Part 6 - The Last of the Mohicans Audiobook by James Fenimore Cooper (Chs 23-26)

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"But though the beast of game The privilege of chase may claim; Though space and law
the stag we lend Ere hound we slip, or bow we bend;
Whoever recked, where, how, or when The prowling fox was trapped or slain?"
--Lady of the Lake.
It is unusual to find an encampment of the natives, like those of the more instructed
whites, guarded by the presence of armed men.
Well informed of the approach of every danger, while it is yet at a distance, the
Indian generally rests secure under his knowledge of the signs of the forest, and
the long and difficult paths that separate him from those he has most reason to dread.
But the enemy who, by any lucky concurrence of accidents, has found means to elude the
vigilance of the scouts, will seldom meet with sentinels nearer home to sound the
In addition to this general usage, the tribes friendly to the French knew too well
the weight of the blow that had just been struck, to apprehend any immediate danger
from the hostile nations that were tributary to the crown of Britain.
When Duncan and David, therefore, found themselves in the center of the children,
who played the antics already mentioned, it was without the least previous intimation
of their approach.
But so soon as they were observed the whole of the juvenile pack raised, by common
consent, a shrill and warning whoop; and then sank, as it were, by magic, from
before the sight of their visitors.
The naked, tawny bodies of the crouching urchins blended so nicely at that hour,
with the withered herbage, that at first it seemed as if the earth had, in truth,
swallowed up their forms; though when
surprise permitted Duncan to bend his look more curiously about the spot, he found it
everywhere met by dark, quick, and rolling eyeballs.
Gathering no encouragement from this startling presage of the nature of the
scrutiny he was likely to undergo from the more mature judgments of the men, there was
an instant when the young soldier would have retreated.
It was, however, too late to appear to hesitate.
The cry of the children had drawn a dozen warriors to the door of the nearest lodge,
where they stood clustered in a dark and savage group, gravely awaiting the nearer
approach of those who had unexpectedly come among them.
David, in some measure familiarized to the scene, led the way with a steadiness that
no slight obstacle was likely to disconcert, into this very building.
It was the principal edifice of the village, though roughly constructed of the
bark and branches of trees; being the lodge in which the tribe held its councils and
public meetings during their temporary
residence on the borders of the English province.
Duncan found it difficult to assume the necessary appearance of unconcern, as he
brushed the dark and powerful frames of the savages who thronged its threshold; but,
conscious that his existence depended on
his presence of mind, he trusted to the discretion of his companion, whose
footsteps he closely followed, endeavoring, as he proceeded, to rally his thoughts for
the occasion.
His blood curdled when he found himself in absolute contact with such fierce and
implacable enemies; but he so far mastered his feelings as to pursue his way into the
center of the lodge, with an exterior that did not betray the weakness.
Imitating the example of the deliberate Gamut, he drew a bundle of fragrant brush
from beneath a pile that filled the corner of the hut, and seated himself in silence.
So soon as their visitor had passed, the observant warriors fell back from the
entrance, and arranging themselves about him, they seemed patiently to await the
moment when it might comport with the dignity of the stranger to speak.
By far the greater number stood leaning, in lazy, lounging attitudes, against the
upright posts that supported the crazy building, while three or four of the oldest
and most distinguished of the chiefs placed
themselves on the earth a little more in advance.
A flaring torch was burning in the place, and set its red glare from face to face and
figure to figure, as it waved in the currents of air.
Duncan profited by its light to read the probable character of his reception, in the
countenances of his hosts.
But his ingenuity availed him little, against the cold artifices of the people he
had encountered.
The chiefs in front scarce cast a glance at his person, keeping their eyes on the
ground, with an air that might have been intended for respect, but which it was
quite easy to construe into distrust.
The men in the shadow were less reserved.
Duncan soon detected their searching, but stolen, looks which, in truth, scanned his
person and attire inch by inch; leaving no emotion of the countenance, no gesture, no
line of the paint, nor even the fashion of
a garment, unheeded, and without comment.
At length one whose hair was beginning to be sprinkled with gray, but whose sinewy
limbs and firm tread announced that he was still equal to the duties of manhood,
advanced out of the gloom of a corner,
whither he had probably posted himself to make his observations unseen, and spoke.
He used the language of the Wyandots, or Hurons; his words were, consequently,
unintelligible to Heyward, though they seemed, by the gestures that accompanied
them, to be uttered more in courtesy than anger.
The latter shook his head, and made a gesture indicative of his inability to
"Do none of my brothers speak the French or the English?" he said, in the former
language, looking about him from countenance to countenance, in hopes of
finding a nod of assent.
Though more than one had turned, as if to catch the meaning of his words, they
remained unanswered.
"I should be grieved to think," continued Duncan, speaking slowly, and using the
simplest French of which he was the master, "to believe that none of this wise and
brave nation understand the language that
the 'Grand Monarque' uses when he talks to his children.
His heart would be heavy did he believe his red warriors paid him so little respect!"
A long and grave pause succeeded, during which no movement of a limb, nor any
expression of an eye, betrayed the expression produced by his remark.
Duncan, who knew that silence was a virtue among his hosts, gladly had recourse to the
custom, in order to arrange his ideas.
At length the same warrior who had before addressed him replied, by dryly demanding,
in the language of the Canadas: "When our Great Father speaks to his
people, is it with the tongue of a Huron?"
"He knows no difference in his children, whether the color of the skin be red, or
black, or white," returned Duncan, evasively; "though chiefly is he satisfied
with the brave Hurons."
"In what manner will he speak," demanded the wary chief, "when the runners count to
him the scalps which five nights ago grew on the heads of the Yengeese?"
"They were his enemies," said Duncan, shuddering involuntarily; "and doubtless,
he will say, it is good; my Hurons are very gallant."
"Our Canada father does not think it.
Instead of looking forward to reward his Indians, his eyes are turned backward.
He sees the dead Yengeese, but no Huron. What can this mean?"
"A great chief, like him, has more thoughts than tongues.
He looks to see that no enemies are on his trail."
"The canoe of a dead warrior will not float on the Horican," returned the savage,
"His ears are open to the Delawares, who are not our friends, and they fill them
with lies." "It cannot be.
See; he has bid me, who am a man that knows the art of healing, to go to his children,
the red Hurons of the great lakes, and ask if any are sick!"
Another silence succeeded this annunciation of the character Duncan had assumed.
Every eye was simultaneously bent on his person, as if to inquire into the truth or
falsehood of the declaration, with an intelligence and keenness that caused the
subject of their scrutiny to tremble for the result.
He was, however, relieved again by the former speaker.
"Do the cunning men of the Canadas paint their skins?" the Huron coldly continued;
"we have heard them boast that their faces were pale."
"When an Indian chief comes among his white fathers," returned Duncan, with great
steadiness, "he lays aside his buffalo robe, to carry the shirt that is offered
My brothers have given me paint and I wear it."
A low murmur of applause announced that the compliment of the tribe was favorably
The elderly chief made a gesture of commendation, which was answered by most of
his companions, who each threw forth a hand and uttered a brief exclamation of
Duncan began to breathe more freely, believing that the weight of his
examination was past; and, as he had already prepared a simple and probable tale
to support his pretended occupation, his hopes of ultimate success grew brighter.
After a silence of a few moments, as if adjusting his thoughts, in order to make a
suitable answer to the declaration their guests had just given, another warrior
arose, and placed himself in an attitude to speak.
While his lips were yet in the act of parting, a low but fearful sound arose from
the forest, and was immediately succeeded by a high, shrill yell, that was drawn out,
until it equaled the longest and most plaintive howl of the wolf.
The sudden and terrible interruption caused Duncan to start from his seat, unconscious
of everything but the effect produced by so frightful a cry.
At the same moment, the warriors glided in a body from the lodge, and the outer air
was filled with loud shouts, that nearly drowned those awful sounds, which were
still ringing beneath the arches of the woods.
Unable to command himself any longer, the youth broke from the place, and presently
stood in the center of a disorderly throng, that included nearly everything having
life, within the limits of the encampment.
Men, women, and children; the aged, the inform, the active, and the strong, were
alike abroad, some exclaiming aloud, others clapping their hands with a joy that seemed
frantic, and all expressing their savage pleasure in some unexpected event.
Though astounded, at first, by the uproar, Heyward was soon enabled to find its
solution by the scene that followed.
There yet lingered sufficient light in the heavens to exhibit those bright openings
among the tree-tops, where different paths left the clearing to enter the depths of
the wilderness.
Beneath one of them, a line of warriors issued from the woods, and advanced slowly
toward the dwellings.
One in front bore a short pole, on which, as it afterwards appeared, were suspended
several human scalps.
The startling sounds that Duncan had heard were what the whites have not
inappropriately called the "death-hallo"; and each repetition of the cry was intended
to announce to the tribe the fate of an enemy.
Thus far the knowledge of Heyward assisted him in the explanation; and as he now knew
that the interruption was caused by the unlooked-for return of a successful war-
party, every disagreeable sensation was
quieted in inward congratulation, for the opportune relief and insignificance it
conferred on himself.
When at the distance of a few hundred feet from the lodges the newly arrived warriors
Their plaintive and terrific cry, which was intended to represent equally the wailings
of the dead and the triumph to the victors, had entirely ceased.
One of their number now called aloud, in words that were far from appalling, though
not more intelligible to those for whose ears they were intended, than their
expressive yells.
It would be difficult to convey a suitable idea of the savage ecstasy with which the
news thus imparted was received.
The whole encampment, in a moment, became a scene of the most violent bustle and
The warriors drew their knives, and flourishing them, they arranged themselves
in two lines, forming a lane that extended from the war-party to the lodges.
The squaws seized clubs, axes, or whatever weapon of offense first offered itself to
their hands, and rushed eagerly to act their part in the cruel game that was at
Even the children would not be excluded; but boys, little able to wield the
instruments, tore the tomahawks from the belts of their fathers, and stole into the
ranks, apt imitators of the savage traits exhibited by their parents.
Large piles of brush lay scattered about the clearing, and a wary and aged squaw was
occupied in firing as many as might serve to light the coming exhibition.
As the flame arose, its power exceeded that of the parting day, and assisted to render
objects at the same time more distinct and more hideous.
The whole scene formed a striking picture, whose frame was composed of the dark and
tall border of pines. The warriors just arrived were the most
distant figures.
A little in advance stood two men, who were apparently selected from the rest, as the
principal actors in what was to follow.
The light was not strong enough to render their features distinct, though it was
quite evident that they were governed by very different emotions.
While one stood erect and firm, prepared to meet his fate like a hero, the other bowed
his head, as if palsied by terror or stricken with shame.
The high-spirited Duncan felt a powerful impulse of admiration and pity toward the
former, though no opportunity could offer to exhibit his generous emotions.
He watched his slightest movement, however, with eager eyes; and, as he traced the fine
outline of his admirably proportioned and active frame, he endeavored to persuade
himself, that, if the powers of man,
seconded by such noble resolution, could bear one harmless through so severe a
trial, the youthful captive before him might hope for success in the hazardous
race he was about to run.
Insensibly the young man drew nigher to the swarthy lines of the Hurons, and scarcely
breathed, so intense became his interest in the spectacle.
Just then the signal yell was given, and the momentary quiet which had preceded it
was broken by a burst of cries, that far exceeded any before heard.
The more abject of the two victims continued motionless; but the other bounded
from the place at the cry, with the activity and swiftness of a deer.
Instead of rushing through the hostile lines, as had been expected, he just
entered the dangerous defile, and before time was given for a single blow, turned
short, and leaping the heads of a row of
children, he gained at once the exterior and safer side of the formidable array.
The artifice was answered by a hundred voices raised in imprecations; and the
whole of the excited multitude broke from their order, and spread themselves about
the place in wild confusion.
A dozen blazing piles now shed their lurid brightness on the place, which resembled
some unhallowed and supernatural arena, in which malicious demons had assembled to act
their bloody and lawless rites.
The forms in the background looked like unearthly beings, gliding before the eye,
and cleaving the air with frantic and unmeaning gestures; while the savage
passions of such as passed the flames were
rendered fearfully distinct by the gleams that shot athwart their inflamed visages.
It will easily be understood that, amid such a concourse of vindictive enemies, no
breathing time was allowed the fugitive.
There was a single moment when it seemed as if he would have reached the forest, but
the whole body of his captors threw themselves before him, and drove him back
into the center of his relentless persecutors.
Turning like a headed deer, he shot, with the swiftness of an arrow, through a pillar
of forked flame, and passing the whole multitude harmless, he appeared on the
opposite side of the clearing.
Here, too, he was met and turned by a few of the older and more subtle of the Hurons.
Once more he tried the throng, as if seeking safety in its blindness, and then
several moments succeeded, during which Duncan believed the active and courageous
young stranger was lost.
Nothing could be distinguished but a dark mass of human forms tossed and involved in
inexplicable confusion.
Arms, gleaming knives, and formidable clubs, appeared above them, but the blows
were evidently given at random.
The awful effect was heightened by the piercing shrieks of the women and the
fierce yells of the warriors.
Now and then Duncan caught a glimpse of a light form cleaving the air in some
desperate bound, and he rather hoped than believed that the captive yet retained the
command of his astonishing powers of activity.
Suddenly the multitude rolled backward, and approached the spot where he himself stood.
The heavy body in the rear pressed upon the women and children in front, and bore them
to the earth. The stranger reappeared in the confusion.
Human power could not, however, much longer endure so severe a trial.
Of this the captive seemed conscious.
Profiting by the momentary opening, he darted from among the warriors, and made a
desperate, and what seemed to Duncan a final effort to gain the wood.
As if aware that no danger was to be apprehended from the young soldier, the
fugitive nearly brushed his person in his flight.
A tall and powerful Huron, who had husbanded his forces, pressed close upon
his heels, and with an uplifted arm menaced a fatal blow.
Duncan thrust forth a foot, and the shock precipitated the eager savage headlong,
many feet in advance of his intended victim.
Thought itself is not quicker than was the motion with which the latter profited by
the advantage; he turned, gleamed like a meteor again before the eyes of Duncan,
and, at the next moment, when the latter
recovered his recollection, and gazed around in quest of the captive, he saw him
quietly leaning against a small painted post, which stood before the door of the
principal lodge.
Apprehensive that the part he had taken in the escape might prove fatal to himself,
Duncan left the place without delay.
He followed the crowd, which drew nigh the lodges, gloomy and sullen, like any other
multitude that had been disappointed in an execution.
Curiosity, or perhaps a better feeling, induced him to approach the stranger.
He found him, standing with one arm cast about the protecting post, and breathing
thick and hard, after his exertions, but disdaining to permit a single sign of
suffering to escape.
His person was now protected by immemorial and sacred usage, until the tribe in
council had deliberated and determined on his fate.
It was not difficult, however, to foretell the result, if any presage could be drawn
from the feelings of those who crowded the place.
There was no term of abuse known to the Huron vocabulary that the disappointed
women did not lavishly expend on the successful stranger.
They flouted at his efforts, and told him, with bitter scoffs, that his feet were
better than his hands; and that he merited wings, while he knew not the use of an
arrow or a knife.
To all this the captive made no reply; but was content to preserve an attitude in
which dignity was singularly blended with disdain.
Exasperated as much by his composure as by his good-fortune, their words became
unintelligible, and were succeeded by shrill, piercing yells.
Just then the crafty squaw, who had taken the necessary precaution to fire the piles,
made her way through the throng, and cleared a place for herself in front of the
The squalid and withered person of this hag might well have obtained for her the
character of possessing more than human cunning.
Throwing back her light vestment, she stretched forth her long, skinny arm, in
derision, and using the language of the Lenape, as more intelligible to the subject
of her gibes, she commenced aloud:
"Look you, Delaware," she said, snapping her fingers in his face; "your nation is a
race of women, and the hoe is better fitted to your hands than the gun.
Your squaws are the mothers of deer; but if a bear, or a wildcat, or a serpent were
born among you, ye would flee. The Huron girls shall make you petticoats,
and we will find you a husband."
A burst of savage laughter succeeded this attack, during which the soft and musical
merriment of the younger females strangely chimed with the cracked voice of their
older and more malignant companion.
But the stranger was superior to all their efforts.
His head was immovable; nor did he betray the slightest consciousness that any were
present, except when his haughty eye rolled toward the dusky forms of the warriors, who
stalked in the background silent and sullen observers of the scene.
Infuriated at the self-command of the captive, the woman placed her arms akimbo;
and, throwing herself into a posture of defiance, she broke out anew, in a torrent
of words that no art of ours could commit successfully to paper.
Her breath was, however, expended in vain; for, although distinguished in her nation
as a proficient in the art of abuse, she was permitted to work herself into such a
fury as actually to foam at the mouth,
without causing a muscle to vibrate in the motionless figure of the stranger.
The effect of his indifference began to extend itself to the other spectators; and
a youngster, who was just quitting the condition of a boy to enter the state of
manhood, attempted to assist the termagant,
by flourishing his tomahawk before their victim, and adding his empty boasts to the
taunts of the women.
Then, indeed, the captive turned his face toward the light, and looked down on the
stripling with an expression that was superior to contempt.
At the next moment he resumed his quiet and reclining attitude against the post.
But the change of posture had permitted Duncan to exchange glances with the firm
and piercing eyes of Uncas.
Breathless with amazement, and heavily oppressed with the critical situation of
his friend, Heyward recoiled before the look, trembling lest its meaning might, in
some unknown manner, hasten the prisoner's fate.
There was not, however, any instant cause for such an apprehension.
Just then a warrior forced his way into the exasperated crowd.
Motioning the women and children aside with a stern gesture, he took Uncas by the arm,
and led him toward the door of the council- lodge.
Thither all the chiefs, and most of the distinguished warriors, followed; among
whom the anxious Heyward found means to enter without attracting any dangerous
attention to himself.
A few minutes were consumed in disposing of those present in a manner suitable to their
rank and influence in the tribe.
An order very similar to that adopted in the preceding interview was observed; the
aged and superior chiefs occupying the area of the spacious apartment, within the
powerful light of a glaring torch, while
their juniors and inferiors were arranged in the background, presenting a dark
outline of swarthy and marked visages.
In the very center of the lodge, immediately under an opening that admitted
the twinkling light of one or two stars, stood Uncas, calm, elevated, and collected.
His high and haughty carriage was not lost on his captors, who often bent their looks
on his person, with eyes which, while they lost none of their inflexibility of
purpose, plainly betrayed their admiration of the stranger's daring.
The case was different with the individual whom Duncan had observed to stand forth
with his friend, previously to the desperate trial of speed; and who, instead
of joining in the chase, had remained,
throughout its turbulent uproar, like a cringing statue, expressive of shame and
Though not a hand had been extended to greet him, nor yet an eye had condescended
to watch his movements, he had also entered the lodge, as though impelled by a fate to
whose decrees he submitted, seemingly, without a struggle.
Heyward profited by the first opportunity to gaze in his face, secretly apprehensive
he might find the features of another acquaintance; but they proved to be those
of a stranger, and, what was still more
inexplicable, of one who bore all the distinctive marks of a Huron warrior.
Instead of mingling with his tribe, however, he sat apart, a solitary being in
a multitude, his form shrinking into a crouching and abject attitude, as if
anxious to fill as little space as possible.
When each individual had taken his proper station, and silence reigned in the place,
the gray-haired chief already introduced to the reader, spoke aloud, in the language of
the Lenni Lenape.
"Delaware," he said, "though one of a nation of women, you have proved yourself a
man. I would give you food; but he who eats with
a Huron should become his friend.
Rest in peace till the morning sun, when our last words shall be spoken."
"Seven nights, and as many summer days, have I fasted on the trail of the Hurons,"
Uncas coldly replied; "the children of the Lenape know how to travel the path of the
just without lingering to eat."
"Two of my young men are in pursuit of your companion," resumed the other, without
appearing to regard the boast of his captive; "when they get back, then will our
wise man say to you 'live' or 'die'."
"Has a Huron no ears?" scornfully exclaimed Uncas; "twice, since he has been your
prisoner, has the Delaware heard a gun that he knows.
Your young men will never come back!"
A short and sullen pause succeeded this bold assertion.
Duncan, who understood the Mohican to allude to the fatal rifle of the scout,
bent forward in earnest observation of the effect it might produce on the conquerors;
but the chief was content with simply retorting:
"If the Lenape are so skillful, why is one of their bravest warriors here?"
"He followed in the steps of a flying coward, and fell into a snare.
The cunning beaver may be caught."
As Uncas thus replied, he pointed with his finger toward the solitary Huron, but
without deigning to bestow any other notice on so unworthy an object.
The words of the answer and the air of the speaker produced a strong sensation among
his auditors.
Every eye rolled sullenly toward the individual indicated by the simple gesture,
and a low, threatening murmur passed through the crowd.
The ominous sounds reached the outer door, and the women and children pressing into
the throng, no gap had been left, between shoulder and shoulder, that was not now
filled with the dark lineaments of some eager and curious human countenance.
In the meantime, the more aged chiefs, in the center, communed with each other in
short and broken sentences.
Not a word was uttered that did not convey the meaning of the speaker, in the simplest
and most energetic form. Again, a long and deeply solemn pause took
It was known, by all present, to be the brave precursor of a weighty and important
They who composed the outer circle of faces were on tiptoe to gaze; and even the
culprit for an instant forgot his shame in a deeper emotion, and exposed his abject
features, in order to cast an anxious and
troubled glance at the dark assemblage of chiefs.
The silence was finally broken by the aged warrior so often named.
He arose from the earth, and moving past the immovable form of Uncas, placed himself
in a dignified attitude before the offender.
At that moment, the withered squaw already mentioned moved into the circle, in a slow,
sidling sort of a dance, holding the torch, and muttering the indistinct words of what
might have been a species of incantation.
Though her presence was altogether an intrusion, it was unheeded.
Approaching Uncas, she held the blazing brand in such a manner as to cast its red
glare on his person, and to expose the slightest emotion of his countenance.
The Mohican maintained his firm and haughty attitude; and his eyes, so far from
deigning to meet her inquisitive look, dwelt steadily on the distance, as though
it penetrated the obstacles which impeded the view and looked into futurity.
Satisfied with her examination, she left him, with a slight expression of pleasure,
and proceeded to practise the same trying experiment on her delinquent countryman.
The young Huron was in his war paint, and very little of a finely molded form was
concealed by his attire.
The light rendered every limb and joint discernible, and Duncan turned away in
horror when he saw they were writhing in irrepressible agony.
The woman was commencing a low and plaintive howl at the sad and shameful
spectacle, when the chief put forth his hand and gently pushed her aside.
"Reed-that-bends," he said, addressing the young culprit by name, and in his proper
language, "though the Great Spirit has made you pleasant to the eyes, it would have
been better that you had not been born.
Your tongue is loud in the village, but in battle it is still.
None of my young men strike the tomahawk deeper into the war-post--none of them so
lightly on the Yengeese.
The enemy know the shape of your back, but they have never seen the color of your
Three times have they called on you to come, and as often did you forget to
answer. Your name will never be mentioned again in
your tribe--it is already forgotten."
As the chief slowly uttered these words, pausing impressively between each sentence,
the culprit raised his face, in deference to the other's rank and years.
Shame, horror, and pride struggled in its lineaments.
His eye, which was contracted with inward anguish, gleamed on the persons of those
whose breath was his fame; and the latter emotion for an instant predominated.
He arose to his feet, and baring his bosom, looked steadily on the keen, glittering
knife, that was already upheld by his inexorable judge.
As the weapon passed slowly into his heart he even smiled, as if in joy at having
found death less dreadful than he had anticipated, and fell heavily on his face,
at the feet of the rigid and unyielding form of Uncas.
The squaw gave a loud and plaintive yell, dashed the torch to the earth, and buried
everything in darkness.
The whole shuddering group of spectators glided from the lodge like troubled
sprites; and Duncan thought that he and the yet throbbing body of the victim of an
Indian judgment had now become its only tenants.
"Thus spoke the sage: the kings without delay Dissolve the council, and their chief
obey." --Pope's Iliad
A single moment served to convince the youth that he was mistaken.
A hand was laid, with a powerful pressure, on his arm, and the low voice of Uncas
muttered in his ear:
"The Hurons are dogs. The sight of a coward's blood can never
make a warrior tremble. The 'Gray Head' and the Sagamore are safe,
and the rifle of Hawkeye is not asleep.
Go--Uncas and the 'Open Hand' are now strangers.
It is enough."
Heyward would gladly have heard more, but a gentle push from his friend urged him
toward the door, and admonished him of the danger that might attend the discovery of
their intercourse.
Slowly and reluctantly yielding to the necessity, he quitted the place, and
mingled with the throng that hovered nigh.
The dying fires in the clearing cast a dim and uncertain light on the dusky figures
that were silently stalking to and fro; and occasionally a brighter gleam than common
glanced into the lodge, and exhibited the
figure of Uncas still maintaining its upright attitude near the dead body of the
A knot of warriors soon entered the place again, and reissuing, they bore the
senseless remains into the adjacent woods.
After this termination of the scene, Duncan wandered among the lodges, unquestioned and
unnoticed, endeavoring to find some trace of her in whose behalf he incurred the risk
he ran.
In the present temper of the tribe it would have been easy to have fled and rejoined
his companions, had such a wish crossed his mind.
But, in addition to the never-ceasing anxiety on account of Alice, a fresher
though feebler interest in the fate of Uncas assisted to chain him to the spot.
He continued, therefore, to stray from hut to hut, looking into each only to encounter
additional disappointment, until he had made the entire circuit of the village.
Abandoning a species of inquiry that proved so fruitless, he retraced his steps to the
council-lodge, resolved to seek and question David, in order to put an end to
his doubts.
On reaching the building, which had proved alike the seat of judgment and the place of
execution, the young man found that the excitement had already subsided.
The warriors had reassembled, and were now calmly smoking, while they conversed
gravely on the chief incidents of their recent expedition to the head of the
Though the return of Duncan was likely to remind them of his character, and the
suspicious circumstances of his visit, it produced no visible sensation.
So far, the terrible scene that had just occurred proved favorable to his views, and
he required no other prompter than his own feelings to convince him of the expediency
of profiting by so unexpected an advantage.
Without seeming to hesitate, he walked into the lodge, and took his seat with a gravity
that accorded admirably with the deportment of his hosts.
A hasty but searching glance sufficed to tell him that, though Uncas still remained
where he had left him, David had not reappeared.
No other restraint was imposed on the former than the watchful looks of a young
Huron, who had placed himself at hand; though an armed warrior leaned against the
post that formed one side of the narrow doorway.
In every other respect, the captive seemed at liberty; still he was excluded from all
participation in the discourse, and possessed much more of the air of some
finely molded statue than a man having life and volition.
Heyward had too recently witnessed a frightful instance of the prompt
punishments of the people into whose hands he had fallen to hazard an exposure by any
officious boldness.
He would greatly have preferred silence and meditation to speech, when a discovery of
his real condition might prove so instantly fatal.
Unfortunately for this prudent resolution, his entertainers appeared otherwise
He had not long occupied the seat wisely taken a little in the shade, when another
of the elder warriors, who spoke the French language, addressed him:
"My Canada father does not forget his children," said the chief; "I thank him.
An evil spirit lives in the wife of one of my young men.
Can the cunning stranger frighten him away?"
Heyward possessed some knowledge of the mummery practised among the Indians, in the
cases of such supposed visitations.
He saw, at a glance, that the circumstance might possibly be improved to further his
own ends.
It would, therefore, have been difficult, just then to have uttered a proposal that
would have given him more satisfaction.
Aware of the necessity of preserving the dignity of his imaginary character,
however, he repressed his feelings, and answered with suitable mystery:
"Spirits differ; some yield to the power of wisdom, while others are too strong."
"My brother is a great medicine," said the cunning savage; "he will try?"
A gesture of assent was the answer.
The Huron was content with the assurance, and, resuming his pipe, he awaited the
proper moment to move.
The impatient Heyward, inwardly execrating the cold customs of the savages, which
required such sacrifices to appearance, was fain to assume an air of indifference,
equal to that maintained by the chief, who
was, in truth, a near relative of the afflicted woman.
The minutes lingered, and the delay had seemed an hour to the adventurer in
empiricism, when the Huron laid aside his pipe and drew his robe across his breast,
as if about to lead the way to the lodge of the invalid.
Just then, a warrior of powerful frame, darkened the door, and stalking silently
among the attentive group, he seated himself on one end of the low pile of brush
which sustained Duncan.
The latter cast an impatient look at his neighbor, and felt his flesh creep with
uncontrollable horror when he found himself in actual contact with Magua.
The sudden return of this artful and dreaded chief caused a delay in the
departure of the Huron.
Several pipes, that had been extinguished, were lighted again; while the newcomer,
without speaking a word, drew his tomahawk from his girdle, and filling the bowl on
its head began to inhale the vapors of the
weed through the hollow handle, with as much indifference as if he had not been
absent two weary days on a long and toilsome hunt.
Ten minutes, which appeared so many ages to Duncan, might have passed in this manner;
and the warriors were fairly enveloped in a cloud of white smoke before any of them
"Welcome!" one at length uttered; "has my friend found the moose?"
"The young men stagger under their burdens," returned Magua.
"Let 'Reed-that-bends' go on the hunting path; he will meet them."
A deep and awful silence succeeded the utterance of the forbidden name.
Each pipe dropped from the lips of its owner as though all had inhaled an impurity
at the same instant.
The smoke wreathed above their heads in little eddies, and curling in a spiral form
it ascended swiftly through the opening in the roof of the lodge, leaving the place
beneath clear of its fumes, and each dark visage distinctly visible.
The looks of most of the warriors were riveted on the earth; though a few of the
younger and less gifted of the party suffered their wild and glaring eyeballs to
roll in the direction of a white-headed
savage, who sat between two of the most venerated chiefs of the tribe.
There was nothing in the air or attire of this Indian that would seem to entitle him
to such a distinction.
The former was rather depressed, than remarkable for the bearing of the natives;
and the latter was such as was commonly worn by the ordinary men of the nation.
Like most around him for more than a minute his look, too, was on the ground; but,
trusting his eyes at length to steal a glance aside, he perceived that he was
becoming an object of general attention.
Then he arose and lifted his voice in the general silence.
"It was a lie," he said; "I had no son.
He who was called by that name is forgotten; his blood was pale, and it came
not from the veins of a Huron; the wicked Chippewas cheated my squaw.
The Great Spirit has said, that the family of Wiss-entush should end; he is happy who
knows that the evil of his race dies with himself.
I have done."
The speaker, who was the father of the recreant young Indian, looked round and
about him, as if seeking commendation of his stoicism in the eyes of the auditors.
But the stern customs of his people had made too severe an exaction of the feeble
old man.
The expression of his eye contradicted his figurative and boastful language, while
every muscle in his wrinkled visage was working with anguish.
Standing a single minute to enjoy his bitter triumph, he turned away, as if
sickening at the gaze of men, and, veiling his face in his blanket, he walked from the
lodge with the noiseless step of an Indian
seeking, in the privacy of his own abode, the sympathy of one like himself, aged,
forlorn and childless.
The Indians, who believe in the hereditary transmission of virtues and defects in
character, suffered him to depart in silence.
Then, with an elevation of breeding that many in a more cultivated state of society
might profitably emulate, one of the chiefs drew the attention of the young men from
the weakness they had just witnessed, by
saying, in a cheerful voice, addressing himself in courtesy to Magua, as the newest
comer: "The Delawares have been like bears after
the honey pots, prowling around my village.
But who has ever found a Huron asleep?" The darkness of the impending cloud which
precedes a burst of thunder was not blacker than the brow of Magua as he exclaimed:
"The Delawares of the Lakes!"
"Not so. They who wear the petticoats of squaws, on
their own river. One of them has been passing the tribe."
"Did my young men take his scalp?"
"His legs were good, though his arm is better for the hoe than the tomahawk,"
returned the other, pointing to the immovable form of Uncas.
Instead of manifesting any womanish curiosity to feast his eyes with the sight
of a captive from a people he was known to have so much reason to hate, Magua
continued to smoke, with the meditative air
that he usually maintained, when there was no immediate call on his cunning or his
Although secretly amazed at the facts communicated by the speech of the aged
father, he permitted himself to ask no questions, reserving his inquiries for a
more suitable moment.
It was only after a sufficient interval that he shook the ashes from his pipe,
replaced the tomahawk, tightened his girdle, and arose, casting for the first
time a glance in the direction of the prisoner, who stood a little behind him.
The wary, though seemingly abstracted Uncas, caught a glimpse of the movement,
and turning suddenly to the light, their looks met.
Near a minute these two bold and untamed spirits stood regarding one another
steadily in the eye, neither quailing in the least before the fierce gaze he
The form of Uncas dilated, and his nostrils opened like those of a tiger at bay; but so
rigid and unyielding was his posture, that he might easily have been converted by the
imagination into an exquisite and faultless
representation of the warlike deity of his tribe.
The lineaments of the quivering features of Magua proved more ductile; his countenance
gradually lost its character of defiance in an expression of ferocious joy, and heaving
a breath from the very bottom of his chest, he pronounced aloud the formidable name of:
"Le Cerf Agile!"
Each warrior sprang upon his feet at the utterance of the well-known appellation,
and there was a short period during which the stoical constancy of the natives was
completely conquered by surprise.
The hated and yet respected name was repeated as by one voice, carrying the
sound even beyond the limits of the lodge.
The women and children, who lingered around the entrance, took up the words in an echo,
which was succeeded by another shrill and plaintive howl.
The latter was not yet ended, when the sensation among the men had entirely
Each one in presence seated himself, as though ashamed of his precipitation; but it
was many minutes before their meaning eyes ceased to roll toward their captive, in
curious examination of a warrior who had so
often proved his prowess on the best and proudest of their nation.
Uncas enjoyed his victory, but was content with merely exhibiting his triumph by a
quiet smile--an emblem of scorn which belongs to all time and every nation.
Magua caught the expression, and raising his arm, he shook it at the captive, the
light silver ornaments attached to his bracelet rattling with the trembling
agitation of the limb, as, in a tone of vengeance, he exclaimed, in English:
"Mohican, you die!"
"The healing waters will never bring the dead Hurons to life," returned Uncas, in
the music of the Delawares; "the tumbling river washes their bones; their men are
squaws: their women owls.
Go! call together the Huron dogs, that they may look upon a warrior, My nostrils are
offended; they scent the blood of a coward."
The latter allusion struck deep, and the injury rankled.
Many of the Hurons understood the strange tongue in which the captive spoke, among
which number was Magua.
This cunning savage beheld, and instantly profited by his advantage.
Dropping the light robe of skin from his shoulder, he stretched forth his arm, and
commenced a burst of his dangerous and artful eloquence.
However much his influence among his people had been impaired by his occasional and
besetting weakness, as well as by his desertion of the tribe, his courage and his
fame as an orator were undeniable.
He never spoke without auditors, and rarely without making converts to his opinions.
On the present occasion, his native powers were stimulated by the thirst of revenge.
He again recounted the events of the attack on the island at Glenn's, the death of his
associates and the escape of their most formidable enemies.
Then he described the nature and position of the mount whither he had led such
captives as had fallen into their hands.
Of his own bloody intentions toward the maidens, and of his baffled malice he made
no mention, but passed rapidly on to the surprise of the party by "La Longue
Carabine," and its fatal termination.
Here he paused, and looked about him, in affected veneration for the departed, but,
in truth, to note the effect of his opening narrative.
As usual, every eye was riveted on his face.
Each dusky figure seemed a breathing statue, so motionless was the posture, so
intense the attention of the individual.
Then Magua dropped his voice which had hitherto been clear, strong and elevated,
and touched upon the merits of the dead. No quality that was likely to command the
sympathy of an Indian escaped his notice.
One had never been known to follow the chase in vain; another had been
indefatigable on the trail of their enemies.
This was brave, that generous.
In short, he so managed his allusions, that in a nation which was composed of so few
families, he contrived to strike every chord that might find, in its turn, some
breast in which to vibrate.
"Are the bones of my young men," he concluded, "in the burial-place of the
Hurons? You know they are not.
Their spirits are gone toward the setting sun, and are already crossing the great
waters, to the happy hunting-grounds.
But they departed without food, without guns or knives, without moccasins, naked
and poor as they were born. Shall this be?
Are their souls to enter the land of the just like hungry Iroquois or unmanly
Delawares, or shall they meet their friends with arms in their hands and robes on their
What will our fathers think the tribes of the Wyandots have become?
They will look on their children with a dark eye, and say, 'Go! a Chippewa has come
hither with the name of a Huron.'
Brothers, we must not forget the dead; a red-skin never ceases to remember.
We will load the back of this Mohican until he staggers under our bounty, and dispatch
him after my young men.
They call to us for aid, though our ears are not open; they say, 'Forget us not.'
When they see the spirit of this Mohican toiling after them with his burden, they
will know we are of that mind.
Then will they go on happy; and our children will say, 'So did our fathers to
their friends, so must we do to them.' What is a Yengee? we have slain many, but
the earth is still pale.
A stain on the name of Huron can only be hid by blood that comes from the veins of
an Indian. Let this Delaware die."
The effect of such an harangue, delivered in the nervous language and with the
emphatic manner of a Huron orator, could scarcely be mistaken.
Magua had so artfully blended the natural sympathies with the religious superstition
of his auditors, that their minds, already prepared by custom to sacrifice a victim to
the manes of their countrymen, lost every vestige of humanity in a wish for revenge.
One warrior in particular, a man of wild and ferocious mien, had been conspicuous
for the attention he had given to the words of the speaker.
His countenance had changed with each passing emotion, until it settled into a
look of deadly malice.
As Magua ended he arose and, uttering the yell of a demon, his polished little axe
was seen glancing in the torchlight as he whirled it above his head.
The motion and the cry were too sudden for words to interrupt his bloody intention.
It appeared as if a bright gleam shot from his hand, which was crossed at the same
moment by a dark and powerful line.
The former was the tomahawk in its passage; the latter the arm that Magua darted
forward to divert its aim. The quick and ready motion of the chief was
not entirely too late.
The keen weapon cut the war plume from the scalping tuft of Uncas, and passed through
the frail wall of the lodge as though it were hurled from some formidable engine.
Duncan had seen the threatening action, and sprang upon his feet, with a heart which,
while it leaped into his throat, swelled with the most generous resolution in behalf
of his friend.
A glance told him that the blow had failed, and terror changed to admiration.
Uncas stood still, looking his enemy in the eye with features that seemed superior to
Marble could not be colder, calmer, or steadier than the countenance he put upon
this sudden and vindictive attack.
Then, as if pitying a want of skill which had proved so fortunate to himself, he
smiled, and muttered a few words of contempt in his own tongue.
"No!" said Magua, after satisfying himself of the safety of the captive; "the sun must
shine on his shame; the squaws must see his flesh tremble, or our revenge will be like
the play of boys.
Go! take him where there is silence; let us see if a Delaware can sleep at night, and
in the morning die."
The young men whose duty it was to guard the prisoner instantly passed their
ligaments of bark across his arms, and led him from the lodge, amid a profound and
ominous silence.
It was only as the figure of Uncas stood in the opening of the door that his firm step
There he turned, and, in the sweeping and haughty glance that he threw around the
circle of his enemies, Duncan caught a look which he was glad to construe into an
expression that he was not entirely deserted by hope.
Magua was content with his success, or too much occupied with his secret purposes to
push his inquiries any further.
Shaking his mantle, and folding it on his bosom, he also quitted the place, without
pursuing a subject which might have proved so fatal to the individual at his elbow.
Notwithstanding his rising resentment, his natural firmness, and his anxiety on behalf
of Uncas, Heyward felt sensibly relieved by the absence of so dangerous and so subtle a
The excitement produced by the speech gradually subsided.
The warriors resumed their seats and clouds of smoke once more filled the lodge.
For near half an hour, not a syllable was uttered, or scarcely a look cast aside; a
grave and meditative silence being the ordinary succession to every scene of
violence and commotion among these beings,
who were alike so impetuous and yet so self-restrained.
When the chief, who had solicited the aid of Duncan, finished his pipe, he made a
final and successful movement toward departing.
A motion of a finger was the intimation he gave the supposed physician to follow; and
passing through the clouds of smoke, Duncad was glad, on more accounts than one, to be
able at last to breathe the pure air of a cool and refreshing summer evening.
Instead of pursuing his way among those lodges where Heyward had already made his
unsuccessful search, his companion turned aside, and proceeded directly toward the
base of an adjacent mountain, which overhung the temporary village.
A thicket of brush skirted its foot, and it became necessary to proceed through a
crooked and narrow path.
The boys had resumed their sports in the clearing, and were enacting a mimic chase
to the post among themselves.
In order to render their games as like the reality as possible, one of the boldest of
their number had conveyed a few brands into some piles of tree-tops that had hitherto
escaped the burning.
The blaze of one of these fires lighted the way of the chief and Duncan, and gave a
character of additional wildness to the rude scenery.
At a little distance from a bald rock, and directly in its front, they entered a
grassy opening, which they prepared to cross.
Just then fresh fuel was added to the fire, and a powerful light penetrated even to
that distant spot.
It fell upon the white surface of the mountain, and was reflected downward upon a
dark and mysterious-looking being that arose, unexpectedly, in their path.
The Indian paused, as if doubtful whether to proceed, and permitted his companion to
approach his side.
A large black ball, which at first seemed stationary, now began to move in a manner
that to the latter was inexplicable. Again the fire brightened and its glare
fell more distinctly on the object.
Then even Duncan knew it, by its restless and sidling attitudes, which kept the upper
part of its form in constant motion, while the animal itself appeared seated, to be a
Though it growled loudly and fiercely, and there were instants when its glistening
eyeballs might be seen, it gave no other indications of hostility.
The Huron, at least, seemed assured that the intentions of this singular intruder
were peaceable, for after giving it an attentive examination, he quietly pursued
his course.
Duncan, who knew that the animal was often domesticated among the Indians, followed
the example of his companion, believing that some favorite of the tribe had found
its way into the thicket, in search of food.
They passed it unmolested.
Though obliged to come nearly in contact with the monster, the Huron, who had at
first so warily determined the character of his strange visitor, was now content with
proceeding without wasting a moment in
further examination; but Heyward was unable to prevent his eyes from looking backward,
in salutary watchfulness against attacks in the rear.
His uneasiness was in no degree diminished when he perceived the beast rolling along
their path, and following their footsteps.
He would have spoken, but the Indian at that moment shoved aside a door of bark,
and entered a cavern in the bosom of the mountain.
Profiting by so easy a method of retreat, Duncan stepped after him, and was gladly
closing the slight cover to the opening, when he felt it drawn from his hand by the
beast, whose shaggy form immediately darkened the passage.
They were now in a straight and long gallery, in a chasm of the rocks, where
retreat without encountering the animal was impossible.
Making the best of the circumstances, the young man pressed forward, keeping as close
as possible to his conductor.
The bear growled frequently at his heels, and once or twice its enormous paws were
laid on his person, as if disposed to prevent his further passage into the den.
How long the nerves of Heyward would have sustained him in this extraordinary
situation, it might be difficult to decide, for, happily, he soon found relief.
A glimmer of light had constantly been in their front, and they now arrived at the
place whence it proceeded.
A large cavity in the rock had been rudely fitted to answer the purposes of many
The subdivisions were simple but ingenious, being composed of stone, sticks, and bark,
Openings above admitted the light by day, and at night fires and torches supplied the
place of the sun.
Hither the Hurons had brought most of their valuables, especially those which more
particularly pertained to the nation; and hither, as it now appeared, the sick woman,
who was believed to be the victim of
supernatural power, had been transported also, under an impression that her
tormentor would find more difficulty in making his assaults through walls of stone
than through the leafy coverings of the lodges.
The apartment into which Duncan and his guide first entered, had been exclusively
devoted to her accommodation.
The latter approached her bedside, which was surrounded by females, in the center of
whom Heyward was surprised to find his missing friend David.
A single look was sufficient to apprise the pretended leech that the invalid was far
beyond his powers of healing.
She lay in a sort of paralysis, indifferent to the objects which crowded before her
sight, and happily unconscious of suffering.
Heyward was far from regretting that his mummeries were to be performed on one who
was much too ill to take an interest in their failure or success.
The slight qualm of conscience which had been excited by the intended deception was
instantly appeased, and he began to collect his thoughts, in order to enact his part
with suitable spirit, when he found he was
about to be anticipated in his skill by an attempt to prove the power of music.
Gamut, who had stood prepared to pour forth his spirit in song when the visitors
entered, after delaying a moment, drew a strain from his pipe, and commenced a hymn
that might have worked a miracle, had faith in its efficacy been of much avail.
He was allowed to proceed to the close, the Indians respecting his imaginary infirmity,
and Duncan too glad of the delay to hazard the slightest interruption.
As the dying cadence of his strains was falling on the ears of the latter, he
started aside at hearing them repeated behind him, in a voice half human and half
Looking around, he beheld the shaggy monster seated on end in a shadow of the
cavern, where, while his restless body swung in the uneasy manner of the animal,
it repeated, in a sort of low growl,
sounds, if not words, which bore some slight resemblance to the melody of the
singer. The effect of so strange an echo on David
may better be imagined than described.
His eyes opened as if he doubted their truth; and his voice became instantly mute
in excess of wonder.
A deep-laid scheme, of communicating some important intelligence to Heyward, was
driven from his recollection by an emotion which very nearly resembled fear, but which
he was fain to believe was admiration.
Under its influence, he exclaimed aloud: "She expects you, and is at hand"; and
precipitately left the cavern.
"Snug.--Have you the lion's part written? Pray you, if it be, give it to me, for I am
slow of study.
Quince.--You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring."
--Midsummer Night's Dream.
There was a strange blending of the ridiculous with that which was solemn in
this scene.
The beast still continued its rolling, and apparently untiring movements, though its
ludicrous attempt to imitate the melody of David ceased the instant the latter
abandoned the field.
The words of Gamut were, as has been seen, in his native tongue; and to Duncan they
seem pregnant with some hidden meaning, though nothing present assisted him in
discovering the object of their allusion.
A speedy end was, however, put to every conjecture on the subject, by the manner of
the chief, who advanced to the bedside of the invalid, and beckoned away the whole
group of female attendants that had
clustered there to witness the skill of the stranger.
He was implicitly, though reluctantly, obeyed; and when the low echo which rang
along the hollow, natural gallery, from the distant closing door, had ceased, pointing
toward his insensible daughter, he said:
"Now let my brother show his power." Thus unequivocally called on to exercise
the functions of his assumed character, Heyward was apprehensive that the smallest
delay might prove dangerous.
Endeavoring, then, to collect his ideas, he prepared to perform that species of
incantation, and those uncouth rites, under which the Indian conjurers are accustomed
to conceal their ignorance and impotency.
It is more than probable that, in the disordered state of his thoughts, he would
soon have fallen into some suspicious, if not fatal, error had not his incipient
attempts been interrupted by a fierce growl from the quadruped.
Three several times did he renew his efforts to proceed, and as often was he met
by the same unaccountable opposition, each interruption seeming more savage and
threatening than the preceding.
"The cunning ones are jealous," said the Huron; "I go.
Brother, the woman is the wife of one of my bravest young men; deal justly by her.
Peace!" he added, beckoning to the discontented beast to be quiet; "I go."
The chief was as good as his word, and Duncan now found himself alone in that wild
and desolate abode with the helpless invalid and the fierce and dangerous brute.
The latter listened to the movements of the Indian with that air of sagacity that a
bear is known to possess, until another echo announced that he had also left the
cavern, when it turned and came waddling up
to Duncan before whom it seated itself in its natural attitude, erect like a man.
The youth looked anxiously about him for some weapon, with which he might make a
resistance against the attack he now seriously expected.
It seemed, however, as if the humor of the animal had suddenly changed.
Instead of continuing its discontented growls, or manifesting any further signs of
anger, the whole of its shaggy body shook violently, as if agitated by some strange
internal convulsion.
The huge and unwieldy talons pawed stupidly about the grinning muzzle, and while
Heyward kept his eyes riveted on its movements with jealous watchfulness, the
grim head fell on one side and in its place
appeared the honest sturdy countenance of the scout, who was indulging from the
bottom of his soul in his own peculiar expression of merriment.
"Hist!" said the wary woodsman, interrupting Heyward's exclamation of
surprise; "the varlets are about the place, and any sounds that are not natural to
witchcraft would bring them back upon us in a body."
"Tell me the meaning of this masquerade; and why you have attempted so desperate an
"Ah, reason and calculation are often outdone by accident," returned the scout.
"But, as a story should always commence at the beginning, I will tell you the whole in
After we parted I placed the commandant and the Sagamore in an old beaver lodge, where
they are safer from the Hurons than they would be in the garrison of Edward; for
your high north-west Indians, not having as
yet got the traders among them, continued to venerate the beaver.
After which Uncas and I pushed for the other encampment as was agreed.
Have you seen the lad?"
"To my great grief! He is captive, and condemned to die at the
rising of the sun."
"I had misgivings that such would be his fate," resumed the scout, in a less
confident and joyous tone.
But soon regaining his naturally firm voice, he continued: "His bad fortune is
the true reason of my being here, for it would never do to abandon such a boy to the
A rare time the knaves would have of it, could they tie 'The Bounding Elk' and 'The
Long Carabine', as they call me, to the same stake!
Though why they have given me such a name I never knew, there being as little likeness
between the gifts of 'killdeer' and the performance of one of your real Canada
carabynes, as there is between the natur' of a pipe-stone and a flint."
"Keep to your tale," said the impatient Heyward; "we know not at what moment the
Hurons may return."
"No fear of them. A conjurer must have his time, like a
straggling priest in the settlements.
We are as safe from interruption as a missionary would be at the beginning of a
two hours' discourse.
Well, Uncas and I fell in with a return party of the varlets; the lad was much too
forward for a scout; nay, for that matter, being of hot blood, he was not so much to
blame; and, after all, one of the Hurons
proved a coward, and in fleeing led him into an ambushment."
"And dearly has he paid for the weakness."
The scout significantly passed his hand across his own throat, and nodded, as if he
said, "I comprehend your meaning." After which he continued, in a more audible
though scarcely more intelligible language:
"After the loss of the boy I turned upon the Hurons, as you may judge.
There have been scrimmages atween one or two of their outlyers and myself; but that
is neither here nor there.
So, after I had shot the imps, I got in pretty nigh to the lodges without further
Then what should luck do in my favor but lead me to the very spot where one of the
most famous conjurers of the tribe was dressing himself, as I well knew, for some
great battle with Satan--though why should
I call that luck, which it now seems was an especial ordering of Providence.
So a judgmatical rap over the head stiffened the lying impostor for a time,
and leaving him a bit of walnut for his supper, to prevent an uproar, and stringing
him up atween two saplings, I made free
with his finery, and took the part of the bear on myself, in order that the
operations might proceed."
"And admirably did you enact the character; the animal itself might have been shamed by
the representation."
"Lord, major," returned the flattered woodsman, "I should be but a poor scholar
for one who has studied so long in the wilderness, did I not know how to set forth
the movements or natur' of such a beast.
Had it been now a catamount, or even a full-size panther, I would have embellished
a performance for you worth regarding.
But it is no such marvelous feat to exhibit the feats of so dull a beast; though, for
that matter, too, a bear may be overacted.
Yes, yes; it is not every imitator that knows natur' may be outdone easier than she
is equaled. But all our work is yet before us.
Where is the gentle one?"
"Heaven knows. I have examined every lodge in the village,
without discovering the slightest trace of her presence in the tribe."
"You heard what the singer said, as he left us: 'She is at hand, and expects you'?"
"I have been compelled to believe he alluded to this unhappy woman."
"The simpleton was frightened, and blundered through his message; but he had a
deeper meaning. Here are walls enough to separate the whole
A bear ought to climb; therefore will I take a look above them.
There may be honey-pots hid in these rocks, and I am a beast, you know, that has a
hankering for the sweets."
The scout looked behind him, laughing at his own conceit, while he clambered up the
partition, imitating, as he went, the clumsy motions of the beast he represented;
but the instant the summit was gained he
made a gesture for silence, and slid down with the utmost precipitation.
"She is here," he whispered, "and by that door you will find her.
I would have spoken a word of comfort to the afflicted soul; but the sight of such a
monster might upset her reason.
Though for that matter, major, you are none of the most inviting yourself in your
Duncan, who had already swung eagerly forward, drew instantly back on hearing
these discouraging words. "Am I, then, so very revolting?" he
demanded, with an air of chagrin.
"You might not startle a wolf, or turn the Royal Americans from a discharge; but I
have seen the time when you had a better favored look; your streaked countenances
are not ill-judged of by the squaws, but
young women of white blood give the preference to their own color.
See," he added, pointing to a place where the water trickled from a rock, forming a
little crystal spring, before it found an issue through the adjacent crevices; "you
may easily get rid of the Sagamore's daub,
and when you come back I will try my hand at a new embellishment.
It's as common for a conjurer to alter his paint as for a buck in the settlements to
change his finery."
The deliberate woodsman had little occasion to hunt for arguments to enforce his
advice. He was yet speaking when Duncan availed
himself of the water.
In a moment every frightful or offensive mark was obliterated, and the youth
appeared again in the lineaments with which he had been gifted by nature.
Thus prepared for an interview with his mistress, he took a hasty leave of his
companion, and disappeared through the indicated passage.
The scout witnessed his departure with complacency, nodding his head after him,
and muttering his good wishes; after which he very coolly set about an examination of
the state of the larder, among the Hurons,
the cavern, among other purposes, being used as a receptacle for the fruits of
their hunts.
Duncan had no other guide than a distant glimmering light, which served, however,
the office of a polar star to the lover.
By its aid he was enabled to enter the haven of his hopes, which was merely
another apartment of the cavern, that had been solely appropriated to the safekeeping
of so important a prisoner as a daughter of the commandant of William Henry.
It was profusely strewed with the plunder of that unlucky fortress.
In the midst of this confusion he found her he sought, pale, anxious and terrified, but
lovely. David had prepared her for such a visit.
"Duncan!" she exclaimed, in a voice that seemed to tremble at the sounds created by
"Alice!" he answered, leaping carelessly among trunks, boxes, arms, and furniture,
until he stood at her side.
"I knew that you would never desert me," she said, looking up with a momentary glow
on her otherwise dejected countenance. "But you are alone!
Grateful as it is to be thus remembered, I could wish to think you are not entirely
Duncan, observing that she trembled in a manner which betrayed her inability to
stand, gently induced her to be seated, while he recounted those leading incidents
which it has been our task to accord.
Alice listened with breathless interest; and though the young man touched lightly on
the sorrows of the stricken father; taking care, however, not to wound the self-love
of his auditor, the tears ran as freely
down the cheeks of the daughter as though she had never wept before.
The soothing tenderness of Duncan, however, soon quieted the first burst of her
emotions, and she then heard him to the close with undivided attention, if not with
"And now, Alice," he added, "you will see how much is still expected of you.
By the assistance of our experienced and invaluable friend, the scout, we may find
our way from this savage people, but you will have to exert your utmost fortitude.
Remember that you fly to the arms of your venerable parent, and how much his
happiness, as well as your own, depends on those exertions."
"Can I do otherwise for a father who has done so much for me?"
"And for me, too," continued the youth, gently pressing the hand he held in both
his own.
The look of innocence and surprise which he received in return convinced Duncan of the
necessity of being more explicit.
"This is neither the place nor the occasion to detain you with selfish wishes," he
added; "but what heart loaded like mine would not wish to cast its burden?
They say misery is the closest of all ties; our common suffering in your behalf left
but little to be explained between your father and myself."
"And, dearest Cora, Duncan; surely Cora was not forgotten?"
"Not forgotten! no; regretted, as woman was seldom mourned before.
Your venerable father knew no difference between his children; but I--Alice, you
will not be offended when I say, that to me her worth was in a degree obscured--"
"Then you knew not the merit of my sister," said Alice, withdrawing her hand; "of you
she ever speaks as of one who is her dearest friend."
"I would gladly believe her such," returned Duncan, hastily; "I could wish her to be
even more; but with you, Alice, I have the permission of your father to aspire to a
still nearer and dearer tie."
Alice trembled violently, and there was an instant during which she bent her face
aside, yielding to the emotions common to her sex; but they quickly passed away,
leaving her mistress of her deportment, if not of her affections.
"Heyward," she said, looking him full in the face with a touching expression of
innocence and dependency, "give me the sacred presence and the holy sanction of
that parent before you urge me further."
"Though more I should not, less I could not say," the youth was about to answer, when
he was interrupted by a light tap on his shoulder.
Starting to his feet, he turned, and, confronting the intruder, his looks fell on
the dark form and malignant visage of Magua.
The deep guttural laugh of the savage sounded, at such a moment, to Duncan, like
the hellish taunt of a demon.
Had he pursued the sudden and fierce impulse of the instant, he would have cast
himself on the Huron, and committed their fortunes to the issue of a deadly struggle.
But, without arms of any description, ignorant of what succor his subtle enemy
could command, and charged with the safety of one who was just then dearer than ever
to his heart, he no sooner entertained than he abandoned the desperate intention.
"What is your purpose?" said Alice, meekly folding her arms on her bosom, and
struggling to conceal an agony of apprehension in behalf of Heyward, in the
usual cold and distant manner with which she received the visits of her captor.
The exulting Indian had resumed his austere countenance, though he drew warily back
before the menacing glance of the young man's fiery eye.
He regarded both his captives for a moment with a steady look, and then, stepping
aside, he dropped a log of wood across a door different from that by which Duncan
had entered.
The latter now comprehended the manner of his surprise, and, believing himself
irretrievably lost, he drew Alice to his bosom, and stood prepared to meet a fate
which he hardly regretted, since it was to be suffered in such company.
But Magua meditated no immediate violence.
His first measures were very evidently taken to secure his new captive; nor did he
even bestow a second glance at the motionless forms in the center of the
cavern, until he had completely cut off
every hope of retreat through the private outlet he had himself used.
He was watched in all his movements by Heyward, who, however, remained firm, still
folding the fragile form of Alice to his heart, at once too proud and too hopeless
to ask favor of an enemy so often foiled.
When Magua had effected his object he approached his prisoners, and said in
"The pale faces trap the cunning beavers; but the red-skins know how to take the
"Huron, do your worst!" exclaimed the excited Heyward, forgetful that a double
stake was involved in his life; "you and your vengeance are alike despised."
"Will the white man speak these words at the stake?" asked Magua; manifesting, at
the same time, how little faith he had in the other's resolution by the sneer that
accompanied his words.
"Here; singly to your face, or in the presence of your nation."
"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief!" returned the Indian; "he will go and bring
his young men, to see how bravely a pale face can laugh at tortures."
He turned away while speaking, and was about to leave the place through the avenue
by which Duncan had approached, when a growl caught his ear, and caused him to
The figure of the bear appeared in the door, where it sat, rolling from side to
side in its customary restlessness.
Magua, like the father of the sick woman, eyed it keenly for a moment, as if to
ascertain its character.
He was far above the more vulgar superstitions of his tribe, and so soon as
he recognized the well-known attire of the conjurer, he prepared to pass it in cool
But a louder and more threatening growl caused him again to pause.
Then he seemed as if suddenly resolved to trifle no longer, and moved resolutely
The mimic animal, which had advanced a little, retired slowly in his front, until
it arrived again at the pass, when, rearing on his hinder legs, it beat the air with
its paws, in the manner practised by its brutal prototype.
"Fool!" exclaimed the chief, in Huron, "go play with the children and squaws; leave
men to their wisdom."
He once more endeavored to pass the supposed empiric, scorning even the parade
of threatening to use the knife, or tomahawk, that was pendent from his belt.
Suddenly the beast extended its arms, or rather legs, and inclosed him in a grasp
that might have vied with the far-famed power of the "bear's hug" itself.
Heyward had watched the whole procedure, on the part of Hawkeye, with breathless
At first he relinquished his hold of Alice; then he caught up a thong of buckskin,
which had been used around some bundle, and when he beheld his enemy with his two arms
pinned to his side by the iron muscles of
the scout, he rushed upon him, and effectually secured them there.
Arms, legs, and feet were encircled in twenty folds of the thong, in less time
than we have taken to record the circumstance.
When the formidable Huron was completely pinioned, the scout released his hold, and
Duncan laid his enemy on his back, utterly helpless.
Throughout the whole of this sudden and extraordinary operation, Magua, though he
had struggled violently, until assured he was in the hands of one whose nerves were
far better strung than his own, had not uttered the slightest exclamation.
But when Hawkeye, by way of making a summary explanation of his conduct, removed
the shaggy jaws of the beast, and exposed his own rugged and earnest countenance to
the gaze of the Huron, the philosophy of
the latter was so far mastered as to permit him to utter the never failing:
"Ay, you've found your tongue," said his undisturbed conqueror; "now, in order that
you shall not use it to our ruin, I must make free to stop your mouth."
As there was no time to be lost, the scout immediately set about effecting so
necessary a precaution; and when he had gagged the Indian, his enemy might safely
have been considered as "hors de combat."
"By what place did the imp enter?" asked the industrious scout, when his work was
ended. "Not a soul has passed my way since you
left me."
Duncan pointed out the door by which Magua had come, and which now presented too many
obstacles to a quick retreat.
"Bring on the gentle one, then," continued his friend; "we must make a push for the
woods by the other outlet." "'Tis impossible!" said Duncan; "fear has
overcome her, and she is helpless.
Alice! my sweet, my own Alice, arouse yourself; now is the moment to fly.
'Tis in vain! she hears, but is unable to follow.
Go, noble and worthy friend; save yourself, and leave me to my fate."
"Every trail has its end, and every calamity brings its lesson!" returned the
"There, wrap her in them Indian cloths. Conceal all of her little form.
Nay, that foot has no fellow in the wilderness; it will betray her.
All, every part.
Now take her in your arms, and follow. Leave the rest to me."
Duncan, as may be gathered from the words of his companion, was eagerly obeying; and,
as the other finished speaking, he took the light person of Alice in his arms, and
followed in the footsteps of the scout.
They found the sick woman as they had left her, still alone, and passed swiftly on, by
the natural gallery, to the place of entrance.
As they approached the little door of bark, a murmur of voices without announced that
the friends and relatives of the invalid were gathered about the place, patiently
awaiting a summons to re-enter.
"If I open my lips to speak," Hawkeye whispered, "my English, which is the
genuine tongue of a white-skin, will tell the varlets that an enemy is among them.
You must give 'em your jargon, major; and say that we have shut the evil spirit in
the cave, and are taking the woman to the woods in order to find strengthening roots.
Practise all your cunning, for it is a lawful undertaking."
The door opened a little, as if one without was listening to the proceedings within,
and compelled the scout to cease his directions.
A fierce growl repelled the eavesdropper, and then the scout boldly threw open the
covering of bark, and left the place, enacting the character of a bear as he
Duncan kept close at his heels, and soon found himself in the center of a cluster of
twenty anxious relatives and friends.
The crowd fell back a little, and permitted the father, and one who appeared to be the
husband of the woman, to approach. "Has my brother driven away the evil
spirit?" demanded the former.
"What has he in his arms?" "Thy child," returned Duncan, gravely; "the
disease has gone out of her; it is shut up in the rocks.
I take the woman to a distance, where I will strengthen her against any further
attacks. She will be in the wigwam of the young man
when the sun comes again."
When the father had translated the meaning of the stranger's words into the Huron
language, a suppressed murmur announced the satisfaction with which this intelligence
was received.
The chief himself waved his hand for Duncan to proceed, saying aloud, in a firm voice,
and with a lofty manner: "Go; I am a man, and I will enter the rock
and fight the wicked one."
Heyward had gladly obeyed, and was already past the little group, when these startling
words arrested him. "Is my brother mad?" he exclaimed; "is he
He will meet the disease, and it will enter him; or he will drive out the disease, and
it will chase his daughter into the woods.
No; let my children wait without, and if the spirit appears beat him down with
He is cunning, and will bury himself in the mountain, when he sees how many are ready
to fight him." This singular warning had the desired
Instead of entering the cavern, the father and husband drew their tomahawks, and
posted themselves in readiness to deal their vengeance on the imaginary tormentor
of their sick relative, while the women and
children broke branches from the bushes, or seized fragments of the rock, with a
similar intention. At this favorable moment the counterfeit
conjurers disappeared.
Hawkeye, at the same time that he had presumed so far on the nature of the Indian
superstitions, was not ignorant that they were rather tolerated than relied on by the
wisest of the chiefs.
He well knew the value of time in the present emergency.
Whatever might be the extent of the self- delusion of his enemies, and however it had
tended to assist his schemes, the slightest cause of suspicion, acting on the subtle
nature of an Indian, would be likely to prove fatal.
Taking the path, therefore, that was most likely to avoid observation, he rather
skirted than entered the village.
The warriors were still to be seen in the distance, by the fading light of the fires,
stalking from lodge to lodge.
But the children had abandoned their sports for their beds of skins, and the quiet of
night was already beginning to prevail over the turbulence and excitement of so busy
and important an evening.
Alice revived under the renovating influence of the open air, and, as her
physical rather than her mental powers had been the subject of weakness, she stood in
no need of any explanation of that which had occurred.
"Now let me make an effort to walk," she said, when they had entered the forest,
blushing, though unseen, that she had not been sooner able to quit the arms of
Duncan; "I am indeed restored."
"Nay, Alice, you are yet too weak." The maiden struggled gently to release
herself, and Heyward was compelled to part with his precious burden.
The representative of the bear had certainly been an entire stranger to the
delicious emotions of the lover while his arms encircled his mistress; and he was,
perhaps, a stranger also to the nature of
that feeling of ingenuous shame that oppressed the trembling Alice.
But when he found himself at a suitable distance from the lodges he made a halt,
and spoke on a subject of which he was thoroughly the master.
"This path will lead you to the brook," he said; "follow its northern bank until you
come to a fall; mount the hill on your right, and you will see the fires of the
other people.
There you must go and demand protection; if they are true Delawares you will be safe.
A distant flight with that gentle one, just now, is impossible.
The Hurons would follow up our trail, and master our scalps before we had got a dozen
miles. Go, and Providence be with you."
"And you!" demanded Heyward, in surprise; "surely we part not here?"
"The Hurons hold the pride of the Delawares; the last of the high blood of
the Mohicans is in their power," returned the scout; "I go to see what can be done in
his favor.
Had they mastered your scalp, major, a knave should have fallen for every hair it
held, as I promised; but if the young Sagamore is to be led to the stake, the
Indians shall see also how a man without a cross can die."
Not in the least offended with the decided preference that the sturdy woodsman gave to
one who might, in some degree, be called the child of his adoption, Duncan still
continued to urge such reasons against so
desperate an effort as presented themselves.
He was aided by Alice, who mingled her entreaties with those of Heyward that he
would abandon a resolution that promised so much danger, with so little hope of
Their eloquence and ingenuity were expended in vain.
The scout heard them attentively, but impatiently, and finally closed the
discussion, by answering, in a tone that instantly silenced Alice, while it told
Heyward how fruitless any further remonstrances would be.
"I have heard," he said, "that there is a feeling in youth which binds man to woman
closer than the father is tied to the son.
It may be so. I have seldom been where women of my color
dwell; but such may be the gifts of nature in the settlements.
You have risked life, and all that is dear to you, to bring off this gentle one, and I
suppose that some such disposition is at the bottom of it all.
As for me, I taught the lad the real character of a rifle; and well has he paid
me for it.
I have fou't at his side in many a bloody scrimmage; and so long as I could hear the
crack of his piece in one ear, and that of the Sagamore in the other, I knew no enemy
was on my back.
Winters and summer, nights and days, have we roved the wilderness in company, eating
of the same dish, one sleeping while the other watched; and afore it shall be said
that Uncas was taken to the torment, and I
at hand--There is but a single Ruler of us all, whatever may the color of the skin;
and Him I call to witness, that before the Mohican boy shall perish for the want of a
friend, good faith shall depart the 'arth,
and 'killdeer' become as harmless as the tooting we'pon of the singer!"
Duncan released his hold on the arm of the scout, who turned, and steadily retraced
his steps toward the lodges.
After pausing a moment to gaze at his retiring form, the successful and yet
sorrowful Heyward and Alice took their way together toward the distant village of the
"Bot.--Let me play the lion too." --Midsummer Night's Dream
Notwithstanding the high resolution of Hawkeye he fully comprehended all the
difficulties and danger he was about to incur.
In his return to the camp, his acute and practised intellects were intently engaged
in devising means to counteract a watchfulness and suspicion on the part of
his enemies, that he knew were, in no degree, inferior to his own.
Nothing but the color of his skin had saved the lives of Magua and the conjurer, who
would have been the first victims sacrificed to his own security, had not the
scout believed such an act, however
congenial it might be to the nature of an Indian, utterly unworthy of one who boasted
a descent from men that knew no cross of blood.
Accordingly, he trusted to the withes and ligaments with which he had bound his
captives, and pursued his way directly toward the center of the lodges.
As he approached the buildings, his steps become more deliberate, and his vigilant
eye suffered no sign, whether friendly or hostile, to escape him.
A neglected hut was a little in advance of the others, and appeared as if it had been
deserted when half completed--most probably on account of failing in some of the more
important requisites; such as wood or water.
A faint light glimmered through its cracks, however, and announced that,
notwithstanding its imperfect structure, it was not without a tenant.
Thither, then, the scout proceeded, like a prudent general, who was about to feel the
advanced positions of his enemy, before he hazarded the main attack.
Throwing himself into a suitable posture for the beast he represented, Hawkeye
crawled to a little opening, where he might command a view of the interior.
It proved to be the abiding place of David Gamut.
Hither the faithful singing-master had now brought himself, together with all his
sorrows, his apprehensions, and his meek dependence on the protection of Providence.
At the precise moment when his ungainly person came under the observation of the
scout, in the manner just mentioned, the woodsman himself, though in his assumed
character, was the subject of the solitary being's profounded reflections.
However implicit the faith of David was in the performance of ancient miracles, he
eschewed the belief of any direct supernatural agency in the management of
modern morality.
In other words, while he had implicit faith in the ability of Balaam's ass to speak, he
was somewhat skeptical on the subject of a bear's singing; and yet he had been assured
of the latter, on the testimony of his own exquisite organs.
There was something in his air and manner that betrayed to the scout the utter
confusion of the state of his mind.
He was seated on a pile of brush, a few twigs from which occasionally fed his low
fire, with his head leaning on his arm, in a posture of melancholy musing.
The costume of the votary of music had undergone no other alteration from that so
lately described, except that he had covered his bald head with the triangular
beaver, which had not proved sufficiently
alluring to excite the cupidity of any of his captors.
The ingenious Hawkeye, who recalled the hasty manner in which the other had
abandoned his post at the bedside of the sick woman, was not without his suspicions
concerning the subject of so much solemn deliberation.
First making the circuit of the hut, and ascertaining that it stood quite alone, and
that the character of its inmate was likely to protect it from visitors, he ventured
through its low door, into the very presence of Gamut.
The position of the latter brought the fire between them; and when Hawkeye had seated
himself on end, near a minute elapsed, during which the two remained regarding
each other without speaking.
The suddenness and the nature of the surprise had nearly proved too much for--we
will not say the philosophy--but for the pitch and resolution of David.
He fumbled for his pitch-pipe, and arose with a confused intention of attempting a
musical exorcism.
"Dark and mysterious monster!" he exclaimed, while with trembling hands he
disposed of his auxiliary eyes, and sought his never-failing resource in trouble, the
gifted version of the psalms; "I know not
your nature nor intents; but if aught you meditate against the person and rights of
one of the humblest servants of the temple, listen to the inspired language of the
youth of Israel, and repent."
The bear shook his shaggy sides, and then a well-known voice replied:
"Put up the tooting we'pon, and teach your throat modesty.
Five words of plain and comprehendible English are worth just now an hour of
"What art thou?" demanded David, utterly disqualified to pursue his original
intention, and nearly gasping for breath.
"A man like yourself; and one whose blood is as little tainted by the cross of a
bear, or an Indian, as your own.
Have you so soon forgotten from whom you received the foolish instrument you hold in
your hand?"
"Can these things be?" returned David, breathing more freely, as the truth began
to dawn upon him.
"I have found many marvels during my sojourn with the heathen, but surely
nothing to excel this."
"Come, come," returned Hawkeye, uncasing his honest countenance, the better to
assure the wavering confidence of his companion; "you may see a skin, which, if
it be not as white as one of the gentle
ones, has no tinge of red to it that the winds of the heaven and the sun have not
bestowed. Now let us to business."
"First tell me of the maiden, and of the youth who so bravely sought her,"
interrupted David. "Ay, they are happily freed from the
tomahawks of these varlets.
But can you put me on the scent of Uncas?" "The young man is in bondage, and much I
fear his death is decreed.
I greatly mourn that one so well disposed should die in his ignorance, and I have
sought a goodly hymn--" "Can you lead me to him?"
"The task will not be difficult," returned David, hesitating; "though I greatly fear
your presence would rather increase than mitigate his unhappy fortunes."
"No more words, but lead on," returned Hawkeye, concealing his face again, and
setting the example in his own person, by instantly quitting the lodge.
As they proceeded, the scout ascertained that his companion found access to Uncas,
under privilege of his imaginary infirmity, aided by the favor he had acquired with one
of the guards, who, in consequence of
speaking a little English, had been selected by David as the subject of a
religious conversion.
How far the Huron comprehended the intentions of his new friend may well be
doubted; but as exclusive attention is as flattering to a savage as to a more
civilized individual, it had produced the effect we have mentioned.
It is unnecessary to repeat the shrewd manner with which the scout extracted these
particulars from the simple David; neither shall we dwell in this place on the nature
of the instruction he delivered, when
completely master of all the necessary facts; as the whole will be sufficiently
explained to the reader in the course of the narrative.
The lodge in which Uncas was confined was in the very center of the village, and in a
situation, perhaps, more difficult than any other to approach, or leave, without
But it was not the policy of Hawkeye to affect the least concealment.
Presuming on his disguise, and his ability to sustain the character he had assumed, he
took the most plain and direct route to the place.
The hour, however, afforded him some little of that protection which he appeared so
much to despise.
The boys were already buried in sleep, and all the women, and most of the warriors,
had retired to their lodges for the night.
Four or five of the latter only lingered about the door of the prison of Uncas, wary
but close observers of the manner of their captive.
At the sight of Gamut, accompanied by one in the well-known masquerade of their most
distinguished conjurer, they readily made way for them both.
Still they betrayed no intention to depart.
On the other hand, they were evidently disposed to remain bound to the place by an
additional interest in the mysterious mummeries that they of course expected from
such a visit.
From the total inability of the scout to address the Hurons in their own language,
he was compelled to trust the conversation entirely to David.
Notwithstanding the simplicity of the latter, he did ample justice to the
instructions he had received, more than fulfilling the strongest hopes of his
"The Delawares are women!" he exclaimed, addressing himself to the savage who had a
slight understanding of the language in which he spoke; "the Yengeese, my foolish
countrymen, have told them to take up the
tomahawk, and strike their fathers in the Canadas, and they have forgotten their sex.
Does my brother wish to hear 'Le Cerf Agile' ask for his petticoats, and see him
weep before the Hurons, at the stake?"
The exclamation "Hugh!" delivered in a strong tone of assent, announced the
gratification the savage would receive in witnessing such an exhibition of weakness
in an enemy so long hated and so much feared.
"Then let him step aside, and the cunning man will blow upon the dog.
Tell it to my brothers."
The Huron explained the meaning of David to his fellows, who, in their turn, listened
to the project with that sort of satisfaction that their untamed spirits
might be expected to find in such a refinement in cruelty.
They drew back a little from the entrance and motioned to the supposed conjurer to
But the bear, instead of obeying, maintained the seat it had taken, and
"The cunning man is afraid that his breath will blow upon his brothers, and take away
their courage too," continued David, improving the hint he received; "they must
stand further off."
The Hurons, who would have deemed such a misfortune the heaviest calamity that could
befall them, fell back in a body, taking a position where they were out of earshot,
though at the same time they could command a view of the entrance to the lodge.
Then, as if satisfied of their safety, the scout left his position, and slowly entered
the place.
It was silent and gloomy, being tenanted solely by the captive, and lighted by the
dying embers of a fire, which had been used for the purposed of cookery.
Uncas occupied a distant corner, in a reclining attitude, being rigidly bound,
both hands and feet, by strong and painful withes.
When the frightful object first presented itself to the young Mohican, he did not
deign to bestow a single glance on the animal.
The scout, who had left David at the door, to ascertain they were not observed,
thought it prudent to preserve his disguise until assured of their privacy.
Instead of speaking, therefore, he exerted himself to enact one of the antics of the
animal he represented.
The young Mohican, who at first believed his enemies had sent in a real beast to
torment him, and try his nerves, detected in those performances that to Heyward had
appeared so accurate, certain blemishes, that at once betrayed the counterfeit.
Had Hawkeye been aware of the low estimation in which the skillful Uncas held
his representations, he would probably have prolonged the entertainment a little in
But the scornful expression of the young man's eye admitted of so many
constructions, that the worthy scout was spared the mortification of such a
As soon, therefore, as David gave the preconcerted signal, a low hissing sound
was heard in the lodge in place of the fierce growlings of the bear.
Uncas had cast his body back against the wall of the hut and closed his eyes, as if
willing to exclude so contemptible and disagreeable an object from his sight.
But the moment the noise of the serpent was heard, he arose, and cast his looks on each
side of him, bending his head low, and turning it inquiringly in every direction,
until his keen eye rested on the shaggy
monster, where it remained riveted, as though fixed by the power of a charm.
Again the same sounds were repeated, evidently proceeding from the mouth of the
Once more the eyes of the youth roamed over the interior of the lodge, and returning to
the former resting place, he uttered, in a deep, suppressed voice:
"Cut his bands," said Hawkeye to David, who just then approached them.
The singer did as he was ordered, and Uncas found his limbs released.
At the same moment the dried skin of the animal rattled, and presently the scout
arose to his feet, in proper person.
The Mohican appeared to comprehend the nature of the attempt his friend had made,
intuitively, neither tongue nor feature betraying another symptom of surprise.
When Hawkeye had cast his shaggy vestment, which was done by simply loosing certain
thongs of skin, he drew a long, glittering knife, and put it in the hands of Uncas.
"The red Hurons are without," he said; "let us be ready."
At the same time he laid his finger significantly on another similar weapon,
both being the fruits of his prowess among their enemies during the evening.
"We will go," said Uncas.
"Whither?" "To the Tortoises; they are the children of
my grandfathers."
"Ay, lad," said the scout in English--a language he was apt to use when a little
abstracted in mind; "the same blood runs in your veins, I believe; but time and
distance has a little changed its color.
What shall we do with the Mingoes at the door?
They count six, and this singer is as good as nothing."
"The Hurons are boasters," said Uncas, scornfully; "their 'totem' is a moose, and
they run like snails. The Delawares are children of the tortoise,
and they outstrip the deer."
"Ay, lad, there is truth in what you say; and I doubt not, on a rush, you would pass
the whole nation; and, in a straight race of two miles, would be in, and get your
breath again, afore a knave of them all was within hearing of the other village.
But the gift of a white man lies more in his arms than in his legs.
As for myself, I can brain a Huron as well as a better man; but when it comes to a
race the knaves would prove too much for me."
Uncas, who had already approached the door, in readiness to lead the way, now recoiled,
and placed himself, once more, in the bottom of the lodge.
But Hawkeye, who was too much occupied with his own thoughts to note the movement,
continued speaking more to himself than to his companion.
"After all," he said, "it is unreasonable to keep one man in bondage to the gifts of
So, Uncas, you had better take the lead, while I will put on the skin again, and
trust to cunning for want of speed."
The young Mohican made no reply, but quietly folded his arms, and leaned his
body against one of the upright posts that supported the wall of the hut.
"Well," said the scout looking up at him, "why do you tarry?
There will be time enough for me, as the knaves will give chase to you at first."
"Uncas will stay," was the calm reply.
"For what?" "To fight with his father's brother, and
die with the friend of the Delawares."
"Ay, lad," returned Hawkeye, squeezing the hand of Uncas between his own iron fingers;
"'twould have been more like a Mingo than a Mohican had you left me.
But I thought I would make the offer, seeing that youth commonly loves life.
Well, what can't be done by main courage, in war, must be done by circumvention.
Put on the skin; I doubt not you can play the bear nearly as well as myself."
Whatever might have been the private opinion of Uncas of their respective
abilities in this particular, his grave countenance manifested no opinion of his
He silently and expeditiously encased himself in the covering of the beast, and
then awaited such other movements as his more aged companion saw fit to dictate.
"Now, friend," said Hawkeye, addressing David, "an exchange of garments will be a
great convenience to you, inasmuch as you are but little accustomed to the make-
shifts of the wilderness.
Here, take my hunting shirt and cap, and give me your blanket and hat.
You must trust me with the book and spectacles, as well as the tooter, too; if
we ever meet again, in better times, you shall have all back again, with many thanks
into the bargain."
David parted with the several articles named with a readiness that would have done
great credit to his liberality, had he not certainly profited, in many particulars, by
the exchange.
Hawkeye was not long in assuming his borrowed garments; and when his restless
eyes were hid behind the glasses, and his head was surmounted by the triangular
beaver, as their statures were not
dissimilar, he might readily have passed for the singer, by starlight.
As soon as these dispositions were made, the scout turned to David, and gave him his
parting instructions.
"Are you much given to cowardice?" he bluntly asked, by way of obtaining a
suitable understanding of the whole case before he ventured a prescription.
"My pursuits are peaceful, and my temper, I humbly trust, is greatly given to mercy
and love," returned David, a little nettled at so direct an attack on his manhood; "but
there are none who can say that I have ever
forgotten my faith in the Lord, even in the greatest straits."
"Your chiefest danger will be at the moment when the savages find out that they have
been deceived.
If you are not then knocked on the head, your being a non-composser will protect
you; and you'll then have a good reason to expect to die in your bed.
If you stay, it must be to sit down here in the shadow, and take the part of Uncas,
until such times as the cunning of the Indians discover the cheat, when, as I have
already said, your times of trial will come.
So choose for yourself--to make a rush or tarry here."
"Even so," said David, firmly; "I will abide in the place of the Delaware.
Bravely and generously has he battled in my behalf, and this, and more, will I dare in
his service."
"You have spoken as a man, and like one who, under wiser schooling, would have been
brought to better things.
Hold your head down, and draw in your legs; their formation might tell the truth too
Keep silent as long as may be; and it would be wise, when you do speak, to break out
suddenly in one of your shoutings, which will serve to remind the Indians that you
are not altogether as responsible as men should be.
If however, they take your scalp, as I trust and believe they will not, depend on
it, Uncas and I will not forget the deed, but revenge it as becomes true warriors and
trusty friends."
"Hold!" said David, perceiving that with this assurance they were about to leave
him; "I am an unworthy and humble follower of one who taught not the damnable
principle of revenge.
Should I fall, therefore, seek no victims to my manes, but rather forgive my
destroyers; and if you remember them at all, let it be in prayers for the
enlightening of their minds, and for their eternal welfare."
The scout hesitated, and appeared to muse.
"There is a principle in that," he said, "different from the law of the woods; and
yet it is fair and noble to reflect upon."
Then heaving a heavy sigh, probably among the last he ever drew in pining for a
condition he had so long abandoned, he added: "it is what I would wish to practise
myself, as one without a cross of blood,
though it is not always easy to deal with an Indian as you would with a fellow
God bless you, friend; I do believe your scent is not greatly wrong, when the matter
is duly considered, and keeping eternity before the eyes, though much depends on the
natural gifts, and the force of temptation."
So saying, the scout returned and shook David cordially by the hand; after which
act of friendship he immediately left the lodge, attended by the new representative
of the beast.
The instant Hawkeye found himself under the observation of the Hurons, he drew up his
tall form in the rigid manner of David, threw out his arm in the act of keeping
time, and commenced what he intended for an imitation of his psalmody.
Happily for the success of this delicate adventure, he had to deal with ears but
little practised in the concord of sweet sounds, or the miserable effort would
infallibly have been detected.
It was necessary to pass within a dangerous proximity of the dark group of the savages,
and the voice of the scout grew louder as they drew nigher.
When at the nearest point the Huron who spoke the English thrust out an arm, and
stopped the supposed singing-master.
"The Delaware dog!" he said, leaning forward, and peering through the dim light
to catch the expression of the other's features; "is he afraid?
Will the Hurons hear his groans?"
A growl, so exceedingly fierce and natural, proceeded from the beast, that the young
Indian released his hold and started aside, as if to assure himself that it was not a
veritable bear, and no counterfeit, that was rolling before him.
Hawkeye, who feared his voice would betray him to his subtle enemies, gladly profited
by the interruption, to break out anew in such a burst of musical expression as
would, probably, in a more refined state of society have been termed "a grand crash."
Among his actual auditors, however, it merely gave him an additional claim to that
respect which they never withhold from such as are believed to be the subjects of
mental alienation.
The little knot of Indians drew back in a body, and suffered, as they thought, the
conjurer and his inspired assistant to proceed.
It required no common exercise of fortitude in Uncas and the scout to continue the
dignified and deliberate pace they had assumed in passing the lodge; especially as
they immediately perceived that curiosity
had so far mastered fear, as to induce the watchers to approach the hut, in order to
witness the effect of the incantations.
The least injudicious or impatient movement on the part of David might betray them, and
time was absolutely necessary to insure the safety of the scout.
The loud noise the latter conceived it politic to continue, drew many curious
gazers to the doors of the different huts as thy passed; and once or twice a dark-
looking warrior stepped across their path,
led to the act by superstition and watchfulness.
They were not, however, interrupted, the darkness of the hour, and the boldness of
the attempt, proving their principal friends.
The adventurers had got clear of the village, and were now swiftly approaching
the shelter of the woods, when a loud and long cry arose from the lodge where Uncas
had been confined.
The Mohican started on his feet, and shook his shaggy covering, as though the animal
he counterfeited was about to make some desperate effort.
"Hold!" said the scout, grasping his friend by the shoulder, "let them yell again!
'Twas nothing but wonderment."
He had no occasion to delay, for at the next instant a burst of cries filled the
outer air, and ran along the whole extent of the village.
Uncas cast his skin, and stepped forth in his own beautiful proportions.
Hawkeye tapped him lightly on the shoulder, and glided ahead.
"Now let the devils strike our scent!" said the scout, tearing two rifles, with all
their attendant accouterments, from beneath a bush, and flourishing "killdeer" as he
handed Uncas his weapon; "two, at least, will find it to their deaths."
Then, throwing their pieces to a low trail, like sportsmen in readiness for their game,
they dashed forward, and were soon buried in the somber darkness of the forest.