"I'll do it, Judith; I'll do it," returned the patient Deerslayer, "but if there's many more letters to read, we shall see the sun ag'in afore you've got through with the reading of them! Two good hours have you been looking at them bits of papers!"
"They tell me of my parents, Deerslayer, and have settled my plans for life. A girl may be excused, who reads about her own father and mother, and that too for the first time in her life! I am sorry to have kept you waiting."
"Never mind me, gal; never mind me. It matters little whether I sleep or watch; but though you be pleasant to look at, and are so handsome, Judith, it is not altogether agreeable to sit so long to behold you shedding tears. I know that tears don't kill, and that some people are better for shedding a few now and then, especially young women; but I'd rather see you smile any time, Judith, than see you weep."
This gallant speech was rewarded with a sweet, though a melancholy smile; and then the girl again desired her companion to finish the examination of the chest. The search necessarily continued some time, during which Judith collected her thoughts and regained her composure. She took no part in the search, leaving everything to the young man, looking listlessly herself at the different articles that came uppermost. Nothing further of much interest or value, however, was found. A sword or two, such as were then worn by gentlemen, some buckles of silver, or so richly plated as to appear silver, and a few handsome articles of female dress, composed the principal discoveries. It struck both Judith and the Deerslayer, notwithstanding, that some of these things might be made useful in effecting a negotiation with the Iroquois, though the latter saw a difficulty in the way that was not so apparent to the former. The conversation was first renewed in connection with this point.
"And now, Deerslayer," said Judith, "we may talk of yourself, and of the means of getting you out of the hands of the Hurons. Any part, or all of what you have seen in the chest, will be cheerfully given by me and Hetty to set you at liberty."
"Well, that's gin'rous, — yes, 'tis downright free-hearted, and free-handed, and gin'rous. This is the way with women; when they take up a fri'ndship, they do nothing by halves, but are as willing to part with their property as if it had no value in their eyes. However, while I thank you both, just as much as if the bargain was made, and Rivenoak, or any of the other vagabonds, was here to accept and close the treaty, there's two principal reasons why it can never come to pass, which may be as well told at once, in order no onlikely expectations may be raised in you, or any onjustifiable hopes in me."
"What reason can there be, if Hetty and I are willing to part with the trifles for your sake, and the savages are willing to receive them?"
"That's it, Judith; you've got the idees, but they're a little out of their places, as if a hound should take the back'ard instead of the leading scent. That the Mingos will be willing to receive them things, or any more like 'em you may have to offer is probable enough, but whether they'll pay valie for 'em is quite another matter. Ask yourself, Judith, if any one should send you a message to say that, for such or such a price, you and Hetty might have that chist and all it holds, whether you'd think it worth your while to waste many words on the bargain?"
"But this chest and all it holds, are already ours; there is no reason why we should purchase what is already our own."
"Just so the Mingos caculate! They say the chist is theirn, already; or, as good as theirn, and they'll not thank anybody for the key."
"I understand you, Deerslayer; surely we are yet in possession of the lake, and we can keep possession of it until Hurry sends troops to drive off the enemy. This we may certainly do provided you will stay with us, instead of going back and giving yourself up a prisoner, again, as you now seem determined on."
"That Hurry Harry should talk in thisaway, is nat'ral, and according to the gifts of the man. He knows no better, and, therefore, he is little likely to feel or to act any better; but, Judith, I put it to your heart and conscience — would you, could you think of me as favorably, as I hope and believe you now do, was I to forget my furlough and not go back to the camp?"
"To think more favorably of you than I now do, Deerslayer, would not be easy; but I might continue to think as favorably — at least it seems so — I hope I could, for a world wouldn't tempt me to let you do anything that might change my real opinion of you."
"Then don't try to entice me to overlook my furlough, gal! A furlough is a sacred thing among warriors and men that carry their lives in their hands, as we of the forests do, and what a grievous disapp'intment would it be to old Tamenund, and to Uncas, the father of the Sarpent, and to my other fri'nds in the tribe, if I was so to disgrace myself on my very first war-path. This you will pairceive, moreover, Judith, is without laying any stress on nat'ral gifts, and a white man's duties, to say nothing of conscience. The last is king with me, and I try never to dispute his orders."
"I believe you are right, Deerslayer," returned the girl, after a little reflection and in a saddened voice: "a man like you ought not to act as the selfish and dishonest would be apt to act; you must, indeed, go back. We will talk no more of this, then. Should I persuade you to anything for which you would be sorry hereafter, my own regret would not be less than yours. You shall not have it to say, Judith — I scarce know by what name to call myself, now!"
"And why not? Why not, gal? Children take the names of their parents, nat'rally, and by a sort of gift, like, and why shouldn't you and Hetty do as others have done afore ye? Hutter was the old man's name, and Hutter should be the name of his darters; — at least until you are given away in lawful and holy wedlock."
"I am Judith, and Judith only," returned the girl positively — "until the law gives me a right to another name. Never will I use that of Thomas Hutter again; nor, with my consent, shall Hetty! Hutter was not even his own name, I find, but had he a thousand rights to it, it would give none to me. He was not my father, thank heaven; though I may have no reason to be proud of him that was!"
"This is strange!" said Deerslayer, looking steadily at the excited girl, anxious to know more, but unwilling to inquire into matters that did not properly concern him; "yes, this is very strange and oncommon! Thomas Hutter wasn't Thomas Hutter, and his darters weren't his darters! Who, then, could Thomas Hutter be, and who are his darters?"
"Did you never hear anything whispered against the former life of this person, Deerslayer?" demanded Judith "Passing, as I did, for his child, such reports reached even me."
"I'll not deny it, Judith; no, I'll not deny it. Sartain things have been said, as I've told you, but I'm not very credible as to reports. Young as I am, I've lived long enough to l'arn there's two sorts of characters in the world — them that is 'arned by deeds, and them that is 'arned by tongues, and so I prefar to see and judge for myself, instead of letting every jaw that chooses to wag become my judgment. Hurry Harry spoke pretty plainly of the whole family, as we journeyed this-a-way, and he did hint something consarning Thomas Hutter's having been a free-liver on the water, in his younger days. By free-liver, I mean that he made free to live on other men's goods."
"He told you he was a pirate — there is no need of mincing matters between friends. Read that, Deerslayer, and you will see that he told you no more than the truth. This Thomas Hovey was the Thomas Hutter you knew, as is seen by these letters."
As Judith spoke, with a flushed cheek and eyes dazzling with the brilliancy of excitement, she held the newspaper towards her companion, pointing to the proclamation of a Colonial Governor, already mentioned.
"Bless you, Judith!" answered the other laughing, "you might as well ask me to print that — or, for that matter to write it. My edication has been altogether in the woods; the only book I read, or care about reading, is the one which God has opened afore all his creatur's in the noble forests, broad lakes, rolling rivers, blue skies, and the winds and tempests, and sunshine, and other glorious marvels of the land! This book I can read, and I find it full of wisdom and knowledge."
"I crave your pardon, Deerslayer," said Judith, earnestly, more abashed than was her wont, in finding that she had in advertently made an appeal that might wound her compan ion's pride. "I had forgotten your manner of life, and least of all did I wish to hurt your feelings."