Judith was a girl of quick sensibilities and of impetuous feelings; and, being under few of the restraints that curtail the manifestations of maiden emotions among those who are educated in the habits of civilized life, she sometimes betrayed the latter with a feeling that was so purely natural as to place it as far above the wiles of coquetry as it was superior to its heartlessness. She had now even taken one of the hard hands of the hunter and pressed it between both her own, with a warmth and earnestness that proved how sincere was her language. It was perhaps fortunate that she was checked by the very excess of her feelings, since the same power might have urged her on to avow all that her father had said — the old man not having been satisfied with making a comparison favorable to Deerslayer, as between the hunter and Hurry, but having actually, in his blunt rough way, briefly advised his daughter to cast off the latter entirely, and to think of the former as a husband. Judith would not willingly have said this to any other man, but there was so much confidence awakened by the guileless simplicity of Deerslayer, that one of her nature found it a constant temptation to overstep the bounds of habit. She went no further, however, immediately relinquishing the hand, and falling back on a reserve that was more suited to her sex, and, indeed, to her natural modesty.
"Thankee, Judith, thankee with all my heart," returned the hunter, whose humility prevented him from placing any flattering interpretation on either the conduct or the language of the girl. "Thankee as much as if it was all true. Harry's sightly — yes, he's as sightly as the tallest pine of the mountains, and the Sarpent has named him accordingly; however, some fancy good looks, and some fancy good conduct, only. Hurry has one advantage, and it depends on himself whether he'll have t'other or — Hark! That's your father's voice, gal, and he speaks like a man who's riled at something."
"God save us from any more of these horrible scenes!" exclaimed Judith, bending her face to her knees, and endeavoring to exclude the discordant sounds, by applying her hands to her ears. "I sometimes wish I had no father!"
This was bitterly said, and the repinings which extorted the words were bitterly felt. It is impossible to say what might next have escaped her had not a gentle, low voice spoken at her elbow.
"Judith, I ought to have read a chapter to father and Hurry!" said the innocent but terrified speaker, "and that would have kept them from going again on such an errand. Do you call to them, Deerslayer, and tell them I want them, and that it will be good for them both if they'll return and hearken to my words."
"Ah's me! Poor Hetty, you little know the cravin's for gold and revenge, if you believe they are so easily turned aside from their longin's! But this is an uncommon business in more ways than one, Judith. I hear your father and Hurry growling like bears, and yet no noise comes from the mouth of the young chief. There's an ind of secrecy, and yet his whoop, which ought to ring in the mountains, accordin' to rule in such sarcumstances, is silent!"
"Justice may have alighted on him, and his death have saved the lives of the innocent."
"Not it — not it — the Sarpent is not the one to suffer if that's to be the law. Sartainly there has been no onset, and 'tis most likely that the camp's deserted, and the men are comin' back disapp'inted. That accounts for the growls of Hurry and the silence of the Sarpent."
Just at this instant a fall of a paddle was heard in the canoe, for vexation made March reckless. Deerslayer felt convinced that his conjecture was true. The sail being down, the ark had not drifted far; and ere many minutes he heard Chingachgook, in a low, quiet tone, directing Hutter how to steer in order to reach it. In less time than it takes to tell the fact, the canoe touched the scow, and the adventurers entered the latter. Neither Hutter nor Hurry spoke of what had occurred. But the Delaware, in passing his friend, merely uttered the words "fire's out," which, if not literally true, sufficiently explained the truth to his listener.
It was now a question as to the course to be steered. A short surly conference was held, when Hutter decided that the wisest way would be to keep in motion as the means most likely to defeat any attempt at a surprise — announcing his own and March's intention to requite themselves for the loss of sleep during their captivity, by lying down. As the air still baffled and continued light, it was finally determined to sail before it, let it come in what direction it might, so long as it did not blow the ark upon the strand. This point settled, the released prisoners helped to hoist the sail, and they threw themselves upon two of the pallets, leaving Deerslayer and his friend to look after the movements of the craft. As neither of the latter was disposed to sleep, on account of the appointment with Hist, this arrangement was acceptable to all parties. That Judith and Hetty remained up also, in no manner impaired the agreeable features of this change.
For some time the scow rather drifted than sailed along the western shore, following a light southerly current of the air. The progress was slow — not exceeding a couple of miles in the hour — but the two men perceived that it was not only carrying them towards the point they desired to reach, but at a rate that was quite as fast as the hour yet rendered necessary. But little more was said the while even by the girls; and that little had more reference to the rescue of Hist than to any other subject. The Indian was calm to the eye, but as minute after minute passed, his feelings became more and more excited, until they reached a state that might have satisfied the demands of even the most exacting mistress. Deerslayer kept the craft as much in the bays as was prudent, for the double purpose of sailing within the shadows of the woods, and of detecting any signs of an encampment they might pass on the shore. In this manner they doubled one low point, and were already in the bay that was terminated north by the goal at which they aimed. The latter was still a quarter of a mile distant, when Chingachgook came silently to the side of his friend and pointed to a place directly ahead. A small fire was glimmering just within the verge of the bushes that lined the shore on the southern side of the point-leaving no doubt that the Indians had suddenly removed their camp to the very place, or at least the very projection of land where Hist had given them the rendezvous!