"My pale-face friend is very welcome," said the Indian, with a familiar nod, and a smile so covert that it required all Deerslayer's vigilance to detect, and not a little of his philosophy to detect unmoved; "he is welcome. The Hurons keep a hot fire to dry the white man's clothes by."
"I thank you, Huron — or Mingo, as I most like to call you," returned the other, "I thank you for the welcome, and I thank you for the fire. Each is good in its way, and the last is very good, when one has been in a spring as cold as the Glimmerglass. Even Huron warmth may be pleasant, at such a time, to a man with a Delaware heart."
"The pale-face — but my brother has a name? So great a warrior would not have lived without a name?"
"Mingo," said the hunter, a little of the weakness of human nature exhibiting itself in the glance of his eye, and the colour on his cheek — "Mingo, your brave called me Hawkeye, I suppose on account of a quick and sartain aim, when he was lying with his head in my lap, afore his spirit started for the Happy Hunting Grounds."
"'Tis a good name! The hawk is sure of his blow. Hawkeye is not a woman; why does he live with the Delawares?"
"I understand you, Mingo, but we look on all that as a sarcumvention of some of your subtle devils, and deny the charge. Providence placed me among the Delawares young, and, 'bating what Christian usages demand of my colour and gifts, I hope to live and die in their tribe. Still I do not mean to throw away altogether my natyve rights, and shall strive to do a pale-face's duty, in red-skin society."
"Good; a Huron is a red-skin, as well as a Delaware. Hawkeye is more of a Huron than of a woman."
"I suppose you know, Mingo, your own meaning; if you don't I make no question 'tis well known to Satan. But if you wish to get any thing out of me, speak plainer, for bargains can not be made blindfolded, or tongue tied."
"Good; Hawkeye has not a forked tongue, and he likes to say what he thinks. He is an acquaintance of the Muskrat," this was the name by which all the Indians designated Hutter — "and has lived in his wigwam. But he is not a friend. He wants no scalps, like a miserable Indian, but fights like a stout-hearted pale-face. The Muskrat is neither white, nor red. Neither a beast nor a fish. He is a water snake; sometimes in the spring and sometimes on the land. He looks for scalps, like an outcast. Hawkeye can go back and tell him how he has outwitted the Hurons, how he has escaped, and when his eyes are in a fog, when he can't see as far as from his cabin to the shore, then Hawkeye can open the door for the Hurons. And how will the plunder be divided? Why, Hawkeye, will carry away the most, and the Hurons will take what he may choose to leave behind him. The scalps can go to Canada, for a pale-face has no satisfaction in them."
"Well, well, Rivenoak — for so I hear 'em tarm you — This is plain English, enough, though spoken in Iroquois. I understand all you mean, now, and must say it out-devils even Mingo deviltry! No doubt, 'twould be easy enough to go back and tell the Muskrat that I had got away from you, and gain some credit, too, by the expl'ite."
"Good. That is what I want the pale-face to do."
"Yes — yes — That's plain enough. I know what you want me to do, without more words. When inside the house, and eating the Muskrat's bread, and laughing and talking with his pretty darters, I might put his eyes into so thick a fog, that he couldn't even see the door, much less the land."
"Good! Hawkeye should have been born a Huron! His blood is not more than half white!"
"There you're out, Huron; yes, there you're as much out, as if you mistook a wolf for a catamount. I'm white in blood, heart, natur' and gifts, though a little red-skin in feelin's and habits. But when old Hutter's eyes are well befogged, and his pretty darters perhaps in a deep sleep, and Hurry Harry, the Great Pine as you Indians tarm him, is dreaming of any thing but mischief, and all suppose Hawkeye is acting as a faithful sentinel, all I have to do is set a torch somewhere in sight for a signal, open the door, and let in the Hurons, to knock 'em all on the head."
"Surely my brother is mistaken. He cannot be white! He is worthy to be a great chief among the Hurons!"
"That is true enough, I dares to say, if he could do all this. Now, harkee, Huron, and for once hear a few honest words from the mouth of a plain man. I am Christian born, and them that come of such a stock, and that listen to the words that were spoken to their fathers and will be spoken to their children, until 'arth and all it holds perishes, can never lend themselves to such wickedness. Sarcumventions in war, may be, and are, lawful; but sarcumventions, and deceit, and treachery among fri'inds are fit only for the pale-face devils. I know that there are white men enough to give you this wrong idee of our natur', but such be ontrue to their blood and gifts, and ought to be, if they are not, outcasts and vagabonds. No upright pale-face could do what you wish, and to be as plain with you as I wish to be, in my judgment no upright Delaware either. With a Mingo it may be different."
The Huron listened to this rebuke with obvious disgust, but he had his ends in view, and was too wily to lose all chance of effecting them by a precipitate avowal of resentment. Affecting to smile, he seemed to listen eagerly, and he then pondered on what he had heard.
"Does Hawkeye love the Muskrat?" he abruptly demanded; "Or does he love his daughters?"
"Neither, Mingo. Old Tom is not a man to gain my love, and, as for the darters, they are comely enough to gain the liking of any young man, but there's reason ag'in any very great love for either. Hetty is a good soul, but natur' has laid a heavy hand on her mind, poor thing."
"And the Wild Rose!" exclaimed the Huron — for the fame of Judith's beauty had spread among those who could travel the wilderness, as well as the highway by means of old eagles' nests, rocks, and riven trees known to them by report and tradition, as well as among the white borderers, "And the Wild Rose; is she not sweet enough to be put in the bosom of my brother?"
Deerslayer had far too much of the innate gentleman to insinuate aught against the fair fame of one who, by nature and position was so helpless, and as he did not choose to utter an untruth, he preferred being silent. The Huron mistook the motive, and supposed that disappointed affection lay at the bottom of his reserve. Still bent on corrupting or bribing his captive, in order to obtain possession of the treasures with which his imagination filled the Castle, he persevered in his attack.
"Hawkeye is talking with a friend," he continued. "He knows that Rivenoak is a man of his word, for they have traded together, and trade opens the soul. My friend has come here on account of a little string held by a girl, that can pull the whole body of the sternest warrior?"
"You are nearer the truth, now, Huron, than you've been afore, since we began to talk. This is true. But one end of that string was not fast to my heart, nor did the Wild Rose hold the other."
"This is wonderful! Does my brother love in his head, and not in his heart? And can the Feeble Mind pull so hard against so stout a warrior?"
"There it is ag'in; sometimes right, and sometimes wrong! The string you mean is fast to the heart of a great Delaware; one of Mohican stock in fact, living among the Delawares since the disparsion of his own people, and of the family of Uncas — Chingachgook by name, or Great Sarpent. He has come here, led by the string, and I've followed, or rather come afore, for I got here first, pulled by nothing stronger than fri'ndship; which is strong enough for such as are not niggardly of their feelin's, and are willing to live a little for their fellow creatur's, as well as for themselves."
"But a string has two ends — one is fast to the mind of a Mohican; and the other?"