ourselves at
such a spot, and ought now to pray God to forgive us, and ask him
to teach us where we are to go, and what we are to do."
Judith involuntarily laid aside her paddle, while Hetty dropped on
her knees, and was soon lost in her devout but simple petitions.
Her sister did not pray. This she had long ceased to do directly,
though anguish of spirit frequently wrung from her mental and
hasty appeals to the great source of benevolence, for support, if
not for a change of spirit. Still she never beheld Hetty on her
knees, that a feeling of tender recollection, as well as of profound
regret at the deadness of her own heart, did not come over her.
Thus had she herself done in childhood, and even down to the hour
of her ill fated visits to the garrisons, and she would willingly
have given worlds, at such moments, to be able to exchange her
present sensations for the confiding faith, those pure aspirations,
and the gentle hope that shone through every lineament and movement
of her otherwise, less favored sister. All she could do, however,
was to drop her head to her bosom, and assume in her attitude some
of that devotion in which her stubborn spirit refused to unite.
When Hetty rose from her knees, her countenance had a glow and
serenity that rendered a face that was always agreeable, positively
handsome. Her mind was at peace, and her conscience acquitted her
of a neglect of duty.
"Now, you may go if you want to, Judith," she said, "for God has
been kind to me, and lifted a burden off my heart. Mother had many
such burdens, she used to tell me, and she always took them off in
this way. Tis the only way, sister, such things can be done. You
may raise a stone, or a log, with your hands; but the heart must be
lightened by prayer. I don't think you pray as often as you used
to do, when younger, Judith!"
"Never mind - never mind, child," answered the other huskily,
"'tis no matter, now. Mother is gone, and Thomas Hutter is gone,
and the time has come when we must think and act for ourselves."
As the canoe moved slowly away from the place, under the gentle
impulsion of the elder sister's paddle, the younger sat musing,
as was her wont whenever her mind was perplexed by any idea more
abstract and difficult of comprehension than common.
"I don't know what you mean by 'future', Judith," she at length,
suddenly observed. "Mother used to call Heaven the future, but
you seem to think it means next week, or tomorrow!"
"It means both, dear sister - every thing that is yet to come,
whether in this world or another. It is a solemn word, Hetty, and
most so, I fear, to them that think the least about it. Mother's
future is eternity; ours may yet mean what will happen while we
live in this world - Is not that a canoe just passing behind the
castle - here, more in the direction of the point, I mean; it is
hid, now; but certainly I saw a canoe stealing behind the logs!"
"I've seen it some time," Hetty quietly answered, for the Indians
had few terrors for her, "but I didn't think it right to talk about
such things over mother's grave! The canoe came from the camp,
Judith, and was paddled by a single man. He seemed to be Deerslayer,
and no Iroquois."
"Deerslayer!" returned the other, with much of her native impetuosity
-"That cannot be! Deerslayer is a prisoner, and I have been
thinking of the means of setting him free. Why did you fancy it
"You can look for yourself, sister, for there comes the canoe in
sight, again, on this side of the hut."
Sure enough, the light boat had passed the building, and was now
steadily advancing towards the Ark; the persons on board of which
were already collecting in the head of the scow to receive their
visitor. A single glance sufficed to assure Judith that her sister
was right, and that Deerslayer was alone in the canoe. His approach
was so calm and leisurely, however, as to fill her with wonder, since
a man who had effected his escape from enemies by either artifice
or violence, would not be apt to move with the steadiness and
deliberation with which his paddle swept the water. By this time
the day was fairly departing, and objects were already seen dimly
under the shores. In the broad lake, however, the light still
lingered, and around the immediate scene of the present incidents,
which was less shaded than most of the sheet, being in its broadest
part, it cast a glow that bore some faint resemblance to the warm
tints of an Italian or Grecian sunset. The logs of the hut and
Ark had a sort of purple hue, blended with the growing obscurity,
and the bark of the hunter's boat was losing its distinctness in
colours richer, but more mellowed, than those it showed under a
bright sun. As the two canoes approached each other - for Judith and
her sister had plied their paddles so as to intercept the unexpected
visiter ere he reached the Ark - even Deerslayer's sun-burned
countenance wore a brighter aspect than common, under the pleasing
tints that seemed to dance in the atmosphere. Judith fancied that
delight at meeting her had some share in this unusual and agreeable
expression. She was not aware that her own beauty appeared to
more advantage than common, from the same natural cause, nor did
she understand what it would have given her so much pleasure to
know, that the young man actually thought her, as she drew nearer,
the loveliest creature of her sex his eyes had ever dwelt on.
"Welcome - welcome, Deerslayer!" exclaimed the girl, as the canoes
floated at each other's side; "we have had a melancholy -a frightful
day - but your return is, at least, one misfortune the less! Have
the Hurons become more human, and let you go; or have you escaped
from the wretches, by your own courage and skill?"
"Neither, Judith - neither one nor t'other. The Mingos are Mingos
still, and will live and die Mingos; it is not likely their natur's
will ever undergo much improvement. Well! They've their gifts,
and we've our'n, Judith, and it doesn't much become either to
speak ill of what the Lord has created; though, if the truth must
be said, I find it a sore trial to think kindly or to talk kindly
of them vagabonds. As for outwitting them, that might have been
done, and it was done, too, atween the Sarpent, yonder, and me, when
we were on the trail of Hist -" here the hunter stopped to laugh
in his own silent fashion - "but it's no easy matter to sarcumvent
the sarcumvented. Even the fa'ans get to know the tricks of the
hunters afore a single season is over, and an Indian whose eyes
have once been opened by a sarcumvention never shuts them ag'in in
precisely the same spot. I've known whites to do that, but never
a red-skin. What they l'arn comes by practice, and not by books,
and of all schoolmasters exper'ence gives lessons that are the
"All this is true, Deerslayer, but if you have not escaped from
the savages, how came you here?"
"That's a nat'ral question, and charmingly put. You are wonderful
handsome this evening, Judith, or Wild Rose, as the Sarpent calls
you, and I may as well say it, since I honestly think it! You
may well call them Mingos, savages too, for savage enough do they
feel, and savage enough will they act, if you once give them an
opportunity. They feel their loss here, in the late skrimmage, to
their hearts' cores, and are ready to revenge it on any creatur'
of English blood that may fall in their way. Nor, for that matter
do I much think they would stand at taking their satisfaction out
of a Dutch man."
"They have killed father; that ought to satisfy their wicked cravings
for blood," observed Hetty reproachfully.
"I know it, gal - I know the whole story - partly from what I've
seen from the shore, since they brought me up from the point, and
partly from their threats ag'in myself, and their other discourse.
Well, life is unsartain at the best, and we all depend on the
breath of our nostrils for it, from day to day. If you've lost a
staunch fri'nd, as I make no doubt you have, Providence will raise
up new ones in his stead, and since our acquaintance has begun in
this oncommon manner, I shall take it as a hint that it will be a
part of my duty in futur', should the occasion offer, to see you
don't suffer for want of food in the wigwam. I can't bring the
dead to life, but as to feeding the living, there's few on all
this frontier can outdo me, though I say it in the way of pity and
consolation, like, and in no particular, in the way of boasting."
"We understand you, Deerslayer," returned Judith, hastily, "and
take all that falls from your lips, as it is meant, in kindness
and friendship. Would to Heaven all men had tongues as true, and
hearts as honest!"
"In that respect men do differ, of a sartainty, Judith. I've known
them that wasn't to be trusted any farther than you can see them;
and others ag'in whose messages, sent with a small piece of wampum,
perhaps, might just as much be depended on, as if the whole business
was finished afore your face. Yes, Judith, you never said truer
word, than when you said some men might be depended on, and other
some might not."
"You are an unaccountable being, Deerslayer," returned the girl,
not a little puzzled with the childish simplicity of character
that the hunter so often betrayed - a simplicity so striking that
it frequently appeared to place him nearly on a level with the
fatuity of poor Hetty, though always relieved by the beautiful moral
truth that shone through all that this unfortunate girl both said
and did - "You are a most unaccountable man, and I often do not
know how to understand you. But never mind, just now; you have
forgotten to tell us by what means you are here."
"I! - Oh! That's not very onaccountable, if I am myself, Judith.
I'm out on furlough."
"Furlough! - That word has a meaning among the soldiers that
I understand; but I cannot tell what it signifies when used by a
"It means just the same. You're right enough; the soldiers do
use it, and just in the same way as I use it. A furlough is when
a man has leave to quit a camp or a garrison for a sartain specified
time; at the end of which he is to come back and shoulder his musket,
or submit to his torments, just as he may happen to be a soldier,
or a captyve. Being the last, I must take the chances of a prisoner."
"Have the Hurons suffered you to quit them in this manner, without
watch or guard."
"Sartain - I woul'n't have come in any other manner, unless indeed
it had been by a bold rising, or a sarcumvention."
"What pledge have they that you will ever return?"
"My word," answered the hunter simply. "Yes, I own I gave 'em that,
and big fools would they have been to let me come without it! Why
in that case, I shouldn't have been obliged to go back and ondergo
any deviltries their fury may invent, but might have shouldered my
rifle, and made the best of my way to the Delaware villages. But,
Lord! Judith, they know'd this, just as well as you and I do, and
would no more let me come away, without a promise to go back, than
they would let the wolves dig up the bones of their fathers!"
"Is it possible you mean to do this act of extraordinary self-destruction
"I ask if it can be possible that you expect to be able to put
yourself again in the power of such ruthless enemies, by keeping
Deerslayer looked at his fair questioner for a moment with stern
displeasure. Then the expression of his honest and guileless face
suddenly changed, lighting as by a quick illumination of thought,
after which he laughed in his ordinary manner.
"I didn't understand you, at first, Judith; no, I didn't! You
believe that Chingachgook and Hurry Harry won't suffer it; but you
don't know mankind thoroughly yet, I see. The Delaware would be
the last man on 'arth to offer any objections to what he knows is a
duty, and, as for March, he doesn't care enough about any creatur'
but himself to spend many words on such a subject. If he did, 'twould
make no great difference howsever; but not he, for he thinks more
of his gains than of even his own word. As for my promises, or
your'n, Judith, or any body else's, they give him no consarn. Don't
be under any oneasiness, therefore, gal; I shall be allowed to go
back according to the furlough; and if difficulties was made, I've
not been brought up, and edicated as one may say, in the woods,
without knowing how to look 'em down."
Judith made no answer for some little time. All her feelings as
a woman, and as a woman who, for the first time in her life was
beginning to submit to that sentiment which has so much influence
on the happiness or misery of her sex, revolted at the cruel fate
that she fancied Deerslayer was drawing down upon himself, while
the sense of right, which God has implanted in every human breast,
told her to admire an integrity as indomitable and as unpretending
as that which the other so unconsciously displayed. Argument,
she felt, would be useless, nor was she at that moment disposed
to lessen the dignity and high principle that were so striking in
the intentions of the hunter, by any attempt to turn him from his
purpose. That something might yet occur to supersede the necessity
for this self immolation she tried to hope, and then she proceeded
to ascertain the facts in order that her own conduct might be
regulated by her knowledge of circumstances.
"When is your furlough out, Deerslayer," she asked, after both
canoes were heading towards the Ark, and moving, with scarcely a
perceptible effort of the paddles, through the water.
"To-morrow noon; not a minute afore; and you may depend on it,
Judith, I shan't quit what I call Christian company, to go and give
myself up to them vagabonds, an instant sooner than is downright
necessary. They begin to fear a visit from the garrisons, and
wouldn't lengthen the time a moment, and it's pretty well understood
atween us that, should I fail in my ar'n'd, the torments are to
take place when the sun begins to fall, that they may strike upon
their home trail as soon as it is dark."
This was said solemnly, as if the thought of what was believed
to be in reserve duly weighed on the prisoner's mind, and yet so
simply, and without a parade of suffering, as rather to repel than
to invite any open manifestations of sympathy.
"Are they bent on revenging their losses?" Judith asked faintly,
her own high spirit yielding to the influence of the other's quiet
but dignified integrity of purpose.
"Downright, if I can judge of Indian inclinations by the symptoms.
They think howsever I don't suspect their designs, I do believe,
but one that has lived so long among men of red-skin gifts, is
no more likely to be misled in Injin feelin's, than a true hunter
is like to lose his trail, or a stanch hound his scent. My own
judgment is greatly ag'in my own escape, for I see the women are
a good deal enraged on behalf of Hist, though I say it, perhaps,
that shouldn't say it, seein' that I had a considerable hand myself
in getting the gal off. Then there was a cruel murder in their
camp last night, and that shot might just as well have been fired
into my breast. Howsever, come what will, the Sarpent and his wife
will be safe, and that is some happiness in any case."
"Oh! Deerslayer, they will think better of this, since they have
given you until to-morrow noon to make up your mind!"
"I judge not, Judith; yes, I judge not. An Injin is an Injin, gal,
and it's pretty much hopeless to think of swarving him, when he's
got the scent and follows it with his nose in the air. The Delawares,
now, are a half Christianized tribe - not that I think such sort of
Christians much better than your whole blooded onbelievers - but,
nevertheless, what good half Christianizing can do to a man, some
among 'em have got, and yet revenge clings to their hearts like
the wild creepers here to the tree! Then, I slew one of the best
and boldest of their warriors, they say, and it is too much to expect
that they should captivate the man who did this deed, in the very
same scouting on which it was performed, and they take no account
of the matter. Had a month, or so, gone by, their feelin's would
have been softened down, and we might have met in a more friendly
way, but it is as it is. Judith, this is talking of nothing but
myself, and my own consarns, when you have had trouble enough, and
may want to consult a fri'nd a little about your own matters. Is
the old man laid in the water, where I should think his body would
like to rest?"
"It is, Deerslayer," answered Judith, almost inaudibly. "That duty
has just been performed. You are right in thinking that I wish
to consult a friend; and that friend is yourself. Hurry Harry is
about to leave us; when he is gone, and we have got a little over
the feelings of this solemn office, I hope you will give me an hour
alone. Hetty and I are at a loss what to do."
"That's quite nat'ral, coming as things have, suddenly and fearfully.
But here's the Ark, and we'll say more of this when there is a
"The winde is great upon the highest hilles;
The quiet life is in the dale below;
Who tread on ice shall slide against their willes;
They want not cares, that curious arts should know.
Who lives at ease and can content him so,
Is perfect wise, and sets us all to schoole:
Who hates this lore may well be called a foole."
Thomas Churchyard, "Shore's Wife," xlvii.
The meeting between Deerslayer and his friends in the Ark was grave
and anxious. The two Indians, in particular, read in his manner
that he was not a successful fugitive, and a few sententious words
sufficed to let them comprehend the nature of what their friend had
termed his 'furlough.' Chingachgook immediately became thoughtful,
while Hist, as usual, had no better mode of expressing her sympathy
than by those little attentions which mark the affectionate manner
In a few minutes, however, something like a general plan for the
proceedings of the night was adopted, and to the eye of an uninstructed
observer things would be thought to move in their ordinary train.
It was now getting to be dark, and it was decided to sweep the
Ark up to the castle, and secure it in its ordinary berth. This
decision was come to, in some measure on account of the fact
that all the canoes were again in the possession of their proper
owners, but principally, from the security that was created by
the representations of Deerslayer. He had examined the state of
things among the Hurons, and felt satisfied that they meditated no
further hostilities during the night, the loss they had met having
indisposed them to further exertions for the moment. Then, he had
a proposition to make; the object of his visit; and, if this were
accepted, the war would at once terminate between the parties; and
it was improbable that the Hurons would anticipate the failure of
a project on which their chiefs had apparently set their hearts,
by having recourse to violence previously to the return of their
messenger. As soon as the Ark was properly secured, the different
members of the party occupied themselves in their several peculiar
manners, haste in council, or in decision, no more characterizing
the proceedings of these border whites, than it did those of their
red neighbors. The women busied themselves in preparations for
the evening meal, sad and silent, but ever attentive to the first
wants of nature. Hurry set about repairing his moccasins, by the
light of a blazing knot; Chingachgook seated himself in gloomy
thought, while Deerslayer proceeded, in a manner equally free from
affectation and concern, to examine 'Killdeer', the rifle of Hutter
that has been already mentioned, and which subsequently became so
celebrated, in the hands of the individual who was now making a
survey of its merits. The piece was a little longer than usual,
and had evidently been turned out from the work shops of some
manufacturer of a superior order. It had a few silver ornaments,
though, on the whole, it would have been deemed a plain piece
by most frontier men, its great merit consisting in the accuracy
of its bore, the perfection of the details, and the excellence of
the metal. Again and again did the hunter apply the breech to his
shoulder, and glance his eye along the sights, and as often did he
poise his body and raise the weapon slowly, as if about to catch
an aim at a deer, in order to try the weight, and to ascertain its
fitness for quick and accurate firing. All this was done, by the
aid of Hurry's torch, simply, but with an earnestness and abstraction
that would have been found touching by any spectator who happened
to know the real situation of the man.
"Tis a glorious we'pon, Hurry!" Deerslayer at length exclaimed,
"and it may be thought a pity that it has fallen into the hands
of women. The hunters have told me of its expl'ites, and by all
I have heard, I should set it down as sartain death in exper'enced
hands. Hearken to the tick of this lock-a wolf trap has'n't
a livelier spring; pan and cock speak together, like two singing
masters undertaking a psalm in meetin'. I never did see so true
a bore, Hurry, that's sartain!"
"Ay, Old Tom used to give the piece a character, though he wasn't
the man to particularize the ra'al natur' of any sort of fire
arms, in practise," returned March, passing the deer's thongs
through the moccasin with the coolness of a cobbler. "He was no
marksman, that we must all allow; but he had his good p'ints, as
well as his bad ones. I have had hopes that Judith might consait
the idee of giving Killdeer to me."
"There's no saying what young women may do, that's a truth, Hurry,
and I suppose you're as likely to own the rifle as another. Still,
when things are so very near perfection, it's a pity not to reach
"What do you mean by that? - Would not that piece look as well on
my shoulder, as on any man's?"
"As for looks, I say nothing. You are both good-looking, and might
make what is called a good-looking couple. But the true p'int is
as to conduct. More deer would fall in one day, by that piece,
in some man's hands, than would fall in a week in your'n, Hurry!
I've seen you try; yes, remember the buck t'other day."
"That buck was out of season, and who wishes to kill venison out
of season. I was merely trying to frighten the creatur', and I
think you will own that he was pretty well skeared, at any rate."
"Well, well, have it as you say. But this is a lordly piece, and
would make a steady hand and quick eye the King of the Woods!"
"Then keep it, Deerslayer, and become King of the Woods," said
Judith, earnestly, who had heard the conversation, and whose eye
was never long averted from the honest countenance of the hunter.
"It can never be in better hands than it is, at this moment, and
there I hope it will remain these fifty years.
"Judith you can't be in 'arnest!" exclaimed Deerslayer, taken so
much by surprise, as to betray more emotion than it was usual for
him to manifest on ordinary occasions. "Such a gift would be fit
for a ra'al King to make; yes, and for a ra'al King to receive."
"I never was more in earnest, in my life, Deerslayer, and I am as
much in earnest in the wish as in the gift."
"Well, gal, well; we'll find time to talk of this ag'in. You mustn't
be down hearted, Hurry, for Judith is a sprightly young woman,
and she has a quick reason; she knows that the credit of her father's
rifle is safer in my hands, than it can possibly be in yourn; and,
therefore, you mustn't be down hearted. In other matters, more
to your liking, too, you'll find she'll give you the preference."
Hurry growled out his dissatisfaction, but he was too intent on
quitting the lake, and in making his preparations, to waste his
breath on a subject of this nature. Shortly after, the supper
was ready, and it was eaten in silence as is so much the habit of
those who consider the table as merely a place of animal refreshment.
On this occasion, however, sadness and thought contributed their
share to the general desire not to converse, for Deerslayer was so
far an exception to the usages of men of his cast, as not only to
wish to hold discourse on such occasions, but as often to create
a similar desire in his companions.
The meal ended, and the humble preparations removed, the whole
party assembled on the platform to hear the expected intelligence
from Deerslayer on the subject of his visit. It had been evident
he was in no haste to make his communication, but the feelings of
Judith would no longer admit of delay. Stools were brought from the
Ark and the hut, and the whole six placed themselves in a circle,
near the door, watching each other's countenances, as best they
could, by the scanty means that were furnished by a lovely star-light
night. Along the shores, beneath the mountains, lay the usual body
of gloom, but in the broad lake no shadow was cast, and a thousand
mimic stars were dancing in the limpid element, that was just
stirred enough by the evening air to set them all in motion.
"Now, Deerslayer," commenced Judith, whose impatience resisted
further restraint-"now, Deerslayer, tell us all the Hurons have to
say, and the reason why they have sent you on parole, to make us
"Furlough, Judith; furlough is the word; and it carries the same
meaning with a captyve at large, as it does with a soldier who has
leave to quit his colors. In both cases the word is passed to come
back, and now I remember to have heard that's the ra'al signification;
'furlough' meaning a 'word' passed for the doing of any thing of the
like. Parole I rather think is Dutch, and has something to do with
the tattoos of the garrisons. But this makes no great difference,
since the vartue of a pledge lies in the idee, and not in the word.
Well, then, if the message must be given, it must; and perhaps
there is no use in putting it off. Hurry will soon be wanting to
set out on his journey to the river, and the stars rise and set,
just as if they cared for neither Injin nor message. Ah's! me;
'Tisn't a pleasant, and I know it's a useless ar'n'd, but it must
"Harkee, Deerslayer," put in Hurry, a little authoritatively-"You're
a sensible man in a hunt, and as good a fellow on a march, as a
sixty-miler-a-day could wish to meet with, but you're oncommon slow
about messages; especially them that you think won't be likely to
be well received. When a thing is to be told, why tell it; and
don't hang back like a Yankee lawyer pretending he can't understand
a Dutchman's English, just to get a double fee out of him."
"I understand you, Hurry, and well are you named to-night, seeing
you've no time to lose. But let us come at once to the p'int, seeing
that's the object of this council- for council it may be called,
though women have seats among us. The simple fact is this. When
the party came back from the castle, the Mingos held a council, and
bitter thoughts were uppermost, as was plain to be seen by their
gloomy faces. No one likes to be beaten, and a red-skin as little
as a pale-face. Well, when they had smoked upon it, and made
their speeches, and their council fire had burnt low, the matter
came out. It seems the elders among 'em consaited I was a man to
be trusted on a furlough-They're wonderful obsarvant, them Mingos;
that their worst mimics must allow - but they consaited I was such
a man; and it isn't often -" added the hunter, with a pleasing
consciousness that his previous life justified this implicit
reliance on his good faith -"it isn't often they consait any thing
so good of a pale-face; but so they did with me, and, therefore,
they didn't hesitate to speak their minds, which is just this:
You see the state of things. The lake, and all on it, they fancy,
lie at their marcy. Thomas Hutter is deceased, and, as for Hurry,
they've got the idee he has been near enough to death to-day, not
to wish to take another look at him this summer. Therefore, they
account all your forces as reduced to Chingachgook and the two young
women, and, while they know the Delaware to be of a high race, and
a born warrior, they know he's now on his first war path. As for
the gals, of course they set them down much as they do women in
"You mean that they despise us!" interrupted Judith, with eyes that
flashed so brightly as to be observed by all present.
"That will be seen in the end. They hold that all on the lake
lies at their marcy, and, therefore, they send by me this belt of
wampum," showing the article in question to the Delaware, as he
spoke, "with these words. 'Tell the Sarpent, they say, that he has
done well for a beginner; he may now strike across the mountains
for his own villages, and no one shall look for his trail. If he
has found a scalp, let him take it with him, for the Huron braves
have hearts, and can feel for a young warrior who doesn't wish to
go home empty-handed. If he is nimble, he is welcome to lead out
a party in pursuit. Hist, howsever, must go back to the Hurons,
for, when she left there in the night, she carried away by mistake,
that which doesn't belong to her"
"That can't be true!" said Hetty earnestly. "Hist is no such girl,
but one that gives every body his due -"
How much more she would have said in remonstrance cannot be known,
inasmuch as Hist, partly laughing and partly hiding her face in
shame, passed her own hand across the speaker's mouth in a way to
check the words.
"You don't understand Mingo messages, poor Hetty -" resumed
Deerslayer, "which seldom mean what lies exactly uppermost. Hist
has brought away with her the inclinations of a young Huron, and
they want her back again, that the poor young man may find them
where he last saw them! The Sarpent they say is too promising
a young warrior not to find as many wives as he wants, but this
one he cannot have. That's their meaning, and nothing else, as I
"They are very obliging and thoughtful, in supposing a young woman
can forget all her own inclinations in order to let this unhappy
youth find his!" said Judith, ironically; though her manner became
more bitter as she proceeded. "I suppose a woman is a woman,
let her colour be white, or red, and your chiefs know little of a
woman's heart, Deerslayer, if they think it can ever forgive when
wronged, or ever forget when it fairly loves."
"I suppose that's pretty much the truth with some women, Judith,
though I've known them that could do both. The next message is to
you. They say the Muskrat, as they called your father, has dove
to the bottom of the lake; that he will never come up again, and
that his young will soon be in want of wigwams if not of food.
The Huron huts, they think, are better than the huts of York, and
they wish you to come and try them. Your colour is white, they
own, but they think young women who've lived so long in the woods
would lose their way in the clearin's. A great warrior among them
has lately lost his wife, and he would be glad to put the Wild Rose
on her bench at his fireside. As for the Feeble Mind, she will
always be honored and taken care of by red warriors. Your father's
goods they think ought to go to enrich the tribe, but your own
property, which is to include everything of a female natur', will
go like that of all wives, into the wigwam of the husband. Moreover,
they've lost a young maiden by violence, lately, and 'twill take
two pale-faces to fill her seat."
"And do you bring such a message to me," exclaimed Judith, though
the tone in which the words were uttered had more in it of sorrow
than of anger. "Am I a girl to be an Indian's slave?"
"If you wish my honest thoughts on this p'int, Judith, I shall
answer that I don't think you'll, willingly, ever become any man's
slave; red-skin or white. You're not to think hard, howsever, of
my bringing the message, as near as I could, in the very words in
which it was given to me. Them was the conditions on which I got
my furlough, and a bargain is a bargain, though it is made with a
vagabond. I've told you what they've said, but I've not yet told
you what I think you ought, one and all, to answer."
"Ay; let's hear that, Deerslayer," put in Hurry. "My cur'osity is
up on that consideration, and I should like, right well, to hear
your idees of the reasonableness of the reply. For my part, though,
my own mind is pretty much settled on the p'int of my own answer,
which shall be made known as soon as necessary."
"And so is mine, Hurry, on all the different heads, and on no one
is it more sartainly settled that on your'n. If I was you, I should
say -'Deerslayer, tell them scamps they don't know Harry March!
He is human; and having a white skin, he has also a white natur',
which natur' won't let him desart females of his own race and gifts
in their greatest need. So set me down as one that will refuse
to come into your treaty, though you should smoke a hogshead
of tobacco over it.'"
March was a little embarrassed at this rebuke, which was uttered
with sufficient warmth of manner, and with a point that left no
doubt of the meaning. Had Judith encouraged him, he would not have
hesitated about remaining to defend her and her sister, but under
the circumstances a feeling of resentment rather urged him to abandon
them. At all events, there was not a sufficiency of chivalry in
Hurry Harry to induce him to hazard the safety of his own person
unless he could see a direct connection between the probable
consequences and his own interests. It is no wonder, therefore,
that his answer partook equally of his intention, and of the reliance
he so boastingly placed on his gigantic strength, which if it
did not always make him outrageous, usually made him impudent, as
respects those with whom he conversed.
"Fair words make long friendships, Master Deerslayer," he said
a little menacingly. "You're but a stripling, and you know by
exper'ence what you are in the hands of a man. As you're not me,
but only a go between sent by the savages to us Christians, you
may tell your empl'yers that they do know Harry March, which is a
proof of their sense as well as his. He's human enough to follow
human natur', and that tells him to see the folly of one man's
fighting a whole tribe. If females desart him, they must expect
to be desarted by him, whether they're of his own gifts or another
man's gifts. Should Judith see fit to change her mind, she's welcome
to my company to the river, and Hetty with her; but shouldn't she
come to this conclusion, I start as soon as I think the enemy's
scouts are beginning to nestle themselves in among the brush and
leaves for the night."
"Judith will not change her mind, and she does not ask your company,
Master March," returned the girl with spirit.
"That p'int's settled, then," resumed Deerslayer, unmoved by the
other's warmth. "Hurry Harry must act for himself, and do that
which will be most likely to suit his own fancy. The course he
means to take will give him an easy race, if it don't give him an
easy conscience. Next comes the question with Hist - what say you
gal? - Will you desart your duty, too, and go back to the Mingos
and take a Huron husband, and all not for the love of the man you're
to marry, but for the love of your own scalp?"
"Why you talk so to Hist!" demanded the girl half-offended. "You
t'ink a red-skin girl made like captain's lady, to laugh and joke
with any officer that come."
"What I think, Hist, is neither here nor there in this matter. I
must carry back your answer, and in order to do so it is necessary
that you should send it. A faithful messenger gives his ar'n'd,
word for word."
Hist no longer hesitated to speak her mind fully. In the excitement
she rose from her bench, and naturally recurring to that language
in which she expressed herself the most readily, she delivered
her thoughts and intentions, beautifully and with dignity, in the
tongue of her own people.
"Tell the Hurons, Deerslayer," she said, "that they are as ignorant
as moles; they don't know the wolf from the dog. Among my people,
the rose dies on the stem where it budded, the tears of the child
fall on the graves of its parents; the corn grows where the seed
has been planted. The Delaware girls are not messengers to be sent,
like belts of wampum, from tribe to tribe. They are honeysuckles,
that are sweetest in their own woods; their own young men carry them
away in their bosoms, because they are fragrant; they are sweetest
when plucked from their native stems. Even the robin and the martin
come back, year after year, to their old nests; shall a woman be
less true hearted than a bird? Set the pine in the clay and it
will turn yellow; the willow will not flourish on the hill; the
tamarack is healthiest in the swamp; the tribes of the sea love
best to hear the winds that blow over the salt water. As for a
Huron youth, what is he to a maiden of the Lenni Lenape. He may be
fleet, but her eyes do not follow him in the race; they look back
towards the lodges of the Delawares. He may sing a sweet song
for the girls of Canada, but there is no music for Wah, but in the
tongue she has listened to from childhood. Were the Huron born of
the people that once owned the shores of the salt lake, it would
be in vain, unless he were of the family of Uncas. The young pine
will rise to be as high as any of its fathers. Wah-ta-Wah has but
one heart, and it can love but one husband."
Deerslayer listened to this characteristic message, which was given
with an earnestness suited to the feelings from which it sprung, with
undisguised delight, meeting the ardent eloquence of the girl, as
she concluded, with one of his own heartfelt, silent, and peculiar
fits of laughter.
"That's worth all the wampum in the woods!" he exclaimed. "You
don't understand it, I suppose, Judith, but if you'll look into your
feelin's, and fancy that an inimy had sent to tell you to give up
the man of your ch'ice, and to take up with another that wasn't the
man of your ch'ice, you'll get the substance of it, I'll warrant!
Give me a woman for ra'al eloquence, if they'll only make up their
minds to speak what they feel. By speakin', I don't mean chatterin',
howsever; for most of them will do that by the hour; but comm' out
with their honest, deepest feelin's in proper words. And now, Judith,
having got the answer of a red-skin girl, it is fit I should get
that of a pale-face, if, indeed, a countenance that is as blooming
as your'n can in any wise so be tarmed. You are well named the
Wild Rose, and so far as colour goes, Hetty ought to be called the
'Did this language come from one of the garrison gallants, I
should deride it, Deerslayer, but coming from you, I know it can be
depended on," returned Judith, deeply gratified by his unmeditated
and characteristic compliments. "It is too soon, however, to ask
my answer; the Great Serpent has not yet spoken."
"The Sarpent! Lord; I could carry back his speech without hearing
a word of it! I didn't think of putting the question to him at
all, I will allow; though 'twould be hardly right either, seeing
that truth is truth, and I'm bound to tell these Mingos the fact
and nothing else. So, Chingachgook, let us hear your mind on this
matter-are you inclined to strike across the hills towards your
village, to give up Hist to a Huron, and to tell the chiefs at
home that, if they're actyve and successful, they may possibly get
on the end of the Iroquois trail some two or three days a'ter the
inimy has got off of it?"
Like his betrothed, the young chief arose, that his answer might
be given with due distinctness and dignity. Hist had spoken with
her hands crossed upon her bosom, as if to suppress the emotions
within, but the warrior stretched an arm before him with a calm
energy that aided in giving emphasis to his expressions. "Wampum
should be sent for wampum," he said; "a message must be answered
by a message. Hear what the Great Serpent of the Delawares has to
say to the pretended wolves from the great lakes, that are howling
through our woods. They are no wolves; they are dogs that have come
to get their tails and ears cropped by the hands of the Delawares.
They are good at stealing young women; bad at keeping them.
Chingachgook takes his own where he finds it; he asks leave of no
cur from the Canadas. If he has a tender feeling in his heart, it
is no business of the Hurons. He tells it to her who most likes
to know it; he will not bellow it in the forest, for the ears of
those that only understand yells of terror. What passes in his
lodge is not for the chiefs of his own people to know; still less
for Mingo rogues -"
"Call 'em vagabonds, Sarpent -" interrupted Deerslayer, unable to
restrain his delight - "yes, just call 'em up-and-down vagabonds,
which is a word easily intarpreted, and the most hateful of all to
their ears, it's so true. Never fear me; I'll give em your message,
syllable for syllable, sneer for sneer, idee for idee, scorn for
scorn, and they desarve no better at your hands -only call 'em
vagabonds, once or twice, and that will set the sap mounting in
'em, from their lowest roots to the uppermost branches!"
"Still less for Mingo vagabonds," resumed Chingachgook, quite
willingly complying with his friend's request. "Tell the Huron dogs
to howl louder, if they wish a Delaware to find them in the woods,
where they burrow like foxes, instead of hunting like warriors.
When they had a Delaware maiden in their camp, there was a reason
for hunting them up; now they will be forgotten unless they make a
noise. Chingachgook don't like the trouble of going to his villages
for more warriors; he can strike their run-a-way trail; unless they
hide it under ground, he will follow it to Canada alone. He will
keep Wah-ta-Wah with him to cook his game; they two will be Delawares
enough to scare all the Hurons back to their own country ."
"That's a grand despatch, as the officers call them things!"
cried Deerslayer; "'twill set all the Huron blood in motion; most
particularily that part where he tells 'em Hist, too, will keep on
their heels 'til they're fairly driven out of the country. Ahs!
me; big words ain't always big deeds, notwithstanding! The Lord
send that we be able to be only one half as good as we promise to
be! And now, Judith, it's your turn to speak, for them miscreants
will expect an answer from each person, poor Hetty, perhaps,
"And why not Hetty, Deerslayer? She often speaks to the purpose;
the Indians may respect her words, for they feel for people in her
"That is true, Judith, and quick-thoughted in you. The red-skins
do respect misfortunes of all kinds, and Hetty's in particular. So,
Hetty, if you have any thing to say, I'll carry it to the Hurons
as faithfully as if it was spoken by a schoolmaster, or a missionary."
The girl hesitated a moment, and then she answered in her own
gentle, soft tones, as earnestly as any who had preceded her.
"The Hurons can't understand the difference between white people
and themselves," she said, "or they wouldn't ask Judith and me to
go and live in their villages. God has given one country to the
red men and another to us. He meant us to live apart. Then mother
always said that we should never dwell with any but Christians,
if possible, and that is a reason why we can't go. This lake is
ours, and we won't leave it. Father and mother's graves are in it,
and even the worst Indians love to stay near the graves of their
fathers. I will come and see them again, if they wish me to, and
read more out of the Bible to them, but I can't quit father's and
"That will do - that will do, Hetty, just as well as if you sent
them a message twice as long," interrupted the hunter. "I'll tell
'em all you've said, and all you mean, and I'll answer for it that
they'll be easily satisfied. Now, Judith, your turn comes next,
and then this part of my ar'n'd will be tarminated for the night."
Judith manifested a reluctance to give her reply, that had awakened
a little curiosity in the messenger. Judging from her known spirit,
he had never supposed the girl would be less true her feelings
and principles than Hist, or Hetty, and yet there was a visible
wavering of purpose that rendered him slightly uneasy. Even now
when directly required to speak, she seemed to hesitate, nor did
she open her lips until the profound silence told her how anxiously
her words were expected. Then, indeed, she spoke, but it was
doubtingly and with reluctance.
"Tell me, first - tell us, first, Deerslayer," she commenced,
repeating the words merely to change the emphasis - "what effect
will our answers have on your fate? If you are to be the sacrifice
of our spirit, it would have been better had we all been more
wary as to the language we use. What, then, are likely to be the
consequences to yourself?"
"Lord, Judith, you might as well ask me which way the wind will
blow next week, or what will be the age of the next deer that will
be shot! I can only say that their faces look a little dark upon
me, but it doesn't thunder every time a black cloud rises, nor does
every puff of wind blow up rain. That's a question, therefore,
much more easily put than answered."
"So is this message of the Iroquois to me," answered Judith rising,
as if she had determined on her own course for the present. "My
answer shall be given, Deerslayer, after you and I have talked
together alone, when the others have laid themselves down for the
There was a decision in the manner of the girl that disposed
Deerslayer to comply, and this he did the more readily as the delay
could produce no material consequences one way or the other. The
meeting now broke up, Hurry announcing his resolution to leave
them speedily. During the hour that was suffered to intervene, in
order that the darkness might deepen before the frontierman took
his departure, the different individuals occupied themselves in
their customary modes, the hunter, in particular, passing most of
the time in making further enquiries into the perfection of the
rifle already mentioned.
The hour of nine soon arrived, however, and then it had been
determined that Hurry should commence his journey. Instead of
making his adieus frankly, and in a generous spirit, the little he
thought it necessary to say was uttered sullenly and in coldness.
Resentment at what he considered Judith's obstinacy was blended
with mortification at the career he had since reaching the lake,
and, as is usual with the vulgar and narrow-minded, he was more
disposed to reproach others with his failures than to censure himself.
Judith gave him her hand, but it was quite as much in gladness as
with regret, while the two Delawares were not sorry to find he was
leaving them. Of the whole party, Hetty alone betrayed any real
feeling. Bashfulness, and the timidity of her sex and character,
kept even her aloof, so that Hurry entered the canoe, where Deerslayer
was already waiting for him, before she ventured near enough to be
observed. Then, indeed, the girl came into the Ark and approached
its end, just as the little bark was turning from it, with a movement
so light and steady as to be almost imperceptible. An impulse of
feeling now overcame her timidity, and Hetty spoke.
"Goodbye Hurry -" she called out, in her sweet voice - "goodbye,
dear Hurry. Take care of yourself in the woods, and don't stop
once, 'til you reach the garrison. The leaves on the trees are
scarcely plentier than the Hurons round the lake, and they'll not
treat a strong man like you as kindly as they treat me."
The ascendency which March had obtained over this feebleminded,
but right-thinking, and right-feeling girl, arose from a law of
nature. Her senses had been captivated by his personal advantages,
and her moral communications with him had never been sufficiently
intimate to counteract an effect that must have been otherwise
lessened, even with one whose mind was as obtuse as her own. Hetty's
instinct of right, if such a term can be applied to one who seemed
taught by some kind spirit how to steer her course with unerring
accuracy, between good and evil, would have revolted at Hurry's
character on a thousand points, had there been opportunities to
enlighten her, but while he conversed and trifled with her sister,
at a distance from herself, his perfection of form and feature had
been left to produce their influence on her simple imagination and
naturally tender feelings, without suffering by the alloy of his
opinions and coarseness. It is true she found him rough and rude;
but her father was that, and most of the other men she had seen,
and that which she believed to belong to all of the sex struck
her less unfavorably in Hurry's character than it might otherwise
have done. Still, it was not absolutely love that Hetty felt for
Hurry, nor do we wish so to portray it, but merely that awakening
sensibility and admiration, which, under more propitious circumstances,
and always supposing no untoward revelations of character on the
part of the young man had supervened to prevent it, might soon
have ripened into that engrossing feeling. She felt for him an
incipient tenderness, but scarcely any passion. Perhaps the nearest
approach to the latter that Hetty had manifested was to be seen in
the sensitiveness which had caused her to detect March's predilection
for her sister, for, among Judith's many admirers, this was the
only instance in which the dull mind of the girl had been quickened
into an observation of the circumstances.
Hurry received so little sympathy at his departure that the gentle
tones of Hetty, as she thus called after him, sounded soothingly.
He checked the canoe, and with one sweep of his powerful arm brought
it back to the side of the Ark. This was more than Hetty, whose
courage had risen with the departure of her hero, expected, and
she now shrunk timidly back at this unexpected return.
"You're a good gal, Hetty, and I can't quit you without shaking
hands," said March kindly. "Judith, a'ter all, isn't worth as much
as you, though she may be a trifle better looking. As to wits, if
honesty and fair dealing with a young man is a sign of sense in a
young woman, you're worth a dozen Judiths; ay, and for that matter,
most young women of my acquaintance."
"Don't say any thing against Judith, Harry," returned Hetty
imploringly. "Father's gone, and mother's gone, and nobody's left
but Judith and me, and it isn't right for sisters to speak evil,
or to hear evil of each other. Father's in the lake, and so is
mother, and we should all fear God, for we don't know when we may
be in the lake, too."
"That sounds reasonable, child, as does most you say. Well, if we
ever meet ag'in, Hetty, you'll find a fri'nd in me, let your sister
do what she may. I was no great fri'nd of your mother I'll allow,
for we didn't think alike on most p'ints, but then your father, Old
Tom, and I, fitted each other as remarkably as a buckskin garment
will fit any reasonable-built man. I've always been unanimous of
opinion that Old Floating Tom Hutter, at the bottom, was a good
fellow, and will maintain that ag'in all inimies for his sake, as
well as for your'n."
"Goodbye, Hurry," said Hetty, who now wanted to hasten the young
man off, as ardently as she had wished to keep him only the moment
before, though she could give no clearer account of the latter than
of the former feeling; "goodbye, Hurry; take care of yourself in
the woods; don't halt 'til you reach the garrison. I'll read a
chapter in the Bible for you before I go to bed, and think of you
in my prayers."
This was touching a point on which March had no sympathies, and
without more words, he shook the girl cordially by the hand and
re-entered the canoe. In another minute the two adventurers were a
hundred feet from the Ark, and half a dozen had not elapsed before
they were completely lost to view. Hetty sighed deeply, and rejoined
her sister and Hist.
For some time Deerslayer and his companion paddled ahead in silence.
It had been determined to land Hurry at the precise point where he
is represented, in the commencement of our tale, as having embarked,
not only as a place little likely to be watched by the Hurons, but
because he was sufficiently familiar with the signs of the woods,
at that spot, to thread his way through them in the dark. Thither,
then, the light craft proceeded, being urged as diligently and
as swiftly as two vigorous and skilful canoemen could force their
little vessel through, or rather over, the water. Less than a quarter
of an hour sufficed for the object, and, at the end of that time,
being within the shadows of the shore, and quite near the point
they sought, each ceased his efforts in order to make their parting
communications out of earshot of any straggler who might happen to
be in the neighborhood.
"You will do well to persuade the officers at the garrison to lead
out a party ag'in these vagabonds as soon as you git in, Hurry,"
Deerslayer commenced; "and you'll do better if you volunteer to guide
it up yourself. You know the paths, and the shape of the lake,
and the natur' of the land, and can do it better than a common,
gin'ralizing scout. Strike at the Huron camp first, and follow
the signs that will then show themselves. A few looks at the hut
and the Ark will satisfy you as to the state of the Delaware and
the women, and, at any rate, there'll be a fine opportunity to
fall on the Mingo trail, and to make a mark on the memories of the
blackguards that they'll be apt to carry with 'em a long time. It
won't be likely to make much difference with me, since that matter
will be detarmined afore tomorrow's sun has set, but it may make
a great change in Judith and Hetty's hopes and prospects!"
"And as for yourself, Nathaniel," Hurry enquired with more interest
than he was accustomed to betray in the welfare of others - "And,
as for yourself, what do you think is likely to turn up?"
"The Lord, in his wisdom, only can tell, Henry March! The clouds
look black and threatening, and I keep my mind in a state to meet
the worst. Vengeful feelin's are uppermost in the hearts of the
Mingos, and any little disapp'intment about the plunder, or the
prisoners, or Hist, may make the torments sartain. The Lord, in
his wisdom, can only detarmine my fate, or your'n!"
"This is a black business, and ought to be put a stop to in some way
or other -" answered Hurry, confounding the distinctions between
right and wrong, as is usual with selfish and vulgar men. "I
heartily wish old Hutter and I had scalped every creatur' in their
camp, the night we first landed with that capital object! Had you
not held back, Deerslayer, it might have been done, and then you
wouldn't have found yourself, at the last moment, in the desperate
condition you mention."
"'Twould have been better had you said you wished you had never
attempted to do what it little becomes any white man's gifts to
undertake; in which case, not only might we have kept from coming
to blows, but Thomas Hutter would now have been living, and the
hearts of the savages would be less given to vengeance. The death
of that young woman, too, was on-called for, Henry March, and leaves
a heavy load on our names if not on our consciences!"
This was so apparent, and it seemed so obvious to Hurry himself,
at the moment, that he dashed his paddle into the water, and began
to urge the canoe towards the shore, as if bent only on running away
from his own lively remorse. His companion humoured this feverish
desire for change, and, in a minute or two, the bows of the boat
grated lightly on the shingle of the beach. To land, shoulder his
pack and rifle, and to get ready for his march occupied Hurry but
an instant, and with a growling adieu, he had already commenced
his march, when a sudden twinge of feeling brought him to a dead
stop, and immediately after to the other's side.
"You cannot mean to give yourself up ag'in to them murdering savages,
Deerslayer!" he said, quite as much in angry remonstrance, as with
generous feeling. "Twould be the act of a madman or a fool!"
"There's them that thinks it madness to keep their words, and
there's them that don't, Hurry Harry. You may be one of the first,
but I'm one of the last. No red-skin breathing shall have it in
his power to say that a Mingo minds his word more than a man of
white blood and white gifts, in any thing that consarns me. I'm
out on a furlough, and if I've strength and reason, I'll go in on
a furlough afore noon to-morrow!"
"What's an Injin, or a word passed, or a furlough taken from
creatur's like them, that have neither souls, nor reason!"
"If they've got neither souls nor reason, you and I have both,
Henry March, and one is accountable for the other. This furlough
is not, as you seem to think, a matter altogether atween me and
the Mingos, seeing it is a solemn bargain made atween me and God.
He who thinks that he can say what he pleases, in his distress,
and that twill all pass for nothing, because 'tis uttered in the
forest, and into red men's ears, knows little of his situation,
and hopes, and wants. The woods are but the ears of the Almighty,
the air is his breath, and the light of the sun is little more than
a glance of his eye. Farewell, Harry; we may not meet ag'in, but
I would wish you never to treat a furlough, or any other solemn
thing that your Christian God has been called on to witness, as a
duty so light that it may be forgotten according to the wants of
the body, or even accordin' to the cravings of the spirit."
March was now glad again to escape. It was quite impossible that
he could enter into the sentiments that ennobled his companion, and
he broke away from both with an impatience that caused him secretly
to curse the folly that could induce a man to rush, as it were,
on his own destruction. Deerslayer, on the contrary, manifested
no such excitement. Sustained by his principles, inflexible
in the purpose of acting up to them, and superior to any unmanly
apprehension, he regarded all before him as a matter of course, and
no more thought of making any unworthy attempt to avoid it, than
a Mussulman thinks of counteracting the decrees of Providence. He
stood calmly on the shore, listening to the reckless tread with
which Hurry betrayed his progress through the bushes, shook his
head in dissatisfaction at the want of caution, and then stepped
quietly into his canoe. Before he dropped the paddle again into
the water, the young man gazed about him at the scene presented
by the star-lit night. This was the spot where he had first laid
his eyes on the beautiful sheet of water on which he floated. If
it was then glorious in the bright light of a summer's noon-tide,
it was now sad and melancholy under the shadows of night. The
mountains rose around it like black barriers to exclude the outer
world, and the gleams of pale light that rested on the broader
parts of the basin were no bad symbols of the faintness of the hopes
that were so dimly visible in his own future. Sighing heavily, he
pushed the canoe from the land, and took his way back with steady
diligence towards the Ark and the castle.
"Thy secret pleasure turns to open shame;
Thy private feasting to a public fast;
Thy smoothing titles to a ragged name;
Thy sugar'd tongue to bitter worm wood taste:
Thy violent vanities can never last."
Shakespeare, Rape of Lucrece, 11. 890-94.
Judith was waiting the return of Deerslayer on the platform, with
stifled impatience, when the latter reached the hut. Hist and Hetty
were both in a deep sleep, on the bed usually occupied by the two
daughters of the house, and the Delaware was stretched on the floor
of the adjoining room, his rifle at his side, and a blanket over
him, already dreaming of the events of the last few days. There
was a lamp burning in the Ark, for the family was accustomed to
indulge in this luxury on extraordinary occasions, and possessed
the means, the vessel being of a form and material to render it
probable it had once been an occupant of the chest.
As soon as the girl got a glimpse of the canoe, she ceased her
hurried walk up and down the platform and stood ready to receive
the young man, whose return she had now been anxiously expecting
for some time. She helped him to fasten the canoe, and by aiding
in the other little similar employments, manifested her desire to
reach a moment of liberty as soon as possible. When this was done,
in answer to an inquiry of his, she informed him of the manner in
which their companions had disposed of themselves. He listened
attentively, for the manner of the girl was so earnest and impressive
as to apprise him that she had something on her mind of more than
"And now, Deerslayer," Judith continued, "you see I have lighted
the lamp, and put it in the cabin of the Ark. That is never done
with us, unless on great occasions, and I consider this night as
the most important of my life. Will you follow me and see what I
have to show you - hear what I have to say."
The hunter was a little surprised, but, making no objections, both
were soon in the scow, and in the room that contained the light.
Here two stools were placed at the side of the chest, with the lamp
on another, and a table near by to receive the different articles
as they might be brought to view. This arrangement had its rise
in the feverish impatience of the girl, which could brook no delay
that it was in her power to obviate. Even all the padlocks were
removed, and it only remained to raise the heavy lid, again, to
expose all the treasures of this long secreted hoard.
"I see, in part, what all this means," observed Deerslayer - "yes,
I see through it, in part. But why is not Hetty present? Now Thomas
Hutter is gone, she is one of the owners of these cur'osities, and
ought to see them opened and handled."
"Hetty sleeps -" answered Judith, huskily. "Happily for her, fine
clothes and riches have no charms. Besides she has this night
given her share of all that the chest may hold to me, that I may
do with it as I please."
"Is poor Hetty compass enough for that, Judith?" demanded the
just-minded young man. "It's a good rule and a righteous one, never
to take when them that give don't know the valie of their gifts;
and such as God has visited heavily in their wits ought to be
dealt with as carefully as children that haven't yet come to their
Judith was hurt at this rebuke, coming from the person it did,
but she would have felt it far more keenly had not her conscience
fully acquitted her of any unjust intentions towards her feeble-minded
but confiding sister. It was not a moment, however, to betray any
of her usual mountings of the spirit, and she smothered the passing
sensation in the desire to come to the great object she had in
"Hetty will not be wronged," she mildly answered; "she even knows
not only what I am about to do, Deerslayer, but why I do it. So
take your seat, raise the lid of the chest, and this time we will
go to the bottom. I shall be disappointed if something is not
found to tell us more of the history of Thomas Hutter and my mother."
"Why Thomas Hutter, Judith, and not your father? The dead ought
to meet with as much reverence as the living!"
"I have long suspected that Thomas Hutter was not my father, though
I did think he might have been Hetty's, but now we know he was the
father of neither. He acknowledged that much in his dying moments.
I am old enough to remember better things than we have seen on
this lake, though they are so faintly impressed on my memory that
the earlier part of my life seems like a dream."
"Dreams are but miserable guides when one has to detarmine about
realities, Judith," returned the other admonishingly. "Fancy nothing
and hope nothing on their account, though I've known chiefs that
thought 'em useful."
"I expect nothing for the future from them, my good friend, but
cannot help remembering what has been. This is idle, however, when
half an hour of examination may tell us all, or even more than I
want to know."
Deerslayer, who comprehended the girl's impatience, now took his
seat and proceeded once more to bring to light the different articles
that the chest contained. As a matter of course, all that had been
previously examined were found where they had been last deposited,
and they excited much less interest or comment than when formerly
exposed to view. Even Judith laid aside the rich brocade with an
air of indifference, for she had a far higher aim before her than
the indulgence of vanity, and was impatient to come at the still
hidden, or rather unknown, treasures.
"All these we have seen before," she said, "and will not stop to
open. The bundle under your hand, Deerslayer, is a fresh one; that
we will look into. God send it may contain something to tell poor
Hetty and myself who we really are!"
"Ay, if some bundles could speak, they might tell wonderful secrets,"
returned the young man deliberately undoing the folds of another
piece of course canvass, in order to come at the contents of the
roll that lay on his knees: "though this doesn't seem to be one
of that family, seeing 'tis neither more nor less than a sort of
flag, though of what nation, it passes my l'arnin' to say."
"That flag must have some meaning to it -" Judith hurriedly interposed.
"Open it wider, Deerslayer, that we may see the colours."
"Well, I pity the ensign that has to shoulder this cloth, and to
parade it about on the field. Why 'tis large enough, Judith, to
make a dozen of them colours the King's officers set so much store
by. These can be no ensign's colours, but a gin'ral's!"
"A ship might carry it, Deerslayer, and ships I know do use such
things. Have you never heard any fearful stories about Thomas Hutter's
having once been concerned with the people they call buccaneers?"
"Buck-ah-near! Not I - not I - I never heard him mentioned as good
at a buck far off, or near by. Hurry Harry did till me something
about its being supposed that he had formerly, in some way or
other, dealings with sartain sea robbers, but, Lord, Judith, it
can't surely give you any satisfaction to make out that ag'in your
mother's own husband, though he isn't your father."
"Anything will give me satisfaction that tells me who I am, and
helps to explain the dreams of childhood. My mother's husband!
Yes, he must have been that, though why a woman like her, should
have chosen a man like him, is more than mortal reason can explain.
You never saw mother, Deerslayer, and can't feel the vast, vast
difference there was between them!"
"Such things do happen, howsever; - yes, they do happen; though
why providence lets them come to pass is more than I understand.
I've knew the f'ercest warriors with the gentlest wives of any in
the tribe, and awful scolds fall to the lot of Injins fit to be
"That was not it, Deerslayer; that was not it. Oh! if it should
prove that -no; I cannot wish she should not have been his wife at
all. That no daughter can wish for her own mother! Go on, now,
and let us see what the square looking bundle holds."
Deerslayer complied, and he found that it contained a small trunk
of pretty workmanship, but fastened. The next point was to find
a key; but, search proving ineffectual, it was determined to force
the lock. This Deerslayer soon effected by the aid of an iron
instrument, and it was found that the interior was nearly filled
with papers. Many were letters; some fragments of manuscripts,
memorandums, accounts, and other similar documents. The hawk does
not pounce upon the chicken with a more sudden swoop than Judith
sprang forward to seize this mine of hitherto concealed knowledge.
Her education, as the reader will have perceived, was far superior
to her situation in life, and her eye glanced over page after page
of the letters with a readiness that her schooling supplied, and
with an avidity that found its origin in her feelings. At first it
was evident that the girl was gratified; and we may add with reason,
for the letters written by females, in innocence and affection,
were of a character to cause her to feel proud of those with whom
she had every reason to think she was closely connected by the ties
of blood. It does not come within the scope of our plan to give
more of these epistles, however, than a general idea of their
contents, and this will best be done by describing the effect they
produced on the manner, appearance, and feeling of her who was so
eagerly perusing them.
It has been said, already, that Judith was much gratified with the
letters that first met her eye. They contained the correspondence
of an affectionate and inteffigent mother to an absent daughter,
with such allusions to the answers as served in a great measure
to fill up the vacuum left by the replies. They were not without
admonitions and warnings, however, and Judith felt the blood mounting
to her temples, and a cold shudder succeeding, as she read one in
which the propriety of the daughter's indulging in as much intimacy
as had evidently been described in one of the daughter's own letters,
with an officer "who came from Europe, and who could hardly be
supposed to wish to form an honorable connection in America," was
rather coldly commented on by the mother. What rendered it singular
was the fact that the signatures had been carefully cut from every
one of these letters, and wherever a name occurred in the body of
the epistles it had been erased with so much diligence as to render
it impossible to read it. They had all been enclosed in envelopes,
according to the fashion of the age, and not an address either was
to be found. Still the letters themselves had been religiously
preserved, and Judith thought she could discover traces of tears
remaining on several. She now remembered to have seen the little
trunk in her mother's keeping, previously to her death, and she
supposed it had first been deposited in the chest, along with the
other forgotten or concealed objects, when the letters could no
longer contribute to that parent's grief or happiness.
Next came another bundle, and these were filled with the protestations
of love, written with passion certainly, but also with that deceit
which men so often think it justifiable to use to the other sex.