"Don't you feel better now, father?" asked Hetty, closing the volume. "Mother was always better when she had read the Bible."
"Water," returned Hutter — "give me water, Judith. I wonder if my tongue will always be so hot! Hetty, isn't there something in the Bible about cooling the tongue of a man who was burning in Hell fire?"
Judith turned away shocked, but Hetty eagerly sought the passage, which she read aloud to the conscience stricken victim of his own avaricious longings.
"That's it, poor Hetty; yes, that's it. My tongue wants cooling, now — what will it be hereafter?"
This appeal silenced even the confiding Hetty, for she had no answer ready for a confession so fraught with despair. Water, so long as it could relieve the sufferer, it was in the power of the sisters to give, and from time to time it was offered to the lips of the sufferer as he asked for it. Even Judith prayed. As for Hetty, as soon as she found that her efforts to make her father listen to her texts were no longer rewarded with success, she knelt at his side and devoutly repeated the words which the Saviour has left behind him as a model for human petitions. This she continued to do, at intervals, as long as it seemed to her that the act could benefit the dying man. Hutter, however, lingered longer than the girls had believed possible when they first found him. At times he spoke intelligibly, though his lips oftener moved in utterance of sounds that carried no distinct impressions to the mind. Judith listened intently, and she heard the words — "husband" — "death"-"pirate" — "law" — "scalps" — and several others of similar import, though there was no sentence to tell the precise connection in which they were used. Still they were sufficiently expressive to be understood by one whose ears had not escaped all the rumours that had been circulated to her reputed father's discredit, and whose comprehension was as quick as her faculties were attentive.
During the whole of the painful hour that succeeded, neither of the sisters bethought her sufficiently of the Hurons to dread their return. It seemed as if their desolation and grief placed them above the danger of such an interruption, and when the sound of oars was at length heard, even Judith, who alone had any reason to apprehend the enemy, did not start, but at once understood that the Ark was near. She went upon the platform fearlessly, for should it turn out that Hurry was not there, and that the Hurons were masters of the scow also, escape was impossible. Then she had the sort of confidence that is inspired by extreme misery. But there was no cause for any new alarm, Chingachgook, Hist, and Hurry all standing in the open part of the scow, cautiously examining the building to make certain of the absence of the enemy. They, too, had seen the departure of the Hurons, as well as the approach of the canoe of the girls to the castle, and presuming on the latter fact, March had swept the scow up to the platform. A word sufficed to explain that there was nothing to be apprehended, and the Ark was soon moored in her old berth.
Judith said not a word concerning the condition of her father, but Hurry knew her too well not to understand that something was more than usually wrong. He led the way, though with less of his confident bold manner than usual, into the house, and penetrating to the inner room, found Hutter lying on his back with Hetty sitting at his side, fanning him with pious care. The events of the morning had sensibly changed the manner of Hurry. Notwithstanding his skill as a swimmer, and the readiness with which he had adopted the only expedient that could possibly save him, the helplessness of being in the water, bound hand and foot, had produced some such effect on him, as the near approach of punishment is known to produce on most criminals, leaving a vivid impression of the horrors of death upon his mind, and this too in connection with a picture of bodily helplessness; the daring of this man being far more the offspring of vast physical powers, than of the energy of the will, or even of natural spirit. Such heroes invariably lose a large portion of their courage with the failure of their strength, and though Hurry was now unfettered and as vigorous as ever, events were too recent to permit the recollection of his late deplorable condition to be at all weakened. Had he lived a century, the occurrences of the few momentous minutes during which he was in the lake would have produced a chastening effect on his character, if not always on his manner.
Hurry was not only shocked when he found his late associate in this desperate situation, but he was greatly surprised. During the struggle in the building, he had been far too much occupied himself to learn what had befallen his comrade, and, as no deadly weapon had been used in his particular case, but every effort had been made to capture him without injury, he naturally believed that Hutter had been overcome, while he owed his own escape to his great bodily strength, and to a fortunate concurrence of extraordinary circumstances. Death, in the silence and solemnity of a chamber, was a novelty to him. Though accustomed to scenes of violence, he had been unused to sit by the bedside and watch the slow beating of the pulse, as it gradually grew weaker and weaker. Notwithstanding the change in his feelings, the manners of a life could not be altogether cast aside in a moment, and the unexpected scene extorted a characteristic speech from the borderer.
"How now! old Tom," he said, "have the vagabonds got you at an advantage, where you're not only down, but are likely to be kept down! I thought you a captyve it's true, but never supposed you so hard run as this!"
Hutter opened his glassy eyes, and stared wildly at the speaker. A flood of confused recollections rushed on his wavering mind at the sight of his late comrade. It was evident that he struggled with his own images, and knew not the real from the unreal.
"Who are you?" he asked in a husky whisper, his failing strength refusing to aid him in a louder effort of his voice.
"Who are you? — You look like the mate of 'The Snow' — he was a giant, too, and near overcoming us."
"I'm your mate, Floating Tom, and your comrade, but have nothing to do with any snow. It's summer now, and Harry March always quits the hills as soon after the frosts set in, as is convenient."
"I know you — Hurry Skurry — I'll sell you a scalp! — a sound one, and of a full grown man — What'll you give?"
"Poor Tom! That scalp business hasn't turned out at all profitable, and I've pretty much concluded to give it up; and to follow a less bloody calling."
"Have you got any scalp? Mine's gone — How does it feel to have a scalp? I know how it feels to lose one — fire and flames about the brain — and a wrenching at the heart — no — no — kill first, Hurry, and scalp afterwards."
"What does the old fellow mean, Judith? He talks like one that is getting tired of the business as well as myself. Why have you bound up his head? or, have the savages tomahawked him about the brains?"
"They have done that for him which you and he, Harry March, would have so gladly done for them. His skin and hair have been torn from his head to gain money from the governor of Canada, as you would have torn theirs from the heads of the Hurons, to gain money from the Governor of York."
Judith spoke with a strong effort to appear composed, but it was neither in her nature, nor in the feeling of the moment to speak altogether without bitterness. The strength of her emphasis, indeed, as well as her manner, caused Hetty to look up reproachfully.
"These are high words to come from Thomas Hutter's darter, as Thomas Hutter lies dying before her eyes," retorted Hurry.
"God be praised for that! — whatever reproach it may bring on my poor mother, I am not Thomas Hutter's daughter."
"Not Thomas Hutter's darter! — Don't disown the old fellow in his last moments, Judith, for that's a sin the Lord will never overlook. If you're not Thomas Hutter's darter, whose darter be you?"
This question rebuked the rebellious spirit of Judith, for, in getting rid of a parent whom she felt it was a relief to find she might own she had never loved, she overlooked the important circumstance that no substitute was ready to supply his place.
"I cannot tell you, Harry, who my father was," she answered more mildly; "I hope he was an honest man, at least."
"Which is more than you think was the case with old Hutter? Well, Judith, I'll not deny that hard stories were in circulation consarning Floating Tom, but who is there that doesn't get a scratch, when an inimy holds the rake? There's them that say hard things of me, and even you, beauty as you be, don't always escape."