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26. Chapter XXVI. (continued)
The listeners were confounded with this proof of sudden repentance in the hunter, and that too for an indulgence so very common, that men seldom stop to weigh its consequences, or the physical suffering it may bring on the unoffending and helpless. The Delaware understood what was said, though he scarce understood the feelings which had prompted the words, and by way of disposing of the difficulty, he drew his keen knife, and severed the head of the sufferer from its body.
"What a thing is power!" continued the hunter, "and what a thing it is to have it, and not to know how to use it. It's no wonder, Judith, that the great so often fail of their duties, when even the little and the humble find it so hard to do what's right, and not to do what's wrong. Then, how one evil act brings others a'ter it! Now, wasn't it for this furlough of mine, which must soon take me back to the Mingos, I'd find this creatur's nest, if I travelled the woods a fortnight - though an eagle's nest is soon found by them that understands the bird's natur', - but I'd travel a fortnight rather than not find it, just to put the young, too, out of their pain."
"I'm glad to hear you say this, Deerslayer," observed Hetty, "and God will be more apt to remember your sorrow for what you've done, than the wickedness itself. I thought how wicked it was to kill harmless birds, while you were shooting, and meant to tell you so; but, I don't know how it happened, - I was so curious to see if you could hit an eagle at so great a height, that I forgot altogether to speak, 'till the mischief was done."
"That's it; that's just it, my good Hetty. We can all see our faults and mistakes when it's too late to help them! Howsever I'm glad you didn't speak, for I don't think a word or two would have stopped me, just at that moment, and so the sin stands in its nakedness, and not aggravated by any unheeded calls to forbear. Well, well, bitter thoughts are hard to be borne at all times, but there's times when they're harder than at others."
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