Part 9 out of 11
Judith had shed tears abundantly over the first packet, but now she
felt a sentiment of indignation and pride better sustaining her.
Her hand shook, however, and cold shivers again passed through her
frame, as she discovered a few points of strong resemblance between
these letters and some it had been her own fate to receive. Once,
indeed, she laid the packet down, bowed her head to her knees, and
seemed nearly convulsed. All this time Deerslayer sat a silent
but attentive observer of every thing that passed. As Judith read
a letter she put it into his hands to hold until she could peruse
the next; but this served in no degree to enlighten her companion,
as he was totally unable to read. Nevertheless he was not entirely
at fault in discovering the passions that were contending in the
bosom of the fair creature by his side, and, as occasional sentences
escaped her in murmurs, he was nearer the truth, in his divinations,
or conjectures, than the girl would have been pleased at discovering.
Judith had commenced with the earliest letters, luckily for a
ready comprehension of the tale they told, for they were carefully
arranged in chronological order, and to any one who would take the
trouble to peruse them, would have revealed a sad history of gratified
passion, coldness, and finally of aversion. As she obtained the
clue to their import, her impatience would not admit of delay,
and she soon got to glancing her eyes over a page by way of coming
at the truth in the briefest manner possible. By adopting this
expedient, one to which all who are eager to arrive at results
without encumbering themselves with details are so apt to resort,
Judith made a rapid progress in these melancholy revelations of
her mother's failing and punishment. She saw that the period of
her own birth was distinctly referred to, and even learned that the
homely name she bore was given her by the father, of whose person
she retained so faint an impression as to resemble a dream. This
name was not obliterated from the text of the letters, but stood
as if nothing was to be gained by erasing it. Hetty's birth was
mentioned once, and in that instance the name was the mother's, but
ere this period was reached came the signs of coldness, shadowing
forth the desertion that was so soon to follow. It was in this stage
of the correspondence that her mother had recourse to the plan of
copying her own epistles. They were but few, but were eloquent
with the feelings of blighted affection, and contrition. Judith
sobbed over them, until again and again she felt compelled to lay
them aside from sheer physical inability to see; her eyes being
literally obscured with tears. Still she returned to the task, with
increasing interest, and finally succeeded in reaching the end of
the latest communication that had probably ever passed between her
All this occupied fully an hour, for near a hundred letters were
glanced at, and some twenty had been closely read. The truth now
shone clear upon the acute mind of Judith, so far as her own birth
and that of Hetty were concerned. She sickened at the conviction,
and for the moment the rest of the world seemed to be cut off from
her, and she had now additional reasons for wishing to pass the
remainder of her life on the lake, where she had already seen so
many bright and so many sorrowing days.
There yet remained more letters to examine. Judith found these
were a correspondence between her mother and Thomas Hovey. The
originals of both parties were carefully arranged, letter and answer,
side by side; and they told the early history of the connection
between the ill-assorted pair far more plainly than Judith wished
to learn it. Her mother made the advances towards a marriage, to
the surprise, not to say horror of her daughter, and she actually
found a relief when she discovered traces of what struck her as
insanity - or a morbid desperation, bordering on that dire calamity
- in the earlier letters of that ill-fated woman. The answers of
Hovey were coarse and illiterate, though they manifested a sufficient
desire to obtain the hand of a woman of singular personal attractions,
and whose great error he was willing to overlook for the advantage
of possessing one every way so much his superior, and who it also
appeared was not altogether destitute of money. The remainder of
this part of the correspondence was brief, and it was soon confined
to a few communications on business, in which the miserable wife
hastened the absent husband in his preparations to abandon a world
which there was a sufficient reason to think was as dangerous
to one of the parties as it was disagreeable to the other. But a
sincere expression had escaped her mother, by which Judith could
get a clue to the motives that had induced her to marry Hovey, or
Hutter, and this she found was that feeling of resentment which so
often tempts the injured to inflict wrongs on themselves by way of
heaping coals on the heads of those through whom they have suffered.
Judith had enough of the spirit of that mother to comprehend this
sentiment, and for a moment did she see the exceeding folly which
permitted such revengeful feelings to get the ascendancy.
There what may be called the historical part of the papers ceased.
Among the loose fragments, however, was an old newspaper that
contained a proclamation offering a reward for the apprehension of
certain free-booters by name, among which was that of Thomas Hovey.
The attention of the girl was drawn to the proclamation and to
this particular name by the circumstance that black lines had been
drawn under both, in ink. Nothing else was found among the papers
that could lead to a discovery of either the name or the place of
residence of the wife of Hutter. All the dates, signatures, and
addresses had been cut from the letters, and wherever a word occurred
in the body of the communications that might furnish a clue, it was
scrupulously erased. Thus Judith found all her hopes of ascertaining
who her parents were defeated, and she was obliged to fall back
on her own resources and habits for everything connected with the
future. Her recollection of her mother's manners, conversation,
and sufferings filled up many a gap in the historical facts she had
now discovered, and the truth, in its outlines, stood sufficiently
distinct before her to take away all desire, indeed, to possess
any more details. Throwing herself back in her seat, she simply
desired her companion to finish the examination of the other articles
in the chest, as it might yet contain something of importance.
"I'll do it, Judith; I'll do it," returned the patient Deerslayer,
"but if there's many more letters to read, we shall see the sun
ag'in afore you've got through with the reading of them! Two good
hours have you been looking at them bits of papers!"
"They tell me of my parents, Deerslayer, and have settled my plans
for life. A girl may be excused, who reads about her own father
and mother, and that too for the first time in her life! I am
sorry to have kept you waiting."
"Never mind me, gal; never mind me. It matters little whether I
sleep or watch; but though you be pleasant to look at, and are so
handsome, Judith, it is not altogether agreeable to sit so long to
behold you shedding tears. I know that tears don't kill, and that
some people are better for shedding a few now and then, especially
young women; but I'd rather see you smile any time, Judith, than
see you weep."
This gallant speech was rewarded with a sweet, though a melancholy
smile; and then the girl again desired her companion to finish the
examination of the chest. The search necessarily continued some
time, during which Judith collected her thoughts and regained her
composure. She took no part in the search, leaving everything to
the young man, looking listlessly herself at the different articles
that came uppermost. Nothing further of much interest or value,
however, was found. A sword or two, such as were then worn by
gentlemen, some buckles of silver, or so richly plated as to appear
silver, and a few handsome articles of female dress, composed the
principal discoveries. It struck both Judith and the Deerslayer,
notwithstanding, that some of these things might be made useful in
effecting a negotiation with the Iroquois, though the latter saw a
difficulty in the way that was not so apparent to the former. The
conversation was first renewed in connection with this point.
"And now, Deerslayer," said Judith, "we may talk of yourself, and
of the means of getting you out of the hands of the Hurons. Any
part, or all of what you have seen in the chest, will be cheerfully
given by me and Hetty to set you at liberty."
"Well, that's gin'rous, - yes, 'tis downright free-hearted, and
free-handed, and gin'rous. This is the way with women; when they
take up a fri'ndship, they do nothing by halves, but are as willing
to part with their property as if it had no value in their eyes.
However, while I thank you both, just as much as if the bargain
was made, and Rivenoak, or any of the other vagabonds, was here to
accept and close the treaty, there's two principal reasons why it
can never come to pass, which may be as well told at once, in order
no onlikely expectations may be raised in you, or any onjustifiable
hopes in me."
"What reason can there be, if Hetty and I are willing to part with
the trifles for your sake, and the savages are willing to receive
"That's it, Judith; you've got the idees, but they're a little out
of their places, as if a hound should take the back'ard instead
of the leading scent. That the Mingos will be willing to receive
them things, or any more like 'em you may have to offer is probable
enough, but whether they'll pay valie for 'em is quite another
matter. Ask yourself, Judith, if any one should send you a message
to say that, for such or such a price, you and Hetty might have that
chist and all it holds, whether you'd think it worth your while to
waste many words on the bargain?"
"But this chest and all it holds, are already ours; there is no
reason why we should purchase what is already our own."
"Just so the Mingos caculate! They say the chist is theirn, already;
or, as good as theirn, and they'll not thank anybody for the key."
"I understand you, Deerslayer; surely we are yet in possession
of the lake, and we can keep possession of it until Hurry sends
troops to drive off the enemy. This we may certainly do provided
you will stay with us, instead of going back and giving yourself
up a prisoner, again, as you now seem determined on."
"That Hurry Harry should talk in thisaway, is nat'ral, and according
to the gifts of the man. He knows no better, and, therefore, he
is little likely to feel or to act any better; but, Judith, I put
it to your heart and conscience - would you, could you think of me
as favorably, as I hope and believe you now do, was I to forget my
furlough and not go back to the camp?"
"To think more favorably of you than I now do, Deerslayer, would
not be easy; but I might continue to think as favorably - at least
it seems so - I hope I could, for a world wouldn't tempt me to let
you do anything that might change my real opinion of you."
"Then don't try to entice me to overlook my furlough, gal! A
furlough is a sacred thing among warriors and men that carry their
lives in their hands, as we of the forests do, and what a grievous
disapp'intment would it be to old Tamenund, and to Uncas, the
father of the Sarpent, and to my other fri'nds in the tribe, if
I was so to disgrace myself on my very first war-path. This you
will pairceive, moreover, Judith, is without laying any stress on
nat'ral gifts, and a white man's duties, to say nothing of conscience.
The last is king with me, and I try never to dispute his orders."
"I believe you are right, Deerslayer," returned the girl, after a
little reflection and in a saddened voice: "a man like you ought
not to act as the selfish and dishonest would be apt to act; you
must, indeed, go back. We will talk no more of this, then. Should
I persuade you to anything for which you would be sorry hereafter,
my own regret would not be less than yours. You shall not have it
to say, Judith - I scarce know by what name to call myself, now!"
"And why not? Why not, gal? Children take the names of their
parents, nat'rally, and by a sort of gift, like, and why shouldn't
you and Hetty do as others have done afore ye? Hutter was the
old man's name, and Hutter should be the name of his darters; - at
least until you are given away in lawful and holy wedlock."
"I am Judith, and Judith only," returned the girl positively -"until
the law gives me a right to another name. Never will I use that
of Thomas Hutter again; nor, with my consent, shall Hetty! Hutter
was not even his own name, I find, but had he a thousand rights to
it, it would give none to me. He was not my father, thank heaven;
though I may have no reason to be proud of him that was!"
"This is strange!" said Deerslayer, looking steadily at the excited
girl, anxious to know more, but unwilling to inquire into matters
that did not properly concern him; "yes, this is very strange and
oncommon! Thomas Hutter wasn't Thomas Hutter, and his darters
weren't his darters! Who, then, could Thomas Hutter be, and who
are his darters?"
"Did you never hear anything whispered against the former life of
this person, Deerslayer?" demanded Judith "Passing, as I did, for
his child, such reports reached even me."
"I'll not deny it, Judith; no, I'll not deny it. Sartain things
have been said, as I've told you, but I'm not very credible as to
reports. Young as I am, I've lived long enough to l'arn there's two
sorts of characters in the world - them that is 'arned by deeds,
and them that is 'arned by tongues, and so I prefar to see and
judge for myself, instead of letting every jaw that chooses to wag
become my judgment. Hurry Harry spoke pretty plainly of the whole
family, as we journeyed this-a-way, and he did hint something
consarning Thomas Hutter's having been a free-liver on the water,
in his younger days. By free-liver, I mean that he made free to
live on other men's goods."
"He told you he was a pirate - there is no need of mincing matters
between friends. Read that, Deerslayer, and you will see that he
told you no more than the truth. This Thomas Hovey was the Thomas
Hutter you knew, as is seen by these letters."
As Judith spoke, with a flushed cheek and eyes dazzling with
the brilliancy of excitement, she held the newspaper towards her
companion, pointing to the proclamation of a Colonial Governor,
"Bless you, Judith!" answered the other laughing, "you might as
well ask me to print that - or, for that matter to write it. My
edication has been altogether in the woods; the only book I read,
or care about reading, is the one which God has opened afore all
his creatur's in the noble forests, broad lakes, rolling rivers,
blue skies, and the winds and tempests, and sunshine, and other
glorious marvels of the land! This book I can read, and I find it
full of wisdom and knowledge."
"I crave your pardon, Deerslayer," said Judith, earnestly, more
abashed than was her wont, in finding that she had in advertently
made an appeal that might wound her compan ion's pride. "I had
forgotten your manner of life, and least of all did I wish to hurt
"Hurt my feelin's? Why should it hurt my feelin's to ask me to
read, when I can't read. I'm a hunter - and I may now begin to
say a warrior, and no missionary, and therefore books and papers
are of no account with such as I -No, no -Judith," and here the
young man laughed cordially, "not even for wads, seeing that your
true deerkiller always uses the hide of a fa'a'n, if he's got one,
or some other bit of leather suitably prepared. There's some that
do say, all that stands in print is true, in which case I'll own an
unl'arned man must be somewhat of a loser; nevertheless, it can't
be truer than that which God has printed with his own hand in the
sky, and the woods, and the rivers, and the springs."
"Well, then, Hutter, or Hovey, was a pirate, and being no father
of mine, I cannot wish to call him one. His name shall no longer
be my name."
"If you dislike the name of that man, there's the name of your
mother, Judith. Her'n may sarve you just as good a turn."
"I do not know it. I've look'd through those papers, Deerslayer,
in the hope of finding some hint by which I might discover who my
mother was, but there is no more trace of the past, in that respect,
than the bird leaves in the air."
"That's both oncommon, and onreasonable. Parents are bound to give
their offspring a name, even though they give 'em nothing else. Now
I come of a humble stock, though we have white gifts and a white
natur', but we are not so poorly off as to have no name. Bumppo
we are called, and I've heard it said --" a touch of human vanity
glowing on his cheek, "that the time has been when the Bumppos had
more standing and note among mankind than they have just now."
"They never deserved them more, Deerslayer, and the name is a good
one; either Hetty, or myself, would a thousand times rather be
called Hetty Bumppo, or Judith Bumppo, than to be called Hetty or
"That's a moral impossible," returned the hunter, good humouredly,
"onless one of you should so far demean herself as to marry me."
Judith could not refrain from smiling, when she found how simply
and naturally the conversation had come round to the very point
at which she had aimed to bring it. Although far from unfeminine
or forward, either in her feelings or her habits, the girl was
goaded by a sense of wrongs not altogether merited, incited by the
hopelessness of a future that seemed to contain no resting place,
and still more influenced by feelings that were as novel to her
as they proved to be active and engrossing. The opening was too
good, therefore, to be neglected, though she came to the subject
with much of the indirectness and perhaps justifiable address of
"I do not think Hetty will ever marry, Deerslayer," she said, "and
if your name is to be borne by either of us, it must be borne by
"There's been handsome women too, they tell me, among the Bumppos,
Judith, afore now, and should you take up with the name, oncommon
as you be in this particular, them that knows the family won't be
"This is not talking as becomes either of us, Deerslayer, for
whatever is said on such a subject, between man and woman, should
be said seriously and in sincerity of heart. Forgetting the shame
that ought to keep girls silent until spoken to, in most cases, I
will deal with you as frankly as I know one of your generous nature
will most like to be dealt by. Can you - do you think, Deerslayer,
that you could be happy with such a wife as a woman like myself
"A woman like you, Judith! But where's the sense in trifling
about such a thing? A woman like you, that is handsome enough to
be a captain's lady, and fine enough, and so far as I know edicated
enough, would be little apt to think of becoming my wife. I suppose
young gals that feel themselves to be smart, and know themselves
to be handsome, find a sartain satisfaction in passing their jokes
ag'in them that's neither, like a poor Delaware hunter."
This was said good naturedly, but not without a betrayal of feeling
which showed that something like mortified sensibility was blended
with the reply. Nothing could have occurred more likely to awaken
all Judith's generous regrets, or to aid her in her purpose, by
adding the stimulant of a disinterested desire to atone to her other
impulses, and cloaking all under a guise so winning and natural, as
greatly to lessen the unpleasant feature of a forwardness unbecoming
"You do me injustice if you suppose I have any such thought, or
wish," she answered, earnestly. "Never was I more serious in my
life, or more willing to abide by any agreement that we may make
to-night. I have had many suitors, Deerslayer - nay, scarce
an unmarried trapper or hunter has been in at the Lake these four
years, who has not offered to take me away with him, and
I fear some that were married, too -"
"Ay, I'll warrant that!" interrupted the other - "I'll warrant all
that! Take 'em as a body, Judith, 'arth don't hold a set of men
more given to theirselves, and less given to God and the law."
"Not one of them would I - could I listen to; happily for myself
perhaps, has it been that such was the case. There have been
well looking youths among them too, as you may have seen in your
acquaintance, Henry March."
"Yes, Harry is sightly to the eye, though, to my idees, less so to
the judgment. I thought, at first, you meant to have him, Judith,
I did; but afore he went, it was easy enough to verify that the
same lodge wouldn't be big enough for you both."
"You have done me justice in that at least, Deerslayer. Hurry is
a man I could never marry, though he were ten times more comely
to the eye, and a hundred times more stout of heart than he really
"Why not, Judith, why not? I own I'm cur'ous to know why a youth
like Hurry shouldn't find favor with a maiden like you?"
"Then you shall know, Deerslayer," returned the girl, gladly availing
herself of the opportunity of indirectly extolling the qualities
which had so strongly interested her in her listener; hoping by
these means covertly to approach the subject nearest her heart.
"In the first place, looks in a man are of no importance with a
woman, provided he is manly, and not disfigured, or deformed."
"There I can't altogether agree with you," returned the other
thoughtfully, for he had a very humble opinion of his own personal
appearance; "I have noticed that the comeliest warriors commonly get
the best-looking maidens of the tribe for wives, and the Sarpent,
yonder, who is sometimes wonderful in his paint, is a gineral
favorite with all the Delaware young women, though he takes to
Hist, himself, as if she was the only beauty on 'arth!"
"It may be so with Indians; but it is different with white girls.
So long as a young man has a straight and manly frame, that promises
to make him able to protect a woman, and to keep want from the
door, it is all they ask of the figure. Giants like Hurry may do
for grenadiers, but are of little account as lovers. Then as to
the face, an honest look, one that answers for the heart within,
is of more value than any shape or colour, or eyes, or teeth, or
trifles like them. The last may do for girls, but who thinks of
them at all, in a hunter, or a warrior, or a husband? If there
are women so silly, Judith is not among them."
"Well, this is wonderful! I always thought that handsome liked
handsome, as riches love riches!"
"It may be so with you men, Deerslayer, but it is not always
so with us women. We like stout-hearted men, but we wish to see
them modest; sure on a hunt, or the war-path, ready to die for the
right, and unwilling to yield to the wrong. Above all we wish for
honesty - tongues that are not used to say what the mind does not
mean, and hearts that feel a little for others, as well as for
themselves. A true-hearted girl could die for such a husband! while
the boaster, and the double-tongued suitor gets to be as hateful
to the sight, as he is to the mind."
Judith spoke bitterly, and with her usual force, but her listener
was too much struck with the novelty of the sensations he experienced
to advert to her manner. There was something so soothing to the
humility of a man of his temperament, to hear qualities that he
could not but know he possessed himself, thus highly extolled by
the loveliest female he had ever beheld, that, for the moment, his
faculties seemed suspended in a natural and excusable pride. Then
it was that the idea of the possibility of such a creature as Judith
becoming his companion for life first crossed his mind. The image
was so pleasant, and so novel, that he continued completely absorbed
by it for more than a minute, totally regardless of the beautiful
reality that was seated before him, watching the expression of his
upright and truth-telling countenance with a keenness that gave her
a very fair, if not an absolutely accurate clue to his thoughts.
Never before had so pleasing a vision floated before the mind's
eye of the young hunter, but, accustomed most to practical things,
and little addicted to submitting to the power of his imagination,
even while possessed of so much true poetical feeling in connection
with natural objects in particular, he soon recovered his reason,
and smiled at his own weakness, as the fancied picture faded from
his mental sight, and left him the simple, untaught, but highly
moral being he was, seated in the Ark of Thomas Hutter, at midnight,
with the lovely countenance of its late owner's reputed daughter,
beaming on him with anxious scrutiny, by the light of the solitary
"You're wonderful handsome, and enticing, and pleasing to look
on, Judith!" he exclaimed, in his simplicity, as fact resumed its
ascendency over fancy. "Wonderful! I don't remember ever to
have seen so beautiful a gal, even among the Delawares; and I'm not
astonished that Hurry Harry went away soured as well as disapp'inted!"
"Would you have had me, Deerslayer, become the wife of such a man
as Henry March?"
"There's that which is in his favor, and there's that which is
ag'in him. To my taste, Hurry wouldn't make the best of husbands,
but I fear that the tastes of most young women, hereaway, wouldn't
be so hard upon him."
"No - no -Judith without a name would never consent to be called
Judith March! Anything would be better than that."
"Judith Bumppo wouldn't sound as well, gal; and there's many names
that would fall short of March, in pleasing the ear."
"Ah! Deerslayer, the pleasantness of the sound, in such cases,
doesn't come through the ear, but through the heart. Everything
is agreeable, when the heart is satisfied. Were Natty Bumppo,
Henry March, and Henry March, Natty Bumppo, I might think the name
of March better than it is; or were he, you, I should fancy the
name of Bumppo horrible!"
"That's just it - yes, that's the reason of the matter. Now, I'm
nat'rally avarse to sarpents, and I hate even the word, which,
the missionaries tell me, comes from human natur', on account of
a sartain sarpent at the creation of the 'arth, that outwitted the
first woman; yet, ever since Chingachgook has 'arned the title he
bears, why the sound is as pleasant to my ears as the whistle of
the whippoorwill of a calm evening - it is. The feelin's make all
the difference in the world, Judith, in the natur' of sounds; ay,
even in that of looks, too."
"This is so true, Deerslayer, that I am surprised you should think
it remarkable a girl, who may have some comeliness herself, should
not think it necessary that her husband should have the same
advantage, or what you fancy an advantage. To me, looks in a man
is nothing provided his countenance be as honest as his heart."
"Yes, honesty is a great advantage, in the long run; and they that
are the most apt to forget it in the beginning, are the most apt
to l'arn it in the ind. Nevertheless, there's more, Judith, that
look to present profit than to the benefit that is to come after
a time. One they think a sartainty, and the other an onsartainty.
I'm glad, howsever, that you look at the thing in its true light,
and not in the way in which so many is apt to deceive themselves."
"I do thus look at it, Deerslayer," returned the girl with emphasis,
still shrinking with a woman's sensitiveness from a direct offer of
her hand, "and can say, from the bottom of my heart, that I would
rather trust my happiness to a man whose truth and feelings may be
depended on, than to a false-tongued and false-hearted wretch that
had chests of gold, and houses and lands - yes, though he were
even seated on a throne!"
"These are brave words, Judith; they're downright brave words;
but do you think that the feelin's would keep 'em company, did the
ch'ice actually lie afore you? If a gay gallant in a scarlet coat
stood on one side, with his head smelling like a deer's foot, his
face smooth and blooming as your own, his hands as white and soft
as if God hadn't bestowed 'em that man might live by the sweat of
his brow, and his step as lofty as dancing-teachers and a light
heart could make it; and the other side stood one that has passed
his days in the open air till his forehead is as red as his cheek;
had cut his way through swamps and bushes till his hand was as rugged
as the oaks he slept under; had trodden on the scent of game till
his step was as stealthy as the catamount's, and had no other
pleasant odor about him than such as natur' gives in the free air
and the forest - now, if both these men stood here, as suitors for
your feelin's, which do you think would win your favor?"
Judith's fine face flushed, for the picture that her companion had
so simply drawn of a gay officer of the garrisons had once been
particularly grateful to her imagination, though experience and
disappointment had not only chilled all her affections, but given
them a backward current, and the passing image had a momentary
influence on her feelings; but the mounting colour was succeeded
by a paleness so deadly, as to make her appear ghastly.
"As God is my judge," the girl solemnly answered, "did both these
men stand before me, as I may say one of them does, my choice, if
I know my own heart, would be the latter. I have no wish for a
husband who is any way better than myself."
"This is pleasant to listen to, and might lead a young man in time
to forget his own onworthiness, Judith! Howsever, you hardly think
all that you say. A man like me is too rude and ignorant for one
that has had such a mother to teach her. Vanity is nat'ral, I do
believe, but vanity like that, would surpass reason."
"Then you do not know of what a woman's heart is capable! Rude
you are not, Deerslayer, nor can one be called ignorant that has
studied what is before his eyes as closely as you have done. When
the affections are concerned, all things appear in their pleasantest
colors, and trifles are overlooked, or are forgotten. When the
heart feels sunshine, nothing is gloomy, even dull looking objects,
seeming gay and bright, and so it would be between you and the
woman who should love you, even though your wife might happen, in
some matters, to possess what the world calls the advantage over
"Judith, you come of people altogether above mine, in the
world, and onequal matches, like onequal fri'ndships can't often
tarminate kindly. I speak of this matter altogether as a fanciful
thing, since it's not very likely that you, at least, would be apt
to treat it as a matter that can ever come to pass."
Judith fastened her deep blue eyes on the open, frank countenance
of her companion, as if she would read his soul. Nothing there
betrayed any covert meaning, and she was obliged to admit to herself,
that he regarded the conversation as argumentative, rather than
positive, and that he was still without any active suspicion that
her feelings were seriously involved in the issue. At first, she
felt offended; then she saw the injustice of making the self-abasement
and modesty of the hunter a charge against him, and this novel
difficulty gave a piquancy to the state of affairs that rather
increased her interest in the young man. At that critical instant,
a change of plan flashed on her mind, and with a readiness of
invention that is peculiar to the quick-witted and ingenious, she
adopted a scheme by which she hoped effectually to bind him to her
person. This scheme partook equally of her fertility of invention,
and of the decision and boldness of her character. That the
conversation might not terminate too abruptly, however, or any
suspicion of her design exist, she answered the last remark of
Deerslayer, as earnestly and as truly as if her original intention
"I, certainly, have no reason to boast of parentage, after what I
have seen this night," said the girl, in a saddened voice. "I had
a mother, it is true; but of her name even, I am ignorant - and,
as for my father, it is better, perhaps, that I should never know
who he was, lest I speak too bitterly of him!"
"Judith," said Deerslayer, taking her hand kindly, and with a manly
sincerity that went directly to the girl's heart, "tis better to
say no more to-night. Sleep on what you've seen and felt; in the
morning things that now look gloomy, may look more che'rful. Above
all, never do anything in bitterness, or because you feel as if you'd
like to take revenge on yourself for other people's backslidings.
All that has been said or done atween us, this night, is your
secret, and shall never be talked of by me, even with the Sarpent,
and you may be sartain if he can't get it out of me no man can. If
your parents have been faulty, let the darter be less so; remember
that you're young, and the youthful may always hope for better
times; that you're more quick-witted than usual, and such gin'rally
get the better of difficulties, and that, as for beauty, you're
oncommon, which is an advantage with all. It is time to get a
little rest, for to-morrow is like to prove a trying day to some
Deerslayer arose as he spoke, and Judith had no choice but to comply.
The chest was closed and secured, and they parted in silence, she
to take her place by the side of Hist and Hetty, and he to seek
a blanket on the floor of the cabin he was in. It was not five
minutes ere the young man was in a deep sleep, but the girl continued
awake for a long time. She scarce knew whether to lament, or to
rejoice, at having failed in making herself understood. On the
one hand were her womanly sensibilities spared; on the other was
the disappointment of defeated, or at least of delayed expectations,
and the uncertainty of a future that looked so dark. Then came
the new resolution, and the bold project for the morrow, and when
drowsiness finally shut her eyes, they closed on a scene of success
and happiness, that was pictured by the fancy, under the influence
of a sanguine temperament, and a happy invention.
"But, mother, now a shade has past,
Athwart my brightest visions here,
A cloud of darkest gloom has wrapt,
The remnant of my brief career!
No song, no echo can I win,
The sparkling fount has died within."
Margaret Davidson, "To my Mother," 11. 7-12.
Hist and Hetty arose with the return of light, leaving Judith still
buried in sleep. It took but a minute for the first to complete
her toilet. Her long coal-black hair was soon adjusted in a simple
knot, the calico dress belted tight to her slender waist, and her
little feet concealed in their gaudily ornamented moccasins. When
attired, she left her companion employed in household affairs, and
went herself on the platform to breathe the pure air of the morning.
Here she found Chingachgook studying the shores of the lake, the
mountains and the heavens, with the sagacity of a man of the woods,
and the gravity of an Indian.
The meeting between the two lovers was simple, but affectionate.
The chief showed a manly kindness, equally removed from boyish
weakness and haste, while the girl betrayed, in her smile and half
averted looks, the bashful tenderness of her sex. Neither spoke,
unless it were with the eyes, though each understood the other as
fully as if a vocabulary of words and protestations had been poured
out. Hist seldom appeared to more advantage than at that moment,
for just from her rest and ablutions, there was a freshness about
her youthful form and face that the toils of the wood do not always
permit to be exhibited, by even the juvenile and pretty. Then
Judith had not only imparted some of her own skill in the toilet,
during their short intercourse, but she had actually bestowed a
few well selected ornaments from her own stores, that contributed
not a little to set off the natural graces of the Indian maid. All
this the lover saw and felt, and for a moment his countenance was
illuminated with a look of pleasure, but it soon grew grave again,
and became saddened and anxious. The stools used the previous
night were still standing on the platform; placing two against the
walls of the hut, he seated himself on one, making a gesture to his
companion to take the other. This done, he continued thoughtful
and silent for quite a minute, maintaining the reflecting dignity
of one born to take his seat at the council-fire, while Hist was
furtively watching the expression of his face, patient and submissive,
as became a woman of her people. Then the young warrior stretched
his arm before him, as if to point out the glories of the scene at
that witching hour, when the whole panorama, as usual, was adorned
by the mellow distinctness of early morning, sweeping with his
hand slowly over lake, hills and heavens. The girl followed the
movement with pleased wonder, smiling as each new beauty met her
"Hugh!" exclaimed the chief, in admiration of a scene so unusual
even to him, for this was the first lake he had ever beheld. "This
is the country of the Manitou! It is too good for Mingos, Hist;
but the curs of that tribe are howling in packs through the woods.
They think that the Delawares are asleep, over the mountains."
"All but one of them is, Chingachgook. There is one here; and he
is of the blood of Uncas!"
"What is one warrior against a tribe? The path to our villages is
very long and crooked, and we shall travel it under a cloudy sky.
I am afraid, too, Honeysuckle of the Hills, that we shall travel
Hist understood the allusion, and it made her sad; though it sounded
sweet to her ears to be compared, by the warrior she so loved, to
the most fragrant and the pleasantest of all the wild flowers of
her native woods. Still she continued silent, as became her when
the allusion was to a grave interest that men could best control,
though it exceeded the power of education to conceal the smile that
gratified feeling brought to her pretty mouth.
"When the sun is thus," continued the Delaware, pointing to the
zenith, by simply casting upward a hand and finger, by a play of
the wrist, "the great hunter of our tribe will go back to the Hurons
to be treated like a bear, that they roast and skin even on full
"The Great Spirit may soften their hearts, and not suffer them to
be so bloody minded. I have lived among the Hurons, and know them.
They have hearts, and will not forget their own children, should
they fall into the hands of the Delawares."
"A wolf is forever howling; a hog will always eat. They have
lost warriors; even their women will call out for vengeance. The
pale-face has the eyes of an eagle, and can see into a Mingo's
heart; he looks for no mercy. There is a cloud over his spirit,
though it is not before his face."
A long, thoughtful pause succeeded, during which Hist stealthily
took the hand of the chief, as if seeking his support, though she
scarce ventured to raise her eyes to a countenance that was now
literally becoming terrible, under the conflicting passions and
stern resolution that were struggling in the breast of its owner.
"What will the Son of Uncas do?" the girl at length timidly asked.
"He is a chief, and is already celebrated in council, though so
young; what does his heart tell him is wisest; does the head, too,
speak the same words as the heart?"
"What does Wah-ta-Wah say, at a moment when my dearest friend is
in such danger. The smallest birds sing the sweetest; it is always
pleasant to hearken to their songs. I wish I could hear the Wren
of the Woods in my difficulty; its note would reach deeper than
Again Hist experienced the profound gratification that the language
of praise can always awaken when uttered by those we love. The
'Honeysuckle of the Hills' was a term often applied to the girl by
the young men of the Delawares, though it never sounded so sweet
in her ears as from the lips of Chingachgook; but the latter alone
had ever styled her the Wren of the Woods. With him, however, it
had got to be a familiar phrase, and it was past expression pleasant
to the listener, since it conveyed to her mind the idea that her
advice and sentiments were as acceptable to her future husband, as
the tones of her voice and modes of conveying them were agreeable;
uniting the two things most prized by an Indian girl, as coming
from her betrothed, admiration for a valued physical advantage,
with respect for her opinion. She pressed the hand she
held between both her own, and answered -
"Wah-ta-Wah says that neither she nor the Great Serpent could ever
laugh again, or ever sleep without dreaming of the Hurons, should
the Deerslayer die under a Mingo tomahawk, and they do nothing to
save him. She would rather go back, and start on her long path
alone, than let such a dark cloud pass before her happiness."
"Good! The husband and the wife will have but one heart; they will
see with the same eyes, and feel with the same feelings."
What further was said need not be related here. That the conversation
was of Deerslayer, and his hopes, has been seen already, but the
decision that was come to will better appear in the course of the
narrative. The youthful pair were yet conversing when the sun
appeared above the tops of the pines, and the light of a brilliant
American day streamed down into the valley, bathing "in deep joy"
the lake, the forests and the mountain sides. Just at this instant
Deerslayer came out of the cabin of the Ark and stepped upon the
platform. His first look was at the cloudless heavens, then his
rapid glance took in the entire panorama of land and water, when
he had leisure for a friendly nod at his friends, and a cheerful
smile for Hist.
"Well," he said, in his usual, composed manner, and pleasant voice,
"he that sees the sun set in the west, and wakes 'arly enough in
the morning will be sartain to find him coming back ag'in in the
east, like a buck that is hunted round his ha'nt. I dare say, now,
Hist, you've beheld this, time and ag'in, and yet it never entered
into your galish mind to ask the reason?"
Both Chingachgook and his betrothed looked up at the luminary, with
an air that betokened sudden wonder, and then they gazed at each
other, as if to seek the solution of the difficulty. Familiarity
deadens the sensibilities even as connected with the gravest natural
phenomena, and never before had these simple beings thought of
enquiring into a movement that was of daily occurrence, however
puzzling it might appear on investigation. When the subject was
thus suddenly started, it struck both alike, and at the same instant,
with some such force, as any new and brilliant proposition in the
natural sciences would strike the scholar. Chingachgook alone saw
fit to answer.
"The pale-faces know everything," he said; "can they tell us why
the sun hides his face, when he goes back, at night."
"Ay, that is downright red-skin l'arnin'" returned the other,
laughing, through he was not altogether insensible to the pleasure
of proving the superiority of his race by solving the difficulty,
which he set about doing in his own peculiar manner. "Harkee, Sarpent,"
he continued more gravely, though too simply for affectation; "this
is easierly explained than an Indian brain may fancy. The sun,
while he seems to keep traveling in the heavens, never budges, but
it is the 'arth that turns round, and any one can understand, if
he is placed on the side of a mill-wheel, for instance, when it's
in motion, that he must some times see the heavens, while he is
at other times under water. There's no great secret in that; but
plain natur'; the difficulty being in setting the 'arth in motion."
"How does my brother know that the earth turns round?" demanded
the Indian. "Can he see it?"
"Well, that's been a puzzler, I will own, Delaware, for I've
often tried, but never could fairly make it out. Sometimes I've
consaited that I could; and then ag'in, I've been obliged to own
it an onpossibility. Howsever, turn it does, as all my people say,
and you ought to believe 'em, since they can foretell eclipses,
and other prodigies, that used to fill the tribes with terror,
according to your own traditions of such things."
"Good. This is true; no red man will deny it. When a wheel turns,
my eyes can see it - they do not see the earth turn."
"Ay, that's what I call sense obstinacy! Seeing is believing,
they say, and what they can't see, some men won't in the least give
credit to. Neverthless, chief, that isn't quite as good reason
as it mayat first seem. You believe in the Great Spirit, I know,
and yet, I conclude, it would puzzle you to show where you see
"Chingachgook can see Him everywhere - everywhere in good things
-the Evil Spirit in bad. Here, in the lake; there, in the forest;
yonder, in the clouds; in Hist, in the Son of Uncas, in Tannemund,
in Deerslayer. The Evil Spirit is in the Mingos. That I see; I
do not see the earth turn round."
"I don't wonder they call you the Sarpent, Delaware; no, I don't!
There's always a meaning in your words, and there's often a meaning
in your countenance, too! Notwithstanding, your answers doesn't
quite meet my idee. That God is observable in all nat'ral objects
is allowable, but then he is not perceptible in the way I mean.
You know there is a Great Spirit by his works, and the pale-faces
know that the 'arth turns round by its works. This is the reason
of the matter, though how it is to be explained is more than I can
exactly tell you. This I know; all my people consait that fact,
and what all the pale-faces consait, is very likely to be true."
"When the sun is in the top of that pine to-morrow, where will my
brother Deerslayer be?"
The hunter started, and he looked intently, though totally without
alarm, at his friend. Then he signed for him to follow, and led
the way into the Ark, where he might pursue the subject unheard by
those whose feelings he feared might get the mastery over their
reason. Here he stopped, and pursued the conversation in a more
"'Twas a little onreasonable in you Sarpent," he said, "to bring
up such a subject afore Hist, and when the young women of my own
colour might overhear what was said. Yes, 'twas a little more
onreasonable than most things that you do. No matter; Hist didn't
comprehend, and the other didn't hear. Howsever, the question is
easier put than answered. No mortal can say where he will be when
the sun rises tomorrow. I will ask you the same question, Sarpent,
and should like to hear what answer you can give."
"Chingachgook will be with his friend Deerslayer - if he be in
the land of spirits, the Great Serpent will crawl at his side; if
beneath yonder sun, its warmth and light shall fall on both."
"I understand you, Delaware," returned the other, touched with the
simple self-devotion of his friend, "Such language is as plain in
one tongue as in another. It comes from the heart, and goes to the
heart, too. 'Tis well to think so, and it may be well to say so,
for that matter, but it would not be well to do so, Sarpent. You
are no longer alone in life, for though you have the lodges to change,
and other ceremonies to go through, afore Hist becomes your lawful
wife, yet are you as good as married in all that bears on the
feelin's, and joy, and misery. No - no - Hist must not be desarted,
because a cloud is passing atween you and me, a little onexpectedly
and a little darker than we may have looked for."
"Hist is a daughter of the Mohicans. She knows how to obey her
husband. Where he goes, she will follow. Both will be with the
Great Hunter of the Delawares, when the sun shall be in the pine
"The Lord bless and protect you! Chief, this is downright madness.
Can either, or both of you, alter a Mingo natur'? Will your grand
looks, or Hist's tears and beauty, change a wolf into a squirrel,
or make a catamount as innocent as a fa'an? No - Sarpent, you
will think better of this matter, and leave me in the hands of
God. A'ter all, it's by no means sartain that the scamps design
the torments, for they may yet be pitiful, and bethink them of the
wickedness of such a course - though it is but a hopeless expectation
to look forward to a Mingo's turning aside from evil, and letting
marcy get uppermost in his heart. Nevertheless, no one knows to a
sartainty what will happen, and young creatur's, like Hist, a'n't
to be risked on onsartainties. This marrying is altogether a
different undertaking from what some young men fancy. Now, if you
was single, or as good as single, Delaware, I should expect you
to be actyve and stirring about the camp of the vagabonds, from
sunrise to sunset, sarcumventing and contriving, as restless as
a hound off the scent, and doing all manner of things to help me,
and to distract the inimy, but two are oftener feebler than one,
and we must take things as they are, and not as we want 'em to be."
"Listen, Deerslayer," returned the Indian with an emphasis so
decided as to show how much he was in earnest. "If Chingachgook
was in the hands of the Hurons, what would my pale-face brother do?
Sneak off to the Delaware villages, and say to the chiefs, and old
men, and young warriors - 'see, here is Wah-ta-Wah; she is safe,
but a little tired; and here is the Son of Uncas, not as tired as
the Honeysuckle, being stronger, but just as safe.' Would he do
"Well, that's oncommon ingen'ous; it's cunning enough for a Mingo,
himself! The Lord only knows what put it into your head to ask
such a question. What would I do? Why, in the first place, Hist
wouldn't be likely to be in my company at all, for she would stay as
near you as possible, and therefore all that part about her couldn't
be said without talking nonsense. As for her being tired, that
would fall through too, if she didn't go, and no part of your speech
would be likely to come from me; so, you see, Sarpent, reason is
ag'in you, and you may as well give it up, since to hold out ag'in
reason, is no way becoming a chief of your character and repitation."
"My brother is not himself; he forgets that he is talking to one
who has sat at the Council Fire of his nation," returned the other
kindly. "When men speak, they should say that which does not
go in at one side of the head and out at the other. Their words
shouldn't be feathers, so light that a wind which does not ruffle
the water can blow them away. He has not answered my question;
when a chief puts a question, his friend should not talk of other
"I understand you, Delaware; I understand well enough what you
mean, and truth won't allow me to say otherwise. Still it's not
as easy to answer as you seem to think, for this plain reason. You
wish me to say what I would do if I had a betrothed as you have,
here, on the lake, and a fri'nd yonder in the Huron camp, in danger
of the torments. That's it, isn't it?"
The Indian bowed his head silently, and always with unmoved gravity,
though his eye twinkled at the sight of the other's embarrassment.
"Well, I never had a betrothed - never had the kind of feelin's
toward any young woman that you have towards Hist, though the Lord
knows my feelin's are kind enough towards 'em all! Still my heart,
as they call it in such matters, isn't touched, and therefore I
can't say what I would do. A fri'nd pulls strong, that I know by
exper'ence, Sarpent, but, by all that I've seen and heard consarning
love, I'm led to think that a betrothed pulls stronger."
"True; but the betrothed of Chingachgook does not pull towards the
lodges of the Delawares; she pulls towards the camp of the Hurons."
"She's a noble gal, for all her little feet, and hands that an't
bigger than a child's, and a voice that is as pleasant as a mocker's;
she's a noble gal, and like the stock of her sires! Well, what is
it, Sarpent; for I conclude she hasn't changed her mind, and means
to give herself up, and turn Huron wife. What is it you want?"
"Wah-ta-Wah will never live in the wigwam of an Iroquois," answered
the Delaware drily. "She has little feet, but they can carry her
to the villages of her people; she has small hands, too, but her
mind is large. My brother will see what we can do, when the time
shall come, rather than let him die under Mingo torments."
"Attempt nothing heedlessly, Delaware," said the other earnestly;
"I suppose you must and will have your way; and, on the whole it's
right you should, for you'd neither be happy, unless something
was undertaken. But attempt nothing heedlessly - I didn't expect
you'd quit the lake, while my matter remained in unsartainty,
but remember, Sarpent, that no torments that Mingo ingenuity can
invent, no ta'ntings and revilings; no burnings and roastings and
nail-tearings, nor any other onhuman contrivances can so soon break
down my spirit, as to find that you and Hist have fallen into the
power of the inimy in striving to do something for my good."
"The Delawares are prudent. The Deerslayer will not find them
running into a strange camp with their eyes shut."
Here the dialogue terminated. Hetty announced that the breakfast
was ready, and the whole party was soon seated around the simple
board, in the usual primitive manner of borderers. Judith was the
last to take her seat, pale, silent, and betraying in her countenance
that she had passed a painful, if not a sleepless, night. At this
meal scarce a syllable was exchanged, all the females manifesting
want of appetites, though the two men were unchanged in this
particular. It was early when the party arose, and there still
remained several hours before it would be necessary for the prisoner
to leave his friends. The knowledge of this circumstance, and the
interest all felt in his welfare, induced the whole to assemble on
the platform again, in the desire to be near the expected victim,
to listen to his discourse, and if possible to show their interest
in him by anticipating his wishes. Deerslayer, himself, so
far as human eyes could penetrate, was wholly unmoved, conversing
cheerfully and naturally, though he avoided any direct allusions
to the expected and great event of the day. If any evidence could
be discovered of his thought's reverting to that painful subject at
all, it was in the manner in which he spoke of death and the last
"Grieve not, Hetty," he said, for it was while consoling this
simple-minded girl for the loss of her parents that he thus betrayed
his feelings, "since God has app'inted that all must die. Your
parents, or them you fancied your parents, which is the same thing,
have gone afore you; this is only in the order of natur', my good
gal, for the aged go first, and the young follow. But one that had
a mother like your'n, Hetty, can be at no loss to hope the best,
as to how matters will turn out in another world. The Delaware,
here, and Hist, believe in happy hunting grounds, and have idees
befitting their notions and gifts as red-skins, but we who are
of white blood hold altogether to a different doctrine. Still, I
rather conclude our heaven is their land of spirits, and that the
path which leads to it will be travelled by all colours alike. Tis
onpossible for the wicked to enter on it, I will allow, but fri'nds
can scarce be separated, though they are not of the same race on
'arth. Keep up your spirits, poor Hetty, and look forward to the
day when you will meet your mother ag'in, and that without pain,
"I do expect to see mother," returned the truth-telling and simple
girl, "but what will become of father?"
"That's a non-plusser, Delaware," said the hunter, in the Indian
dialect -"yes, that is a downright non-plusser! The Muskrat was
not a saint on 'arth, and it's fair to guess he'll not be much of
one, hereafter! Howsever, Hetty," dropping into the English by an
easy transition, "howsever, Hetty, we must all hope for the best.
That is wisest, and it is much the easiest to the mind, if one can
only do it. I ricommend to you, trusting to God, and putting down
all misgivings and fainthearted feelin's. It's wonderful, Judith,
how different people have different notions about the futur', some
fancying one change, and some fancying another. I've known white
teachers that have thought all was spirit, hereafter, and them,
ag'in, that believed the body will be transported to another world,
much as the red-skins themselves imagine, and that we shall walk
about in the flesh, and know each other, and talk together, and be
fri'nds there as we've been fri'nds here."
"Which of these opinions is most pleasing to you, Deerslayer?"
asked the girl, willing to indulge his melancholy mood, and far from
being free from its influence herself. "Would it be disagreeable
to think that you should meet all who are now on this platform in
another world? Or have you known enough of us here, to be glad to
see us no more.
"The last would make death a bitter portion; yes it would. It's
eight good years since the Sarpent and I began to hunt together,
and the thought that we were never to meet ag'in would be a hard
thought to me. He looks forward to the time when he shall chase a
sort of spirit-deer, in company, on plains where there's no thorns,
or brambles, or marshes, or other hardships to overcome, whereas
I can't fall into all these notions, seeing that they appear to be
ag'in reason. Spirits can't eat, nor have they any use for clothes,
and deer can only rightfully be chased to be slain, or slain, unless
it be for the venison or the hides. Now, I find it hard to suppose
that blessed spirits can be put to chasing game without an object,
tormenting the dumb animals just for the pleasure and agreeableness
of their own amusements. I never yet pulled a trigger on buck or
doe, Judith, unless when food or clothes was wanting."
"The recollection of which, Deerslayer, must now be a great
consolation to you."
"It is the thought of such things, my fri'nds, that enables a man
to keep his furlough. It might be done without it, I own; for
the worst red-skins sometimes do their duty in this matter; but it
makes that which might otherwise be hard, easy, if not altogether
to our liking. Nothing truly makes a bolder heart than a light
Judith turned paler than ever, but she struggled for self-command,
and succeeded in obtaining it. The conflict had been severe,
however, and it left her so little disposed to speak that Hetty
pursued the subject. This was done in the simple manner natural
to the girl.
"It would be cruel to kill the poor deer," she said, "in this
world, or any other, when you don't want their venison, or their
skins. No good white man, and no good red man would do it. But
it's wicked for a Christian to talk about chasing anything in
heaven. Such things are not done before the face of God, and the
missionary that teaches these doctrines can't be a true missionary.
He must be a wolf in sheep's clothing. I suppose you know what a
sheep is, Deerslayer."
"That I do, gal, and a useful creatur' it is, to such as like cloths
better than skins for winter garments. I understand the natur' of
sheep, though I've had but little to do with 'em, and the natur'
of wolves too, and can take the idee of a wolf in the fleece of a
sheep, though I think it would be like to prove a hot jacket for
such a beast, in the warm months!"
"And sin and hypocrisy are hot jackets, as they will find who put
them on," returned Hetty, positively, "so the wolf would be no worse
off than the sinner. Spirits don't hunt, nor trap, nor fish, nor
do anything that vain men undertake, since they've none of the
longings of this world to feed. Oh! Mother told me all that,
years ago, and I don't wish to hear it denied."
"Well, my good Hetty, in that case you'd better not broach your
doctrine to Hist, when she and you are alone, and the young Delaware
maiden is inclined to talk religion. It's her fixed idee, I know,
that the good warriors do nothing but hunt and fish in the other
world, though I don't believe that she fancies any of them are
brought down to trapping, which is no empl'yment for a brave. But
of hunting and fishing, accordin' to her notion, they've their
fill, and that, too, over the most agreeablest hunting grounds, and
among game that is never out of season, and which is just actyve
and instinctyve enough to give a pleasure to death. So I wouldn't
ricommend it to you to start Hist on that idee."
"Hist can't be so wicked as to believe any such thing," returned
the other, earnestly. "No Indian hunts after he is dead."
"No wicked Indian, I grant you; no wicked Indian, sartainly. He
is obliged to carry the ammunition, and to look on without sharing
in the sport, and to cook, and to light the fires, and to do every
thing that isn't manful. Now, mind; I don't tell you these are my
idees, but they are Hist's idees, and, therefore, for the sake of
peace the less you say to her ag'in 'em, the better."
"And what are your ideas of the fate of an Indian, in the other
world?" demanded Judith, who had just found her voice.
"Ah! gal, any thing but that! I am too Christianized to expect
any thing so fanciful as hunting and fishing after death, nor do
I believe there is one Manitou for the red-skin and another for
a pale-face. You find different colours on 'arth, as any one may
see, but you don't find different natur's. Different gifts, but
only one natur'."
"In what is a gift different from a nature? Is not nature itself
a gift from God?"
"Sartain; that's quick-thoughted, and creditable, Judith, though the
main idee is wrong. A natur' is the creatur' itself; its wishes,
wants, idees and feelin's, as all are born in him. This natur' never
can be changed, in the main, though it may undergo some increase,
or lessening. Now, gifts come of sarcumstances. Thus, if you put
a man in a town, he gets town gifts; in a settlement, settlement
gifts; in a forest, gifts of the woods. A soldier has soldierly
gifts, and a missionary preaching gifts. All these increase and
strengthen, until they get to fortify natur', as it might be, and
excuse a thousand acts and idees. Still the creatur' is the same
at the bottom; just as a man who is clad in regimentals is the same
as the man that is clad in skins. The garments make a change to
the eye, and some change in the conduct, perhaps; but none in the
man. Herein lies the apology for gifts; seein' that you expect
different conduct from one in silks and satins, from one in homespun;
though the Lord, who didn't make the dresses, but who made the
creatur's themselves, looks only at his own work. This isn't ra'al
missionary doctrine, but it's as near it as a man of white colour
need be. Ah's! me; little did I think to be talking of such matters,
to-day, but it's one of our weaknesses never to know what will come
to pass. Step into the Ark with me, Judith, for a minute; I wish
to convarse with you."
Judith complied with a willingness she could scarce conceal.
Following the hunter into the cabin, she took a seat on a stool,
while the young man brought Killdeer, the rifle she had given him,
out of a corner, and placed himself on another, with the weapon
laid upon his knees. After turning the piece round and round,
and examining its lock and its breech with a sort of affectionate
assiduity, he laid it down and proceeded to the subject which had
induced him to desire the interview.
"I understand you, Judith, to say that you gave me this rifle,"
he said. "I agreed to take it, because a young woman can have no
particular use for firearms. The we'pon has a great name, and it
desarves it, and ought of right to be carried by some known and
sure hand, for the best repitation may be lost by careless and
'Can it be in better hands than those in which it is now, Deerslayer?
Thomas Hutter seldom missed with it; with you it must turn out to
"Sartain death!" interrupted the hunter, laughing. "I once know'd
a beaver-man that had a piece he called by that very name, but
'twas all boastfulness, for I've seen Delawares that were as true
with arrows, at a short range. Howsever, I'll not deny my gifts -
for this is a gift, Judith, and not natur' -but, I'll not deny my
gifts, and therefore allow that the rifle couldn't well be in better
hands than it is at present. But, how long will it be likely to
remain there? Atween us, the truth may be said, though I shouldn't
like to have it known to the Sarpent and Hist; but, to you the
truth may be spoken, since your feelin's will not be as likely to
be tormented by it, as those of them that have known me longer and
better. How long am I like to own this rifle or any other? That
is a serious question for our thoughts to rest on, and should that
happen which is so likely to happen, Killdeer would be without an
Judith listened with apparent composure, though the conflict within
came near overpowering her. Appreciating the singular character
of her companion, however, she succeeded in appearing calm, though,
had not his attention been drawn exclusively to the rifle, a man
of his keenness of observation could scarce have failed to detect
the agony of mind with which the girl had hearkened to his words.
Her great self-command, notwithstanding, enabled her to pursue the
subject in a way still to deceive him.
"What would you have me do with the weapon," she asked, "should
that which you seem to expect take place?"
"That's just what I wanted to speak to you about, Judith; that's
just it. There's Chingachgook, now, though far from being parfect
sartainty, with a rifle - for few red-skins ever get to be that
- though far from being parfect sartainty, he is respectable, and
is coming on. Nevertheless, he is my fri'nd, and all the better
fri'nd, perhaps, because there never can be any hard feelin's atween
us, touchin' our gifts, his'n bein' red, and mine bein' altogether
white. Now, I should like to leave Killdeer to the Sarpent, should
any thing happen to keep me from doing credit and honor to your
precious gift, Judith."
"Leave it to whom you please, Deerslayer. The rifle is your own,
to do with as you please. Chingachgook shall have it, should you
never return to claim it, if that be your wish."
"Has Hetty been consulted in this matter? Property goes from the
parent to the children, and not to one child, in partic'lar!"
"If you place your right on that of the law, Deerslayer, I fear
none of us can claim to be the owner. Thomas Hutter was no more
the father of Esther, than he was the father of Judith. Judith
and Esther we are truly, having no other name!"
"There may be law in that, but there's no great reason, gal.
Accordin' to the custom of families, the goods are your'n, and
there's no one here to gainsay it. If Hetty would only say that
she is willing, my mind would be quite at ease in the matter. It's
true, Judith, that your sister has neither your beauty, nor your
wit; but we should be the tenderest of the rights and welfare of
the most weak-minded."
The girl made no answer but placing herself at a window, she summoned
her sister to her side. When the question was put to Hetty, that
simple-minded and affectionate creature cheerfully assented to the
proposal to confer on Deerslayer a full right of ownership to the
much-coveted rifle. The latter now seemed perfectly happy, for
the time being at least, and after again examining and re-examining
his prize, he expressed a determination to put its merits to a
practical test, before he left the spot. No boy could have been
more eager to exhibit the qualities of his trumpet, or his crossbow,
than this simple forester was to prove those of his rifle. Returning
to the platform, he first took the Delaware aside, and informed
him that this celebrated piece was to become his property, in the
event of any thing serious befalling himself.
"This is a new reason why you should he wary, Sarpent, and not run
into any oncalculated danger," the hunter added, "for, it will be
a victory of itself to a tribe to own such a piece as this! The
Mingos will turn green with envy, and, what is more, they will not
ventur' heedlessly near a village where it is known to be kept. So,
look well to it, Delaware, and remember that you've now to watch
over a thing that has all the valie of a creatur', without its
failin's. Hist may be, and should be precious to you, but Killdeer
will have the love and veneration of your whole people."
"One rifle like another, Deerslayer," returned the Indian,
in English, the language used by the other, a little hurt at his
friend's lowering his betrothed to the level of a gun. "All kill;
all wood and iron. Wife dear to heart; rifle good to shoot."
"And what is a man in the woods without something to shoot with?
-a miserable trapper, or a forlorn broom and basket maker, at the
best. Such a man may hoe corn, and keep soul and body together, but
he can never know the savory morsels of venison, or tell a bear's
ham from a hog's. Come, my fri'nd, such another occasion may never
offer ag'in, and I feel a strong craving for a trial with this
celebrated piece. You shall bring out your own rifle, and I will
just sight Killdeer in a careless way, in order that we may know
a few of its secret vartues."
As this proposition served to relieve the thoughts of the whole party,
by giving them a new direction, while it was likely to produce no
unpleasant results, every one was willing to enter into it; the
girls bringing forth the firearms with an alacrity bordering on
cheerfulness. Hutter's armory was well supplied, possessing several
rifles, all of which were habitually kept loaded in readiness
to meet any sudden demand for their use. On the present occasion
it only remained to freshen the primings, and each piece was in a
state for service. This was soon done, as all assisted in it, the
females being as expert in this part of the system of defence as
their male companions.
"Now, Sarpent, we'll begin in a humble way, using Old Tom's commoners
first, and coming to your we'pon and Killdeer as the winding up
observations," said Deerslayer, delighted to be again, weapon in
hand, ready to display his skill. "Here's birds in abundance, some
in, and some over the lake, and they keep at just a good range,
hovering round the hut. Speak your mind, Delaware, and p'int out
the creatur' you wish to alarm. Here's a diver nearest in, off
to the eastward, and that's a creatur' that buries itself at the
flash, and will be like enough to try both piece and powder."
Chingachgook was a man of few words. No sooner was the bird pointed
out to him than he took his aim and fired. The duck dove at the
flash, as had been expected, and the bullet skipped harmlessly
along the surface of the lake, first striking the water within a few
inches of the spot where the bird had so lately swam. Deerslayer
laughed, cordially and naturally, but at the same time he threw
himself into an attitude of preparation and stood keenly watching
the sheet of placid water. Presently a dark spot appeared, and
then the duck arose to breathe, and shook its wings. While in this
act, a bullet passed directly through its breast, actually turning
it over lifeless on its back. At the next moment, Deerslayer stood
with the breech of his rifle on the platform, as tranquil as if
nothing had happened, though laughing in his own peculiar manner.
"There's no great trial of the pieces in that!" he said, as if anxious
to prevent a false impression of his own merit. "No, that proof's
neither for nor ag'in the rifles, seeing it was all quickness of
hand and eye. I took the bird at a disadvantage, or he might have
got under, again, afore the bullet reached him. But the Sarpent
is too wise to mind such tricks, having long been used to them.
Do you remember the time, chief, when you thought yourself sartain
of the wild-goose, and I took him out of your very eyes, as it might
be with a little smoke! Howsever, such things pass for nothing.
atween fri'nds, and young folk will have their fun, Judith. Ay;
here's just the bird we want, for it's as good for the fire, as it
is for the aim, and nothing should be lost that can be turned to
just account. There, further north, Delaware."
The latter looked in the required direction, and he soon saw a
large black duck floating in stately repose on the water. At that
distant day, when so few men were present to derange the harmony
of the wilderness, all the smaller lakes with which the interior
of New York so abounds were places of resort for the migratory
aquatic birds, and this sheet like the others had once been much
frequented by all the varieties of the duck, by the goose, the
gull, and the loon. On the appearance of Hutter, the spot was
comparatively deserted for other sheets, more retired and remote,
though some of each species continued to resort thither, as indeed
they do to the present hour. At that instant, a hundred birds were
visible from the castle, sleeping on the water or laying their
feathers in the limpid element, though no other offered so favorable
a mark as that Deerslayer had just pointed out to his friend.
Chingachgook, as usual, spared his words, and proceeded to execution.
This time his aim was more careful than before, and his success
in proportion. The bird had a wing crippled, and fluttered along
the water screaming, materially increasing its distance from its
"That bird must be put out of pain," exclaimed Deerslayer, the
moment the animal endeavored to rise on the wing, "and this is the
rifle and the eye to do it."
The duck was still floundering along, when the fatal bullet overtook
it, severing the head from the neck as neatly as if it had been
done with an axe. Hist had indulged in a low cry of delight at
the success of the young Indian, but now she affected to frown and
resent the greater skill of his friend. The chief, on the contrary,
uttered the usual exclamation of pleasure, and his smile proved
how much he admired, and how little he envied.
"Never mind the gal, Sarpent, never mind Hist's feelin's, which
will neither choke, nor drown, slay nor beautify," said Deerslayer,
laughing. "'Tis nat'ral for women to enter into their husband's
victories and defeats, and you are as good as man and wife, so far
as prejudyce and fri'ndship go. Here is a bird over head that will
put the pieces to the proof. I challenge you to an upward aim,
with a flying target. That's a ra'al proof, and one that needs
sartain rifles, as well as sartain eyes."
The species of eagle that frequents the water, and lives on fish,
was also present, and one was hovering at a considerable height above
the hut, greedily watching for an opportunity to make a swoop; its
hungry young elevating their heads from a nest that was in sight,
in the naked summit of a dead pine. Chingachgook silently turned
a new piece against this bird, and after carefully watching his
time, fired. A wider circuit than common denoted that the messenger
had passed through the air at no great distance from the bird,
though it missed its object. Deerslayer, whose aim was not more
true than it was quick, fired as soon as it was certain his friend
had missed, and the deep swoop that followed left it momentarily
doubtful whether the eagle was hit or not. The marksman himself,
however, proclaimed his own want of success, calling on his friend
to seize another rifle, for he saw signs on the part of the bird
of an intention to quit the spot.
"I made him wink, Sarpent, I do think his feathers were ruffled,
but no blood has yet been drawn, nor is that old piece fit for so
nice and quick a sight. Quick, Delaware, you've now a better rifle,
and, Judith, bring out Killdeer, for this is the occasion to try
his merits, if he has 'em."
A general movement followed, each of the competitors got ready,
and the girls stood in eager expectation of the result. The eagle
had made a wide circuit after his low swoop, and fanning his way
upward, once more hovered nearly over the hut, at a distance even
greater than before. Chingachgook gazed at him, and then expressed
his opinion of the impossibility of striking a bird at that great
height, and while he was so nearly perpendicular, as to the range.
But a low murmur from Hist produced a sudden impulse and he fired.
The result showed how well he had calculated, the eagle not even
varying his flight, sailing round and round in his airy circle,
and looking down, as if in contempt, at his foes.
"Now, Judith," cried Deerslayer, laughing, with glistening and
delighted eyes, "we'll see if Killdeer isn't Killeagle, too! Give
me room Sarpent, and watch the reason of the aim, for by reason
any thing may be l'arned."
A careful sight followed, and was repeated again and again, the bird
continuing to rise higher and higher. Then followed the flash and
the report. The swift messenger sped upward, and, at the next
instant, the bird turned on its side, and came swooping down,
now struggling with one wing and then with the other, sometimes
whirling in a circuit, next fanning desperately as if conscious of
its injury, until, having described several complete circles around
the spot, it fell heavily into the end of the Ark. On examining
the body, it was found that the bullet had pierced it about half
way between one of its wings and the breast-bone.
"Upon two stony tables, spread before her,
She lean'd her bosom, more than stony hard,
There slept th' impartial judge, and strict restorer
Of wrong, or right, with pain or with reward;
There hung the score of all our debts, the card
Where good, and bad, and life, and death, were painted;
Was never heart of mortal so untainted,
But when the roll was read, with thousand terrors fainted."
Giles Fletcher, Christ's Victory in Heaven, lxv.
"We've done an unthoughtful thing, Sarpent - yes, Judith, we've
done an unthoughtful thing in taking life with an object no better
than vanity!" exclaimed Deerslayer, when the Delaware held up the
enormous bird, by its wings, and exhibited the dying eyes riveted
on its enemies with the gaze that the helpless ever fasten on their
destroyers. "Twas more becomin' two boys to gratify their feelin's
in this onthoughtful manner, than two warriors on a warpath, even
though it be their first. Ah's! me; well, as a punishment I'll quit
you at once, and when I find myself alone with them bloody-minded
Mingos, it's more than like I'll have occasion to remember that
life is sweet, even to the beasts of the woods and the fowls of
the air. There, Judith; there's Kildeer; take him back, ag'in, and
keep him for some hand that's more desarving to own such a piece."
"I know of none as deserving as your own, Deerslayer," answered
the girl in haste; "none but yours shall keep the rifle."
"If it depended on skill, you might be right enough, gal, but we
should know when to use firearms, as well as how to use 'em. I
haven't l'arnt the first duty yet, it seems; so keep the piece till
I have. The sight of a dyin' and distressed creatur', even though
it be only a bird, brings wholesome thoughts to a man who don't know
how soon his own time may come, and who is pretty sartain that it
will come afore the sun sets; I'd give back all my vain feelin's,
and rej'icin's in hand and eye, if that poor eagle was only on its
nest ag'in, with its young, praisin' the Lord for anything that we
can know about the matter, for health and strength!"
The listeners were confounded with this proof of sudden repentance
in the hunter, and that too for an indulgence so very common, that
men seldom stop to weigh its consequences, or the physical suffering
it may bring on the unoffending and helpless. The Delaware understood
what was said, though he scarce understood the feelings which had
prompted the words, and by way of disposing of the difficulty, he
drew his keen knife, and severed the head of the sufferer from its
"What a thing is power!" continued the hunter, "and what a thing
it is to have it, and not to know how to use it. It's no wonder,
Judith, that the great so often fail of their duties, when even
the little and the humble find it so hard to do what's right, and
not to do what's wrong. Then, how one evil act brings others a'ter
it! Now, wasn't it for this furlough of mine, which must soon take
me back to the Mingos, I'd find this creatur's nest, if I travelled
the woods a fortnight - though an eagle's nest is soon found by them
that understands the bird's natur', - but I'd travel a fortnight
rather than not find it, just to put the young, too, out of their
"I'm glad to hear you say this, Deerslayer," observed Hetty, "and
God will be more apt to remember your sorrow for what you've done,
than the wickedness itself. I thought how wicked it was to kill
harmless birds, while you were shooting, and meant to tell you so;
but, I don't know how it happened, - I was so curious to see if you
could hit an eagle at so great a height, that I forgot altogether
to speak, 'till the mischief was done."
"That's it; that's just it, my good Hetty. We can all see our
faults and mistakes when it's too late to help them! Howsever I'm
glad you didn't speak, for I don't think a word or two would have
stopped me, just at that moment, and so the sin stands in its
nakedness, and not aggravated by any unheeded calls to forbear.
Well, well, bitter thoughts are hard to be borne at all times, but
there's times when they're harder than at others."
Little did Deerslayer know, while thus indulging in feelings that
were natural to the man, and so strictly in accordance with his
own unsophisticated and just principles, that, in the course of the
inscrutable providence, which so uniformly and yet so mysteriously
covers all events with its mantle, the very fault he was disposed
so severely to censure was to be made the means of determining his
own earthly fate. The mode and the moment in which he was to feel
the influence of this interference, it would be premature to relate,
but both will appear in the course of the succeeding chapters. As
for the young man, he now slowly left the Ark, like one sorrowing
for his misdeeds, and seated himself in silence on the platform. By
this time the sun had ascended to some height, and its appearance,
taken in connection with his present feelings, induced him to
prepare to depart. The Delaware got the canoe ready for his friend,
as soon as apprised of his intention, while Hist busied herself
in making the few arrangements that were thought necessary to his
comfort. All this was done without ostentation, but in a way that
left Deerslayer fully acquainted with, and equally disposed to
appreciate, the motive. When all was ready, both returned to the
side of Judith and Hetty, neither of whom had moved from the spot
where the young hunter sat.
"The best fri'nds must often part," the last began, when he saw
the whole party grouped around him - "yes, fri'ndship can't alter
the ways of Providence, and let our feelin's be as they may, we
must part. I've often thought there's moments when our words dwell
longer on the mind than common, and when advice is remembered, just
because the mouth that gives it isn't likely to give it ag'in. No
one knows what will happen in this world, and therefore it may be
well, when fri'nds separate under a likelihood that the parting may
be long, to say a few words in kindness, as a sort of keepsakes.
If all but one will go into the Ark, I'll talk to each in turn, and
what is more, I'll listen to what you may have to say back ag'in,
for it's a poor counsellor that won't take as well as give."
As the meaning of the speaker was understood, the two Indians
immediately withdrew as desired, leaving the sisters, however, still
standing at the young man's side. A look of Deerslayer's induced
Judith to explain.
"You can advise Hetty as you land," she said hastily, "for I intend
that she shall accompany you to the shore."
"Is this wise, Judith? It's true, that under common sarcumstances
a feeble mind is a great protection among red-skins, but when their
feelin's are up, and they're bent on revenge, it's hard to say what
may come to pass. Besides -"
"What were you about to say, Deerslayer?" asked Judith, whose
gentleness of voice and manner amounted nearly to tenderness,
though she struggled hard to keep her emotions and apprehensions
"Why, simply that there are sights and doin's that one even as
little gifted with reason and memory as Hetty here, might better
not witness. So, Judith, you would do well to let me land alone,
and to keep your sister back."
"Never fear for me, Deerslayer," put in Hetty, who comprehended
enough of the discourse to know its general drift, "I'm feeble
minded, and that they say is an excuse for going anywhere; and
what that won't excuse, will be overlooked on account of the Bible
I always carry. It is wonderful, Judith, how all sorts of men; the
trappers as well as the hunters; red-men as well as white; Mingos
as well as Delawares do reverence and fear the Bible!"
"I think you have not the least ground to fear any injury, Hetty,"
answered the sister, "and therefore I shall insist on your going to
the Huron camp with our friend. Your being there can do no harm,
not even to yourself, and may do great good to Deerslayer."
"This is not a moment, Judith, to dispute, and so have the matter
your own way," returned the young man. "Get yourself ready, Hetty,
and go into the canoe, for I've a few parting words to say to your
sister, which can do you no good."
Judith and her companion continued silent, until Hetty had so far
complied as to leave them alone, when Deerslayer took up the subject,
as if it had been interrupted by some ordinary occurrence, and in
a very matter of fact way.
"Words spoken at parting, and which may be the last we ever hear
from a fri'nd are not soon forgotten," he repeated, "and so Judith,
I intend to speak to you like a brother, seein' I'm not old enough
to be your father. In the first place, I wish to caution you ag'in
your inimies, of which two may be said to ha'nt your very footsteps,
and to beset your ways. The first is oncommon good looks, which is
as dangerous a foe to some young women, as a whole tribe of Mingos
could prove, and which calls for great watchfulness -not to admire
and praise - but to distrust and sarcumvent. Yes, good looks may
be sarcumvented, and fairly outwitted, too. In order to do this
you've only to remember that they melt like the snows, and, when
once gone, they never come back ag'in. The seasons come and go,
Judith, and if we have winter, with storms and frosts, and spring
with chills and leafless trees, we have summer with its sun and
glorious skies, and fall with its fruits, and a garment thrown over
the forest, that no beauty of the town could rummage out of all
the shops in America. 'Arth is in an etarnal round, the goodness
of God bringing back the pleasant when we've had enough of the
onpleasant. But it's not so with good looks. They are lent for
a short time in youth, to be used and not abused, and, as I never
met with a young woman to whom providence has been as bountiful as
it has to you, Judith, in this partic'lar, I warn you, as it might
be with my dyin' breath, to beware of the inimy - fri'nd, or inimy,
as we deal with the gift."
It was so grateful to Judith to hear these unequivocal admissions
of her personal charms, that much would have been forgiven to the
man who made them, let him be who he might. But, at that moment,
and from a far better feeling, it would not have been easy for
Deerslayer seriously to offend her, and she listened with a patience,
which, had it been foretold only a week earlier, it would have
excited her indignation to hear.
"I understand your meaning, Deerslayer," returned the girl, with
a meekness and humility that a little surprised her listener, "and
hope to be able to profit by it. But, you have mentioned only one
of the enemies I have to fear; who, or what is the other."
"The other is givin' way afore your own good sense and judgment, I
find, Judith; yes, he's not as dangerous as I supposed. Howsever,
havin' opened the subject, it will be as well to end it honestly.
The first inimy you have to be watchful of, as I've already told
you, Judith, is oncommon good looks, and the next is an oncommon
knowledge of the sarcumstance. If the first is bad, the last
doesn't, in any way, mend the matter, so far as safety and peace
of mind are consarned."
How much longer the young man would have gone on in his simple and
unsuspecting, but well intentioned manner, it might not be easy to
say, had he not been interrupted by his listener's bursting into
tears, and giving way to an outbreak of feeling, which was so
much the more violent from the fact that it had been with so much
difficulty suppressed. At first her sobs were so violent and
uncontrollable that Deerslayer was a little appalled, and he was
abundantly repentant from the instant that he discovered how much
greater was the effect produced by his words than he had anticipated.
Even the austere and exacting are usually appeased by the signs of
contrition, but the nature of Deerslayer did not require proofs of
intense feelings so strong in order to bring him down to a level
with the regrets felt by the girl herself. He arose, as if an
adder had stung him, and the accents of the mother that soothes
her child were scarcely more gentle and winning than the tones of
his voice, as he now expressed his contrition at having gone so
"It was well meant, Judith," he said, "but it was not intended
to hurt your feelin's so much. I have overdone the advice, I
see; yes, I've overdone it, and I crave your pardon for the same.
Fri'ndship's an awful thing! Sometimes it chides us for not having
done enough; and then, ag'in it speaks in strong words for havin'
done too much. Howsever, I acknowledge I've overdone the matter,
and as I've a ra'al and strong regard for you, I rej'ice to say it,
inasmuch as it proves how much better you are, than my own vanity
and consaits had made you out to be."
Judith now removed her hands from her face, her tears had ceased,
and she unveiled a countenance so winning with the smile which
rendered it even radiant, that the young man gazed at her, for a
moment, with speechless delight.
"Say no more, Deerslayer," she hastily interposed; "it pains me to
hear you find fault with yourself. I know my own weakness, all the
better, now I see that you have discovered it; the lesson, bitter
as I have found it for a moment, shall not be forgotten. We will
not talk any longer of these things, for I do not feel myself brave
enough for the undertaking, and I should not like the Delaware, or
Hist, or even Hetty, to notice my weakness. Farewell, Deerslayer;
may God bless and protect you as your honest heart deserves blessings
and protection, and as I must think he will."
Judith had so far regained the superiority that properly belonged
to her better education, high spirit, and surpassing personal
advantages, as to preserve the ascendancy she had thus accidentally
obtained, and effectually prevented any return to the subject that
was as singularly interrupted, as it had been singularly introduced.
The young man permitted her to have every thing her own way, and when
she pressed his hard hand in both her own, he made no resistance,
but submitted to the homage as quietly, and with quite as matter
of course a manner, as a sovereign would have received a similar
tribute from a subject, or the mistress from her suitor. Feeling
had flushed the face and illuminated the whole countenance of the
girl, and her beauty was never more resplendant than when she cast
a parting glance at the youth. That glance was filled with anxiety,
interest and gentle pity. At the next instant, she darted into the
hut and was seen no more, though she spoke to Hist from a window,
to inform her that their friend expected her appearance.
"You know enough of red-skin natur', and red-skin usages, Wah-ta-Wah,
to see the condition I am in on account of this furlough," commenced
the hunter in Delaware, as soon as the patient and submissive girl
of that people had moved quietly to his side; "you will therefore
best onderstand how onlikely I am ever to talk with you ag'in. I've
but little to say; but that little comes from long livin' among
your people, and from havin' obsarved and noted their usages. The
life of a woman is hard at the best, but I must own, though I'm
not opinionated in favor of my own colour, that it is harder among
the red men than it is among the pale-faces. This is a p'int on
which Christians may well boast, if boasting can be set down for
Christianity in any manner or form, which I rather think it cannot.
Howsever, all women have their trials. Red women have their'n
in what I should call the nat'ral way, while white women take 'em
innoculated like. Bear your burthen, Hist, becomingly, and remember
if it be a little toilsome, how much lighter it is than that of
most Indian women. I know the Sarpent well - what I call cordially
- and he will never be a tyrant to any thing he loves, though he
will expect to be treated himself like a Mohican Chief. There will
be cloudy days in your lodge I suppose, for they happen under all
usages, and among all people, but, by keepin' the windows of the
heart open there will always be room for the sunshine to enter.
You come of a great stock yourself, and so does Chingachgook. It's
not very likely that either will ever forget the sarcumstance and
do any thing to disgrace your forefathers. Nevertheless, likin'
is a tender plant, and never thrives long when watered with tears.
Let the 'arth around your married happiness be moistened by the
dews of kindness."
"My pale brother is very wise; Wah will keep in her mind all that
his wisdom tells her."
"That's judicious and womanly, Hist. Care in listening, and
stout-heartedness in holding to good counsel, is a wife's great
protection. And, now, ask the Sarpent to come and speak with me,
for a moment, and carry away with you all my best wishes and prayers.
I shall think of you, Hist, and of your intended husband, let what
may come to pass, and always wish you well, here and hereafter,
whether the last is to be according to Indian idees, or Christian
Hist shed no tear at parting. She was sustained by the high
resolution of one who had decided on her course, but her dark eyes
were luminous with the feelings that glowed within, and her pretty
countenance beamed with an expression of determination that was in
marked and singular contrast to its ordinary gentleness. It was
but a minute ere the Delaware advanced to the side of his friend
with the light, noiseless tread of an Indian.
"Come this-a-way, Sarpent, here more out of sight of the women,"
commenced the Deerslayer, "for I've several things to say that
mustn't so much as be suspected, much less overheard. You know
too well the natur' of furloughs and Mingos to have any doubts or
misgivin's consarnin' what is like to happen, when I get back to
the camp. On them two p'ints therefore, a few words will go a great
way. In the first place, chief, I wish to say a little about Hist,
and the manner in which you red men treat your wives. I suppose
it's accordin' to the gifts of your people that the women should
work, and the men hunt; but there's such a thing as moderation in
all matters. As for huntin', I see no good reason why any limits
need be set to that, but Hist comes of too good a stock to toil
like a common drudge. One of your means and standin' need never
want for corn, or potatoes, or anything that the fields yield;
therefore, I hope the hoe will never be put into the hands of any
wife of yourn. You know I am not quite a beggar, and all I own,
whether in ammunition, skins, arms, or calicoes, I give to Hist,
should I not come back to claim them by the end of the season. This
will set the maiden up, and will buy labor for her, for a long time
to come. I suppose I needn't tell you to love the young woman, for
that you do already, and whomsoever the man ra'ally loves, he'll
be likely enough to cherish. Nevertheless, it can do no harm to
say that kind words never rankle, while bitter words do. I know
you're a man, Sarpent, that is less apt to talk in his own lodge,
than to speak at the Council Fire; but forgetful moments may
overtake us all, and the practyse of kind doin', and kind talkin',
is a wonderful advantage in keepin' peace in a cabin, as well as
on a hunt."
"My ears are open," returned the Delaware gravely; "the words of
my brother have entered so far that they never can fall out again.
They are like rings, that have no end, and cannot drop. Let him
speak on; the song of the wren and the voice of a friend never
"I will speak a little longer, chief, but you will excuse it for
the sake of old companionship, should I now talk about myself.
If the worst comes to the worst, it's not likely there'll be much
left of me but ashes, so a grave would be useless, and a sort of
vanity. On that score I'm no way partic'lar, though it might be
well enough to take a look at the remains of the pile, and should
any bones, or pieces be found, 'twould be more decent to gather
them together, and bury them, than to let them lie for the wolves
to gnaw at, and howl over. These matters can make no great difference
in the mind, but men of white blood and Christian feelin's have
rather a gift for graves."
"It shall be done as my brother says," returned the Indian, gravely.
"If his mind is full, let him empty it in the bosom of a friend."
"I thank you, Sarpent; my mind's easy enough; yes, it's tolerable
easy. Idees will come uppermost that I'm not apt to think about
in common, it's true, but by striving ag'in some, and lettin' other
some out, all will come right in the long run. There's one thing,
howsever, chief, that does seem to me to be onreasonable, and
ag'in natur', though the missionaries say it's true, and bein' of
my religion and colour I feel bound to believe them. They say an
Injin may torment and tortur' the body to his heart's content, and
scalp, and cut, and tear, and burn, and consume all his inventions
and deviltries, until nothin' is left but ashes, and they shall
be scattered to the four winds of heaven, yet when the trumpet of
God shall sound, all will come together ag'in, and the man will
stand forth in his flesh, the same creatur' as to looks, if not as
to feelin's, that he was afore he was harmed!"
"The missionaries are good men - mean well," returned the Delaware
courteously; "they are not great medicines. They think all they
say, Deerslayer; that is no reason why warriors and orators should
be all ears. When Chingachgook shall see the father of Tamenund
standing in his scalp, and paint, and war lock, then will he believe
"Seein' is believin', of a sartainty; ahs! me - and some of us
may see these things sooner than we thought. I comprehind your
meanin' about Tamenund's father, Sarpent, and the idee's a close
idee. Tamenund is now an elderly man, say eighty every day of
it, and his father was scalped, and tormented, and burnt, when the
present prophet was a youngster. Yes, if one could see that come
to pass, there wouldn't be much difficulty in yieldin' faith to all
that the missionaries say. Howsever, I am not ag'in the opinion
now, for you must know, Sarpent, that the great principle of
Christianity is to believe without seeing, and a man should always
act up to his religion and principles, let them be what they may."
"That is strange for a wise nation!" said the Delaware with emphasis.
"The red man looks hard, that he may see and understand."
"Yes, that's plauserble, and is agreeable to mortal pride, but
it's not as deep as it seems. If we could understand all we see,
Sarpent, there might be not only sense, but safety, in refusin' to
give faith to any one thing that we might find oncomperhensible;
but when there's so many things about which it may be said we know
nothin' at all, why, there's little use, and no reason, in bein'
difficult touchin' any one in partic'lar. For my part, Delaware,
all my thoughts haven't been on the game, when outlyin' in the
hunts and scoutin's of our youth. Many's the hour I've passed,
pleasantly enough too, in what is tarmed conterplation by my people.
On such occasions the mind is actyve, though the body seems lazy
and listless. An open spot on a mountain side, where a wide look
can be had at the heavens and the 'arth, is a most judicious place
for a man to get a just idee of the power of the Manitou, and of his
own littleness. At such times, there isn't any great disposition
to find fault with little difficulties, in the way of comperhension,
as there are so many big ones to hide them. Believin' comes easy
enough to me at such times, and if the Lord made man first out
of'arth, as they tell me it is written in the Bible; then turns
him into dust at death; I see no great difficulty in the way to
bringin' him back in the body, though ashes be the only substance
left. These things lie beyond our understandin', though they may
and do lie so close to our feelin's. But, of all the doctrines,
Sarpent, that which disturbs me, and disconsarts my mind the most,
is the one which teaches us to think that a pale-face goes to one
heaven, and a red-skin to another; it may separate in death them
which lived much together, and loved each other well, in life!"
"Do the missionaries teach their white brethren to think it is so?"
demanded the Indian, with serious earnestness. 'The Delawares
believe that good men and brave warriors will hunt together in the
same pleasant woods, let them belong to whatever tribe they may;
that all the unjust Indians and cowards will have to sneak in with
the dogs and the wolves to get venison for their lodges."
"Tis wonderful how many consaits mankind have consarnin' happiness
and misery, here after!" exclaimed the hunter, borne away by the
power of his own thoughts. 'Some believe in burnin's and flames,
and some think punishment is to eat with the wolves and dogs. Then,
ag'in, some fancy heaven to be only the carryin' out of their own
'arthly longin's, while others fancy it all gold and shinin' lights!
Well, I've an idee of my own, in that matter, which is just this,
Sarpent. Whenever I've done wrong, I've ginirally found 'twas
owin' to some blindness of the mind, which hid the right from view,
and when sight has returned, then has come sorrow and repentance.
Now, I consait that, after death, when the body is laid aside or,
if used at all, is purified and without its longin's, the spirit
sees all things in their ra'al lights and never becomes blind to
truth and justice. Such bein' the case, all that has been done
in life, is beheld as plainly as the sun is seen at noon; the
good brings joy, while the evil brings sorrow. There's nothin'
onreasonable in that, but it's agreeable to every man's exper'ence."
"I thought the pale-faces believed all men were wicked; who then
could ever find the white man's heaven?"
"That's ingen'ous, but it falls short of the missionary teachin's.
You'll be Christianized one day, I make no doubt, and then 'twill
all come plain enough. You must know, Sarpent, that there's been
a great deed of salvation done, that, by God's help, enables all
men to find a pardon for their wickednesses, and that is the essence
of the white man's religion. I can't stop to talk this matter over
with you any longer, for Hetty's in the canoe, and the furlough
takes me away, but the time will come I hope when you'll feel these
things; for, after all, they must be felt rather than reasoned
about. Ah's! me; well, Delaware, there's my hand; you know it's
that of a fri'nd, and will shake it as such, though it never has
done you one half the good its owner wishes it had."
The Indian took the offered hand, and returned its pressure warmly.
Then falling back on his acquired stoicism of manner, which so many
mistake for constitutional indifference, he drew up in reserve,
and prepared to part from his friend with dignity. Deerslayer,
however, was more natural, nor would he have at all cared about
giving way to his feelings, had not the recent conduct and language
of Judith given him some secret, though ill defined apprehensions
of a scene. He was too humble to imagine the truth concerning the
actual feelings of that beautiful girl, while he was too observant
not to have noted the struggle she had maintained with herself, and
which had so often led her to the very verge of discovery. That
something extraordinary was concealed in her breast he thought
obvious enough, and, through a sentiment of manly delicacy that
would have done credit to the highest human refinement, he shrunk
from any exposure of her secret that might subsequently cause regret
to the girl, herself. He therefore determined to depart, now, and
that without any further manifestations of feeling either from him,
or from others.
"God bless you! Sarpent - God bless you!" cried the hunter, as
the canoe left the side of the platform. "Your Manitou and my God
only know when and where we shall meet ag'in; I shall count it a
great blessing, and a full reward for any little good I may have
done on 'arth, if we shall be permitted to know each other, and
to consort together, hereafter, as we have so long done in these
pleasant woods afore us!"
Chingachgook waved his hand. Drawing the light blanket he wore
over his head, as a Roman would conceal his grief in his robes, he
slowly withdrew into the Ark, in order to indulge his sorrow and
his musings, alone. Deerslayer did not speak again until the canoe
was half-way to the shore. Then he suddenly ceased paddling, at
an interruption that came from the mild, musical voice of Hetty.
"Why do you go back to the Hurons, Deerslayer?" demanded the girl.
"They say I am feeble-minded, and such they never harm, but you have
as much sense as Hurry Harry; and more too, Judith thinks, though
I don't see how that can well be."
"Ah! Hetty, afore we land I must convarse a little with you child,
and that too on matters touching your own welfare, principally.
Stop paddling -or, rather, that the Mingos needn't think we are
plotting and contriving, and so treat us accordingly, just dip your
paddle lightly, and give the canoe a little motion and no more.
That's just the idee and the movement; I see you're ready enough
at an appearance, and might be made useful at a sarcumvention if it
was lawful now to use one - that's just the idee and the movement!
Ah's! me. Desait and a false tongue are evil things, and
altogether onbecoming our colour, Hetty, but it is a pleasure and
a satisfaction to outdo the contrivances of a red-skin in the strife
of lawful warfare. My path has been short, and is like soon to
have an end, but I can see that the wanderings of a warrior aren't
altogether among brambles and difficulties. There's a bright side
to a warpath, as well as to most other things, if we'll only have
the wisdom to see it, and the ginerosity to own it."
"And why should your warpath, as you call it, come so near to an
"Because, my good girl, my furlough comes so near to an end. They're
likely to have pretty much the same tarmination, as regards time,
one following on the heels of the other, as a matter of course."
"I don't understand your meaning, Deerslayer -" returned the girl,
looking a little bewildered. "Mother always said people ought to
speak more plainly to me than to most other persons, because I'm
feeble minded. Those that are feeble minded, don't understand as
easily as those that have sense."
"Well then, Hetty, the simple truth is this. You know that I'm now
a captyve to the Hurons, and captyves can't do, in all things, as
they please -"
"But how can you be a captive," eagerly interrupted the girl
-"when you are out here on the lake, in father's best canoe, and
the Indians are in the woods with no canoe at all? That can't be
"I wish with all my heart and soul, Hetty, that you was right, and
that I was wrong, instead of your bein' all wrong, and I bein' only
too near the truth. Free as I seem to your eyes, gal, I'm bound
hand and foot in ra'ality."
"Well it is a great misfortune not to have sense! Now I can't see
or understand that you are a captive, or bound in any manner. If
you are bound, with what are your hands and feet fastened?"
"With a furlough, gal; that's a thong that binds tighter than any
chain. One may be broken, but the other can't. Ropes and chains
allow of knives, and desait, and contrivances; but a furlough can
be neither cut, slipped nor sarcumvented."
"What sort of a thing is a furlough, then, if it be stronger than
hemp or iron? I never saw a furlough."
"I hope you may never feel one, gal; the tie is altogether in the
feelin's, in these matters, and therefore is to be felt and not
seen. You can understand what it is to give a promise, I dare to
say, good little Hetty?"
"Certainly. A promise is to say you will do a thing, and that binds
you to be as good as your word. Mother always kept her promises
to me, and then she said it would be wicked if I didn't keep my
promises to her, and to every body else."
"You have had a good mother, in some matters, child, whatever she
may have been in other some. That is a promise, and as you say it