"We shall see. Hawkeye has a good countenance, and he is tough-but why should he be tormented, when the Hurons love him? He is not born their enemy, and the death of one warrior will not cast a cloud between them forever."
"So much the better, Huron; so much the better. Still I don't wish to owe any thing to a mistake about each other's meaning. It is so much the better that you bear no malice for the loss of a warrior who fell in war, and yet it is ontrue that there is no inmity — lawful inmity I mean — atween us. So far as I have red-skin feelin's at all, I've Delaware feelin's, and I leave you to judge for yourself how far they are likely to be fri'ndly to the Mingos — "
Deerslayer ceased, for a sort of spectre stood before him, that put a stop to his words, and, indeed, caused him for a moment to doubt the fidelity of his boasted vision. Hetty Hutter was standing at the side of the fire as quietly as if she belonged to the tribe.
As the hunter and the Indian sat watching the emotions that were betrayed in each other's countenance, the girl had approached unnoticed, doubtless ascending from the beach on the southern side of the point, or that next to the spot where the Ark had anchored, and had advanced to the fire with the fearlessness that belonged to her simplicity, and which was certainly justified by the treatment formerly received from the Indians. As soon as Rivenoak perceived the girl, she was recognised, and calling to two or three of the younger warriors, the chief sent them out to reconnoitre, lest her appearance should be the forerunner of another attack. He then motioned to Hetty to draw near.
"I hope your visit is a sign that the Sarpent and Hist are in safety, Hetty," said Deerslayer, as soon as the girl had complied with the Huron's request. "I don't think you'd come ashore ag'in, on the arr'nd that brought you here afore."
"Judith told me to come this time, Deerslayer," Hetty replied, "she paddled me ashore herself, in a canoe, as soon as the Serpent had shown her Hist and told his story. How handsome Hist is tonight, Deerslayer, and how much happier she looks than when she was with the Hurons!"
"That's natur' gal; yes, that may be set down as human natur'. She's with her betrothed, and no longer fears a Mingo husband. In my judgment Judith, herself, would lose most of her beauty if she thought she was to bestow it all on a Mingo! Content is a great fortifier of good looks, and I'll warrant you, Hist is contented enough, now she is out of the hands of these miscreants, and with her chosen warrior! Did you say that Judith told you to come ashore — why should your sister do that?"
"She bid me come to see you, and to try and persuade the savages to take more elephants to let you off, but I've brought the Bible with me — that will do more than all the elephants in father's chest!"
"And your father, good little Hetty — and Hurry; did they know of your arr'nd?"
"Not they. Both are asleep, and Judith and the Serpent thought it best they should not be woke, lest they might want to come again after scalps, when Hist had told them how few warriors, and how many women and children there were in the camp. Judith would give me no peace, till I had come ashore to see what had happened to you."
"Well, that's remarkable as consarns Judith! Whey should she feel so much unsartainty about me? — Ah — -I see how it is, now; yes, I see into the whole matter, now. You must understand, Hetty, that your sister is oneasy lest Harry March should wake, and come blundering here into the hands of the inimy ag'in, under some idee that, being a travelling comrade, he ought to help me in this matter! Hurry is a blunderer, I will allow, but I don't think he'd risk as much for my sake, as he would for his own."
"Judith don't care for Hurry, though Hurry cares for her," replied Hetty innocently, but quite positively.
"I've heard you say as much as that afore; yes, I've heard that from you, afore, gal, and yet it isn't true. One don't live in a tribe, not to see something of the way in which liking works in a woman's heart. Though no way given to marrying myself, I've been a looker on among the Delawares, and this is a matter in which pale-face and red-skin gifts are all as one as the same. When the feelin' begins, the young woman is thoughtful, and has no eyes or ears onless for the warrior that has taken her fancy; then follows melancholy and sighing, and such sort of actions; after which, especially if matters don't come to plain discourse, she often flies round to back biting and fault finding, blaming the youth for the very things she likes best in him. Some young creatur's are forward in this way of showing their love, and I'm of opinion Judith is one of 'em. Now, I've heard her as much as deny that Hurry was good-looking, and the young woman who could do that, must be far gone indeed!"
"The young woman who liked Hurry would own that he is handsome. I think Hurry very handsome, Deerslayer, and I'm sure everybody must think so, that has eyes. Judith don't like Harry March, and that's the reason she finds fault with him."
"Well — well — my good little Hetty, have it your own way. If we should talk from now till winter, each would think as at present, and there's no use in words. I must believe that Judith is much wrapped up in Hurry, and that, sooner or later, she'll have him; and this, too, all the more from the manner in which she abuses him; and I dare to say, you think just the contrary. But mind what I now tell you, gal, and pretend not to know it," continued this being, who was so obtuse on a point on which men are usually quick enough to make discoveries, and so acute in matters that would baffle the observation of much the greater portion of mankind, "I see how it is, with them vagabonds. Rivenoak has left us, you see, and is talking yonder with his young men, and though too far to be heard, I can see what he is telling them. Their orders is to watch your movements, and to find where the canoe is to meet you, to take you back to the Ark, and then to seize all and what they can. I'm sorry Judith sent you, for I suppose she wants you to go back ag'in."
"All that's settled, Deerslayer," returned the girl, in a low, confidential and meaning manner, "and you may trust me to outwit the best Indian of them all. I know I am feeble minded, but I've got some sense, and you'll see how I'll use it in getting back, when my errand is done!"
"Ahs! me, poor girl; I'm afeard all that's easier said than done. They're a venomous set of riptyles and their p'ison's none the milder, for the loss of Hist. Well, I'm glad the Sarpent was the one to get off with the gal, for now there'll be two happy at least, whereas had he fallen into the hands of the Mingos, there'd been two miserable, and another far from feelin' as a man likes to feel."
"Now you put me in mind of a part of my errand that I had almost forgotten, Deerslayer. Judith told me to ask you what you thought the Hurons would do with you, if you couldn't be bought off, and what she had best do to serve you. Yes, this was the most important part of the errand — what she had best do, in order to serve you?"
"That's as you think, Hetty; but it's no matter. Young women are apt to lay most stress on what most touches their feelin's; but no matter; have it your own way, so you be but careful not to let the vagabonds get the mastery of a canoe. When you get back to the Ark, tell 'em to keep close, and to keep moving too, most especially at night. Many hours can't go by without the troops on the river hearing of this party, and then your fri'nds may look for relief. 'Tis but a day's march from the nearest garrison, and true soldiers will never lie idle with the foe in their neighborhood. This is my advice, and you may say to your father and Hurry that scalp-hunting will be a poor business now, as the Mingos are up and awake, and nothing can save 'em, 'till the troops come, except keeping a good belt of water atween 'em and the savages."
"What shall I tell Judith about you, Deerslayer; I know she will send me back again, if I don't bring her the truth about you."
"Then tell her the truth. I see no reason Judith Hutter shouldn't hear the truth about me, as well as a lie. I'm a captyve in Indian hands, and Providence only knows what will come of it! Harkee, Hetty," dropping his voice and speaking still more confidentially, "you are a little weak minded, it must be allowed, but you know something of Injins. Here I am in their hands, after having slain one of their stoutest warriors, and they've been endivouring to work upon me through fear of consequences, to betray your father, and all in the Ark. I understand the blackguards as well as if they'd told it all out plainly, with their tongues. They hold up avarice afore me, on one side, and fear on t'other, and think honesty will give way atween 'em both. But let your father and Hurry know, 'tis all useless; as for the Sarpent, he knows it already."
"But what shall I tell Judith? She will certainly send me back, if I don't satisfy her mind."
"Well, tell Judith the same. No doubt the savages will try the torments, to make me give in, and to revenge the loss of their warrior, but I must hold out ag'in nat'ral weakness in the best manner I can. You may tell Judith to feel no consarn on my account-it will come hard I know, seeing that a white man's gifts don't run to boasting and singing under torment, for he generally feels smallest when he suffers most — but you may tell her not to have any consarn. I think I shall make out to stand it, and she may rely on this, let me give in, as much as I may, and prove completely that I am white, by wailings, and howlings, and even tears, yet I'll never fall so far as to betray my fri'nds. When it gets to burning holes in the flesh, with heated ramrods, and to hacking the body, and tearing the hair out by the roots, natur' may get the upperhand, so far as groans, and complaints are consarned, but there the triumph of the vagabonds will ind; nothing short of God's abandoning him to the devils can make an honest man ontrue to his colour and duty."
Hetty listened with great attention, and her mild but speaking countenance manifested a strong sympathy in the anticipated agony of the supposititious sufferer. At first she seemed at a loss how to act; then, taking a hand of Deerslayer's she affectionately recommended to him to borrow her Bible, and to read it while the savages were inflicting their torments. When the other honestly admitted that it exceeded his power to read, she even volunteered to remain with him, and to perform this holy office in person. The offer was gently declined, and Rivenoak being about to join them, Deerslayer requested the girl to leave him, first enjoining her again to tell those in the Ark to have full confidence in his fidelity. Hetty now walked away, and approached the group of females with as much confidence and self-possession as if she were a native of the tribe. On the other hand the Huron resumed his seat by the side of his prisoner, the one continuing to ask questions with all the wily ingenuity of a practised Indian counsellor, and the other baffling him by the very means that are known to be the most efficacious in defeating the finesse of the more pretending diplomacy of civilization, or by confining his answers to the truth, and the truth only.