The meeting with the Indian and his wife excited no surprise in the majority of those who witnessed the occurrence; but Mabel, and all who knew of the manner in which this chief had been separated from the party of Cap, simultaneously entertained suspicions, which it was far easier to feel than to follow out by any plausible clue to certainty. Pathfinder, who alone could converse freely with the prisoners, for such they might now be considered, took Arrowhead aside, and held a long conversation with him, concerning the reasons of the latter for having deserted his charge and the manner in which he had been since employed.
The Tuscarora met these inquiries, and he gave his answers with the stoicism of an Indian. As respects the separation, his excuses were very simply made, and they seemed to be sufficiently plausible. When he found that the party was discovered in its place of concealment, he naturally sought his own safety, which he secured by plunging into the woods. In a word, he had run away in order to save his life.
“This is well,” returned Pathfinder, affecting to believe the other’s apologies; “my brother did very wisely; but his woman followed?”
“Do not the pale-faces’ women follow their husbands? Would not Pathfinder have looked back to see if one he loved was coming?”
This appeal was made to the guide while he was in a most fortunate frame of mind to admit its force; for Mabel and her blandishments and constancy were becoming images familiar to his thoughts. The Tuscarora, though he could not trace the reason, saw that his excuse was admitted, and he stood with quiet dignity awaiting the next inquiry.
“This is reasonable and natural,” returned Pathfinder; “this is natural, and may be so. A woman would be likely to follow the man to whom she had plighted faith, and husband and wife are one flesh. Your words are honest, Tuscarora,” changing the language to the dialect of the other. “Your words are honest, and very pleasant and just. But why has my brother been so long from the fort? His friends have thought of him often, but have never seen him.”
“If the doe follows the buck, ought not the buck to follow the doe?” answered the Tuscarora, smiling, as he laid a finger significantly on the shoulder of his interrogator. “Arrowhead’s wife followed Arrowhead; it was right in Arrowhead to follow his wife. She lost her way, and they made her cook in a strange wigwam.”
“I understand you, Tuscarora. The woman fell into the hands of the Mingos, and you kept upon their trail.”
“Pathfinder can see a reason as easily as he can see the moss on the trees. It is so.”
“And how long have you got the woman back, and in what manner has it been done?”
“Two suns. The Dew-of-June was not long in coming when her husband whispered to her the path.”
“Well, well, all this seems natural, and according to matrimony. But, Tuscarora, how did you get that canoe, and why are you paddling towards the St. Lawrence instead of the garrison?”