"My ears are open," returned the Delaware gravely; "the words of my brother have entered so far that they never can fall out again. They are like rings, that have no end, and cannot drop. Let him speak on; the song of the wren and the voice of a friend never tire."
"I will speak a little longer, chief, but you will excuse it for the sake of old companionship, should I now talk about myself. If the worst comes to the worst, it's not likely there'll be much left of me but ashes, so a grave would be useless, and a sort of vanity. On that score I'm no way partic'lar, though it might be well enough to take a look at the remains of the pile, and should any bones, or pieces be found, 'twould be more decent to gather them together, and bury them, than to let them lie for the wolves to gnaw at, and howl over. These matters can make no great difference in the mind, but men of white blood and Christian feelin's have rather a gift for graves."
"It shall be done as my brother says," returned the Indian, gravely. "If his mind is full, let him empty it in the bosom of a friend."
"I thank you, Sarpent; my mind's easy enough; yes, it's tolerable easy. Idees will come uppermost that I'm not apt to think about in common, it's true, but by striving ag'in some, and lettin' other some out, all will come right in the long run. There's one thing, howsever, chief, that does seem to me to be onreasonable, and ag'in natur', though the missionaries say it's true, and bein' of my religion and colour I feel bound to believe them. They say an Injin may torment and tortur' the body to his heart's content, and scalp, and cut, and tear, and burn, and consume all his inventions and deviltries, until nothin' is left but ashes, and they shall be scattered to the four winds of heaven, yet when the trumpet of God shall sound, all will come together ag'in, and the man will stand forth in his flesh, the same creatur' as to looks, if not as to feelin's, that he was afore he was harmed!"
"The missionaries are good men — mean well," returned the Delaware courteously; "they are not great medicines. They think all they say, Deerslayer; that is no reason why warriors and orators should be all ears. When Chingachgook shall see the father of Tamenund standing in his scalp, and paint, and war lock, then will he believe the missionaries."
"Seein' is believin', of a sartainty; ahs! me — and some of us may see these things sooner than we thought. I comprehind your meanin' about Tamenund's father, Sarpent, and the idee's a close idee. Tamenund is now an elderly man, say eighty every day of it, and his father was scalped, and tormented, and burnt, when the present prophet was a youngster. Yes, if one could see that come to pass, there wouldn't be much difficulty in yieldin' faith to all that the missionaries say. Howsever, I am not ag'in the opinion now, for you must know, Sarpent, that the great principle of Christianity is to believe without seeing, and a man should always act up to his religion and principles, let them be what they may."
"That is strange for a wise nation!" said the Delaware with emphasis. "The red man looks hard, that he may see and understand."
"Yes, that's plauserble, and is agreeable to mortal pride, but it's not as deep as it seems. If we could understand all we see, Sarpent, there might be not only sense, but safety, in refusin' to give faith to any one thing that we might find oncomperhensible; but when there's so many things about which it may be said we know nothin' at all, why, there's little use, and no reason, in bein' difficult touchin' any one in partic'lar. For my part, Delaware, all my thoughts haven't been on the game, when outlyin' in the hunts and scoutin's of our youth. Many's the hour I've passed, pleasantly enough too, in what is tarmed conterplation by my people. On such occasions the mind is actyve, though the body seems lazy and listless. An open spot on a mountain side, where a wide look can be had at the heavens and the 'arth, is a most judicious place for a man to get a just idee of the power of the Manitou, and of his own littleness. At such times, there isn't any great disposition to find fault with little difficulties, in the way of comperhension, as there are so many big ones to hide them. Believin' comes easy enough to me at such times, and if the Lord made man first out of'arth, as they tell me it is written in the Bible; then turns him into dust at death; I see no great difficulty in the way to bringin' him back in the body, though ashes be the only substance left. These things lie beyond our understandin', though they may and do lie so close to our feelin's. But, of all the doctrines, Sarpent, that which disturbs me, and disconsarts my mind the most, is the one which teaches us to think that a pale-face goes to one heaven, and a red-skin to another; it may separate in death them which lived much together, and loved each other well, in life!"
"Do the missionaries teach their white brethren to think it is so?" demanded the Indian, with serious earnestness. "The Delawares believe that good men and brave warriors will hunt together in the same pleasant woods, let them belong to whatever tribe they may; that all the unjust Indians and cowards will have to sneak in with the dogs and the wolves to get venison for their lodges."
"Tis wonderful how many consaits mankind have consarnin' happiness and misery, here after!" exclaimed the hunter, borne away by the power of his own thoughts. "Some believe in burnin's and flames, and some think punishment is to eat with the wolves and dogs. Then, ag'in, some fancy heaven to be only the carryin' out of their own 'arthly longin's, while others fancy it all gold and shinin' lights! Well, I've an idee of my own, in that matter, which is just this, Sarpent. Whenever I've done wrong, I've ginirally found 'twas owin' to some blindness of the mind, which hid the right from view, and when sight has returned, then has come sorrow and repentance. Now, I consait that, after death, when the body is laid aside or, if used at all, is purified and without its longin's, the spirit sees all things in their ra'al lights and never becomes blind to truth and justice. Such bein' the case, all that has been done in life, is beheld as plainly as the sun is seen at noon; the good brings joy, while the evil brings sorrow. There's nothin' onreasonable in that, but it's agreeable to every man's exper'ence."
"I thought the pale-faces believed all men were wicked; who then could ever find the white man's heaven?"
"That's ingen'ous, but it falls short of the missionary teachin's. You'll be Christianized one day, I make no doubt, and then 'twill all come plain enough. You must know, Sarpent, that there's been a great deed of salvation done, that, by God's help, enables all men to find a pardon for their wickednesses, and that is the essence of the white man's religion. I can't stop to talk this matter over with you any longer, for Hetty's in the canoe, and the furlough takes me away, but the time will come I hope when you'll feel these things; for, after all, they must be felt rather than reasoned about. Ah's! me; well, Delaware, there's my hand; you know it's that of a fri'nd, and will shake it as such, though it never has done you one half the good its owner wishes it had."
The Indian took the offered hand, and returned its pressure warmly. Then falling back on his acquired stoicism of manner, which so many mistake for constitutional indifference, he drew up in reserve, and prepared to part from his friend with dignity. Deerslayer, however, was more natural, nor would he have at all cared about giving way to his feelings, had not the recent conduct and language of Judith given him some secret, though ill defined apprehensions of a scene. He was too humble to imagine the truth concerning the actual feelings of that beautiful girl, while he was too observant not to have noted the struggle she had maintained with herself, and which had so often led her to the very verge of discovery. That something extraordinary was concealed in her breast he thought obvious enough, and, through a sentiment of manly delicacy that would have done credit to the highest human refinement, he shrunk from any exposure of her secret that might subsequently cause regret to the girl, herself. He therefore determined to depart, now, and that without any further manifestations of feeling either from him, or from others.
"God bless you! Sarpent — God bless you!" cried the hunter, as the canoe left the side of the platform. "Your Manitou and my God only know when and where we shall meet ag'in; I shall count it a great blessing, and a full reward for any little good I may have done on 'arth, if we shall be permitted to know each other, and to consort together, hereafter, as we have so long done in these pleasant woods afore us!"
Chingachgook waved his hand. Drawing the light blanket he wore over his head, as a Roman would conceal his grief in his robes, he slowly withdrew into the Ark, in order to indulge his sorrow and his musings, alone. Deerslayer did not speak again until the canoe was half-way to the shore. Then he suddenly ceased paddling, at an interruption that came from the mild, musical voice of Hetty.
"Why do you go back to the Hurons, Deerslayer?" demanded the girl. "They say I am feeble-minded, and such they never harm, but you have as much sense as Hurry Harry; and more too, Judith thinks, though I don't see how that can well be."
"Ah! Hetty, afore we land I must convarse a little with you child, and that too on matters touching your own welfare, principally. Stop paddling — or, rather, that the Mingos needn't think we are plotting and contriving, and so treat us accordingly, just dip your paddle lightly, and give the canoe a little motion and no more. That's just the idee and the movement; I see you're ready enough at an appearance, and might be made useful at a sarcumvention if it was lawful now to use one — that's just the idee and the movement! Ah's! me. Desait and a false tongue are evil things, and altogether onbecoming our colour, Hetty, but it is a pleasure and a satisfaction to outdo the contrivances of a red-skin in the strife of lawful warfare. My path has been short, and is like soon to have an end, but I can see that the wanderings of a warrior aren't altogether among brambles and difficulties. There's a bright side to a warpath, as well as to most other things, if we'll only have the wisdom to see it, and the ginerosity to own it."