James Fenimore Cooper
Part 1 out of 11
software or any other related product without express permission.]
This etext was produced by Stephen Kerr email@example.com.
Edition 11 was corrected by Martin Robb (MartinRobb@ieee.org).
by James Fenimore Cooper
"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore.
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal"
On the human imagination events produce the effects of time. Thus,
he who has travelled far and seen much is apt to fancy that he has
lived long; and the history that most abounds in important incidents
soonest assumes the aspect of antiquity. In no other way can
we account for the venerable air that is already gathering around
American annals. When the mind reverts to the earliest days of
colonial history, the period seems remote and obscure, the thousand
changes that thicken along the links of recollections, throwing
back the origin of the nation to a day so distant as seemingly to
reach the mists of time; and yet four lives of ordinary duration
would suffice to transmit, from mouth to mouth, in the form of
tradition, all that civilized man has achieved within the limits
of the republic. Although New York alone possesses a population
materially exceeding that of either of the four smallest kingdoms
of Europe, or materially exceeding that of the entire Swiss
Confederation, it is little more than two centuries since the Dutch
commenced their settlement, rescuing the region from the savage
state. Thus, what seems venerable by an accumulation of changes
is reduced to familiarity when we come seriously to consider it
solely in connection with time.
This glance into the perspective of the past will prepare the reader
to look at the pictures we are about to sketch, with less surprise
than he might otherwise feel; and a few additional explanations may
carry him back in imagination to the precise condition of society
that we desire to delineate. It is matter of history that the
settlements on the eastern shores of the Hudson, such as Claverack,
Kinderhook, and even Poughkeepsie, were not regarded as safe from
Indian incursions a century since; and there is still standing on
the banks of the same river, and within musket-shot of the wharves
of Albany, a residence of a younger branch of the Van Rensselaers,
that has loopholes constructed for defence against the same crafty
enemy, although it dates from a period scarcely so distant. Other
similar memorials of the infancy of the country are to be found,
scattered through what is now deemed the very centre of American
civilization, affording the plainest proofs that all we possess of
security from invasion and hostile violence is the growth of but
little more than the time that is frequently fulfilled by a single
The incidents of this tale occurred between the years 1740 and 1745,
when the settled portions of the colony of New York were confined
to the four Atlantic counties, a narrow belt of country on each
side of the Hudson, extending from its mouth to the falls near its
head, and to a few advanced "neighborhoods" on the Mohawk and the
Schoharie. Broad belts of the virgin wilderness not only reached the
shores of the first river, but they even crossed it, stretching away
into New England, and affording forest covers to the noiseless moccasin
of the native warrior, as he trod the secret and bloody war-path.
A bird's-eye view of the whole region east of the Mississippi
must then have offered one vast expanse of woods, relieved by a
comparatively narrow fringe of cultivation along the sea, dotted
by the glittering surfaces of lakes, and intersected by the waving
lines of river. In such a vast picture of solemn solitude, the
district of country we design to paint sinks into insignificance,
though we feel encouraged to proceed by the conviction that, with
slight and immaterial distinctions, he who succeeds in giving an
accurate idea of any portion of this wild region must necessarily
convey a tolerably correct notion of the whole.
Whatever may be the changes produced by man, the eternal round of
the seasons is unbroken. Summer and winter, seed-time and harvest,
return in their stated order with a sublime precision, affording
to man one of the noblest of all the occasions he enjoys of proving
the high powers of his far-reaching mind, in compassing the laws
that control their exact uniformity, and in calculating their
Centuries of summer suns had warmed the tops of the same noble oaks
and pines, sending their heats even to the tenacious roots, when
voices were heard calling to each other, in the depths of a forest,
of which the leafy surface lay bathed in the brilliant light of a
cloudless day in June, while the trunks of the trees rose in gloomy
grandeur in the shades beneath. The calls were in different tones,
evidently proceeding from two men who had lost their way, and
were searching in different directions for their path. At length
a shout proclaimed success, and presently a man of gigantic mould
broke out of the tangled labyrinth of a small swamp, emerging into
an opening that appeared to have been formed partly by the ravages
of the wind, and partly by those of fire. This little area, which
afforded a good view of the sky, although it was pretty well filled
with dead trees, lay on the side of one of the high hills, or low
mountains, into which nearly the whole surface of the adjacent
country was broken.
"Here is room to breathe in!" exclaimed the liberated forester,
as soon as he found himself under a clear sky, shaking his huge
frame like a mastiff that has just escaped from a snowbank. "Hurrah!
Deerslayer; here is daylight, at last, and yonder is the lake."
These words were scarcely uttered when the second forester dashed
aside the bushes of the swamp, and appeared in the area. After
making a hurried adjustment of his arms and disordered dress, he
joined his companion, who had already begun his disposition for a
"Do you know this spot!" demanded the one called Deerslayer,"
or do you shout at the sight of the sun?"
"Both, lad, both; I know the spot, and am not sorry to see
so useful a fri'nd as the sun. Now we have got the p'ints of the
compass in our minds once more, and 't will be our own faults if
we let anything turn them topsy-turvy ag'in, as has just happened.
My name is not Hurry Harry, if this be not the very spot where
the land-hunters camped the last summer, and passed a week. See
I yonder are the dead bushes of their bower, and here is the spring.
Much as I like the sun, boy, I've no occasion for it to tell me it
is noon; this stomach of mine is as good a time-piece as is to be
found in the colony, and it already p'ints to half-past twelve.
So open the wallet, and let us wind up for another six hours' run."
At this suggestion, both set themselves about making the preparations
necessary for their usual frugal but hearty meal. We will profit
by this pause in the discourse to give the reader some idea of
the appearance of the men, each of whom is destined to enact no
insignificant part in our legend.
It would not have been easy to find a more noble specimen of
vigorous manhood than was offered in the person of him who called
himself Hurry Harry. His real name was Henry March but the
frontiersmen having caught the practice of giving sobriquets from
the Indians, the appellation of Hurry was far oftener applied to
him than his proper designation, and not unfrequently he was termed
Hurry Skurry, a nickname he had obtained from a dashing, reckless
offhand manner, and a physical restlessness that kept him
so constantly on the move, as to cause him to be known along the
whole line of scattered habitations that lay between the province
and the Canadas. The stature of Hurry Harry exceeded six feet four,
and being unusually well proportioned, his strength fully realized
the idea created by his gigantic frame. The face did no discredit
to the rest of the man, for it was both good-humored and handsome.
His air was free, and though his manner necessarily partook of the
rudeness of a border life, the grandeur that pervaded so noble a
physique prevented it from becoming altogether vulgar.
Deerslayer, as Hurry called his companion, was a very different
person in appearance, as well as in character. In stature he stood
about six feet in his moccasins, but his frame was comparatively
light and slender, showing muscles, however, that promised unusual
agility, if not unusual strength. His face would have had little
to recommend it except youth, were it not for an expression that
seldom failed to win upon those who had leisure to examine it, and
to yield to the feeling of confidence it created. This expression
was simply that of guileless truth, sustained by an earnestness of
purpose, and a sincerity of feeling, that rendered it remarkable.
At times this air of integrity seemed to be so simple as to awaken
the suspicion of a want of the usual means to discriminate between
artifice and truth; but few came in serious contact with the man,
without losing this distrust in respect for his opinions and motives.
Both these frontiersmen were still young, Hurry having reached the
age of six or eight and twenty, while Deerslayer was several years
his junior. Their attire needs no particular description, though
it may be well to add that it was composed in no small degree of
dressed deer-skins, and had the usual signs of belonging to those
who pass their time between the skirts of civilized society and the
boundless forests. There was, notwithstanding, some attention to
smartness and the picturesque in the arrangements of Deerslayer's
dress, more particularly in the part connected with his arms and
accoutrements. His rifle was in perfect condition, the handle of
his hunting-knife was neatly carved, his powder-horn was ornamented
with suitable devices lightly cut into the material, and his
shot-pouch was decorated with wampum.
On the other hand, Hurry Harry, either from constitutional recklessness,
or from a secret consciousness how little his appearance required
artificial aids, wore everything in a careless, slovenly manner,
as if he felt a noble scorn for the trifling accessories of dress
and ornaments. Perhaps the peculiar effect of his fine form and
great stature was increased rather than lessened, by this unstudied
and disdainful air of indifference.
"Come, Deerslayer, fall to, and prove that you have a Delaware
stomach, as you say you have had a Delaware edication," cried
Hurry, setting the example by opening his mouth to receive a slice
of cold venison steak that would have made an entire meal for
a European peasant; "fall to, lad, and prove your manhood on this
poor devil of a doe with your teeth, as you've already done with
"Nay, nay, Hurry, there's little manhood in killing a doe, and that
too out of season; though there might be some in bringing down a
painter or a catamount," returned the other, disposing himself to
comply. "The Delawares have given me my name, not so much on account
of a bold heart, as on account of a quick eye, and an actyve foot.
There may not be any cowardyce in overcoming a deer, but sartain
it is, there's no great valor."
"The Delawares themselves are no heroes," muttered Hurry through
his teeth, the mouth being too full to permit it to be fairly
opened, "or they would never have allowed them loping vagabonds,
the Mingos, to make them women."
"That matter is not rightly understood--has never been rightly
explained," said Deerslayer earnestly, for he was as zealous a
friend as his companion was dangerous as an enemy; "the Mengwe fill
the woods with their lies, and misconstruct words and treaties. I
have now lived ten years with the Delawares, and know them to be as
manful as any other nation, when the proper time to strike comes."
"Harkee, Master Deerslayer, since we are on the subject, we may as
well open our minds to each other in a man-to-man way; answer me
one question; you have had so much luck among the game as to have
gotten a title, it would seem, but did you ever hit anything human
or intelligible: did you ever pull trigger on an inimy that was
capable of pulling one upon you?"
This question produced a singular collision between mortification
and correct feeling, in the bosom of the youth, that was easily
to be traced in the workings of his ingenuous countenance. The
struggle was short, however; uprightness of heart soon getting the
better of false pride and frontier boastfulness.
"To own the truth, I never did," answered Deerslayer; "seeing that
a fitting occasion never offered. The Delawares have been peaceable
since my sojourn with 'em, and I hold it to be onlawful to take
the life of man, except in open and generous warfare."
"What! did you never find a fellow thieving among your traps and
skins, and do the law on him with your own hands, by way of saving
the magistrates trouble in the settlements, and the rogue himself
the cost of the suit!"
"I am no trapper, Hurry," returned the young man proudly: "I live
by the rifle, a we'pon at which I will not turn my back on any
man of my years, atween the Hudson and the St. Lawrence. I never
offer a skin that has not a hole in its head besides them which
natur' made to see with or to breathe through."
"Ay, ay, this is all very well, in the animal way, though it makes
but a poor figure alongside of scalps and ambushes. Shooting an
Indian from an ambush is acting up to his own principles, and now
we have what you call a lawful war on our hands, the sooner you wipe
that disgrace off your character, the sounder will be your sleep;
if it only come from knowing there is one inimy the less prowling in
the woods. I shall not frequent your society long, friend Natty,
unless you look higher than four-footed beasts to practice your
"Our journey is nearly ended, you say, Master March, and we can
part to-night, if you see occasion. I have a fri'nd waiting for
me, who will think it no disgrace to consort with a fellow-creatur'
that has never yet slain his kind."
"I wish I knew what has brought that skulking Delaware into this
part of the country so early in the season," muttered Hurry to
himself, in a way to show equally distrust and a recklessness of
its betrayal. "Where did you say the young chief was to give you
"At a small round rock, near the foot of the lake, where they tell
me, the tribes are given to resorting to make their treaties, and
to bury their hatchets. This rock have I often heard the Delawares
mention, though lake and rock are equally strangers to me. The
country is claimed by both Mingos and Mohicans, and is a sort
of common territory to fish and hunt through, in time of peace,
though what it may become in war-time, the Lord only knows!"
"Common territory" exclaimed Hurry, laughing aloud. "I should like
to know what Floating Tom Hutter would say to that! He claims the
lake as his own property, in vartue of fifteen years' possession,
and will not be likely to give it up to either Mingo or Delaware
without a battle for it!"
"And what will the colony say to such a quarrel! All this country
must have some owner, the gentry pushing their cravings into the
wilderness, even where they never dare to ventur', in their own
persons, to look at the land they own."
"That may do in other quarters of the colony, Deerslayer, but
it will not do here. Not a human being, the Lord excepted, owns
a foot of sile in this part of the country. Pen was never put to
paper consarning either hill or valley hereaway, as I've heard
old Tom say time and ag'in, and so he claims the best right to it
of any man breathing; and what Tom claims, he'll be very likely to
"By what I've heard you say, Hurry, this Floating Tom must be
an oncommon mortal; neither Mingo, Delaware, nor pale-face. His
possession, too, has been long, by your tell, and altogether beyond
frontier endurance. What's the man's history and natur'?"
"Why, as to old Tom's human natur', it is not much like other men's
human natur', but more like a muskrat's human natar', seeing that
he takes more to the ways of that animal than to the ways of any
other fellow-creatur'. Some think he was a free liver on the salt
water, in his youth, and a companion of a sartain Kidd, who was
hanged for piracy, long afore you and I were born or acquainted,
and that he came up into these regions, thinking that the king's
cruisers could never cross the mountains, and that he might enjoy
the plunder peaceably in the woods."
"Then he was wrong, Hurry; very wrong. A man can enjoy plunder
"That's much as his turn of mind may happen to be. I've known
them that never could enjoy it at all, unless it was in the midst
of a jollification, and them again that enjoyed it best in a corner.
Some men have no peace if they don't find plunder, and some if they
do. Human nature' is crooked in these matters. Old Tom seems to
belong to neither set, as he enjoys his, if plunder he has really
got, with his darters, in a very quiet and comfortable way, and
wishes for no more."
"Ay, he has darters, too; I've heard the Delawares, who've hunted
this a way, tell their histories of these young women. Is there
no mother, Hurry?"
"There was once, as in reason; but she has now been dead and sunk
these two good years."
"Anan?" said Deerslayer, looking up at his companion in a little
"Dead and sunk, I say, and I hope that's good English. The old
fellow lowered his wife into the lake, by way of seeing the last
of her, as I can testify, being an eye-witness of the ceremony;
but whether Tom did it to save digging, which is no easy job among
roots, or out of a consait that water washes away sin sooner than
'arth, is more than I can say."
"Was the poor woman oncommon wicked, that her husband
should take so much pains with her body ?"
"Not onreasonable; though she had her faults. I consider Judith
Hutter to have been as graceful, and about as likely to make a good
ind as any woman who had lived so long beyond the sound of church
bells; and I conclude old Tom sunk her as much by way of saving
pains, as by way of taking it. There was a little steel in her
temper, it's true, and, as old Hutter is pretty much flint, they
struck out sparks once-and-a-while; but, on the whole, they might
be said to live amicable like. When they did kindle, the listeners
got some such insights into their past lives, as one gets into the
darker parts of the woods, when a stray gleam of sunshine finds
its way down to the roots of the trees. But Judith I shall always
esteem, as it's recommend enough to one woman to be the
mother of such a creatur' as her darter, Judith Hutter!"
"Ay, Judith was the name the Delawares mentioned, though it was
pronounced after a fashion of their own. From their discourse, I
do not think the girl would much please my fancy."
"Thy fancy!" exclaimed March, taking fire equally at the indifference
and at the presumption of his companion, "what the devil have you
to do with a fancy, and that, too, consarning one like Judith? You
are but a boy--a sapling, that has scarce got root. Judith has
had men among her suitors, ever since she was fifteen; which is now
near five years; and will not be apt even to cast a look
upon a half-grown creatur' like you!"
"It is June, and there is not a cloud atween us and the sun, Hurry,
so all this heat is not wanted," answered the other, altogether
undisturbed; "any one may have a fancy, and a squirrel has a right
to make up his mind touching a catamount."
"Ay, but it might not be wise, always, to let the catamount
know it," growled March. "But you're young and thoughtless, and
I'll overlook your ignorance. Come, Deerslayer," he added, with
a good-natured laugh, after pausing a moment to reflect, "come,
Deerslayer, we are sworn friends, and will not quarrel about a
light-minded, jilting jade, just because she happens to be handsome;
more especially as you have never seen her. Judith is only for a
man whose teeth show the full marks, and it's foolish to be afeard
of a boy. What did the Delawares say of the hussy? for an Indian,
after all, has his notions of woman-kind, as well as a white man."
"They said she was fair to look on, and pleasant of speech; but
over-given to admirers, and light-minded."
"They are devils incarnate! After all, what schoolmaster is a
match for an Indian, in looking into natur'! Some people think
they are only good on a trail or the war-path, but I say that they
are philosophers, and understand a man as well as they understand
a beaver, and a woman as well as they understand either. Now
that's Judith's character to a ribbon! To own the truth to you,
Deerslayer, I should have married the gal two years since, if it
had not been for two particular things, one of which was this very
"And what may have been the other?" demanded the hunter, who
continued to eat like one that took very little interest in the
"T'other was an insartainty about her having me. The hussy
is handsome, and she knows it. Boy, not a tree that is growing
in these hills is straighter, or waves in the wind with an easier
bend, nor did you ever see the doe that bounded with a more nat'ral
motion. If that was all, every tongue would sound her praises;
but she has such failings that I find it hard to overlook them,
and sometimes I swear I'll never visit the lake again."
"Which is the reason that you always come back? Nothing is ever
made more sure by swearing about it."
"Ah, Deerslayer, you are a novelty in these particulars; keeping
as true to education as if you had never left the settlements.
With me the case is different, and I never want to clinch an idee,
that I do not feel a wish to swear about it. If you know'd all that
I know consarning Judith, you'd find a justification for a little
cussing. Now, the officers sometimes stray over to the lake, from
the forts on the Mohawk, to fish and hunt, and then the creatur'
seems beside herself! You can see in the manner which she wears
her finery, and the airs she gives herself with the gallants."
"That is unseemly in a poor man's darter," returned Deerslayer
gravely, "the officers are all gentry, and can only look on such
as Judith with evil intentions."
"There's the unsartainty, and the damper! I have my misgivings
about a particular captain, and Jude has no one to blame but her
own folly, if I'm right. On the whole, I wish to look upon her
as modest and becoming, and yet the clouds that drive among these
hills are not more unsartain. Not a dozen white men have ever
laid eyes upon her since she was a child, and yet her airs,
with two or three of these officers, are extinguishers!"
"I would think no more of such a woman, but turn my mind altogether
to the forest; that will not deceive you, being ordered and ruled
by a hand that never wavers."
"If you know'd Judith, you would see how much easier it is to say
this than it would be to do it. Could I bring my mind to be easy
about the officers, I would carry the gal off to the Mohawk by
force, make her marry me in spite of her whiffling, and leave old
Tom to the care of Hetty, his other child, who, if she be not as
handsome or as quick-witted as her sister, is much the most dutiful."
"Is there another bird in the same nest!" asked Deerslayer,
raising his eyes with a species of half-awakened curiosity, "the
Delawares spoke to me only of one."
That's nat'ral enough, when Judith Hutter and Hetty Hutter are in
question. Hetty is only comely, while her sister, I tell thee,
boy, is such another as is not to be found atween this and the sea:
Judith is as full of wit, and talk, and cunning, as an old Indian
orator, while poor Hetty is at the best but 'compass meant us.'"
"Anan?" inquired, again, the Deerslayer.
"Why, what the officers call 'compass meant us,' which I understand
to signify that she means always to go in the right direction, but
sometimes does not know how. 'Compass'for the p'int, and 'meant
us' for the intention. No, poor Hetty is what I call on the verge
of ignorance, and sometimes she stumbles on one side of the line,
and sometimes on t'other."
"Them are beings that the Lord has in his special care," said
Deerslayer, solemnly; "for he looks carefully to all who fall short
of their proper share of reason. The red-skins honor and respect
them who are so gifted, knowing that the Evil Spirit delights more
to dwell in an artful body, than in one that has no cunning to work
"I'll answer for it, then, that he will not remain long with poor
Hetty; for the child is just 'compass meant us,' as I have told you.
Old Tom has a feeling for the gal, and so has Judith, quick-witted
and glorious as she is herself; else would I not answer for her
being altogether safe among the sort of men that sometimes meet on
the lake shore."
"I thought this water an unknown and little-frequented sheet,"
observed the Deerslayer, evidently uneasy at the idea of being too
near the world.
"It's all that, lad, the eyes of twenty white men never having
been laid on it; still, twenty true-bred frontiersmen -- hunters
and trappers, and scouts, and the like, -- can do a deal of mischief
if they try. 'T would be an awful thing to me, Deerslayer, did I
find Judith married, after an absence of six months!"
"Have you the gal's faith, to encourage you to hope otherwise?"
"Not at all. I know not how it is: I'm good-looking, boy, -- that
much I can see in any spring on which the sun shines, -- and yet
I could not get the hussy to a promise, or even a cordial willing
smile, though she will laugh by the hour. If she has dared to marry
in my absence, she'd be like to know the pleasures of widowhood
afore she is twenty!"
"You would not harm the man she has chosen, Hurry, simply because
she found him more to her liking than yourself!"
Why not! If an enemy crosses my path, will I not beat him out of
it! Look at me! am I a man like to let any sneaking, crawling,
skin-trader get the better of me in a matter that touches me
as near as the kindness of Judith Hutter! Besides, when we live
beyond law, we must be our own judges and executioners. And if
a man should be found dead in the woods, who is there to say who
slew him, even admitting that the colony took the matter in hand
and made a stir about it?"
"If that man should be Judith Hutter's husband, after what has
passed, I might tell enough, at least, to put the colony on the
"You!--half-grown, venison-hunting bantling! You dare to think of
informing against Hurry Harry in so much as a matter touching
a mink or a woodchuck!"
"I would dare to speak truth, Hurry, consarning you or any man that
March looked at his companion, for a moment, in silent amazement;
then seizing him by the throat with both hands, he shook his comparatively
slight frame with a violence that menaced the dislocation of some
of the bones. Nor was this done jocularly, for anger flashed
from the giant's eyes, and there were certain signs that seemed to
threaten much more earnestness than the occasion would appear to
call for. Whatever might be the real intention of March, and it is
probable there was none settled in his mind, it is certain that he
was unusually aroused; and most men who found themselves throttled
by one of a mould so gigantic, in such a mood, and in a solitude
so deep and helpless, would have felt intimidated, and tempted
to yield even the right. Not so, however, with Deerslayer. His
countenance remained unmoved; his hand did not shake, and his answer
was given in a voice that did not resort to the artifice of louder
tones, even by way of proving its owner's resolution.
"You may shake, Hurry, until you bring down the mountain," he said
quietly, "but nothing beside truth will you shake from me. It is
probable that Judith Hutter has no husband to slay, and you may
never have a chance to waylay one, else would I tell her of your
threat, in the first conversation I held with the gal."
March released his grip, and sat regarding the other in silent
"I thought we had been friends," he at length added; "but you've
got the last secret of mine that will ever enter your ears."
"I want none, if they are to be like this. I know we live in the
woods, Hurry, and are thought to be beyond human laws,--and perhaps
we are so, in fact, whatever it may be in right,--but there is a
law and a law-maker, that rule across the whole continent. He that
flies in the face of either need not call me a friend."
"Damme, Deerslayer, if I do not believe you are at heart a Moravian,
and no fair-minded, plain-dealing hunter, as you've pretended to be!"
"Fair-minded or not, Hurry, you will find me as plaindealing in
deeds as I am in words. But this giving way to sudden anger is
foolish, and proves how little you have sojourned with the red man.
Judith Hutter no doubt is still single, and you spoke but as the
tongue ran, and not as the heart felt. There's my hand, and we
will say and think no more about it."
Hurry seemed more surprised than ever; then he burst forth in a
loud, good-natured laugh, which brought tears to his eyes. After
this he accepted the offered hand, and the parties became friends.
"'T would have been foolish to quarrel about an idee," March cried,
as he resumed his meal, "and more like lawyers in the towns than
like sensible men in the woods. They tell me, Deerslayer, much
ill-blood grows out of idees among the people in the lower counties,
and that they sometimes get to extremities upon them."
"That do they,-that do they; and about other matters that might
better be left to take care of themselves. I have heard the Moravians
say that there are lands in which men quarrel even consarning their
religion; and if they can get their tempers up on such a subject,
Hurry, the Lord have Marcy on 'em. Howsoever, there is no occasion
for our following their example, and more especially about a husband
that this Judith Hutter may never see, or never wish to see. For
my part, I feel more cur'osity about the feeble-witted sister than
about your beauty. There's something that comes close to a man's
feelin's, when he meets with a fellow-creatur' that has all the
outward show of an accountable mortal, and who fails of being what
he seems, only through a lack of reason. This is bad enough in
a man, but when it comes to a woman, and she a young, and maybe
a winning creatur' it touches all the pitiful thoughts his natur'
has. God knows, Hurry, that such poor things be defenceless enough
with all their wits about 'em; but it's a cruel fortun' when that
great protector and guide fails 'em."
"Hark, Deerslayer,--you know what the hunters, and trappers, and
peltry-men in general be; and their best friends will not deny that
they are headstrong and given to having their own way, without much
bethinking 'em of other people's rights or feelin's,--and yet I
don't think the man is to be found, in all this region, who would
harm Hetty Hutter, if he could; no, not even a red-skin."
"Therein, fri'nd Hurry, you do the Delawares, at least, and all
their allied tribes, only justice, for a red-skin looks upon a
being thus struck by God's power as especially under his care. I
rejoice to hear what you say, however, I rejoice to hear it; but
as the sun is beginning to turn towards the afternoon's sky, had
we not better strike the trail again, and make forward, that we
may get an opportunity of seeing these wonderful sisters?"
Harry March giving a cheerful assent, the remnants of the meal were
soon collected; then the travelers shouldered their packs, resumed
their arms, and, quitting the little area of light, they again
plunged into the deep shadows of the forest.
"Thou'rt passing from the lake's green side,
And the hunter's hearth away;
For the time of flowers, for the summer's pride,
Daughter! thou canst not stay."
Mrs. Hemans, "Edith. A Tale of the Woods" II. 191-94
Our two adventurers had not far to go. Hurry knew the direction,
as soon as he had found the open spot and the spring, and he now
led on with the confident step of a man assured of his object.
The forest was dark, as a matter of course, but it was no longer
obstructed by underbrush, and the footing was firm and dry. After
proceeding near a mile, March stopped, and began to cast about him
with an inquiring look, examining the different objects with care,
and occasionally turning his eyes on the trunks of the fallen trees,
with which the ground was well sprinkled, as is usually the case
in an American wood, especially in those parts of the country where
timber has not yet become valuable.
"This must be the place, Deerslayer," March at length observed;
"here is a beech by the side of a hemlock, with three pines at
hand, and yonder is a white birch with a broken top; and yet I see
no rock, nor any of the branches bent down, as I told you would be
"Broken branches are onskilful landmarks, as the least exper'enced
know that branches don't often break of themselves," returned
the other; "and they also lead to suspicion and discoveries. The
Delawares never trust to broken branches, unless it is in friendly
times, and on an open trail. As for the beeches, and pines, and
hemlocks, why, they are to be seen on all sides of us, not only by
twos and threes, but by forties, and fifties, and hundreds."
"Very true, Deerslayer, but you never calculate on position. Here
is a beech and a hemlock--"
"Yes, and there is another beech and a hemlock, as loving as two
brothers, or, for that matter, more loving than some brothers; and
yonder are others, for neither tree is a rarity in these woods.
I fear me, Hurry, you are better at trapping beaver and shooting
bears, than at leading on a blindish sort of a trail. Ha! there's
what you wish to find, a'ter all!"
"Now, Deerslayer, this is one of your Delaware pretensions, for
hang me if I see anything but these trees, which do seem to start
up around us in a most onaccountable and perplexing manner."
"Look this a way, Hurry--here, in a line with the black oak-don't
you see the crooked sapling that is hooked up in the branches of
the bass-wood, near it? Now, that sapling was once snow-ridden,
and got the bend by its weight; but it never straightened itself,
and fastened itself in among the bass-wood branches in the way you
see. The hand of man did that act of kindness for it."
"That hand was mine!" exclaimed Hurry; "I found the slender
young thing bent to the airth, like an unfortunate creatur' borne
down by misfortune, and stuck it up where you see it. After all,
Deerslayer, I must allow, you're getting to have an oncommon good
eye for the woods!"
"'Tis improving, Hurry-- 'tis improving I will acknowledge; but
'tis only a child's eye, compared to some I know. There's Tamenund,
now, though a man so old that few remember when he was in his
prime, Tamenund lets nothing escape his look, which is more like
the scent of a hound than the sight of an eye. Then Uncas, the
father of Chingachgook, and the lawful chief of the Mohicans, is
another that it is almost hopeless to pass unseen. I'm improving,
I will allow-- I'm improving, but far from being perfect, as yet."
"And who is this Chingachgook, of whom you talk so much, Deerslayer!"
asked Hurry, as he moved off in the direction of the righted
sapling; "a loping red-skin, at the best, I make no question."
"Not so, Hurry, but the best of loping red-skins, as you call 'em.
If he had his rights, he would be a great chief; but, as it is,
he is only a brave and just-minded Delaware; respected, and even
obeyed in some things,'tis true, but of a fallen race, and belonging
to a fallen people. Ah! Harry March, 'twould warm the heart within
you to sit in their lodges of a winter's night, and listen to the
traditions of the ancient greatness and power of the Mohicans!"
"Harkee, fri'nd Nathaniel," said Hurry, stopping short to face his
companion, in order that his words might carry greater weight with
them, "if a man believed all that other people choose to say in
their own favor, he might get an oversized opinion of them, and
an undersized opinion of himself. These red-skins are notable
boasters, and I set down more than half of their traditions as pure
"There is truth in what you say, Hurry, I'll not deny it, for I've
seen it, and believe it. They do boast, but then that is a gift
from natur'; and it's sinful to withstand nat'ral gifts. See; this
is the spot you come to find!" This remark cut short the discourse,
and both the men now gave all their attention to the object
immediately before them. Deerslayer pointed out to his companion
the trunk of a huge linden, or bass-wood, as it is termed in the
language of the country, which had filled its time, and fallen by
its own weight. This tree, like so many millions of its brethren,
lay where it had fallen, and was mouldering under the slow but
certain influence of the seasons. The decay, however, had attacked
its centre, even while it stood erect in the pride of vegetation,
bellowing out its heart, as disease sometimes destroys the vitals
of animal life, even while a fair exterior is presented to the
observer. As the trunk lay stretched for near a hundred feet along
the earth, the quick eye of the hunter detected this peculiarity,
and from this and other circumstances, he knew it to be the tree
of which March was in search.
"Ay, here we have what we want," cried Hurry, looking in at the
larger end of the linden; "everything is as snug as if it had been
left in an old woman's cupboard. Come, lend me a hand, Deerslayer,
and we'll be afloat in half an hour."
At this call the hunter joined his companion, and the two went to
work deliberately and regularly, like men accustomed to the sort
of thing in which they were employed. In the first place, Hurry
removed some pieces of bark that lay before the large opening in
the tree, and which the other declared to be disposed in a way that
would have been more likely to attract attention than to conceal
the cover, had any straggler passed that way. The two then drew out
a bark canoe, containing its seats, paddles, and other appliances,
even to fishing-lines and rods. This vessel was by no means
small; but such was its comparative lightness, and so gigantic was
the strength of Hurry, that the latter shouldered it with seeming
ease, declining all assistance, even in the act of raising it to
the awkward position in which he was obliged to hold it.
"Lead ahead, Deerslayer," said March, "and open the bushes; the
rest I can do for myself."
The other obeyed, and the men left the spot, Deerslayer clearing
the way for his companion, and inclining to the right or to the
left, as the latter directed. In about ten minutes they both broke
suddenly into the brilliant light of the sun, on a low gravelly
point, that was washed by water on quite half its outline.
An exclamation of surprise broke from the lips of Deerslayer, an
exclamation that was low and guardedly made, however, for his habits
were much more thoughtful and regulated than those of the reckless
Hurry, when on reaching the margin of the lake, he beheld the view
that unexpectedly met his gaze. It was, in truth, sufficiently
striking to merit a brief description. On a level with the point
lay a broad sheet of water, so placid and limpid that it resembled
a bed of the pure mountain atmosphere, compressed into a setting
of hills and woods. Its length was about three leagues, while its
breadth was irregular, expanding to half a league, or even more,
opposite to the point, and contracting to less than half that distance,
more to the southward. Of course, its margin was irregular, being
indented by bays, and broken by many projecting, low points. At its
northern, or nearest end, it was bounded by an isolated mountain,
lower land falling off east and west, gracefully relieving the sweep
of the outline. Still the character of the country was mountainous;
high hills, or low mountains, rising abruptly from the water, on
quite nine tenths of its circuit. The exceptions, indeed, only
served a little to vary the scene; and even beyond the parts of the
shore that were comparatively low, the background was high, though
But the most striking peculiarities of this scene were its solemn
solitude and sweet repose. On all sides, wherever the eye turned,
nothing met it but the mirror-like surface of the lake, the placid
view of heaven, and the dense setting of woods. So rich and fleecy
were the outlines of the forest, that scarce an opening could be
seen, the whole visible earth, from the rounded mountain-top to
the water's edge, presenting one unvaried hue of unbroken verdure.
As if vegetation were not satisfied with a triumph so complete,
the trees overhung the lake itself, shooting out towards the light;
and there were miles along its eastern shore, where a boat might
have pulled beneath the branches of dark Rembrandt-looking hemlocks,
"quivering aspens," and melancholy pines. In a word, the hand
of man had never yet defaced or deformed any part of this native
scene, which lay bathed in the sunlight, a glorious picture of
affluent forest grandeur, softened by the balminess of June, and
relieved by the beautiful variety afforded by the presence of so
broad an expanse of water.
"This is grand! -- 'tis solemn!- 'tis an edication of itself,
to look upon!" exclaimed Deerslayer, as he stood leaning on his
rifle, and gazing to the right and left, north and south, above
and beneath, in whichever direction his eye could wander; "not a
tree disturbed even by red-skin hand, as I can discover, but everything
left in the ordering of the Lord, to live and die according to his
own designs and laws! Hurry, your Judith ought to be a moral and
well disposed young woman, if she has passed half the time you
mention in the centre of a spot so favored."
"That's naked truth; and yet the gal has the vagaries. All her time
has not been passed here, howsoever, old Tom having the custom,
afore I know'd him, of going to spend the winters in the neighborhood
of the settlers, or under the guns of the forts. No, no, Jude has
caught more than is for her good from the settlers, and especially
from the gallantifying officers."
"If she has--if she has, Hurry, this is a school to set her mind
right ag'in. But what is this I see off here, abreast of us, that
seems too small for an island, and too large for a boat, though it
stands in the midst of the water!
"Why, that is what these galantine gentry from the forts call
Muskrat Castle; and old Tom himself will grin at the name, though
it bears so hard on his own natur' and character. 'Tis the stationary
house, there being two; this, which never moves, and the other,
that floats, being sometimes in one part of the lake and sometimes
in another. The last goes by the name of the ark, though what may
be the meaning of the word is more than I can tell you."
"It must come from the missionaries, Hurry, whom I have heard
speak and read of such a thing. They say that the 'arth was once
covered with water, and that Noah, with his children, was saved from
drowning by building a vessel called an ark, in which he embarked
in season. Some of the Delawares believe this tradition, and some
deny it; but it behooves you and me, as white men born, to put
our faith in its truth. Do you see anything of this ark?"
"'Tis down south, no doubt, or anchored in some of the bays. But
the canoe is ready, and fifteen minutes will carry two such paddles
as your'n and mine to the castle."
At this suggestion, Deerslayer helped his companion to place the
different articles in the canoe, which was already afloat. This
was no sooner done than the two frontiermen embarked, and by a
vigorous push sent the light bark some eight or ten rods from the
shore. Hurry now took the seat in the stern, while Deerslayer
placed himself forward, and by leisurely but steady strokes of
the paddles, the canoe glided across the placid sheet, towards the
extraordinary-looking structure that the former had styled Muskrat
Castle. Several times the men ceased paddling, and looked about them
at the scene, as new glimpses opened from behind points, enabling
them to see farther down the lake, or to get broader views of
the wooded mountains. The only changes, however, were in the new
forms of the hills, the varying curvature of the bays, and the
wider reaches of the valley south; the whole earth apparently being
clothed in a gala-dress of leaves.
"This is a sight to warm the heart!" exclaimed Deerslayer, when
they had thus stopped for the fourth or fifth time; "the lake seems
made to let us get an insight into the noble forests; and land and
water alike stand in the beauty of God's providence! Do you say,
Hurry, that there is no man who calls himself lawful owner of all
"None but the King, lad. He may pretend to some right of that
natur', but he is so far away that his claim will never trouble
old Tom Hutter, who has got possession, and is like to keep it as
long as his life lasts. Tom is no squatter, not being on land; I
call him a floater."
"I invy that man! I know it's wrong, and I strive ag'in the feelin',
but I invy that man! Don't think, Hurry, that I'm consorting any
plan to put myself in his moccasins, for such a thought doesn't
harbor in my mind; but I can't help a little invy! 'Tis a nat'ral
feelin', and the best of us are but nat'ral, a'ter all, and give
way to such feelin's at times."
"You've only to marry Hetty to inherit half the estate," cried Hurry,
laughing; "the gal is comely; nay, if it wasn't for her sister's
beauty she would be even handsome; and then her wits are so small
that you may easily convart her into one of your own way of thinking,
in all things. Do you take Hetty off the old fellow's hands, and
I'll engage he'll give you an interest in every deer you can knock
over within five miles of his lake."
"Does game abound!" suddenly demanded the other, who paid but little
attention to March's raillery.
"It has the country to itself. Scarce a trigger is pulled on it;
and as for the trappers, this is not a region they greatly frequent.
I ought not to be so much here myself, but Jude pulls one way, while
the beaver pulls another. More than a hundred Spanish dollars has
that creatur' cost me the last two seasons, and yet I could not
forego the wish to look upon her face once more."
"Do the redmen often visit this lake, Hurry?" continued Deerslayer,
pursuing his own train of thought.
"Why, they come and go; sometimes in parties, and sometimes singly.
The country seems to belong to no native tribe in particular; and
so it has fallen into the hands of the Hutter tribe. The old man
tells me that some sharp ones have been wheedling the Mohawks for
an Indian deed, in order to get a title out of the colony; but
nothing has come of it, seeing that no one heavy enough for such
a trade has yet meddled with the matter. The hunters have a good
life-lease still of this wilderness."
"So much the better, so much the better, Hurry. If I was King
of England, the man that felled one of these trees without good
occasion for the timber, should be banished to a desarted and forlorn
region, in which no fourfooted animal ever trod. Right glad am I
that Chingachgook app'inted our meeting on this lake, for hitherto
eye of mine never looked on such a glorious spectacle."
"That's because you've kept so much among the Delawares, in whose country
there are no lakes. Now, farther north and farther west these
bits of water abound; and you're young, and may yet live to see
'em. But though there be other lakes, Deerslayer, there's no other
At this remark his companion smiled, and then he dropped his paddle
into the water, as if in consideration of a lover's haste. Both
now pulled vigorously until they got within a hundred yards of
the "castle," as Hurry familiarly called the house of Hutter, when
they again ceased paddling; the admirer of Judith restraining his
impatience the more readily, as he perceived that the building was
untenanted, at the moment. This new pause was to enable Deerslayer
to survey the singular edifice, which was of a construction so
novel as to merit a particular description.
Muskrat Castle, as the house had been facetiously named by some
waggish officer, stood in the open lake, at a distance of fully a
quarter of a mile from the nearest shore. On every other side the
water extended much farther, the precise position being distant
about two miles from the northern end of the sheet, and near, if
not quite, a mile from its eastern shore. As there was not the
smallest appearance of any island, but the house stood on piles,
with the water flowing beneath it, and Deerslayer had already
discovered that the lake was of a great depth, he was fain to ask
an explanation of this singular circumstance. Hurry solved the
difficulty by telling him that on this spot alone, a long, narrow
shoal, which extended for a few hundred yards in a north and south
direction, rose within six or eight feet of the surface of the lake,
and that Hutter had driven piles into it, and placed his habitation
on them, for the purpose of security.
"The old fellow was burnt out three times, atween the Indians and
the hunters; and in one affray with the red-skins he lost his only
son, since which time he has taken to the water for safety. No
one can attack him here, without coming in a boat, and the plunder
and scalps would scarce be worth the trouble of digging out canoes.
Then it's by no means sartain which would whip in such a scrimmage,
for old Tom is well supplied with arms and ammunition, and the
castle, as you may see, is a tight breastwork ag'in light shot."
Deerslayer had some theoretical knowledge of frontier warfare,
though he had never yet been called on to raise his hand in anger
against a fellow-creature. He saw that Hurry did not overrate
the strength of this position in a military point of view, since
it would not be easy to attack it without exposing the assailants
to the fire of the besieged. A good deal of art had also been
manifested in the disposition of the timber of which the building
was constructed and which afforded a protection much greater than
was usual to the ordinary log-cabins of the frontier. The sides
and ends were composed of the trunks of large pines, cut about nine
feet long, and placed upright, instead of being laid horizontally,
as was the practice of the country. These logs were squared on
three sides, and had large tenons on each end. Massive sills were
secured on the heads of the piles, with suitable grooves dug out
of their upper surfaces, which had been squared for the purpose,
and the lower tenons of the upright pieces were placed in these
grooves, giving them secure fastening below. Plates had been laid
on the upper ends of the upright logs, and were kept in their places
by a similar contrivance; the several corners of the structure
being well fastened by scarfing and pinning the sills and plates.
The doors were made of smaller logs, similarly squared, and the
roof was composed of light poles, firmly united, and well covered
The effect of this ingenious arrangement was to give its owner a
house that could be approached only by water, the sides of which
were composed of logs closely wedged together, which were two feet
thick in their thinnest parts, and which could be separated only
by a deliberate and laborious use of human hands, or by the slow
operation of time. The outer surface of the building was rude and
uneven, the logs being of unequal sizes; but the squared surfaces
within gave both the sides and door as uniform an appearance as was
desired, either for use or show. The chimney was not the least
singular portion of the castle, as Hurry made his companion observe,
while he explained the process by which it had been made. The
material was a stiff clay, properly worked, which had been put
together in a mould of sticks, and suffered to harden, a foot or
two at a time, commencing at the bottom. When the entire chimney
had thus been raised, and had been properly bound in with outward
props, a brisk fire was kindled, and kept going until it was burned
to something like a brick-red. This had not been an easy operation,
nor had it succeeded entirely; but by dint of filling the cracks
with fresh clay, a safe fireplace and chimney had been obtained
in the end. This part of the work stood on the log-door, secured
beneath by an extra pile. There were a few other peculiarities
about this dwelling, which will better appear in the course of the
"Old Tom is full of contrivances," added Hurry, "and he set his
heart on the success of his chimney, which threatened more than
once to give out altogether; but perseverance will even overcome
smoke; and now he has a comfortable cabin of it, though it did
promise, at one time, to be a chinky sort of a flue to carry flames
"You seem to know the whole history of the castle, Hurry, chimney
and sides," said Deerslayer, smiling; "is love so overcoming that
it causes a man to study the story of his sweetheart's habitation ?"
"Partly that, lad, and partly eyesight," returned the good-natured
giant, laughing; "there was a large gang of us in the lake, the
summer the old fellow built, and we helped him along with the job.
I raised no small part of the weight of them uprights with my own
shoulders, and the axes flew, I can inform you, Master Natty, while
we were bee-ing it among the trees ashore. The old devil is no way
stingy about food, and as we had often eat at his hearth, we thought
we would just house him comfortably, afore we went to Albany with
our skins. Yes, many is the meal I've swallowed in Tom Hutter's
cabins; and Hetty, though so weak in the way of wits, has
a wonderful particular way about a frying-pan or a gridiron!
"While the parties were thus discoursing, the canoe had been
gradually drawing nearer to the "castle," and was now so close as
to require but a single stroke of a paddle to reach the landing.
This was at a floored platform in front of the entrance, that might
have been some twenty feet square.
"Old Tom calls this sort of a wharf his door-yard," observed Hurry,
as he fastened the canoe, after he and his Companion had left it:
"and the gallants from the forts have named it the castle court
though what a 'court' can have to do here is more than I can tell
you, seeing that there is no law. 'Tis as I supposed; not a soul
within, but the whole family is off on a v'y'ge of discovery!"
While Hurry was bustling about the "door-yard," examining the
fishing-spears, rods, nets, and other similar appliances of a frontier
cabin, Deerslayer, whose manner was altogether more rebuked and
quiet, entered the building with a curiosity that was not usually
exhibited by one so long trained in Indian habits. The interior
of the "castle" was as faultlessly neat as its exterior was novel.
The entire space, some twenty feet by forty, was subdivided into
several small sleeping-rooms; the apartment into which he first
entered, serving equally for the ordinary uses of its inmates, and
for a kitchen. The furniture was of the strange mixture that it
is not uncommon to find in the remotely situated log-tenements of
the interior. Most of it was rude, and to the last degree rustic;
but there was a clock, with a handsome case of dark wood, in a
corner, and two or three chairs, with a table and bureau, that had
evidently come from some dwelling of more than usual pretension.
The clock was industriously ticking, but its leaden-looking hands
did no discredit to their dull aspect, for they pointed to the
hour of eleven, though the sun plainly showed it was some time past
the turn of the day. There was also a dark, massive chest. The
kitchen utensils were of the simplest kind, and far from numerous,
but every article was in its place, and showed the nicest care in
After Deerslayer had cast a look about him in the outer room, he
raised a wooden latch, and entered a narrow passage that divided
the inner end of the house into two equal parts. Frontier usages
being no way scrupulous, and his curiosity being strongly excited,
the young man now opened a door, and found himself in a bedroom.
A single glance sufficed to show that the apartment belonged to
females. The bed was of the feathers of wild geese, and filled
nearly to overflowing; but it lay in a rude bunk, raised only a foot
from the door. On one side of it were arranged, on pegs, various
dresses, of a quality much superior to what one would expect to
meet in such a place, with ribbons and other similar articles to
correspond. Pretty shoes, with handsome silver buckles, such as
were then worn by females in easy circumstances, were not wanting;
and no less than six fans, of gay colors, were placed half open,
in a way to catch the eye by their conceits and hues. Even the
pillow, on this side of the bed, was covered with finer linen than
its companion, and it was ornamented with a small ruffle. A cap,
coquettishly decorated with ribbons, hung above it, and a pair of
long gloves, such as were rarely used in those days by persons of
the laboring classes, were pinned ostentatiously to it, as if with
an intention to exhibit them there, if they could not be shown on
the owner's arms.
All this Deerslayer saw, and noted with a degree of minuteness that
would have done credit to the habitual observation of his friends,
the Delawares. Nor did he fail to perceive the distinction that
existed between the appearances on the different sides of the bed,
the head of which stood against the wall. On that opposite to the
one just described, everything was homely and uninviting, except
through its perfect neatness. The few garments that were hanging
from the pegs were of the coarsest materials and of the commonest
forms, while nothing seemed made for show. Of ribbons there was
not one; nor was there either cap or kerchief beyond those which
Hutter's daughters might be fairly entitled to wear.
It was now several years since Deerslayer had been in a spot
especially devoted to the uses of females of his own color and race.
The sight brought back to his mind a rush of childish recollections;
and he lingered in the room with a tenderness of feeling to which
he had long been a stranger. He bethought him of his mother, whose
homely vestments he remembered to have seen hanging on pegs like
those which he felt must belong to Hetty Hutter; and he bethought
himself of a sister, whose incipient and native taste for finery had
exhibited itself somewhat in the manner of that of Judith, though
necessarily in a less degree. These little resemblances opened a
long hidden vein of sensations; and as he quitted the room, it was
with a saddened mien. He looked no further, but returned slowly
and thoughtfully towards the "door-yard."
"If Old Tom has taken to a new calling, and has been trying his
hand at the traps," cried Hurry, who had been coolly examining the
borderer's implements; "if that is his humor, and you're disposed
to remain in these parts, we can make an oncommon comfortable season
of it; for, while the old man and I out-knowledge the beaver, you
can fish, and knock down the deer, to keep body and soul together.
I've always give the poorest hunters half a share, but one as actyve
and sartain as yourself might expect a full one."
"Thank'ee, Hurry; thank'ee, with all my heart--but I do a little
beavering for myself as occasions offer. 'Tis true, the Delawares
call me Deerslayer, but it's not so much because I'm pretty fatal
with the venison as because that while I kill so many bucks and
does, I've never yet taken the life of a fellow-creatur'. They
say their traditions do not tell of another who had shed so much
blood of animals that had not shed the blood of man."
"I hope they don't account you chicken-hearted, lad! A faint-hearted
man is like a no-tailed beaver."
"I don't believe, Hurry, that they account me as out-of the-way
timorsome, even though they may not account me as out-of-the-way
brave. But I'm not quarrelsome; and that goes a great way towards
keeping blood off the hands, among the hunters and red-skins; and
then, Harry March, it keeps blood off the conscience, too."
"Well, for my part I account game, a red-skin, and a Frenchman as
pretty much the same thing; though I'm as onquarrelsome a man, too,
as there is in all the colonies. I despise a quarreller as I do a
cur-dog; but one has no need to be over-scrupulsome when it's the
right time to show the flint."
"I look upon him as the most of a man who acts nearest the right,
Hurry. But this is a glorious spot, and my eyes never a-weary
looking at it!"
"Tis your first acquaintance with a lake; and these ideas come over
us all at such times. Lakes have a gentle character, as I say,
being pretty much water and land, and points and bays."
As this definition by no means met the feelings that were uppermost
in the mind of the young hunter, he made no immediate answer,
but stood gazing at the dark hills and the glassy water in silent
"Have the Governor's or the King's people given this lake a name?"
he suddenly asked, as if struck with a new idea. "If they've not
begun to blaze their trees, and set up their compasses, and line off
their maps, it's likely they've not bethought them to disturb
natur' with a name."
"They've not got to that, yet; and the last time I went in with
skins, one of the King's surveyors was questioning me consarning
all the region hereabouts. He had heard that there was a lake in
this quarter, and had got some general notions about it, such as
that there was water and hills; but how much of either, he know'd
no more than you know of the Mohawk tongue. I didn't open the trap
any wider than was necessary, giving him but poor encouragement in
the way of farms and clearings. In short, I left on his mind some
such opinion of this country, as a man gets of a spring of dirty
water, with a path to it that is so muddy that one mires afore he
sets out. He told me they hadn't got the spot down yet on their
maps, though I conclude that is a mistake, for he showed me his
parchment, and there is a lake down on it, where there is no lake
in fact, and which is about fifty miles from the place where it
ought to be, if they meant it for this. I don't think my account
will encourage him to mark down another, by way of improvement."
Here Hurry laughed heartily, such tricks being particularly grateful
to a set of men who dreaded the approaches of civilization as a
curtailment of their own lawless empire. The egregious errors that
existed in the maps of the day, all of which were made in Europe,
were, moreover, a standing topic of ridicule among them; for, if
they had not science enough to make any better themselves, they had
sufficient local information to detect the gross blunders contained
in those that existed. Any one who will take the trouble to compare
these unanswerable evidences of the topographical skill of our
fathers a century since, with the more accurate sketches of our
own time, will at once perceive that the men of the woods had a
sufficient justification for all their criticism on this branch of
the skill of the colonial governments, which did not at all hesitate
to place a river or a lake a degree or two out of the way, even
though they lay within a day's march of the inhabited parts of the
"I'm glad it has no name," resumed Deerslayer, "or at least, no
pale-face name; for their christenings always foretell waste and
destruction. No doubt, howsoever, the red-skins have their modes
of knowing it, and the hunters and trappers, too; they are likely
to call the place by something reasonable and resembling."
"As for the tribes, each has its tongue, and its own way of calling
things; and they treat this part of the world just as they treat
all others. Among ourselves, we've got to calling the place the
'Glimmerglass,' seeing that its whole basin is so often hinged
with pines, cast upward to its face as if it would throw back the
hills that hang over it."
"There is an outlet, I know, for all lakes have outlets, and the
rock at which I am to meet Chingachgook stands near an outlet. Has
that no colony-name yet?"
"In that particular they've got the advantage of us, having one
end, and that the biggest, in their own keeping: they've given it
a name which has found its way up to its source; names nat'rally
working up stream. No doubt, Deerslayer, you've seen the Susquehannah,
down in the Delaware country?"
"That have I, and hunted along its banks a hundred times."
"That and this are the same in fact, and, I suppose, the same in
sound. I am glad they've been compelled to keep the redmen's name,
for it would be too hard to rob them of both land and name!"
Deerslayer made no answer; but he stood leaning on his rifle,
gazing at the view which so much delighted him. The reader is not
to suppose, however, that it was the picturesque alone which so
strongly attracted his attention. The spot was very lovely, of a
truth, and it was then seen in one of its most favorable moments,
the surface of the lake being as smooth as glass and as limpid as
pure air, throwing back the mountains, clothed in dark pines, along
the whole of its eastern boundary, the points thrusting forward
their trees even to nearly horizontal lines, while the bays were
seen glittering through an occasional arch beneath, left by a vault
fretted with branches and leaves. It was the air of deep repose--
the solitudes, that spoke of scenes and forests untouched by the
hands of man-- the reign of nature, in a word, that gave so much
pure delight to one of his habits and turn of mind. Still, he
felt, though it was unconsciously, like a poet also. If he found a
pleasure in studying this large, and to him unusual opening into
the mysteries and forms of the woods, as one is gratified in getting
broader views of any subject that has long occupied his thoughts,
he was not insensible to the innate loveliness of such a landscape
neither, but felt a portion of that soothing of the spirit which
is a common attendant of a scene so thoroughly pervaded by the holy
cairn of nature.
"Come, shall we go and kill us venison?
And yet it irks me, the poor dappled foals,-
Being native burghers of this desert city,-
Should, in their own confines, with forked heads
Have their round haunches gored."
As You Like It, II.i.21-25
Hurry Harry thought more of the beauties of Judith Hutter than of
those of the Glimmerglass and its accompanying scenery. As soon
as he had taken a sufficiently intimate survey of floating Tom's
implements, therefore, he summoned his companion to the canoe, that
they might go down the lake in quest of the family. Previously
to embarking, however, Hurry carefully examined the whole of the
northern end of the water with an indifferent ship's glass, that
formed a part of Hutter's effects. In this scrutiny, no part of
the shore was overlooked; the bays and points in particular being
subjected to a closer inquiry than the rest of the wooded boundary.
"'Tis as I thought," said Hurry, laying aside the glass, "the old
fellow is drifting about the south end this fine weather, and has
left the castle to defend itself. Well, now we know that he is
not up this-a-way, 'twill be but a small matter to paddle down and
hunt him up in his hiding-place."
"Does Master Hutter think it necessary to burrow on this lake?"
inquired Deerslayer, as he followed his companion into the canoe;
"to my eye it is such a solitude as one might open his whole soul
in, and fear no one to disarrange his thoughts or his worship."
"You forget your friends the Mingos, and all the French savages. Is
there a spot on 'arth, Deerslayer, to which them disquiet rogues
don't go? Where is the lake, or even the deer lick, that the
blackguards don't find out, and having found out, don't, sooner or
later, discolour its water with blood."
"I hear no good character of 'em, sartainly, friend Hurry, though
I've never been called on, yet, to meet them, or any other mortal,
on the warpath. I dare to say that such a lovely spot as this,
would not be likely to be overlooked by such plunderers, for, though
I've not been in the way of quarreling with them tribes myself,
the Delawares give me such an account of 'em that I've pretty much
set 'em down in my own mind, as thorough miscreants."
"You may do that with a safe conscience, or for that matter, any
other savage you may happen to meet."
Here Deerslayer protested, and as they went paddling down the lake,
a hot discussion was maintained concerning the respective merits
of the pale-faces and the red-skins. Hurry had all the prejudices
and antipathies of a white hunter, who generally regards the Indian
as a sort of natural competitor, and not unfrequently as a natural
enemy. As a matter of course, he was loud, clamorous, dogmatical and
not very argumentative. Deerslayer, on the other hand, manifested
a very different temper, proving by the moderation of his language,
the fairness of his views, and the simplicity of his distinctions,
that he possessed every disposition to hear reason, a strong, innate
desire to do justice, and an ingenuousness that was singularly
indisposed to have recourse to sophism to maintain an argument; or
to defend a prejudice. Still he was not altogether free from the
influence of the latter feeling. This tyrant of the human mind,
which ruses on it prey through a thousand avenues, almost as soon
as men begin to think and feel, and which seldom relinquishes its
iron sway until they cease to do either, had made some impression
on even the just propensities of this individual, who probably
offered in these particulars, a fair specimen of what absence from
bad example, the want of temptation to go wrong, and native good
feeling can render youth.
"You will allow, Deerslayer, that a Mingo is more than half devil,"
cried Hurry, following up the discussion with an animation that
touched closely on ferocity, "though you want to over-persuade me
that the Delaware tribe is pretty much made up of angels. Now, I
gainsay that proposal, consarning white men, even. All white men
are not faultless, and therefore all Indians can't be faultless.
And so your argument is out at the elbow in the start. But this is
what I call reason. Here's three colors on 'arth: white, black,
and red. White is the highest color, and therefore the best man;
black comes next, and is put to live in the neighborhood of the
white man, as tolerable, and fit to be made use of; and red comes
last, which shows that those that made 'em never expected an Indian
to be accounted as more than half human."
"God made all three alike, Hurry."
"Alike! Do you call a nigger like a white man, or me like an
"You go off at half-cock, and don't hear me out. God made us all,
white, black, and red; and, no doubt, had his own wise intentions
in coloring us differently. Still, he made us, in the main, much
the same in feelin's; though I'll not deny that he gave each race
its gifts. A white man's gifts are Christianized, while a red-skin's
are more for the wilderness. Thus, it would be a great offence
for a white man to scalp the dead; whereas it's a signal vartue
in an Indian. Then ag'in, a white man cannot amboosh women and
children in war, while a red-skin may. 'Tis cruel work, I'll
allow; but for them it's lawful work; while for us, it would be
"That depends on your inimy. As for scalping, or even skinning a
savage, I look upon them pretty much the same as cutting off the
ears of wolves for the bounty, or stripping a bear of its hide.
And then you're out significantly, as to taking the poll of a
red-skin in hand, seeing that the very colony has offered a bounty
for the job; all the same as it pays for wolves' ears and crows'
"Ay, and a bad business it is, Hurry. Even the Indians themselves
cry shame on it, seeing it's ag'in a white man's gifts. I do not
pretend that all that white men do, is properly Christianized, and
according to the lights given them, for then they would be what
they ought to be; which we know they are not; but I will maintain
that tradition, and use, and color, and laws, make such a difference in
races as to amount to gifts. I do not deny that there are tribes
among the Indians that are nat'rally pervarse and wicked, as
there are nations among the whites. Now, I account the Mingos as
belonging to the first, and the Frenchers, in the Canadas, to the
last. In a state of lawful warfare, such as we have lately got
into, it is a duty to keep down all compassionate feelin's, so far
as life goes, ag'in either; but when it comes to scalps, it's a
very different matter."
"Just hearken to reason, if you please, Deerslayer, and tell me if
the colony can make an onlawful law? Isn't an onlawful law more
ag'in natur' than scalpin' a savage? A law can no more be onlawful,
than truth can be a lie."
"That sounds reasonable; but it has a most onreasonable bearing,
Hurry. Laws don't all come from the same quarter. God has given
us his'n, and some come from the colony, and others come from the
King and Parliament. When the colony's laws, or even the King's
laws, run ag'in the laws of God, they get to be onlawful, and ought
not to be obeyed. I hold to a white man's respecting white laws,
so long as they do not cross the track of a law comin' from a higher
authority; and for a red man to obey his own red-skin usages, under
the same privilege. But, 't is useless talking, as each man will
think fir himself, and have his say agreeable to his thoughts. Let
us keep a good lookout for your friend Floating Tom, lest we pass
him, as he lies hidden under this bushy shore."
Deerslayer had not named the borders of the lake amiss. Along
their whole length, the smaller trees overhung the water, with their
branches often dipping in the transparent element The banks were
steep, even from the narrow strand; and, as vegetation invariably
struggles towards the light, the effect was precisely that at which
the lover of the picturesque would have aimed, had the ordering
of this glorious setting of forest been submitted to his control.
The points and bays, too, were sufficiently numerous to render the
outline broken and diversified. As the canoe kept close along the
western side of the lake, with a view, as Hurry had explained to
his companion, of reconnoitering for enemies, before he trusted
himself too openly in sight, the expectations of the two adventurers
were kept constantly on the stretch, as neither could foretell
what the next turning of a point might reveal. Their progress was
swift, the gigantic strength of Hurry enabling him to play with
the light bark as if it had been a feather, while the skill of his
companion almost equalized their usefulness, notwithstanding the
disparity in natural means.
Each time the canoe passed a point, Hurry turned a look behind
him, expecting to see the "ark" anchored, or beached in the bay.
He was fated to be disappointed, however; and they had got within
a mile of the southern end of the lake, or a distance of quite two
leagues from the "castle," which was now hidden from view by half
a dozen intervening projections of the land, when he suddenly ceased
paddling, as if uncertain in what direction next to steer.
"It is possible that the old chap has dropped into the river,"
said Hurry, after looking carefully along the whole of the eastern
shore, which was about a mile distant, and open to his scrutiny
for more than half its length; "for he has taken to trapping
considerable, of late, and, barring flood-wood, he might drop down
it a mile or so; though he would have a most scratching time in
getting back again!"
"Where is this outlet?" asked Deerslayer; "I see no opening in the
banks or the trees, that looks as if it would let a river like the
Susquehannah run through it."
"Ay, Deerslayer, rivers are like human mortals; having small
beginnings, and ending with broad shoulders and wide mouths. You
don't see the outlet, because it passes atween high, steep banks;
and the pines, and hemlocks and bass-woods hang over it, as a roof
hangs over a house. If old Tom is not in the 'Rat's Cove,' he
must have burrowed in the river; we'll look for him first in the
cove, and then we'll cross to the outlet."
As they proceeded, Hurry explained that there was a shallow bay,
formed by a long, low point, that had got the name of the "Rat's
Cove," from the circumstance of its being a favorite haunt of the
muskrat; and which offered so complete a cover for the "ark," that
its owner was fond of lying in it, whenever he found it convenient.
"As a man never knows who may be his visitors, in this part of the
country," continued Hurry, "it's a great advantage to get a good
look at 'em afore they come too near. Now it's war, such caution
is more than commonly useful, since a Canada man or a Mingo might
get into his hut afore he invited 'em. But Hutter is a first-rate
look-outer, and can pretty much scent danger, as a hound scents
"I should think the castle so open, that it would be sartain to
draw inimies, if any happened to find the lake; a thing onlikely
enough, I will allow, as it's off the trail of the forts and
"Why, Deerslayer, I've got to believe that a man meets with inimies
easier than he meets with fri'nds. It's skearful to think for
how many causes one gets to be your inimy, and for how few your
fri'nd. Some take up the hatchet because you don't think just as
they think; other some because you run ahead of 'em in the same
idees; and I once know'd a vagabond that quarrelled with a fri'nd
because he didn't think him handsome. Now, you're no monument
in the way of beauty, yourself, Deerslayer, and yet you wouldn't
be so onreasonable as to become my inimy for just saying so."
"I'm as the Lord made me; and I wish to be accounted no better, nor
any worse. Good looks I may not have; that is to say, to a degree
that the light-minded and vain crave; but I hope I'm not altogether
without some ricommend in the way of good conduct. There's few
nobler looking men to be seen than yourself, Hurry; and I know
that I am not to expect any to turn their eyes on me, when such a
one as you can be gazed on; but I do not know that a hunter is less
expart with the rifle, or less to be relied on for food, because
he doesn't wish to stop at every shining spring he may meet, to
study his own countenance in the water."
Here Hurry burst into a fit of loud laughter; for while he was too
reckless to care much about his own manifest physical superiority,
he was well aware of it, and, like most men who derive an advantage
from the accidents of birth or nature, he was apt to think complacently
on the subject, whenever it happened to cross his mind.
"No, no, Deerslayer, you're no beauty, as you will own yourself,
if you'll look over the side of the canoe," he cried; "Jude will
say that to your face, if you start her, for a parter tongue isn't
to be found in any gal's head, in or out of the settlements, if
you provoke her to use it. My advice to you is, never to aggravate
Judith; though you may tell anything to Hetty, and she'll take it
as meek as a lamb. No, Jude will be just as like as not to tell
you her opinion consarning your looks."
"And if she does, Hurry, she will tell me no more than you have
"You're not thick'ning up about a small remark, I hope, Deerslayer,
when no harm is meant. You are not a beauty, as you must know,
and why shouldn't fri'nds tell each other these little trifles?
If you was handsome, or ever like to be, I'd be one of the first
to tell you of it; and that ought to content you. Now, if Jude was
to tell me that I'm as ugly as a sinner, I'd take it as a sort
of obligation, and try not to believe her."
"It's easy for them that natur' has favored, to jest about such
matters, Hurry, though it is sometimes hard for others. I'll not
deny but I've had my cravings towards good looks; yes, I have;
but then I've always been able to get them down by considering
how many I've known with fair outsides, who have had nothing to
boast of inwardly. I'll not deny, Hurry, that I often wish I'd
been created more comely to the eye, and more like such a one as
yourself in them particulars; but then I get the feelin' under by
remembering how much better off I am, in a great many respects,
than some fellow-mortals. I might have been born lame, and onfit
even for a squirrel-hunt, or blind, which would have made me
a burden on myself as well as on my fri'nds; or without hearing,
which would have totally onqualified me for ever campaigning
or scouting; which I look forward to as part of a man's duty in
troublesome times. Yes, yes; it's not pleasant, I will allow, to
see them that's more comely, and more sought a'ter, and honored
than yourself; but it may all be borne, if a man looks the evil in
the face, and don't mistake his gifts and his obligations."
Hurry, in the main, was a good-hearted as well as good-natured
fellow; and the self-abasement of his companion completely got the
better of the passing feeling of personal vanity. He regretted
the allusion he had made to the other's appearance, and endeavored
to express as much, though it was done in the uncouth manner that
belonged to the habits and opinions of the frontier.
"I meant no harm, Deerslayer," he answered, in a deprecating
manner, "and hope you'll forget what I've said. If you're not
downright handsome, you've a sartain look that says, plainer than
any words, that all's right within. Then you set no value by looks,
and will the sooner forgive any little slight to your appearance.
I will not say that Jude will greatly admire you, for that might
raise hopes that would only breed disapp'intment; but there's Hetty,
now, would be just as likely to find satisfaction in looking at
you, as in looking at any other man. Then you're altogether too
grave and considerate-like, to care much about Judith; for, though
the gal is oncommon, she is so general in her admiration, that a
man need not be exalted because she happens to smile. I sometimes
think the hussy loves herself better than she does anything else
"If she did, Hurry, she'd do no more, I'm afeard, than most queens
on their thrones, and ladies in the towns," answered Deerslayer,
smiling, and turning back towards his companion with every trace
of feeling banished from his honest-looking and frank countenance.
"I never yet know'd even a Delaware of whom you might not say
that much. But here is the end of the long p'int you mentioned,
and the 'Rat's Cove' can't be far off."
This point, instead of thrusting itself forward, like all the
others, ran in a line with the main shore of the lake, which here
swept within it, in a deep and retired bay, circling round south
again, at the distance of a quarter of a mile, and crossed the
valley, forming the southern termination of the water. In this
bay Hurry felt almost certain of finding the ark, since, anchored
behind the trees that covered the narrow strip of the point, it
might have lain concealed from prying eyes an entire summer. So
complete, indeed, was the cover, in this spot, that a boat hauled
close to the beach, within the point, and near the bottom of the
bay, could by any possibility be seen from only one direction; and
that was from a densely wooded shore within the sweep of the water,
where strangers would be little apt to go.
"We shall soon see the ark," said Hurry, as the canoe glided round
the extremity of the point, where the water was so deep as actually
to appear black; "he loves to burrow up among the rushes, and we
shall be in his nest in five minutes, although the old fellow may
be off among the traps himself."
March proved a false prophet. The canoe completely doubled the
point, so as to enable the two travellers to command a view of
the whole cove or bay, for it was more properly the last, and no
object, but those that nature had placed there, became visible.
The placid water swept round in a graceful curve, the rushes bent
gently towards its surface, and the trees overhung it as usual;
but all lay in the soothing and sublime solitude of a wilderness.
The scene was such as a poet or an artist would have delighted in,
but it had no charm for Hurry Harry, who was burning with impatience
to get a sight of his light-minded beauty.
The motion of the canoe had been attended with little or no noise,
the frontiermen habitually getting accustomed to caution in most
of their movements, and it now lay on the glassy water appearing
to float in air, partaking of the breathing stillness that seemed
to pervade the entire scene. At this instant a dry stick was heard
cracking on the narrow strip of land that concealed the bay from
the open lake. Both the adventurers started, and each extended a
hand towards his rifle, the weapon never being out of reach of the
"'Twas too heavy for any light creatur'," whispered Hurry, "and it
sounded like the tread of a man!"
"Not so- not so," returned Deerslayer; "'t was, as you say, too
heavy for one, but it was too light for the other. Put your paddle
in the water, and send the canoe in, to that log; I'll land and
cut off the creatur's retreat up the p'int, be it a Mingo, or be
it a muskrat."
As Hurry complied, Deerslayer was soon on the shore, advancing into
the thicket with a moccasined foot, and a caution that prevented
the least noise. In a minute he was in the centre of the narrow
strip of land, and moving slowly down towards its end, the bushes
rendering extreme watchfulness necessary. Just as be reached the
centre of the thicket the dried twigs cracked again, and the noise
was repeated at short intervals, as if some creature having life
walked slowly towards the point. Hurry heard these sounds also,
and pushing the canoe off into the bay, he seized his rifle to
watch the result. A breathless minute succeeded, after which a
noble buck walked out of the thicket, proceeded with a stately step
to the sandy extremity of the point, and began to slake his thirst
from the water of the lake. Hurry hesitated an instant; then raising
his rifle hastily to his shoulder, he took sight and fired. The
effect of this sudden interruption of the solemn stillness of such
a scene was not its least striking peculiarity. The report of the
weapon had the usual sharp, short sound of the rifle: but when a
few moments of silence had succeeded the sudden crack, during which
the noise was floating in air across the water, it reached the
rocks of the opposite mountain, where the vibrations accumulated,
and were rolled from cavity to cavity for miles along the hills,
seeming to awaken the sleeping thunders of the woods. The buck
merely shook his head at the report of the rifle and the whistling
of the bullet, for never before had he come in contact with man;
but the echoes of the hills awakened his distrust, and leaping
forward, with his four legs drawn under his body, he fell at once
into deep water, and began to swim towards the foot of the lake.
Hurry shouted and dashed forward in chase, and for one or two
minutes the water foamed around the pursuer and the pursued. The
former was dashing past the point, when Deerslayer appeared on the
sand and signed to him to return.
"'Twas inconsiderate to pull a trigger, afore we had reconn'itred
the shore, and made sartain that no inimies harbored near it,"
said the latter, as his companion slowly and reluctantly complied.
"This much I have l'arned from the Delawares, in the way of schooling
and traditions, even though I've never yet been on a war-path. And,
moreover, venison can hardly be called in season now, and we do
not want for food. They call me Deerslayer, I'll own, and perhaps
I desarve the name, in the way of understanding the creatur's
habits, as well as for some sartainty in the aim, but they can't
accuse me of killing an animal when there is no occasion for the meat,
or the skin. I may be a slayer, it's true, but I'm no slaughterer."
"'Twas an awful mistake to miss that buck!" exclaimed Hurry, doffing
his cap and running his fingers through his handsome but matted
curls, as if he would loosen his tangled ideas by the process.
"I've not done so onhandy a thing since I was fifteen."
"Never lament it, as the creatur's death could have done neither
of us any good, and might have done us harm. Them echoes are more
awful in my ears, than your mistake, Hurry, for they sound like the
voice of natur' calling out ag'in a wasteful and onthinking action."
"You'll hear plenty of such calls, if you tarry long in this quarter
of the world, lad," returned the other laughing. "The echoes repeat
pretty much all that is said or done on the Glimmerglass, in this
calm summer weather. If a paddle falls you hear of it sometimes,
ag'in and ag'in, as if the hills were mocking your clumsiness, and
a laugh, or a whistle, comes out of them pines, when they're in
the humour to speak, in a way to make you believe they can r'ally
"So much the more reason for being prudent and silent. I do not
think the inimy can have found their way into these hills yet, for
I don't know what they are to gain by it, but all the Delawares
tell me that, as courage is a warrior's first vartue, so is prudence
his second. One such call from the mountains, is enough to let a
whole tribe into the secret of our arrival."
"If it does no other good, it will warn old Tom to put the pot
over, and let him know visiters are at hand. Come, lad; get into
the canoe, and we will hunt the ark up, while there is yet day."
Deerslayer complied, and the canoe left the spot. Its head was
turned diagonally across the lake, pointing towards the south-eastern
curvature of the sheet. In that direction, the distance to the
shore, or to the termination of the lake, on the course the two
were now steering, was not quite a mile, and, their progress being
always swift, it was fast lessening under the skilful, but easy
sweeps of the paddles. When about half way across, a slight noise
drew the eyes of the men towards the nearest land, and they saw
that the buck was just emerging from the lake and wading towards
the beach. In a minute, the noble animal shook the water from
his flanks, gazed up ward at the covering of trees, and, bounding
against the bank, plunged into the forest.
"That creatur' goes off with gratitude in his heart," said Deerslayer,
"for natur' tells him he has escaped a great danger. You ought to
have some of the same feelin's, Hurry, to think your eye wasn't
true, or that your hand was onsteady, when no good could come of
a shot that was intended onmeaningly rather than in reason."
"I deny the eye and the hand," cried March with some heat. "You've
got a little character, down among the Delawares, there, for quickness
and sartainty, at a deer, but I should like to see you behind one
of them pines, and a full painted Mingo behind another, each with
a cock'd rifle and a striving for the chance! Them's the situations,
Nathaniel, to try the sight and the hand, for they begin with trying
the narves. I never look upon killing a creatur' as an explite;
but killing a savage is. The time will come to try your hand, now
we've got to blows ag'in, and we shall soon know what a ven'son
reputation can do in the field. I deny that either hand or eye
was onsteady; it was all a miscalculation of the buck, which stood
still when he ought to have kept in motion, and so I shot ahead of
"Have it your own way, Hurry; all I contend for is, that it's
lucky. I dare say I shall not pull upon a human mortal as steadily
or with as light a heart, as I pull upon a deer."
"Who's talking of mortals, or of human beings at all, Deerslayer?
I put the matter to you on the supposition of an Injin. I dare say
any man would have his feelin's when it got to be life or death,
ag'in another human mortal; but there would be no such scruples in
regard to an Injin; nothing but the chance of his hitting you, or
the chance of your hitting him."
"I look upon the redmen to be quite as human as we are ourselves,
Hurry. They have their gifts, and their religion, it's true;
but that makes no difference in the end, when each will be judged
according to his deeds, and not according to his skin."
"That's downright missionary, and will find little favor up in
this part of the country, where the Moravians don't congregate.
Now, skin makes the man. This is reason; else how are people to
judge of each other. The skin is put on, over all, in order when
a creatur', or a mortal, is fairly seen, you may know at once what
to make of him. You know a bear from a hog, by his skin, and a
gray squirrel from a black."
"True, Hurry," said the other looking back and smiling, "nevertheless,
they are both squirrels."
"Who denies it? But you'll not say that a red man and a white
man are both Injins?"
"But I do say they are both men. Men of different races and colors,
and having different gifts and traditions, but, in the main, with
the same natur'. Both have souls; and both will be held accountable
for their deeds in this life."
Hurry was one of those theorists who believed in the inferiority of
all the human race who were not white. His notions on the subject
were not very clear, nor were his definitions at all well settled;
but his opinions were none the less dogmatical or fierce. His
conscience accused him of sundry lawless acts against the Indians,
and he had found it an exceedingly easy mode of quieting it,
by putting the whole family of redmen, incontinently, without the
category of human rights. Nothing angered him sooner than to deny
his proposition, more especially if the denial were accompanied
by a show of plausible argument; and he did not listen to his
companion's remarks with much composure of either manner or feeling.
"You're a boy, Deerslayer, misled and misconsaited by Delaware arts,
and missionary ignorance," he exclaimed, with his usual indifference
to the forms of speech, when excited. "You may account yourself
as a red-skin's brother, but I hold'em all to be animals; with
nothing human about 'em but cunning. That they have, I'll allow;
but so has a fox, or even a bear. I'm older than you, and have
lived longer in the woods- or, for that matter, have lived always
there, and am not to be told what an Injin is or what he is not.
If you wish to be considered a savage, you've only to say so, and
I'll name you as such to Judith and the old man, and then we'll
see how you'll like your welcome."
Here Hurry's imagination did his temper some service, since, by
conjuring up the reception his semi-aquatic acquaintance would be
likely to bestow on one thus introduced, he burst into a hearty fit
of laughter. Deerslayer too well knew the uselessness of attempting
to convince such a being of anything against his prejudices, to
feel a desire to undertake the task; and he was not sorry that the
approach of the canoe to the southeastern curve of the lake gave
a new direction to his ideas. They were now, indeed, quite near
the place that March had pointed out for the position of the outlet,
and both began to look for it with, a curiosity that was increased
by the expectation of the ark.
It may strike the reader as a little singular, that the place where
a stream of any size passed through banks that had an elevation of
some twenty feet, should be a matter of doubt with men who could
not now have been more than two hundred yards distant from the
precise spot. It will be recollected, however, that the trees and
bushes here, as elsewhere, fairly overhung the water, making such
a fringe to the lake, as to conceal any little variations from its
"I've not been down at this end of the lake these two summers,"
said Hurry, standing up in the canoe, the better to look about him.
"Ay, there's the rock, showing its chin above the water, and I
know that the river begins in its neighborhood."
The men now plied the paddles again, and they were presently within
a few yards of the rock, floating towards it, though their efforts
were suspended. This rock was not large, being merely some five
or six feet high, only half of which elevation rose above the lake.
The incessant washing of the water for centuries had so rounded
its summit, that it resembled a large beehive in shape, its form
being more than usually regular and even. Hurry remarked, as they
floated slowly past, that this rock was well known to all the Indians
in that part of the country, and that they were in the practice of
using it as a mark to designate the place of meeting, when separated
by their hunts and marches.
"And here is the river, Deerslayer," he continued, "though so shut
in by trees and bushes as to look more like an and-bush, than the
outlet of such a sheet as the Glimmerglass."
Hurry had not badly described the place, which did truly seem to be
a stream lying in ambush. The high banks might have been a hundred
feet asunder; but, on the western side, a small bit of low land
extended so far forward as to diminish the breadth of the stream
to half that width.
As the bushes hung in the water beneath, and pines that had the
stature of church-steeples rose in tall columns above, all inclining
towards the light, until their branches intermingled, the eye, at
a little distance, could not easily detect any opening in the shore,
to mark the egress of the water. In the forest above, no traces
of this outlet were to be seen from the lake, the whole presenting
the same connected and seemingly interminable carpet of leaves.
As the canoe slowly advanced, sucked in by the current, it entered
beneath an arch of trees, through which the light from the heavens
struggled by casual openings, faintly relieving the gloom beneath.
"This is a nat'ral and-bush," half whispered Hurry, as if he felt
that the place was devoted to secrecy and watchfulness; "depend on
it, old Tom has burrowed with the ark somewhere in this quarter.
We will drop down with the current a short distance, and ferret
"This seems no place for a vessel of any size," returned the other;
"it appears to me that we shall have hardly room enough for the
Hurry laughed at the suggestion, and, as it soon appeared, with
reason; for the fringe of bushes immediately on the shore of the
lake was no sooner passed, than the adventurers found themselves
in a narrow stream, of a sufficient depth of limpid water, with a
strong current, and a canopy of leaves upheld by arches composed
of the limbs of hoary trees. Bushes lined the shores, as usual,
but they left sufficient space between them to admit the passage
of anything that did not exceed twenty feet in width, and to allow
of a perspective ahead of eight or ten times that distance.
Neither of our two adventurers used his paddle, except to keep
the light bark in the centre of the current, but both watched each
turning of the stream, of which there were two or three within
the first hundred yards, with jealous vigilance. Turn after turn,
however, was passed, and the canoe had dropped down with the current
some little distance, when Hurry caught a bush, and arrested its
movement so suddenly and silently as to denote some unusual motive
for the act. Deerslayer laid his hand on the stock of his rifle
as soon as he noted this proceeding, but it was quite as much with
a hunter's habit as from any feeling of alarm.
"There the old fellow is!" whispered Hurry, pointing with a finger,
and laughing heartily, though he carefully avoided making a noise,
"ratting it away, just as I supposed; up to his knees in the mud
and water, looking to the traps and the bait. But for the life
of me I can see nothing of the ark; though I'll bet every skin
I take this season, Jude isn't trusting her pretty little feet in
the neighborhood of that black mud. The gal's more likely to be
braiding her hair by the side of some spring, where she can see
her own good looks, and collect scornful feelings ag'in us men."
"You over-judge young women- yes, you do, Hurry- who as often
bethink them of their failings as they do of their perfections. I
dare to say this Judith, now, is no such admirer of herself, and
no such scorner of our sex as you seem to think; and that she
is quite as likely to be sarving her father in the house, wherever
that may be, as he is to be sarving her among the traps."
"It's a pleasure to hear truth from a man's tongue, if it be only
once in a girl's life," cried a pleasant, rich, and yet soft female
voice, so near the canoe as to make both the listeners start. "As
for you, Master Hurry, fair words are so apt to choke you, that I
no longer expect to hear them from your mouth; the last you uttered
sticking in your throat, and coming near to death. But I'm glad
to see you keep better society than formerly, and that they who
know how to esteem and treat women are not ashamed to journey in
As this was said, a singularly handsome and youthful female
face was thrust through an opening in the leaves, within reach of
Deerslayer's paddle. Its owner smiled graciously on the young man;
and the frown that she cast on Hurry, though simulated and pettish,
had the effect to render her beauty more striking, by exhibiting the
play of an expressive but capricious countenance; one that seemed
to change from the soft to the severe, the mirthful to the reproving,
with facility and indifference.
A second look explained the nature of the surprise. Unwittingly,
the men had dropped alongside of the ark, which had been purposely
concealed in bushes cut and arranged for the purpose; and Judith
Hutter had merely pushed aside the leaves that lay before a window,
in order to show her face, and speak to them.
"And that timid fawn starts not with fear,
When I steal to her secret bower;
And that young May violet to me is dear,
And I visit the silent streamlet near,
To look on the lovely flower."
Bryant, "An Indian Story," ii.11-15
The ark, as the floating habitation of the Hutters was generally
called, was a very simple contrivance. A large flat, or scow,
composed the buoyant part of the vessel; and in its centre, occupying
the whole of its breadth, and about two thirds of its length, stood
a low fabric, resembling the castle in construction, though made
of materials so light as barely to be bullet-proof. As the sides
of the scow were a little higher than usual, and the interior of
the cabin had no more elevation than was necessary for comfort,
this unusual addition had neither a very clumsy nor a very obtrusive
appearance. It was, in short, little more than a modern canal-boat,
though more rudely constructed, of greater breadth than common, and
bearing about it the signs of the wilderness, in its bark-covered
posts and roof. The scow, however, had been put together with some
skill, being comparatively light, for its strength, and sufficiently
manageable. The cabin was divided into two apartments, one of which
served for a parlor, and the sleeping-room of the father, and the
other was appropriated to the uses of the daughters. A very simple
arrangement sufficed for the kitchen, which was in one end of the
scow, and removed from the cabin, standing in the open air; the
ark being altogether a summer habitation.
The "and-bush," as Hurry in his ignorance of English termed it, is
quite as easily explained. In many parts of the lake and river,
where the banks were steep and high, the smaller trees and larger
bushes, as has been already mentioned, fairly overhung the stream,
their branches not unfrequently dipping into the water. In some
instances they grew out in nearly horizontal lines, for thirty or
forty feet. The water being uniformly deepest near the shores,
where the banks were highest and the nearest to a perpendicular,
Hutter had found no difficulty in letting the ark drop under one
of these covers, where it had been anchored with a view to conceal
its position; security requiring some such precautions, in his
view of the case. Once beneath the trees and bushes, a few stones
fastened to the ends of the branches had caused them to bend
sufficiently to dip into the river; and a few severed bushes,
properly disposed, did the rest. The reader has seen that this
cover was so complete as to deceive two men accustomed to the woods,
and who were actually in search of those it concealed; a circumstance
that will be easily understood by those who are familiar with
the matted and wild luxuriance of a virgin American forest, more
especially in a rich soil. The discovery of the ark produced very
different effects on our two adventurers.
As soon as the canoe could be got round to the proper opening, Hurry
leaped on board, and in a minute was closely engaged in a gay, and
a sort of recriminating discourse with Judith, apparently forgetful
of the existence of all the rest of the world. Not so with Deerslayer.
He entered the ark with a slow, cautious step, examining every
arrangement of the cover with curious and scrutinizing eyes. It
is true, he cast one admiring glance at Judith, which was extorted
by her brilliant and singular beauty; but even this could detain
him but a single instant from the indulgence of his interest in
Hutter's contrivances. Step by step did he look into the construction
of the singular abode, investigate its fastenings and strength,
ascertain its means of defence, and make every inquiry that would
be likely to occur to one whose thoughts dwelt principally on such
expedients. Nor was the cover neglected. Of this he examined the
whole minutely, his commendation escaping him more than once in
audible comments. Frontier usages admitting of this familiarity,
he passed through the rooms, as he had previously done at the 'Castle', and
opening a door issued into the end of the scow opposite to that
where he had left Hurry and Judith. Here he found the other sister,
employed at some coarse needle-work, seated beneath the leafy canopy
of the cover.
As Deerslayer's examination was by this time ended, he dropped the
butt of his rifle, and, leaning on the barrel with both hands, he
turned towards the girl with an interest the singular beauty of
her sister had not awakened. He had gathered from Hurry's remarks
that Hetty was considered to have less intellect than ordinarily
falls to the share of human beings, and his education among Indians
had taught him to treat those who were thus afflicted by Providence
with more than common tenderness. Nor was there any thing in Hetty
Hutter's appearance, as so often happens, to weaken the interest
Back to Full Books