"When is your furlough out, Deerslayer," she asked, after both canoes were heading towards the Ark, and moving, with scarcely a perceptible effort of the paddles, through the water.
"To-morrow noon; not a minute afore; and you may depend on it, Judith, I shan't quit what I call Christian company, to go and give myself up to them vagabonds, an instant sooner than is downright necessary. They begin to fear a visit from the garrisons, and wouldn't lengthen the time a moment, and it's pretty well understood atween us that, should I fail in my ar'n'd, the torments are to take place when the sun begins to fall, that they may strike upon their home trail as soon as it is dark."
This was said solemnly, as if the thought of what was believed to be in reserve duly weighed on the prisoner's mind, and yet so simply, and without a parade of suffering, as rather to repel than to invite any open manifestations of sympathy.
"Are they bent on revenging their losses?" Judith asked faintly, her own high spirit yielding to the influence of the other's quiet but dignified integrity of purpose.
"Downright, if I can judge of Indian inclinations by the symptoms. They think howsever I don't suspect their designs, I do believe, but one that has lived so long among men of red-skin gifts, is no more likely to be misled in Injin feelin's, than a true hunter is like to lose his trail, or a stanch hound his scent. My own judgment is greatly ag'in my own escape, for I see the women are a good deal enraged on behalf of Hist, though I say it, perhaps, that shouldn't say it, seein' that I had a considerable hand myself in getting the gal off. Then there was a cruel murder in their camp last night, and that shot might just as well have been fired into my breast. Howsever, come what will, the Sarpent and his wife will be safe, and that is some happiness in any case."
"Oh! Deerslayer, they will think better of this, since they have given you until to-morrow noon to make up your mind!"
"I judge not, Judith; yes, I judge not. An Injin is an Injin, gal, and it's pretty much hopeless to think of swarving him, when he's got the scent and follows it with his nose in the air. The Delawares, now, are a half Christianized tribe — not that I think such sort of Christians much better than your whole blooded onbelievers — but, nevertheless, what good half Christianizing can do to a man, some among 'em have got, and yet revenge clings to their hearts like the wild creepers here to the tree! Then, I slew one of the best and boldest of their warriors, they say, and it is too much to expect that they should captivate the man who did this deed, in the very same scouting on which it was performed, and they take no account of the matter. Had a month, or so, gone by, their feelin's would have been softened down, and we might have met in a more friendly way, but it is as it is. Judith, this is talking of nothing but myself, and my own consarns, when you have had trouble enough, and may want to consult a fri'nd a little about your own matters. Is the old man laid in the water, where I should think his body would like to rest?"
"It is, Deerslayer," answered Judith, almost inaudibly. "That duty has just been performed. You are right in thinking that I wish to consult a friend; and that friend is yourself. Hurry Harry is about to leave us; when he is gone, and we have got a little over the feelings of this solemn office, I hope you will give me an hour alone. Hetty and I are at a loss what to do."
"That's quite nat'ral, coming as things have, suddenly and fearfully. But here's the Ark, and we'll say more of this when there is a better opportunity."