James Fenimore Cooper: The Deerslayer

10. Chapter X.

"But who in this wild wood
May credit give to either eye, or ear?
From rocky precipice or hollow cave,
'Midst the confused sound of rustling leaves;,
And creaking boughs, and cries of nightly birds,
Returning seeming answer!"

Joanna Baihie, Rayner: A Tragedy, II.L3-4, 6-g.

Fear, as much as calculation, had induced Hetty to cease paddling, when she found that her pursuers did not know in which direction to proceed. She remained stationary until the Ark had pulled in near the encampment, as has been related in the preceding chapter, when she resumed the paddle and with cautious strokes made the best of her way towards the western shore. In order to avoid her pursuers, however, who, she rightly suspected, would soon be rowing along that shore themselves, the head of the canoe was pointed so far north as to bring her to land on a point that thrust itself into the lake, at the distance of near a league from the outlet. Nor was this altogether the result of a desire to escape, for, feeble minded as she was, Hetty Hutter had a good deal of that instinctive caution which so often keeps those whom God has thus visited from harm. She was perfectly aware of the importance of keeping the canoes from falling into the hands of the Iroquois, and long familiarity with the lake had suggested one of the simplest expedients, by which this great object could be rendered compatible with her own purpose.

The point in question was the first projection that offered on that side of the lake, where a canoe, if set adrift with a southerly air would float clear of the land, and where it would be no great violation of probabilities to suppose it might even hit the castle; the latter lying above it, almost in a direct line with the wind. Such then was Hetty's intention, and she landed on the extremity of the gravelly point, beneath an overhanging oak, with the express intention of shoving the canoe off from the shore, in order that it might drift up towards her father's insulated abode. She knew, too, from the logs that occasionally floated about the lake, that did it miss the castle and its appendages the wind would be likely to change before the canoe could reach the northern extremity of the lake, and that Deerslayer might have an opportunity of regaining it in the morning, when no doubt he would be earnestly sweeping the surface of the water, and the whole of its wooded shores, with glass. In all this, too, Hetty was less governed by any chain of reasoning than by her habits, the latter often supplying the place of mind, in human beings, as they perform the same for animals of the inferior classes.

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