Waqua complied, in part, with Prudence’s invitation, feeling some contempt for a man who would permit such an indignity and advancing to the picture regarded it with keen and inquisitive glances. He refused, however, to touch the figure, until Prudence, taking his hand in hers, placed it on the canvas. But no sooner did he feel the flat surface, than, uttering a cry of astonishment, he leaped backward, almost overturning Prudence in his haste, keeping his eyes on the picture, and ejaculating twice or thrice the expression, “Ugh!”
“What a simple savage thou art,” exclaimed Prudence, “I tell thee it cannot bite. It can neither hear nor see, and thou art a man to be scared by it!”
The Indian felt the taunt, conveyed quite as much in the tone as in the words, and without replying, but as if to show that he was above the feeling of fear, holding the tomahawk in one hand, he passed the other over the whole surface, as far as he could reach, winding up the achievement with eyes wild with wonder, and snorting out divers astonished “ughs!”
“Burned Marmion’s swarthy
cheek like fire,
And shook his very frame for ire,
And—’this to me!’—he said.”
At this moment the Assistant Spikeman entered the room. His advance had been so noiseless that it was unobserved by either the girl or the Indian, so entirely were they engrossed by the adventure of the portrait.
“Whom have we here?” he exclaimed. “Methinks, Prudence, there are other parts of the dwelling more fit for such visitors.”
“I desired to see,” said the girl, evasively, “how a savage would act who never had beholden a painting. There is no great harm in that,” she added, pouting.
“And doubtless he mistook it for a live man. Master Vandyke had skill, I trow, to deceive more learned eyes than those of a wild Indian. But, Prudence, thou knowest that I mean not to chide thee. Far different words arise spontaneously to my lips. But go, now, and I will pay the honors to thy red friend.”
“He is no more friend of mine than I hope all the world are my friends,” answered the girl, glad to get away to acquaint the lovers that Spikeman was in the house.
“I wish,” she muttered, as she closed the door, though not so loud as to be overheard, “that some folk were not so great friends of mine.”
“Have my people given my friend anything to eat?” inquired the Assistant, on the departure of the girl.
“Waqua is not hungry,” answered the Indian. “His white brother has fed him until he has no place for more.”
“What thinks Waqua of the painted man?” asked the Assistant, observing that the eyes of the savage wandered every now and then to the painting.
“It is a great medicine,” replied the Indian, noticing with admiration the resemblance between it and the Assistant, (whose father’s portrait it was.) “My brother loved his father very much, and so, before he was called to the spirit land, my brother put him on a board, even as white men put faces in frozen water. But my brother is wiser, because he makes his father stay on the board, instead of disappearing like faces in frozen water.”