"Ay, that is downright red-skin l'arnin'" returned the other, laughing, through he was not altogether insensible to the pleasure of proving the superiority of his race by solving the difficulty, which he set about doing in his own peculiar manner. "Harkee, Sarpent," he continued more gravely, though too simply for affectation; "this is easierly explained than an Indian brain may fancy. The sun, while he seems to keep traveling in the heavens, never budges, but it is the 'arth that turns round, and any one can understand, if he is placed on the side of a mill-wheel, for instance, when it's in motion, that he must some times see the heavens, while he is at other times under water. There's no great secret in that; but plain natur'; the difficulty being in setting the 'arth in motion."
"How does my brother know that the earth turns round?" demanded the Indian. "Can he see it?"
"Well, that's been a puzzler, I will own, Delaware, for I've often tried, but never could fairly make it out. Sometimes I've consaited that I could; and then ag'in, I've been obliged to own it an onpossibility. Howsever, turn it does, as all my people say, and you ought to believe 'em, since they can foretell eclipses, and other prodigies, that used to fill the tribes with terror, according to your own traditions of such things."
"Good. This is true; no red man will deny it. When a wheel turns, my eyes can see it — they do not see the earth turn."
"Ay, that's what I call sense obstinacy! Seeing is believing, they say, and what they can't see, some men won't in the least give credit to. Neverthless, chief, that isn't quite as good reason as it mayat first seem. You believe in the Great Spirit, I know, and yet, I conclude, it would puzzle you to show where you see him!"
"Chingachgook can see Him everywhere — everywhere in good things-the Evil Spirit in bad. Here, in the lake; there, in the forest; yonder, in the clouds; in Hist, in the Son of Uncas, in Tannemund, in Deerslayer. The Evil Spirit is in the Mingos. That I see; I do not see the earth turn round."
"I don't wonder they call you the Sarpent, Delaware; no, I don't! There's always a meaning in your words, and there's often a meaning in your countenance, too! Notwithstanding, your answers doesn't quite meet my idee. That God is observable in all nat'ral objects is allowable, but then he is not perceptible in the way I mean. You know there is a Great Spirit by his works, and the pale-faces know that the 'arth turns round by its works. This is the reason of the matter, though how it is to be explained is more than I can exactly tell you. This I know; all my people consait that fact, and what all the pale-faces consait, is very likely to be true."
"When the sun is in the top of that pine to-morrow, where will my brother Deerslayer be?"
The hunter started, and he looked intently, though totally without alarm, at his friend. Then he signed for him to follow, and led the way into the Ark, where he might pursue the subject unheard by those whose feelings he feared might get the mastery over their reason. Here he stopped, and pursued the conversation in a more confidential tone.
"'Twas a little onreasonable in you Sarpent," he said, "to bring up such a subject afore Hist, and when the young women of my own colour might overhear what was said. Yes, 'twas a little more onreasonable than most things that you do. No matter; Hist didn't comprehend, and the other didn't hear. Howsever, the question is easier put than answered. No mortal can say where he will be when the sun rises tomorrow. I will ask you the same question, Sarpent, and should like to hear what answer you can give."
"Chingachgook will be with his friend Deerslayer — if he be in the land of spirits, the Great Serpent will crawl at his side; if beneath yonder sun, its warmth and light shall fall on both."
"I understand you, Delaware," returned the other, touched with the simple self-devotion of his friend, "Such language is as plain in one tongue as in another. It comes from the heart, and goes to the heart, too. 'Tis well to think so, and it may be well to say so, for that matter, but it would not be well to do so, Sarpent. You are no longer alone in life, for though you have the lodges to change, and other ceremonies to go through, afore Hist becomes your lawful wife, yet are you as good as married in all that bears on the feelin's, and joy, and misery. No — no — Hist must not be desarted, because a cloud is passing atween you and me, a little onexpectedly and a little darker than we may have looked for."
"Hist is a daughter of the Mohicans. She knows how to obey her husband. Where he goes, she will follow. Both will be with the Great Hunter of the Delawares, when the sun shall be in the pine to-morrow."
"The Lord bless and protect you! Chief, this is downright madness. Can either, or both of you, alter a Mingo natur'? Will your grand looks, or Hist's tears and beauty, change a wolf into a squirrel, or make a catamount as innocent as a fa'an? No — Sarpent, you will think better of this matter, and leave me in the hands of God. A'ter all, it's by no means sartain that the scamps design the torments, for they may yet be pitiful, and bethink them of the wickedness of such a course — though it is but a hopeless expectation to look forward to a Mingo's turning aside from evil, and letting marcy get uppermost in his heart. Nevertheless, no one knows to a sartainty what will happen, and young creatur's, like Hist, a'n't to be risked on onsartainties. This marrying is altogether a different undertaking from what some young men fancy. Now, if you was single, or as good as single, Delaware, I should expect you to be actyve and stirring about the camp of the vagabonds, from sunrise to sunset, sarcumventing and contriving, as restless as a hound off the scent, and doing all manner of things to help me, and to distract the inimy, but two are oftener feebler than one, and we must take things as they are, and not as we want 'em to be."
"Listen, Deerslayer," returned the Indian with an emphasis so decided as to show how much he was in earnest. "If Chingachgook was in the hands of the Hurons, what would my pale-face brother do? Sneak off to the Delaware villages, and say to the chiefs, and old men, and young warriors — 'see, here is Wah-ta-Wah; she is safe, but a little tired; and here is the Son of Uncas, not as tired as the Honeysuckle, being stronger, but just as safe.' Would he do this?"
"Well, that's oncommon ingen'ous; it's cunning enough for a Mingo, himself! The Lord only knows what put it into your head to ask such a question. What would I do? Why, in the first place, Hist wouldn't be likely to be in my company at all, for she would stay as near you as possible, and therefore all that part about her couldn't be said without talking nonsense. As for her being tired, that would fall through too, if she didn't go, and no part of your speech would be likely to come from me; so, you see, Sarpent, reason is ag'in you, and you may as well give it up, since to hold out ag'in reason, is no way becoming a chief of your character and repitation."
"My brother is not himself; he forgets that he is talking to one who has sat at the Council Fire of his nation," returned the other kindly. "When men speak, they should say that which does not go in at one side of the head and out at the other. Their words shouldn't be feathers, so light that a wind which does not ruffle the water can blow them away. He has not answered my question; when a chief puts a question, his friend should not talk of other things."
"I understand you, Delaware; I understand well enough what you mean, and truth won't allow me to say otherwise. Still it's not as easy to answer as you seem to think, for this plain reason. You wish me to say what I would do if I had a betrothed as you have, here, on the lake, and a fri'nd yonder in the Huron camp, in danger of the torments. That's it, isn't it?"
The Indian bowed his head silently, and always with unmoved gravity, though his eye twinkled at the sight of the other's embarrassment.
"Well, I never had a betrothed — never had the kind of feelin's toward any young woman that you have towards Hist, though the Lord knows my feelin's are kind enough towards 'em all! Still my heart, as they call it in such matters, isn't touched, and therefore I can't say what I would do. A fri'nd pulls strong, that I know by exper'ence, Sarpent, but, by all that I've seen and heard consarning love, I'm led to think that a betrothed pulls stronger."
"True; but the betrothed of Chingachgook does not pull towards the lodges of the Delawares; she pulls towards the camp of the Hurons."
"She's a noble gal, for all her little feet, and hands that an't bigger than a child's, and a voice that is as pleasant as a mocker's; she's a noble gal, and like the stock of her sires! Well, what is it, Sarpent; for I conclude she hasn't changed her mind, and means to give herself up, and turn Huron wife. What is it you want?"
"Wah-ta-Wah will never live in the wigwam of an Iroquois," answered the Delaware drily. "She has little feet, but they can carry her to the villages of her people; she has small hands, too, but her mind is large. My brother will see what we can do, when the time shall come, rather than let him die under Mingo torments."
"Attempt nothing heedlessly, Delaware," said the other earnestly; "I suppose you must and will have your way; and, on the whole it's right you should, for you'd neither be happy, unless something was undertaken. But attempt nothing heedlessly — I didn't expect you'd quit the lake, while my matter remained in unsartainty, but remember, Sarpent, that no torments that Mingo ingenuity can invent, no ta'ntings and revilings; no burnings and roastings and nail-tearings, nor any other onhuman contrivances can so soon break down my spirit, as to find that you and Hist have fallen into the power of the inimy in striving to do something for my good."
"The Delawares are prudent. The Deerslayer will not find them running into a strange camp with their eyes shut."