As the raft drew nearer, every means possessed by the party in the castle was resorted to, in order to ascertain if their visitors had any firearms. Neither Deerslayer nor Chingachgook could discover any, but Judith, unwilling to trust to simple eyesight, thrust the glass through the loop, and directed it towards the hemlock boughs that lay between the two logs of the raft, forming a sort of flooring, as well as a seat for the use of the rowers. When the heavy moving craft was within fifty feet of him, Deerslayer hailed the Hurons, directing them to cease rowing, it not being his intention to permit them to land. Compliance, of course, was necessary, and the two grim-looking warriors instantly quitted their seats, though the raft continued slowly to approach, until it had driven in much nearer to the platform.
"Are ye chiefs?" demanded Deerslayer with dignity — "Are ye chiefs?-Or have the Mingos sent me warriors without names, on such an ar'n'd? If so, the sooner ye go back, the sooner them will be likely to come that a warrior can talk with."
"Hugh!" exclaimed the elder of the two on the raft, rolling his glowing eyes over the different objects that were visible in and about the Castle, with a keenness that showed how little escaped him. "My brother is very proud, but Rivenoak (we use the literal translation of the term, writing as we do in English) is a name to make a Delaware turn pale."
"That's true, or it's a lie, Rivenoak, as it may be; but I am not likely to turn pale, seeing that I was born pale. What's your ar'n'd, and why do you come among light bark canoes, on logs that are not even dug out?"
"The Iroquois are not ducks, to walk on water! Let the pale-faces give them a canoe, and they'll come in a canoe."
"That's more rational, than likely to come to pass. We have but four canoes, and being four persons that's only one for each of us. We thank you for the offer, howsever, though we ask leave not to accept it. You are welcome, Iroquois, on your logs."
"Thanks — My young pale-face warrior — he has got a name — how do the chiefs call him?"
Deerslayer hesitated a moment, and a gleam of pride and human weakness came over him. He smiled, muttered between his teeth, and then looking up proudly, he said — "Mingo, like all who are young and actyve, I've been known by different names, at different times. One of your warriors whose spirit started for the Happy Grounds of your people, as lately as yesterday morning, thought I desarved to be known by the name of Hawkeye, and this because my sight happened to be quicker than his own, when it got to be life or death atween us."
Chingachgook, who was attentively listening to all that passed, heard and understood this proof of passing weakness in his friend, and on a future occasion he questioned him more closely concerning the transaction on the point, where Deerslayer had first taken human life. When he had got the whole truth, he did not fail to communicate it to the tribe, from which time the young hunter was universally known among the Delawares by an appellation so honorably earned. As this, however, was a period posterior to all the incidents of this tale, we shall continue to call the young hunter by the name under which he has been first introduced to the reader. Nor was the Iroquois less struck with the vaunt of the white man. He knew of the death of his comrade, and had no difficulty in understanding the allusion, the intercourse between the conqueror and his victim on that occasion having been seen by several savages on the shore of the lake, who had been stationed at different points just within the margin of bushes to watch the drifting canoes, and who had not time to reach the scene of action, ere the victor had retired. The effect on this rude being of the forest was an exclamation of surprise; then such a smile of courtesy, and wave of the hand, succeeded, as would have done credit to Asiatic diplomacy. The two Iroquois spoke to each other in low tones, and both drew near the end of the raft that was closest to the platform.
"My brother, Hawkeye, has sent a message to the Hurons," resumed Rivenoak, "and it has made their hearts very glad. They hear he has images of beasts with two tails! Will he show them to his friends?"
"Inimies would be truer," returned Deerslayer, "but sound isn't sense, and does little harm. Here is One of the images; I toss it to you under faith of treaties. If it's not returned, the rifle will settle the p'int atween us."
The Iroquois seemed to acquiesce in the conditions, and Deerslayer arose and prepared to toss one of the elephants to the raft, both parties using all the precaution that was necessary to prevent its loss. As practice renders men expert in such things, the little piece of ivory was soon successfully transferred from one hand to the other, and then followed another scene on the raft, in which astonishment and delight got the mastery of Indian stoicism. These two grim old warriors manifested even more feeling, as they examined the curiously wrought chessman, than had been betrayed by the boy; for, in the case of the latter, recent schooling had interposed its influence; while the men, like all who are sustained by well established characters, were not ashamed to let some of their emotions be discovered. For a few minutes they apparently lost the consciousness of their situation, in the intense scrutiny they bestowed on a material so fine, work so highly wrought, and an animal so extraordinary. The lip of the moose is, perhaps, the nearest approach to the trunk of the elephant that is to be found in the American forest, but this resemblance was far from being sufficiently striking to bring the new creature within the range of their habits and ideas, and the more they studied the image, the greater was their astonishment. Nor did these children of the forest mistake the structure on the back of the elephant for a part of the animal. They were familiar with horses and oxen, and had seen towers in the Canadas, and found nothing surprising in creatures of burthen. Still, by a very natural association, they supposed the carving meant to represent that the animal they saw was of a strength sufficient to carry a fort on its back; a circumstance that in no degree lessened their wonder.
"Has my pale-face brother any more such beasts?" at last the senior of the Iroquois asked, in a sort of petitioning manner.
"There's more where them came from, Mingo," was the answer; "one is enough, howsever, to buy off fifty scalps."
"One of my prisoners is a great warrior — tall as a pine — strong as the moose — active as a deer — fierce as the panther! Some day he'll be a great chief, and lead the army of King George!"
"Tut-tut Mingo; Hurry Harry is Hurry Harry, and you'll never make more than a corporal of him, if you do that. He's tall enough, of a sartainty; but that's of no use, as he only hits his head ag'in the branches as he goes through the forest. He's strong too, but a strong body isn't a strong head, and the king's generals are not chosen for their sinews; he's swift, if you will, but a rifle bullet is swifter; and as for f'erceness, it's no great ricommend to a soldier; they that think they feel the stoutest often givin' out at the pinch. No, no, you'll niver make Hurry's scalp pass for more than a good head of curly hair, and a rattle pate beneath it!"
"My old prisoner very wise — king of the lake — great warrior, wise counsellor!"
"Well, there's them that might gainsay all this, too, Mingo. A very wise man wouldn't be apt to be taken in so foolish a manner as befell Master Hutter, and if he gives good counsel, he must have listened to very bad in that affair. There's only one king of this lake, and he's a long way off, and isn't likely ever to see it. Floating Tom is some such king of this region, as the wolf that prowls through the woods is king of the forest. A beast with two tails is well worth two such scalps!"
"But my brother has another beast? — He will give two" — holding up as many fingers, "for old father?"
"Floating Tom is no father of mine, but he'll fare none the worse for that. As for giving two beasts for his scalp, and each beast with two tails, it is quite beyond reason. Think yourself well off, Mingo, if you make a much worse trade."