"You never said truer syllable, old Tom," retorted Hurry, who smarted under Judith's observations; "the devil-tongued youngsters of the garrison have proved her undoing! I scarce know Jude any longer, and shall soon take to admiring her sister, who is getting to be much more to my fancy."
"I'm glad to hear this, Harry, and look upon it as a sign that you're coming to your right senses. Hetty would make a much safer and more rational companion than Jude, and would be much the most likely to listen to your suit, as the officers have, I greatly fear, unsettled her sister's mind."
"No man needs a safer wife than Hetty," said Hurry, laughing, "though I'll not answer for her being of the most rational. But no matter; Deerslayer has not misconceived me, when he told you I should be found at my post. I'll not quit you, Uncle Tom, just now, whatever may be my feelin's and intentions respecting your eldest darter."
Hurry had a respectable reputation for prowess among his associates, and Hutter heard this pledge with a satisfaction that was not concealed. Even the great personal strength of such an aid became of moment, in moving the ark, as well as in the species of hand-to-hand conflicts, that were not unfrequent in the woods; and no commander who was hard pressed could feel more joy at hearing of the arrival of reinforcements, than the borderer experienced at being told this important auxiliary was not about to quit him. A minute before, Hutter would have been well content to compromise his danger, by entering into a compact to act only on the defensive; but no sooner did he feel some security on this point, than the restlessness of man induced him to think of the means of carrying the war into the enemy's country.
"High prices are offered for scalps on both sides." he observed, with a grim smile, as if he felt the force of the inducement, at the very time he wished to affect a superiority to earning money by means that the ordinary feelings of those who aspire to be civilized men repudiated, even while they were adopted. "It isn't right, perhaps, to take gold for human blood; and yet, when mankind is busy in killing one another, there can be no great harm in adding a little bit of skin to the plunder. What's your sentiments, Hurry, touching these p'ints?"
"That you've made a vast mistake, old man, in calling savage blood human blood, at all. I think no more of a red-skin's scalp than I do of a pair of wolf's ears; and would just as lief finger money for the one as for the other. With white people 't is different, for they've a nat'ral avarsion to being scalped; whereas your Indian shaves his head in readiness for the knife, and leaves a lock of hair by way of braggadocio, that one can lay hold of in the bargain."
"That's manly, however, and I felt from the first that we had only to get you on our side, to have your heart and hand," returned Tom, losing all his reserve, as he gained a renewed confidence in the disposition of his companions. "Something more may turn up from this inroad of the red-skins than they bargained for. Deerslayer, I conclude you're of Hurry's way of thinking, and look upon money 'arned in this way as being as likely to pass as money 'arned in trapping or hunting."
"I've no such feelin', nor any wish to harbor it, not I," returned the other. "My gifts are not scalpers' gifts, but such as belong to my religion and color. I'll stand by you, old man, in the ark or in the castle, the canoe or the woods, but I'll not unhumanize my natur' by falling into ways that God intended for another race. If you and Hurry have got any thoughts that lean towards the colony's gold, go by yourselves in s'arch of it, and leave the females to my care. Much as I must differ from you both on all gifts that do not properly belong to a white man, we shall agree that it is the duty of the strong to take care of the weak, especially when the last belong to them that natur' intended man to protect and console by his gentleness and strength."
"Hurry Harry, that is a lesson you might learn and practise on to some advantage," said the sweet, but spirited voice of Judith, from the cabin; a proof that she had over-heard all that had hitherto been said.
"No more of this, Jude," called out the father angrily. "Move farther off; we are about to talk of matters unfit for a woman to listen to."
Hutter did not take any steps, however, to ascertain whether he was obeyed or not; but dropping his voice a little, he pursued the discourse.
"The young man is right, Hurry," he said; "and we can leave the children in his care. Now, my idea is just this; and I think you'll agree that it is rational and correct. There's a large party of these savages on shore and, though I didn't tell it before the girls, for they're womanish, and apt to be troublesome when anything like real work is to be done, there's women among 'em. This I know from moccasin prints; and 't is likely they are hunters, after all, who have been out so long that they know nothing of the war, or of the bounties."
"In which case, old Tom, why was their first salute an attempt to cut our throats?"
"We don't know that their design was so bloody. It's natural and easy for an Indian to fall into ambushes and surprises; and, no doubt they wished to get on board the ark first, and to make their conditions afterwards. That a disapp'inted savage should fire at us, is in rule; and I think nothing of that. Besides, how often they burned me out, and robbed my traps — ay, and pulled trigger on me, in the most peaceful times?"
"The blackguards will do such things, I must allow; and we pay 'em off pretty much in their own c'ine. Women would not be on the war-path, sartainly; and, so far, there's reason in your idee."
"Nor would a hunter be in his war-paint," returned Deerslayer. "I saw the Mingos, and know that they are out on the trail of mortal men; and not for beaver or deer."
"There you have it ag'in, old fellow," said Hurry. "In the way of an eye, now, I'd as soon trust this young man, as trust the oldest settler in the colony; if he says paint, why paint it was."
"Then a hunting-party and a war-party have met, for women must have been with 'em. It's only a few days since the runner went through with the tidings of the troubles; and it may be that warriors have come out to call in their women and children, to get an early blow."
"That would stand the courts, and is just the truth," cried Hurry; "you've got it now, old Tom, and I should like to hear what you mean to make out of it."
"The bounty," returned the other, looking up at his attentive companion in a cool, sullen manner, in which, however, heartless cupidity and indifference to the means were far more conspicuous than any feelings of animosity or revenge.
"If there's women, there's children; and big and little have scalps; the colony pays for all alike."
"More shame to it, that it should do so," interrupted Deerslayer; "more shame to it, that it don't understand its gifts, and pay greater attention to the will of God."
"Hearken to reason, lad, and don't cry out afore you understand a case," returned the unmoved Hurry; "the savages scalp your fri'nds, the Delawares, or Mohicans whichever they may be, among the rest; and why shouldn't we scalp? I will own, it would be ag'in right for you and me now, to go into the settlements and bring out scalps, but it's a very different matter as concerns Indians. A man shouldn't take scalps, if he isn't ready to be scalped, himself, on fitting occasions. One good turn desarves another, the world over. That's reason, and I believe it to be good religion."
"Ay, Master Hurry," again interrupted the rich voice of Judith, "is it religion to say that one bad turn deserves another?"
"I'll never reason ag'in you, Judy, for you beat me with beauty, if you can't with sense. Here's the Canadas paying their Injins for scalps, and why not we pay-"