James Fenimore Cooper.

The deerslayer : a tale (Volume 2) online

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PS I toft











" What Terrors round him wait !
Amazement in his van, with Flight combined,
And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind."








"The great King of kings
Hath in the table of his law commanded,
That thou shalt do no murder.
Take heed ; for he holds vengeance in his hand,
To hurl upon their heads that break his law."


THAT the party to which Hist compulsorily
belonged was not one that was regularly on the
war-path, was evident by the presence of
females. It was a small fragment of a tribe
that had been hunting and fishing within the
English limits, where it was found by the
commencement of hostilities, and, after passing
the winter and spring by living on what was
strictly the property of its enemies, it chose to
strike a hostile blow before it finally retired. There
was also deep Indian sagacity in the manosuvre



which had led them so far into the territory of
their foes. When the runner arrived who
announced the breaking out of hostilities be
tween the English and French a struggle that
was certain to carry with it all the tribes that dwelt
within the influence of the respective bellige
rents this particular party of the Iroquois were
posted on the shores of the Oneida, a lake that
lies some fifty miles nearer to their own frontier
than that which is the scene of our tale. To
have fled in a direct line for the Canadas would
have exposed them to the dangers of a direct
pursuit; and the chiefs had determined to
adopt the expedient of penetrating deeper into
a region that had now become dangerous, in
the hope of being able to retire in the rear of
their pursuers, instead of having them on their
trail. The presence of the women had induced
the attempt at this ruse ; the strength of these
feebler members of the party being unequal to
the effort of escaping from the pursuit of
warriors. When the reader remembers the
vast extent of the American wilderness, at that
early day, he will perceive that it was possible
for even a tribe to remain months undiscovered
in particular portions of it ; nor was the
danger of encountering a foe, the usual pre-


cautions being observed, as great in the woods,
as it is on the high seas in a time of active

The encampment being temporary, it offered
to the eye no more than the rude protection of
a bivouac, relieved in some slight degree by the
ingenious expedients which suggested themselves
to the readiness of those who passed their lives
amid similar scenes. One fire, that had been
kindled against the roots of a living oak, sufficed
for the whole party; the weather being too
mild to require it for any purpose but cooking.
Scattered around this centre of attraction were
some fifteen or twenty low huts perhaps
kennels would be a better word into which
their different owners crept at night, and which
were also intended to meet the exigencies of
a storm. These little huts were made of the
branches of trees, put together with some
ingenuity, and they were uniformly topped
with bark that had been stripped from fallen
trees; of which every virgin forest possesses
hundreds in all stages of decay. Of furniture,
they had next to none. Cooking utensils of
the simplest sort were lying near the fire; a
few articles of clothing were to be seen in, or
around the huts; rifles, horns, and pouches

B 2


leaned against the trees, or were suspended
from the lower branches ; and the carcases of
two or three deer were stretched to view on the
same natural shambles.

As the encampment was in the midst of a
dense wood, the eye could not take in its tout
ensemble at a glance ; but hut after hut started
out of the gloomy picture, as one gazed about
him in quest of objects. There was no centre,
unless the fire might be so considered no
open area where the possessors of this rude
village might congregate ; but all was concealed,
dark, covert, and cunning, like its owners. A
few children strayed from hut to hut, giving
the spot a little the air of domestic life ; and
the suppressed laugh, and low voices of the
women occasionally broke in upon the deep
stillness of the sombre forest. As for the men,
they either ate, slept, or examined their arms.
They conversed but little, and then usually
apart, or in groups withdrawn from the females ;
whilst an air of untiring, innate watchfulness
and apprehension of danger seemed to be
blended even with their slumbers.

As the two girls came near the encampment,
Hetty uttered a slight exclamation, on catching
a view of the person of her father. He was


seated on the ground with his back to a tree,
and Hurry stood near him, indolently whittling
a twig. Apparently they were as much at
liberty as any others in or about the camp ;
and one unaccustomed to Indian usages would
have mistaken them for visitors, instead of
supposing them to be captives. Wah-ta !-Wah
led her new friend quite near them, and then
modestly withdrew, that her own presence
might be no restraint on her feelings. But
Hetty was not sufficiently familiar with ca
resses, or outward demonstrations of fondness,
to indulge in any outbreaking of feeling. She
merely approached and stood at her father's
side without speaking, resembling a silent
statue of filial affection. The old man ex
pressed neither alarm, nor surprise at her
sudden appearance. In these particulars he
had caught the stoicism of the Indians ; well
knowing that there was no more certain mode
of securing their respect than by imitating their
self-command. Nor did the savages themselves
betray the least sign of emotion at this sudden
appearance of a stranger among -them. In a
word, this arrival produced much less visible
sensation, though occurring under circum
stances so peculiar, than would be seen in a


village of higher pretensions to civilization, did
an ordinary traveller drive up to the door of its
principal inn. Still a few warriors collected, and it
was evident, by the manner in which they glanced
at Hetty as they conversed together, that she
was the subject of their discourse, and probably
that the reasons of her unlooked-for appearance
were matters of discussion. This phlegm of
manner is characteristic of the North American
Indian some say of his white successor also
but, in this case, much should be attributed to
the peculiar situation in which the party was
placed. The force in the ark, the presence of
Chingachgook excepted, was well known, no
tribe or body of troops was believed to be near,
and vigilant eyes were posted round the entire
lake, watching day and night, the slightest
movement of those whom it would not be
exaggerated now to term the besieged.

Hutter was inwardly much moved by the
conduct of Hetty, though he affected so much
indifference of manner. He recollected her
gentle appeal to him, before he left the ark,
and misfortune rendered that of weight, which
might have been forgotten amid the triumph of
success. Then he knew the simple, single-
hearted fidelity of this child, and understood


why she had come, and the total disregard of
self that reigned in all her acts.

" This is not well, Hetty,'' he said, deprecat
ing the consequences to the girl herself, more
than any other evil. " These are fierce Iro-
quois, and as little apt to forget an injury, as a

" Tell me, father," returned the girl, looking
furtively about her, as if fearful of being over
heard, " did God let you do the cruel errand
on which you came ? I want much to know
this, that I may speak to the Indians plainly,
if he did not."

" You should not have come hither, Hetty ;
these brutes will not understand your nature,
or your intentions !"

" How was it, father ? neither you, nor Hurry
seem to have any thing that looks like scalps."

" If that will set your mind at peace, child,
I can answer you, no. I had caught the young
creatur' who came here with you, but her
screeches soon brought down upon me a troop
of the wild-cats, that was too much for any
single Christian to withstand. If that will do
you any good, we are as innocent of having
taken a scalp this time, as I make no doubt
we shall also be innocent of receiving the


" Thank you for that, father ! Now I can
speak boldly to the Iroquois, and with an easy
conscience. I hope, Hurry too, has not been
able to harm any of the Indians ?"

" Why, as to that matter, Hetty," returned
the individual in question, "you J ve put it
pretty much in the natz/ve character of the
religious truth. Hurry has not been able, and
that is the long and short of it. I've seen
many squalls, old fellow, both on land and on
the water, but never did I feel one as lively and
as snappish as that which come down upon us,
night afore last, in the shape of an Indian
hurrah-boys ! Why, Hetty, you're no great
matter at a reason, or an idee that lies a little
deeper than common ; but you're human, and
have some human notions ; now, I'll just ask
you to look at these circumstances. Here was
old Tom, your father, and myself, bent on a legal
operation, as is to be seen in the words of the
law and the proclamation, thinking no harm ;
when we were set upon by critturs that were
more like a pack of hungry wolves, than mortal
savages even, and there they had us tethered
like two sheep, in less time than it has taken
me to tell you the story.' 5

u You are free now, Hurry," returned Hetty,
glancing timidly at the fine unfettered limbs of


the young giant. "You have no cords, or
withes, to pain your arms, or legs, now."

" Not I, Hetty. Natur' is natur', and free
dom is natur/ too. My limbs have a free
look, but that's pretty much the amount of it,
sin' I can't use them in the way I should like.
Even these trees have eyes ; ay, and tongues,
too ; for was the old man here, or I, to
start one single rod beyond our gaol limits,
sarvice would be put on the bail afore we could
* gird up our loins 5 for a race ; and, like as not,
four or five rifle-bullets would be travelling
after us, carrying so many invitations to curb
our impatience. There isn't a gaol in the
Colony as tight as this we are now in ; for I've
tried the vartue of two or three on 'em, and
I know the mater'als they are made of, as
well as the men that made 'em ; takin' down
being the next step in schoolin' to puttin' up,
in all such fabrications."

Lest the reader should get an exaggerated
opinion of Hurry's demerits, from this boastful
and indiscreet revelation, it may be well to
say that his offences were confined to assaults
and batteries, for several of which he had been
imprisoned, when, as he has just said, he often
escaped by demonstrating the flimsiness of the

B 3


constructions in whichhe was confined, by open
ing for himself doors, in spots where the
architects had neglected to place them But
Hetty had no knowledge of gaols, and little of
the nature of crime, beyond what her unadul
terated and almost instinctive perceptions of
right and wrong taught her, and this sally of
the rude being who had spoken, was lost upon
her. She understood his general meaning,
however, and answered in reference to that

" It's so best, Hurry," she said. " It is best
father and you should be quiet and peaceable
till I have spoken to the Iroquois, when all will
be well and happy. I don't wish either of you
to follow, but leave me to myself. As soon as
all is settled, and you are at liberty to go back
to the castle, I will come and let you know

Hetty spoke with so much simple earnest
ness, seemed so confident of success, and
wore so high an air of moral feeling and truth,
that both the listeners felt more disposed to
attach an importance to her mediation, than
might otherwise have happened. When she
manifested an intention to quit them, therefore,
they offered no obstacle, though they saw she


was about to join the group of chiefs who
were consulting apart, seemingly on the man
ner and motive of her own sudden appearance.
When Hist for so we love best to call her
^quitted her companion, she strayed near
one or two of the elder warriors, who had
shown her most kindness in her captivity,-
the principal man of whom, had even offered
to adopt her as his child, if she would consent
to become a Huron. In taking this direction,
the shrewd girl did so to invite inquiry. She
was too well trained in the habits of her people
to obtrude the opinions of one of her sex and
years on men and warriors; but nature had
furnished a tact and ingenuity that enabled her
to attract the attention she desired, without
wounding the pride of those whom it was her
duty to defer to and respect. Even her affected
indifference stimulated curiosity ; and Hetty
had hardly reached the side of her father, be
fore the Delaware girl was brought within the
circle of the warriors by a secret but significant
gesture. Here she was questioned as to the
presence of her companion, and the motives
that had brought her to the camp. This was all
that Hist desired. She explained the manner
in which she had detected the weakness of


Hetty's reason, rather exaggerating than less
ening the deficiency in her intellect ; and then
she related, in general terms, the object of the
girl in venturing among her enemies. The
effect was all that the speaker expected ; her
account investing the person and character of
their visitor with a sacredness and respect that
she well knew would prove her protection.
As soon as her own purpose was attained,
Hist withdrew to a distance, where, with female
consideration, and a sisterly tenderness, she
set about the preparation of a meal that was
to be offered to her new friend, as soon as
the latter might be at liberty to partake of it.
While thus occupied, however, the ready girl
in no degree relaxed in her watchfulness ;
noting every change of countenance among
the chiefs, every movement of Hetty, and the
smaller occurrences that could be likely to
affect her own interests, or that of her new

As Hetty approached the chiefs, they opened
their little circle, with an ease and deference of
manner that would have done credit to men of
more courtly origin. A fallen tree lay near,
and the oldest of the warriors made a quiet
sign for the girl to be seated on it, taking his


place at her side with the gentleness of a father.
The others arranged themselves around the
two with grave dignity ; and then the girl, who
had sufficient observation to perceive that such
a course was expected of her, began to reveal
the object of her visit. The moment she opened
her mouth to speak, however, the old chief
gave a gentle sign for her to forbear, said a few
words to one of his juniors, and then waited in
silent patience until the latter had summoned
Hist to the party. This interruption pro
ceeded from the chiefs having discovered that
there existed a necessity for an interpreter ;
few of the Hurons present understanding
the English language, and they but imper

Wah-ta !-Wah was not sorry to be called
upon to be present at the interview, and least
of all in the character in which she was now
wanted. She was aware of the hazards she
ran in attempting to deceive one or two of the
party ; but was none the less resolved to use
every means that offered, and to practise every
artifice that an Indian education could supply,
to conceal the facts of the vicinity of her
betrothed, and of the errand on which he had
come. One unpractised in the expedients and


opinions of savage life, would not have sus
pected the readiness of invention, the wariness
of action, the high resolution, the noble im
pulses, the deep self-devotion, and the feminine
disregard of self, where the affections were
concerned, that lay concealed beneath the
demure looks, the rnild eye, and the sunny
smiles of this young Indian beauty. As she
approached them, the grim old warrior regarded
her with pleasure ; for they had a secret pride
in the hope of engrafting so rare a scion on the
stock of their own nation ; adoption being as
regularly practised, and as distinctly recognized
among the tribes of America, as it ever had
been among those nations that submit to the
sway of the civil law.

As soon as Hist was seated by the side of
Hetty, the old chief desired her to ask " the
fair young pale-face" what had brought her
among the Iroquois, and what they could do to
serve her.

" Tell them, Hist, who I am Thomas Hut-
ter's youngest daughter ; Thomas H utter, the
oldest of their two prisoners ; he who owns the
castle and the ark, and who has the best right
to be thought the owner of these hills, and that
lake, since he has dwelt so long, and trapped


so long, and fished so long, among them.
They'll know whom you mean by Thomas
H utter, if you tell them that. And then tell
them that I've come here to convince them
they ought not to harm father and Hurry, but
let them go in peace, and to treat them as
brothers rather than as enemies. Now tell
them all this plainly, Hist, and fear nothing for
yourself or me ; God will protect us."

Wah-ta !-Wah did as the other desired ;
taking care to render the words of her friend as
literally as possible into the Iroquois tongue, a
language she used with a readiness almost
equal to that with which she spoke her own.
The chiefs heard this opening explanation, with
grave decorum ; the two who had a little know
ledge of English, intimating their satisfaction
with the interpreter, by furtive but significant
glances of the eyes.

" And now, Hist," continued Hetty, as soon
as it was intimated to her that she might pro
ceed ; " and now, Hist, I wish you to tell
these red men, word for word, what I am about
to say. Tell them first, that father and Hurry
came here with an intention to take as many
scalps as they could ; for the wicked governor
and the province have offered money for


scalps ; whether of warriors or women, men or
children ; and the love of gold was too strong
for their hearts to withstand it. Tell them
this, dear Hist, just as you have heard it from
me, word for word."

Wah-ta !-Wah hesitated about rendering this
speech as literally as had been desired ; but
detecting the intelligence of those who under
stood English, and apprehending even a
greater knowledge than they actually possessed,
she found herself compelled to comply. Con
trary to what a civilized man would have ex
pected, the admission of the motives and of the
errands of their prisoners, produced no visible
effect on either the countenance or the feelings
of the listeners. They probably considered
the act meritorious, and that which neither of
them would have hesitated to perform in his
own person, he would not be apt to censure in

" And now, Hist/' resumed Hetty, as soon
as she perceived that her first speeches were
understood by the chiefs ; " you can tell them
more. They know that father and Hurry did
not succeed ; and therefore they can bear them
no grudge for any harm that has been done.
If they had slain their children and wives, it


would not alter the matter ; and I'm not cer
tain that what I am about to tell them would
not have more weight had there been mischief
done. But ask them first. Hist, if they know
there is a God who reigns over the whole
earth, and is ruler and chief of all who live,
let them be red or white, or what colour they
may ?

Wah-ta !-Wah looked a little surprised at
this question ;* for the idea of the Great Spirit
is seldom long absent from the mind of an
Indian girl. She put the question as literally
as possible, however, and received a grave
answer in the affirmative.

" This is right/' continued Hetty, " and my
duty will now be light. This Great Spirit, as
you call our God, has caused a book to be
written, that we call a Bible ; and in this book
have been set down all his commandments,
and his holy will and pleasure, and the rules
by which all men are to live, and directions
how to govern the thoughts even, and the
wishes, and the will. Here, this is one of these
holy books, and you must tell the chiefs what
I am about to read to them from its sacred

As Hetty concluded, she reverently unrolled


a small English Bible from its envelope of
coarse calico, treating the volume with the sort
of external respect that a Romanist would be
apt to show to a religious relic. As she slowly
proceeded in her task, the grim warriors
watched each movement with riveted eyes ;
and when they saw the little volume appear,
a slight expression of surprise escaped one or
two of them. But Hetty held it out towards
them in triumph, as if she expected the sight
would produce a visible miracle; and then,
without betraying either surprise or mortifica
tion at the stoicism of the Indian, she turned
eagerly to her new friend, in order to renew
the discourse.

" This is the sacred volume, Hist/' she said,
" and these words, and lines, and verses, and
chapters, all came from God!"

Why the Great Spirit no send book to
Indian, too ?" demanded Hist, with the direct
ness of a mind that was totally unsophisticated.

" Why }" answered Hetty, a little bewil
dered by a question so unexpected. " Why ?
Ah ! you know the Indians don't know how
to read. 3 '

If Hist was not satisfied with this explana
tion, she did not deem the point of sufficient


importance to be pressed. Simply bending
her body in gentle admission of the truth of
what she heard, she sat patiently awaiting
the further arguments of the pale-face en

" You can tell these chiefs, that throughout
this book, men are ordered to forgive their
enemies, to treat them as they would brethren,
and never to injure their fellow-creatures, more
especially on account of revenge or any evil
passion. Do you think you can tell them this,
so that they will understand it, Hist?' 5

" Tell him well enough ; but he no very
easy to understand.' 3 *

Hist then conveyed the ideas of Hetty, in
the best manner she could, to the attentive
Indians, who heard her words with some such
surprise as an American of our own times
would be apt to betray at a suggestion that
the great modern but vacillating ruler of things
human, public opinion, might be wrong. One
or two of their number, however, having met
with missionaries said a few words in explana
tion, and then the group gave all its attention
to the communications that were to follow.
Before Hetty resumed, she inquired earnestly
of Hist if the chiefs had understood her, and


receiving an evasive answer, was fain to be

" I will now read to the warriors some of the
verses that it is good for them to know/' con
tinued the girl, whose manner grew more
solemn and earnest as she proceeded ; " and
they will remember that they are the very
words of the Great Spirit. First, then, ye are
commanded to e Love thy neighbour as thyself'
Tell them that, dear Hist."

" Neighbour for Indian, no mean pale-face, "
answered the Delaware girl, with more decision
than she had hitherto thought it necessary to
use. " Neighbour mean Iroquois for Iroquois,
Mohican for Mohican, pale-face for pale-face.
No need tell chief any thing else/'

" You forget, Hist, these are the words of
the Great Spirit, and the chiefs must obey them
as well as others. Here is another command
ment : ' Whosoever shall smite ihee on the right
cheek, turn to him the other also. 3 '

" What that mean ?" demanded Hist with
the quickness of lightning.

Hetty explained that it was an order not to
resent injuries, but rather to submit to receive
fresh wrongs from the offender.

" And hear this, too, Hist/* she added,


" e Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you, and pray for
them which despitefully use you and persecute

By this time Hetty had become excited ;
her eye gleamed with the earnestness of her

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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe deerslayer : a tale (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 17)