"Speak on, my dearest father! Thy words are like the breezes of the west."-Milman.
It was a mild and soft morning, when Marmaduke and Richard mounted their horses and proceeded on the expedition that had so long been uppermost in the thoughts of the latter; and Elizabeth and Louisa appeared at the same instant in the hall, attired for an excursion on foot.
The head of Miss Grant was covered by a neat little hat of green silk, and her modest eyes peered from under its shade, with the soft languor that characterized her whole appearance; but Miss Temple trod her father's wide apartments with the step of their mistress, holding in her hands, dangling by one of its ribbons, the gypsy that was to conceal the glossy locks that curled around her polished fore head in rich profusion.
"What? are you for a walk, Bess?" cried the Judge, suspending his movements for a moment to smile, with a father's fondness, at the display of womanly grace and beauty that his child presented. "Remember the heats of July, my daughter; nor venture further than thou canst retrace before the meridian. Where is thy parasol, girl? thou wilt lose tine polish of that brow, under this sun and southern breeze, unless thou guard it with unusual care."
"I shall then do more honor to my connections," returned the smiling daughter. "Cousin Richard has a bloom that any lady might envy. At present the resemblance between us is so trifling that no stranger would know us to be 'sisters' children. ' "
"Grandchildren, you mean, Cousin Bess," said the sheriff. "But on, Judge Temple; time and tide wait for no man; and if you take my counsel, sir, in twelve months from this day you may make an umbrella for your daughter of her camel's-hair shawl, and have its frame of solid silver. I ask nothing for myself, 'Duke; you have been a good friend to me already; besides, all that I have will go to Bess there, one of these melancholy days, so it's as long as it's short, whether I or you leave it. But we have a day's ride before us, sir; so move forward, or dismount, and say you won't go at once."
"Patience, patience, Dickon, "returned the Judge, checking his horse and turning again to his daughter. "If thou art for the mountains, love, stray not too deep into the forest. I entreat thee; for, though it is done often with impunity, there is sometimes danger."
"Not at this season, I believe, sir," said Elizabeth; "for, I will confess, it is the intention of Louisa and myself to stroll among the hills."
"Less at this season than in the winter, dear; but still there may be danger in venturing too far. But though thou art resolute, Elizabeth, thou art too much like thy mother not to be prudent."
The eyes of the parent turned reluctantly from his child, and the Judge and sheriff rode slowly through the gateway, and disappeared among the buildings of the village.
During this short dialogue, young Edwards stood, an attentive listener, holding in his hand a fishing-rod, the day and the season having tempted him also to desert the house for the pleasure of exercise in the air. As the equestrians turned through the gate, he approached the young females, who were already moving toward the street, and was about to address them, as Louisa paused, and said. quickly:
"Mr. Edwards would speak to us, Elizabeth."
The other stopped also, and turned to the youth, politely but with a slight coldness in her air, that sensibly checked the freedom with which he had approached them,
"Your father is not pleased that you should walk unattended in the hills, Miss Temple. If I might offer my self as a protector-" "Does my father select Mr. Oliver Edwards as the organ of his displeasure?" interrupted the lady.
"Good Heaven! you misunderstood my meaning; I should have said uneasy or not pleased. I am his servant, madam, and in consequence yours. I repeat that, with your consent, I will change my rod for a fowling- piece, and keep nigh you on the mountain,"
"I thank you, Mr. Edwards; but where there is no danger, no protection is required. We are not yet reduced to wandering among these free hills accompanied by a body guard. If such a one is necessary there he is, however.- Here, Brave-Brave--my noble Brave!" The huge mastif that has been already mentioned, appeared from his kennel, gaping and stretching himself with pampered laziness; but as his mistress again called:
"Come, dear Brave; once you have served your master well; let us see how you can do your duty by his daughter"-the dog wagged his tail, as if he understood her language, walked with a stately gait to her side, where he seated himself, and looked up at her face, with an intelligence but little inferior to that which beamed in her own lovely countenance.
She resumed her walk, but again paused, after a few steps, and added, in tones of conciliation:
"You can be serving us equally, and, I presume, more agreeably to yourself, Mr. Edwards, by bringing us a string of your favorite perch for the dinner-table,"
When they again began to walk Miss Temple did not look back to see how the youth bore this repulse; but the head of Louisa was turned several times before they reached the gate on that considerate errand.
"I am afraid, Elizabeth," she said, " that we have mortified Oliver. He is still standing where we left him, leaning on his rod. Perhaps he thinks us proud."
"He thinks justly," exclaimed Miss Temple, as if awaking from a deep musing; "he thinks justly, then. We are too proud to admit of such particular attentions from a young man in an equivocal situation. What! make him the companion of our most private walks! It is pride, Louisa, but it is the pride of a woman."
It was several minutes before Oliver aroused himself from the abstracted position in which he was standing when Louisa last saw him; but when he did, he muttered something rapidly and incoherently, and, throwing his rod over his shoulder, he strode down the walk through the gate and along one of the streets of the village, until he reached the lake-shore, with the air of an emperor. At this spot boats were kept for the use of Judge Temple and his family. The young man threw himself into a light skiff, and, seizing the oars, he sent it across the lake toward the hut of Leather-Stocking, with a pair of vigorous arms. By the time he had rowed a quarter of a mile, his reflections were less bitter; and when he saw the bushes that lined the shore in front of Natty's habitation gliding by him, as if they possessed the motion which proceeded from his own efforts, he was quite cooled in mind, though somewhat heated in body. It is quite possible that the very same reason which guided the conduct of Miss Temple suggested itself to a man of the breeding and education of the youth; and it is very certain that, if such were the case, Elizabeth rose instead of falling in the estimation of Mr. Edwards.
The oars were now raised from the water, and the boat shot close in to the land, where it lay gently agitated by waves of its own creating, while the young man, first casting a cautious and searching glance around him in every direction, put a small whistle to his mouth, and blew a long, shrill note that rang among the echoing rocks behind the hut. At this alarm, the hounds of Natty rushed out of their bark kennel, and commenced their long, piteous howls, leaping about as if half frantic, though restrained by the leashes of buckskin by which they were fastened.
"Quiet, Hector, quiet," said Oliver, again applying his whistle to his mouth, and drawing out notes still more shrill than before. No reply was made, the dogs having returned to their kennel at the sound of his voice.
Edwards pulled the bows of the boat on the shore, and landing, ascended the beach and approached the door of the cabin. The fastenings were soon undone, and he entered, closing the door after him, when all was as silent, in that retired spot, as if the foot of man had never trod the wilderness. The sounds of the hammers, that were in incessant motion in the village, were faintly heard across the water; but the dogs had crouched into their lairs, satisfied that none but the privileged had approached the forbidden ground.
A quarter of an hour elapsed before the youth reappeared, when he fastened the door again, and spoke kindly to the hounds. The dogs came out at the well-known tones, and the slut jumped upon his person, whining and barking as if entreating Oliver to release her from prison. But old Hector raised his nose to the light current of air, and opened a long howl, that might have been heard for a mile. "Ha! what do you scent, old veteran of the woods?" cried Edwards. "If a beast, it is a bold one; and if a man, an impudent."
He sprang through the top of a pine that had fallen near the side of the hut, and ascended a small hillock that sheltered the cabin to the south, where he caught a glimpse of the formal figure of Hiram Doolittle, as it vanished, with unusual rapidity for the architect, amid the bushes.
"What can that fellow be wanting here?" muttered Oliver. "He has no business in this quarter, unless it be curiosity, which is an endemic in these woods. But against that I will effectually guard, though the dogs should take a liking to his ugly visage, and let him pass." The youth returned to the door, while giving vent to this soliloquy, and completed the fastenings by placing a small chain through a staple, and securing it there by a padlock. "He is a pettifogger, and surely must know that there is such a thing as feloniously breaking into a man's house."
Apparently well satisfied with this arrangement, the youth again spoke to the hounds; and, descending to the shore, he launched his boat, and taking up his oars, pulled off into the lake.
There were several places in the Otsego that were celebrated fishing- ground for perch. One was nearly opposite to the cabin, and another, still more famous, was near a point, at the distance of a mile and a half above it, under the brow of the mountain, and on the same side of the lake with the hut. Oliver Edwards pulled his little skiff to the first, and sat, for a minute, undecided whether to continue there, with his eyes on the door of the cabin, or to change his ground, with a view to get superior game. While gazing about him, he saw the light-colored bark canoe of his old companions riding on the water, at the point we have mentioned, and containing two figures, that he at once knew to be Mohegan and the Leather-Stocking. This decided the matter, and the youth pulled, in a very few minutes, to the place where his friends were fishing, and fastened his boat to the light vessel of the Indian.
The old men received Oliver with welcoming nods, but neither drew his line from the water nor in the least varied his occupation. When Edwards had secured his own boat, he baited his hook and threw it into the lake, with out speaking.
"Did you stop at the wigwam, lad, as you rowed past?" asked Natty.
"Yes, and I found all safe; but that carpenter and justice of the peace, Mr., or as they call him, Squire, Doolittle, was prowling through the woods. I made sure of the door before I left the hut, and I think he is too great a coward to approach the hounds."
"There's little to be said in favor of that man," said Natty, while he drew in a perch and baited his hook. "He craves dreadfully to come into the cabin, and has as good as asked me as much to my face; but I put him off with unsartain answers, so that he is no wiser than Solo mon. This comes of having so many laws that such a man may be called on to intarpret them."
"I fear he is more knave than fool," cried Edwards; "he makes a tool of, that simple man, the sheriff; and I dread that his impertinent curiosity may yet give us much trouble."
"If he harbors too much about the cabin, lad, I'll shoot the creatur'," said the Leather-Stocking, quite simply.
"No, no, Natty, you must remember the law," said Edwards, "or we shall have you in trouble; and that, old man, would be an evil day and sore tidings to us all."
"Would it, boy?' exclaimed the hunter, raising his eyes, with a look of friendly interest, toward the youth. "You have the true blood in your veins, Mr. Oliver; and I'll support it to the face of Judge Temple or in any court in the country. How is it, John? Do I speak the true word? Is the lad stanch, and of the right blood?"
"He is a Delaware," said Mohegan, "and my brother. The Young Eagle is brave, and he will be a chief. No harm can come."
"Well, well," cried the youth impatiently, "say no more about it, my good friends; if I am not all that your partiality would make me, I am yours through life, in prosperity as in poverty. We will talk of other matters."
The old hunters yielded to his wish, which seemed to be their law. For a short time a profound silence prevailed, during which each man was very busy with his hook and line, but Edwards, probably feeling that it remained with him to renew the discourse, soon observed, with the air of one who knew not what he said:
"How beautifully tranquil and glassy the lake is! Saw you it ever more calm and even than at this moment, Natty?"
"I have known the Otsego water for five-and-forty years," said Leather-Stocking, " and I will say that for it, which is, that a cleaner spring or better fishing is not to be found in the land. Yes, yes; I had the place to myself once, and a cheerful time I had of it. The game was plenty as heart could wish; and there was none to meddle with the ground unless there might have been a hunting party of the Delawares crossing the hills, or, maybe, a rifling scout of them thieves, the Iroquois. There was one or two Frenchmen that squatted in the flats further west, and married squaws; and some of the Scotch- Irishers, from the Cherry Valley, would come on to the lake, and borrow my canoe to take a mess of parch, or drop a line for salmon- trout; but, in the main, it was a cheerful place, and I had but little to disturb me in it. John would come, and John knows." Mohegan turned his dark face at this appeal; and, moving his hand forward with graceful motion of assent, he spoke, using the Delaware language:
"The land was owned by my people; we gave it to my brother in council- to the Fire-eater; and what the Delawares give lasts as long as the waters run. Hawk-eye smoked at that council, for we loved him."
"No, no, John," said Natty I was no chief, seeing that I knowed nothing of scholarship, and had a white skin. But it was a comfortable hunting-ground then, lad, and would have been so this day, but for the money of Marmaduke Temple, and the twisty ways of the law."
"It must have been a sight of melancholy pleasure in deed," said Edwards, while his eye roved along the shores and over the hills, where the clearings, groaning with the golden corn, were cheering the forest with the signs of life, "to have roamed over these mountains and along this sheet of beautiful water, without a living soul to speak to, or to thwart your humor."
"Haven't I said it was cheerful?" said Leather-Stocking. "Yes, yes, when the trees begain to be covered with leaves, and the ice was out of the hake, it was a second paradise. I have travelled the woods for fifty-three years, and have made them my home for more than forty, and I can say that I have met but one place that was more to my liking; and that was only to eyesight, and not for hunting or fishing."
"And where was that?" asked Edwards.
"Where! why, up on the Catskills. I used often to go up into the mountains after wolves' skins and bears; once they paid me to get them a stuffed painter, and so I often went. 'there's a place in them hills that I used to climb to when I wanted to see the carryings on of the world, that would well pay any man for a barked shin or a torn moccasin. You know the Catskills, lad; for you must have seen them on your left, as you followed the river up from York, looking as blue as a piece of clear sky, and holding the clouds on their tops, as the smoke curls over the head of an Indian chief at the council fire. Well, there's the High-peak and the Round-top, which lay back like a father and mother among their children, seeing they are far above all the other hills. But the place I mean is next to the river, where one of the ridges juts out a little from the rest, and where the rocks fall, for the best part of a thousand feet, so much up and down, that a man standing on their edges is fool enough to think he can jump from top to bottom."
"What see you when you get there?" asked Edwards,
"Creation," said Natty, dropping the end of his rod into the water, and sweeping one hand around him in a circle, "all creation, lad. I was on that hill when Vaughan burned 'Sopus in the last war; and I saw the vessels come out of the Highlands as plain as I can see that lime- scow rowing into the Susquehanna, though one was twenty times farther from me than the other. The river was in sight for seventy miles, looking like a curled shaving under my feet, though it was eight long miles to its banks. I saw the hills in the Hampshire grants, the highlands of the river, and all that God had done, or man could do, far as eye could reach-you know that the Indians named me for my sight, lad ; and from the flat on the top of that mountain, I have often found the place where Albany stands. And as for 'Sopus, the day the royal troops burnt the town, the smoke seemed so nigh, that I thought I could hear the screeches of the women."
"It must have been worth the toil to meet with such a glorious view."
If being the best part of a mile in the air and having men's farms and houses your feet, with rivers looking like ribbons, and mountains bigger than the 'Vision seeming to be hay-stacks of green grass under you, gives any satisfaction to a man, I can recommend the spot. When I first came into the woods to live, I used to have weak spells when I felt lonesome: and then I would go into the Catskills, and spend a few days on that hill to look at the ways of man; but it's now many a year since I felt any such longings, and I am getting too old for rugged rocks. But there's a place, a short two miles back of that very hill, that in late times I relished better than the mountains: for it was more covered with the trees, and nateral."
"And where was that?" inquired Edwards, whose curiosity was strongly excited by the simple description of the hunter.
"Why, there's a fall in the hills where the water of two little ponds. that lie near each other, breaks out of their bounds and runs over the rocks into the valley. The stream is, maybe, such a one as would turn a mill, if so useless thing was wanted in the wilderness. But the hand that made that 'Leap' never made a mill. There the water comes crooking and winding among the rocks, first so slow that a trout could swim in it, and then starting and running like a creatur' that wanted to make a far spring, till it gets to where the mountain divides, like the cleft hoof of a deer, leaving a deep hollow for the brook to tumble into. The first pitch is nigh two hundred feet, and the water looks like flakes of driven snow afore it touches the bottom; and there the stream gathers itself together again for a new start, and maybe flutters over fifty feet of flat rock before it falls for another hundred, when it jumps about from shelf to shelf, first turning this-away and then turning that-away, striving to get out of the hollow, till it finally comes to the plain."
"I have never heard of this spot before; it is not mentioned in the books."
"I never read a book in my life," said Leather-Stocking; "and how should a man who has lived in towns and schools know anything about the wonders of the woods? No, no, lad; there has that little stream of water been playing among the hills since He made the world, and not a dozen white men have ever laid eyes on it. The rock sweeps like mason-work, in a half-round, on both sides of the fall, and shelves over the bottom for fifty feet; so that when I've been sitting at the foot of the first pitch, and my hounds have run into the caverns behind the sheet of water, they've looked no bigger than so many rabbits. To my judgment, lad, it's the best piece of work that I've met with in the woods; and none know how often the hand of God is seen in the wilderness, but them that rove it for a man's life,"
"What becomes of the water? In which direction does it run? Is it a tributary of the Delaware?"
"Anan!" said Natty.
"Does the water run into the Delaware?"
"No, no; it's a drop for the old Hudson, and a merry time it has till it gets down off the mountain. I've sat on the shelving rock many a long hour, boy, and watched the bubbles as they shot by me, and thought how long it would be before that very water, which seemed made for the wilderness, would be under the bottom of a vessel, and tossing in the salt sea. It is a spot to make a man solemnize. You go right down into the valley that lies to the east of the High Peak, where, in the fall of the year, thousands of acres of woods are before your eyes, in the deep hollow, and along the side of the mountain, painted like ten thousand rainbows, by no hand of man, though without the ordering of God's providence."
"You are eloquent, Leather-Stocking," exclaimed the youth.
"Anan!" repeated Natty.
"The recollection of the sight has warmed your blood, old man. How many years is it since you saw the place?"
The hunter made no reply; but, bending his ear near the water, he sat holding his breath, and listening attentively as if to some distant sound. At length he raised his head, and said:
"If I hadn't fastened the hounds with my own hands, with a fresh leash of green buckskin, I'd take a Bible oath that I heard old Hector ringing his cry on the mountain."
"It is impossible," said Edwards; "it is not an hour since I saw him in his kennel."
By this time the attention of Mohegan was attracted to the sounds; but, notwithstanding the youth was both silent and attentive, he could hear nothing but the lowing of some cattle from the western hills. He looked at the old men, Natty sitting with his hand to his ear, like a trumpet, and Mohegan bending forward, with an arm raised to a level with his face, holding the forefinger elevated as a signal for attention, and laughed aloud at what he deemed to be imaginary sounds.
"Laugh if you will, boy," said Leather-Stocking, " the hounds be out, and are hunting a deer, No man can deceive me in such a matter. I wouldn't have had the thing happen for a beaver's skin. Not that I care for the law; but the venison is lean now, and the dumb things run the flesh off their own bones for no good. Now do you hear the hounds?"
Edwards started, as a full cry broke on his ear, changing from the distant sounds that were caused by some intervening hill, to confused echoes that rang among the rocks that the dogs were passing, and then directly to a deep and hollow baying that pealed under the forest under the Lake shore. These variations in the tones of the hounds passed with amazing rapidity; and, while his eyes were glancing along the margin of the water, a tearing of the branches of the alder and dogwood caught his attention, at a spot near them and at the next moment a noble buck sprang on the shore, and buried himself in the lake. A full-mouthed cry followed, when Hector and the slut shot through the opening in the bushes, and darted into the lake also, bearing their breasts gallantly against the water
"Oft in the full descending flood he tries To lose the scent, and lave his burning sides."-Thomson.
"I knowed it-I knowed it!" cried Natty, when both deer and hounds were in full view; " the buck has gone by them with the wind, and it has been too much for the poor rogues; but I must break them of these tricks, or they'll give me a deal of trouble. He-ere, he-ere-shore. with you, rascals-shore with you-will ye? Oh! off with you, old Hector, or I'll hackle your hide with my ramrod when I get ye."
The dogs knew their master's voice, and after swimming in a circle, as if reluctant to give over the chase, and yet afraid to persevere, they finally obeyed, and returned to the land, where they filled the air with their cries.
In the mean time the deer, urged by his fears, had swum over half the distance between the shore and the boats, before his terror permitted him to see the new danger. But at the sounds of Natty's voice, he turned short in his course and for a few moments seemed about to rush back again, and brave the dogs. His retreat in this direction was, however, effectually cut off, and, turning a second time, he urged his course obliquely for the centre of the lake, with an intention of landing on the western shore. As the buck swam by the fishermen, raising his nose high into the air, curling the water before his slim neck like the beak of a galley, the Leather-Stocking began to sit very uneasy in his canoe.
"'Tis a noble creatur'!" he exclaimed; "what a pair of horns! a man might hang up all his garments on the branches. Let me see-July is the last month, and the flesh must be getting good." While he was talking, Natty had instinctively employed himself in fastening the inner end of the bark rope, that served him for a cable, to a paddle, and, rising suddenly on his legs, he cast this buoy away. and cried; "Strike out, John! let her go. The creatur's a fool to tempt a man in this way.
Mohegan threw the fastening of the youth's boat from the canoe, and with one stroke of his paddle sent the light bark over the water like a meteor.
"Hold!" exclaimed Edwards. " Remember the law, my old friends. You are in plain sight of the village, and I know that Judge Temple is determined to prosecute all, indiscriminately, who kill deer out of season."
The remonstrance came too late; the canoe was already far from the skiff, and the two hunters were too much engaged in the pursuit to listen to his voice.
The buck was now within fifty yards of his pursuers, cutting the water gallantly, and snorting at each breath with terror and his exertions, while the canoe seemed to dance over the waves as it rose and fell with the undulations made by its own motion. Leather-Stocking raised his rifle and freshened the priming, but stood in suspense whether to slay his victim or not.
"Shall I, John or no?" he said. "It seems but a poor advantage to take of the dumb thing, too. I won't; it has taken to the water on its own natur', which is the reason that God has given to a deer, and I'll give it the lake play; so, John, lay out your arm, and mind the turn of the buck; it's easy to catch them, but they'll turn like a snake."
The Indian laughed at the conceit of his friend, but continued to send the canoe forward with a velocity' that proceeded much more from skill than his strength. Both of the old men now used the language of the Delawares when they spoke.
"Hugh!" exclaimed Mohegan; "the deer turns his head. Hawk-eye, lift your spear."
Natty never moved abroad without taking with him every implement that might, by possibility, be of service in his pursuits. From his rifle he never parted; and although intending to fish with the line, the canoe was invariably furnished with all of its utensils, even to its grate This precaution grew out of the habits of the hunter, who was often led, by his necessities or his sports, far beyond the limits of his original destination. A few years earlier than the date of our tale, the Leather-Stocking had left his hut on the shores of the Otsego, with his rifle and his hounds, for a few days' hunting in the hills; but before he returned he had seen the waters of Ontario. One, two, or even three hundred miles had once been nothing to his sinews, which were now a little stiffened by age. The hunter did as Mohegan advised, and prepared to strike a blow with the barbed weapon into the neck of the buck.
"Lay her more to the left, John," he cried, "lay her more to the left; another stroke of the paddle and I have him."
While speaking he raised the spear, and darted it front him like an arrow. At that instant the buck turned, the long pole glanced by him, the iron striking against his horn, and buried itself harmlessly in the lake.
"Back water," cried Natty, as the canoe glided over the place where the spear had fallen; "hold water, John."
The pole soon reappeared, shooting up from the lake, and, as the hunter seized it in his hand, the Indian whirled the light canoe round, and renewed the chase. But this evolution gave the buck a great advantage; and it also allowed time for Edwards to approach the scene of action.
"Hold your hand, Natty!" cried the youth, "hold your hand; remember it is out of season."
This remonstrance was made as the batteau arrived close to the place where the deer was struggling with the water, his back now rising to the surface, now sinking beneath it, as the waves curled from his neck, the animal still sustaining itself nobly against the odds,
"Hurrah!" shouted Edwards, inflamed beyond prudence at the sight; "mind him as he doubles-mind him as he doubles; sheer more to the right, Mohegan, more to the right, and I'll have him by the horns; I'll throw the rope over his antlers."
The dark eye of the old warrior was dancing in his head with a wild animation, and the sluggish repose in which his aged frame had been resting in the canoe was now changed to all the rapid inflections of practiced agility. The canoe whirled with each cunning evolution of the chase, like a bubble floating in a whirlpool; and when the direction of the pursuit admitted of a straight course the little bark skimmed the lake with a velocity that urged the deer to seek its safety in some new turn.
It was the frequency of these circuitous movements that, by confining the action to so small a compass, enabled the youth to keep near his companions. More than twenty times both the pursued and the pursuer glided by him, just without the reach of his oars, until he thought the best way to view the sport was to remain stationary, and, by watching a favorable opportunity, assist as much as he could in taking the victim.
He was not required to wait long, for no sooner had he adopted this resolution, and risen in the boat, than he saw the deer coming bravely toward him, with an apparent intention of pushing for a point of land at some distance from the hounds, who were still barking and howling on the shore. Edwards caught the painter of his skiff, and, making a noose, cast it from him with all his force, and luckily succeeded in drawing its knot close around one of the antlers of the buck.
For one instant the skiff was drawn through the water, but in the next the canoe glided before it, and Natty, bending low, passed his knife across the throat of the animal, whose blood followed the wound, dyeing the waters. The short time that was passed in the last struggles of the animal was spent by the hunters in bringing their boats together and securing them in that position, when Leather- Stocking drew the deer from the water and laid its lifeless form in the bottom of the canoe. He placed his hands on the ribs, and on different parts of the body of his prize, and then, raising his head, he laughed in his peculiar manner.
"So much for Marmaduke Temple's law!" he said, "This warms a body's blood, old John: I haven't killed a buck in the lake afore this, sin' many a year. I call that good venison, lad: and I know them that will relish the creatur's steaks for all the betterments in the land."
The Indian had long been drooping with his years, and perhaps under the calamities of his race, but this invigorating and exciting sport caused a gleam of sunshine to cross his swarthy face that had long been absent from his features. it was evident the old man enjoyed the chase more as a memorial of his youthful sports and deeds than with any expectation of profiting by the success. He felt the deer, however, lightly, his hand already trembling with the reaction of his unusual exertions, and smiled with a nod of approbation, as he said, in the emphatic and sententious manner of his people:
"I am afraid, Natty," said Edwards, when the heat of the moment had passed, and his blood began to cool, "that we have all been equally transgressors of the law. But keep your own counsel, and there are none here to betray us. Yet how came those dogs at large? I left them securely fastened, I know, for I felt the thongs and examined the knots when I was at the hunt."
"It has been too much for the poor things," said Natty, "to have such a buck take the wind of them. See, lad, the pieces of the buckskin are hanging from their necks yet. Let us paddle up, John, and I will call them in and look a little into the matter."
When the old hunter landed and examined the thongs that were yet fast to the hounds, his countenance sensibly changed, and he shook his head doubtingly.
"Here has been a knife at work," he said; "this skin was never torn, nor is this the mark of a hound's tooth. No, no-Hector is not in fault, as I feared."
"Has the leather been cut?" cried Edwards.
"No, no-I didn't say it had been cut, lad; but this is a mark that was never made by a jump or a bite."
"Could that rascally carpenter have dared!"
"Ay! he durst do anything when there is no danger," said Natty; "he is a curious body, and loves to be helping other people on with their consarns. But he had best not harbor so much near the wigwam!"
In the mean time, Mohegan had been examining, with an Indian's sagacity, the place where the leather thong had been separated. After scrutinizing it closely, he said, in Delaware:
"It was cut with a knife-a sharp blade and a long handle-the man was afraid of the dogs."
"How is this, Mohegan?" exclaimed Edwards; "you saw it not! how can you know these facts?"
"Listen, son," said the warrior. "The knife was sharp, for the cut was smooth; the handle was long, for a man's arm would not reach from this gash to the cut that did not go through the skin; he was a coward, or he would have cut the thongs around the necks of the hounds." On my life," cried Natty, "John is on the scent! It was the carpenter; and he has got on the rock back of the kennel and let the dogs loose by fastening his knife to a stick. It would be an easy matter to do it where a man is so minded."
"And why should he do so?" asked Edwards; "who has done him wrong, that he should trouble two old men like you?"
"It's a hard matter, lad, to know men's ways, I find, since the settlers have brought in their new fashions, But is there nothing to be found out in the place? and maybe he is troubled with his longings after other people's business, as he often is"
"Your suspicions are just. Give me the canoe; I am young and strong. and will get down there yet, perhaps, in time to interrupt his plans. Heaven forbid that we should be at the mercy of such a man!"
His proposal was accepted, the deer being placed in the skiff in order to lighten the canoe, and in less than five minutes the little vessel of bark was gilding over the glassy lake, and was soon hid by the points of land as it shot close along the shore.
Mohegan followed slowly with the skiff, while Natty called his hounds to him, bade them keep close, and, shouldering his rifle, he ascended the mountain, with an intention of going to the hut by land.
"Ask me not what the maiden feels, Left in that dreadful hour alone: Perchance, her reason stoops, or reel!; Perchance, a courage not her own Braces her mind to desperate tone."-Scott.
While the chase was occurring on the lake, Miss Temple and her companion pursued their walk on the mountain. Male attendants on such excursions were thought to be altogether unnecessary, for none were even known to offer insult to a female who respected herself. After the embarrassment created by the parting discourse with Edwards had dissipated, the girls maintained a conversation that was as innocent and cheerful as themselves.
The path they took led them but a short distance above the hut of Leather-Stocking, and there was a point in the road which commanded a bird's-eye view of the sequestered spot.
From a feeling that might have been, natural, and must have been powerful, neither of the friends, in their frequent and confidential dialogues, had ever trusted herself to utter one syllable concerning the equivocal situation in which the young man who was now so intimately associated with them had been found. If judge Temple had deemed it prudent to make any inquiries on the subject, he had also thought it proper to keep the answers to him self; though it was so common an occurrence to find the well-educated youth of the Eastern States in every stage of their career to wealth, that the simple circumstance of his intelligence, connected with his poverty, would not, at that day and in that country, have excited any very powerful curiosity. With his breeding, it might have been different; but the youth himself had so effectually guarded against surprise on this subject, by his cold and even, in some cases, rude deportment, that when his manners seemed to soften by time, the Judge, if he thought about it at all, would have been most likely to imagine that the improvement was the result of his late association. But women are always more alive to such subjects than men; and what the abstraction of the father had overlooked, the observation of the daughter had easily detected. In the thousand little courtesies of polished life she had early discovered that Edwards was not wanting, though his gentleness was so often crossed by marks of what she conceived to be fierce and uncontrollable passions. It may, perhaps, be unnecessary to tell the reader that Louisa Grant never reasoned so much after the fashions of the world. The gentle girl, however, had her own thoughts on the subject, and, like others, she drew her own conclusions.
"I would give all my other secrets, Louisa," exclaimed Miss Temple, laughing, and shaking back her dark locks, with a look of childish simplicity that her intelligent face seldom expressed, "to be mistress of all that those rude logs have heard and witnessed."
They were both looking at the secluded hut at the instant, and Miss Grant raised her mild eyes as she answered:
"I am sure they would tell nothing to the disadvantage of Mr. Edwards."
"Perhaps not; but they might, at least, tell who he is."
"Why, dear Miss Temple, we know all that already. I have heard it all very rationally explained by your cousin-"
"The executive chief! he can explain anything. His ingenuity will one day discover the philosopher's stone. But what did he say?"
"Say!" echoed Louisa, with a look of surprise; "why, everything that seemed to me to be satisfactory, and I now believed it to be true. He said that Natty Bumppo had lived most of his life in the woods and among the Indians, by which means he had formed an acquaintance with old John, the Delaware chief."
"Indeed! that was quite a matter-of-fact tale for Cousin Dickon. What came next?"
"I believe he accounted for their close intimacy by some story about the Leather-Stocking saving the life of John in a battle."
"Nothing more likely," said Elizabeth, a little impatiently; "but what is all this to the purpose?"
"Nay, Elizabeth, you must bear with my ignorance, and I will repeat all that I remember to have overheard for the dialogue was between my father and the sheriff, so lately as the last time they met, He then added that the kings of England used to keep gentlemen as agents among the different tribes of Indians, and sometimes officers in the army, who frequently passed half their lives on the edge of the wilderness."
"Told with wonderful historical accuracy! And did he end there?"
"Oh! no-then he said that these agents seldom married; and-and-they must have been wicked men, Elizabeth! but I assure you he said so."
"Never mind," said Miss Temple, blushing and smiling, though so slightly that both were unheeded by her companion; "skip all that."
"Well, then, he said that they often took great pride in the education of their children, whom they frequently sent to England, and even to the colleges; and this is the way that he accounts for the liberal manner in which Mr. Edwards has been taught; for he acknowledges that he knows almost as much as your father-or mine-or even himself."
"Quite a climax in learning'. And so he made Mohegan the granduncle or grandfather of Oliver Edwards."
"You have heard him yourself, then?" said Louisa.
"Often; but not on this subject. Mr. Richard Jones, you know, dear, has a theory for everything; but has he one which will explain the reason why that hut is the only habitation within fifty miles of us whose door is not open to every person who may choose to lift its latch?"
"I have never heard him say anything on this subject," returned the clergyman's daughter; "but I suppose that, as they are poor, they very naturally are anxious to keep the little that they honestly own. It is sometimes dangerous to be rich, Miss Temple; but you cannot know how hard it is to be very, very poor."
"Nor you, I trust, Louisa; at least I should hope that, in this land of abundance, no minister of the church could be left in absolute suffering."
"There cannot be actual misery," returned the other, in a low and humble tone, "where there is a dependence on our Maker; but there may be such suffering as will cause the heart to ache."
"But not you-not you," said the impetuous Elizabeth- "not you, dear girl, you have never known the misery that is connected with poverty."
"Ah! Miss Temple, you little understand the troubles of this life, I believe. My father has spent many years as a missionary in the new countries, where his people were poor, and frequently we have been without bread; unable to buy, and ashamed to beg, because we would not disgrace his sacred calling. But how often have I seen him leave his home, where the sick and the hungry felt, when he left them, that they had lost their only earthly friend, to ride on a duty which could not be neglected for domes tic evils! Oh! how hard it must be to preach consolation to others when your own heart is bursting with anguish!"
"But it is all over now! your father's income must now be equal to his wants-it must be-it shall be-"
"It is," replied Louisa, dropping her head on her bosom to conceal the tears which flowed in spite of her gentle Christianity-" for there are none left to be supplied but me."
The turn the conversation had taken drove from the minds of the young maidens all other thoughts but those of holy charity; and Elizabeth folded her friend in her arms, when the latter gave vent to her momentary grief in audible sobs. When this burst of emotion had subsided, Louisa raised her mild countenance, and they continued their walk in silence.
By this time they had gained the summit of the mountain, where they left the highway, and pursued their course under the shade of the stately trees that crowned the eminence. The day was becoming warm, and the girls plunged more deeply into the forest, as they found its invigorating coolness agreeably contrasted to the excessive heat they had experienced in the ascent. The conversation, as if by mutual consent, was entirely changed to the little incidents and scenes of their walk, and every tall pine, and every shrub or flower, called forth some simple expression of admiration.
In this manner they proceeded along the margin of the precipice, catching occasional glimpses of the placid Otsego, or pausing to listen to the rattling of wheels and the sounds of hammers that rose from the valley, to mingle the signs of men with the scenes of nature, when Elizabeth suddenly started, and exclaimed:
"Listen! there are the cries of a child on this mountain! Is there a clearing near us, or can some little one have strayed from its parents?"
"Such things frequently happen," returned Louisa. Let us follow the sounds; it may be a wanderer starving on the hill."
Urged by this consideration, the females pursued the low, mournful sounds, that proceeded from the forest, with quick and impatient steps. More than once, the ardent Elizabeth was on the point of announcing that she saw the sufferer, when Louisa caught her by the arm, and pointing behind them, cried:
"Look at the dog!"
Brave had been their companion, from the time the voice of his young mistress lured him from his kennel, to the present moment. His advanced age had long before deprived him of his activity; and when his companions stopped to view the scenery, or to add to their bouquets, the mastiff would lay his huge frame on the ground and await their movements, with his eyes closed, and a listlessness in his air that ill accorded with the character of a protector. But when, aroused by this cry from Louisa, Miss Temple turned, she saw the dog with his eyes keenly set on some distant object, his head bent near the ground, and his hair actually rising on his body, through fright or anger. It was most probably the latter, for he was growling in a low key, and occasionally showing his teeth, in a manner that would have terrified his mistress, had she not so well known his good qualities.
"Brave!" she said, "be quiet, Brave! What do you see, fellow?"
At the sounds of her voice, the rage of the mastiff, instead of being at all diminished, was very sensibly increased. He stalked in front of the ladies, and seated himself at the feet of his mistress, growling louder than before, and occasionally giving vent to his ire by a short, surly barking.
"What does he see?" said Elizabeth; "there must be some animal in sight."
Hearing no answer from her companion, Miss Temple turned her head and beheld Louisa, standing with her face whitened to the color of death, and her finger pointing upward with a sort of flickering, convulsed motion. The quick eye of Elizabeth glanced in the direction indicated by her friend, where she saw the fierce front and glaring eyes of a female panther, fixed on them in horrid malignity, and threatening to leap.
"Let us fly," exclaimed Elizabeth, grasping the arm of Louisa, whose form yielded like melting snow.
There was not a single feeling in the temperament of Elizabeth Temple that could prompt her to desert a companion in such an extremity. She fell on her knees by the side of the inanimate Louisa, tearing from the person of her friend, with instinctive readiness, such parts of her dress as might obstruct her respiration, and encouraging their only safeguard, the dog, at the same time, by the sounds of her voice.
"Courage, Brave!" she cried, her own tones beginning to tremble, "courage, courage, good Brave!"
A quarter-grown cub, that had hitherto been unseen, now appeared, dropping from the branches of a sapling that grew under the shade of the beech which held its dam. This ignorant but vicious creature approached the dog, imitating the actions and sounds of its parent, but exhibiting a strange mixture of the playfulness of a kitten with the ferocity of its race. Standing on its hind-legs, it would rend the bark of a tree with its fore-paws, and play the antics of a cat; and then, by lashing itself with its tail, growling, and scratching the earth, it would at tempt the manifestations of anger that rendered its parent so terrific.
All this time Brave stood firm and undaunted, his short tail erect, his body drawn backward on its haunches, and his eyes following the movements of both dam and cub. At every gambol played by the latter, it approached nigher to the dog, the growling of the three becoming more horrid at each moment, until the younger beast, over-leaping its intended bound, fell directly before the mastiff. There was a moment of fearful cries and struggles, but they ended almost as soon as commenced, by the cub appearing in the air, hurled from the jaws of Brave, with a violence that sent it against a tree so forcibly as to render it completely senseless. Elizabeth witnessed the short struggle, and her blood was warming with the triumph of the dog, when she saw the form of the old panther in the air, springing twenty feet from the branch of the beech to the back of the mastiff. No words of ours can describe the fury of the conflict that followed. It was a confused struggle on the dry leaves, accompanied by loud and terrific cries. Miss Temple continued on her knees, bending over the form of Louisa, her eyes fixed on the animals with an interest so horrid, and yet so intense, that she almost forgot her own stake in the result. So rapid and vigorous were the bounds of the inhabitant of the forest, that its active frame seemed constantly in the air, while the dog nobly faced his foe at each successive leap. When the panther lighted on the shoulders of the mastiff, which was its constant aim, old Brave, though torn with her talons, and stained with his own blood, that already flowed from a dozen wounds, would shake off his furious foe like a feather, and, rearing on his hind-legs, rush to the fray again, with jaws distended, and a dauntless eye. But age, and his pampered life, greatly disqualified the noble mastiff for such a struggle. In everything but courage. he was only the vestige of what he had once been. A higher bound than ever raised the wary and furious beast far beyond the reach of the dog, who was making a desperate but fruitless dash at her, from which she alighted in a favorable position, on the back of her aged foe. For a single moment only could the panther remain there, the great strength of the dog returning with a convulsive effort. But Elizabeth saw, as Brave fastened his teeth in the side of his enemy, that the collar of brass around his neck, which had been glittering throughout the fray, was of the color of blood, and directly that his frame was sinking to the earth, where it soon lay prostrate and helpless. Several mighty efforts of the wild-cat to extricate herself from the jaws of the dog followed, but they were fruitless, until the mastiff turned on his back, his lips collapsed, and his teeth loosened, when the short convulsions and stillness that succeeded announced the death of poor Brave.
Elizabeth now lay wholly at the mercy of the beast. There is said to be something in the front of the image of the Maker that daunts the hearts of the inferior beings of his creation; and it would seem that some such power, in the present instance, suspended the threatened blow. The eyes of the monster and the kneeling maiden met for an instant, when the former stooped to examine her fallen foe; next, to scent her luckless cub. From the latter examination it turned, however, with its eyes apparently emitting flashes of fire, its tail lashing its sides furiously, and its claws projecting inches from her broad feet.
Miss Temple did not or could not move. Her hands were clasped in the attitude of prayer, but her eyes were still drawn to her terrible enemy-her cheeks were blanched to the whiteness of marble, and her lips were slightly separated with horror.
The moment seemed now to have arrived for the fatal termination, and the beautiful figure of Elizabeth was bowing meekly to the stroke, when a rustling of leaves behind seemed rather to mock the organs than to meet her ears.
"Hist! hist!" said a low voice, "stoop lower, gal; your bonnet hides the creatur's head."
It was rather the yielding of nature than a compliance with this unexpected order, that caused the head of our heroine to sink on her bosom; when she heard the report of the rifle, the whizzing of the bullet, and the enraged cries of the beast, who was rolling over on the earth, biting its own flesh, and tearing the twigs and branches within its reach. At the next instant the form of the Leather- Stocking rushed by her, and he called aloud:
"Come in, Hector! come in, old fool; 'tis a hard-lived animal, and may jump agin."
Natty fearlessly maintained his position in front of the females, notwithstanding the violent bounds and threatening aspect of the wounded panther, which gave several indications of returning strength and ferocity, until his rifle was again loaded, when he stepped up to the enraged animal, and, placing the muzzle close to its head, every spark of life was extinguished by the discharge.
The death of her terrible enemy appeared to Elizabeth like a resurrection from her own grave. There was an elasticity in the mind of our heroine that rose to meet the pressure of instant danger, and the more direct it had been, the more her nature had struggled to overcome them. But still she was a woman. Had she been left to herself in her late extremity, she would probably have used her faculties to the utmost, and with discretion, in protecting her person; but, encumbered with her inanimate friend, retreat was a thing not to be attempted. Notwithstanding the fearful aspect of her foe, the eye of Elizabeth had never shrunk from its gaze, and long after the event her thoughts would recur to her passing sensations, and the sweetness of her midnight sleep would be disturbed, as her active fancy conjured, in dreams, the most trifling movements of savage fury that the beast had exhibited in its moment of power.
We shall leave the reader to imagine the restoration of Louisa's senses, and the expressions of gratitude which fell from the young women. The former was effected by a little water, that was brought from one of the thousand springs of those mountains, in the cap of the Leather-Stocking; and the latter were uttered with the warmth that might be expected from the character of Elizabeth. Natty received her vehement protestations of gratitude with a simple expression of good- will, and with indulgence for her present excitement, but with a carelessness that showed how little he thought of the service he had rendered.
"Well, well," he said, "be it so, gal; let it be so, if you wish it- we'll talk the thing over another time. Come, come-let us get into the road, for you've had terror enough to make you wish yourself in your father's house agin."
This was uttered as they were proceeding, at a pace that was adapted to the weakness of Louisa, toward the highway; on reaching which the ladies separated from their guide, declaring themselves equal to the remainder of the walk without his assistance, and feeling encouraged by the sight of the village which lay beneath their feet like a picture, with its limpid lake in front, the winding stream along its margin, and its hundred chimneys of whitened bricks.
The reader need not be told the nature of the emotions which two youthful, ingenuous, and well-educated girls would experience at their escape from a death so horrid as the one which had impended over them, while they pursued their way in silence along the track on the side of the mountain; nor how deep were their mental thanks to that Power which had given them their existence, and which had not deserted them in their extremity; neither how often they pressed each other's arms as the assurance of their present safety came, like a healing balm, athwart their troubled spirits, when their thoughts were recurring to the recent moments of horror.
Leather-Stocking remained on the hill, gazing after their retiring figures, until they were hidden by a bend in the road, when he whistled in his dogs, and shouldering his rifle, he returned into the forest.
"Well, it was a skeary thing to the young creatur's," said Natty, while he retrod the path toward the plain. "It might frighten an older woman, to see a she-painter so near her, with a dead cub by its side. I wonder if I had aimed at the varmint's eye, if I shouldn't have touched the life sooner than in the forehead; but they are hard- lived animals, and it was a good shot, consid'ring that I could see nothing but the head and the peak of its tail. Hah! who goes there?"
"How goes it, Natty?" said Mr. Doolittle, stepping out of the bushes, with a motion that was a good deal accelerated by the sight of the rifle, that was already lowered in his direction. "What! shooting this warm day! Mind, old man, the law don't get hold on you."
"The law, squire! I have shook hands with the law these forty year," returned Natty; "for what has a man who lives in the wilderness to do with the ways of the law?"
"Not much, maybe," said Hiram; "but you sometimes trade in venison. I s'pose you know, Leather-Stocking, that there is an act passed to lay a fine of five pounds currency, or twelve dollars and fifty cents, by decimals, on every man who kills a deer betwixt January and August. The Judge had a great hand in getting the law through."
"I can believe it," returned the old hunter; " I can believe that or anything of a man who carries on as he does in the country."
"Yes, the law is quite positive, and the Judge is bent on putting it in force-five pounds penalty. I thought I heard your hounds out on the scent of so'thing this morning; I didn't know but they might get you in difficulty."
"They know their manners too well," said Natty carelessly. "And how much goes to the State's evidence, squire?"
"How much?" repeated Hiram, quailing under the honest but sharp look of the hunter; "the informer gets half, I-I believe-yes, I guess it's half. But there's blood on your sleeve, man-you haven't been shooting anything this morning?"
"I have, though," said the hunter, nodding his head significantly to the other, "and a good shot I made of it."
"H-e-m!" ejacuated the magistrate; "and where is the game? I s'pose it's of a good natur', for your dogs won't hunt anything that isn't choice."
"They'll hunt anything I tell them to, squire," cried Natty, favoring the other with his laugh. "They'll hunt you, if I say so. He-e-e-re, he-e-e-re, Hector-he-e-e-re, slut-come this a-way, pups-come this a- way--come hither."
"Oh! I have always heard a good character of the dogs," returned Mr. Doolittle, quickening his pace by raising each leg in rapid succession, as the hounds scented around his person. "And where is the game, Leather-Stocking?"
During this dialogue, the speakers had been walking at a very fast gait, and Natty swung the end of his rifle round, pointing through the bushes, and replied: "There lies one. How do you like such meat?"
"This!" exclaimed Hiram; "why, this is Judge Temple's dog Brave. Take care, Leather-Stocking, and don't make an enemy of the Judge. I hope you haven't harmed the animal?"
"Look for yourself, Mr. Doolittle," said Natty, drawing his knife from his girdle, and wiping it in a knowing manner, once or twice across his garment of buckskin; "does his throat look as if I had cut it with this knife?"
"It is dreadfully torn! it's an awful wound-no knife ever did this deed. Who could have done it?"
"The painters behind you, squire."
"Painters!" echoed Hiram, whirling on his heel with an agility that would have done credit to a dancing' master.
"Be easy, man," said Natty; "there's two of the venomous things; but the dog finished one, and I have fastened the other's jaws for her; so don't be frightened, squire; they won't hurt you."
"And where's the deer?" cried Hiram, staring about him with a bewildered air.
"Anan? deer!" repeated Natty. "Sartain; an't there venison here, or didn't you kill a buck?"
"What! when the law forbids the thing, squire!" said the old hunter, "I hope there's no law agin' killing the painters."
"No! there's a bounty on the scalps-but-will your dogs hunt painters, Natty?"
"Anything; didn't I tell you they would hunt a man? He-e-re, he-e-re, pups-"
"Yes, yes, I remember. Well, they are strange dogs, I must say-I am quite in a wonderment."
Natty had seated himself on the ground, and having laid the grim head of his late ferocious enemy in his lap, was drawing his knife with a practiced hand around the ears, which he tore from the head of the beast in such a manner as to preserve their connection, when he answered;
"What at, squire? did you never see a painter's scalp afore? Come, you are a magistrate, I wish you'd make me out an order for the bounty."
"The bounty!" repeated Hiram, holding the ears on the end of his finger for a moment, as if uncertain how to proceed. "Well, let us go down to your hut, where you can take the oath, and I will write out the order, I sup pose you have a Bible? All the law wants is the four evangelists and the Lord's prayer."
"I keep no books," said Natty, a little coldly; "not such a Bible as the law needs."
"Oh! there's but one sort of Bible that's good in law," returned the magistrate, "and your'n will do as well as another's. Come, the carcasses are worth nothing, man; let us go down and take the oath."
"Softly, softly, squire," said the hunter, lifting his trophies very deliberately from the ground, and shouldering his rifle; "why do you want an oath at all, for a thing that your own eyes has seen? Won't you believe yourself, that another man must swear to a fact that you know to be true? You have seen me scalp the creatur's, and if I must swear to it, it shall be before Judge Temple, who needs an oath."
"But we have no pen or paper here, Leather-Stocking; we must go to the hut for them, or how can I write the order?"
Natty turned his simple features on the cunning magistrate with another of his laughs, as he said:
"And what should I be doing with scholars' tools? I want no pens or paper, not knowing the use of either; and I keep none. No, no, I'll bring the scalps into the village, squire, and you can make out the order on one of your law-books, and it will he all the better for it. The deuce take this leather on the neck of the dog, it will strangle the old fool. Can you lend me a knife, squire?"
Hiram, who seemed particularly anxious to be on good terms with his companion, unhesitatingly complied. Natty cut the thong from the neck of the hound, and, as he returned the knife to its owner, carelessly remarked:
"Tis a good bit of steel, and has cut such leather as this very same, before now, I dare say."
"Do you mean to charge me with letting your hounds loose?" exclaimed Hiram, with a consciousness that disarmed his caution.
"Loose!" repeated the hunter-" I let them loose my self. I always let them loose before I leave the hut."
The ungovernable amazement with which Mr. Doolittle listened to this falsehood would have betrayed his agency in the liberation of the dogs, had Natty wanted any further confirmation; and the coolness and management of the old man now disappeared in open indignation.
"Look you here, Mr. Doolittle," he said, striking the breech of his rifle violently on the ground; " what there is in the wigwam of a poor man like me, that one like you can crave, I don't know; but this I tell you to your face, that you never shall put foot under the roof of my cabin with my consent, and that, if you harbor round the spot as you have done lately, you may meet with treatment that you will little relish."
"And let me tell you, Mr. Bumppo," said Hiram, retreating, however, with a quick step, "that I know you've broke the law, and that I'm a magistrate, and will make you feel it too, before you are a day older."
"That for you and your law, too," cried Natty, snap ping his fingers at the justice of the peace; "away with you, you varmint, before the devil tempts me to give you your desarts. Take care, if I ever catch your prowling face in the woods agin, that I don't shoot it for an owl."
There is something at all times commanding in honest indignation, and Hiram did not stay to provoke the wrath of the old hunter to extremities. When the intruder was out of sight, Natty proceeded to the hut, where he found all quiet as the grave. He fastened his dogs, and tapping at the door, which was opened by Edwards, asked;
"Is all safe, lad?"
"Everything," returned the youth. "Some one attempted the lock, but it was too strong for him."
"I know the creatur'," said Natty, "but he'll not trust himself within the reach of my rifle very soon--" What more was uttered by the Leather-Stocking, in his vexation, was rendered inaudible by the closing of the door of the cabin.
"It is noised, he hath a mass of treasure."-Timon of Athens.
When Marmaduke Temple and his cousin rode through the gate of the former, the heart of the father had been too recently touched with the best feelings of our nature, to leave inclination for immediate discourse. There was an importance in the air of Richard, which would not have admitted of the ordinary informal conversation of the sheriff, without violating all the rules of consistency; and the equestrians pursued their way with great diligence, for more than a mile, in profound silence. At length the soft expression of parental affection was slowly chased from the handsome features of the Judge, and was gradually supplanted by the cast of humor and benevolence that was usually seated on his brow.
"Well, Dickon," he said, since I have yielded myself so far implicitly to your guidance, I think the moment has arrived when I am entitled to further confidence. Why and wherefore are we journeying together in this solemn gait?"
The sheriff gave a loud hem, that rang far in the forest, and keeping his eyes fixed on objects before him like a man who is looking deep into futurity:
"There has always been one point of difference between us, Judge Temple, I may say, since our nativity," he replied; not that I would insinuate that you are at all answerable for the acts of Nature; for a man is no more to be condemned for the misfortunes of his birth, than he is to be commended for the natural advantages he may possess; but on one point we may be said to have differed from our births, and they, you know, occurred within two days of each other."
"I really marvel, Richard, what this one point can be, for, to my eyes, we seem to differ so materially, and so often-"
"Mere consequences, sir," interrupted the sheriff; "all our minor differences proceed from one cause, and that is, our opinions of the universal attainments of genius."
"In what, Dickon?"
"I speak plain English, I believe, Judge Temple: at least I ought; for my father, who taught me, could speak--"
"Greek and Latin," interrupted Marmaduke. "I well know the qualifications of your family in tongues, Dickon. But proceed to the point; why are we travelling over this mountain to-day?"
"To do justice to any subject, sir, the narrator must he suffered to proceed in his own way," continued the sheriff. "You are of opinion, Judge Temple, that a man is to be qualified by nature and education to do only one thing well, whereas I know that genius will supply the place of learning, and that a certain sort of man can do anything and everything."
"Like yourself, I suppose," said Marmaduke, smiling.
"I scorn personalities, sir, I say nothing of myself; but there are three men on your Patent, of the kind that I should term talented by nature for her general purposes though acting under the influence of different situations."
"We are better off, then, than I had supposed. Who are these triumviri?"
"Why, sir, one is Hiram Doolittle; a carpenter by trade, as you know- and I need only point to the village to exhibit his merits. Then he is a magistrate, and might shame many a man, in his distribution of justice, who has had better opportunities."
"Well, he is one," said Marmaduke, with the air of a man that was determined not to dispute the point.
"Jotham Riddel is another."
"What, that dissatisfied, shiftless, lazy, speculating fellow! he who changes his county every three years, his farm every six months, and his occupation every season! an agriculturist yesterday, a shoemaker to-day, and a school master to-morrow! that epitome of all the unsteady and profitless propensities of the settlers without one of their good qualities to counterbalance the evil! Nay, Richard. this is too bad for even-but the third."
"As the third is not used to hearing such comments on his character, Judge Temple, I shall not name him."
"The amount of all this, then, Dickon, is that the trio, of which you are one, and the principal, have made some important discovery."
"I have not said that I am one, Judge Temple. As I told you before, say nothing egotistical. But a discovery has been made, and you are deeply interested in it."
"Proceed-I am all ears."
"No, no, 'Duke, you are bad enough, I own, but not so bad as that, either; your ears are not quite full grown."
The sheriff laughed heartily at his own wit, and put himself in good humor thereby, when he gratified his patient cousin with the following explanation:
"You know, 'Duke, there is a man living on your estate that goes by the name of Natty Bumppo. Here has this man lived, by what I can learn, for more than forty years-by himself, until lately; and now with strange companions."
"Part very true, and all very probable," said the Judge.
"All true, sir; all true. Well, within these last few months have appeared as his companions an old Indian chief, the last, or one of the last of his tribe that is to be found in this part of the country, and a young man, who is said to be the son of some Indian agent, by a squaw."
"Who says that?" cried Marmaduke, with an interest; that he had not manifested before.
"Who? why, common sense-common report-the hue and cry. But listen till you know all. This youth has very pretty talents-yes, what I call very pretty talents- and has been well educated, has seen very tolerable company, and knows how to behave himself when he has a mind to. Now, Judge Temple, can you tell me what has brought three such men as Indian John, Natty Bumppo, and Oliver Edwards together?" Marmaduke turned his countenance, in evident surprise, to his cousin, and replied quickly:
"Thou hast unexpectedly hit on a subject, Richard, that has often occupied my mind. But knowest thou anything of this mystery, or are they only the crude conjectures of-"
"Crude nothing, 'Duke, crude nothing : but facts, stub-born facts. You know there arc mines in these mountains; I have often heard you say that you believed in their existence."
"Reasoning from analogy, Richard, but not with any certainty of the fact."
"You have heard them mentioned, and have seen specimens of the ore, sir; you will not deny that! and, reasoning from analogy, as you say, if there be mines in South America, ought there not to be mines in North America too?"
"Nay, nay, I deny nothing, my cousin. I certainly have heard many rumors of the existence of mines in these hills: and I do believe that I have seen specimens of the precious metals that have been found here. It would occasion me no surprise to learn that tin and silver, or what I consider of more consequence, good coal-"
"Damn your coal," cried the sheriff; " who wants to find coal in these forests? No, no-silver, 'Duke; silver is the one thing needful, and silver is to be found. But listen: you are not to be told that the natives have long known the use of gold and silver; now who so likely to be acquainted where they are to be found as the ancient inhabitants of a country? I have the best reasons for believing that both Mohegan and the Leather-Stocking have been privy to the existence of a mine in this very mountain for many years."
The sheriff had now touched his cousin in a sensitive spot; and Marmaduke lent a more attentive ear to the speaker, who, after waiting a moment to see the effect of this extraordinary development, proceeded:
"Yes, sir, I have my reasons, and at a proper time you shall know them,"
"No time is so good as the present."
"Well, well, be attentive," continued Richard, looking cautiously about him, to make certain that no eavesdropper was hid in the forest, though they were in constant motion. "I have seen Mohegan and the Leather-Stocking, with my own eyes-and my eyes are as good as anybody's eyes-I have seen them, I say, both going up the mountain and coming down it, with spades and picks; and others have seen them carrying things into their hut, in a secret and mysterious manner, after dark. Do you call this a fact of importance?"
The Judge did not reply, but his brow had contracted, with a thoughtfulness that he always wore when much interested, and his eyes rested on his cousin in expectation of hearing more. Richard continued:
"It was ore. Now, sir, I ask if you can tell me who this Mr. Oliver Edwards is, that has made a part of your household since Christmas?"
Marmaduke again raised his eyes, but continued silent, shaking his head in the negative.
"That he is a half-breed we know, for Mohegan does not scruple to call him openly his kinsman; that he is well educated we know. But as to his business here-do you remember that about a month before this young man made his appearance among us, Natty was absent from home several days? You do; for you inquired for him, as you wanted some venison to take to your friends, when you went for Bess. Well, he was not to be found. Old John was left in the hut alone, and when Natty did appear, although he came on in the night, he was seen drawing one of those jumpers that they carry their grain to mill in, and to take out something with great care, that he had covered up under his bear- skins. Now let me ask you, Judge Temple, what motive could induce a man like the Leather-Stocking to make a sled, and toil with a load over these mountains, if he had nothing but his rifle or his ammunition to carry?"
"They frequently make these jumpers to convey their game home, and you say he had been absent many days."
"How did he kill it? His rifle was in the village, to be mended. No, no-that he was gone to some unusual place is certain; that he brought back some secret utensils is more certain; and that he has not allowed a soul to approach his hut since is most certain of all."
"He was never fond of intruders----"
"I know it," interrupted Richard; "but did he drive them from his cabin morosely? Within a fortnight of his return, this Mr. Edwards appears. They spend whole days in the mountains, pretending to be shooting, but in reality exploring; the frosts prevent their digging at that time, and he avails himself of a lucky accident to get into good quarters. But even now, he is quite half of his time in that hut-many hours every night. They are smelting, 'Duke they are smelting, and as they grow rich, you grow poor."
"How much of this is thine own, Richard, and how much comes from others? I would sift the wheat from the chaff."
"Part is my own, for I saw the jumper, though it was broken up and burnt in a day or two. I have told you that I saw the old man with his spades and picks. Hiram met Natty, as he was crossing the mountain, the night of his arrival with the sled, and very good- naturedly offered -Hiram is good-natured-to carry up part of his load, for the old man had a heavy pull up the back of the mountain, but he wouldn't listen to the thing, and repulsed the offer in such a manner that the squire said he had half a mind to swear the peace against him. Since the snow has been off, more especially after the frosts got out of the ground, we have kept a watchful eye on the gentle man, in which we have found Jotham useful." Marmaduke did not much like the associates of Richard in this business; still he knew them to be cunning and ready expedients; and as there was certainly something mysterious, not only in the connection between the old hunters and Edwards, but in what his cousin had just related, he began to revolve the subject in his own mind with more care. On reflection, he remembered various circumstances that tended to corroborate these suspicions, and, as the whole business favored one of his infirmities, he yielded the more readily to their impression. The mind of Judge Temple, at all times comprehensive, had received from his peculiar occupations a bias to look far into futurity, in his speculations on the improvements that posterity were to make in his lands. To his eye, where others saw nothing but a wilderness, towns, manufactories, bridges, canals, mines, and all the other resources of an old country were constantly presenting themselves, though his good sense suppressed, in some degree, the exhibition of these expectations.
As the sheriff allowed his cousin full time to reflect on what he had heard, the probability of some pecuniary adventure being the connecting link in the chain that brought Oliver Edwards into the cabin of Leather-Stocking appeared to him each moment to be stronger. But Marmaduke was too much in the habit of examining both sides of a subject not to perceive the objections, and he reasoned with himself aloud:
"It cannot be so, or the youth would not be driven so near the verge of poverty."
"What so likely to make a man dig for money as being poor?" cried the sheriff.
"Besides, there is an elevation of character about Oliver that proceeds from education, which would forbid so clan- destine a proceeding."
"Could an ignorant fellow smelt?" continued Richard.
"Bess hints that he was reduced even to his last shilling when we took him into our dwelling."
"He had been buying tools. And would he spend his last sixpence for a shot at a turkey had he not known where to get more?"
"Can I have possibly been so long a dupe? His manner has been rude to me at times, but I attributed it to his conceiving himself injured, and to his mistaking the forms of the world."
"Haven't you been a dupe all your life, 'Duke, and an't what you call ignorance of forms deep cunning, to conceal his real character?"
"If he were bent on deception, he would have concealed his knowledge, and passed with us for an inferior man."
"He cannot. I could no more pass for a fool, myself, than I could fly. Knowledge is not to be concealed, like a candle under a bushel,"
"Richard," said the Judge, turning to his cousin, "there are many reasons against the truth of thy conjectures, but thou hast awakened suspicions which must be satisfied. But why are we travelling here?"
"Jotham, who has been much in the mountain latterly, being kept there by me and Hiram, has made a discovery, which he will not explain, he says, for he is bound by an oath; but the amount is, that he knows where the ore lies, and he has this day begun to dig. I would not consent to the thing, 'Duke, without your knowledge, for the land is yours; and now you know the reason of our ride. I call this a countermine, ha!"
"And where is the desirable spot?" asked the Judge with an air half comical, half serious.
"At hand; and when we have visited that, I will show you one of the places that we have found within a week, where our hunters have been amusing themselves for six months past."
The gentlemen continued to discuss the matter, while their horses picked their way under the branches of the trees and over the uneven ground of the mountain. They soon arrived at the end of their journey, where, in truth, they found Jotham already buried to his neck in a hole that he had been digging.
Marmaduke questioned the miner very closely as to his reasons for believing in the existence of the precious metals near that particular spot; but the fellow maintained an obstinate mystery in his answers. He asserted that he had the best of reasons for what he did, and inquired of the judge what portion of the profits would fall to his own share, in the event of success, with an earnestness that proved his faith. After spending an hour near the place, examining the stones, and searching for the usual indications of the proximity of ore, the Judge remounted and suffered his cousin to lead the way to the place where the mysterious trio had been making their excavation.
The spot chosen by Jotham was on the back of the mountain that overhung the hut of Leather-Stocking, and the place selected by Natty and his companions was on the other side of the same hill, but above the road, and, of course, in an opposite direction to the route taken by the ladies in their walk.
"We shall be safe in approaching the place now," said Richard, while they dismounted and fastened their horses; "for I took a look with the glass, and saw John and Leather-Stocking in their canoe fishing before we left home, and Oliver is in the same pursuit; but these may be nothing but shams to blind our eye; so we will be expeditious, for it would not be pleasant to be caught here by them."
"Not on my own land?" said Marmaduke sternly. "If it be as you suspect, I will know their reasons for making this excavation."
"Mum," said Richard, laying a finger on his lip, and leading the way down a very difficult descent to a sort of natural cavern, which was found in the face of the rock, and was not unlike a fireplace in shape. In front of this place lay a pile of earth, which had evidently been taken from the recess, and part of which was yet fresh. An examination of the exterior of the cavern left the Judge in doubt whether it was one of Nature's frolics that had thrown it into that shape, or whether it had been wrought by the hands of man, at some earlier period. But there could be no doubt that the whole of the interior was of recent formation, and the marks of the pick were still visible where the soft, lead-colored rock had opposed itself to the progress of the miners. The whole formed an excavation of about twenty feet in width, and nearly twice that distance in depth. The height was much greater than was required for the ordinary purposes of experiment, but this was evidently the effect of chance, as the roof of the cavern was a natural stratum of rock that projected many feet beyond the base of the pile. Immediately in front of the recess, or cave, was a little terrace, partly formed by nature, and partly by the earth that had been carelessly thrown aside by the laborers. The mountain fell off precipitously in front of the terrace, and the approach by its sides, under the ridge of the rocks, was difficult and a little dangerous. The whole was wild, rude, and apparently incomplete; for, while looking among the bushes, the sheriff found the very implements that had been used in the work.
When the sheriff thought that his cousin had examined the spot sufficiently, he asked solemnly:
"Judge Temple, are you satisfied?"
"Perfectly, that there is something mysterious and perplexing in this business. It is a secret spot, and cunningly devised, Richard; yet I see no symptoms of ore."
"Do you expect, sir, to find gold and silver lying like pebbles on the surface of the earth?-dollars and dimes ready coined to your hands? No, no-the treasure must be sought after to be won. But let them mine; I shall countermine."
The Judge took an accurate survey of the place, and noted in his memorandum-book such marks as were necessary to find it again in the event of Richard's absence; when the cousins returned to their horses.
On reaching the highway they separated, the sheriff to summon twenty- four "good men and true," to attend as thc inquest of the county, on the succeeding Monday, when Marmaduke held his stated court of "common pleas and general sessions of the peace," and the Judge to return, musing deeply on what he had seen and heard in the course of the morning.
When the horse of the latter reached the spot where the highway fell toward the valley, the eye of Marmaduke rested, it is true, on the same scene that had, ten minutes before, been so soothing to the feelings of his daughter and her friend, as they emerged from the forest; but it rested in vacancy. He threw the reins to his sure footed beast, and suffered the animal to travel at his own gait, while he soliloquized as follows:
"There may be more in this than I at first supposed. I have suffered my feelings to blind my reason, in admitting an unknown youth in this manner to my dwelling; yet this is not the land of suspicion. I will have Leather-Stocking before me, and, by a few direct questions, extract the truth from the simple old man."
At that instant the Judge caught a glimpse of the figures of Elizabeth and Louisa, who were slowly descending the mountain, short distance before him. He put spurs to his horse, and riding up to them, dismounted, and drove his steed along the narrow path. While the agitated parent was listening to the vivid description that his daughter gave of her recent danger, and her unexpected escape, all thoughts of mines, vested rights, and examinations were absorbed in emotion; and when the image of Natty again crossed his recollection, it was not as a law Less and depredating squatter, but as the preserver of his child.
"The court awards it, and the law doth give it."-Merchant of Venice.
Remarkable Pettibone, who had forgotten the wound received by her pride, in contemplation of the ease and comforts of her situation, and who still retained her station in the family of judge Temple, was dispatched to the humble dwelling which Richard already styled "The Rectory," in attendance on Louisa, who was soon consigned to the arms of her father.
In the mean time, Marmaduke and his daughter were closeted for more than an hour, nor shall we invade the sanctuary of parental love, by relating the conversation. When the curtain rises on the reader, the Judge is seen walking up and down the apartment, with a tender melancholy in his air, and his child reclining on a settee, with a flushed cheek, and her dark eyes seeming to float in crystals.
"It was a timely rescue! it was, indeed, a timely rescue, my child!" cried the Judge. "Then thou didst not desert thy friend, my noble Bess?"
"I believe I may as well take the credit of fortitude," said Elizabeth, "though I much doubt if flight would have availed me anything, had I even courage to execute such an intention. But I thought not of the expedient."
"Of what didst thou think, love? where did thy thoughts dwell most, at that fearful moment?"
"The beast! the beast!" cried Elizabeth, veiling her face with her hand. "Oh! I saw nothing, I thought of nothing but the beast. I tried to think of better things, but the horror was too glaring, the danger too much before my eyes."
"Well, well, thou art safe, and we will converse no more on the unpleasant subject. I did not think such an animal yet remained in our forests; but they will stray far from their haunts when pressed by hunger, and-"
A loud knocking at the door of the apartment interrupted what he was about to utter, and he bid the applicant enter. The door was opened by Benjamin, who came in with a discontented air, as if he felt that he had a communication to make that would be out of season.
"Here is Squire Doolittle below, sir," commenced the major-domo. "He has been standing off and on in the door-yard for the matter of a glass; and he has summat on his mind that he wants to heave up, d'ye see; but I tells him, says I, man, would you be coming aboard with your complaints, said I, when the judge has gotten his own child, as it were, out of the jaws of a lion? But damn the bit of manners has the fellow, any more than if he was one of them Guineas down in the kitchen there; and so as he was sheering nearer, every stretch he made toward the house, I could do no better than to let your honor know that the chap was in the offing."
"He must have business of importance," said Marmaduke: "something in relation to his office, most probably, as the court sits so shortly."
"Ay, ay, you have it, sir," cried Benjamin; "it's summat about a complaint that he has to make of the old Leather-Stocking, who, to my judgment, is the better man of the two. It's a very good sort of a man is this Master Bumppo, and he has a way with a spear, all the same as if he was brought up at the bow-oar of the captain's barge, or was born with a boat-hook in his hand."
"Against the Leather-Stocking!" cried Elizabeth, rising from her reclining posture.
"Rest easy, my child; some trifle, I pledge you; I believe I am already acquainted with its import Trust me, Bess, your champion shall be safe in my care. Show Mr. Doolittle in, Benjamin"
Miss Temple appeared satisfied with this assurance, but fastened her dark eyes on the person of the architect, who profited by the permission, and instantly made his appearance.
All the impatience of Hiram seemed to vanish the instant he entered the apartment. After saluting the Judge and his daughter, he took the chair to which Marmaduke pointed, and sat for a minute, composing his straight black hair, with a gravity of demeanor that was in tended to do honor to his official station. At length he said:
"It's likely, from what I hear, that Miss Temple had a narrow chance with the painters, on the mountain."
Marmaduke made a gentle inclination of his head, by way of assent, but continued silent.
"I s'pose the law gives a bounty on the scalps," continued Hiram, "in which case the Leather-Stocking will make a good job on't."
"It shall be my care to see that he is rewarded," returned the Judge.
"Yes, yes, I rather guess that nobody hereabouts doubts the Judge's generosity. Does he know whether the sheriff has fairly made up his mind to have a reading desk or a deacon's pew under the pulpit?" "I have not heard my cousin speak on that subject, lately," replied Marmaduke. "I think it's likely that we will have a pretty dull court on't, from what I can gather. I hear that Jotham Riddel and the man who bought his betterments have agreed to leave their difference to men, and I don't think there'll be more than two civil cases in the calendar."
"I am glad of it," said the judge; "nothing gives me more pain than to see my settlers wasting their time and substance in the unprofitable struggles of the law. I hope it may prove true, sir."
"I rather guess 'twill be left out to men," added Hiram, with an air equally balanced between doubt and assurance, but which judge Temple understood to mean certainty; "I some think that I am appointed a referee in the case myself; Jotham as much as told me that he should take me. The defendant, I guess, means to take Captain Hollister, and we two have partly agreed on Squire Jones for the third man."
"Are there any criminals to be tried?" asked Marmaduke.
"There's the counterfeiters," returned the magistrate, "as they were caught in the act, I think it likely that they'll be indicted, in which case it's probable they'll be tried."
"Certainly, sir; I had forgotten those men. There are no more, I hope." "Why, there is a threaten to come forward with an assault that happened at the last independence day; but I'm not sartain that the law'll take hold on't. There was plaguey hard words passed, but whether they struck or not I haven't heard. There's some folks talk of a deer or two being killed out of season, over on the west side of the Patent, by some of the squatters on the 'Fractions.'"
"Let a complaint be made, by all means," said the Judge; "I am determined to see the law executed to the letter, on all such depredators."
"Why, yes, I thought the judge was of that mind; I came partly on such a business myself."
"You!" exclaimed Marmaduke, comprehending in an instant how completely he had been caught by the other's cunning; "and what have you to say, sir?"
"I some think that Natty Bumppo has the carcass of a deer in his hut at this moment, and a considerable part of my business was to get a search-warrant to examine."
"You think, sir! do you know that the law exacts an oath, before I can issue such a precept? The habitation of a citizen is not to be idly invaded on light suspicion."
"I rather think I can swear to it myself," returned the immovable Hiram; "and Jotham is in the street, and as good as ready to come in and make oath to the same thing."
"Then issue the warrant thyself; thou art a magistrate, Mr. Doolittle; why trouble me with the matter?"
"Why, seeing it's the first complaint under the law, and knowing the judge set his heart on the thing, I thought it best that the authority to search should come from himself. Besides, as I'm much in the woods, among the timber, I don't altogether like making an enemy of the Leather Stocking. Now, the Judge has a weight in the county that puts him above fear."
Miss Temple turned her face to the callous Architect as she said' "And what has any honest person to dread from so kind a man as Bumppo?"
"Why, it's as easy, miss, to pull a rifle trigger on a magistrate as on a painter. But if the Judge don't conclude to issue the warrant, I must go home and make it out myself."
"I have not refused your application, sir," said Marmaduke, perceiving at once that his reputation for impartiality was at stake; "go into my office, Mr. Doolittle, where I will join you, and sign the warrant." Judge Temple stopped the remonstrances which Elizabeth was about to utter, after Hiram had withdrawn, by laying his hand on her mouth, and saying:
"It is more terrible in sound than frightful in reality, my child. I suppose that the Leather-Stocking has shot a deer, for the season is nearly over, and you say that he was hunting with his dogs when he came so timely to your assistance. But it will be only to examine his cabin, and find the animal, when you can pay the penalty out of your own pocket, Bess. Nothing short of the twelve dollars and a half will satisfy this harpy, I perceive; and surely my reputation as judge is worth that trifle."
Elizabeth was a good deal pacified with this assurance, and suffered her father to leave her, to fulfil his promise to Hiram.
When Marmaduke left his office after executing his disagreeable duty, he met Oliver Edwards, walking up the gravelled walk in front of the mansion-house with great strides, and with a face agitated by feeling. On seeing judge Temple, the youth turned aside, and with a warmth in his manner that was not often exhibited to Marmaduke, he cried:
"I congratulate you, sir; from the bottom of my soul, I congratulate you, Judge Temple. Oh! it would have been too horrid to have recollected for a moment! I have just left the hut, where, after showing me his scalps, old Natty told me of the escape of the ladies, as the thing to be mentioned last. Indeed, indeed, sir, no words of mine can express half of what I have felt "-the youth paused a moment, as if suddenly recollecting that he was overstepping prescribed limits, and concluded with a good deal of embarrassment-" what I have felt at this danger to Miss-Grant, and-and your daughter, sir,"
But the heart of Marmaduke was too much softened to admit his cavilling at trifles, and, without regarding the confusion of the other, he replied:
"I thank thee, thank thee, Oliver; as thou sayest, it is almost too horrid to be remembered. But come, let us hasten to Bess, for Louisa has already gone to the rectory."
The young man sprang forward, and, throwing open a door, barely permitted the Judge to precede him, when he was in the presence of Elizabeth in a moment.
The cold distance that often crossed the demeanor of the heiress, in her intercourse with Edwards, was now entirely banished, and two hours were passed by the party, in the free, unembarrassed, and confiding manner of old and esteemed friends. Judge Temple had forgotten the suspicions engendered during his morning's ride, and the youth and maiden conversed, laughed, and were sad by turns, as impulse directed.
At length, Edwards, after repeating his intention to do so for the third time, left the mansion-house to go to the rectory on a similar errand of friendship.
During this short period, a scene was passing at the hut that completely frustrated the benevolent intentions of Judge Temple in favor of the Leather-Stocking, and at once destroyed the short-lived harmony between the youth and Marmaduke.
When Hiram Doolittle had obtained his search-warrant, his first business was to procure a proper officer to see it executed. The sheriff was absent, summoning in person the grand inquest for the county; the deputy who resided in the village was riding on the same errand, in a different part of the settlement; and the regular constable of the township had been selected for his station from motives of charity, being lame of a leg. Hiram intended to accompany the officer as a spectator, but he felt no very strong desire to bear the brunt of the battle. It was, however, Saturday, and the sun was already turning the shadows of the pines toward the east; on the morrow the conscientious magistrate could not engage in such an expedition at the peril of his soul and long before Monday, the venison, and all vestiges of the death of the deer, might be secreted or destroyed. Happily, the lounging form of Billy Kirby met his eye, and Hiram, at all time fruitful in similar expedients, saw his way clear at once. Jotham, who was associated in the whole business, and who had left the mountain in consequence of a summons from his coadjutor, but who failed, equally with Hiram, in the unfortunate particular of nerve, was directed to summon the wood-chopper to the dwelling of the magistrate.
When Billy appeared, he was very kindly invited to take the chair in which he had already seated himself, and was treated in all respects as if he were an equal.
"Judge Temple has set his heart on putting the deer law in force," said Hiram, after the preliminary civilities were over, "and a complaint has been laid before him that a deer has been killed. He has issued a search-warrant, and sent for me to get somebody to execute it."
Kirby, who had no idea of being excluded from the deliberative part of any affair in which he was engaged, drew up his bushy head in a reflecting attitude, and after musing a moment, replied by asking a few questions,
"The sheriff has gone out of the way?"
"Not to be found."
"And his deputy too?"
"Both gone on the skirts of the Patent."
"But I saw the constable hobbling about town an hour ago."
"Yes, yes," said Hiram, with a coaxing smile and knowing nod, "but this business wants a man-not a cripple."
"Why," said Billy, laughing, " will the chap make fight?" "He's a little quarrelsome at times, and thinks he's the best man in the country at rough and tumble."
"I heard him brag once," said Jotham, "that there wasn't a man 'twixt the Mohawk Flats and the Pennsylvany line that was his match at a close hug."
"Did you?" exclaimed Kirby, raising his huge frame in his seat, like a lion stretching in his lair; "I rather guess he never felt a Varmounter's knuckles on his backbone-But who is the chap?"
"Why," said Jotham, " it's-"
"It's agin' law to tell," interrupted Hiram unless you'll qualify to sarve. You'd be the very man to take him, Bill, and I'll make out a special deputation in a minute, when you will get the fees."
"What's the fees?" said Kirby, laying his large hand on the leaves of a statute-book that Hiram had opened in order to give dignity to his office, which he turned over in his rough manner, as if he were reflecting on a subject about which he had, in truth, already decided; "will they pay a man for a broken head?"
"They'll be something handsome," said Hiram.
"Damn the fees," said Billy, again laughing-" does the fellow think he's the best wrestler in the county, though? what's his inches?"
"He's taller than you be," said Jotham, "and one of the biggest-"
Talkers, he was about to add, but the impatience of Kirby interrupted him. The wood-chopper had nothing fierce or even brutal in his appearance; the character of his expression was that of good-natured vanity. It was evident he prided himself on the powers of the physical man, like all who have nothing better to boast of; and, stretching out his broad hand, with the palm downward, he said, keeping his eyes fastened on his own bones and sinews:
"Come, give us a touch of the book. I'll swear, and you'll see that I'm a man to keep my oath."
Hiram did not give the wood-chopper time to change his mind, but the oath was administered without unnecessary delay. So soon as this preliminary was completed, the three worthies left the house, and proceeded by the nearest road toward the hut. They had reached the bank of the lake, and were diverging from the route of the highway, before Kirby recollected that he was now entitled to the privilege of the initiated, and repeated his question as to the name of the offender,
"Which way, which way, squire?" exclaimed the hardy wood-chopper; "I thought it was to search a house that you wanted me, not the woods. There is nobody lives on this side of the lake, for six miles, unless you count the Leather-Stocking and old John for settlers. Come, tell me the chap's name, and I warrant me that I lead you to his clearing by a straighter path than this, for I know every sapling that grows within two miles of Templeton."
"This is the way," said Hiram, pointing forward and quickening his step, as if apprehensive that Kirby would desert, "and Bumppo is the man."
Kirby stopped short, and looked from one of his companions to the other in astonishment. He then burst into a loud laugh, and cried:
"Who? Leather-Stocking! He may brag of his aim and his rifle, for he has the best of both, as I will own myself, for sin' he shot the pigeon I knock under to him; but for a wrestle! why, I would take the creatur' between my finger and thumb, and tie him in a bow-knot around my neck for a Barcelony. The man is seventy, and was never anything particular for strength."
"He's a deceiving man," said Hiram, "like all the hunters; he is stronger than he seems; besides, he has his rifle."
"That for his rifle!" cried Billy; "he'd no more hurt me with his rifle than he'd fly. He's a harmless creatur', and I must say that I think he has as good right to kill deer as any man on the Patent. It's his main support, and this is a free country, where a man is privileged to follow any calling he likes."
"According to that doctrine," said Jotham, "anybody may shoot a deer."
This is the man's calling, I tell you," returned Kirby, "and the law was never made for such as he."
"The law was made for all," observed Hiram, who began to think that the danger was likely to fall to his own share, notwithstanding his management; "and the law is particular in noticing parjury."
"See here, Squire Doolittle," said the reckless woodchopper; "I don't care the valie of a beetlering for you and your parjury too. But as I have come so far, I'll go down and have a talk with the old man, and maybe we'll fry a steak of the deer together."
"Well, if you can get in peaceably, so much the better," said the magistrate. "To my notion, strife is very unpopular; I prefar, at all times, clever conduct to an ugly temper."
As the whole party moved at a great pace, they soon reached the hut, where Hiram thought it prudent to halt on the outside of the top of the fallen pine, which formed a chevaux-de-frise, to defend the approach to the fortress, on the side next the village. The delay was little relished by Kirby, who clapped his hands to his mouth, and gave a loud halloo that brought the dogs out of their kennel, and, almost at the same instant, the scantily-covered head of Natty from the door.
"Lie down, old fool," cried the hunter; "do you think there's more painters about you?"
"Ha! Leather-Stocking, I've an arrand with you," cried Kirby; "here's the good people of the State have been writing you a small letter, and they've hired me to ride post."
"What would you have with me, Billy Kirby?" said Natty, stepping across his threshold, and raising his hand over his eyes, to screen them from the rays of the setting sun, while he took a survey of his visitor. 'I've no land to clear, and Heaven knows I would set out six trees afore I would cut down one.-Down, Hector, I say; into your kennel with ye."
"Would you, old boy?" roared Billy; "then so much the better for me. But I must do my arrand. Here's a letter for you, Leather-Stocking. If you can read it, it's all well, and if you can't, here's Squire Doolittle at hand, to let you know what it means. It seems you mistook the twentieth of July for the first of August. that's all."
By this time Natty had discovered the lank person of Hiram, drawn up under the cover of a high stump; and all that was complacent in his manner instantly gave way to marked distrust and dissatisfaction. He placed his head within the door of his hut, and said a few words in an undertone, when he again appeared, and continued:
"I've nothing for ye; so away, afore the Evil One tempts me to do you harm. I owe you no spite, Billy Kirby, and what for should you trouble an old man who has done you no harm?"
Kirby advanced through the top of the pine, to within a few feet of the hunter, where he seated himself on the end of a log, with great composure, and began to examine the nose of Hector, with whom he was familiar, from their frequently meeting in the woods, where he sometimes fed the dog from his own basket of provisions.
"You've outshot me, and I'm not ashamed to say it," said the wood- chopper; "but I don't owe you a grudge for that, Natty! though it seems that you've shot once too often, for the story goes that you've killed a buck."
"I've fired but twice to-day, and both times at the painters," returned the Leather-Stocking; "see, here are the scalps! I was just going in with them to the Judge's to ask the bounty."
While Natty was speaking, he tossed the ears to Kirby, who continued playing with them with a careless air, holding them to the dogs, and laughing at their movements when they scented the unusual game.
But Hiram, emboldened by the advance of the deputed constable, now ventured to approach also, and took up the discourse with the air of authority that became his commission. His first measure was to read the warrant aloud, taking care to give due emphasis to the most material parts, and concluding with the name of the Judge in very audible and distinct tones.
"Did Marmaduke Temple put his name to that bit of paper?" said Natty, shaking his head; "well, well, that man loves the new ways, and his betterments, and his lands, afore his own flesh and blood. But I won't mistrust the gal; she has an eye like a full-grown buck! poor thing, she didn't choose her father, and can't help it. I know but little of the law, Mr. Doolittle; what is to be done, now you've read your commission?"
"Oh! it's nothing but form, Natty," said Hiram, endeavoring to assume a friendly aspect. "Let's go in, and talk the thing over in reason; I dare to say that the money can be easily found, and I partly conclude, from what passed, that Judge Temple will pay it himself."
The old hunter had kept a keen eye on the movements of his three visitors, from the beginning, and had maintained his position, just without the threshold of the cabin, with a determined manner, that showed he was not to be easily driven from his post. When Hiram drew nigher, as if expecting his proposition would be accepted, Natty lifted his hand, and motioned for him to retreat.
"Haven't I told you more than once, not to tempt me?" he said. "I trouble no man; why can't the law leave me to myself? Go back-go back, and tell your Judge that he may keep his bounty; but I won't have his wasty ways brought into my hut."
This offer, however, instead of appeasing the curiosity of Hiram, seemed to inflame it the more; while Kirby cried:
"Well, that's fair, squire; he forgives the county his demand, and the county should forgive him the fine; it's what I call an even trade, and should be concluded on the spot. I like quick dealings, and what's fair 'twixt man and man."
"I demand entrance into this house," said Hiram, summoning all the dignity he could muster to his assistance, "in the name of the people; and by virtue of this war rant, and of my office, and with this peace officer."
"Stand back, stand back, squire, and don't tempt me," said the Leather-Stocking, motioning him to retire, with great earnestness.
"Stop us at your peril," continued Hiram. "Billy! Jotham! close up-I want testimony."
Hiram had mistaken the mild but determined air of Natty for submission, and had already put his foot on the threshold to enter, when he was seized unexpectedly by his shoulders, and hurled over the little bank toward the lake, to the distance of twenty feet. The suddenness of the movement, and the unexpected display of strength on the part of Natty, created a momentary astonishment in his invaders, that silenced all noises; but at the next instant Billy Kirby gave vent to his mirth in peals of laughter, that he seemed to heave up from his very soul.
"Well done, old stub!" he shouted; "the squire knowed you better than I did. Come, come, here's a green spot; take it out like men, while Jotham and I see fair play."
"William Kirby, I order you to do your duty," cried Hiram, from under the bank; "seize that man; I order you to seize him in the name of the people."
But the Leather-Stocking now assumed a more threatening attitude; his rifle was in his hand, and its muzzle was directed toward the wood- chopper.
"Stand off, I bid ye," said Natty; "you know my aim, Billy Kirby; I don't crave your blood, but mine and your'n both shall turn this green grass red, afore you put foot into the hut."
While the affair appeared trifling, the wood-chopper seemed disposed to take sides with the weaker party; but, when the firearms were introduced, his manner very sensibly changed. He raised his large frame from the log, and, facing the hunter with an open front, he replied:
"I didn't come here as your enemy, Leather-Stocking; but I don't value the hollow piece of iron in your hand so much as a broken axe-helve; so, squire, say the word, and keep within the law, and we'll soon see who's the best main of the two."
But no magistrate was to be seen! The instant the rifle was produced Hiram and Jotham vanished; and when the wood-chopper bent his eyes about him in surprise at receiving no answer, he discovered their retreating figures moving toward the village at a rate that sufficiently indicated that they had not only calculated the velocity of a rifle-bullet, but also its probable range.
"You've scared the creatur's off," said Kirby, with great contempt expressed on his broad features; "but you are not going to scare me; so, Mr. Bumppo, down with your gun, or there'll be trouble 'twixt us." Natty dropped his rifle, and replied:
"I wish you no harm, Billy Kirby; but I leave it to yourself, whether an old man's hut is to be run down by such varmint. I won't deny the buck to you, Billy, and you may take the skin in, if you please, and show it as testimony. The bounty will pay the fine, and that ought to satisfy any man,"
"Twill, old boy, 'twill," cried Kirby, every- shade of displeasure vanishing from his open brow at the peace-offering; "throw out the hide, and that shall satisfy the law."
Natty entered the hut, and soon reappeared, bringing with him the desired testimonial; and the wood-chopper departed, as thoroughly reconciled to the hunter as if nothing had happened. As he paced along the margin of the lake he would burst into frequent fits of laughter, while he recollected the summerset of Hiram: and, on the whole, he thought the affair a very capital joke.
Long before Billy' reached the village, however, the news of his danger, and of Natty's disrespect of the law, and of Hiram's discomfiture, were in circulation. A good deal was said about sending for the sheriff; some hints were given about calling out the posse comitatus to avenge the insulted laws; and many of the citizens were collected, deliberating how to proceed. The arrival of Billy with the skin, by removing all grounds for a search, changed the complexion of things materially. Nothing now remained but to collect the fine and
assert the dignity of the people; all of which, it was unanimously agreed, could be done as well on the succeeding Monday as on Saturday night-a time kept sacred by large portion of the settlers. Accordingly, all further proceedings were suspended for six-and-thirty hours.