"Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play,
For some must watch, while some must sleep,
Thus runs the world away."
— Hamlet, III.ii.271-74
Another consultation took place in the forward part of the scow, at which both Judith and Hetty were present. As no danger could now approach unseen, immediate uneasiness had given place to the concern which attended the conviction that enemies were in considerable force on the shores of the lake, and that they might be sure no practicable means of accomplishing their own destruction would be neglected. As a matter of course Hutter felt these truths the deepest, his daughters having an habitual reliance on his resources, and knowing too little to appreciate fully all the risks they ran; while his male companions were at liberty to quit him at any moment they saw fit. His first remark showed that he had an eye to the latter circumstance, and might have betrayed, to a keen observer, the apprehension that was just then uppermost.
"We've a great advantage over the Iroquois, or the enemy, whoever they are, in being afloat," he said.
"There's not a canoe on the lake that I don't know where it's hid; and now yours is here. Hurry, there are but three more on the land, and they're so snug in hollow logs that I don't believe the Indians could find them, let them try ever so long."
"There's no telling that — no one can say that," put in Deerslayer; "a hound is not more sartain on the scent than a red-skin, when he expects to get anything by it. Let this party see scalps afore 'em, or plunder, or honor accordin' to their idees of what honor is, and 't will be a tight log that hides a canoe from their eyes."
"You're right, Deerslayer," cried Harry March; "you're downright Gospel in this matter, and I rej'ice that my bunch of bark is safe enough here, within reach of my arm. I calcilate they'll be at all the rest of the canoes afore to-morrow night, if they are in ra'al 'arnest to smoke you out, old Tom, and we may as well overhaul our paddles for a pull."
Hutter made no immediate reply. He looked about him in silence for quite a minute, examining the sky, the lake, and the belt of forest which inclosed it, as it might be hermetically, like one consulting their signs. Nor did he find any alarming symptoms. The boundless woods were sleeping in the deep repose of nature, the heavens were placid, but still luminous with the light of the retreating sun, while the lake looked more lovely and calm than it had before done that day. It was a scene altogether soothing, and of a character to lull the passions into a species of holy calm. How far this effect was produced, however, on the party in the ark, must appear in the progress of our narrative.
"Judith," called out the father, when he had taken this close but short survey of the omens, "night is at hand; find our friends food; a long march gives a sharp appetite."
"We're not starving, Master Hutter," March observed, "for we filled up just as we reached the lake, and for one, I prefer the company of Jude even to her supper. This quiet evening is very agreeable to sit by her side."
"Natur' is natur'," objected Hutter, "and must be fed. Judith, see to the meal, and take your sister to help you. I've a little discourse to hold with you, friends," he continued, as soon as his daughters were out of hearing, "and wish the girls away. You see my situation, and I should like to hear your opinions concerning what is best to be done. Three times have I been burnt out already, but that was on the shore; and I've considered myself as pretty safe ever since I got the castle built, and the ark afloat. My other accidents, however, happened in peaceable times, being nothing more than such flurries as a man must meet with, in the woods; but this matter looks serious, and your ideas would greatly relieve my mind."
"It's my notion, old Tom, that you, and your huts, and your traps, and your whole possessions, hereaway, are in desperate jippardy," returned the matter-of-fact Hurry, who saw no use in concealment. "Accordin' to my idees of valie, they're altogether not worth half as much today as they was yesterday, nor would I give more for 'em, taking the pay in skins."
"Then I've children!" continued the father, making the allusion in a way that it might have puzzled even an indifferent observer to say was intended as a bait, or as an exclamation of paternal concern, "daughters, as you know, Hurry, and good girls too, I may say, though I am their father."
"A man may say anything, Master Hutter, particularly when pressed by time and circumstances. You've darters, as you say, and one of them hasn't her equal on the frontiers for good looks, whatever she may have for good behavior. As for poor Hetty, she's Hetty Hutter, and that's as much as one can say about the poor thing. Give me Jude, if her conduct was only equal to her looks!"
"I see, Harry March, I can only count on you as a fair-weather friend; and I suppose that your companion will be of the same way of thinking," returned the other, with a slight show of pride, that was not altogether without dignity; "well, I must depend on Providence, which will not turn a deaf ear, perhaps, to a father's prayers."
"If you've understood Hurry, here, to mean that he intends to desart you," said Deerslayer, with an earnest simplicity that gave double assurance of its truth, "I think you do him injustice, as I know you do me, in supposing I would follow him, was he so ontrue-hearted as to leave a family of his own color in such a strait as this. I've come on this at take, Master Hutter, to rende'vous a fri'nd, and I only wish he was here himself, as I make no doubt he will be at sunset tomorrow, when you'd have another rifle to aid you; an inexper'enced one, I'll allow, like my own, but one that has proved true so often ag'in the game, big and little, that I'll answer for its sarvice ag'in mortals."
"May I depend on you to stand by me and my daughters, then, Deerslayer?" demanded the old man, with a father's anxiety in his countenance.
"That may you, Floating Tom, if that's your name; and as a brother would stand by a sister, a husband his wife, or a suitor his sweetheart. In this strait you may count on me, through all advarsities; and I think Hurry does discredit to his natur' and wishes, if you can't count on him."
"Not he," cried Judith, thrusting her handsome face out of the door; "his nature is hurry, as well as his name, and he'll hurry off, as soon as he thinks his fine figure in danger. Neither 'old Tom,' nor his 'gals,' will depend much on Master March, now they know him, but you they will rely on, Deerslayer; for your honest face and honest heart tell us that what you promise you will perform."
This was said, as much, perhaps, in affected scorn for Hurry, as in sincerity. Still, it was not said without feeling. The fine face of Judith sufficiently proved the latter circumstance; and if the conscious March fancied that he had never seen in it a stronger display of contempt — a feeling in which the beauty was apt to indulge — than while she was looking at him, it certainly seldom exhibited more of a womanly softness and sensibility, than when her speaking blue eyes were turned on his travelling companion.
"Leave us, Judith," Hutter ordered sternly, before either of the young men could reply; "leave us; and do not return until you come with the venison and fish. The girl has been spoilt by the flattery of the officers, who sometimes find their way up here, Master March, and you'll not think any harm of her silly words."