Part 1 - The Last of the Mohicans Audiobook by James Fenimore Cooper (Chs 01-05)

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It is believed that the scene of this tale, and most of the information necessary to
understand its allusions, are rendered sufficiently obvious to the reader in the
text itself, or in the accompanying notes.
Still there is so much obscurity in the Indian traditions, and so much confusion in
the Indian names, as to render some explanation useful.
Few men exhibit greater diversity, or, if we may so express it, greater antithesis of
character, than the native warrior of North America.
In war, he is daring, boastful, cunning, ruthless, self-denying, and self-devoted;
in peace, just, generous, hospitable, revengeful, superstitious, modest, and
commonly chaste.
These are qualities, it is true, which do not distinguish all alike; but they are so
far the predominating traits of these remarkable people as to be characteristic.
It is generally believed that the Aborigines of the American continent have
an Asiatic origin.
There are many physical as well as moral facts which corroborate this opinion, and
some few that would seem to weigh against it.
The color of the Indian, the writer believes, is peculiar to himself, and while
his cheek-bones have a very striking indication of a Tartar origin, his eyes
have not.
Climate may have had great influence on the former, but it is difficult to see how it
can have produced the substantial difference which exists in the latter.
The imagery of the Indian, both in his poetry and in his oratory, is oriental;
chastened, and perhaps improved, by the limited range of his practical knowledge.
He draws his metaphors from the clouds, the seasons, the birds, the beasts, and the
vegetable world.
In this, perhaps, he does no more than any other energetic and imaginative race would
do, being compelled to set bounds to fancy by experience; but the North American
Indian clothes his ideas in a dress which
is different from that of the African, and is oriental in itself.
His language has the richness and sententious fullness of the Chinese.
He will express a phrase in a word, and he will qualify the meaning of an entire
sentence by a syllable; he will even convey different significations by the simplest
inflections of the voice.
Philologists have said that there are but two or three languages, properly speaking,
among all the numerous tribes which formerly occupied the country that now
composes the United States.
They ascribe the known difficulty one people have to understand another to
corruptions and dialects.
The writer remembers to have been present at an interview between two chiefs of the
Great Prairies west of the Mississippi, and when an interpreter was in attendance who
spoke both their languages.
The warriors appeared to be on the most friendly terms, and seemingly conversed
much together; yet, according to the account of the interpreter, each was
absolutely ignorant of what the other said.
They were of hostile tribes, brought together by the influence of the American
government; and it is worthy of remark, that a common policy led them both to adopt
the same subject.
They mutually exhorted each other to be of use in the event of the chances of war
throwing either of the parties into the hands of his enemies.
Whatever may be the truth, as respects the root and the genius of the Indian tongues,
it is quite certain they are now so distinct in their words as to possess most
of the disadvantages of strange languages;
hence much of the embarrassment that has arisen in learning their histories, and
most of the uncertainty which exists in their traditions.
Like nations of higher pretensions, the American Indian gives a very different
account of his own tribe or race from that which is given by other people.
He is much addicted to overestimating his own perfections, and to undervaluing those
of his rival or his enemy; a trait which may possibly be thought corroborative of
the Mosaic account of the creation.
The whites have assisted greatly in rendering the traditions of the Aborigines
more obscure by their own manner of corrupting names.
Thus, the term used in the title of this book has undergone the changes of
Mahicanni, Mohicans, and Mohegans; the latter being the word commonly used by the
When it is remembered that the Dutch (who first settled New York), the English, and
the French, all gave appellations to the tribes that dwelt within the country which
is the scene of this story, and that the
Indians not only gave different names to their enemies, but frequently to
themselves, the cause of the confusion will be understood.
In these pages, Lenni-Lenape, Lenope, Delawares, Wapanachki, and Mohicans, all
mean the same people, or tribes of the same stock.
The Mengwe, the Maquas, the Mingoes, and the Iroquois, though not all strictly the
same, are identified frequently by the speakers, being politically confederated
and opposed to those just named.
Mingo was a term of peculiar reproach, as were Mengwe and Maqua in a less degree.
The Mohicans were the possessors of the country first occupied by the Europeans in
this portion of the continent.
They were, consequently, the first dispossessed; and the seemingly inevitable
fate of all these people, who disappear before the advances, or it might be termed
the inroads, of civilization, as the
verdure of their native forests falls before the nipping frosts, is represented
as having already befallen them.
There is sufficient historical truth in the picture to justify the use that has been
made of it.
In point of fact, the country which is the scene of the following tale has undergone
as little change, since the historical events alluded to had place, as almost any
other district of equal extent within the whole limits of the United States.
There are fashionable and well-attended watering-places at and near the spring
where Hawkeye halted to drink, and roads traverse the forests where he and his
friends were compelled to journey without even a path.
Glen's has a large village; and while William Henry, and even a fortress of later
date, are only to be traced as ruins, there is another village on the shores of the
But, beyond this, the enterprise and energy of a people who have done so much in other
places have done little here.
The whole of that wilderness, in which the latter incidents of the legend occurred, is
nearly a wilderness still, though the red man has entirely deserted this part of the
Of all the tribes named in these pages, there exist only a few half-civilized
beings of the Oneidas, on the reservations of their people in New York.
The rest have disappeared, either from the regions in which their fathers dwelt, or
altogether from the earth. There is one point on which we would wish
to say a word before closing this preface.
Hawkeye calls the Lac du Saint Sacrement, the "Horican."
As we believe this to be an appropriation of the name that has its origin with
ourselves, the time has arrived, perhaps, when the fact should be frankly admitted.
While writing this book, fully a quarter of a century since, it occurred to us that the
French name of this lake was too complicated, the American too commonplace,
and the Indian too unpronounceable, for
either to be used familiarly in a work of fiction.
Looking over an ancient map, it was ascertained that a tribe of Indians, called
"Les Horicans" by the French, existed in the neighborhood of this beautiful sheet of
As every word uttered by Natty Bumppo was not to be received as rigid truth, we took
the liberty of putting the "Horican" into his mouth, as the substitute for "Lake
The name has appeared to find favor, and all things considered, it may possibly be
quite as well to let it stand, instead of going back to the House of Hanover for the
appellation of our finest sheet of water.
We relieve our conscience by the confession, at all events leaving it to
exercise its authority as it may see fit.
"Mine ear is open, and my heart prepared: The worst is wordly loss thou canst
unfold:-- Say, is my kingdom lost?"-- Shakespeare
It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the toils and
dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the adverse hosts could
A wide and apparently an impervious boundary of forests severed the possessions
of the hostile provinces of France and England.
The hardy colonist, and the trained European who fought at his side, frequently
expended months in struggling against the rapids of the streams, or in effecting the
rugged passes of the mountains, in quest of
an opportunity to exhibit their courage in a more martial conflict.
But, emulating the patience and self-denial of the practiced native warriors, they
learned to overcome every difficulty; and it would seem that, in time, there was no
recess of the woods so dark, nor any secret
place so lovely, that it might claim exemption from the inroads of those who had
pledged their blood to satiate their vengeance, or to uphold the cold and
selfish policy of the distant monarchs of Europe.
Perhaps no district throughout the wide extent of the intermediate frontiers can
furnish a livelier picture of the cruelty and fierceness of the savage warfare of
those periods than the country which lies
between the head waters of the Hudson and the adjacent lakes.
The facilities which nature had there offered to the march of the combatants were
too obvious to be neglected.
The lengthened sheet of the Champlain stretched from the frontiers of Canada,
deep within the borders of the neighboring province of New York, forming a natural
passage across half the distance that the
French were compelled to master in order to strike their enemies.
Near its southern termination, it received the contributions of another lake, whose
waters were so limpid as to have been exclusively selected by the Jesuit
missionaries to perform the typical
purification of baptism, and to obtain for it the title of lake "du Saint Sacrement."
The less zealous English thought they conferred a sufficient honor on its
unsullied fountains, when they bestowed the name of their reigning prince, the second
of the house of Hanover.
The two united to rob the untutored possessors of its wooded scenery of their
native right to perpetuate its original appellation of "Horican."
(FOOTNOTE: As each nation of the Indians had its language or its dialect, they
usually gave different names to the same places, though nearly all of their
appellations were descriptive of the object.
Thus a literal translation of the name of this beautiful sheet of water, used by the
tribe that dwelt on its banks, would be "The Tail of the Lake."
Lake George, as it is vulgarly, and now, indeed, legally, called, forms a sort of
tail to Lake Champlain, when viewed on the map.
Hence, the name.)
Winding its way among countless islands, and imbedded in mountains, the "holy lake"
extended a dozen leagues still further to the south.
With the high plain that there interposed itself to the further passage of the water,
commenced a portage of as many miles, which conducted the adventurer to the banks of
the Hudson, at a point where, with the
usual obstructions of the rapids, or rifts, as they were then termed in the language of
the country, the river became navigable to the tide.
While, in the pursuit of their daring plans of annoyance, the restless enterprise of
the French even attempted the distant and difficult gorges of the Alleghany, it may
easily be imagined that their proverbial
acuteness would not overlook the natural advantages of the district we have just
It became, emphatically, the bloody arena, in which most of the battles for the
mastery of the colonies were contested.
Forts were erected at the different points that commanded the facilities of the route,
and were taken and retaken, razed and rebuilt, as victory alighted on the hostile
While the husbandman shrank back from the dangerous passes, within the safer
boundaries of the more ancient settlements, armies larger than those that had often
disposed of the scepters of the mother
countries, were seen to bury themselves in these forests, whence they rarely returned
but in skeleton bands, that were haggard with care or dejected by defeat.
Though the arts of peace were unknown to this fatal region, its forests were alive
with men; its shades and glens rang with the sounds of martial music, and the echoes
of its mountains threw back the laugh, or
repeated the wanton cry, of many a gallant and reckless youth, as he hurried by them,
in the noontide of his spirits, to slumber in a long night of forgetfulness.
It was in this scene of strife and bloodshed that the incidents we shall
attempt to relate occurred, during the third year of the war which England and
France last waged for the possession of a
country that neither was destined to retain.
The imbecility of her military leaders abroad, and the fatal want of energy in her
councils at home, had lowered the character of Great Britain from the proud elevation
on which it had been placed by the talents
and enterprise of her former warriors and statesmen.
No longer dreaded by her enemies, her servants were fast losing the confidence of
In this mortifying abasement, the colonists, though innocent of her
imbecility, and too humble to be the agents of her blunders, were but the natural
They had recently seen a chosen army from that country, which, reverencing as a
mother, they had blindly believed invincible--an army led by a chief who had
been selected from a crowd of trained
warriors, for his rare military endowments, disgracefully routed by a handful of French
and Indians, and only saved from annihilation by the coolness and spirit of
a Virginian boy, whose riper fame has since
diffused itself, with the steady influence of moral truth, to the uttermost confines
of Christendom.
(FOOTNOTE: Washington, who, after uselessly admonishing the European general of the
danger into which he was heedlessly running, saved the remnants of the British
army, on this occasion, by his decision and courage.
The reputation earned by Washington in this battle was the principal cause of his being
selected to command the American armies at a later day.
It is a circumstance worthy of observation, that while all America rang with his well-
merited reputation, his name does not occur in any European account of the battle; at
least the author has searched for it without success.
In this manner does the mother country absorb even the fame, under that system of
A wide frontier had been laid naked by this unexpected disaster, and more substantial
evils were preceded by a thousand fanciful and imaginary dangers.
The alarmed colonists believed that the yells of the savages mingled with every
fitful gust of wind that issued from the interminable forests of the west.
The terrific character of their merciless enemies increased immeasurably the natural
horrors of warfare.
Numberless recent massacres were still vivid in their recollections; nor was there
any ear in the provinces so deaf as not to have drunk in with avidity the narrative of
some fearful tale of midnight murder, in
which the natives of the forests were the principal and barbarous actors.
As the credulous and excited traveler related the hazardous chances of the
wilderness, the blood of the timid curdled with terror, and mothers cast anxious
glances even at those children which
slumbered within the security of the largest towns.
In short, the magnifying influence of fear began to set at naught the calculations of
reason, and to render those who should have remembered their manhood, the slaves of the
basest passions.
Even the most confident and the stoutest hearts began to think the issue of the
contest was becoming doubtful; and that abject class was hourly increasing in
numbers, who thought they foresaw all the
possessions of the English crown in America subdued by their Christian foes, or laid
waste by the inroads of their relentless allies.
When, therefore, intelligence was received at the fort which covered the southern
termination of the portage between the Hudson and the lakes, that Montcalm had
been seen moving up the Champlain, with an
army "numerous as the leaves on the trees," its truth was admitted with more of the
craven reluctance of fear than with the stern joy that a warrior should feel, in
finding an enemy within reach of his blow.
The news had been brought, toward the decline of a day in midsummer, by an Indian
runner, who also bore an urgent request from Munro, the commander of a work on the
shore of the "holy lake," for a speedy and powerful reinforcement.
It has already been mentioned that the distance between these two posts was less
than five leagues.
The rude path, which originally formed their line of communication, had been
widened for the passage of wagons; so that the distance which had been traveled by the
son of the forest in two hours, might
easily be effected by a detachment of troops, with their necessary baggage,
between the rising and setting of a summer sun.
The loyal servants of the British crown had given to one of these forest-fastnesses the
name of William Henry, and to the other that of Fort Edward, calling each after a
favorite prince of the reigning family.
The veteran Scotchman just named held the first, with a regiment of regulars and a
few provincials; a force really by far too small to make head against the formidable
power that Montcalm was leading to the foot of his earthen mounds.
At the latter, however, lay General Webb, who commanded the armies of the king in the
northern provinces, with a body of more than five thousand men.
By uniting the several detachments of his command, this officer might have arrayed
nearly double that number of combatants against the enterprising Frenchman, who had
ventured so far from his reinforcements,
with an army but little superior in numbers.
But under the influence of their degraded fortunes, both officers and men appeared
better disposed to await the approach of their formidable antagonists, within their
works, than to resist the progress of their
march, by emulating the successful example of the French at Fort du Quesne, and
striking a blow on their advance.
After the first surprise of the intelligence had a little abated, a rumor
was spread through the entrenched camp, which stretched along the margin of the
Hudson, forming a chain of outworks to the
body of the fort itself, that a chosen detachment of fifteen hundred men was to
depart, with the dawn, for William Henry, the post at the northern extremity of the
That which at first was only rumor, soon became certainty, as orders passed from the
quarters of the commander-in-chief to the several corps he had selected for this
service, to prepare for their speedy departure.
All doubts as to the intention of Webb now vanished, and an hour or two of hurried
footsteps and anxious faces succeeded.
The novice in the military art flew from point to point, retarding his own
preparations by the excess of his violent and somewhat distempered zeal; while the
more practiced veteran made his
arrangements with a deliberation that scorned every appearance of haste; though
his sober lineaments and anxious eye sufficiently betrayed that he had no very
strong professional relish for the, as yet,
untried and dreaded warfare of the wilderness.
At length the sun set in a flood of glory, behind the distant western hills, and as
darkness drew its veil around the secluded spot the sounds of preparation diminished;
the last light finally disappeared from the
log cabin of some officer; the trees cast their deeper shadows over the mounds and
the rippling stream, and a silence soon pervaded the camp, as deep as that which
reigned in the vast forest by which it was environed.
According to the orders of the preceding night, the heavy sleep of the army was
broken by the rolling of the warning drums, whose rattling echoes were heard issuing,
on the damp morning air, out of every vista
of the woods, just as day began to draw the shaggy outlines of some tall pines of the
vicinity, on the opening brightness of a soft and cloudless eastern sky.
In an instant the whole camp was in motion; the meanest soldier arousing from his lair
to witness the departure of his comrades, and to share in the excitement and
incidents of the hour.
The simple array of the chosen band was soon completed.
While the regular and trained hirelings of the king marched with haughtiness to the
right of the line, the less pretending colonists took their humbler position on
its left, with a docility that long practice had rendered easy.
The scouts departed; strong guards preceded and followed the lumbering vehicles that
bore the baggage; and before the gray light of the morning was mellowed by the rays of
the sun, the main body of the combatants
wheeled into column, and left the encampment with a show of high military
bearing, that served to drown the slumbering apprehensions of many a novice,
who was now about to make his first essay in arms.
While in view of their admiring comrades, the same proud front and ordered array was
observed, until the notes of their fifes growing fainter in distance, the forest at
length appeared to swallow up the living mass which had slowly entered its bosom.
The deepest sounds of the retiring and invisible column had ceased to be borne on
the breeze to the listeners, and the latest straggler had already disappeared in
pursuit; but there still remained the signs
of another departure, before a log cabin of unusual size and accommodations, in front
of which those sentinels paced their rounds, who were known to guard the person
of the English general.
At this spot were gathered some half dozen horses, caparisoned in a manner which
showed that two, at least, were destined to bear the persons of females, of a rank that
it was not usual to meet so far in the wilds of the country.
A third wore trappings and arms of an officer of the staff; while the rest, from
the plainness of the housings, and the traveling mails with which they were
encumbered, were evidently fitted for the
reception of as many menials, who were, seemingly, already waiting the pleasure of
those they served.
At a respectful distance from this unusual show, were gathered divers groups of
curious idlers; some admiring the blood and bone of the high-mettled military charger,
and others gazing at the preparations, with the dull wonder of vulgar curiosity.
There was one man, however, who, by his countenance and actions, formed a marked
exception to those who composed the latter class of spectators, being neither idle,
nor seemingly very ignorant.
The person of this individual was to the last degree ungainly, without being in any
particular manner deformed. He had all the bones and joints of other
men, without any of their proportions.
Erect, his stature surpassed that of his fellows; though seated, he appeared reduced
within the ordinary limits of the race. The same contrariety in his members seemed
to exist throughout the whole man.
His head was large; his shoulders narrow; his arms long and dangling; while his hands
were small, if not delicate.
His legs and thighs were thin, nearly to emaciation, but of extraordinary length;
and his knees would have been considered tremendous, had they not been outdone by
the broader foundations on which this false
superstructure of blended human orders was so profanely reared.
The ill-assorted and injudicious attire of the individual only served to render his
awkwardness more conspicuous.
A sky-blue coat, with short and broad skirts and low cape, exposed a long, thin
neck, and longer and thinner legs, to the worst animadversions of the evil-disposed.
His nether garment was a yellow nankeen, closely fitted to the shape, and tied at
his bunches of knees by large knots of white ribbon, a good deal sullied by use.
Clouded cotton stockings, and shoes, on one of the latter of which was a plated spur,
completed the costume of the lower extremity of this figure, no curve or angle
of which was concealed, but, on the other
hand, studiously exhibited, through the vanity or simplicity of its owner.
From beneath the flap of an enormous pocket of a soiled vest of embossed silk, heavily
ornamented with tarnished silver lace, projected an instrument, which, from being
seen in such martial company, might have
been easily mistaken for some mischievous and unknown implement of war.
Small as it was, this uncommon engine had excited the curiosity of most of the
Europeans in the camp, though several of the provincials were seen to handle it, not
only without fear, but with the utmost familiarity.
A large, civil cocked hat, like those worn by clergymen within the last thirty years,
surmounted the whole, furnishing dignity to a good-natured and somewhat vacant
countenance, that apparently needed such
artificial aid, to support the gravity of some high and extraordinary trust.
While the common herd stood aloof, in deference to the quarters of Webb, the
figure we have described stalked into the center of the domestics, freely expressing
his censures or commendations on the merits
of the horses, as by chance they displeased or satisfied his judgment.
"This beast, I rather conclude, friend, is not of home raising, but is from foreign
lands, or perhaps from the little island itself over the blue water?" he said, in a
voice as remarkable for the softness and
sweetness of its tones, as was his person for its rare proportions; "I may speak of
these things, and be no braggart; for I have been down at both havens; that which
is situate at the mouth of Thames, and is
named after the capital of Old England, and that which is called 'Haven', with the
addition of the word 'New'; and have seen the scows and brigantines collecting their
droves, like the gathering to the ark,
being outward bound to the Island of Jamaica, for the purpose of barter and
traffic in four-footed animals; but never before have I beheld a beast which verified
the true scripture war-horse like this: 'He
paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength; he goeth on to meet the armed
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder
of the captains, and the shouting' It would seem that the stock of the horse of Israel
had descended to our own time; would it not, friend?"
Receiving no reply to this extraordinary appeal, which in truth, as it was delivered
with the vigor of full and sonorous tones, merited some sort of notice, he who had
thus sung forth the language of the holy
book turned to the silent figure to whom he had unwittingly addressed himself, and
found a new and more powerful subject of admiration in the object that encountered
his gaze.
His eyes fell on the still, upright, and rigid form of the "Indian runner," who had
borne to the camp the unwelcome tidings of the preceding evening.
Although in a state of perfect repose, and apparently disregarding, with
characteristic stoicism, the excitement and bustle around him, there was a sullen
fierceness mingled with the quiet of the
savage, that was likely to arrest the attention of much more experienced eyes
than those which now scanned him, in unconcealed amazement.
The native bore both the tomahawk and knife of his tribe; and yet his appearance was
not altogether that of a warrior.
On the contrary, there was an air of neglect about his person, like that which
might have proceeded from great and recent exertion, which he had not yet found
leisure to repair.
The colors of the war-paint had blended in dark confusion about his fierce
countenance, and rendered his swarthy lineaments still more savage and repulsive
than if art had attempted an effect which had been thus produced by chance.
His eye, alone, which glistened like a fiery star amid lowering clouds, was to be
seen in its state of native wildness.
For a single instant his searching and yet wary glance met the wondering look of the
other, and then changing its direction, partly in cunning, and partly in disdain,
it remained fixed, as if penetrating the distant air.
It is impossible to say what unlooked-for remark this short and silent communication,
between two such singular men, might have elicited from the white man, had not his
active curiosity been again drawn to other objects.
A general movement among the domestics, and a low sound of gentle voices, announced the
approach of those whose presence alone was wanted to enable the cavalcade to move.
The simple admirer of the war-horse instantly fell back to a low, gaunt,
switch-tailed mare, that was unconsciously gleaning the faded herbage of the camp nigh
by; where, leaning with one elbow on the
blanket that concealed an apology for a saddle, he became a spectator of the
departure, while a foal was quietly making its morning repast, on the opposite side of
the same animal.
A young man, in the dress of an officer, conducted to their steeds two females, who,
as it was apparent by their dresses, were prepared to encounter the fatigues of a
journey in the woods.
One, and she was the more juvenile in her appearance, though both were young,
permitted glimpses of her dazzling complexion, fair golden hair, and bright
blue eyes, to be caught, as she artlessly
suffered the morning air to blow aside the green veil which descended low from her
The flush which still lingered above the pines in the western sky was not more
bright nor delicate than the bloom on her cheek; nor was the opening day more
cheering than the animated smile which she
bestowed on the youth, as he assisted her into the saddle.
The other, who appeared to share equally in the attention of the young officer,
concealed her charms from the gaze of the soldiery with a care that seemed better
fitted to the experience of four or five additional years.
It could be seen, however, that her person, though molded with the same exquisite
proportions, of which none of the graces were lost by the traveling dress she wore,
was rather fuller and more mature than that of her companion.
No sooner were these females seated, than their attendant sprang lightly into the
saddle of the war-horse, when the whole three bowed to Webb, who in courtesy,
awaited their parting on the threshold of
his cabin and turning their horses' heads, they proceeded at a slow amble, followed by
their train, toward the northern entrance of the encampment.
As they traversed that short distance, not a voice was heard among them; but a slight
exclamation proceeded from the younger of the females, as the Indian runner glided by
her, unexpectedly, and led the way along the military road in her front.
Though this sudden and startling movement of the Indian produced no sound from the
other, in the surprise her veil also was allowed to open its folds, and betrayed an
indescribable look of pity, admiration, and
horror, as her dark eye followed the easy motions of the savage.
The tresses of this lady were shining and black, like the plumage of the raven.
Her complexion was not brown, but it rather appeared charged with the color of the rich
blood, that seemed ready to burst its bounds.
And yet there was neither coarseness nor want of shadowing in a countenance that was
exquisitely regular, and dignified and surpassingly beautiful.
She smiled, as if in pity at her own momentary forgetfulness, discovering by the
act a row of teeth that would have shamed the purest ivory; when, replacing the veil,
she bowed her face, and rode in silence,
like one whose thoughts were abstracted from the scene around her.
"Sola, sola, wo ha, ho, sola!" --Shakespeare
While one of the lovely beings we have so cursorily presented to the reader was thus
lost in thought, the other quickly recovered from the alarm which induced the
exclamation, and, laughing at her own
weakness, she inquired of the youth who rode by her side:
"Are such specters frequent in the woods, Heyward, or is this sight an especial
entertainment ordered on our behalf?
If the latter, gratitude must close our mouths; but if the former, both Cora and I
shall have need to draw largely on that stock of hereditary courage which we boast,
even before we are made to encounter the redoubtable Montcalm."
"Yon Indian is a 'runner' of the army; and, after the fashion of his people, he may be
accounted a hero," returned the officer.
"He has volunteered to guide us to the lake, by a path but little known, sooner
than if we followed the tardy movements of the column; and, by consequence, more
"I like him not," said the lady, shuddering, partly in assumed, yet more in
real terror. "You know him, Duncan, or you would not
trust yourself so freely to his keeping?"
"Say, rather, Alice, that I would not trust you.
I do know him, or he would not have my confidence, and least of all at this
He is said to be a Canadian too; and yet he served with our friends the Mohawks, who,
as you know, are one of the six allied nations.
He was brought among us, as I have heard, by some strange accident in which your
father was interested, and in which the savage was rigidly dealt by; but I forget
the idle tale, it is enough, that he is now our friend."
"If he has been my father's enemy, I like him still less!" exclaimed the now really
anxious girl.
"Will you not speak to him, Major Heyward, that I may hear his tones?
Foolish though it may be, you have often heard me avow my faith in the tones of the
human voice!"
"It would be in vain; and answered, most probably, by an ejaculation.
Though he may understand it, he affects, like most of his people, to be ignorant of
the English; and least of all will he condescend to speak it, now that the war
demands the utmost exercise of his dignity.
But he stops; the private path by which we are to journey is, doubtless, at hand."
The conjecture of Major Heyward was true.
When they reached the spot where the Indian stood, pointing into the thicket that
fringed the military road; a narrow and blind path, which might, with some little
inconvenience, receive one person at a time, became visible.
"Here, then, lies our way," said the young man, in a low voice.
"Manifest no distrust, or you may invite the danger you appear to apprehend."
"Cora, what think you?" asked the reluctant fair one.
"If we journey with the troops, though we may find their presence irksome, shall we
not feel better assurance of our safety?"
"Being little accustomed to the practices of the savages, Alice, you mistake the
place of real danger," said Heyward.
"If enemies have reached the portage at all, a thing by no means probable, as our
scouts are abroad, they will surely be found skirting the column, where scalps
abound the most.
The route of the detachment is known, while ours, having been determined within the
hour, must still be secret."
"Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and that his
skin is dark?" coldly asked Cora.
Alice hesitated no longer; but giving her Narrangansett (FOOTNOTE: In the state of
Rhode Island there is a bay called Narragansett, so named after a powerful
tribe of Indians, which formerly dwelt on its banks.
Accident, or one of those unaccountable freaks which nature sometimes plays in the
animal world, gave rise to a breed of horses which were once well known in
America, and distinguished by their habit of pacing.
Horses of this race were, and are still, in much request as saddle horses, on account
of their hardiness and the ease of their movements.
As they were also sure of foot, the Narragansetts were greatly sought for by
females who were obliged to travel over the roots and holes in the "new countries.")
-a smart cut of the whip, she was the first to dash aside the slight branches of the
bushes, and to follow the runner along the dark and tangled pathway.
The young man regarded the last speaker in open admiration, and even permitted her
fairer, though certainly not more beautiful companion, to proceed unattended, while he
sedulously opened the way himself for the passage of her who has been called Cora.
It would seem that the domestics had been previously instructed; for, instead of
penetrating the thicket, they followed the route of the column; a measure which
Heyward stated had been dictated by the
sagacity of their guide, in order to diminish the marks of their trail, if,
haply, the Canadian savages should be lurking so far in advance of their army.
For many minutes the intricacy of the route admitted of no further dialogue; after
which they emerged from the broad border of underbrush which grew along the line of the
highway, and entered under the high but dark arches of the forest.
Here their progress was less interrupted; and the instant the guide perceived that
the females could command their steeds, he moved on, at a pace between a trot and a
walk, and at a rate which kept the sure-
footed and peculiar animals they rode at a fast yet easy amble.
The youth had turned to speak to the dark- eyed Cora, when the distant sound of horses
hoofs, clattering over the roots of the broken way in his rear, caused him to check
his charger; and, as his companions drew
their reins at the same instant, the whole party came to a halt, in order to obtain an
explanation of the unlooked-for interruption.
In a few moments a colt was seen gliding, like a fallow deer, among the straight
trunks of the pines; and, in another instant, the person of the ungainly man,
described in the preceding chapter, came
into view, with as much rapidity as he could excite his meager beast to endure
without coming to an open rupture. Until now this personage had escaped the
observation of the travelers.
If he possessed the power to arrest any wandering eye when exhibiting the glories
of his altitude on foot, his equestrian graces were still more likely to attract
Notwithstanding a constant application of his one armed heel to the flanks of the
mare, the most confirmed gait that he could establish was a Canterbury gallop with the
hind legs, in which those more forward
assisted for doubtful moments, though generally content to maintain a loping
Perhaps the rapidity of the changes from one of these paces to the other created an
optical illusion, which might thus magnify the powers of the beast; for it is certain
that Heyward, who possessed a true eye for
the merits of a horse, was unable, with his utmost ingenuity, to decide by what sort of
movement his pursuer worked his sinuous way on his footsteps with such persevering
The industry and movements of the rider were not less remarkable than those of the
At each change in the evolutions of the latter, the former raised his tall person
in the stirrups; producing, in this manner, by the undue elongation of his legs, such
sudden growths and diminishings of the
stature, as baffled every conjecture that might be made as to his dimensions.
If to this be added the fact that, in consequence of the ex parte application of
the spur, one side of the mare appeared to journey faster than the other; and that the
aggrieved flank was resolutely indicated by
unremitted flourishes of a bushy tail, we finish the picture of both horse and man.
The frown which had gathered around the handsome, open, and manly brow of Heyward,
gradually relaxed, and his lips curled into a slight smile, as he regarded the
Alice made no very powerful effort to control her merriment; and even the dark,
thoughtful eye of Cora lighted with a humor that it would seem, the habit, rather than
the nature, of its mistress repressed.
"Seek you any here?" demanded Heyward, when the other had arrived sufficiently nigh to
abate his speed; "I trust you are no messenger of evil tidings?"
"Even so," replied the stranger, making diligent use of his triangular castor, to
produce a circulation in the close air of the woods, and leaving his hearers in doubt
to which of the young man's questions he
responded; when, however, he had cooled his face, and recovered his breath, he
continued, "I hear you are riding to William Henry; as I am journeying
thitherward myself, I concluded good
company would seem consistent to the wishes of both parties."
"You appear to possess the privilege of a casting vote," returned Heyward; "we are
three, while you have consulted no one but yourself."
"Even so.
The first point to be obtained is to know one's own mind.
Once sure of that, and where women are concerned it is not easy, the next is, to
act up to the decision.
I have endeavored to do both, and here I am."
"If you journey to the lake, you have mistaken your route," said Heyward,
haughtily; "the highway thither is at least half a mile behind you."
"Even so," returned the stranger, nothing daunted by this cold reception; "I have
tarried at 'Edward' a week, and I should be dumb not to have inquired the road I was to
journey; and if dumb there would be an end to my calling."
After simpering in a small way, like one whose modesty prohibited a more open
expression of his admiration of a witticism that was perfectly unintelligible to his
hearers, he continued, "It is not prudent
for any one of my profession to be too familiar with those he has to instruct; for
which reason I follow not the line of the army; besides which, I conclude that a
gentleman of your character has the best
judgment in matters of wayfaring; I have, therefore, decided to join company, in
order that the ride may be made agreeable, and partake of social communion."
"A most arbitrary, if not a hasty decision!" exclaimed Heyward, undecided
whether to give vent to his growing anger, or to laugh in the other's face.
"But you speak of instruction, and of a profession; are you an adjunct to the
provincial corps, as a master of the noble science of defense and offense; or,
perhaps, you are one who draws lines and
angles, under the pretense of expounding the mathematics?"
The stranger regarded his interrogator a moment in wonder; and then, losing every
mark of self-satisfaction in an expression of solemn humility, he answered:
"Of offense, I hope there is none, to either party: of defense, I make none--by
God's good mercy, having committed no palpable sin since last entreating his
pardoning grace.
I understand not your allusions about lines and angles; and I leave expounding to those
who have been called and set apart for that holy office.
I lay claim to no higher gift than a small insight into the glorious art of
petitioning and thanksgiving, as practiced in psalmody."
"The man is, most manifestly, a disciple of Apollo," cried the amused Alice, "and I
take him under my own especial protection.
Nay, throw aside that frown, Heyward, and in pity to my longing ears, suffer him to
journey in our train.
Besides," she added, in a low and hurried voice, casting a glance at the distant
Cora, who slowly followed the footsteps of their silent, but sullen guide, "it may be
a friend added to our strength, in time of need."
"Think you, Alice, that I would trust those I love by this secret path, did I imagine
such need could happen?"
"Nay, nay, I think not of it now; but this strange man amuses me; and if he 'hath
music in his soul', let us not churlishly reject his company."
She pointed persuasively along the path with her riding whip, while their eyes met
in a look which the young man lingered a moment to prolong; then, yielding to her
gentle influence, he clapped his spurs into
his charger, and in a few bounds was again at the side of Cora.
"I am glad to encounter thee, friend," continued the maiden, waving her hand to
the stranger to proceed, as she urged her Narragansett to renew its amble.
"Partial relatives have almost persuaded me that I am not entirely worthless in a duet
myself; and we may enliven our wayfaring by indulging in our favorite pursuit.
It might be of signal advantage to one, ignorant as I, to hear the opinions and
experience of a master in the art."
"It is refreshing both to the spirits and to the body to indulge in psalmody, in
befitting seasons," returned the master of song, unhesitatingly complying with her
intimation to follow; "and nothing would
relieve the mind more than such a consoling communion.
But four parts are altogether necessary to the perfection of melody.
You have all the manifestations of a soft and rich treble; I can, by especial aid,
carry a full tenor to the highest letter; but we lack counter and bass!
Yon officer of the king, who hesitated to admit me to his company, might fill the
latter, if one may judge from the intonations of his voice in common
"Judge not too rashly from hasty and deceptive appearances," said the lady,
smiling; "though Major Heyward can assume such deep notes on occasion, believe me,
his natural tones are better fitted for a mellow tenor than the bass you heard."
"Is he, then, much practiced in the art of psalmody?" demanded her simple companion.
Alice felt disposed to laugh, though she succeeded in suppressing her merriment, ere
she answered: "I apprehend that he is rather addicted to
profane song.
The chances of a soldier's life are but little fitted for the encouragement of more
sober inclinations."
"Man's voice is given to him, like his other talents, to be used, and not to be
abused. None can say they have ever known me to
neglect my gifts!
I am thankful that, though my boyhood may be said to have been set apart, like the
youth of the royal David, for the purposes of music, no syllable of rude verse has
ever profaned my lips."
"You have, then, limited your efforts to sacred song?"
"Even so.
As the psalms of David exceed all other language, so does the psalmody that has
been fitted to them by the divines and sages of the land, surpass all vain poetry.
Happily, I may say that I utter nothing but the thoughts and the wishes of the King of
Israel himself; for though the times may call for some slight changes, yet does this
version which we use in the colonies of New
England so much exceed all other versions, that, by its richness, its exactness, and
its spiritual simplicity, it approacheth, as near as may be, to the great work of the
inspired writer.
I never abide in any place, sleeping or waking, without an example of this gifted
'Tis the six-and-twentieth edition, promulgated at Boston, Anno Domini 1744;
and is entitled, 'The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New
Testaments; faithfully translated into
English Metre, for the Use, Edification, and Comfort of the Saints, in Public and
Private, especially in New England'."
During this eulogium on the rare production of his native poets, the stranger had drawn
the book from his pocket, and fitting a pair of iron-rimmed spectacles to his nose,
opened the volume with a care and veneration suited to its sacred purposes.
Then, without circumlocution or apology, first pronounced the word "Standish," and
placing the unknown engine, already described, to his mouth, from which he drew
a high, shrill sound, that was followed by
an octave below, from his own voice, he commenced singing the following words, in
full, sweet, and melodious tones, that set the music, the poetry, and even the uneasy
motion of his ill-trained beast at
defiance; "How good it is, O see, And how it pleaseth well, Together e'en in unity,
For brethren so to dwell.
It's like the choice ointment, From the head to the beard did go; Down Aaron's
head, that downward went His garment's skirts unto."
The delivery of these skillful rhymes was accompanied, on the part of the stranger,
by a regular rise and fall of his right hand, which terminated at the descent, by
suffering the fingers to dwell a moment on
the leaves of the little volume; and on the ascent, by such a flourish of the member as
none but the initiated may ever hope to imitate.
It would seem long practice had rendered this manual accompaniment necessary; for it
did not cease until the preposition which the poet had selected for the close of his
verse had been duly delivered like a word of two syllables.
Such an innovation on the silence and retirement of the forest could not fail to
enlist the ears of those who journeyed at so short a distance in advance.
The Indian muttered a few words in broken English to Heyward, who, in his turn, spoke
to the stranger; at once interrupting, and, for the time, closing his musical efforts.
"Though we are not in danger, common prudence would teach us to journey through
this wilderness in as quiet a manner as possible.
You will then, pardon me, Alice, should I diminish your enjoyments, by requesting
this gentleman to postpone his chant until a safer opportunity."
"You will diminish them, indeed," returned the arch girl; "for never did I hear a more
unworthy conjunction of execution and language than that to which I have been
listening; and I was far gone in a learned
inquiry into the causes of such an unfitness between sound and sense, when you
broke the charm of my musings by that bass of yours, Duncan!"
"I know not what you call my bass," said Heyward, piqued at her remark, "but I know
that your safety, and that of Cora, is far dearer to me than could be any orchestra of
Handel's music."
He paused and turned his head quickly toward a thicket, and then bent his eyes
suspiciously on their guide, who continued his steady pace, in undisturbed gravity.
The young man smiled to himself, for he believed he had mistaken some shining berry
of the woods for the glistening eyeballs of a prowling savage, and he rode forward,
continuing the conversation which had been interrupted by the passing thought.
Major Heyward was mistaken only in suffering his youthful and generous pride
to suppress his active watchfulness.
The cavalcade had not long passed, before the branches of the bushes that formed the
thicket were cautiously moved asunder, and a human visage, as fiercely wild as savage
art and unbridled passions could make it,
peered out on the retiring footsteps of the travelers.
A gleam of exultation shot across the darkly-painted lineaments of the inhabitant
of the forest, as he traced the route of his intended victims, who rode
unconsciously onward, the light and
graceful forms of the females waving among the trees, in the curvatures of their path,
followed at each bend by the manly figure of Heyward, until, finally, the shapeless
person of the singing master was concealed
behind the numberless trunks of trees, that rose, in dark lines, in the intermediate
"Before these fields were shorn and till'd, Full to the brim our rivers flow'd;
The melody of waters fill'd The fresh and boundless wood;
And torrents dash'd, and rivulets play'd, And fountains spouted in the shade."
Leaving the unsuspecting Heyward and his confiding companions to penetrate still
deeper into a forest that contained such treacherous inmates, we must use an
author's privilege, and shift the scene a
few miles to the westward of the place where we have last seen them.
On that day, two men were lingering on the banks of a small but rapid stream, within
an hour's journey of the encampment of Webb, like those who awaited the appearance
of an absent person, or the approach of some expected event.
The vast canopy of woods spread itself to the margin of the river, overhanging the
water, and shadowing its dark current with a deeper hue.
The rays of the sun were beginning to grow less fierce, and the intense heat of the
day was lessened, as the cooler vapors of the springs and fountains rose above their
leafy beds, and rested in the atmosphere.
Still that breathing silence, which marks the drowsy sultriness of an American
landscape in July, pervaded the secluded spot, interrupted only by the low voices of
the men, the occasional and lazy tap of a
woodpecker, the discordant cry of some gaudy jay, or a swelling on the ear, from
the dull roar of a distant waterfall.
These feeble and broken sounds were, however, too familiar to the foresters to
draw their attention from the more interesting matter of their dialogue.
While one of these loiterers showed the red skin and wild accouterments of a native of
the woods, the other exhibited, through the mask of his rude and nearly savage
equipments, the brighter, though sun-burned
and long-faced complexion of one who might claim descent from a European parentage.
The former was seated on the end of a mossy log, in a posture that permitted him to
heighten the effect of his earnest language, by the calm but expressive
gestures of an Indian engaged in debate.
His body, which was nearly naked, presented a terrific emblem of death, drawn in
intermingled colors of white and black.
His closely-shaved head, on which no other hair than the well-known and chivalrous
scalping tuft (FOOTNOTE: The North American warrior caused the hair to be
plucked from his whole body; a small tuft
was left on the crown of his head, in order that his enemy might avail himself of it,
in wrenching off the scalp in the event of his fall.
The scalp was the only admissible trophy of victory.
Thus, it was deemed more important to obtain the scalp than to kill the man.
Some tribes lay great stress on the honor of striking a dead body.
These practices have nearly disappeared among the Indians of the Atlantic states.)
-was preserved, was without ornament of any kind, with the exception of a solitary
eagle's plume, that crossed his crown, and depended over the left shoulder.
A tomahawk and scalping knife, of English manufacture, were in his girdle; while a
short military rifle, of that sort with which the policy of the whites armed their
savage allies, lay carelessly across his bare and sinewy knee.
The expanded chest, full formed limbs, and grave countenance of this warrior, would
denote that he had reached the vigor of his days, though no symptoms of decay appeared
to have yet weakened his manhood.
The frame of the white man, judging by such parts as were not concealed by his clothes,
was like that of one who had known hardships and exertion from his earliest
His person, though muscular, was rather attenuated than full; but every nerve and
muscle appeared strung and indurated by unremitted exposure and toil.
He wore a hunting shirt of forest-green, fringed with faded yellow, (FOOTNOTE: The
hunting-shirt is a picturesque smock-frock, being shorter, and ornamented with fringes
and tassels.
The colors are intended to imitate the hues of the wood, with a view to concealment.
Many corps of American riflemen have been thus attired, and the dress is one of the
most striking of modern times.
The hunting-shirt is frequently white.) -and a summer cap of skins which had been
shorn of their fur.
He also bore a knife in a girdle of wampum, like that which confined the scanty
garments of the Indian, but no tomahawk.
His moccasins were ornamented after the gay fashion of the natives, while the only part
of his under dress which appeared below the hunting-frock was a pair of buckskin
leggings, that laced at the sides, and
which were gartered above the knees, with the sinews of a deer.
A pouch and horn completed his personal accouterments, though a rifle of great
length, (FOOTNOTE: The rifle of the army is short; that of the hunter is always
-which the theory of the more ingenious whites had taught them was the most
dangerous of all firearms, leaned against a neighboring sapling.
The eye of the hunter, or scout, whichever he might be, was small, quick, keen, and
restless, roving while he spoke, on every side of him, as if in quest of game, or
distrusting the sudden approach of some lurking enemy.
Notwithstanding the symptoms of habitual suspicion, his countenance was not only
without guile, but at the moment at which he is introduced, it was charged with an
expression of sturdy honesty.
"Even your traditions make the case in my favor, Chingachgook," he said, speaking in
the tongue which was known to all the natives who formerly inhabited the country
between the Hudson and the Potomac, and of
which we shall give a free translation for the benefit of the reader; endeavoring, at
the same time, to preserve some of the peculiarities, both of the individual and
of the language.
"Your fathers came from the setting sun, crossed the big river, (FOOTNOTE: The
The scout alludes to a tradition which is very popular among the tribes of the
Atlantic states.
Evidence of their Asiatic origin is deduced from the circumstances, though great
uncertainty hangs over the whole history of the Indians.)
-fought the people of the country, and took the land; and mine came from the red sky of
the morning, over the salt lake, and did their work much after the fashion that had
been set them by yours; then let God judge
the matter between us, and friends spare their words!"
"My fathers fought with the naked red man!" returned the Indian, sternly, in the same
"Is there no difference, Hawkeye, between the stone-headed arrow of the warrior, and
the leaden bullet with which you kill?"
"There is reason in an Indian, though nature has made him with a red skin!" said
the white man, shaking his head like one on whom such an appeal to his justice was not
thrown away.
For a moment he appeared to be conscious of having the worst of the argument, then,
rallying again, he answered the objection of his antagonist in the best manner his
limited information would allow:
"I am no scholar, and I care not who knows it; but, judging from what I have seen, at
deer chases and squirrel hunts, of the sparks below, I should think a rifle in the
hands of their grandfathers was not so
dangerous as a hickory bow and a good flint-head might be, if drawn with Indian
judgment, and sent by an Indian eye." "You have the story told by your fathers,"
returned the other, coldly waving his hand.
"What say your old men? Do they tell the young warriors that the
pale faces met the red men, painted for war and armed with the stone hatchet and wooden
"I am not a prejudiced man, nor one who vaunts himself on his natural privileges,
though the worst enemy I have on earth, and he is an Iroquois, daren't deny that I am
genuine white," the scout replied,
surveying, with secret satisfaction, the faded color of his bony and sinewy hand,
"and I am willing to own that my people have many ways, of which, as an honest man,
I can't approve.
It is one of their customs to write in books what they have done and seen, instead
of telling them in their villages, where the lie can be given to the face of a
cowardly boaster, and the brave soldier can
call on his comrades to witness for the truth of his words.
In consequence of this bad fashion, a man, who is too conscientious to misspend his
days among the women, in learning the names of black marks, may never hear of the deeds
of his fathers, nor feel a pride in striving to outdo them.
For myself, I conclude the Bumppos could shoot, for I have a natural turn with a
rifle, which must have been handed down from generation to generation, as, our holy
commandments tell us, all good and evil
gifts are bestowed; though I should be loath to answer for other people in such a
But every story has its two sides; so I ask you, Chingachgook, what passed, according
to the traditions of the red men, when our fathers first met?"
A silence of a minute succeeded, during which the Indian sat mute; then, full of
the dignity of his office, he commenced his brief tale, with a solemnity that served to
heighten its appearance of truth.
"Listen, Hawkeye, and your ear shall drink no lie.
'Tis what my fathers have said, and what the Mohicans have done."
He hesitated a single instant, and bending a cautious glance toward his companion, he
continued, in a manner that was divided between interrogation and assertion.
"Does not this stream at our feet run toward the summer, until its waters grow
salt, and the current flows upward?"
"It can't be denied that your traditions tell you true in both these matters," said
the white man; "for I have been there, and have seen them, though why water, which is
so sweet in the shade, should become bitter
in the sun, is an alteration for which I have never been able to account."
"And the current!" demanded the Indian, who expected his reply with that sort of
interest that a man feels in the confirmation of testimony, at which he
marvels even while he respects it; "the fathers of Chingachgook have not lied!"
"The holy Bible is not more true, and that is the truest thing in nature.
They call this up-stream current the tide, which is a thing soon explained, and clear
Six hours the waters run in, and six hours they run out, and the reason is this: when
there is higher water in the sea than in the river, they run in until the river gets
to be highest, and then it runs out again."
"The waters in the woods, and on the great lakes, run downward until they lie like my
hand," said the Indian, stretching the limb horizontally before him, "and then they run
no more."
"No honest man will deny it," said the scout, a little nettled at the implied
distrust of his explanation of the mystery of the tides; "and I grant that it is true
on the small scale, and where the land is level.
But everything depends on what scale you look at things.
Now, on the small scale, the 'arth is level; but on the large scale it is round.
In this manner, pools and ponds, and even the great fresh-water lakes, may be
stagnant, as you and I both know they are, having seen them; but when you come to
spread water over a great tract, like the
sea, where the earth is round, how in reason can the water be quiet?
You might as well expect the river to lie still on the brink of those black rocks a
mile above us, though your own ears tell you that it is tumbling over them at this
very moment."
If unsatisfied by the philosophy of his companion, the Indian was far too dignified
to betray his unbelief.
He listened like one who was convinced, and resumed his narrative in his former solemn
"We came from the place where the sun is hid at night, over great plains where the
buffaloes live, until we reached the big river.
There we fought the Alligewi, till the ground was red with their blood.
From the banks of the big river to the shores of the salt lake, there was none to
meet us.
The Maquas followed at a distance. We said the country should be ours from the
place where the water runs up no longer on this stream, to a river twenty sun's
journey toward the summer.
We drove the Maquas into the woods with the bears.
They only tasted salt at the licks; they drew no fish from the great lake; we threw
them the bones."
"All this I have heard and believe," said the white man, observing that the Indian
paused; "but it was long before the English came into the country."
"A pine grew then where this chestnut now stands.
The first pale faces who came among us spoke no English.
They came in a large canoe, when my fathers had buried the tomahawk with the red men
around them.
Then, Hawkeye," he continued, betraying his deep emotion, only by permitting his voice
to fall to those low, guttural tones, which render his language, as spoken at times, so
very musical; "then, Hawkeye, we were one people, and we were happy.
The salt lake gave us its fish, the wood its deer, and the air its birds.
We took wives who bore us children; we worshipped the Great Spirit; and we kept
the Maquas beyond the sound of our songs of triumph."
"Know you anything of your own family at that time?" demanded the white.
"But you are just a man, for an Indian; and as I suppose you hold their gifts, your
fathers must have been brave warriors, and wise men at the council-fire."
"My tribe is the grandfather of nations, but I am an unmixed man.
The blood of chiefs is in my veins, where it must stay forever.
The Dutch landed, and gave my people the fire-water; they drank until the heavens
and the earth seemed to meet, and they foolishly thought they had found the Great
Then they parted with their land.
Foot by foot, they were driven back from the shores, until I, that am a chief and a
Sagamore, have never seen the sun shine but through the trees, and have never visited
the graves of my fathers."
"Graves bring solemn feelings over the mind," returned the scout, a good deal
touched at the calm suffering of his companion; "and they often aid a man in his
good intentions; though, for myself, I
expect to leave my own bones unburied, to bleach in the woods, or to be torn asunder
by the wolves.
But where are to be found those of your race who came to their kin in the Delaware
country, so many summers since?"
"Where are the blossoms of those summers!-- fallen, one by one; so all of my family
departed, each in his turn, to the land of spirits.
I am on the hilltop and must go down into the valley; and when Uncas follows in my
footsteps there will no longer be any of the blood of the Sagamores, for my boy is
the last of the Mohicans."
"Uncas is here," said another voice, in the same soft, guttural tones, near his elbow;
"who speaks to Uncas?"
The white man loosened his knife in his leathern sheath, and made an involuntary
movement of the hand toward his rifle, at this sudden interruption; but the Indian
sat composed, and without turning his head at the unexpected sounds.
At the next instant, a youthful warrior passed between them, with a noiseless step,
and seated himself on the bank of the rapid stream.
No exclamation of surprise escaped the father, nor was any question asked, or
reply given, for several minutes; each appearing to await the moment when he might
speak, without betraying womanish curiosity or childish impatience.
The white man seemed to take counsel from their customs, and, relinquishing his grasp
of the rifle, he also remained silent and reserved.
At length Chingachgook turned his eyes slowly toward his son, and demanded:
"Do the Maquas dare to leave the print of their moccasins in these woods?"
"I have been on their trail," replied the young Indian, "and know that they number as
many as the fingers of my two hands; but they lie hid like cowards."
"The thieves are outlying for scalps and plunder," said the white man, whom we shall
call Hawkeye, after the manner of his companions.
"That busy Frenchman, Montcalm, will send his spies into our very camp, but he will
know what road we travel!"
"'Tis enough," returned the father, glancing his eye toward the setting sun;
"they shall be driven like deer from their bushes.
Hawkeye, let us eat to-night, and show the Maquas that we are men to-morrow."
"I am as ready to do the one as the other; but to fight the Iroquois 'tis necessary to
find the skulkers; and to eat, 'tis necessary to get the game--talk of the
devil and he will come; there is a pair of
the biggest antlers I have seen this season, moving the bushes below the hill!
Now, Uncas," he continued, in a half whisper, and laughing with a kind of inward
sound, like one who had learned to be watchful, "I will bet my charger three
times full of powder, against a foot of
wampum, that I take him atwixt the eyes, and nearer to the right than to the left."
"It cannot be!" said the young Indian, springing to his feet with youthful
eagerness; "all but the tips of his horns are hid!"
"He's a boy!" said the white man, shaking his head while he spoke, and addressing the
"Does he think when a hunter sees a part of the creature', he can't tell where the rest
of him should be!"
Adjusting his rifle, he was about to make an exhibition of that skill on which he so
much valued himself, when the warrior struck up the piece with his hand, saying:
"Hawkeye! will you fight the Maquas?"
"These Indians know the nature of the woods, as it might be by instinct!"
returned the scout, dropping his rifle, and turning away like a man who was convinced
of his error.
"I must leave the buck to your arrow, Uncas, or we may kill a deer for them
thieves, the Iroquois, to eat."
The instant the father seconded this intimation by an expressive gesture of the
hand, Uncas threw himself on the ground, and approached the animal with wary
When within a few yards of the cover, he fitted an arrow to his bow with the utmost
care, while the antlers moved, as if their owner snuffed an enemy in the tainted air.
In another moment the twang of the cord was heard, a white streak was seen glancing
into the bushes, and the wounded buck plunged from the cover, to the very feet of
his hidden enemy.
Avoiding the horns of the infuriated animal, Uncas darted to his side, and
passed his knife across the throat, when bounding to the edge of the river it fell,
dyeing the waters with its blood.
"'Twas done with Indian skill," said the scout laughing inwardly, but with vast
satisfaction; "and 'twas a pretty sight to behold!
Though an arrow is a near shot, and needs a knife to finish the work."
"Hugh!" ejaculated his companion, turning quickly, like a hound who scented game.
"By the Lord, there is a drove of them!" exclaimed the scout, whose eyes began to
glisten with the ardor of his usual occupation; "if they come within range of a
bullet I will drop one, though the whole Six Nations should be lurking within sound!
What do you hear, Chingachgook? for to my ears the woods are dumb."
"There is but one deer, and he is dead," said the Indian, bending his body till his
ear nearly touched the earth. "I hear the sounds of feet!"
"Perhaps the wolves have driven the buck to shelter, and are following on his trail."
"No. The horses of white men are coming!" returned the other, raising himself with
dignity, and resuming his seat on the log with his former composure.
"Hawkeye, they are your brothers; speak to them."
"That I will, and in English that the king needn't be ashamed to answer," returned the
hunter, speaking in the language of which he boasted; "but I see nothing, nor do I
hear the sounds of man or beast; 'tis
strange that an Indian should understand white sounds better than a man who, his
very enemies will own, has no cross in his blood, although he may have lived with the
red skins long enough to be suspected!
Ha! there goes something like the cracking of a dry stick, too--now I hear the bushes
move--yes, yes, there is a trampling that I mistook for the falls--and--but here they
come themselves; God keep them from the Iroquois!"
"Well go thy way: thou shalt not from this grove Till I torment thee for this injury."
--Midsummer Night's Dream.
The words were still in the mouth of the scout, when the leader of the party, whose
approaching footsteps had caught the vigilant ear of the Indian, came openly
into view.
A beaten path, such as those made by the periodical passage of the deer, wound
through a little glen at no great distance, and struck the river at the point where the
white man and his red companions had posted themselves.
Along this track the travelers, who had produced a surprise so unusual in the
depths of the forest, advanced slowly toward the hunter, who was in front of his
associates, in readiness to receive them.
"Who comes?" demanded the scout, throwing his rifle carelessly across his left arm,
and keeping the forefinger of his right hand on the trigger, though he avoided all
appearance of menace in the act.
"Who comes hither, among the beasts and dangers of the wilderness?"
"Believers in religion, and friends to the law and to the king," returned he who rode
"Men who have journeyed since the rising sun, in the shades of this forest, without
nourishment, and are sadly tired of their wayfaring."
"You are, then, lost," interrupted the hunter, "and have found how helpless 'tis
not to know whether to take the right hand or the left?"
"Even so; sucking babes are not more dependent on those who guide them than we
who are of larger growth, and who may now be said to possess the stature without the
knowledge of men.
Know you the distance to a post of the crown called William Henry?"
"Hoot!" shouted the scout, who did not spare his open laughter, though instantly
checking the dangerous sounds he indulged his merriment at less risk of being
overheard by any lurking enemies.
"You are as much off the scent as a hound would be, with Horican atwixt him and the
William Henry, man! if you are friends to the king and have business with the army,
your way would be to follow the river down to Edward, and lay the matter before Webb,
who tarries there, instead of pushing into
the defiles, and driving this saucy Frenchman back across Champlain, into his
den again."
Before the stranger could make any reply to this unexpected proposition, another
horseman dashed the bushes aside, and leaped his charger into the pathway, in
front of his companion.
"What, then, may be our distance from Fort Edward?" demanded a new speaker; "the place
you advise us to seek we left this morning, and our destination is the head of the
"Then you must have lost your eyesight afore losing your way, for the road across
the portage is cut to a good two rods, and is as grand a path, I calculate, as any
that runs into London, or even before the palace of the king himself."
"We will not dispute concerning the excellence of the passage," returned
Heyward, smiling; for, as the reader has anticipated, it was he.
"It is enough, for the present, that we trusted to an Indian guide to take us by a
nearer, though blinder path, and that we are deceived in his knowledge.
In plain words, we know not where we are."
"An Indian lost in the woods!" said the scout, shaking his head doubtingly; "When
the sun is scorching the tree tops, and the water courses are full; when the moss on
every beech he sees will tell him in what quarter the north star will shine at night.
The woods are full of deer-paths which run to the streams and licks, places well known
to everybody; nor have the geese done their flight to the Canada waters altogether!
'Tis strange that an Indian should be lost atwixt Horican and the bend in the river!
Is he a Mohawk?"
"Not by birth, though adopted in that tribe; I think his birthplace was farther
north, and he is one of those you call a Huron."
"Hugh!" exclaimed the two companions of the scout, who had continued until this part of
the dialogue, seated immovable, and apparently indifferent to what passed, but
who now sprang to their feet with an
activity and interest that had evidently got the better of their reserve by
"A Huron!" repeated the sturdy scout, once more shaking his head in open distrust;
"they are a thievish race, nor do I care by whom they are adopted; you can never make
anything of them but skulls and vagabonds.
Since you trusted yourself to the care of one of that nation, I only wonder that you
have not fallen in with more."
"Of that there is little danger, since William Henry is so many miles in our
You forget that I have told you our guide is now a Mohawk, and that he serves with
our forces as a friend."
"And I tell you that he who is born a Mingo will die a Mingo," returned the other
positively. "A Mohawk!
No, give me a Delaware or a Mohican for honesty; and when they will fight, which
they won't all do, having suffered their cunning enemies, the Maquas, to make them
women--but when they will fight at all,
look to a Delaware, or a Mohican, for a warrior!"
"Enough of this," said Heyward, impatiently; "I wish not to inquire into
the character of a man that I know, and to whom you must be a stranger.
You have not yet answered my question; what is our distance from the main army at
Edward?" "It seems that may depend on who is your
One would think such a horse as that might get over a good deal of ground atwixt sun-
up and sun-down."
"I wish no contention of idle words with you, friend," said Heyward, curbing his
dissatisfied manner, and speaking in a more gentle voice; "if you will tell me the
distance to Fort Edward, and conduct me
thither, your labor shall not go without its reward."
"And in so doing, how know I that I don't guide an enemy and a spy of Montcalm, to
the works of the army?
It is not every man who can speak the English tongue that is an honest subject."
"If you serve with the troops, of whom I judge you to be a scout, you should know of
such a regiment of the king as the Sixtieth."
"The Sixtieth! you can tell me little of the Royal Americans that I don't know,
though I do wear a hunting-shirt instead of a scarlet jacket."
"Well, then, among other things, you may know the name of its major?"
"Its major!" interrupted the hunter, elevating his body like one who was proud
of his trust.
"If there is a man in the country who knows Major Effingham, he stands before you."
"It is a corps which has many majors; the gentleman you name is the senior, but I
speak of the junior of them all; he who commands the companies in garrison at
William Henry."
"Yes, yes, I have heard that a young gentleman of vast riches, from one of the
provinces far south, has got the place.
He is over young, too, to hold such rank, and to be put above men whose heads are
beginning to bleach; and yet they say he is a soldier in his knowledge, and a gallant
"Whatever he may be, or however he may be qualified for his rank, he now speaks to
you and, of course, can be no enemy to dread."
The scout regarded Heyward in surprise, and then lifting his cap, he answered, in a
tone less confident than before--though still expressing doubt.
"I have heard a party was to leave the encampment this morning for the lake
"You have heard the truth; but I preferred a nearer route, trusting to the knowledge
of the Indian I mentioned." "And he deceived you, and then deserted?"
"Neither, as I believe; certainly not the latter, for he is to be found in the rear."
"I should like to look at the creature; if it is a true Iroquois I can tell him by his
knavish look, and by his paint," said the scout; stepping past the charger of
Heyward, and entering the path behind the
mare of the singing master, whose foal had taken advantage of the halt to exact the
maternal contribution.
After shoving aside the bushes, and proceeding a few paces, he encountered the
females, who awaited the result of the conference with anxiety, and not entirely
without apprehension.
Behind these, the runner leaned against a tree, where he stood the close examination
of the scout with an air unmoved, though with a look so dark and savage, that it
might in itself excite fear.
Satisfied with his scrutiny, the hunter soon left him.
As he repassed the females, he paused a moment to gaze upon their beauty, answering
to the smile and nod of Alice with a look of open pleasure.
Thence he went to the side of the motherly animal, and spending a minute in a
fruitless inquiry into the character of her rider, he shook his head and returned to
"A Mingo is a Mingo, and God having made him so, neither the Mohawks nor any other
tribe can alter him," he said, when he had regained his former position.
"If we were alone, and you would leave that noble horse at the mercy of the wolves to-
night, I could show you the way to Edward myself, within an hour, for it lies only
about an hour's journey hence; but with
such ladies in your company 'tis impossible!"
"And why? They are fatigued, but they are quite equal
to a ride of a few more miles."
"'Tis a natural impossibility!" repeated the scout; "I wouldn't walk a mile in these
woods after night gets into them, in company with that runner, for the best
rifle in the colonies.
They are full of outlying Iroquois, and your mongrel Mohawk knows where to find
them too well to be my companion."
"Think you so?" said Heyward, leaning forward in the saddle, and dropping his
voice nearly to a whisper; "I confess I have not been without my own suspicions,
though I have endeavored to conceal them,
and affected a confidence I have not always felt, on account of my companions.
It was because I suspected him that I would follow no longer; making him, as you see,
follow me."
"I knew he was one of the cheats as soon as I laid eyes on him!" returned the scout,
placing a finger on his nose, in sign of caution.
"The thief is leaning against the foot of the sugar sapling, that you can see over
them bushes; his right leg is in a line with the bark of the tree, and," tapping
his rifle, "I can take him from where I
stand, between the angle and the knee, with a single shot, putting an end to his
tramping through the woods, for at least a month to come.
If I should go back to him, the cunning varmint would suspect something, and be
dodging through the trees like a frightened deer."
"It will not do.
He may be innocent, and I dislike the act. Though, if I felt confident of his
"'Tis a safe thing to calculate on the knavery of an Iroquois," said the scout,
throwing his rifle forward, by a sort of instinctive movement.
"Hold!" interrupted Heyward, "it will not do--we must think of some other scheme--and
yet, I have much reason to believe the rascal has deceived me."
The hunter, who had already abandoned his intention of maiming the runner, mused a
moment, and then made a gesture, which instantly brought his two red companions to
his side.
They spoke together earnestly in the Delaware language, though in an undertone;
and by the gestures of the white man, which were frequently directed towards the top of
the sapling, it was evident he pointed out the situation of their hidden enemy.
His companions were not long in comprehending his wishes, and laying aside
their firearms, they parted, taking opposite sides of the path, and burying
themselves in the thicket, with such
cautious movements, that their steps were inaudible.
"Now, go you back," said the hunter, speaking again to Heyward, "and hold the
imp in talk; these Mohicans here will take him without breaking his paint."
"Nay," said Heyward, proudly, "I will seize him myself."
"Hist! what could you do, mounted, against an Indian in the bushes!"
"I will dismount."
"And, think you, when he saw one of your feet out of the stirrup, he would wait for
the other to be free?
Whoever comes into the woods to deal with the natives, must use Indian fashions, if
he would wish to prosper in his undertakings.
Go, then; talk openly to the miscreant, and seem to believe him the truest friend you
have on 'arth."
Heyward prepared to comply, though with strong disgust at the nature of the office
he was compelled to execute.
Each moment, however, pressed upon him a conviction of the critical situation in
which he had suffered his invaluable trust to be involved through his own confidence.
The sun had already disappeared, and the woods, suddenly deprived of his light,
(FOOTNOTE: The scene of this tale was in the 42d degree of latitude, where the
twilight is never of long continuation.)
-were assuming a dusky hue, which keenly reminded him that the hour the savage
usually chose for his most barbarous and remorseless acts of vengeance or hostility,
was speedily drawing near.
Stimulated by apprehension, he left the scout, who immediately entered into a loud
conversation with the stranger that had so unceremoniously enlisted himself in the
party of travelers that morning.
In passing his gentler companions Heyward uttered a few words of encouragement, and
was pleased to find that, though fatigued with the exercise of the day, they appeared
to entertain no suspicion that their
present embarrassment was other than the result of accident.
Giving them reason to believe he was merely employed in a consultation concerning the
future route, he spurred his charger, and drew the reins again when the animal had
carried him within a few yards of the place
where the sullen runner still stood, leaning against the tree.
"You may see, Magua," he said, endeavoring to assume an air of freedom and confidence,
"that the night is closing around us, and yet we are no nearer to William Henry than
when we left the encampment of Webb with the rising sun.
"You have missed the way, nor have I been more fortunate.
But, happily, we have fallen in with a hunter, he whom you hear talking to the
singer, that is acquainted with the deerpaths and by-ways of the woods, and who
promises to lead us to a place where we may rest securely till the morning."
The Indian riveted his glowing eyes on Heyward as he asked, in his imperfect
English, "Is he alone?"
"Alone!" hesitatingly answered Heyward, to whom deception was too new to be assumed
without embarrassment. "Oh! not alone, surely, Magua, for you know
that we are with him."
"Then Le Renard Subtil will go," returned the runner, coolly raising his little
wallet from the place where it had lain at his feet; "and the pale faces will see none
but their own color."
"Go! Whom call you Le Renard?" "'Tis the name his Canada fathers have
given to Magua," returned the runner, with an air that manifested his pride at the
"Night is the same as day to Le Subtil, when Munro waits for him."
"And what account will Le Renard give the chief of William Henry concerning his
Will he dare to tell the hot-blooded Scotsman that his children are left without
a guide, though Magua promised to be one?"
"Though the gray head has a loud voice, and a long arm, Le Renard will not hear him,
nor feel him, in the woods." "But what will the Mohawks say?
They will make him petticoats, and bid him stay in the wigwam with the women, for he
is no longer to be trusted with the business of a man."
"Le Subtil knows the path to the great lakes, and he can find the bones of his
fathers," was the answer of the unmoved runner.
"Enough, Magua," said Heyward; "are we not friends?
Why should there be bitter words between us?
Munro has promised you a gift for your services when performed, and I shall be
your debtor for another. Rest your weary limbs, then, and open your
wallet to eat.
We have a few moments to spare; let us not waste them in talk like wrangling women.
When the ladies are refreshed we will proceed."
"The pale faces make themselves dogs to their women," muttered the Indian, in his
native language, "and when they want to eat, their warriors must lay aside the
tomahawk to feed their laziness."
"What say you, Renard?" "Le Subtil says it is good."
The Indian then fastened his eyes keenly on the open countenance of Heyward, but
meeting his glance, he turned them quickly away, and seating himself deliberately on
the ground, he drew forth the remnant of
some former repast, and began to eat, though not without first bending his looks
slowly and cautiously around him.
"This is well," continued Heyward; "and Le Renard will have strength and sight to find
the path in the morning"; he paused, for sounds like the snapping of a dried stick,
and the rustling of leaves, rose from the
adjacent bushes, but recollecting himself instantly, he continued, "we must be moving
before the sun is seen, or Montcalm may lie in our path, and shut us out from the
The hand of Magua dropped from his mouth to his side, and though his eyes were fastened
on the ground, his head was turned aside, his nostrils expanded, and his ears seemed
even to stand more erect than usual, giving
to him the appearance of a statue that was made to represent intense attention.
Heyward, who watched his movements with a vigilant eye, carelessly extricated one of
his feet from the stirrup, while he passed a hand toward the bear-skin covering of his
Every effort to detect the point most regarded by the runner was completely
frustrated by the tremulous glances of his organs, which seemed not to rest a single
instant on any particular object, and
which, at the same time, could be hardly said to move.
While he hesitated how to proceed, Le Subtil cautiously raised himself to his
feet, though with a motion so slow and guarded, that not the slightest noise was
produced by the change.
Heyward felt it had now become incumbent on him to act.
Throwing his leg over the saddle, he dismounted, with a determination to advance
and seize his treacherous companion, trusting the result to his own manhood.
In order, however, to prevent unnecessary alarm, he still preserved an air of
calmness and friendship.
"Le Renard Subtil does not eat," he said, using the appellation he had found most
flattering to the vanity of the Indian. "His corn is not well parched, and it seems
Let me examine; perhaps something may be found among my own provisions that will
help his appetite." Magua held out the wallet to the proffer of
the other.
He even suffered their hands to meet, without betraying the least emotion, or
varying his riveted attitude of attention.
But when he felt the fingers of Heyward moving gently along his own naked arm, he
struck up the limb of the young man, and, uttering a piercing cry, he darted beneath
it, and plunged, at a single bound, into the opposite thicket.
At the next instant the form of Chingachgook appeared from the bushes,
looking like a specter in its paint, and glided across the path in swift pursuit.
Next followed the shout of Uncas, when the woods were lighted by a sudden flash, that
was accompanied by the sharp report of the hunter's rifle.
..."In such a night Did This be fearfully o'ertrip the dew; And saw the lion's shadow
ere himself." --Merchant of Venice
The suddenness of the flight of his guide, and the wild cries of the pursuers, caused
Heyward to remain fixed, for a few moments, in inactive surprise.
Then recollecting the importance of securing the fugitive, he dashed aside the
surrounding bushes, and pressed eagerly forward to lend his aid in the chase.
Before he had, however, proceeded a hundred yards, he met the three foresters already
returning from their unsuccessful pursuit.
"Why so soon disheartened!" he exclaimed; "the scoundrel must be concealed behind
some of these trees, and may yet be secured.
We are not safe while he goes at large."
"Would you set a cloud to chase the wind?" returned the disappointed scout; "I heard
the imp brushing over the dry leaves, like a black snake, and blinking a glimpse of
him, just over ag'in yon big pine, I pulled
as it might be on the scent; but 'twouldn't do! and yet for a reasoning aim, if anybody
but myself had touched the trigger, I should call it a quick sight; and I may be
accounted to have experience in these matters, and one who ought to know.
Look at this sumach; its leaves are red, though everybody knows the fruit is in the
yellow blossom in the month of July!"
"'Tis the blood of Le Subtil! he is hurt, and may yet fall!"
"No, no," returned the scout, in decided disapprobation of this opinion, "I rubbed
the bark off a limb, perhaps, but the creature leaped the longer for it.
A rifle bullet acts on a running animal, when it barks him, much the same as one of
your spurs on a horse; that is, it quickens motion, and puts life into the flesh,
instead of taking it away.
But when it cuts the ragged hole, after a bound or two, there is, commonly, a
stagnation of further leaping, be it Indian or be it deer!"
"We are four able bodies, to one wounded man!"
"Is life grievous to you?" interrupted the scout.
"Yonder red devil would draw you within swing of the tomahawks of his comrades,
before you were heated in the chase.
It was an unthoughtful act in a man who has so often slept with the war-whoop ringing
in the air, to let off his piece within sound of an ambushment!
But then it was a natural temptation!
'twas very natural!
Come, friends, let us move our station, and in such fashion, too, as will throw the
cunning of a Mingo on a wrong scent, or our scalps will be drying in the wind in front
of Montcalm's marquee, ag'in this hour to- morrow."
This appalling declaration, which the scout uttered with the cool assurance of a man
who fully comprehended, while he did not fear to face the danger, served to remind
Heyward of the importance of the charge with which he himself had been intrusted.
Glancing his eyes around, with a vain effort to pierce the gloom that was
thickening beneath the leafy arches of the forest, he felt as if, cut off from human
aid, his unresisting companions would soon
lie at the entire mercy of those barbarous enemies, who, like beasts of prey, only
waited till the gathering darkness might render their blows more fatally certain.
His awakened imagination, deluded by the deceptive light, converted each waving
bush, or the fragment of some fallen tree, into human forms, and twenty times he
fancied he could distinguish the horrid
visages of his lurking foes, peering from their hiding places, in never ceasing
watchfulness of the movements of his party.
Looking upward, he found that the thin fleecy clouds, which evening had painted on
the blue sky, were already losing their faintest tints of rose-color, while the
imbedded stream, which glided past the spot
where he stood, was to be traced only by the dark boundary of its wooded banks.
"What is to be done!" he said, feeling the utter helplessness of doubt in such a
pressing strait; "desert me not, for God's sake! remain to defend those I escort, and
freely name your own reward!"
His companions, who conversed apart in the language of their tribe, heeded not this
sudden and earnest appeal.
Though their dialogue was maintained in low and cautious sounds, but little above a
whisper, Heyward, who now approached, could easily distinguish the earnest tones of the
younger warrior from the more deliberate speeches of his seniors.
It was evident that they debated on the propriety of some measure, that nearly
concerned the welfare of the travelers.
Yielding to his powerful interest in the subject, and impatient of a delay that
seemed fraught with so much additional danger, Heyward drew still nigher to the
dusky group, with an intention of making
his offers of compensation more definite, when the white man, motioning with his
hand, as if he conceded the disputed point, turned away, saying in a sort of soliloquy,
and in the English tongue:
"Uncas is right! it would not be the act of men to leave such harmless things to their
fate, even though it breaks up the harboring place forever.
If you would save these tender blossoms from the fangs of the worst of serpents,
gentleman, you have neither time to lose nor resolution to throw away!"
"How can such a wish be doubted!
Have I not already offered--"
"Offer your prayers to Him who can give us wisdom to circumvent the cunning of the
devils who fill these woods," calmly interrupted the scout, "but spare your
offers of money, which neither you may live to realize, nor I to profit by.
These Mohicans and I will do what man's thoughts can invent, to keep such flowers,
which, though so sweet, were never made for the wilderness, from harm, and that without
hope of any other recompense but such as God always gives to upright dealings.
First, you must promise two things, both in your own name and for your friends, or
without serving you we shall only injure ourselves!"
"Name them."
"The one is, to be still as these sleeping woods, let what will happen and the other
is, to keep the place where we shall take you, forever a secret from all mortal men."
"I will do my utmost to see both these conditions fulfilled."
"Then follow, for we are losing moments that are as precious as the heart's blood
to a stricken deer!"
Heyward could distinguish the impatient gesture of the scout, through the
increasing shadows of the evening, and he moved in his footsteps, swiftly, toward the
place where he had left the remainder of the party.
When they rejoined the expecting and anxious females, he briefly acquainted them
with the conditions of their new guide, and with the necessity that existed for their
hushing every apprehension in instant and serious exertions.
Although his alarming communication was not received without much secret terror by the
listeners, his earnest and impressive manner, aided perhaps by the nature of the
danger, succeeded in bracing their nerves
to undergo some unlooked-for and unusual trial.
Silently, and without a moment's delay, they permitted him to assist them from
their saddles, and when they descended quickly to the water's edge, where the
scout had collected the rest of the party,
more by the agency of expressive gestures than by any use of words.
"What to do with these dumb creatures!" muttered the white man, on whom the sole
control of their future movements appeared to devolve; "it would be time lost to cut
their throats, and cast them into the
river; and to leave them here would be to tell the Mingoes that they have not far to
seek to find their owners!"
"Then give them their bridles, and let them range the woods," Heyward ventured to
"No; it would be better to mislead the imps, and make them believe they must equal
a horse's speed to run down their chase. Ay, ay, that will blind their fireballs of
Chingach--Hist! what stirs the bush?" "The colt."
"That colt, at least, must die," muttered the scout, grasping at the mane of the
nimble beast, which easily eluded his hand; "Uncas, your arrows!"
"Hold!" exclaimed the proprietor of the condemned animal, aloud, without regard to
the whispering tones used by the others; "spare the foal of Miriam! it is the comely
offspring of a faithful dam, and would willingly injure naught."
"When men struggle for the single life God has given them," said the scout, sternly,
"even their own kind seem no more than the beasts of the wood.
If you speak again, I shall leave you to the mercy of the Maquas!
Draw to your arrow's head, Uncas; we have no time for second blows."
The low, muttering sounds of his threatening voice were still audible, when
the wounded foal, first rearing on its hinder legs, plunged forward to its knees.
It was met by Chingachgook, whose knife passed across its throat quicker than
thought, and then precipitating the motions of the struggling victim, he dashed into
the river, down whose stream it glided
away, gasping audibly for breath with its ebbing life.
This deed of apparent cruelty, but of real necessity, fell upon the spirits of the
travelers like a terrific warning of the peril in which they stood, heightened as it
was by the calm though steady resolution of the actors in the scene.
The sisters shuddered and clung closer to each other, while Heyward instinctively
laid his hand on one of the pistols he had just drawn from their holsters, as he
placed himself between his charge and those
dense shadows that seemed to draw an impenetrable veil before the bosom of the
The Indians, however, hesitated not a moment, but taking the bridles, they led
the frightened and reluctant horses into the bed of the river.
At a short distance from the shore they turned, and were soon concealed by the
projection of the bank, under the brow of which they moved, in a direction opposite
to the course of the waters.
In the meantime, the scout drew a canoe of bark from its place of concealment beneath
some low bushes, whose branches were waving with the eddies of the current, into which
he silently motioned for the females to enter.
They complied without hesitation, though many a fearful and anxious glance was
thrown behind them, toward the thickening gloom, which now lay like a dark barrier
along the margin of the stream.
So soon as Cora and Alice were seated, the scout, without regarding the element,
directed Heyward to support one side of the frail vessel, and posting himself at the
other, they bore it up against the stream,
followed by the dejected owner of the dead foal.
In this manner they proceeded, for many rods, in a silence that was only
interrupted by the rippling of the water, as its eddies played around them, or the
low dash made by their own cautious footsteps.
Heyward yielded the guidance of the canoe implicitly to the scout, who approached or
receded from the shore, to avoid the fragments of rocks, or deeper parts of the
river, with a readiness that showed his knowledge of the route they held.
Occasionally he would stop; and in the midst of a breathing stillness, that the
dull but increasing roar of the waterfall only served to render more impressive, he
would listen with painful intenseness, to
catch any sounds that might arise from the slumbering forest.
When assured that all was still, and unable to detect, even by the aid of his practiced
senses, any sign of his approaching foes, he would deliberately resume his slow and
guarded progress.
At length they reached a point in the river where the roving eye of Heyward became
riveted on a cluster of black objects, collected at a spot where the high bank
threw a deeper shadow than usual on the dark waters.
Hesitating to advance, he pointed out the place to the attention of his companion.
"Ay," returned the composed scout, "the Indians have hid the beasts with the
judgment of natives!
Water leaves no trail, and an owl's eyes would be blinded by the darkness of such a
The whole party was soon reunited, and another consultation was held between the
scout and his new comrades, during which, they, whose fates depended on the faith and
ingenuity of these unknown foresters, had a
little leisure to observe their situation more minutely.
The river was confined between high and cragged rocks, one of which impended above
the spot where the canoe rested.
As these, again, were surmounted by tall trees, which appeared to totter on the
brows of the precipice, it gave the stream the appearance of running through a deep
and narrow dell.
All beneath the fantastic limbs and ragged tree tops, which were, here and there,
dimly painted against the starry zenith, lay alike in shadowed obscurity.
Behind them, the curvature of the banks soon bounded the view by the same dark and
wooded outline; but in front, and apparently at no great distance, the water
seemed piled against the heavens, whence it
tumbled into caverns, out of which issued those sullen sounds that had loaded the
evening atmosphere.
It seemed, in truth, to be a spot devoted to seclusion, and the sisters imbibed a
soothing impression of security, as they gazed upon its romantic though not
unappalling beauties.
A general movement among their conductors, however, soon recalled them from a
contemplation of the wild charms that night had assisted to lend the place to a painful
sense of their real peril.
The horses had been secured to some scattering shrubs that grew in the fissures
of the rocks, where, standing in the water, they were left to pass the night.
The scout directed Heyward and his disconsolate fellow travelers to seat
themselves in the forward end of the canoe, and took possession of the other himself,
as erect and steady as if he floated in a vessel of much firmer materials.
The Indians warily retraced their steps toward the place they had left, when the
scout, placing his pole against a rock, by a powerful shove, sent his frail bark
directly into the turbulent stream.
For many minutes the struggle between the light bubble in which they floated and the
swift current was severe and doubtful.
Forbidden to stir even a hand, and almost afraid to breath, lest they should expose
the frail fabric to the fury of the stream, the passengers watched the glancing waters
in feverish suspense.
Twenty times they thought the whirling eddies were sweeping them to destruction,
when the master-hand of their pilot would bring the bows of the canoe to stem the
A long, a vigorous, and, as it appeared to the females, a desperate effort, closed the
Just as Alice veiled her eyes in horror, under the impression that they were about
to be swept within the vortex at the foot of the cataract, the canoe floated,
stationary, at the side of a flat rock, that lay on a level with the water.
"Where are we, and what is next to be done!" demanded Heyward, perceiving that
the exertions of the scout had ceased.
"You are at the foot of Glenn's," returned the other, speaking aloud, without fear of
consequences within the roar of the cataract; "and the next thing is to make a
steady landing, lest the canoe upset, and
you should go down again the hard road we have traveled faster than you came up; 'tis
a hard rift to stem, when the river is a little swelled; and five is an unnatural
number to keep dry, in a hurry-skurry, with a little birchen bark and gum.
There, go you all on the rock, and I will bring up the Mohicans with the venison.
A man had better sleep without his scalp, than famish in the midst of plenty."
His passengers gladly complied with these directions.
As the last foot touched the rock, the canoe whirled from its station, when the
tall form of the scout was seen, for an instant, gliding above the waters, before
it disappeared in the impenetrable darkness that rested on the bed of the river.
Left by their guide, the travelers remained a few minutes in helpless ignorance, afraid
even to move along the broken rocks, lest a false step should precipitate them down
some one of the many deep and roaring
caverns, into which the water seemed to tumble, on every side of them.
Their suspense, however, was soon relieved; for, aided by the skill of the natives, the
canoe shot back into the eddy, and floated again at the side of the low rock, before
they thought the scout had even time to rejoin his companions.
"We are now fortified, garrisoned, and provisioned," cried Heyward cheerfully,
"and may set Montcalm and his allies at defiance.
How, now, my vigilant sentinel, can see anything of those you call the Iroquois, on
the main land!"
"I call them Iroquois, because to me every native, who speaks a foreign tongue, is
accounted an enemy, though he may pretend to serve the king!
If Webb wants faith and honesty in an Indian, let him bring out the tribes of the
Delawares, and send these greedy and lying Mohawks and Oneidas, with their six nations
of varlets, where in nature they belong, among the French!"
"We should then exchange a warlike for a useless friend!
I have heard that the Delawares have laid aside the hatchet, and are content to be
called women!"
"Aye, shame on the Hollanders and Iroquois, who circumvented them by their deviltries,
into such a treaty!
But I have known them for twenty years, and I call him liar that says cowardly blood
runs in the veins of a Delaware.
You have driven their tribes from the seashore, and would now believe what their
enemies say, that you may sleep at night upon an easy pillow.
No, no; to me, every Indian who speaks a foreign tongue is an Iroquois, whether the
castle (FOOTNOTE: The principal villages of the Indians are still called "castles"
by the whites of New York.
"Oneida castle" is no more than a scattered hamlet; but the name is in general use.)
-of his tribe be in Canada, or be in York."
Heyward, perceiving that the stubborn adherence of the scout to the cause of his
friends the Delawares, or Mohicans, for they were branches of the same numerous
people, was likely to prolong a useless discussion, changed the subject.
"Treaty or no treaty, I know full well that your two companions are brave and cautious
warriors! have they heard or seen anything of our enemies!"
"An Indian is a mortal to be felt afore he is seen," returned the scout, ascending the
rock, and throwing the deer carelessly down.
"I trust to other signs than such as come in at the eye, when I am outlying on the
trail of the Mingoes." "Do your ears tell you that they have
traced our retreat?"
"I should be sorry to think they had, though this is a spot that stout courage
might hold for a smart scrimmage.
I will not deny, however, but the horses cowered when I passed them, as though they
scented the wolves; and a wolf is a beast that is apt to hover about an Indian
ambushment, craving the offals of the deer the savages kill."
"You forget the buck at your feet! or, may we not owe their visit to the dead colt?
Ha! what noise is that?"
"Poor Miriam!" murmured the stranger; "thy foal was foreordained to become a prey to
ravenous beasts!"
Then, suddenly lifting up his voice, amid the eternal din of the waters, he sang
aloud: "First born of Egypt, smite did he, Of mankind, and of beast also: O, Egypt!
wonders sent 'midst thee, On Pharaoh and his servants too!"
"The death of the colt sits heavy on the heart of its owner," said the scout; "but
it's a good sign to see a man account upon his dumb friends.
He has the religion of the matter, in believing what is to happen will happen;
and with such a consolation, it won't be long afore he submits to the rationality of
killing a four-footed beast to save the lives of human men.
It may be as you say," he continued, reverting to the purport of Heyward's last
remark; "and the greater the reason why we should cut our steaks, and let the carcass
drive down the stream, or we shall have the
pack howling along the cliffs, begrudging every mouthful we swallow.
Besides, though the Delaware tongue is the same as a book to the Iroquois, the cunning
varlets are quick enough at understanding the reason of a wolf's howl."
The scout, while making his remarks, was busied in collecting certain necessary
implements; as he concluded, he moved silently by the group of travelers,
accompanied by the Mohicans, who seemed to
comprehend his intentions with instinctive readiness, when the whole three disappeared
in succession, seeming to vanish against the dark face of a perpendicular rock that
rose to the height of a few yards, within as many feet of the water's edge.