The two soldiers found their surgeon in the principal room of the Ark. He was just quitting the pallet of Hetty, with an expression of sorrowful regret on his hard, pock-marked Scottish features, that it was not usual to see there. All his assiduity had been useless, and he was compelled reluctantly to abandon the expectation of seeing the girl survive many hours. Dr. Graham was accustomed to death-bed scenes, and ordinarily they produced but little impression on him. In all that relates to religion, his was one of those minds which, in consequence of reasoning much on material things, logically and consecutively, and overlooking the total want of premises which such a theory must ever possess, through its want of a primary agent, had become sceptical; leaving a vague opinion concerning the origin of things, that, with high pretentions to philosophy, failed in the first of all philosophical principles, a cause. To him religious dependence appeared a weakness, but when he found one gentle and young like Hetty, with a mind beneath the level of her race, sustained at such a moment by these pious sentiments, and that, too, in a way that many a sturdy warrior and reputed hero might have looked upon with envy, he found himself affected by the sight to a degree that he would have been ashamed to confess. Edinburgh and Aberdeen, then as now, supplied no small portion of the medical men of the British service, and Dr. Graham, as indeed his name and countenance equally indicated, was, by birth a North Briton.
"Here is an extraordinary exhibition for a forest, and one but half-gifted with reason," he observed with a decided Scotch accent, as Warley and the ensign entered; "I just hope, gentlemen, that when we three shall be called on to quit the 20th, we may be found as resigned to go on the half pay of another existence, as this poor demented chiel!"
"Is there no hope that she can survive the hurt?" demanded Warley, turning his eyes towards the pallid Judith, on whose cheeks, however, two large spots of red had settled as soon as he came into the cabin.
"No more than there is for Chairlie Stuart! Approach and judge for yourselves, gentlemen; ye'll see faith exemplified in an exceeding and wonderful manner. There is a sort of arbitrium between life and death, in actual conflict in the poor girl's mind, that renders her an interesting study to a philosopher. Mr. Thornton, I'm at your service, now; we can just look at the arm in the next room, while we speculate as much as we please on the operations and sinuosities of the human mind."
The surgeon and ensign retired, and Warley had an opportunity of looking about him more at leisure, and with a better understanding of the nature and feelings of the group collected in the cabin. Poor Hetty had been placed on her own simple bed, and was reclining in a half seated attitude, with the approaches of death on her countenance, though they were singularly dimmed by the lustre of an expression in which all the intelligence of her entire being appeared to be concentrated. Judith and Hist were near her, the former seated in deep grief; the latter standing, in readiness to offer any of the gentle attentions of feminine care. Deerslayer stood at the end of the pallet, leaning on Killdeer, unharmed in person, all the fine martial ardor that had so lately glowed in his countenance having given place to the usual look of honesty and benevolence, qualities of which the expression was now softened by manly regret and pity. The Serpent was in the background of the picture, erect, and motionless as a statue; but so observant that not a look of the eye escaped his own keen glances. Hurry completed the group, being seated on a stool near the door, like one who felt himself out of place in such a scene, but who was ashamed to quit it, unbidden.
"Who is that in scarlet?" asked Hetty, as soon as the Captain's uniform caught her eye. "Tell me, Judith, is it the friend of Hurry?"
"'Tis the officer who commands the troops that have rescued us all from the hands of the Hurons," was the low answer of the sister.
"Am I rescued, too! — I thought they said I was shot, and about to die. Mother is dead; and so is father; but you are living, Judith, and so is Hurry. I was afraid Hurry would be killed, when I heard him shouting among the soldiers."
"Never mind — never mind, dear Hetty — " interrupted Judith, sensitively alive to the preservation of her sister's secret, more, perhaps, at such a moment, than at any other. "Hurry is well, and Deerslayer is well, and the Delaware is well, too."
"How came they to shoot a poor girl like me, and let so many men go unharmed? I didn't know that the Hurons were so wicked, Judith!"
"'Twas an accident, poor Hetty; a sad accident it has been! No one would willingly have injured you."
"I'm glad of that! — I thought it strange; I am feeble minded, and the redmen have never harmed me before. I should be sorry to think that they had changed their minds. I am glad too, Judith, that they haven't hurt Hurry. Deerslayer I don't think God will suffer any one to harm. It was very fortunate the soldiers came as they did though, for fire will burn!"
"It was indeed fortunate, my sister; God's holy name be forever blessed for the mercy!"
"I dare say, Judith, you know some of the officers; you used to know so many!"
Judith made no reply; she hid her face in her hands and groaned. Hetty gazed at her in wonder; but naturally supposing her own situation was the cause of this grief, she kindly offered to console her sister.
"Don't mind me, dear Judith," said the affectionate and pure-hearted creature, "I don't suffer; if I do die, why father and mother are both dead, and what happens to them may well happen to me. You know I am of less account than any of the family; therefore few will think of me after I'm in the lake."
"No, no, no — poor, dear, dear Hetty!" exclaimed Judith, in an uncontrollable burst of sorrow, "I, at least, will ever think of you; and gladly, oh! how gladly would I exchange places with you, to be the pure, excellent, sinless creature you are!"
Until now, Captain Warley had stood leaning against the door of the cabin; when this outbreak of feeling, and perchance of penitence, however, escaped the beautiful girl, he walked slowly and thoughtfully away; even passing the ensign, then suffering under the surgeon's care, without noticing him.
"I have got my Bible here, Judith," returned her sister in a voice of triumph. "It's true, I can't read any longer, there's something the matter with my eyes — you look dim and distant — and so does Hurry, now I look at him — well, I never could have believed that Henry March would have so dull a look! What can be the reason, Judith, that I see so badly, today? I, who mother always said had the best eyes in the whole family. Yes, that was it: my mind was feeble — what people call half-witted — but my eyes were so good!"
Again Judith groaned; this time no feeling of self, no retrospect of the past caused the pain. It was the pure, heartfelt sorrow of sisterly love, heightened by a sense of the meek humility and perfect truth of the being before her. At that moment, she would gladly have given up her own life to save that of Hetty. As the last, however, was beyond the reach of human power, she felt there was nothing left her but sorrow. At this moment Warley returned to the cabin, drawn by a secret impulse he could not withstand, though he felt, just then, as if he would gladly abandon the American continent forever, were it practicable. Instead of pausing at the door, he now advanced so near the pallet of the sufferer as to come more plainly within her gaze. Hetty could still distinguish large objects, and her look soon fastened on him.
"Are you the officer that came with Hurry?" she asked. "If you are, we ought all to thank you, for, though I am hurt, the rest have saved their lives. Did Harry March tell you, where to find us, and how much need there was for your services?"
"The news of the party reached us by means of a friendly runner," returned the Captain, glad to relieve his feelings by this appearance of a friendly communication, "and I was immediately sent out to cut it off. It was fortunate, certainly, that we met Hurry Harry, as you call him, for he acted as a guide, and it was not less fortunate that we heard a firing, which I now understand was merely a shooting at the mark, for it not only quickened our march, but called us to the right side of the lake. The Delaware saw us on the shore, with the glass it would seem, and he and Hist, as I find his squaw is named, did us excellent service. It was really altogether a fortunate concurrence of circumstances, Judith."
"Talk not to me of any thing fortunate, sir," returned the girl huskily, again concealing her face. "To me the world is full of misery. I wish never to hear of marks, or rifles, or soldiers, or men, again!"
"Do you know my sister?" asked Hetty, ere the rebuked soldier had time to rally for an answer. "How came you to know that her name is Judith? You are right, for that is her name; and I am Hetty; Thomas Hutter's daughters."