“As for the scalps, I think you were right enough, my worthy friend; but as for the armament and the stores, they would have been condemned by any prize-court in Christendom.”
“That they would, that they would; but then the Mingos would have gone clear, seeing that a white man can no more attack an unarmed than a sleeping inimy. No, no, I did myself, and my color, and my religion too, greater justice. I waited till their nap was over, and they well on their war-path again; and, by ambushing them here and flanking them there, I peppered the blackguards intrinsically like” (Pathfinder occasionally caught a fine word from his associates, and used it a little vaguely), “that only one ever got back to his village, and he came into his wigwam limping. Luckily, as it turned out, the great Delaware had only halted to jerk some venison, and was following on my trail; and when he got up he had five of the scoundrels’ scalps hanging where they ought to be; so, you see, nothing was lost by doing right, either in the way of honor or in that of profit.”
Cap grunted an assent, though the distinctions in his companion’s morality, it must be owned, were not exactly clear to his understanding. The two had occasionally moved towards the block as they conversed, and then stopped again as some matter of more interest than common brought them to a halt. They were now so near the building, however, that neither thought of pursuing the subject any further; but each prepared himself for the final scene with Sergeant Dunham.
Thou barraine ground, whom winter’s wrath hath
Art made a mirror to behold my plight:
Whilome thy fresh spring flower’d: and after hasted
Thy summer prowde, with daffodillies dight;
And now is come thy winter’s stormy state,
Thy mantle mar’d wherein thou maskedst late.
Although the soldier may regard danger and even death with indifference in the tumult of battle, when the passage of the soul is delayed to moments of tranquillity and reflection the change commonly brings with it the usual train of solemn reflections; of regrets for the past, and of doubts and anticipations for the future. Many a man has died with a heroic expression on his lips, but with heaviness and distrust at his heart; for, whatever may be the varieties of our religious creeds, let us depend on the mediation of Christ, the dogmas of Mahomet, or the elaborated allegories of the East, there is a conviction, common to all men, that death is but the stepping-stone between this and a more elevated state of being. Sergeant Dunham was a brave man; but he was departing for a country in which resolution could avail him nothing; and as he felt himself gradually loosened from the grasp of the world, his thoughts and feelings took the natural direction; for if it be true that death is the great leveller, in nothing is it more true than that it reduces all to the same views of the vanity of life.