Part 5 - The Last of the Mohicans Audiobook by James Fenimore Cooper (Chs 19-22)

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"Salar.--Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh; what's that
good for? Shy.--To bait fish withal; if it will feed
nothing else, it will feed my revenge."
--Merchant of Venice
The shades of evening had come to increase the dreariness of the place, when the party
entered the ruins of William Henry.
The scout and his companions immediately made their preparations to pass the night
there; but with an earnestness and sobriety of demeanor that betrayed how much the
unusual horrors they had just witnessed worked on even their practised feelings.
A few fragments of rafters were reared against a blackened wall; and when Uncas
had covered them slightly with brush, the temporary accommodations were deemed
The young Indian pointed toward his rude hut when his labor was ended; and Heyward,
who understood the meaning of the silent gestures, gently urged Munro to enter.
Leaving the bereaved old man alone with his sorrows, Duncan immediately returned into
the open air, too much excited himself to seek the repose he had recommended to his
veteran friend.
While Hawkeye and the Indians lighted their fire and took their evening's repast, a
frugal meal of dried bear's meat, the young man paid a visit to that curtain of the
dilapidated fort which looked out on the sheet of the Horican.
The wind had fallen, and the waves were already rolling on the sandy beach beneath
him, in a more regular and tempered succession.
The clouds, as if tired of their furious chase, were breaking asunder; the heavier
volumes, gathering in black masses about the horizon, while the lighter scud still
hurried above the water, or eddied among
the tops of the mountains, like broken flights of birds, hovering around their
Here and there, a red and fiery star struggled through the drifting vapor,
furnishing a lurid gleam of brightness to the dull aspect of the heavens.
Within the bosom of the encircling hills, an impenetrable darkness had already
settled; and the plain lay like a vast and deserted charnel-house, without omen or
whisper to disturb the slumbers of its numerous and hapless tenants.
Of this scene, so chillingly in accordance with the past, Duncan stood for many
minutes a rapt observer.
His eyes wandered from the bosom of the mound, where the foresters were seated
around their glimmering fire, to the fainter light which still lingered in the
skies, and then rested long and anxiously
on the embodied gloom, which lay like a dreary void on that side of him where the
dead reposed.
He soon fancied that inexplicable sounds arose from the place, though so indistinct
and stolen, as to render not only their nature but even their existence uncertain.
Ashamed of his apprehensions, the young man turned toward the water, and strove to
divert his attention to the mimic stars that dimly glimmered on its moving surface.
Still, his too-conscious ears performed their ungrateful duty, as if to warn him of
some lurking danger. At length, a swift trampling seemed, quite
audibly, to rush athwart the darkness.
Unable any longer to quiet his uneasiness, Duncan spoke in a low voice to the scout,
requesting him to ascend the mound to the place where he stood.
Hawkeye threw his rifle across an arm and complied, but with an air so unmoved and
calm, as to prove how much he counted on the security of their position.
"Listen!" said Duncan, when the other placed himself deliberately at his elbow;
"there are suppressed noises on the plain which may show Montcalm has not yet
entirely deserted his conquest."
"Then ears are better than eyes," said the undisturbed scout, who, having just
deposited a portion of a bear between his grinders, spoke thick and slow, like one
whose mouth was doubly occupied.
"I myself saw him caged in Ty, with all his host; for your Frenchers, when they have
done a clever thing, like to get back, and have a dance, or a merry-making, with the
women over their success."
"I know not. An Indian seldom sleeps in war, and plunder
may keep a Huron here after his tribe has departed.
It would be well to extinguish the fire, and have a watch--listen! you hear the
noise I mean!" "An Indian more rarely lurks about the
Though ready to slay, and not over regardful of the means, he is commonly
content with the scalp, unless when blood is hot, and temper up; but after spirit is
once fairly gone, he forgets his enmity,
and is willing to let the dead find their natural rest.
Speaking of spirits, major, are you of opinion that the heaven of a red-skin and
of us whites will be of one and the same?" "No doubt--no doubt.
I thought I heard it again! or was it the rustling of the leaves in the top of the
"For my own part," continued Hawkeye, turning his face for a moment in the
direction indicated by Heyward, but with a vacant and careless manner, "I believe that
paradise is ordained for happiness; and
that men will be indulged in it according to their dispositions and gifts.
I, therefore, judge that a red-skin is not far from the truth when he believes he is
to find them glorious hunting grounds of which his traditions tell; nor, for that
matter, do I think it would be any
disparagement to a man without a cross to pass his time--"
"You hear it again?" interrupted Duncan.
"Ay, ay; when food is scarce, and when food is plenty, a wolf grows bold," said the
unmoved scout.
"There would be picking, too, among the skins of the devils, if there was light and
time for the sport.
But, concerning the life that is to come, major; I have heard preachers say, in the
settlements, that heaven was a place of rest.
Now, men's minds differ as to their ideas of enjoyment.
For myself, and I say it with reverence to the ordering of Providence, it would be no
great indulgence to be kept shut up in those mansions of which they preach, having
a natural longing for motion and the chase."
Duncan, who was now made to understand the nature of the noise he had heard, answered,
with more attention to the subject which the humor of the scout had chosen for
discussion, by saying:
"It is difficult to account for the feelings that may attend the last great
"It would be a change, indeed, for a man who has passed his days in the open air,"
returned the single-minded scout; "and who has so often broken his fast on the head
waters of the Hudson, to sleep within sound of the roaring Mohawk.
But it is a comfort to know we serve a merciful Master, though we do it each after
his fashion, and with great tracts of wilderness atween us--what goes there?"
"Is it not the rushing of the wolves you have mentioned?"
Hawkeye slowly shook his head, and beckoned for Duncan to follow him to a spot to which
the glare from the fire did not extend.
When he had taken this precaution, the scout placed himself in an attitude of
intense attention and listened long and keenly for a repetition of the low sound
that had so unexpectedly startled him.
His vigilance, however, seemed exercised in vain; for after a fruitless pause, he
whispered to Duncan: "We must give a call to Uncas.
The boy has Indian senses, and he may hear what is hid from us; for, being a white-
skin, I will not deny my nature."
The young Mohican, who was conversing in a low voice with his father, started as he
heard the moaning of an owl, and, springing on his feet, he looked toward the black
mounds, as if seeking the place whence the sounds proceeded.
The scout repeated the call, and in a few moments, Duncan saw the figure of Uncas
stealing cautiously along the rampart, to the spot where they stood.
Hawkeye explained his wishes in a very few words, which were spoken in the Delaware
So soon as Uncas was in possession of the reason why he was summoned, he threw
himself flat on the turf; where, to the eyes of Duncan, he appeared to lie quiet
and motionless.
Surprised at the immovable attitude of the young warrior, and curious to observe the
manner in which he employed his faculties to obtain the desired information, Heyward
advanced a few steps, and bent over the
dark object on which he had kept his eye riveted.
Then it was he discovered that the form of Uncas vanished, and that he beheld only the
dark outline of an inequality in the embankment.
"What has become of the Mohican?" he demanded of the scout, stepping back in
amazement; "it was here that I saw him fall, and could have sworn that here he yet
"Hist! speak lower; for we know not what ears are open, and the Mingoes are a quick-
witted breed.
As for Uncas, he is out on the plain, and the Maquas, if any such are about us, will
find their equal." "You think that Montcalm has not called off
all his Indians?
Let us give the alarm to our companions, that we may stand to our arms.
Here are five of us, who are not unused to meet an enemy."
"Not a word to either, as you value your life.
Look at the Sagamore, how like a grand Indian chief he sits by the fire.
If there are any skulkers out in the darkness, they will never discover, by his
countenance, that we suspect danger at hand."
"But they may discover him, and it will prove his death.
His person can be too plainly seen by the light of that fire, and he will become the
first and most certain victim."
"It is undeniable that now you speak the truth," returned the scout, betraying more
anxiety than was usual; "yet what can be done?
A single suspicious look might bring on an attack before we are ready to receive it.
He knows, by the call I gave to Uncas, that we have struck a scent; I will tell him
that we are on the trail of the Mingoes; his Indian nature will teach him how to
The scout applied his fingers to his mouth, and raised a low hissing sound, that caused
Duncan at first to start aside, believing that he heard a serpent.
The head of Chingachgook was resting on a hand, as he sat musing by himself but the
moment he had heard the warning of the animal whose name he bore, he arose to an
upright position, and his dark eyes glanced swiftly and keenly on every side of him.
With his sudden and, perhaps, involuntary movement, every appearance of surprise or
alarm ended.
His rifle lay untouched, and apparently unnoticed, within reach of his hand.
The tomahawk that he had loosened in his belt for the sake of ease, was even
suffered to fall from its usual situation to the ground, and his form seemed to sink,
like that of a man whose nerves and sinews
were suffered to relax for the purpose of rest.
Cunningly resuming his former position, though with a change of hands, as if the
movement had been made merely to relieve the limb, the native awaited the result
with a calmness and fortitude that none but
an Indian warrior would have known how to exercise.
But Heyward saw that while to a less instructed eye the Mohican chief appeared
to slumber, his nostrils were expanded, his head was turned a little to one side, as if
to assist the organs of hearing, and that
his quick and rapid glances ran incessantly over every object within the power of his
"See the noble fellow!" whispered Hawkeye, pressing the arm of Heyward; "he knows that
a look or a motion might disconsart our schemes, and put us at the mercy of them
He was interrupted by the flash and report of a rifle.
The air was filled with sparks of fire, around that spot where the eyes of Heyward
were still fastened, with admiration and wonder.
A second look told him that Chingachgook had disappeared in the confusion.
In the meantime, the scout had thrown forward his rifle, like one prepared for
service, and awaited impatiently the moment when an enemy might rise to view.
But with the solitary and fruitless attempt made on the life of Chingachgook, the
attack appeared to have terminated.
Once or twice the listeners thought they could distinguish the distant rustling of
bushes, as bodies of some unknown description rushed through them; nor was it
long before Hawkeye pointed out the
"scampering of the wolves," as they fled precipitately before the passage of some
intruder on their proper domains.
After an impatient and breathless pause, a plunge was heard in the water, and it was
immediately followed by the report of another rifle.
"There goes Uncas!" said the scout; "the boy bears a smart piece!
I know its crack, as well as a father knows the language of his child, for I carried
the gun myself until a better offered."
"What can this mean?" demanded Duncan, "we are watched, and, as it would seem, marked
for destruction."
"Yonder scattered brand can witness that no good was intended, and this Indian will
testify that no harm has been done," returned the scout, dropping his rifle
across his arm again, and following
Chingachgook, who just then reappeared within the circle of light, into the bosom
of the work. "How is it, Sagamore?
Are the Mingoes upon us in earnest, or is it only one of those reptiles who hang upon
the skirts of a war-party, to scalp the dead, go in, and make their boast among the
squaws of the valiant deeds done on the pale faces?"
Chingachgook very quietly resumed his seat; nor did he make any reply, until after he
had examined the firebrand which had been struck by the bullet that had nearly proved
fatal to himself.
After which he was content to reply, holding a single finger up to view, with
the English monosyllable: "One."
"I thought as much," returned Hawkeye, seating himself; "and as he had got the
cover of the lake afore Uncas pulled upon him, it is more than probable the knave
will sing his lies about some great
ambushment, in which he was outlying on the trail of two Mohicans and a white hunter--
for the officers can be considered as little better than idlers in such a
Well, let him--let him.
There are always some honest men in every nation, though heaven knows, too, that they
are scarce among the Maquas, to look down an upstart when he brags ag'in the face of
The varlet sent his lead within whistle of your ears, Sagamore."
Chingachgook turned a calm and incurious eye toward the place where the ball had
struck, and then resumed his former attitude, with a composure that could not
be disturbed by so trifling an incident.
Just then Uncas glided into the circle, and seated himself at the fire, with the same
appearance of indifference as was maintained by his father.
Of these several moments Heyward was a deeply interested and wondering observer.
It appeared to him as though the foresters had some secret means of intelligence,
which had escaped the vigilance of his own faculties.
In place of that eager and garrulous narration with which a white youth would
have endeavored to communicate, and perhaps exaggerate, that which had passed out in
the darkness of the plain, the young
warrior was seemingly content to let his deeds speak for themselves.
It was, in fact, neither the moment nor the occasion for an Indian to boast of his
exploits; and it is probably that, had Heyward neglected to inquire, not another
syllable would, just then, have been uttered on the subject.
"What has become of our enemy, Uncas?" demanded Duncan; "we heard your rifle, and
hoped you had not fired in vain."
The young chief removed a fold of his hunting skirt, and quietly exposed the
fatal tuft of hair, which he bore as the symbol of victory.
Chingachgook laid his hand on the scalp, and considered it for a moment with deep
attention. Then dropping it, with disgust depicted in
his strong features, he ejaculated:
"Oneida!" repeated the scout, who was fast losing his interest in the scene, in an
apathy nearly assimilated to that of his red associates, but who now advanced in
uncommon earnestness to regard the bloody badge.
"By the Lord, if the Oneidas are outlying upon the trail, we shall by flanked by
devils on every side of us!
Now, to white eyes there is no difference between this bit of skin and that of any
other Indian, and yet the Sagamore declares it came from the poll of a Mingo; nay, he
even names the tribe of the poor devil,
with as much ease as if the scalp was the leaf of a book, and each hair a letter.
What right have Christian whites to boast of their learning, when a savage can read a
language that would prove too much for the wisest of them all!
What say you, lad, of what people was the knave?"
Uncas raised his eyes to the face of the scout, and answered, in his soft voice:
"Oneida, again! when one Indian makes a declaration it is commonly true; but when
he is supported by his people, set it down as gospel!"
"The poor fellow has mistaken us for French," said Heyward; "or he would not
have attempted the life of a friend." "He mistake a Mohican in his paint for a
You would be as likely to mistake the white-coated grenadiers of Montcalm for the
scarlet jackets of the Royal Americans," returned the scout.
"No, no, the sarpent knew his errand; nor was there any great mistake in the matter,
for there is but little love atween a Delaware and a Mingo, let their tribes go
out to fight for whom they may, in a white quarrel.
For that matter, though the Oneidas do serve his sacred majesty, who is my
sovereign lord and master, I should not have deliberated long about letting off
'killdeer' at the imp myself, had luck thrown him in my way."
"That would have been an abuse of our treaties, and unworthy of your character."
"When a man consort much with a people," continued Hawkeye, "if they were honest and
he no knave, love will grow up atwixt them.
It is true that white cunning has managed to throw the tribes into great confusion,
as respects friends and enemies; so that the Hurons and the Oneidas, who speak the
same tongue, or what may be called the
same, take each other's scalps, and the Delawares are divided among themselves; a
few hanging about their great council-fire on their own river, and fighting on the
same side with the Mingoes while the
greater part are in the Canadas, out of natural enmity to the Maquas--thus throwing
everything into disorder, and destroying all the harmony of warfare.
Yet a red natur' is not likely to alter with every shift of policy; so that the
love atwixt a Mohican and a Mingo is much like the regard between a white man and a
"I regret to hear it; for I had believed those natives who dwelt within our
boundaries had found us too just and liberal, not to identify themselves fully
with our quarrels."
"Why, I believe it is natur' to give a preference to one's own quarrels before
those of strangers.
Now, for myself, I do love justice; and, therefore, I will not say I hate a Mingo,
for that may be unsuitable to my color and my religion, though I will just repeat, it
may have been owing to the night that
'killdeer' had no hand in the death of this skulking Oneida."
Then, as if satisfied with the force of his own reasons, whatever might be their effect
on the opinions of the other disputant, the honest but implacable woodsman turned from
the fire, content to let the controversy slumber.
Heyward withdrew to the rampart, too uneasy and too little accustomed to the warfare of
the woods to remain at ease under the possibility of such insidious attacks.
Not so, however, with the scout and the Mohicans.
Those acute and long-practised senses, whose powers so often exceed the limits of
all ordinary credulity, after having detected the danger, had enabled them to
ascertain its magnitude and duration.
Not one of the three appeared in the least to doubt their perfect security, as was
indicated by the preparations that were soon made to sit in council over their
future proceedings.
The confusion of nations, and even of tribes, to which Hawkeye alluded, existed
at that period in the fullest force.
The great tie of language, and, of course, of a common origin, was severed in many
places; and it was one of its consequences, that the Delaware and the Mingo (as the
people of the Six Nations were called) were
found fighting in the same ranks, while the latter sought the scalp of the Huron,
though believed to be the root of his own stock.
The Delawares were even divided among themselves.
Though love for the soil which had belonged to his ancestors kept the Sagamore of the
Mohicans with a small band of followers who were serving at Edward, under the banners
of the English king, by far the largest
portion of his nation were known to be in the field as allies of Montcalm.
The reader probably knows, if enough has not already been gleaned form this
narrative, that the Delaware, or Lenape, claimed to be the progenitors of that
numerous people, who once were masters of
most of the eastern and northern states of America, of whom the community of the
Mohicans was an ancient and highly honored member.
It was, of course, with a perfect understanding of the minute and intricate
interests which had armed friend against friend, and brought natural enemies to
combat by each other's side, that the scout
and his companions now disposed themselves to deliberate on the measures that were to
govern their future movements, amid so many jarring and savage races of men.
Duncan knew enough of Indian customs to understand the reason that the fire was
replenished, and why the warriors, not excepting Hawkeye, took their seats within
the curl of its smoke with so much gravity and decorum.
Placing himself at an angle of the works, where he might be a spectator of the scene
without, he awaited the result with as much patience as he could summon.
After a short and impressive pause, Chingachgook lighted a pipe whose bowl was
curiously carved in one of the soft stones of the country, and whose stem was a tube
of wood, and commenced smoking.
When he had inhaled enough of the fragrance of the soothing weed, he passed the
instrument into the hands of the scout.
In this manner the pipe had made its rounds three several times, amid the most profound
silence, before either of the party opened his lips.
Then the Sagamore, as the oldest and highest in rank, in a few calm and
dignified words, proposed the subject for deliberation.
He was answered by the scout; and Chingachgook rejoined, when the other
objected to his opinions.
But the youthful Uncas continued a silent and respectful listener, until Hawkeye, in
complaisance, demanded his opinion.
Heyward gathered from the manners of the different speakers, that the father and son
espoused one side of a disputed question, while the white man maintained the other.
The contest gradually grew warmer, until it was quite evident the feelings of the
speakers began to be somewhat enlisted in the debate.
Notwithstanding the increasing warmth of the amicable contest, the most decorous
Christian assembly, not even excepting those in which its reverend ministers are
collected, might have learned a wholesome
lesson of moderation from the forbearance and courtesy of the disputants.
The words of Uncas were received with the same deep attention as those which fell
from the maturer wisdom of his father; and so far from manifesting any impatience,
neither spoke in reply, until a few moments
of silent meditation were, seemingly, bestowed in deliberating on what had
already been said.
The language of the Mohicans was accompanied by gestures so direct and
natural that Heyward had but little difficulty in following the thread of their
On the other hand, the scout was obscure; because from the lingering pride of color,
he rather affected the cold and artificial manner which characterizes all classes of
Anglo-Americans when unexcited.
By the frequency with which the Indians described the marks of a forest trial, it
was evident they urged a pursuit by land, while the repeated sweep of Hawkeye's arm
toward the Horican denoted that he was for a passage across its waters.
The latter was to every appearance fast losing ground, and the point was about to
be decided against him, when he arose to his feet, and shaking off his apathy, he
suddenly assumed the manner of an Indian,
and adopted all the arts of native eloquence.
Elevating an arm, he pointed out the track of the sun, repeating the gesture for every
day that was necessary to accomplish their objects.
Then he delineated a long and painful path, amid rocks and water-courses.
The age and weakness of the slumbering and unconscious Munro were indicated by signs
too palpable to be mistaken.
Duncan perceived that even his own powers were spoken lightly of, as the scout
extended his palm, and mentioned him by the appellation of the "Open Hand"--a name his
liberality had purchased of all the friendly tribes.
Then came a representation of the light and graceful movements of a canoe, set in
forcible contrast to the tottering steps of one enfeebled and tired.
He concluded by pointing to the scalp of the Oneida, and apparently urging the
necessity of their departing speedily, and in a manner that should leave no trail.
The Mohicans listened gravely, and with countenances that reflected the sentiments
of the speaker.
Conviction gradually wrought its influence, and toward the close of Hawkeye's speech,
his sentences were accompanied by the customary exclamation of commendation.
In short, Uncas and his father became converts to his way of thinking, abandoning
their own previously expressed opinions with a liberality and candor that, had they
been the representatives of some great and
civilized people, would have infallibly worked their political ruin, by destroying
forever their reputation for consistency.
The instant the matter in discussion was decided, the debate, and everything
connected with it, except the result appeared to be forgotten.
Hawkeye, without looking round to read his triumph in applauding eyes, very composedly
stretched his tall frame before the dying embers, and closed his own organs in sleep.
Left now in a measure to themselves, the Mohicans, whose time had been so much
devoted to the interests of others, seized the moment to devote some attention to
Casting off at once the grave and austere demeanor of an Indian chief, Chingachgook
commenced speaking to his son in the soft and playful tones of affection.
Uncas gladly met the familiar air of his father; and before the hard breathing of
the scout announced that he slept, a complete change was effected in the manner
of his two associates.
It is impossible to describe the music of their language, while thus engaged in
laughter and endearments, in such a way as to render it intelligible to those whose
ears have never listened to its melody.
The compass of their voices, particularly that of the youth, was wonderful--extending
from the deepest bass to tones that were even feminine in softness.
The eyes of the father followed the plastic and ingenious movements of the son with
open delight, and he never failed to smile in reply to the other's contagious but low
While under the influence of these gentle and natural feelings, no trace of ferocity
was to be seen in the softened features of the Sagamore.
His figured panoply of death looked more like a disguise assumed in mockery than a
fierce annunciation of a desire to carry destruction in his footsteps.
After an hour had passed in the indulgence of their better feelings, Chingachgook
abruptly announced his desire to sleep, by wrapping his head in his blanket and
stretching his form on the naked earth.
The merriment of Uncas instantly ceased; and carefully raking the coals in such a
manner that they should impart their warmth to his father's feet, the youth sought his
own pillow among the ruins of the place.
Imbibing renewed confidence from the security of these experienced foresters,
Heyward soon imitated their example; and long before the night had turned, they who
lay in the bosom of the ruined work, seemed
to slumber as heavily as the unconscious multitude whose bones were already
beginning to bleach on the surrounding plain.
"Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes On thee; thou rugged nurse of savage men!"
--Childe Harold
The heavens were still studded with stars, when Hawkeye came to arouse the sleepers.
Casting aside their cloaks Munro and Heyward were on their feet while the
woodsman was still making his low calls, at the entrance of the rude shelter where they
had passed the night.
When they issued from beneath its concealment, they found the scout awaiting
their appearance nigh by, and the only salutation between them was the significant
gesture for silence, made by their sagacious leader.
"Think over your prayers," he whispered, as they approached him; "for He to whom you
make them, knows all tongues; that of the heart, as well as those of the mouth.
But speak not a syllable; it is rare for a white voice to pitch itself properly in the
woods, as we have seen by the example of that miserable devil, the singer.
Come," he continued, turning toward a curtain of the works; "let us get into the
ditch on this side, and be regardful to step on the stones and fragments of wood as
you go."
His companions complied, though to two of them the reasons of this extraordinary
precaution were yet a mystery.
When they were in the low cavity that surrounded the earthen fort on three sides,
they found that passage nearly choked by the ruins.
With care and patience, however, they succeeded in clambering after the scout,
until they reached the sandy shore of the Horican.
"That's a trail that nothing but a nose can follow," said the satisfied scout, looking
back along their difficult way; "grass is a treacherous carpet for a flying party to
tread on, but wood and stone take no print from a moccasin.
Had you worn your armed boots, there might, indeed, have been something to fear; but
with the deer-skin suitably prepared, a man may trust himself, generally, on rocks with
Shove in the canoe nigher to the land, Uncas; this sand will take a stamp as
easily as the butter of the Jarmans on the Mohawk.
Softly, lad, softly; it must not touch the beach, or the knaves will know by what road
we have left the place."
The young man observed the precaution; and the scout, laying a board from the ruins to
the canoe, made a sign for the two officers to enter.
When this was done, everything was studiously restored to its former disorder;
and then Hawkeye succeeded in reaching his little birchen vessel, without leaving
behind him any of those marks which he appeared so much to dread.
Heyward was silent until the Indians had cautiously paddled the canoe some distance
from the fort, and within the broad and dark shadows that fell from the eastern
mountain on the glassy surface of the lake; then he demanded:
"What need have we for this stolen and hurried departure?"
"If the blood of an Oneida could stain such a sheet of pure water as this we float on,"
returned the scout, "your two eyes would answer your own question.
Have you forgotten the skulking reptile Uncas slew?"
"By no means. But he was said to be alone, and dead men
give no cause for fear."
"Ay, he was alone in his deviltry! but an Indian whose tribe counts so many warriors,
need seldom fear his blood will run without the death shriek coming speedily from some
of his enemies."
"But our presence--the authority of Colonel Munro--would prove sufficient protection
against the anger of our allies, especially in a case where the wretch so well merited
his fate.
I trust in Heaven you have not deviated a single foot from the direct line of our
course with so slight a reason!"
"Do you think the bullet of that varlet's rifle would have turned aside, though his
sacred majesty the king had stood in its path?" returned the stubborn scout.
"Why did not the grand Frencher, he who is captain-general of the Canadas, bury the
tomahawks of the Hurons, if a word from a white can work so strongly on the natur' of
an Indian?"
The reply of Heyward was interrupted by a groan from Munro; but after he had paused a
moment, in deference to the sorrow of his aged friend he resumed the subject.
"The marquis of Montcalm can only settle that error with his God," said the young
man solemnly.
"Ay, ay, now there is reason in your words, for they are bottomed on religion and
There is a vast difference between throwing a regiment of white coats atwixt the tribes
and the prisoners, and coaxing an angry savage to forget he carries a knife and
rifle, with words that must begin with calling him your son.
No, no," continued the scout, looking back at the dim shore of William Henry, which
was now fast receding, and laughing in his own silent but heartfelt manner; "I have
put a trail of water atween us; and unless
the imps can make friends with the fishes, and hear who has paddled across their basin
this fine morning, we shall throw the length of the Horican behind us before they
have made up their minds which path to take."
"With foes in front, and foes in our rear, our journey is like to be one of danger."
"Danger!" repeated Hawkeye, calmly; "no, not absolutely of danger; for, with
vigilant ears and quick eyes, we can manage to keep a few hours ahead of the knaves;
or, if we must try the rifle, there are
three of us who understand its gifts as well as any you can name on the borders.
No, not of danger; but that we shall have what you may call a brisk push of it, is
probable; and it may happen, a brush, a scrimmage, or some such divarsion, but
always where covers are good, and ammunition abundant."
It is possible that Heyward's estimate of danger differed in some degree from that of
the scout, for, instead of replying, he now sat in silence, while the canoe glided over
several miles of water.
Just as the day dawned, they entered the narrows of the lake, (FOOTNOTE: The
beauties of Lake George are well known to every American tourist.
In the height of the mountains which surround it, and in artificial accessories,
it is inferior to the finest of the Swiss and Italian lakes, while in outline and
purity of water it is fully their equal;
and in the number and disposition of its isles and islets much superior to them all
There are said to be some hundreds of islands in a sheet of water less than
thirty miles long.
The narrows, which connect what may be called, in truth, two lakes, are crowded
with islands to such a degree as to leave passages between them frequently of only a
few feet in width.
The lake itself varies in breadth from one to three miles.)
-and stole swiftly and cautiously among their numberless little islands.
It was by this road that Montcalm had retired with his army, and the adventurers
knew not but he had left some of his Indians in ambush, to protect the rear of
his forces, and collect the stragglers.
They, therefore, approached the passage with the customary silence of their guarded
Chingachgook laid aside his paddle; while Uncas and the scout urged the light vessel
through crooked and intricate channels, where every foot that they advanced exposed
them to the danger of some sudden rising on their progress.
The eyes of the Sagamore moved warily from islet to islet, and copse to copse, as the
canoe proceeded; and, when a clearer sheet of water permitted, his keen vision was
bent along the bald rocks and impending
forests that frowned upon the narrow strait.
Heyward, who was a doubly interested spectator, as well from the beauties of the
place as from the apprehension natural to his situation, was just believing that he
had permitted the latter to be excited
without sufficient reason, when the paddle ceased moving, in obedience to a signal
from Chingachgook.
"Hugh!" exclaimed Uncas, nearly at the moment that the light tap his father had
made on the side of the canoe notified them of the vicinity of danger.
"What now?" asked the scout; "the lake is as smooth as if the winds had never blown,
and I can see along its sheet for miles; there is not so much as the black head of a
loon dotting the water."
The Indian gravely raised his paddle, and pointed in the direction in which his own
steady look was riveted. Duncan's eyes followed the motion.
A few rods in their front lay another of the wooded islets, but it appeared as calm
and peaceful as if its solitude had never been disturbed by the foot of man.
"I see nothing," he said, "but land and water; and a lovely scene it is."
"Hist!" interrupted the scout. "Ay, Sagamore, there is always a reason for
what you do.
'Tis but a shade, and yet it is not natural.
You see the mist, major, that is rising above the island; you can't call it a fog,
for it is more like a streak of thin cloud- -"
"It is vapor from the water."
"That a child could tell. But what is the edging of blacker smoke
that hangs along its lower side, and which you may trace down into the thicket of
'Tis from a fire; but one that, in my judgment, has been suffered to burn low."
"Let us, then, push for the place, and relieve our doubts," said the impatient
Duncan; "the party must be small that can lie on such a bit of land."
"If you judge of Indian cunning by the rules you find in books, or by white
sagacity, they will lead you astray, if not to your death," returned Hawkeye, examining
the signs of the place with that acuteness which distinguished him.
"If I may be permitted to speak in this matter, it will be to say, that we have but
two things to choose between: the one is, to return, and give up all thoughts of
following the Hurons--"
"Never!" exclaimed Heyward, in a voice far too loud for their circumstances.
"Well, well," continued Hawkeye, making a hasty sign to repress his impatience; "I am
much of your mind myself; though I thought it becoming my experience to tell the
We must, then, make a push, and if the Indians or Frenchers are in the narrows,
run the gauntlet through these toppling mountains.
Is there reason in my words, Sagamore?"
The Indian made no other answer than by dropping his paddle into the water, and
urging forward the canoe.
As he held the office of directing its course, his resolution was sufficiently
indicated by the movement.
The whole party now plied their paddles vigorously, and in a very few moments they
had reached a point whence they might command an entire view of the northern
shore of the island, the side that had hitherto been concealed.
"There they are, by all the truth of signs," whispered the scout, "two canoes
and a smoke.
The knaves haven't yet got their eyes out of the mist, or we should hear the accursed
Together, friends! we are leaving them, and are already nearly out of whistle of a
The well-known crack of a rifle, whose ball came skipping along the placid surface of
the strait, and a shrill yell from the island, interrupted his speech, and
announced that their passage was discovered.
In another instant several savages were seen rushing into canoes, which were soon
dancing over the water in pursuit.
These fearful precursors of a coming struggle produced no change in the
countenances and movements of his three guides, so far as Duncan could discover,
except that the strokes of their paddles
were longer and more in unison, and caused the little bark to spring forward like a
creature possessing life and volition.
"Hold them there, Sagamore," said Hawkeye, looking coolly backward over this left
shoulder, while he still plied his paddle; "keep them just there.
Them Hurons have never a piece in their nation that will execute at this distance;
but 'killdeer' has a barrel on which a man may calculate."
The scout having ascertained that the Mohicans were sufficient of themselves to
maintain the requisite distance, deliberately laid aside his paddle, and
raised the fatal rifle.
Three several times he brought the piece to his shoulder, and when his companions were
expecting its report, he as often lowered it to request the Indians would permit
their enemies to approach a little nigher.
At length his accurate and fastidious eye seemed satisfied, and, throwing out his
left arm on the barrel, he was slowly elevating the muzzle, when an exclamation
from Uncas, who sat in the bow, once more caused him to suspend the shot.
"What, now, lad?" demanded Hawkeye; "you save a Huron from the death-shriek by that
word; have you reason for what you do?"
Uncas pointed toward a rocky shore a little in their front, whence another war canoe
was darting directly across their course.
It was too obvious now that their situation was imminently perilous to need the aid of
language to confirm it.
The scout laid aside his rifle, and resumed the paddle, while Chingachgook inclined the
bows of the canoe a little toward the western shore, in order to increase the
distance between them and this new enemy.
In the meantime they were reminded of the presence of those who pressed upon their
rear, by wild and exulting shouts. The stirring scene awakened even Munro from
his apathy.
"Let us make for the rocks on the main," he said, with the mien of a tired soldier,
"and give battle to the savages.
God forbid that I, or those attached to me and mine, should ever trust again to the
faith of any servant of the Louis's!"
"He who wishes to prosper in Indian warfare," returned the scout, "must not be
too proud to learn from the wit of a native.
Lay her more along the land, Sagamore; we are doubling on the varlets, and perhaps
they may try to strike our trail on the long calculation."
Hawkeye was not mistaken; for when the Hurons found their course was likely to
throw them behind their chase they rendered it less direct, until, by gradually bearing
more and more obliquely, the two canoes
were, ere long, gliding on parallel lines, within two hundred yards of each other.
It now became entirely a trial of speed.
So rapid was the progress of the light vessels, that the lake curled in their
front, in miniature waves, and their motion became undulating by its own velocity.
It was, perhaps, owing to this circumstance, in addition to the necessity
of keeping every hand employed at the paddles, that the Hurons had not immediate
recourse to their firearms.
The exertions of the fugitives were too severe to continue long, and the pursuers
had the advantage of numbers.
Duncan observed with uneasiness, that the scout began to look anxiously about him, as
if searching for some further means of assisting their flight.
"Edge her a little more from the sun, Sagamore," said the stubborn woodsman; "I
see the knaves are sparing a man to the rifle.
A single broken bone might lose us our scalps.
Edge more from the sun and we will put the island between us."
The expedient was not without its use.
A long, low island lay at a little distance before them, and, as they closed with it,
the chasing canoe was compelled to take a side opposite to that on which the pursued
The scout and his companions did not neglect this advantage, but the instant
they were hid from observation by the bushes, they redoubled efforts that before
had seemed prodigious.
The two canoes came round the last low point, like two coursers at the top of
their speed, the fugitives taking the lead.
This change had brought them nigher to each other, however, while it altered their
relative positions.
"You showed knowledge in the shaping of a birchen bark, Uncas, when you chose this
from among the Huron canoes," said the scout, smiling, apparently more in
satisfaction at their superiority in the
race than from that prospect of final escape which now began to open a little
upon them.
"The imps have put all their strength again at the paddles, and we are to struggle for
our scalps with bits of flattened wood, instead of clouded barrels and true eyes.
A long stroke, and together, friends."
"They are preparing for a shot," said Heyward; "and as we are in a line with
them, it can scarcely fail."
"Get you, then, into the bottom of the canoe," returned the scout; "you and the
colonel; it will be so much taken from the size of the mark."
Heyward smiled, as he answered:
"It would be but an ill example for the highest in rank to dodge, while the
warriors were under fire." "Lord!
That is now a white man's courage!" exclaimed the scout; "and like to many of
his notions, not to be maintained by reason.
Do you think the Sagamore, or Uncas, or even I, who am a man without a cross, would
deliberate about finding a cover in the scrimmage, when an open body would do no
For what have the Frenchers reared up their Quebec, if fighting is always to be done in
the clearings?"
"All that you say is very true, my friend," replied Heyward; "still, our customs must
prevent us from doing as you wish."
A volley from the Hurons interrupted the discourse, and as the bullets whistled
about them, Duncan saw the head of Uncas turned, looking back at himself and Munro.
Notwithstanding the nearness of the enemy, and his own great personal danger, the
countenance of the young warrior expressed no other emotion, as the former was
compelled to think, than amazement at
finding men willing to encounter so useless an exposure.
Chingachgook was probably better acquainted with the notions of white men, for he did
not even cast a glance aside from the riveted look his eye maintained on the
object by which he governed their course.
A ball soon struck the light and polished paddle from the hands of the chief, and
drove it through the air, far in the advance.
A shout arose from the Hurons, who seized the opportunity to fire another volley.
Uncas described an arc in the water with his own blade, and as the canoe passed
swiftly on, Chingachgook recovered his paddle, and flourishing it on high, he gave
the war-whoop of the Mohicans, and then
lent his strength and skill again to the important task.
The clamorous sounds of "Le Gros Serpent!" "La Longue Carabine!"
"Le Cerf Agile!" burst at once from the canoes behind, and seemed to give new zeal
to the pursuers.
The scout seized "killdeer" in his left hand, and elevating it about his head, he
shook it in triumph at his enemies.
The savages answered the insult with a yell, and immediately another volley
The bullets pattered along the lake, and one even pierced the bark of their little
No perceptible emotion could be discovered in the Mohicans during this critical
moment, their rigid features expressing neither hope nor alarm; but the scout again
turned his head, and, laughing in his own silent manner, he said to Heyward:
"The knaves love to hear the sounds of their pieces; but the eye is not to be
found among the Mingoes that can calculate a true range in a dancing canoe!
You see the dumb devils have taken off a man to charge, and by the smallest
measurement that can be allowed, we move three feet to their two!"
Duncan, who was not altogether as easy under this nice estimate of distances as
his companions, was glad to find, however, that owing to their superior dexterity, and
the diversion among their enemies, they were very sensibly obtaining the advantage.
The Hurons soon fired again, and a bullet struck the blade of Hawkeye's paddle
without injury.
"That will do," said the scout, examining the slight indentation with a curious eye;
"it would not have cut the skin of an infant, much less of men, who, like us,
have been blown upon by the heavens in their anger.
Now, major, if you will try to use this piece of flattened wood, I'll let
'killdeer' take a part in the conversation."
Heyward seized the paddle, and applied himself to the work with an eagerness that
supplied the place of skill, while Hawkeye was engaged in inspecting the priming of
his rifle.
The latter then took a swift aim and fired. The Huron in the bows of the leading canoe
had risen with a similar object, and he now fell backward, suffering his gun to escape
from his hands into the water.
In an instant, however, he recovered his feet, though his gestures were wild and
At the same moment his companions suspended their efforts, and the chasing canoes
clustered together, and became stationary.
Chingachgook and Uncas profited by the interval to regain their wind, though
Duncan continued to work with the most persevering industry.
The father and son now cast calm but inquiring glances at each other, to learn
if either had sustained any injury by the fire; for both well knew that no cry or
exclamation would, in such a moment of
necessity have been permitted to betray the accident.
A few large drops of blood were trickling down the shoulder of the Sagamore, who,
when he perceived that the eyes of Uncas dwelt too long on the sight, raised some
water in the hollow of his hand, and
washing off the stain, was content to manifest, in this simple manner, the
slightness of the injury.
"Softly, softly, major," said the scout, who by this time had reloaded his rifle;
"we are a little too far already for a rifle to put forth its beauties, and you
see yonder imps are holding a council.
Let them come up within striking distance-- my eye may well be trusted in such a
matter--and I will trail the varlets the length of the Horican, guaranteeing that
not a shot of theirs shall, at the worst,
more than break the skin, while 'killdeer' shall touch the life twice in three times."
"We forget our errand," returned the diligent Duncan.
"For God's sake let us profit by this advantage, and increase our distance from
the enemy."
"Give me my children," said Munro, hoarsely; "trifle no longer with a father's
agony, but restore me my babes."
Long and habitual deference to the mandates of his superiors had taught the scout the
virtue of obedience.
Throwing a last and lingering glance at the distant canoes, he laid aside his rifle,
and, relieving the wearied Duncan, resumed the paddle, which he wielded with sinews
that never tired.
His efforts were seconded by those of the Mohicans and a very few minutes served to
place such a sheet of water between them and their enemies, that Heyward once more
breathed freely.
The lake now began to expand, and their route lay along a wide reach, that was
lined, as before, by high and ragged mountains.
But the islands were few, and easily avoided.
The strokes of the paddles grew more measured and regular, while they who plied
them continued their labor, after the close and deadly chase from which they had just
relieved themselves, with as much coolness
as though their speed had been tried in sport, rather than under such pressing,
nay, almost desperate, circumstances.
Instead of following the western shore, whither their errand led them, the wary
Mohican inclined his course more toward those hills behind which Montcalm was known
to have led his army into the formidable fortress of Ticonderoga.
As the Hurons, to every appearance, had abandoned the pursuit, there was no
apparent reason for this excess of caution.
It was, however, maintained for hours, until they had reached a bay, nigh the
northern termination of the lake. Here the canoe was driven upon the beach,
and the whole party landed.
Hawkeye and Heyward ascended an adjacent bluff, where the former, after considering
the expanse of water beneath him, pointed out to the latter a small black object,
hovering under a headland, at the distance of several miles.
"Do you see it?" demanded the scout.
"Now, what would you account that spot, were you left alone to white experience to
find your way through this wilderness?" "But for its distance and its magnitude, I
should suppose it a bird.
Can it be a living object?" "'Tis a canoe of good birchen bark, and
paddled by fierce and crafty Mingoes.
Though Providence has lent to those who inhabit the woods eyes that would be
needless to men in the settlements, where there are inventions to assist the sight,
yet no human organs can see all the dangers which at this moment circumvent us.
These varlets pretend to be bent chiefly on their sun-down meal, but the moment it is
dark they will be on our trail, as true as hounds on the scent.
We must throw them off, or our pursuit of Le Renard Subtil may be given up.
These lakes are useful at times, especially when the game take the water," continued
the scout, gazing about him with a countenance of concern; "but they give no
cover, except it be to the fishes.
God knows what the country would be, if the settlements should ever spread far from the
two rivers. Both hunting and war would lose their
"Let us not delay a moment, without some good and obvious cause."
"I little like that smoke, which you may see worming up along the rock above the
canoe," interrupted the abstracted scout.
"My life on it, other eyes than ours see it, and know its meaning.
Well, words will not mend the matter, and it is time that we were doing."
Hawkeye moved away from the lookout, and descended, musing profoundly, to the shore.
He communicated the result of his observations to his companions, in
Delaware, and a short and earnest consultation succeeded.
When it terminated, the three instantly set about executing their new resolutions.
The canoe was lifted from the water, and borne on the shoulders of the party, they
proceeded into the wood, making as broad and obvious a trail as possible.
They soon reached the water-course, which they crossed, and, continuing onward, until
they came to an extensive and naked rock.
At this point, where their footsteps might be expected to be no longer visible, they
retraced their route to the brook, walking backward, with the utmost care.
They now followed the bed of the little stream to the lake, into which they
immediately launched their canoe again.
A low point concealed them from the headland, and the margin of the lake was
fringed for some distance with dense and overhanging bushes.
Under the cover of these natural advantages, they toiled their way, with
patient industry, until the scout pronounced that he believed it would be
safe once more to land.
The halt continued until evening rendered objects indistinct and uncertain to the
Then they resumed their route, and, favored by the darkness, pushed silently and
vigorously toward the western shore.
Although the rugged outline of mountain, to which they were steering, presented no
distinctive marks to the eyes of Duncan, the Mohican entered the little haven he had
selected with the confidence and accuracy of an experienced pilot.
The boat was again lifted and borne into the woods, where it was carefully concealed
under a pile of brush.
The adventurers assumed their arms and packs, and the scout announced to Munro and
Heyward that he and the Indians were at last in readiness to proceed.
"If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death."
--Merry Wives of Windsor.
The party had landed on the border of a region that is, even to this day, less
known to the inhabitants of the States than the deserts of Arabia, or the steppes of
It was the sterile and rugged district which separates the tributaries of
Champlain from those of the Hudson, the Mohawk, and the St. Lawrence.
Since the period of our tale the active spirit of the country has surrounded it
with a belt of rich and thriving settlements, though none but the hunter or
the savage is ever known even now to penetrate its wild recesses.
As Hawkeye and the Mohicans had, however, often traversed the mountains and valleys
of this vast wilderness, they did not hesitate to plunge into its depth, with the
freedom of men accustomed to its privations and difficulties.
For many hours the travelers toiled on their laborious way, guided by a star, or
following the direction of some water- course, until the scout called a halt, and
holding a short consultation with the
Indians, they lighted their fire, and made the usual preparations to pass the
remainder of the night where they then were.
Imitating the example, and emulating the confidence of their more experienced
associates, Munro and Duncan slept without fear, if not without uneasiness.
The dews were suffered to exhale, and the sun had dispersed the mists, and was
shedding a strong and clear light in the forest, when the travelers resumed their
After proceeding a few miles, the progress of Hawkeye, who led the advance, became
more deliberate and watchful.
He often stopped to examine the trees; nor did he cross a rivulet without attentively
considering the quantity, the velocity, and the color of its waters.
Distrusting his own judgment, his appeals to the opinion of Chingachgook were
frequent and earnest.
During one of these conferences Heyward observed that Uncas stood a patient and
silent, though, as he imagined, an interested listener.
He was strongly tempted to address the young chief, and demand his opinion of
their progress; but the calm and dignified demeanor of the native induced him to
believe, that, like himself, the other was
wholly dependent on the sagacity and intelligence of the seniors of the party.
At last the scout spoke in English, and at once explained the embarrassment of their
"When I found that the home path of the Hurons run north," he said, "it did not
need the judgment of many long years to tell that they would follow the valleys,
and keep atween the waters of the Hudson
and the Horican, until they might strike the springs of the Canada streams, which
would lead them into the heart of the country of the Frenchers.
Yet here are we, within a short range of the Scaroons, and not a sign of a trail
have we crossed! Human natur' is weak, and it is possible we
may not have taken the proper scent."
"Heaven protect us from such an error!" exclaimed Duncan.
"Let us retrace our steps, and examine as we go, with keener eyes.
Has Uncas no counsel to offer in such a strait?"
The young Mohican cast a glance at his father, but, maintaining his quiet and
reserved mien, he continued silent.
Chingachgook had caught the look, and motioning with his hand, he bade him speak.
The moment this permission was accorded, the countenance of Uncas changed from its
grave composure to a gleam of intelligence and joy.
Bounding forward like a deer, he sprang up the side of a little acclivity, a few rods
in advance, and stood, exultingly, over a spot of fresh earth, that looked as though
it had been recently upturned by the passage of some heavy animal.
The eyes of the whole party followed the unexpected movement, and read their success
in the air of triumph that the youth assumed.
"'Tis the trail!" exclaimed the scout, advancing to the spot; "the lad is quick of
sight and keen of wit for his years."
"'Tis extraordinary that he should have withheld his knowledge so long," muttered
Duncan, at his elbow. "It would have been more wonderful had he
spoken without a bidding.
No, no; your young white, who gathers his learning from books and can measure what he
knows by the page, may conceit that his knowledge, like his legs, outruns that of
his fathers', but, where experience is the
master, the scholar is made to know the value of years, and respects them
"See!" said Uncas, pointing north and south, at the evident marks of the broad
trail on either side of him, "the dark-hair has gone toward the forest."
"Hound never ran on a more beautiful scent," responded the scout, dashing
forward, at once, on the indicated route; "we are favored, greatly favored, and can
follow with high noses.
Ay, here are both your waddling beasts: this Huron travels like a white general.
The fellow is stricken with a judgment, and is mad!
Look sharp for wheels, Sagamore," he continued, looking back, and laughing in
his newly awakened satisfaction; "we shall soon have the fool journeying in a coach,
and that with three of the best pair of eyes on the borders in his rear."
The spirits of the scout, and the astonishing success of the chase, in which
a circuitous distance of more than forty miles had been passed, did not fail to
impart a portion of hope to the whole party.
Their advance was rapid; and made with as much confidence as a traveler would proceed
along a wide highway.
If a rock, or a rivulet, or a bit of earth harder than common, severed the links of
the clew they followed, the true eye of the scout recovered them at a distance, and
seldom rendered the delay of a single moment necessary.
Their progress was much facilitated by the certainty that Magua had found it necessary
to journey through the valleys; a circumstance which rendered the general
direction of the route sure.
Nor had the Huron entirely neglected the arts uniformly practised by the natives
when retiring in front of an enemy.
False trails and sudden turnings were frequent, wherever a brook or the formation
of the ground rendered them feasible; but his pursuers were rarely deceived, and
never failed to detect their error, before
they had lost either time or distance on the deceptive track.
By the middle of the afternoon they had passed the Scaroons, and were following the
route of the declining sun.
After descending an eminence to a low bottom, through which a swift stream
glided, they suddenly came to a place where the party of Le Renard had made a halt.
Extinguished brands were lying around a spring, the offals of a deer were scattered
about the place, and the trees bore evident marks of having been browsed by the horses.
At a little distance, Heyward discovered, and contemplated with tender emotion, the
small bower under which he was fain to believe that Cora and Alice had reposed.
But while the earth was trodden, and the footsteps of both men and beasts were so
plainly visible around the place, the trail appeared to have suddenly ended.
It was easy to follow the tracks of the Narragansetts, but they seemed only to have
wandered without guides, or any other object than the pursuit of food.
At length Uncas, who, with his father, had endeavored to trace the route of the
horses, came upon a sign of their presence that was quite recent.
Before following the clew, he communicated his success to his companions; and while
the latter were consulting on the circumstance, the youth reappeared, leading
the two fillies, with their saddles broken,
and the housings soiled, as though they had been permitted to run at will for several
"What should this prove?" said Duncan, turning pale, and glancing his eyes around
him, as if he feared the brush and leaves were about to give up some horrid secret.
"That our march is come to a quick end, and that we are in an enemy's country,"
returned the scout.
"Had the knave been pressed, and the gentle ones wanted horses to keep up with the
party, he might have taken their scalps; but without an enemy at his heels, and with
such rugged beasts as these, he would not hurt a hair of their heads.
I know your thoughts, and shame be it to our color that you have reason for them;
but he who thinks that even a Mingo would ill-treat a woman, unless it be to tomahawk
her, knows nothing of Indian natur', or the laws of the woods.
No, no; I have heard that the French Indians had come into these hills to hunt
the moose, and we are getting within scent of their camp.
Why should they not?
The morning and evening guns of Ty may be heard any day among these mountains; for
the Frenchers are running a new line atween the provinces of the king and the Canadas.
It is true that the horses are here, but the Hurons are gone; let us, then, hunt for
the path by which they parted." Hawkeye and the Mohicans now applied
themselves to their task in good earnest.
A circle of a few hundred feet in circumference was drawn, and each of the
party took a segment for his portion. The examination, however, resulted in no
The impressions of footsteps were numerous, but they all appeared like those of men who
had wandered about the spot, without any design to quit it.
Again the scout and his companions made the circuit of the halting place, each slowly
following the other, until they assembled in the center once more, no wiser than when
they started.
"Such cunning is not without its deviltry," exclaimed Hawkeye, when he met the
disappointed looks of his assistants.
"We must get down to it, Sagamore, beginning at the spring, and going over the
ground by inches. The Huron shall never brag in his tribe
that he has a foot which leaves no print."
Setting the example himself, the scout engaged in the scrutiny with renewed zeal.
Not a leaf was left unturned.
The sticks were removed, and the stones lifted; for Indian cunning was known
frequently to adopt these objects as covers, laboring with the utmost patience
and industry, to conceal each footstep as they proceeded.
Still no discovery was made.
At length Uncas, whose activity had enabled him to achieve his portion of the task the
soonest, raked the earth across the turbid little rill which ran from the spring, and
diverted its course into another channel.
So soon as its narrow bed below the dam was dry, he stooped over it with keen and
curious eyes. A cry of exultation immediately announced
the success of the young warrior.
The whole party crowded to the spot where Uncas pointed out the impression of a
moccasin in the moist alluvion.
"This lad will be an honor to his people," said Hawkeye, regarding the trail with as
much admiration as a naturalist would expend on the tusk of a mammoth or the rib
of a mastodon; "ay, and a thorn in the sides of the Hurons.
Yet that is not the footstep of an Indian! the weight is too much on the heel, and the
toes are squared, as though one of the French dancers had been in, pigeon-winging
his tribe!
Run back, Uncas, and bring me the size of the singer's foot.
You will find a beautiful print of it just opposite yon rock, agin the hillside."
While the youth was engaged in this commission, the scout and Chingachgook were
attentively considering the impressions.
The measurements agreed, and the former unhesitatingly pronounced that the footstep
was that of David, who had once more been made to exchange his shoes for moccasins.
"I can now read the whole of it, as plainly as if I had seen the arts of Le Subtil," he
added; "the singer being a man whose gifts lay chiefly in his throat and feet, was
made to go first, and the others have trod
in his steps, imitating their formation." "But," cried Duncan, "I see no signs of--"
"The gentle ones," interrupted the scout; "the varlet has found a way to carry them,
until he supposed he had thrown any followers off the scent.
My life on it, we see their pretty little feet again, before many rods go by."
The whole party now proceeded, following the course of the rill, keeping anxious
eyes on the regular impressions.
The water soon flowed into its bed again, but watching the ground on either side, the
foresters pursued their way content with knowing that the trail lay beneath.
More than half a mile was passed, before the rill rippled close around the base of
an extensive and dry rock. Here they paused to make sure that the
Hurons had not quitted the water.
It was fortunate they did so. For the quick and active Uncas soon found
the impression of a foot on a bunch of moss, where it would seem an Indian had
inadvertently trodden.
Pursuing the direction given by this discovery, he entered the neighboring
thicket, and struck the trail, as fresh and obvious as it had been before they reached
the spring.
Another shout announced the good fortune of the youth to his companions, and at once
terminated the search.
"Ay, it has been planned with Indian judgment," said the scout, when the party
was assembled around the place, "and would have blinded white eyes."
"Shall we proceed?" demanded Heyward.
"Softly, softly, we know our path; but it is good to examine the formation of things.
This is my schooling, major; and if one neglects the book, there is little chance
of learning from the open land of Providence.
All is plain but one thing, which is the manner that the knave contrived to get the
gentle ones along the blind trail. Even a Huron would be too proud to let
their tender feet touch the water."
"Will this assist in explaining the difficulty?" said Heyward, pointing toward
the fragments of a sort of handbarrow, that had been rudely constructed of boughs, and
bound together with withes, and which now seemed carelessly cast aside as useless.
"'Tis explained!" cried the delighted Hawkeye.
"If them varlets have passed a minute, they have spent hours in striving to fabricate a
lying end to their trail! Well, I've known them to waste a day in the
same manner to as little purpose.
Here we have three pair of moccasins, and two of little feet.
It is amazing that any mortal beings can journey on limbs so small!
Pass me the thong of buckskin, Uncas, and let me take the length of this foot.
By the Lord, it is no longer than a child's and yet the maidens are tall and comely.
That Providence is partial in its gifts, for its own wise reasons, the best and most
contented of us must allow."
"The tender limbs of my daughters are unequal to these hardships," said Munro,
looking at the light footsteps of his children, with a parent's love; "we shall
find their fainting forms in this desert."
"Of that there is little cause of fear," returned the scout, slowly shaking his
head; "this is a firm and straight, though a light step, and not over long.
See, the heel has hardly touched the ground; and there the dark-hair has made a
little jump, from root to root. No, no; my knowledge for it, neither of
them was nigh fainting, hereaway.
Now, the singer was beginning to be footsore and leg-weary, as is plain by his
There, you see, he slipped; here he has traveled wide and tottered; and there again
it looks as though he journeyed on snowshoes.
Ay, ay, a man who uses his throat altogether, can hardly give his legs a
proper training."
From such undeniable testimony did the practised woodsman arrive at the truth,
with nearly as much certainty and precision as if he had been a witness of all those
events which his ingenuity so easily elucidated.
Cheered by these assurances, and satisfied by a reasoning that was so obvious, while
it was so simple, the party resumed its course, after making a short halt, to take
a hurried repast.
When the meal was ended, the scout cast a glance upward at the setting sun, and
pushed forward with a rapidity which compelled Heyward and the still vigorous
Munro to exert all their muscles to equal.
Their route now lay along the bottom which has already been mentioned.
As the Hurons had made no further efforts to conceal their footsteps, the progress of
the pursuers was no longer delayed by uncertainty.
Before an hour had elapsed, however, the speed of Hawkeye sensibly abated, and his
head, instead of maintaining its former direct and forward look, began to turn
suspiciously from side to side, as if he were conscious of approaching danger.
He soon stopped again, and waited for the whole party to come up.
"I scent the Hurons," he said, speaking to the Mohicans; "yonder is open sky, through
the treetops, and we are getting too nigh their encampment.
Sagamore, you will take the hillside, to the right; Uncas will bend along the brook
to the left, while I will try the trail. If anything should happen, the call will be
three croaks of a crow.
I saw one of the birds fanning himself in the air, just beyond the dead oak--another
sign that we are approaching an encampment."
The Indians departed their several ways without reply, while Hawkeye cautiously
proceeded with the two gentlemen.
Heyward soon pressed to the side of their guide, eager to catch an early glimpse of
those enemies he had pursued with so much toil and anxiety.
His companion told him to steal to the edge of the wood, which, as usual, was fringed
with a thicket, and wait his coming, for he wished to examine certain suspicious signs
a little on one side.
Duncan obeyed, and soon found himself in a situation to command a view which he found
as extraordinary as it was novel.
The trees of many acres had been felled, and the glow of a mild summer's evening had
fallen on the clearing, in beautiful contrast to the gray light of the forest.
A short distance from the place where Duncan stood, the stream had seemingly
expanded into a little lake, covering most of the low land, from mountain to mountain.
The water fell out of this wide basin, in a cataract so regular and gentle, that it
appeared rather to be the work of human hands than fashioned by nature.
A hundred earthen dwellings stood on the margin of the lake, and even in its waters,
as though the latter had overflowed its usual banks.
Their rounded roofs, admirably molded for defense against the weather, denoted more
of industry and foresight than the natives were wont to bestow on their regular
habitations, much less on those they
occupied for the temporary purposes of hunting and war.
In short, the whole village or town, whichever it might be termed, possessed
more of method and neatness of execution, than the white men had been accustomed to
believe belonged, ordinarily, to the Indian habits.
It appeared, however, to be deserted.
At least, so thought Duncan for many minutes; but, at length, he fancied he
discovered several human forms advancing toward him on all fours, and apparently
dragging in the train some heavy, and as he
was quick to apprehend, some formidable engine.
Just then a few dark-looking heads gleamed out of the dwellings, and the place seemed
suddenly alive with beings, which, however, glided from cover to cover so swiftly, as
to allow no opportunity of examining their humors or pursuits.
Alarmed at these suspicious and inexplicable movements, he was about to
attempt the signal of the crows, when the rustling of leaves at hand drew his eyes in
another direction.
The young man started, and recoiled a few paces instinctively, when he found himself
within a hundred yards of a stranger Indian.
Recovering his recollection on the instant, instead of sounding an alarm, which might
prove fatal to himself, he remained stationary, an attentive observer of the
other's motions.
An instant of calm observation served to assure Duncan that he was undiscovered.
The native, like himself, seemed occupied in considering the low dwellings of the
village, and the stolen movements of its inhabitants.
It was impossible to discover the expression of his features through the
grotesque mask of paint under which they were concealed, though Duncan fancied it
was rather melancholy than savage.
His head was shaved, as usual, with the exception of the crown, from whose tuft
three or four faded feathers from a hawk's wing were loosely dangling.
A ragged calico mantle half encircled his body, while his nether garment was composed
of an ordinary shirt, the sleeves of which were made to perform the office that is
usually executed by a much more commodious arrangement.
His legs were, however, covered with a pair of good deer-skin moccasins.
Altogether, the appearance of the individual was forlorn and miserable.
Duncan was still curiously observing the person of his neighbor when the scout stole
silently and cautiously to his side.
"You see we have reached their settlement or encampment," whispered the young man;
"and here is one of the savages himself, in a very embarrassing position for our
further movements."
Hawkeye started, and dropped his rifle, when, directed by the finger of his
companion, the stranger came under his view.
Then lowering the dangerous muzzle he stretched forward his long neck, as if to
assist a scrutiny that was already intensely keen.
"The imp is not a Huron," he said, "nor of any of the Canada tribes; and yet you see,
by his clothes, the knave has been plundering a white.
Ay, Montcalm has raked the woods for his inroad, and a whooping, murdering set of
varlets has he gathered together. Can you see where he has put his rifle or
his bow?"
"He appears to have no arms; nor does he seem to be viciously inclined.
Unless he communicate the alarm to his fellows, who, as you see, are dodging about
the water, we have but little to fear from him."
The scout turned to Heyward, and regarded him a moment with unconcealed amazement.
Then opening wide his mouth, he indulged in unrestrained and heartfelt laughter, though
in that silent and peculiar manner which danger had so long taught him to practise.
Repeating the words, "Fellows who are dodging about the water!" he added, "so
much for schooling and passing a boyhood in the settlements!
The knave has long legs, though, and shall not be trusted.
Do you keep him under your rifle while I creep in behind, through the bush, and take
him alive.
Fire on no account." Heyward had already permitted his companion
to bury part of his person in the thicket, when, stretching forth his arm, he arrested
him, in order to ask:
"If I see you in danger, may I not risk a shot?"
Hawkeye regarded him a moment, like one who knew not how to take the question; then,
nodding his head, he answered, still laughing, though inaudibly:
"Fire a whole platoon, major."
In the next moment he was concealed by the leaves.
Duncan waited several minutes in feverish impatience, before he caught another
glimpse of the scout.
Then he reappeared, creeping along the earth, from which his dress was hardly
distinguishable, directly in the rear of his intended captive.
Having reached within a few yards of the latter, he arose to his feet, silently and
At that instant, several loud blows were struck on the water, and Duncan turned his
eyes just in time to perceive that a hundred dark forms were plunging, in a
body, into the troubled little sheet.
Grasping his rifle his looks were again bent on the Indian near him.
Instead of taking the alarm, the unconscious savage stretched forward his
neck, as if he also watched the movements about the gloomy lake, with a sort of silly
In the meantime, the uplifted hand of Hawkeye was above him.
But, without any apparent reason, it was withdrawn, and its owner indulged in
another long, though still silent, fit of merriment.
When the peculiar and hearty laughter of Hawkeye was ended, instead of grasping his
victim by the throat, he tapped him lightly on the shoulder, and exclaimed aloud:
"How now, friend! have you a mind to teach the beavers to sing?"
"Even so," was the ready answer.
"It would seem that the Being that gave them power to improve His gifts so well,
would not deny them voices to proclaim His praise."
"Bot.--Abibl we all met?
Qui.--Pat--pat; and here's a marvelous
convenient place for our rehearsal."
--Midsummer Night's Dream
The reader may better imagine, than we
describe the surprise of Heyward.
His lurking Indians were suddenly converted
into four-footed beasts; his lake into a
beaver pond; his cataract into a dam,
constructed by those industrious and
ingenious quadrupeds; and a suspected enemy
into his tried friend, David Gamut, the
master of psalmody.
The presence of the latter created so many
unexpected hopes relative to the sisters
that, without a moment's hesitation, the
young man broke out of his ambush, and
sprang forward to join the two principal
actors in the scene.
The merriment of Hawkeye was not easily
Without ceremony, and with a rough hand, he
twirled the supple Gamut around on his
heel, and more than once affirmed that the
Hurons had done themselves great credit in
the fashion of his costume.
Then, seizing the hand of the other, he
squeezed it with a grip that brought tears
into the eyes of the placid David, and
wished him joy of his new condition.
"You were about opening your throat-
practisings among the beavers, were ye?" he
"The cunning devils know half the trade
already, for they beat the time with their
tails, as you heard just now; and in good
time it was, too, or 'killdeer' might have
sounded the first note among them.
I have known greater fools, who could read
and write, than an experienced old beaver;
but as for squalling, the animals are born
What think you of such a song as this?"
David shut his sensitive ears, and even
Heyward apprised as he was of the nature of
the cry, looked upward in quest of the
bird, as the cawing of a crow rang in the
air about them.
"See!" continued the laughing scout, as he
pointed toward the remainder of the party,
who, in obedience to the signal, were
already approaching; "this is music which
has its natural virtues; it brings two good
rifles to my elbow, to say nothing of the
knives and tomahawks.
But we see that you are safe; now tell us
what has become of the maidens."
"They are captives to the heathen," said
David; "and, though greatly troubled in
spirit, enjoying comfort and safety in the
"Both!" demanded the breathless Heyward.
"Even so.
Though our wayfaring has been sore and our
sustenance scanty, we have had little other
cause for complaint, except the violence
done our feelings, by being thus led in
captivity into a far land."
"Bless ye for these very words!" exclaimed
the trembling Munro; "I shall then receive
my babes, spotless and angel-like, as I
lost them!"
"I know not that their delivery is at
hand," returned the doubting David; "the
leader of these savages is possessed of an
evil spirit that no power short of
Omnipotence can tame.
I have tried him sleeping and waking, but
neither sounds nor language seem to touch
his soul."
"Where is the knave?" bluntly interrupted
the scout.
"He hunts the moose to-day, with his young
men; and tomorrow, as I hear, they pass
further into the forests, and nigher to the
borders of Canada.
The elder maiden is conveyed to a
neighboring people, whose lodges are
situate beyond yonder black pinnacle of
rock; while the younger is detained among
the women of the Hurons, whose dwellings
are but two short miles hence, on a table-
land, where the fire had done the office of
the axe, and prepared the place for their
"Alice, my gentle Alice!" murmured Heyward;
"she has lost the consolation of her
sister's presence!"
"Even so.
But so far as praise and thanksgiving in
psalmody can temper the spirit in
affliction, she has not suffered."
"Has she then a heart for music?"
"Of the graver and more solemn character;
though it must be acknowledged that, in
spite of all my endeavors, the maiden weeps
oftener than she smiles.
At such moments I forbear to press the holy
songs; but there are many sweet and
comfortable periods of satisfactory
communication, when the ears of the savages
are astounded with the upliftings of our
"And why are you permitted to go at large,
David composed his features into what he
intended should express an air of modest
humility, before he meekly replied:
"Little be the praise to such a worm as I.
But, though the power of psalmody was
suspended in the terrible business of that
field of blood through which we have
passed, it has recovered its influence even
over the souls of the heathen, and I am
suffered to go and come at will."
The scout laughed, and, tapping his own
forehead significantly, he perhaps
explained the singular indulgence more
satisfactorily when he said:
"The Indians never harm a non-composser.
But why, when the path lay open before your
eyes, did you not strike back on your own
trail (it is not so blind as that which a
squirrel would make), and bring in the
tidings to Edward?"
The scout, remembering only his own sturdy
and iron nature, had probably exacted a
task that David, under no circumstances,
could have performed.
But, without entirely losing the meekness
of his air, the latter was content to
"Though my soul would rejoice to visit the
habitations of Christendom once more, my
feet would rather follow the tender spirits
intrusted to my keeping, even into the
idolatrous province of the Jesuits, than
take one step backward, while they pined in
captivity and sorrow."
Though the figurative language of David was
not very intelligible, the sincere and
steady expression of his eye, and the glow
of his honest countenance, were not easily
Uncas pressed closer to his side, and
regarded the speaker with a look of
commendation, while his father expressed
his satisfaction by the ordinary pithy
exclamation of approbation.
The scout shook his head as he rejoined:
"The Lord never intended that the man
should place all his endeavors in his
throat, to the neglect of other and better
But he has fallen into the hands of some
silly woman, when he should have been
gathering his education under a blue sky,
among the beauties of the forest.
Here, friend; I did intend to kindle a fire
with this tooting-whistle of thine; but, as
you value the thing, take it, and blow your
best on it."
Gamut received his pitch-pipe with as
strong an expression of pleasure as he
believed compatible with the grave
functions he exercised.
After essaying its virtues repeatedly, in
contrast with his own voice, and,
satisfying himself that none of its melody
was lost, he made a very serious
demonstration toward achieving a few
stanzas of one of the longest effusions in
the little volume so often mentioned.
Heyward, however, hastily interrupted his
pious purpose by continuing questions
concerning the past and present condition
of his fellow captives, and in a manner
more methodical than had been permitted by
his feelings in the opening of their
David, though he regarded his treasure with
longing eyes, was constrained to answer,
especially as the venerable father took a
part in the interrogatories, with an
interest too imposing to be denied.
Nor did the scout fail to throw in a
pertinent inquiry, whenever a fitting
occasion presented.
In this manner, though with frequent
interruptions which were filled with
certain threatening sounds from the
recovered instrument, the pursuers were put
in possession of such leading circumstances
as were likely to prove useful in
accomplishing their great and engrossing
object--the recovery of the sisters.
The narrative of David was simple, and the
facts but few.
Magua had waited on the mountain until a
safe moment to retire presented itself,
when he had descended, and taken the route
along the western side of the Horican in
direction of the Canadas.
As the subtle Huron was familiar with the
paths, and well knew there was no immediate
danger of pursuit, their progress had been
moderate, and far from fatiguing.
It appeared from the unembellished
statement of David, that his own presence
had been rather endured than desired;
though even Magua had not been entirely
exempt from that veneration with which the
Indians regard those whom the Great Spirit
had visited in their intellects.
At night, the utmost care had been taken of
the captives, both to prevent injury from
the damps of the woods and to guard against
an escape.
At the spring, the horses were turned
loose, as has been seen; and,
notwithstanding the remoteness and length
of their trail, the artifices already named
were resorted to, in order to cut off every
clue to their place of retreat.
On their arrival at the encampment of his
people, Magua, in obedience to a policy
seldom departed from, separated his
Cora had been sent to a tribe that
temporarily occupied an adjacent valley,
though David was far too ignorant of the
customs and history of the natives, to be
able to declare anything satisfactory
concerning their name or character.
He only knew that they had not engaged in
the late expedition against William Henry;
that, like the Hurons themselves they were
allies of Montcalm; and that they
maintained an amicable, though a watchful
intercourse with the warlike and savage
people whom chance had, for a time, brought
in such close and disagreeable contact with
The Mohicans and the scout listened to his
interrupted and imperfect narrative, with
an interest that obviously increased as he
proceeded; and it was while attempting to
explain the pursuits of the community in
which Cora was detained, that the latter
abruptly demanded:
"Did you see the fashion of their knives?
were they of English or French formation?"
"My thoughts were bent on no such vanities,
but rather mingled in consolation with
those of the maidens."
"The time may come when you will not
consider the knife of a savage such a
despicable vanity," returned the scout,
with a strong expression of contempt for
the other's dullness.
"Had they held their corn feast--or can you
say anything of the totems of the tribe?"
"Of corn, we had many and plentiful feasts;
for the grain, being in the milk is both
sweet to the mouth and comfortable to the
Of totem, I know not the meaning; but if it
appertaineth in any wise to the art of
Indian music, it need not be inquired after
at their hands.
They never join their voices in praise, and
it would seem that they are among the
profanest of the idolatrous."
"Therein you belie the natur' of an Indian.
Even the Mingo adores but the true and
loving God.
'Tis wicked fabrication of the whites, and
I say it to the shame of my color that
would make the warrior bow down before
images of his own creation.
It is true, they endeavor to make truces to
the wicked one--as who would not with an
enemy he cannot conquer! but they look up
for favor and assistance to the Great and
Good Spirit only."
"It may be so," said David; "but I have
seen strange and fantastic images drawn in
their paint, of which their admiration and
care savored of spiritual pride; especially
one, and that, too, a foul and loathsome
"Was it a sarpent?" quickly demanded the
"Much the same.
It was in the likeness of an abject and
creeping tortoise."
"Hugh!" exclaimed both the attentive
Mohicans in a breath; while the scout shook
his head with the air of one who had made
an important but by no means a pleasing
Then the father spoke, in the language of
the Delawares, and with a calmness and
dignity that instantly arrested the
attention even of those to whom his words
were unintelligible.
His gestures were impressive, and at times
Once he lifted his arm on high; and, as it
descended, the action threw aside the folds
of his light mantle, a finger resting on
his breast, as if he would enforce his
meaning by the attitude.
Duncan's eyes followed the movement, and he
perceived that the animal just mentioned
was beautifully, though faintly, worked in
blue tint, on the swarthy breast of the
All that he had ever heard of the violent
separation of the vast tribes of the
Delawares rushed across his mind, and he
awaited the proper moment to speak, with a
suspense that was rendered nearly
intolerable by his interest in the stake.
His wish, however, was anticipated by the
scout who turned from his red friend,
"We have found that which may be good or
evil to us, as heaven disposes.
The Sagamore is of the high blood of the
Delawares, and is the great chief of their
That some of this stock are among the
people of whom the singer tells us, is
plain by his words; and, had he but spent
half the breath in prudent questions that
he has blown away in making a trumpet of
his throat, we might have known how many
warriors they numbered.
It is, altogether, a dangerous path we move
in; for a friend whose face is turned from
you often bears a bloodier mind than the
enemy who seeks your scalp."
"Explain," said Duncan.
"'Tis a long and melancholy tradition, and
one I little like to think of; for it is
not to be denied that the evil has been
mainly done by men with white skins.
But it has ended in turning the tomahawk of
brother against brother, and brought the
Mingo and the Delaware to travel in the
same path."
"You, then, suspect it is a portion of that
people among whom Cora resides?"
The scout nodded his head in assent, though
he seemed anxious to waive the further
discussion of a subject that appeared
The impatient Duncan now made several hasty
and desperate propositions to attempt the
release of the sisters.
Munro seemed to shake off his apathy, and
listened to the wild schemes of the young
man with a deference that his gray hairs
and reverend years should have denied.
But the scout, after suffering the ardor of
the lover to expend itself a little, found
means to convince him of the folly of
precipitation, in a manner that would
require their coolest judgment and utmost
"It would be well," he added, "to let this
man go in again, as usual, and for him to
tarry in the lodges, giving notice to the
gentle ones of our approach, until we call
him out, by signal, to consult.
You know the cry of a crow, friend, from
the whistle of the whip-poor-will?"
"'Tis a pleasing bird," returned David,
"and has a soft and melancholy note! though
the time is rather quick and ill-measured."
"He speaks of the wish-ton-wish," said the
scout; "well, since you like his whistle,
it shall be your signal.
Remember, then, when you hear the whip-
poor-will's call three times repeated, you
are to come into the bushes where the bird
might be supposed--"
"Stop," interrupted Heyward; "I will
accompany him."
"You!" exclaimed the astonished Hawkeye;
"are you tired of seeing the sun rise and
"David is a living proof that the Hurons
can be merciful."
"Ay, but David can use his throat, as no
man in his senses would pervart the gift."
"I too can play the madman, the fool, the
hero; in short, any or everything to rescue
her I love.
Name your objections no longer: I am
Hawkeye regarded the young man a moment in
speechless amazement.
But Duncan, who, in deference to the
other's skill and services, had hitherto
submitted somewhat implicitly to his
dictation, now assumed the superior, with a
manner that was not easily resisted.
He waved his hand, in sign of his dislike
to all remonstrance, and then, in more
tempered language, he continued:
"You have the means of disguise; change me;
paint me, too, if you will; in short, alter
me to anything--a fool."
"It is not for one like me to say that he
who is already formed by so powerful a hand
as Providence, stands in need of a change,"
muttered the discontented scout.
"When you send your parties abroad in war,
you find it prudent, at least, to arrange
the marks and places of encampment, in
order that they who fight on your side may
know when and where to expect a friend."
"Listen," interrupted Duncan; "you have
heard from this faithful follower of the
captives, that the Indians are of two
tribes, if not of different nations.
With one, whom you think to be a branch of
the Delawares, is she you call the 'dark-
hair'; the other, and younger, of the
ladies, is undeniably with our declared
enemies, the Hurons.
It becomes my youth and rank to attempt the
latter adventure.
While you, therefore, are negotiating with
your friends for the release of one of the
sisters, I will effect that of the other,
or die."
The awakened spirit of the young soldier
gleamed in his eyes, and his form became
imposing under its influence.
Hawkeye, though too much accustomed to
Indian artifices not to foresee the danger
of the experiment, knew not well how to
combat this sudden resolution.
Perhaps there was something in the proposal
that suited his own hardy nature, and that
secret love of desperate adventure, which
had increased with his experience, until
hazard and danger had become, in some
measure, necessary to the enjoyment of his
Instead of continuing to oppose the scheme
of Duncan, his humor suddenly altered, and
he lent himself to its execution.
"Come," he said, with a good-humored smile;
"the buck that will take to the water must
be headed, and not followed.
Chingachgook has as many different paints
as the engineer officer's wife, who takes
down natur' on scraps of paper, making the
mountains look like cocks of rusty hay, and
placing the blue sky in reach of your hand.
The Sagamore can use them, too.
Seat yourself on the log; and my life on
it, he can soon make a natural fool of you,
and that well to your liking."
Duncan complied; and the Mohican, who had
been an attentive listener to the
discourse, readily undertook the office.
Long practised in all the subtle arts of
his race, he drew, with great dexterity and
quickness, the fantastic shadow that the
natives were accustomed to consider as the
evidence of a friendly and jocular
Every line that could possibly be
interpreted into a secret inclination for
war, was carefully avoided; while, on the
other hand, he studied those conceits that
might be construed into amity.
In short, he entirely sacrificed every
appearance of the warrior to the masquerade
of a buffoon.
Such exhibitions were not uncommon among
the Indians, and as Duncan was already
sufficiently disguised in his dress, there
certainly did exist some reason for
believing that, with his knowledge of
French, he might pass for a juggler from
Ticonderoga, straggling among the allied
and friendly tribes.
When he was thought to be sufficiently
painted, the scout gave him much friendly
advice; concerted signals, and appointed
the place where they should meet, in the
event of mutual success.
The parting between Munro and his young
friend was more melancholy; still, the
former submitted to the separation with an
indifference that his warm and honest
nature would never have permitted in a more
healthful state of mind.
The scout led Heyward aside, and acquainted
him with his intention to leave the veteran
in some safe encampment, in charge of
Chingachgook, while he and Uncas pursued
their inquires among the people they had
reason to believe were Delawares.
Then, renewing his cautions and advice, he
concluded by saying, with a solemnity and
warmth of feeling, with which Duncan was
deeply touched:
"And, now, God bless you!
You have shown a spirit that I like; for it
is the gift of youth, more especially one
of warm blood and a stout heart.
But believe the warning of a man who has
reason to know all he says to be true.
You will have occasion for your best
manhood, and for a sharper wit than what is
to be gathered in books, afore you outdo
the cunning or get the better of the
courage of a Mingo.
God bless you! if the Hurons master your
scalp, rely on the promise of one who has
two stout warriors to back him.
They shall pay for their victory, with a
life for every hair it holds.
I say, young gentleman, may Providence
bless your undertaking, which is altogether
for good; and, remember, that to outwit the
knaves it is lawful to practise things that
may not be naturally the gift of a white-
Duncan shook his worthy and reluctant
associate warmly by the hand, once more
recommended his aged friend to his care,
and returning his good wishes, he motioned
to David to proceed.
Hawkeye gazed after the high-spirited and
adventurous young man for several moments,
in open admiration; then, shaking his head
doubtingly, he turned, and led his own
division of the party into the concealment
of the forest.
The route taken by Duncan and David lay
directly across the clearing of the
beavers, and along the margin of their
When the former found himself alone with
one so simple, and so little qualified to
render any assistance in desperate
emergencies, he first began to be sensible
of the difficulties of the task he had
The fading light increased the gloominess
of the bleak and savage wilderness that
stretched so far on every side of him, and
there was even a fearful character in the
stillness of those little huts, that he
knew were so abundantly peopled.
It struck him, as he gazed at the admirable
structures and the wonderful precautions of
their sagacious inmates, that even the
brutes of these vast wilds were possessed
of an instinct nearly commensurate with his
own reason; and he could not reflect,
without anxiety, on the unequal contest
that he had so rashly courted.
Then came the glowing image of Alice; her
distress; her actual danger; and all the
peril of his situation was forgotten.
Cheering David, he moved on with the light
and vigorous step of youth and enterprise.
After making nearly a semicircle around the
pond, they diverged from the water-course,
and began to ascend to the level of a
slight elevation in that bottom land, over
which they journeyed.
Within half an hour they gained the margin
of another opening that bore all the signs
of having been also made by the beavers,
and which those sagacious animals had
probably been induced, by some accident, to
abandon, for the more eligible position
they now occupied.
A very natural sensation caused Duncan to
hesitate a moment, unwilling to leave the
cover of their bushy path, as a man pauses
to collect his energies before he essays
any hazardous experiment, in which he is
secretly conscious they will all be needed.
He profited by the halt, to gather such
information as might be obtained from his
short and hasty glances.
On the opposite side of the clearing, and
near the point where the brook tumbled over
some rocks, from a still higher level, some
fifty or sixty lodges, rudely fabricated of
logs brush, and earth intermingled, were to
be discovered.
They were arranged without any order, and
seemed to be constructed with very little
attention to neatness or beauty.
Indeed, so very inferior were they in the
two latter particulars to the village
Duncan had just seen, that he began to
expect a second surprise, no less
astonishing that the former.
This expectation was in no degree
diminished, when, by the doubtful twilight,
he beheld twenty or thirty forms rising
alternately from the cover of the tall,
coarse grass, in front of the lodges, and
then sinking again from the sight, as it
were to burrow in the earth.
By the sudden and hasty glimpses that he
caught of these figures, they seemed more
like dark, glancing specters, or some other
unearthly beings, than creatures fashioned
with the ordinary and vulgar materials of
flesh and blood.
A gaunt, naked form was seen, for a single
instant, tossing its arms wildly in the
air, and then the spot it had filled was
vacant; the figure appearing suddenly in
some other and distant place, or being
succeeded by another, possessing the same
mysterious character.
David, observing that his companion
lingered, pursued the direction of his
gaze, and in some measure recalled the
recollection of Heyward, by speaking.
"There is much fruitful soil uncultivated
here," he said; "and, I may add, without
the sinful leaven of self-commendation,
that, since my short sojourn in these
heathenish abodes, much good seed has been
scattered by the wayside."
"The tribes are fonder of the chase than of
the arts of men of labor," returned the
unconscious Duncan, still gazing at the
objects of his wonder.
"It is rather joy than labor to the spirit,
to lift up the voice in praise; but sadly
do these boys abuse their gifts.
Rarely have I found any of their age, on
whom nature has so freely bestowed the
elements of psalmody; and surely, surely,
there are none who neglect them more.
Three nights have I now tarried here, and
three several times have I assembled the
urchins to join in sacred song; and as
often have they responded to my efforts
with whoopings and howlings that have
chilled my soul!"
"Of whom speak you?"
"Of those children of the devil, who waste
the precious moments in yonder idle antics.
Ah! the wholesome restraint of discipline
is but little known among this self-
abandoned people.
In a country of birches, a rod is never
seen, and it ought not to appear a marvel
in my eyes, that the choicest blessings of
Providence are wasted in such cries as
David closed his ears against the juvenile
pack, whose yell just then rang shrilly
through the forest; and Duncan, suffering
his lip to curl, as in mockery of his own
superstition, said firmly:
"We will proceed."
Without removing the safeguards form his
ears, the master of song complied, and
together they pursued their way toward what
David was sometimes wont to call the "tents
of the Philistines."