"And, now, Hist," resumed Hetty, as soon as she perceived that her first speeches were understood by the chiefs, "you can tell them more. They know that father and Hurry did not succeed, and therefore they can bear them no grudge for any harm that has been done. If they had slain their children and wives it would not alter the matter, and I'm not certain that what I am about to tell them would not have more weight had there been mischief done. But ask them first, Hist, if they know there is a God, who reigns over the whole earth, and is ruler and chief of all who live, let them be red, or white, or what color they may?"
Wah-ta-Wah looked a little surprised at this question, for the idea of the Great Spirit is seldom long absent from the mind of an Indian girl. She put the question as literally as possible, however, and received a grave answer in the affirmative.
"This is right," continued Hetty, "and my duty will now be light. This Great Spirit, as you call our God, has caused a book to be written, that we call a Bible, and in this book have been set down all his commandments, and his holy will and pleasure, and the rules by which all men are to live, and directions how to govern the thoughts even, and the wishes, and the will. Here, this is one of these holy books, and you must tell the chiefs what I am about to read to them from its sacred pages."
As Hetty concluded, she reverently unrolled a small English Bible from its envelope of coarse calico, treating the volume with the sort of external respect that a Romanist would be apt to show to a religious relic. As she slowly proceeded in her task the grim warriors watched each movement with riveted eyes, and when they saw the little volume appear a slight expression of surprise escaped one or two of them. But Hetty held it out towards them in triumph, as if she expected the sight would produce a visible miracle, and then, without betraying either surprise or mortification at the Stoicism of the Indian, she turned eagerly to her new friend, in order to renew the discourse.
"This is the sacred volume, Hist," she said — "and these words, and lines, and verses, and chapters, all came from God."
"Why Great Spirit no send book to Injin, too?" demanded Hist, with the directness of a mind that was totally unsophisticated.
"Why?" answered Hetty, a little bewildered by a question so unexpected. "Why? — Ah! you know the Indians don't know how to read."
If Hist was not satisfied with this explanation, she did not deem the point of sufficient importance to be pressed. Simply bending her body, in a gentle admission of the truth of what she heard, she sat patiently awaiting the further arguments of the pale-face enthusiast.
"You can tell these chiefs that throughout this book, men are ordered to forgive their enemies; to treat them as they would brethren; and never to injure their fellow creatures, more especially on account of revenge or any evil passions. Do you think you can tell them this, so that they will understand it, Hist?"
"Tell him well enough, but he no very easy to understand." Hist then conveyed the ideas of Hetty, in the best manner she could, to the attentive Indians, who heard her words with some such surprise as an American of our own times would be apt to betray at a suggestion that the great modern but vacillating ruler of things human, public opinion, might be wrong. One or two of their number, however, having met with missionaries, said a few words in explanation, and then the group gave all its attention to the communications that were to follow. Before Hetty resumed she inquired earnestly of Hist if the chiefs had understood her, and receiving an evasive answer, was fain to be satisfied.
"I will now read to the warriors some of the verses that it is good for them to know," continued the girl, whose manner grew more solemn and earnest as she proceeded — "and they will remember that they are the very words of the Great Spirit. First, then, ye are commanded to 'love thy neighbor as Thyself.' Tell them that, dear Hist."
"Neighbor, for Injin, no mean pale-face," answered the Delaware girl, with more decision than she had hitherto thought it necessary to use. "Neighbor mean Iroquois for Iroquois, Mohican for Mohican, Pale-face for pale face. No need tell chief any thing else."
"You forget, Hist, these are the words of the Great Spirit, and the chiefs must obey them as well as others. Here is another commandment — 'Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.'"
"What that mean?" demanded Hist, with the quickness of lightning.
Hetty explained that it was an order not to resent injuries, but rather to submit to receive fresh wrongs from the offender.
"And hear this, too, Hist," she added. "'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.'"
By this time Hetty had become excited; her eye gleamed with the earnestness of her feelings, her cheeks flushed, and her voice, usually so low and modulated, became stronger and more impressive. With the Bible she had been early made familiar by her mother, and she now turned from passage to passage with surprising rapidity, taking care to cull such verses as taught the sublime lessons of Christian charity and Christian forgiveness. To translate half she said, in her pious earnestness, Wah-ta-Wah would have found impracticable, had she made the effort, but wonder held her tongue tied, equally with the chiefs, and the young, simple-minded enthusiast had fairly become exhausted with her own efforts, before the other opened her mouth, again, to utter a syllable. Then, indeed, the Delaware girl gave a brief translation of the substance of what had been both read and said, confining herself to one or two of the more striking of the verses, those that had struck her own imagination as the most paradoxical, and which certainly would have been the most applicable to the case, could the uninstructed minds of the listeners embrace the great moral truths they conveyed.
It will be scarcely necessary to tell the reader the effect that such novel duties would be likely to produce among a group of Indian warriors, with whom it was a species of religious principle never to forget a benefit, or to forgive an injury. Fortunately, the previous explanations of Hist had prepared the minds of the Hurons for something extravagant, and most of that which to them seemed inconsistent and paradoxical, was accounted for by the fact that the speaker possessed a mind that was constituted differently from those of most of the human race. Still there were one or two old men who had heard similar doctrines from the missionaries, and these felt a desire to occupy an idle moment by pursuing a subject that they found so curious.
"This is the Good Book of the pale-faces," observed one of these chiefs, taking the volume from the unresisting hands of Hetty, who gazed anxiously at his face while he turned the leaves, as if she expected to witness some visible results from the circumstance. "This is the law by which my white brethren professes to live?"
Hist, to whom this question was addressed, if it might be considered as addressed to any one, in particular, answered simply in the affirmative; adding that both the French of the Canadas, and the Yengeese of the British provinces equally admitted its authority, and affected to revere its principles.
"Tell my young sister," said the Huron, looking directly at Hist, "that I will open my mouth and say a few words."
"The Iroquois chief go to speak — my pale-face friend listen," said Hist.
"I rejoice to hear it!" exclaimed Hetty. "God has touched his heart, and he will now let father and Hurry go."
"This is the pale-face law," resumed the chief. "It tells him to do good to them that hurt him, and when his brother asks him for his rifle to give him the powder horn, too. Such is the pale-face law?"
"Not so — not so — " answered Hetty earnestly, when these words had been interpreted — "There is not a word about rifles in the whole book, and powder and bullets give offence to the Great Spirit."