The Deerslayer By James Fenimore Cooper Chapters 31-32

Chapter XXXI.

"The flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow dies;
All that we wish to stay,
Tempts and then flies:
What is this world's delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
Brief even as bright."

— Shelley, "Mutability," 11. i-v.

The picture next presented, by the point of land that the unfortunate Hurons had selected for their last place of encampment, need scarcely be laid before the eyes of the reader. Happily for the more tender-minded and the more timid, the trunks of the trees, the leaves, and the smoke had concealed much of that which passed, and night shortly after drew its veil over the lake, and the whole of that seemingly interminable wilderness; which may be said to have then stretched, with few and immaterial interruptions, from the banks of the Hudson to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Our business carries us into the following day, when light returned upon the earth, as sunny and as smiling as if nothing extraordinary had occurred.

When the sun rose on the following morning, every sign of hostility and alarm had vanished from the basin of the Glimmerglass. The frightful event of the preceding evening had left no impression on the placid sheet, and the untiring hours pursued their course in the placid order prescribed by the powerful hand that set them in motion. The birds were again skimming the water, or were seen poised on the wing, high above the tops of the tallest pines of the mountains, ready to make their swoops, in obedience to the irresistable law of their natures. In a word, nothing was changed, but the air of movement and life that prevailed in and around the castle. Here, indeed, was an alteration that must have struck the least observant eye. A sentinel, who wore the light infantry uniform of a royal regiment, paced the platform with measured tread, and some twenty more of the same corps lounged about the place, or were seated in the ark. Their arms were stacked under the eye of their comrade on post. Two officers stood examining the shore, with the ship's glass so often mentioned. Their looks were directed to that fatal point, where scarlet coats were still to be seen gliding among the trees, and where the magnifying power of the instrument also showed spades at work, and the sad duty of interment going on. Several of the common men bore proofs on their persons that their enemies had not been overcome entirely without resistance, and the youngest of the two officers on the platform wore an arm in a sling. His companion, who commanded the party, had been more fortunate. He it was who used the glass, in making the reconnoissances in which the two were engaged.

A sergeant approached to make a report. He addressed the senior of these officers as Capt. Warley, while the other was alluded to as Mr., which was equivalent to Ensign Thornton. The former it will at once be seen was the officer who had been named with so much feeling in the parting dialogue between Judith and Hurry. He was, in truth, the very individual with whom the scandal of the garrisons had most freely connected the name of this beautiful but indiscreet girl. He was a hard featured, red faced man of about five and thirty; but of a military carriage, and with an air of fashion that might easily impose on the imagination of one as ignorant of the world as Judith.

"Craig is covering us with benedictions," observed this person to his young ensign, with an air of indifference, as he shut the glass and handed it to his servant; "to say the truth, not without reason; it is certainly more agreeable to be here in attendance on Miss Judith Hutter, than to be burying Indians on a point of the lake, however romantic the position, or brilliant the victory. By the way, Wright — is Davis still living?"

"He died about ten minutes since, your honor," returned the sergeant to whom this question was addressed. "I knew how it would be, as soon as I found the bullet had touched the stomach. I never knew a man who could hold out long, if he had a hole in his stomach."

"No; it is rather inconvenient for carrying away any thing very nourishing," observed Warley, gaping. "This being up two nights de suite, Arthur, plays the devil with a man's faculties! I'm as stupid as one of those Dutch parsons on the Mohawk — I hope your arm is not painful, my dear boy?"

"It draws a few grimaces from me, sir, as I suppose you see," answered the youth, laughing at the very moment his countenance was a little awry with pain. "But it may be borne. I suppose Graham can spare a few minutes, soon, to look at my hurt."

"She is a lovely creature, this Judith Hutter, after all, Thornton; and it shall not be my fault if she is not seen and admired in the Parks!" resumed Warley, who thought little of his companion's wound — "your arm, eh! Quite True — Go into the ark, sergeant, and tell Dr. Graham I desire he would look at Mr. Thornton's injury, as soon as he has done with the poor fellow with the broken leg. A lovely creature! and she looked like a queen in that brocade dress in which we met her. I find all changed here; father and mother both gone, the sister dying, if not dead, and none of the family left, but the beauty! This has been a lucky expedition all round, and promises to terminate better than Indian skirmishes in general."

"Am I to suppose, sir, that you are about to desert your colours, in the great corps of bachelors, and close the campaign with matrimony?"

"I, Tom Warley, turn Benedict! Faith, my dear boy, you little know the corps you speak of, if you fancy any such thing. I do suppose there are women in the colonies that a captain of Light Infantry need not disdain; but they are not to be found up here, on a mountain lake; or even down on the Dutch river where we are posted. It is true, my uncle, the general, once did me the favor to choose a wife for me in Yorkshire; but she had no beauty — and I would not marry a princess, unless she were handsome."

"If handsome, you would marry a beggar?"

"Ay, these are the notions of an ensign! Love in a cottage — doors — and windows — the old story, for the hundredth time. The 20th — don't marry. We are not a marrying corps, my dear boy. There's the Colonel, Old Sir Edwin — — -, now; though a full General he has never thought of a wife; and when a man gets as high as a Lieutenant General, without matrimony, he is pretty safe. Then the Lieutenant Colonel is confirmed, as I tell my cousin the bishop. The Major is a widower, having tried matrimony for twelve months in his youth, and we look upon him, now, as one of our most certain men. Out of ten captains, but one is in the dilemma, and he, poor devil, is always kept at regimental headquarters, as a sort of memento mori, to the young men as they join. As for the subalterns, not one has ever yet had the audacity to speak of introducing a wife into the regiment. But your arm is troublesome, and we'll go ourselves and see what has become of Graham."

The surgeon who had accompanied the party was employed very differently from what the captain supposed. When the assault was over, and the dead and wounded were collected, poor Hetty had been found among the latter. A rifle bullet had passed through her body, inflicting an injury that was known at a glance to be mortal. How this wound was received, no one knew; it was probably one of those casualties that ever accompany scenes like that related in the previous chapter.

The Sumach, all the elderly women, and some of the Huron girls, had fallen by the bayonet, either in the confusion of the melee, or from the difficulty of distinguishing the sexes when the dress was so simple. Much the greater portion of the warriors suffered on the spot. A few had escaped, however, and two or three had been taken unharmed. As for the wounded, the bayonet saved the surgeon much trouble. Rivenoak had escaped with life and limb, but was injured and a prisoner. As Captain Warley and his ensign went into the Ark they passed him, seated in dignified silence in one end of the scow, his head and leg bound, but betraying no visible sign of despondency or despair. That he mourned the loss of his tribe is certain; still he did it in a manner that best became a warrior and a chief.

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