"I rejoice to hear this, Deerslayer," returned Judith, "and now we are joined by your friend, I make no manner of question that we shall find an opportunity to ransom the prisoners. If there are any women in the camp, I have articles of dress that will catch their eyes, and, should the worst come to the worst, we can open the great chest, which I think will be found to hold things that may tempt the chiefs."
"Judith," said the young man, looking up at her with a smile and an expression of earnest curiosity, that in spite of the growing obscurity did not escape the watchful looks of the girl, "can you find it in your heart, to part with your own finery, to release prisoners; even though one be your own father, and the other is your sworn suitor and lovyer?"
The flush on the face of the girl arose in part from resentment, but more perhaps from a gentler and a novel feeling, that, with the capricious waywardness of taste, had been rapidly rendering her more sensitive to the good opinion of the youth who questioned her, than to that of any other person. Suppressing the angry sensation, with instinctive quickness, she answered with a readiness and truth, that caused her sister to draw near to listen, though the obtuse intellect of the latter was far from comprehending the workings of a heart as treacherous, as uncertain, and as impetuous in its feelings, as that of the spoiled and flattered beauty.
"Deerslayer," answered Judith, after a moment's pause, "I shall be honest with you. I confess that the time has been when what you call finery, was to me the dearest thing on earth; but I begin to feel differently. Though Hurry Harry is nought to me nor ever can be, I would give all I own to set him free. If I would do this for blustering, bullying, talking Hurry, who has nothing but good looks to recommend him, you may judge what I would do for my own father."
"This sounds well, and is according to woman's gifts. Ah's, me! The same feelin's is to be found among the young women of the Delawares. I've known 'em, often and often, sacrifice their vanity to their hearts. Tis as it should be — 'tis as it should be I suppose, in both colours. Woman was created for the feelin's, and is pretty much ruled by feelin'."
"Would the savages let father go, if Judith and I give them all our best things?" demanded Hetty, in her innocent, mild, manner.
"Their women might interfere, good Hetty; yes, their women might interfere with such an ind in view. But, tell me, Sarpent, how is it as to squaws among the knaves; have they many of their own women in the camp?"
The Delaware heard and understood all that passed, though with Indian gravity and finesse he had sat with averted face, seemingly inattentive to a discourse in which he had no direct concern. Thus appealed to, however, he answered his friend in his ordinary sententious manner.
"Six — " he said, holding up all the fingers of one hand, and the thumb of the other, "besides this." The last number denoted his betrothed, whom, with the poetry and truth of nature, he described by laying his hand on his own heart.
"Did you see her, chief — did you get a glimpse of her pleasant countenance, or come close enough to her ear, to sing in it the song she loves to hear?"
"No, Deerslayer — the trees were too many, and leaves covered their boughs like clouds hiding' the heavens in a storm. But" — and the young warrior turned his dark face towards his friend, with a smile on it that illuminated its fierce-looking paint and naturally stern lineaments with a bright gleam of human feeling, "Chingachgook heard the laugh of Wah-ta-Wah, and knew it from the laugh of the women of the Iroquois. It sounded in his ears, like the chirp of the wren."
"Ay, trust a lovyer's ear for that, and a Delaware's ear for all sounds that are ever heard in the woods. I know not why it is so, Judith, but when young men — and I dares to say it may be all the same with young women, too — but when they get to have kind feelin's towards each other, it's wonderful how pleasant the laugh, or the speech becomes, to the other person. I've seen grim warriors listening to the chattering and the laughing of young gals, as if it was church music, such as is heard in the old Dutch church that stands in the great street of Albany, where I've been, more than once, with peltry and game."
"And you, Deerslayer," said Judith quickly, and with more sensibility than marked her usually light and thoughtless manner, — "have you never felt how pleasant it is to listen to the laugh of the girl you love?"
"Lord bless you gal! — Why I've never lived enough among my own colour to drop into them sort of feelin's, — no never! I dares to say, they are nat'ral and right, but to me there's no music so sweet as the sighing of the wind in the tree tops, and the rippling of a stream from a full, sparkling, natyve fountain of pure forest water — unless, indeed," he continued, dropping his head for an instant in a thoughtful manner — "unless indeed it be the open mouth of a sartain hound, when I'm on the track of a fat buck. As for unsartain dogs, I care little for their cries, seein' they are as likely to speak when the deer is not in sight, as when it is."
Judith walked slowly and pensively away, nor was there any of her ordinary calculating coquetry in the light tremulous sigh that, unconsciously to herself, arose to her lips. On the other hand Hetty listened with guileless attention, though it struck her simple mind as singular that the young man should prefer the melody of the woods, to the songs of girls, or even to the laugh of innocence and joy. Accustomed, however, to defer in most things to her sister, she soon followed Judith into the cabin, where she took a seat and remained pondering intensely over some occurrence, or resolution, or opinion — which was a secret to all but herself. Left alone, Deerslayer and his friend resumed their discourse.
"Has the young pale-face hunter been long on this lake?" demanded the Delaware, after courteously waiting for the other to speak first.
"Only since yesterday noon, Sarpent, though that has been long enough to see and do much." The gaze that the Indian fastened on his companion was so keen that it seemed to mock the gathering darkness of the night. As the other furtively returned his look, he saw the two black eyes glistening on him, like the balls of the panther, or those of the penned wolf. He understood the meaning of this glowing gaze, and answered evasively, as he fancied would best become the modesty of a white man's gifts.
"'Tis as you suspect, Sarpent; yes, 'tis somewhat that-a-way. I have fell in with the inimy, and I suppose it may be said I've fou't them, too."
An exclamation of delight and exultation escaped the Indian, and then laying his hand eagerly on the arm of his friend, he asked if there were any scalps taken.
"That I will maintain in the face of all the Delaware tribe, old Tamenund, and your own father the great Uncas, as well as the rest, is ag'in white gifts! My scalp is on my head, as you can see, Sarpent, and that was the only scalp that was in danger, when one side was altogether Christian and white."
"Did no warrior fall? — Deerslayer did not get his name by being slow of sight, or clumsy with the rifle!"
"In that particular, chief, you're nearer reason, and therefore nearer being right. I may say one Mingo fell."
"A chief!" demanded the other with startling vehemence.
"Nay, that's more than I know, or can say. He was artful, and treacherous, and stout-hearted, and may well have gained popularity enough with his people to be named to that rank. The man fou't well, though his eye was'n't quick enough for one who had had his schooling in your company, Delaware."
"My brother and friend struck the body?"
"That was uncalled for, seeing that the Mingo died in my arms. The truth may as well be said, at once; he fou't like a man of red gifts, and I fou't like a man with gifts of my own colour. God gave me the victory; I coul'n't fly in the face of his Providence by forgetting my birth and natur'. White he made me, and white I shall live and die."
"Good! Deerslayer is a pale-face, and has pale-face hands. A Delaware will look for the scalp, and hang it on a pole, and sing a song in his honour, when we go back to our people. The glory belongs to the tribe; it must not be lost."
"This is easy talking, but 'twill not be as easy doing. The Mingo's body is in the hands of his fri'nds and, no doubt, is hid in some hole where Delaware cunning will never be able to get at the scalp."