"For heaven's sake, dearest sister; for my sake, beloved Hetty," interposed Judith, imploringly, "say no more of this!"
Hetty looked surprised, but accustomed to comply, she ceased her awkward and painful interrogations of Warley, bending her eyes towards the Bible which she still held between her hands, as one would cling to a casket of precious stones in a shipwreck, or a conflagration. Her mind now adverted to the future, losing sight, in a great measure, of the scenes of the past.
"We shall not long be parted, Judith," she said; "when you die, you must be brought and be buried in the lake, by the side of mother, too."
"Would to God, Hetty, that I lay there at this moment!"
"No, that cannot be, Judith; people must die before they have any right to be buried. 'Twould be wicked to bury you, or for you to bury yourself, while living. Once I thought of burying myself; God kept me from that sin."
"You! — You, Hetty Hutter, think of such an act!" exclaimed Judith, looking up in uncontrollable surprise, for she well knew nothing passed the lips of her conscientious sister, that was not religiously true.
"Yes, I did, Judith, but God has forgotten — no he forgets nothing — but he has forgiven it," returned the dying girl, with the subdued manner of a repentant child. "'Twas after mother's death; I felt I had lost the best friend I had on earth, if not the only friend. 'Tis true, you and father were kind to me, Judith, but I was so feeble-minded, I knew I should only give you trouble; and then you were so often ashamed of such a sister and daughter, and 'tis hard to live in a world where all look upon you as below them. I thought then, if I could bury myself by the side of mother, I should be happier in the lake than in the hut."
"Forgive me — pardon me, dearest Hetty — on my bended knees, I beg you to pardon me, sweet sister, if any word, or act of mine drove you to so maddening and cruel a thought!"
"Get up, Judith — kneel to God; don't kneel to me. Just so I felt when mother was dying! I remembered everything I had said and done to vex her, and could have kissed her feet for forgiveness. I think it must be so with all dying people; though, now I think of it, I don't remember to have had such feelings on account of father."
Judith arose, hid her face in her apron, and wept. A long pause-one of more than two hours — succeeded, during which Warley entered and left the cabin several times; apparently uneasy when absent, and yet unable to remain. He issued various orders, which his men proceeded to execute, and there was an air of movement in the party, more especially as Mr. Craig, the lieutenant, had got through the unpleasant duty of burying the dead, and had sent for instructions from the shore, desiring to know what he was to do with his detachment. During this interval Hetty slept a little, and Deerslayer and Chingachgook left the Ark to confer together. But, at the end of the time mentioned, the Surgeon passed upon the platform, and with a degree of feeling his comrades had never before observed in one of his habits, he announced that the patient was rapidly drawing near her end. On receiving this intelligence the group collected again, curiosity to witness such a death — or a better feeling — drawing to the spot men who had so lately been actors in a scene seemingly of so much greater interest and moment. By this time Judith had got to be inactive through grief, and Hist alone was performing the little offices of feminine attention that are so appropriate to the sick bed. Hetty herself had undergone no other apparent change than the general failing that indicated the near approach of dissolution. All that she possessed of mind was as clear as ever, and, in some respects, her intellect perhaps was more than usually active.
"Don't grieve for me so much, Judith," said the gentle sufferer, after a pause in her remarks; "I shall soon see mother — I think I see her now; her face is just as sweet and smiling as it used to be! Perhaps when I'm dead, God will give me all my mind, and I shall become a more fitting companion for mother than I ever was before."
"You will be an angel in heaven, Hetty," sobbed the sister; "no spirit there will be more worthy of its holy residence!"
"I don't understand it quite; still, I know it must be all true; I've read it in the Bible. How dark it's becoming! Can it be night so soon? I can hardly see you at all — where is Hist?"
"I here, poor girl-Why you no see me?"
"I do see you; but I couldn't tell whether 'twas you, or Judith. I believe I shan't see you much longer, Hist."
"Sorry for that, poor Hetty. Never mind — pale-face got a heaven for girl as well as for warrior."
"Where's the Serpent? Let me speak to him; give me his hand; so; I feel it. Delaware, you will love and cherish this young Indian woman — I know how fond she is of you; you must be fond of her. Don't treat her as some of your people treat their wives; be a real husband to her. Now, bring Deerslayer near me; give me his hand."
This request was complied with, and the hunter stood by the side of the pallet, submitting to the wishes of the girl with the docility of a child.
"I feel, Deerslayer," she resumed, "though I couldn't tell why-but I feel that you and I are not going to part for ever. 'Tis a strange feeling! I never had it before; I wonder what it comes from!"
"'Tis God encouraging you in extremity, Hetty; as such it ought to be harbored and respected. Yes, we shall meet ag'in, though it may be a long time first, and in a far distant land."
"Do you mean to be buried in the lake, too? If so, that may account for the feeling."
"'Tis little likely, gal; 'tis little likely; but there's a region for Christian souls, where there's no lakes, nor woods, they say; though why there should be none of the last, is more than I can account for; seeing that pleasantness and peace is the object in view. My grave will be found in the forest, most likely, but I hope my spirit will not be far from your'n."
"So it must be, then. I am too weak-minded to understand these things, but I feel that you and I will meet again. Sister, where are you? I can't see, now, anything but darkness. It must be night, surely!"
"Oh! Hetty, I am here at your side; these are my arms that are around you," sobbed Judith. "Speak, dearest; is there anything you wish to say, or have done, in this awful moment."
By this time Hetty's sight had entirely failed her. Nevertheless death approached with less than usual of its horrors, as if in tenderness to one of her half-endowed faculties. She was pale as a corpse, but her breathing was easy and unbroken, while her voice, though lowered almost to a whisper, remained clear and distinct. When her sister put this question, however, a blush diffused itself over the features of the dying girl, so faint however as to be nearly imperceptible; resembling that hue of the rose which is thought to portray the tint of modesty, rather than the dye of the flower in its richer bloom. No one but Judith detected this exposure of feeling, one of the gentle expressions of womanly sensibility, even in death. On her, however, it was not lost, nor did she conceal from herself the cause.
"Hurry is here, dearest Hetty," whispered the sister, with her face so near the sufferer as to keep the words from other ears. "Shall I tell him to come and receive your good wishes?"
A gentle pressure of the hand answered in the affirmative. Then Hurry was brought to the side of the pallet. It is probable that this handsome but rude woodsman had never before found himself so awkwardly placed, though the inclination which Hetty felt for him (a sort of secret yielding to the instincts of nature, rather than any unbecoming impulse of an ill-regulated imagination), was too pure and unobtrusive to have created the slightest suspicion of the circumstance in his mind. He allowed Judith to put his hard colossal hand between those of Hetty, and stood waiting the result in awkward silence.
"This is Hurry, dearest," whispered Judith, bending over her sister, ashamed to utter the words so as to be audible to herself. "Speak to him, and let him go."
"What shall I say, Judith?"
"Nay, whatever your own pure spirit teaches, my love. Trust to that, and you need fear nothing."
"Good bye, Hurry," murmured the girl, with a gentle pressure of his hand. "I wish you would try and be more like Deerslayer."
These words were uttered with difficulty; a faint flush succeeded them for a single instant. Then the hand was relinquished, and Hetty turned her face aside, as if done with the world. The mysterious feeling that bound her to the young man, a sentiment so gentle as to be almost imperceptible to herself, and which could never have existed at all, had her reason possessed more command over her senses, was forever lost in thoughts of a more elevated, though scarcely of a purer character.
"Of what are you thinking, my sweet sister?" whispered Judith "Tell me, that I may aid you at this moment."
"Mother — I see Mother, now, and bright beings around her in the lake. Why isn't father there? It's odd that I can see Mother, when I can't see you! Farewell, Judith."
The last words were uttered after a pause, and her sister had hung over her some time, in anxious watchfulness, before she perceived that the gentle spirit had departed. Thus died Hetty Hutter, one of those mysterious links between the material and immaterial world, which, while they appear to be deprived of so much that it is esteemed and necessary for this state of being, draw so near to, and offer so beautiful an illustration of the truth, purity, and simplicity of another.