James Fenimore Cooper.

The deerslayer : a tale (Volume 3) online

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L O .V D O N :






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







" Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that's gone.
And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him ;
But nothing he'll reck, if they'll let him sleep on,
In the grave where a Briton has laid him."


THE reader must imagine the horror that
daughters would experience at unexpectedly be
holding the shocking spectacle that was placed
before the eyes of Judith and Esther, as related
in the close of the last chapter. We shall pass
over the first emotions, the first acts of filial piety,
and proceed with the narrative, by imagining
rather than relating most of the revolting features
of the scene. The mutilated and ragged head was
bound up, the unseemly blood was wiped from
the face of the sufferer, the other appliances re
quired by appearances and care were resorted to,
and there was time to inquire into the more serious
circumstances of the case. The facts were never



known until years later, in all their details, simple

as they were ; but they may as well be related

here, as it can be done in a few words. In the

struggle with the Huron s, Flutter had been

stabbed by the knife of the old warrior, who had

used the discretion to remove the arms of every

one but himself. Being hard pushed by his

sturdy foe, his knife had settled the matter. This

occurred just as the door was opened, and Hurry

burst out upon the platform, as has been previously

related. This was the secret of neither party's

having appeared in the subsequent struggle;

Hutter having been literally disabled, and his

conqueror being ashamed to be seen with the

traces of blood about him, after having used so

many injunctions to convince his young warriors

of the necessity of taking their prisoners alive.

When the three Huron s returned from the chase,

and it was determined to abandon the castle, and

join the party on the land, Hutter was simply

scalped, to secure the usual trophy, and was left

to die by inches, as has been done in a thousand

similar instances, by the ruthless warriors of this

part of the American continent. Had the injury

of Hutter been confined to his head, he might

have recovered, however, for it was the blow of

the knife that proved mortal.

There are moments of vivid consciousness when


the stern justice of God stands forth in colours
so prominent, as to defy any attempts to veil them
from the sight, however unpleasant they may ap
pear, or however anxious we may be to avoid re
cognising it. Such was now the fact with Judith
and Hetty, who both perceived the decrees of a
retributive Providence, in the manner of their
father's suffering, as a punishment for his own
recent attempts on the Iroquois. This was seen
and felt by Judith, with the keenness of percep
tion and sensibility that were suited to her cha
racter ; while the impression made on the simpler
mind of her sister was perhaps less lively, though
it might well have proved more lasting.

" Oh! Judith," exclaimed the weak-minded
girl, as soon as their first care had been bestowed
on the sufferer. " Father went for scalps, him
self, and now where is his own ? The Bible might
have foretold this dreadful punishment !"

" Hush Hetty hush, poor sister he opens
his eyes ; he may hear and understand you. 'Tis
as you say and think ; but 'tis too dreadful to
speak of!"

" Water " ejaculated Hutter, as it might be
by a desperate effort, that rendered his voice
frightfully deep and strong, for one as near death
as he evidently was " water foolish girls will
you let me die of thirst ?"

B 2


Water was brought and administered to the
sufferer ; the first he had tasted in hours of phy
sical anguish. It had the double effect of clear
ing his throat, and of momentarily reviving his
sinking system. His eyes opened with that
anxious, distended gaze, which is apt to accom
pany the passage of a soul surprised by death,
and he seemed disposed to speak.

" Father " said Judith, inexpressibly pained
by his deplorable situation, and this so much the
more from her ignorance of what remedies ought
to be applied " Father, can we do any thing for
you ? Can Hetty and I relieve your pain ?"

" Father \" slowly repeated the old man. " No,
Judith no, Hetty I'm no father. She was
your mother, but I'm no father. Look in the
chest 'tis all there give me more water/'

The girls complied ; and Judith, whose early
recollections extended farther back than her
sister's, and who on every account, had more
distinct impressions of the past, felt an uncon
trollable impulse of joy, as she heard these words.
There had never been much sympathy between
her reputed father and herself, and suspicions of
this very truth had often glanced across her mind,
in consequence of dialogues she had overheard
between H utter and her mother. It might be
going too far to say she had never loved him ; but


it is not so to add, that she rejoiced it -was no
longer a duty. With Hetty the feeling was dif
ferent. Incapable of making all the distinctions of
her sister, her very nature was full of affection,
and she had loved her reputed parent, though far
less tenderly than the real parent ; and it grieved
her, now, to hear him declare he was not naturally
entitled to that love. She felt a double grief, as
if his death and his words together, were twice
depriving her of parents. Yielding to her feelings,
the poor girl went aside and wept.

The very opposite emotions of the two girls,
kept both silent for a long time. Judith gave
water to the sufferer frequently, but she forbore
to urge him with questions, in some measure out
of consideration for his condition ; but, if truth
must be said, quite as much lest something he
should add, in the way of explanation, might
disturb her pleasing belief that she was not
Thomas Butter's child. At length Hetty dried
her tears, and came and seated herself on a stool
by the side of the dying man, who had been
placed at his length on the floor, with his head
supported by some worn vestments that had been
left in the house.

" Father/' she said, " you will let me call you
father, though you say you are not one Father,
shall I read the Bible to you mother always said


the Bible was good for people in trouble. She
was often in trouble herself, and then she made
me read the Bible to her ; for Judith wasn't as
fond of the Bible as I am and it always did her
good. Many is the time I've known mother begin
to listen with the tears streaming from her eyes,
and end with smiles and gladness. Oh ! father,
you don't know how much good the Bible can do,
for you've never tried it ; now, I'll read a chapter
and it will soften your heart, as it softened the
hearts of the Hurons."

While poor Hetty had so much reverence for,
and faith in, the virtue of the Bible, her intellect
was too shallow to enable her fully to appreciate
its beauties, or to fathom its profound, and some
times mysterious wisdom. That instinctive sense
of right, which appeared to shield her from the
commission of wrong, and even cast a mantle of
moral loveliness and truth around her character,
could not penetrate abstrusities, or trace the nice
affinities between cause and effect, beyond their
more obvious and indisputable connection, though
she seldom failed to see all the latter, and to defer
to all their just consequences. In a word, she
was one of those who feel and act correctly, with
out being able to give a logical reason for it, even
admitting revelation as her authority. Her selec
tions from the Bible, therefore, were commonly


distinguished by the simplicity of her own mind,
and were oftener marked for containing images of
known and palpable things, than for any of the
higher cast of moral truths with which the pages
of that wonderful book abound wonderful, and
unequalled, even without referring to its divine
origin, as a work replete with the profoundest
philosophy, expressed in the noblest language.
Her mother, with a connection that will pro
bably strike the reader, had been fond of the
book of Job ; and Hetty had, in a great measure,
learned to read by the frequent lessons she had
received from the different chapters of this vene
rable and sublime poem now believed to be the
oldest book in the world. On this occasion,
the poor girl was submissive to her training,
and she turned to that well-known part of the
sacred volume, with the readiness with which
the practised counsel would cite his authorities
from the stores of legal wisdom. In selecting
the particular chapter, she was influenced by
the caption, and she chose that which stands
in our English version as, " Job excuseth his
desire of death" This she read steadily, from
beginning to end, in a sweet, low, and plaintive
voice; hoping devoutly that the allegorical and
abstruse sentences might convey to the heart
of the sufferer the consolation he needed. It


is another peculiarity of the comprehensive wis
dom of the Bible, that scarce a chapter, unless
it be strictly narrative, can be turned to that
does not contain some searching truth that is
applicable to the condition of every human
heart, as well as to the temporal state of its
owner, either through the workings of that heart,
or even in a still more direct form. In this
instance, the very opening sentence, " Is there
not an appointed time to man on earth T y was
startling; and as Hetty proceeded, Hutter ap
plied, or fancied he could apply many aphorisms
and figures to his own worldly and mental con
dition. As life is ebbing fast, the mind clings
eagerly to hope, when it is not absolutely crushed
by despair. The solemn words, " / have sin
ned -, what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver
of men ? Why hast thou set me as a mark against
thee, so that I am a burden to myself? struck
Hutter more perceptibly than the others ; and,
though too obscure for one of his blunted feel
ings and obtuse mind either to feel or to com
prehend in their fullest extent, they had a
directness of application to his own state that
caused him to wince under them.

" Don't you feel better now, father !" asked
Hetty, closing the volume. " Mother was al
ways better when she had read the Bible."


" Water/' returned Hutter ; " give me water,
Judith. I wonder if my tongue will always be
so hot ! Hetty, isn't there something in the
Bible about cooling the tongue of a man who
was burning in hell-fire ?"

Judith turned away, shocked ; but Hetty
eagerly sought the passage, which she read
aloud to the conscience-stricken victim of his
own avaricious longings.

" That's it, poor Hetty ; yes, that's it. My
tongue wants cooling, now ; what will it be here
after F*

This appeal silenced even the confiding Hetty,
for she had no answer ready for a confession
so fraught with despair. Water, so long as
it could relieve the sufferer, it was in the power
of the sisters to give ; and, from time to time,
it was offered to the lips of the sufferer as
he asked for it. Even Judith prayed. As for
Hetty, as soon as she found that her efforts
to make her father listen to her texts were no
longer rewarded with success, she knelt at his
side, and devoutly repeated the words which
the Saviour has left behind him as a model for
human petitions. This she continued to do, at
intervals, as long as it seemed to her that the
act could benefit the dying man. Hutter, how
ever, lingered longer than the girls had believed

B 3


possible, when they first found him. At times
he spoke intelligibly, though his lips oftener
moved in utterance of sounds that carried no
distinct impressions to the mind. Judith listened
intently, and she heard the words " husband,"
" death/' " pirate/' " law," " scalps," and se
veral others of a similar import, though there
was no sentence to tell the precise connection
in which they were used. Still they were suffi
ciently expressive to be understood by one
whose ears, had not escaped all the rumours
that had been circulated to her reputed father's
discredit, and whose comprehension was as quick
as her faculties were attentive.

During the whole of the painful hour that
succeeded, neither of the sisters bethought her
sufficiently of the Hurons to dread their return.
It seemed as if their desolation and grief placed
them above the danger of such an interrup
tion ; and when the sound of oars was at length
heard, even Judith, who alone had any reason
to apprehend the enemy, did not start, but at
once understood that the ark was near. She
went upon the platform fearlessly; for, should
it turn out that Hurry was not there, and that
the Hurons were masters of the scow, also,
escape was impossible. Then she had the sort
of confidence that is inspired by extreme misery.


But there was no cause for any new alarm
Chingachgook, Hist, and Hurry all standing in
the open part of the scow, cautiously examining
the building, to make certain of the absence
of the enemy. They, too, had seen the depar
ture of the Hurons, as well as the approach of
the canoe of the girls to the castle, and, presum
ing on the latter fact, March had swept the
scow up to the platform. A word sufficed to
explain that there was nothing to be apprehended,
and the ark was soon moored in her old berth.

Judith said not a word concerning the con
dition of her father, but Hurry knew her too
well not to understand that something was more
than usually wrong. He led the way, though
with less of his confident bold manner than usual,
into the house, and penetrating to the inner
room, found Hutter lying on his back, with
Hetty sitting at his side, fanning him with pious
care. The events of the morning had sensibly
changed the manner of Hurry. Notwithstand
ing his skill as a swimmer, and the readiness
with which he had adopted the only expedient
that could possibly save hirn, the helplessness
of being in the water, bound hand and foot, had
produced some such effect on him as the near
approach of punishment is known to produce
on most criminals, leaving a vivid impression


of the horrors of death upon his mind, and this,
too, in connection with a picture of bodily help
lessness ; the daring of this man being far more
the offspring of vast physical powers than of
the energy of the will, or even of natural spirit.
Such heroes invariably lose a large portion of
their courage with the failure of their strength ;
and, though Hurry was now unfettered, and as
vigorous as ever, events were too recent to per
mit the recollection of his late deplorable condi
tion to be at all weakened. Had he lived a
century, the occurrences of the few momentous
minutes during which he was in the lake, would
have produced a chastening effect on his char-
racter, if not always on his manner.

Hurry was not only shocked when he found
his late associate in this desperate situation, but
he was greatly surprised. During the struggle
in the building, he had been far too much
occupied himself to learn what had befallen
his comrade, and, as no deadly weapon had been
used in his particular case, but every effort had
been made to capture him without injury, he
naturally believed that Hutter had been over
come, while he owed his own escape to his great
bodily strength, and to a fortunate concurrence
of extraordinary circumstances. Death, in the
silence and solemnity of a chamber, was a


novelty to him. Though accustomed to scenes
of violence, he had been unused to sit by the
bed-side and watch the slow beating of the
pulse as it gradually grew weaker and weaker.
Notwithstanding the change in his feelings, the
manners of a life could not be altogether cast
aside in a moment, and the unexpected scene
extorted a characteristic speech from the bor

" How now ! Old Tom/ 5 he said, " have the
vagabonds got you at an advantage, where you're
not only down, but are likely to be kept down !
I thought you a captive it's true, but never
supposed you as hard run as this \"

Hutter opened his glassy eyes and stared
wildly at the speaker. A flood of confused re
collections rushed on his wavering mind at the
sight of his late comrade. It was evident that
he struggled with his own images, and knew
not the real from the unreal.

" Who are you ?" he asked in a husky whisper,
his failing strength refusing to aid him in a louder
effort of his voice. ee Who are you ? You look
like the mate of the Snow he was a giant, too,
and near overcoming us.' 9

" I'm your mate, Floating Tom, and your
comrade, but have nothing to do with any snow.
It's summer now, and Harry March always quits


the hills as soon after the frosts set in as is con

" I know you Hurry Skurry I'll sell you
a scalp ! a sound one, and of a full-grown man ;
what'll you give ? 5J

" Poor Tom ! That scalp business hasn't
turned out at all profitable, and I've pretty much
concluded to give it up, and to follow a less
bloody calling."

" Have you got any scalp ? Mine's gone
How does it feel to have a scalp ? I know
how it feels to lose one fire and flames about
the brain and a wrenching at the heart no,
no kill first) Hurry, and scalp afterwards."

" What does the old fellow mean, Judith ?
He talks like one that is getting tired of the
business as well as myself. Why have you
bound up his head ? or, have the savages toma
hawked him about the brains ?' 5

" They have done that for him, which you
and he, Harry March, would have so gladly done
for them. His skin and hair have been torn
from his head to gain money from the governor
of Canada, as you would have torn theirs from
the heads of the Hurons, to gain money from
the governor of York."

Judith spoke with a strong effort to appear
composed, but it was neither in her nature,


nor in the feeling of the moment to speak
altogether without bitterness. The strength of
her emphasis, indeed, as well as her manner,
caused Hetty to look up reproachfully.

" These are high words to come from Thomas
Hutter's darter, as Thomas Hutter lies dying
before her eyes," retorted Hurry.

" God be praised for that ! whatever reproach
it may bring on my poor mother, I am not
Thomas Hutter's daughter/ 5

" Not Thomas Hutter's darter ! Don't dis
own the old fellow in his last moments, Judith,
for that's a sin the Lord will never overlook.
If you're not Thomas Hutter's darter, whose
darter be you ?"

This question rebuked the rebellious spirit of
Judith ; for, in getting rid of a parent, whom
she felt it was a relief to find she might own
she had never loved, she overlooked the im
portant circumstance that no substitute was ready
to supply his place.

" I cannot tell you, Harry, who my father
was," she answered more mildly ; " I hope he
was an honest man, at least."

* f Which is more than you think was the case
with old Hutter? Well, Judith, Pll not deny
that hard stories were in circulation consarning
Floating Tom, but who is there that doesn't get


a scratch when an inimy holds the rake ? There's
them that say hard things of me ; and even you,
beauty as you be, don't always escape."

This was said with a view to set up a species
of community of character between the parties,
and, as the politicians of the day are wont to
express it, with ulterior intentions. What might
have been the consequences with one of Judith's
known spirit, as well as her assured antipathy
to the speaker, it is not easy to say ; for, just
then, Hutter gave unequivocal signs that his
last moment was nigh. Judith and Hetty had
stood by the dying bed of their mother, and
neither needed a monitor to warn them of the
crisis, and every sign of resentment vanished
from the face of the first. Hutter opened his
eyes, and even tried to feel about him with a
hand, a sign that sight was failing. A minute
later his breathing grew ghastly ; a pause totally
without respiration followed ; and then suc
ceeded the last long-drawn sigh, on which the
spirit is supposed to quit the body. This sudden
termination of the life of one who had hitherto
filled so important a place in the narrow scene
on which he had been an actor, put an end to
all discussion.

The day passed by without further interrup
tion, the Hurons though possessed of a canoe,


appearing so far satisfied with their success as
to have relinquished all immediate designs on
the castle. It would not have been a safe un
dertaking, indeed, to approach it under the rifles
of those it was now known to contain, and it
is probable that the truce was more owing to
this circumstance than to any other. In the
meanwhile, the preparations were made for the
interment of H utter. To bury him on the land
was impracticable, and it was Hetty's wish that
his body should lie by the side of that of her
mother in the lake. She had it in her power
to quote one of bis speeches in which he him
self had called the lake the " family burying-
ground," and luckily this was done without
the knowledge of her sister, who would hav r e
opposed the plan, had she known it, with un
conquerable disgust. But Judith had not meddled
with the arrangement, and every necessary dis
position was made without her privity or advice.

The hour chosen for the rude ceremony, was
just as the sun was setting, and a moment
and j a scene more suited to paying the last
office to one of calm and pure spirit, could not
have been chosen. There are a mystery and a
solemn dignity in death, that dispose the living
to regard the remains of even a malefactor with
a certain degree of reverence. All worldly dis-


tinctions have ceased ; it is thought that the
veil has been removed, and that the character
and destiny of the departed are now as much
beyond human opinions, as they are beyond
human ken. In nothing is death more truly
a leveller than in this, since, while it may be
impossible absolutely to confound the great with
the low, the worthy with the unworthy, the mind
feels it to be arrogance to assume a right to
judge of those who are believed to be standing
at the judgment-seat of God. When Judith
was told that all was ready, she went upon the
platform, passive to the request of her sister,
and then she first took heed of the arrange
ment. The body was in the scow, enveloped
in a sheet, and quite a hundred-weight of stones,
that had been taken from the fire-place, were
enclosed with it, in order that it might sink.
No other preparation seemed to be thought neces
sary, though Hetty carried her Bible beneath her

When all were on board the ark, this singu
lar habitation of the man whose body it now
bore to his final abode, was set in motion.
Hurry was at the oars. In his powerful hands,
indeed, they seemed little more than a pair of
sculls, which were wielded without effort, and,
as he was expert in their use, the Delaware


remained a passive spectator of the proceedings.
The progress of the ark had something of the
stately solemnity of a funeral procession, the dip
of the oars being measured, and the movement
slow and steady,. The wash of the water, as
the blades rose and fell, kept time with the
efforts of Hurry, and might have been likened
to the measured tread of mourners. Then the
tranquil scene was in beautiful accordance with
a rite that ever associates with itself the idea
of God. At that instant, the lake had not even
a single ripple on its glassy surface, and the broad
panorama of woods seemed to look down on
the holy tranquillity of the hour and ceremony
in melancholy stillness. Judith was affected to
tears, and even Hurry, though he hardly knew
why, was troubled. Hetty preserved the out
ward signs of tranquillity, but her inward grief
greatly surpassed that of her sister, since her
affectionate heart loved more from habit and
long association, than from the usual connections
of sentiment and taste. She was sustained by
religious hope, however, which in her simple
mind usually occupied the space that worldly

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