Part 8 - The Last of the Mohicans Audiobook by James Fenimore Cooper (Chs 31-33)

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"Flue.--Kill the poys and the luggage! 'Tis expressly against the law of arms;
'tis as arrant a piece of knavery, mark you now, as can be offered in the 'orld."
--King Henry V.
So long as their enemy and his victim continued in sight, the multitude remained
motionless as beings charmed to the place by some power that was friendly to the
Huron; but, the instant he disappeared, it
became tossed and agitated by fierce and powerful passion.
Uncas maintained his elevated stand, keeping his eyes on the form of Cora, until
the colors of her dress were blended with the foliage of the forest; when he
descended, and, moving silently through the
throng, he disappeared in that lodge from which he had so recently issued.
A few of the graver and more attentive warriors, who caught the gleams of anger
that shot from the eyes of the young chief in passing, followed him to the place he
had selected for his meditations.
After which, Tamenund and Alice were removed, and the women and children were
ordered to disperse.
During the momentous hour that succeeded, the encampment resembled a hive of troubled
bees, who only awaited the appearance and example of their leader to take some
distant and momentous flight.
A young warrior at length issued from the lodge of Uncas; and, moving deliberately,
with a sort of grave march, toward a dwarf pine that grew in the crevices of the rocky
terrace, he tore the bark from its body,
and then turned whence he came without speaking.
He was soon followed by another, who stripped the sapling of its branches,
leaving it a naked and blazed (FOOTNOTE: A tree which has been partially or entirely
stripped of its bark is said, in the language of the country, to be "blazed."
The term is strictly English, for a horse is said to be blazed when it has a white
mark) -trunk.
A third colored the post with stripes of a dark red paint; all which indications of a
hostile design in the leaders of the nation were received by the men without in a
gloomy and ominous silence.
Finally, the Mohican himself reappeared, divested of all his attire, except his
girdle and leggings, and with one-half of his fine features hid under a cloud of
threatening black.
Uncas moved with a slow and dignified tread toward the post, which he immediately
commenced encircling with a measured step, not unlike an ancient dance, raising his
voice, at the same time, in the wild and irregular chant of his war song.
The notes were in the extremes of human sounds; being sometimes melancholy and
exquisitely plaintive, even rivaling the melody of birds--and then, by sudden and
startling transitions, causing the auditors to tremble by their depth and energy.
The words were few and often repeated, proceeding gradually from a sort of
invocation, or hymn, to the Deity, to an intimation of the warrior's object, and
terminating as they commenced with an
acknowledgment of his own dependence on the Great Spirit.
If it were possible to translate the comprehensive and melodious language in
which he spoke, the ode might read something like the following: "Manitou!
Manitou! Thou art great, thou art good, thou art
wise: Manitou! Manitou!
Thou art just.
In the heavens, in the clouds, oh, I see many spots--many dark, many red: In the
heavens, oh, I see many clouds."
"In the woods, in the air, oh, I hear the whoop, the long yell, and the cry: In the
woods, oh, I hear the loud whoop!" "Manitou!
Manitou! I am weak--thou art strong; I am slow;
Manitou! Manitou!
Give me aid."
At the end of what might be called each verse he made a pause, by raising a note
louder and longer than common, that was peculiarly suited to the sentiment just
The first close was solemn, and intended to convey the idea of veneration; the second
descriptive, bordering on the alarming; and the third was the well-known and terrific
war-whoop, which burst from the lips of the
young warrior, like a combination of all the frightful sounds of battle.
The last was like the first, humble and imploring.
Three times did he repeat this song, and as often did he encircle the post in his
At the close of the first turn, a grave and highly esteemed chief of the Lenape
followed his example, singing words of his own, however, to music of a similar
Warrior after warrior enlisted in the dance, until all of any renown and
authority were numbered in its mazes.
The spectacle now became wildly terrific; the fierce-looking and menacing visages of
the chiefs receiving additional power from the appalling strains in which they mingled
their guttural tones.
Just then Uncas struck his tomahawk deep into the post, and raised his voice in a
shout, which might be termed his own battle cry.
The act announced that he had assumed the chief authority in the intended expedition.
It was a signal that awakened all the slumbering passions of the nation.
A hundred youths, who had hitherto been restrained by the diffidence of their
years, rushed in a frantic body on the fancied emblem of their enemy, and severed
it asunder, splinter by splinter, until
nothing remained of the trunk but its roots in the earth.
During this moment of tumult, the most ruthless deeds of war were performed on the
fragments of the tree, with as much apparent ferocity as if they were the
living victims of their cruelty.
Some were scalped; some received the keen and trembling axe; and others suffered by
thrusts from the fatal knife.
In short, the manifestations of zeal and fierce delight were so great and
unequivocal, that the expedition was declared to be a war of the nation.
The instant Uncas had struck the blow, he moved out of the circle, and cast his eyes
up to the sun, which was just gaining the point, when the truce with Magua was to
The fact was soon announced by a significant gesture, accompanied by a
corresponding cry; and the whole of the excited multitude abandoned their mimic
warfare, with shrill yells of pleasure, to
prepare for the more hazardous experiment of the reality.
The whole face of the encampment was instantly changed.
The warriors, who were already armed and painted, became as still as if they were
incapable of any uncommon burst of emotion.
On the other hand, the women broke out of the lodges, with the songs of joy and those
of lamentation so strangely mixed that it might have been difficult to have said
which passion preponderated.
None, however, was idle.
Some bore their choicest articles, others their young, and some their aged and
infirm, into the forest, which spread itself like a verdant carpet of bright
green against the side of the mountain.
Thither Tamenund also retired, with calm composure, after a short and touching
interview with Uncas; from whom the sage separated with the reluctance that a parent
would quit a long lost and just recovered child.
In the meantime, Duncan saw Alice to a place of safety, and then sought the scout,
with a countenance that denoted how eagerly he also panted for the approaching contest.
But Hawkeye was too much accustomed to the war song and the enlistments of the
natives, to betray any interest in the passing scene.
He merely cast an occasional look at the number and quality of the warriors, who,
from time to time, signified their readiness to accompany Uncas to the field.
In this particular he was soon satisfied; for, as has been already seen, the power of
the young chief quickly embraced every fighting man in the nation.
After this material point was so satisfactorily decided, he despatched an
Indian boy in quest of "killdeer" and the rifle of Uncas, to the place where they had
deposited their weapons on approaching the
camp of the Delawares; a measure of double policy, inasmuch as it protected the arms
from their own fate, if detained as prisoners, and gave them the advantage of
appearing among the strangers rather as
sufferers than as men provided with means of defense and subsistence.
In selecting another to perform the office of reclaiming his highly prized rifle, the
scout had lost sight of none of his habitual caution.
He knew that Magua had not come unattended, and he also knew that Huron spies watched
the movements of their new enemies, along the whole boundary of the woods.
It would, therefore, have been fatal to himself to have attempted the experiment;
a warrior would have fared no better; but the danger of a boy would not be likely to
commence until after his object was discovered.
When Heyward joined him, the scout was coolly awaiting the result of this
The boy, who had been well instructed, and was sufficiently crafty, proceeded, with a
bosom that was swelling with the pride of such a confidence, and all the hopes of
young ambition, carelessly across the
clearing to the wood, which he entered at a point at some little distance from the
place where the guns were secreted.
The instant, however, he was concealed by the foliage of the bushes, his dusky form
was to be seen gliding, like that of a serpent, toward the desired treasure.
He was successful; and in another moment he appeared flying across the narrow opening
that skirted the base of the terrace on which the village stood, with the velocity
of an arrow, and bearing a prize in each hand.
He had actually gained the crags, and was leaping up their sides with incredible
activity, when a shot from the woods showed how accurate had been the judgment of the
The boy answered it with a feeble but contemptuous shout; and immediately a
second bullet was sent after him from another part of the cover.
At the next instant he appeared on the level above, elevating his guns in triumph,
while he moved with the air of a conqueror toward the renowned hunter who had honored
him by so glorious a commission.
Notwithstanding the lively interest Hawkeye had taken in the fate of his messenger, he
received "killdeer" with a satisfaction that, momentarily, drove all other
recollections from his mind.
After examining the piece with an intelligent eye, and opening and shutting
the pan some ten or fifteen times, and trying sundry other equally important
experiments on the lock, he turned to the
boy and demanded with great manifestations of kindness, if he was hurt.
The urchin looked proudly up in his face, but made no reply.
"Ah! I see, lad, the knaves have barked your arm!" added the scout, taking up the
limb of the patient sufferer, across which a deep flesh wound had been made by one of
the bullets; "but a little bruised alder will act like a charm.
In the meantime I will wrap it in a badge of wampum!
You have commenced the business of a warrior early, my brave boy, and are likely
to bear a plenty of honorable scars to your grave.
I know many young men that have taken scalps who cannot show such a mark as this.
Go!" having bound up the arm; "you will be a chief!"
The lad departed, prouder of his flowing blood than the vainest courtier could be of
his blushing ribbon; and stalked among the fellows of his age, an object of general
admiration and envy.
But, in a moment of so many serious and important duties, this single act of
juvenile fortitude did not attract the general notice and commendation it would
have received under milder auspices.
It had, however, served to apprise the Delawares of the position and the
intentions of their enemies.
Accordingly a party of adventurers, better suited to the task than the weak though
spirited boy, was ordered to dislodge the skulkers.
The duty was soon performed; for most of the Hurons retired of themselves when they
found they had been discovered.
The Delawares followed to a sufficient distance from their own encampment, and
then halted for orders, apprehensive of being led into an ambush.
As both parties secreted themselves, the woods were again as still and quiet as a
mild summer morning and deep solitude could render them.
The calm but still impatient Uncas now collected his chiefs, and divided his
He presented Hawkeye as a warrior, often tried, and always found deserving of
When he found his friend met with a favorable reception, he bestowed on him the
command of twenty men, like himself, active, skillful and resolute.
He gave the Delawares to understand the rank of Heyward among the troops of the
Yengeese, and then tendered to him a trust of equal authority.
But Duncan declined the charge, professing his readiness to serve as a volunteer by
the side of the scout.
After this disposition, the young Mohican appointed various native chiefs to fill the
different situations of responsibility, and, the time pressing, he gave forth the
word to march.
He was cheerfully, but silently obeyed by more than two hundred men.
Their entrance into the forest was perfectly unmolested; nor did they
encounter any living objects that could either give the alarm, or furnish the
intelligence they needed, until they came upon the lairs of their own scouts.
Here a halt was ordered, and the chiefs were assembled to hold a "whispering
At this meeting divers plans of operation were suggested, though none of a character
to meet the wishes of their ardent leader.
Had Uncas followed the promptings of his own inclinations, he would have led his
followers to the charge without a moment's delay, and put the conflict to the hazard
of an instant issue; but such a course
would have been in opposition to all the received practises and opinions of his
He was, therefore, fain to adopt a caution that in the present temper of his mind he
execrated, and to listen to advice at which his fiery spirit chafed, under the vivid
recollection of Cora's danger and Magua's insolence.
After an unsatisfactory conference of many minutes, a solitary individual was seen
advancing from the side of the enemy, with such apparent haste, as to induce the
belief he might be a messenger charged with pacific overtures.
When within a hundred yards, however, of the cover behind which the Delaware council
had assembled, the stranger hesitated, appeared uncertain what course to take, and
finally halted.
All eyes were turned now on Uncas, as if seeking directions how to proceed.
"Hawkeye," said the young chief, in a low voice, "he must never speak to the Hurons
"His time has come," said the laconic scout, thrusting the long barrel of his
rifle through the leaves, and taking his deliberate and fatal aim.
But, instead of pulling the trigger, he lowered the muzzle again, and indulged
himself in a fit of his peculiar mirth.
"I took the imp for a Mingo, as I'm a miserable sinner!" he said; "but when my
eye ranged along his ribs for a place to get the bullet in--would you think it,
Uncas--I saw the musicianer's blower; and
so, after all, it is the man they call Gamut, whose death can profit no one, and
whose life, if this tongue can do anything but sing, may be made serviceable to our
own ends.
If sounds have not lost their virtue, I'll soon have a discourse with the honest
fellow, and that in a voice he'll find more agreeable than the speech of 'killdeer'."
So saying, Hawkeye laid aside his rifle; and, crawling through the bushes until
within hearing of David, he attempted to repeat the musical effort, which had
conducted himself, with so much safety and eclat, through the Huron encampment.
The exquisite organs of Gamut could not readily be deceived (and, to say the truth,
it would have been difficult for any other than Hawkeye to produce a similar noise),
and, consequently, having once before heard
the sounds, he now knew whence they proceeded.
The poor fellow appeared relieved from a state of great embarrassment; for, pursuing
the direction of the voice--a task that to him was not much less arduous that it would
have been to have gone up in the face of a
battery--he soon discovered the hidden songster.
"I wonder what the Hurons will think of that!" said the scout, laughing, as he took
his companion by the arm, and urged him toward the rear.
"If the knaves lie within earshot, they will say there are two non-compossers
instead of one! But here we are safe," he added, pointing
to Uncas and his associates.
"Now give us the history of the Mingo inventions in natural English, and without
any ups and downs of voice."
David gazed about him, at the fierce and wild-looking chiefs, in mute wonder; but
assured by the presence of faces that he knew, he soon rallied his faculties so far
as to make an intelligent reply.
"The heathen are abroad in goodly numbers," said David; "and, I fear, with evil intent.
There has been much howling and ungodly revelry, together with such sounds as it is
profanity to utter, in their habitations within the past hour, so much so, in truth,
that I have fled to the Delawares in search of peace."
"Your ears might not have profited much by the exchange, had you been quicker of
foot," returned the scout a little dryly.
"But let that be as it may; where are the Hurons?"
"They lie hid in the forest, between this spot and their village in such force, that
prudence would teach you instantly to return."
Uncas cast a glance along the range of trees which concealed his own band and
mentioned the name of: "Magua?"
"Is among them.
He brought in the maiden that had sojourned with the Delawares; and, leaving her in the
cave, has put himself, like a raging wolf, at the head of his savages.
I know not what has troubled his spirit so greatly!"
"He has left her, you say, in the cave!" interrupted Heyward; "'tis well that we
know its situation!
May not something be done for her instant relief?"
Uncas looked earnestly at the scout, before he asked:
"What says Hawkeye?"
"Give me twenty rifles, and I will turn to the right, along the stream; and, passing
by the huts of the beaver, will join the Sagamore and the colonel.
You shall then hear the whoop from that quarter; with this wind one may easily send
it a mile.
Then, Uncas, do you drive in the front; when they come within range of our pieces,
we will give them a blow that, I pledge the good name of an old frontiersman, shall
make their line bend like an ashen bow.
After which, we will carry the village, and take the woman from the cave; when the
affair may be finished with the tribe, according to a white man's battle, by a
blow and a victory; or, in the Indian fashion, with dodge and cover.
There may be no great learning, major, in this plan, but with courage and patience it
can all be done."
"I like it very much," cried Duncan, who saw that the release of Cora was the
primary object in the mind of the scout; "I like it much.
Let it be instantly attempted."
After a short conference, the plan was matured, and rendered more intelligible to
the several parties; the different signals were appointed, and the chiefs separated,
each to his allotted station.
"But plagues shall spread, and funeral fires increase, Till the great king,
without a ransom paid, To her own Chrysa send the black-eyed maid."
During the time Uncas was making this disposition of his forces, the woods were
as still, and, with the exception of those who had met in council, apparently as much
untenanted as when they came fresh from the hands of their Almighty Creator.
The eye could range, in every direction, through the long and shadowed vistas of the
trees; but nowhere was any object to be seen that did not properly belong to the
peaceful and slumbering scenery.
Here and there a bird was heard fluttering among the branches of the beeches, and
occasionally a squirrel dropped a nut, drawing the startled looks of the party for
a moment to the place; but the instant the
casual interruption ceased, the passing air was heard murmuring above their heads,
along that verdant and undulating surface of forest, which spread itself unbroken,
unless by stream or lake, over such a vast region of country.
Across the tract of wilderness which lay between the Delawares and the village of
their enemies, it seemed as if the foot of man had never trodden, so breathing and
deep was the silence in which it lay.
But Hawkeye, whose duty led him foremost in the adventure, knew the character of those
with whom he was about to contend too well to trust the treacherous quiet.
When he saw his little band collected, the scout threw "killdeer" into the hollow of
his arm, and making a silent signal that he would be followed, he led them many rods
toward the rear, into the bed of a little brook which they had crossed in advancing.
Here he halted, and after waiting for the whole of his grave and attentive warriors
to close about him, he spoke in Delaware, demanding:
"Do any of my young men know whither this run will lead us?"
A Delaware stretched forth a hand, with the two fingers separated, and indicating the
manner in which they were joined at the root, he answered:
"Before the sun could go his own length, the little water will be in the big."
Then he added, pointing in the direction of the place he mentioned, "the two make
enough for the beavers."
"I thought as much," returned the scout, glancing his eye upward at the opening in
the tree-tops, "from the course it takes, and the bearings of the mountains.
Men, we will keep within the cover of its banks till we scent the Hurons."
His companions gave the usual brief exclamation of assent, but, perceiving that
their leader was about to lead the way in person, one or two made signs that all was
not as it should be.
Hawkeye, who comprehended their meaning glances, turned and perceived that his
party had been followed thus far by the singing-master.
"Do you know, friend," asked the scout, gravely, and perhaps with a little of the
pride of conscious deserving in his manner, "that this is a band of rangers chosen for
the most desperate service, and put under
the command of one who, though another might say it with a better face, will not
be apt to leave them idle.
It may not be five, it cannot be thirty minutes, before we tread on the body of a
Huron, living or dead."
"Though not admonished of your intentions in words," returned David, whose face was a
little flushed, and whose ordinarily quiet and unmeaning eyes glimmered with an
expression of unusual fire, "your men have
reminded me of the children of Jacob going out to battle against the Shechemites, for
wickedly aspiring to wedlock with a woman of a race that was favored of the Lord.
Now, I have journeyed far, and sojourned much in good and evil with the maiden ye
seek; and, though not a man of war, with my loins girded and my sword sharpened, yet
would I gladly strike a blow in her behalf."
The scout hesitated, as if weighing the chances of such a strange enlistment in his
mind before he answered:
"You know not the use of any we'pon. You carry no rifle; and believe me, what
the Mingoes take they will freely give again."
"Though not a vaunting and bloodily disposed Goliath," returned David, drawing
a sling from beneath his parti-colored and uncouth attire, "I have not forgotten the
example of the Jewish boy.
With this ancient instrument of war have I practised much in my youth, and
peradventure the skill has not entirely departed from me."
"Ay!" said Hawkeye, considering the deer- skin thong and apron, with a cold and
discouraging eye; "the thing might do its work among arrows, or even knives; but
these Mengwe have been furnished by the Frenchers with a good grooved barrel a man.
However, it seems to be your gift to go unharmed amid fire; and as you have
hitherto been favored--major, you have left your rifle at a cock; a single shot before
the time would be just twenty scalps lost
to no purpose--singer, you can follow; we may find use for you in the shoutings."
"I thank you, friend," returned David, supplying himself, like his royal namesake,
from among the pebbles of the brook; "though not given to the desire to kill,
had you sent me away my spirit would have been troubled."
"Remember," added the scout, tapping his own head significantly on that spot where
Gamut was yet sore, "we come to fight, and not to musickate.
Until the general whoop is given, nothing speaks but the rifle."
David nodded, as much to signify his acquiescence with the terms; and then
Hawkeye, casting another observant glance over his followers made the signal to
Their route lay, for the distance of a mile, along the bed of the water-course.
Though protected from any great danger of observation by the precipitous banks, and
the thick shrubbery which skirted the stream, no precaution known to an Indian
attack was neglected.
A warrior rather crawled than walked on each flank so as to catch occasional
glimpses into the forest; and every few minutes the band came to a halt, and
listened for hostile sounds, with an
acuteness of organs that would be scarcely conceivable to a man in a less natural
Their march was, however, unmolested, and they reached the point where the lesser
stream was lost in the greater, without the smallest evidence that their progress had
been noted.
Here the scout again halted, to consult the signs of the forest.
"We are likely to have a good day for a fight," he said, in English, addressing
Heyward, and glancing his eyes upward at the clouds, which began to move in broad
sheets across the firmament; "a bright sun
and a glittering barrel are no friends to true sight.
Everything is favorable; they have the wind, which will bring down their noises
and their smoke, too, no little matter in itself; whereas, with us it will be first a
shot, and then a clear view.
But here is an end to our cover; the beavers have had the range of this stream
for hundreds of years, and what atween their food and their dams, there is, as you
see, many a girdled stub, but few living trees."
Hawkeye had, in truth, in these few words, given no bad description of the prospect
that now lay in their front.
The brook was irregular in its width, sometimes shooting through narrow fissures
in the rocks, and at others spreading over acres of bottom land, forming little areas
that might be termed ponds.
Everywhere along its bands were the moldering relics of dead trees, in all the
stages of decay, from those that groaned on their tottering trunks to such as had
recently been robbed of those rugged coats
that so mysteriously contain their principle of life.
A few long, low, and moss-covered piles were scattered among them, like the
memorials of a former and long-departed generation.
All these minute particulars were noted by the scout, with a gravity and interest that
they probably had never before attracted.
He knew that the Huron encampment lay a short half mile up the brook; and, with the
characteristic anxiety of one who dreaded a hidden danger, he was greatly troubled at
not finding the smallest trace of the presence of his enemy.
Once or twice he felt induced to give the order for a rush, and to attempt the
village by surprise; but his experience quickly admonished him of the danger of so
useless an experiment.
Then he listened intently, and with painful uncertainty, for the sounds of hostility in
the quarter where Uncas was left; but nothing was audible except the sighing of
the wind, that began to sweep over the
bosom of the forest in gusts which threatened a tempest.
At length, yielding rather to his unusual impatience than taking counsel from his
knowledge, he determined to bring matters to an issue, by unmasking his force, and
proceeding cautiously, but steadily, up the stream.
The scout had stood, while making his observations, sheltered by a brake, and his
companions still lay in the bed of the ravine, through which the smaller stream
debouched; but on hearing his low, though
intelligible, signal the whole party stole up the bank, like so many dark specters,
and silently arranged themselves around him.
Pointing in the direction he wished to proceed, Hawkeye advanced, the band
breaking off in single files, and following so accurately in his footsteps, as to leave
it, if we except Heyward and David, the trail of but a single man.
The party was, however, scarcely uncovered before a volley from a dozen rifles was
heard in their rear; and a Delaware leaping high in to the air, like a wounded deer,
fell at his whole length, dead.
"Ah, I feared some deviltry like this!" exclaimed the scout, in English, adding,
with the quickness of thought, in his adopted tongue: "To cover, men, and
The band dispersed at the word, and before Heyward had well recovered from his
surprise, he found himself standing alone with David.
Luckily the Hurons had already fallen back, and he was safe from their fire.
But this state of things was evidently to be of short continuance; for the scout set
the example of pressing on their retreat, by discharging his rifle, and darting from
tree to tree as his enemy slowly yielded ground.
It would seem that the assault had been made by a very small party of the Hurons,
which, however, continued to increase in numbers, as it retired on its friends,
until the return fire was very nearly, if
not quite, equal to that maintained by the advancing Delawares.
Heyward threw himself among the combatants, and imitating the necessary caution of his
companions, he made quick discharges with his own rifle.
The contest now grew warm and stationary.
Few were injured, as both parties kept their bodies as much protected as possible
by the trees; never, indeed, exposing any part of their persons except in the act of
taking aim.
But the chances were gradually growing unfavorable to Hawkeye and his band.
The quick-sighted scout perceived his danger without knowing how to remedy it.
He saw it was more dangerous to retreat than to maintain his ground: while he found
his enemy throwing out men on his flank; which rendered the task of keeping
themselves covered so very difficult to the Delawares, as nearly to silence their fire.
At this embarrassing moment, when they began to think the whole of the hostile
tribe was gradually encircling them, they heard the yell of combatants and the
rattling of arms echoing under the arches
of the wood at the place where Uncas was posted, a bottom which, in a manner, lay
beneath the ground on which Hawkeye and his party were contending.
The effects of this attack were instantaneous, and to the scout and his
friends greatly relieving.
It would seem that, while his own surprise had been anticipated, and had consequently
failed, the enemy, in their turn, having been deceived in its object and in his
numbers, had left too small a force to
resist the impetuous onset of the young Mohican.
This fact was doubly apparent, by the rapid manner in which the battle in the forest
rolled upward toward the village, and by an instant falling off in the number of their
assailants, who rushed to assist in
maintaining the front, and, as it now proved to be, the principal point of
Animating his followers by his voice, and his own example, Hawkeye then gave the word
to bear down upon their foes.
The charge, in that rude species of warfare, consisted merely in pushing from
cover to cover, nigher to the enemy; and in this maneuver he was instantly and
successfully obeyed.
The Hurons were compelled to withdraw, and the scene of the contest rapidly changed
from the more open ground, on which it had commenced, to a spot where the assailed
found a thicket to rest upon.
Here the struggle was protracted, arduous and seemingly of doubtful issue; the
Delawares, though none of them fell, beginning to bleed freely, in consequence
of the disadvantage at which they were held.
In this crisis, Hawkeye found means to get behind the same tree as that which served
for a cover to Heyward; most of his own combatants being within call, a little on
his right, where they maintained rapid,
though fruitless, discharges on their sheltered enemies.
"You are a young man, major," said the scout, dropping the butt of "killdeer" to
the earth, and leaning on the barrel, a little fatigued with his previous industry;
"and it may be your gift to lead armies, at
some future day, ag'in these imps, the Mingoes.
You may here see the philosophy of an Indian fight.
It consists mainly in ready hand, a quick eye and a good cover.
Now, if you had a company of the Royal Americans here, in what manner would you
set them to work in this business?"
"The bayonet would make a road." "Ay, there is white reason in what you say;
but a man must ask himself, in this wilderness, how many lives he can spare.
No--horse," (FOOTNOTE: The American forest admits of the passage of horses, there
being little underbrush, and few tangled brakes.
The plan of Hawkeye is the one which has always proved the most successful in the
battles between the whites and the Indians.
Wayne, in his celebrated campaign on the Miami, received the fire of his enemies in
line; and then causing his dragoons to wheel round his flanks, the Indians were
driven from their covers before they had time to load.
One of the most conspicuous of the chiefs who fought in the battle of Miami assured
the writer, that the red men could not fight the warriors with "long knives and
leather stockings"; meaning the dragoons with their sabers and boots.
-continued the scout, shaking his head, like one who mused; "horse, I am ashamed to
say must sooner or later decide these scrimmages.
The brutes are better than men, and to horse must we come at last.
Put a shodden hoof on the moccasin of a red-skin, and, if his rifle be once
emptied, he will never stop to load it again."
"This is a subject that might better be discussed at another time," returned
Heyward; "shall we charge?"
"I see no contradiction to the gifts of any man in passing his breathing spells in
useful reflections," the scout replied.
"As to rush, I little relish such a measure; for a scalp or two must be thrown
away in the attempt.
And yet," he added, bending his head aside, to catch the sounds of the distant combat,
"if we are to be of use to Uncas, these knaves in our front must be got rid of."
Then, turning with a prompt and decided air, he called aloud to his Indians, in
their own language.
His words were answered by a shout; and, at a given signal, each warrior made a swift
movement around his particular tree.
The sight of so many dark bodies, glancing before their eyes at the same instant, drew
a hasty and consequently an ineffectual fire from the Hurons.
Without stopping to breathe, the Delawares leaped in long bounds toward the wood, like
so many panthers springing upon their prey.
Hawkeye was in front, brandishing his terrible rifle and animating his followers
by his example.
A few of the older and more cunning Hurons, who had not been deceived by the artifice
which had been practiced to draw their fire, now made a close and deadly discharge
of their pieces and justified the
apprehensions of the scout by felling three of his foremost warriors.
But the shock was insufficient to repel the impetus of the charge.
The Delawares broke into the cover with the ferocity of their natures and swept away
every trace of resistance by the fury of the onset.
The combat endured only for an instant, hand to hand, and then the assailed yielded
ground rapidly, until they reached the opposite margin of the thicket, where they
clung to the cover, with the sort of
obstinacy that is so often witnessed in hunted brutes.
At this critical moment, when the success of the struggle was again becoming
doubtful, the crack of a rifle was heard behind the Hurons, and a bullet came
whizzing from among some beaver lodges,
which were situated in the clearing, in their rear, and was followed by the fierce
and appalling yell of the war-whoop.
"There speaks the Sagamore!" shouted Hawkeye, answering the cry with his own
stentorian voice; "we have them now in face and back!"
The effect on the Hurons was instantaneous.
Discouraged by an assault from a quarter that left them no opportunity for cover,
the warriors uttered a common yell of disappointment, and breaking off in a body,
they spread themselves across the opening, heedless of every consideration but flight.
Many fell, in making the experiment, under the bullets and the blows of the pursuing
We shall not pause to detail the meeting between the scout and Chingachgook, or the
more touching interview that Duncan held with Munro.
A few brief and hurried words served to explain the state of things to both
parties; and then Hawkeye, pointing out the Sagamore to his band, resigned the chief
authority into the hands of the Mohican chief.
Chingachgook assumed the station to which his birth and experience gave him so
distinguished a claim, with the grave dignity that always gives force to the
mandates of a native warrior.
Following the footsteps of the scout, he led the party back through the thicket, his
men scalping the fallen Hurons and secreting the bodies of their own dead as
they proceeded, until they gained a point
where the former was content to make a halt.
The warriors, who had breathed themselves freely in the preceding struggle, were now
posted on a bit of level ground, sprinkled with trees in sufficient numbers to conceal
The land fell away rather precipitately in front, and beneath their eyes stretched,
for several miles, a narrow, dark, and wooded vale.
It was through this dense and dark forest that Uncas was still contending with the
main body of the Hurons.
The Mohican and his friends advanced to the brow of the hill, and listened, with
practised ears, to the sounds of the combat.
A few birds hovered over the leafy bosom of the valley, frightened from their secluded
nests; and here and there a light vapory cloud, which seemed already blending with
the atmosphere, arose above the trees, and
indicated some spot where the struggle had been fierce and stationary.
"The fight is coming up the ascent," said Duncan, pointing in the direction of a new
explosion of firearms; "we are too much in the center of their line to be effective."
"They will incline into the hollow, where the cover is thicker," said the scout, "and
that will leave us well on their flank. Go, Sagamore; you will hardly be in time to
give the whoop, and lead on the young men.
I will fight this scrimmage with warriors of my own color.
You know me, Mohican; not a Huron of them all shall cross the swell, into your rear,
without the notice of 'killdeer'."
The Indian chief paused another moment to consider the signs of the contest, which
was now rolling rapidly up the ascent, a certain evidence that the Delawares
triumphed; nor did he actually quit the
place until admonished of the proximity of his friends, as well as enemies, by the
bullets of the former, which began to patter among the dried leaves on the
ground, like the bits of falling hail which precede the bursting of the tempest.
Hawkeye and his three companions withdrew a few paces to a shelter, and awaited the
issue with calmness that nothing but great practise could impart in such a scene.
It was not long before the reports of the rifles began to lose the echoes of the
woods, and to sound like weapons discharged in the open air.
Then a warrior appeared, here and there, driven to the skirts of the forest, and
rallying as he entered the clearing, as at the place where the final stand was to be
These were soon joined by others, until a long line of swarthy figures was to be seen
clinging to the cover with the obstinacy of desperation.
Heyward began to grow impatient, and turned his eyes anxiously in the direction of
The chief was seated on a rock, with nothing visible but his calm visage,
considering the spectacle with an eye as deliberate as if he were posted there
merely to view the struggle.
"The time has come for the Delaware to strike!" said Duncan.
"Not so, not so," returned the scout; "when he scents his friends, he will let them
know that he is here.
See, see; the knaves are getting in that clump of pines, like bees settling after
their flight.
By the Lord, a squaw might put a bullet into the center of such a knot of dark
At that instant the whoop was given, and a dozen Hurons fell by a discharge from
Chingachgook and his band.
The shout that followed was answered by a single war-cry from the forest, and a yell
passed through the air that sounded as if a thousand throats were united in a common
The Hurons staggered, deserting the center of their line, and Uncas issued from the
forest through the opening they left, at the head of a hundred warriors.
Waving his hands right and left, the young chief pointed out the enemy to his
followers, who separated in pursuit.
The war now divided, both wings of the broken Hurons seeking protection in the
woods again, hotly pressed by the victorious warriors of the Lenape.
A minute might have passed, but the sounds were already receding in different
directions, and gradually losing their distinctness beneath the echoing arches of
the woods.
One little knot of Hurons, however, had disdained to seek a cover, and were
retiring, like lions at bay, slowly and sullenly up the acclivity which
Chingachgook and his band had just
deserted, to mingle more closely in the fray.
Magua was conspicuous in this party, both by his fierce and savage mien, and by the
air of haughty authority he yet maintained.
In his eagerness to expedite the pursuit, Uncas had left himself nearly alone; but
the moment his eye caught the figure of Le Subtil, every other consideration was
Raising his cry of battle, which recalled some six or seven warriors, and reckless of
the disparity of their numbers, he rushed upon his enemy.
Le Renard, who watched the movement, paused to receive him with secret joy.
But at the moment when he thought the rashness of his impetuous young assailant
had left him at his mercy, another shout was given, and La Longue Carabine was seen
rushing to the rescue, attended by all his white associates.
The Huron instantly turned, and commenced a rapid retreat up the ascent.
There was no time for greetings or congratulations; for Uncas, though
unconscious of the presence of his friends, continued the pursuit with the velocity of
the wind.
In vain Hawkeye called to him to respect the covers; the young Mohican braved the
dangerous fire of his enemies, and soon compelled them to a flight as swift as his
own headlong speed.
It was fortunate that the race was of short continuance, and that the white men were
much favored by their position, or the Delaware would soon have outstripped all
his companions, and fallen a victim to his own temerity.
But, ere such a calamity could happen, the pursuers and pursued entered the Wyandot
village, within striking distance of each other.
Excited by the presence of their dwellings, and tired of the chase, the Hurons now made
a stand, and fought around their council- lodge with the fury of despair.
The onset and the issue were like the passage and destruction of a whirlwind.
The tomahawk of Uncas, the blows of Hawkeye, and even the still nervous arm of
Munro were all busy for that passing moment, and the ground was quickly strewed
with their enemies.
Still Magua, though daring and much exposed, escaped from every effort against
his life, with that sort of fabled protection that was made to overlook the
fortunes of favored heroes in the legends of ancient poetry.
Raising a yell that spoke volumes of anger and disappointment, the subtle chief, when
he saw his comrades fallen, darted away from the place, attended by his two only
surviving friends, leaving the Delawares
engaged in stripping the dead of the bloody trophies of their victory.
But Uncas, who had vainly sought him in the melee, bounded forward in pursuit; Hawkeye,
Heyward and David still pressing on his footsteps.
The utmost that the scout could effect, was to keep the muzzle of his rifle a little in
advance of his friend, to whom, however, it answered every purpose of a charmed shield.
Once Magua appeared disposed to make another and a final effort to revenge his
losses; but, abandoning his intention as soon as demonstrated, he leaped into a
thicket of bushes, through which he was
followed by his enemies, and suddenly entered the mouth of the cave already known
to the reader.
Hawkeye, who had only forborne to fire in tenderness to Uncas, raised a shout of
success, and proclaimed aloud that now they were certain of their game.
The pursuers dashed into the long and narrow entrance, in time to catch a glimpse
of the retreating forms of the Hurons.
Their passage through the natural galleries and subterraneous apartments of the cavern
was preceded by the shrieks and cries of hundreds of women and children.
The place, seen by its dim and uncertain light, appeared like the shades of the
infernal regions, across which unhappy ghosts and savage demons were flitting in
Still Uncas kept his eye on Magua, as if life to him possessed but a single object.
Heyward and the scout still pressed on his rear, actuated, though possibly in a less
degree, by a common feeling.
But their way was becoming intricate, in those dark and gloomy passages, and the
glimpses of the retiring warriors less distinct and frequent; and for a moment the
trace was believed to be lost, when a white
robe was seen fluttering in the further extremity of a passage that seemed to lead
up the mountain.
"'Tis Cora!" exclaimed Heyward, in a voice in which horror and delight were wildly
mingled. "Cora!
Cora!" echoed Uncas, bounding forward like a deer.
"'Tis the maiden!" shouted the scout. "Courage, lady; we come! we come!"
The chase was renewed with a diligence rendered tenfold encouraging by this
glimpse of the captive. But the way was rugged, broken, and in
spots nearly impassable.
Uncas abandoned his rifle, and leaped forward with headlong precipitation.
Heyward rashly imitated his example, though both were, a moment afterward, admonished
of his madness by hearing the bellowing of a piece, that the Hurons found time to
discharge down the passage in the rocks,
the bullet from which even gave the young Mohican a slight wound.
"We must close!" said the scout, passing his friends by a desperate leap; "the
knaves will pick us all off at this distance; and see, they hold the maiden so
as to shield themselves!"
Though his words were unheeded, or rather unheard, his example was followed by his
companions, who, by incredible exertions, got near enough to the fugitives to
perceive that Cora was borne along between
the two warriors while Magua prescribed the direction and manner of their flight.
At this moment the forms of all four were strongly drawn against an opening in the
sky, and they disappeared.
Nearly frantic with disappointment, Uncas and Heyward increased efforts that already
seemed superhuman, and they issued from the cavern on the side of the mountain, in time
to note the route of the pursued.
The course lay up the ascent, and still continued hazardous and laborious.
Encumbered by his rifle, and, perhaps, not sustained by so deep an interest in the
captive as his companions, the scout suffered the latter to precede him a
little, Uncas, in his turn, taking the lead of Heyward.
In this manner, rocks, precipices and difficulties were surmounted in an
incredibly short space, that at another time, and under other circumstances, would
have been deemed almost insuperable.
But the impetuous young men were rewarded by finding that, encumbered with Cora, the
Hurons were losing ground in the race.
"Stay, dog of the Wyandots!" exclaimed Uncas, shaking his bright tomahawk at
Magua; "a Delaware girl calls stay!"
"I will go no further!" cried Cora, stopping unexpectedly on a ledge of rock,
that overhung a deep precipice, at no great distance from the summit of the mountain.
"Kill me if thou wilt, detestable Huron; I will go no further."
The supporters of the maiden raised their ready tomahawks with the impious joy that
fiends are thought to take in mischief, but Magua stayed the uplifted arms.
The Huron chief, after casting the weapons he had wrested from his companions over the
rock, drew his knife, and turned to his captive, with a look in which conflicting
passions fiercely contended.
"Woman," he said, "chose; the wigwam or the knife of Le Subtil!"
Cora regarded him not, but dropping on her knees, she raised her eyes and stretched
her arms toward heaven, saying in a meek and yet confiding voice:
"I am thine; do with me as thou seest best!"
"Woman," repeated Magua, hoarsely, and endeavoring in vain to catch a glance from
her serene and beaming eye, "choose!"
But Cora neither heard nor heeded his demand.
The form of the Huron trembled in every fibre, and he raised his arm on high, but
dropped it again with a bewildered air, like one who doubted.
Once more he struggled with himself and lifted the keen weapon again; but just then
a piercing cry was heard above them, and Uncas appeared, leaping frantically, from a
fearful height, upon the ledge.
Magua recoiled a step; and one of his assistants, profiting by the chance,
sheathed his own knife in the bosom of Cora.
The Huron sprang like a tiger on his offending and already retreating country
man, but the falling form of Uncas separated the unnatural combatants.
Diverted from his object by this interruption, and maddened by the murder he
had just witnessed, Magua buried his weapon in the back of the prostrate Delaware,
uttering an unearthly shout as he committed the dastardly deed.
But Uncas arose from the blow, as the wounded panther turns upon his foe, and
struck the murderer of Cora to his feet, by an effort in which the last of his failing
strength was expended.
Then, with a stern and steady look, he turned to Le Subtil, and indicated by the
expression of his eye all that he would do had not the power deserted him.
The latter seized the nerveless arm of the unresisting Delaware, and passed his knife
into his bosom three several times, before his victim, still keeping his gaze riveted
on his enemy, with a look of
inextinguishable scorn, fell dead at his feet.
"Mercy! mercy!
Huron," cried Heyward, from above, in tones nearly choked by horror; "give mercy, and
thou shalt receive from it!"
Whirling the bloody knife up at the imploring youth, the victorious Magua
uttered a cry so fierce, so wild, and yet so joyous, that it conveyed the sounds of
savage triumph to the ears of those who
fought in the valley, a thousand feet below.
He was answered by a burst from the lips of the scout, whose tall person was just then
seen moving swiftly toward him, along those dangerous crags, with steps as bold and
reckless as if he possessed the power to move in air.
But when the hunter reached the scene of the ruthless massacre, the ledge was
tenanted only by the dead.
His keen eye took a single look at the victims, and then shot its glances over the
difficulties of the ascent in his front.
A form stood at the brow of the mountain, on the very edge of the giddy height, with
uplifted arms, in an awful attitude of menace.
Without stopping to consider his person, the rifle of Hawkeye was raised; but a
rock, which fell on the head of one of the fugitives below, exposed the indignant and
glowing countenance of the honest Gamut.
Then Magua issued from a crevice, and, stepping with calm indifference over the
body of the last of his associates, he leaped a wide fissure, and ascended the
rocks at a point where the arm of David could not reach him.
A single bound would carry him to the brow of the precipice, and assure his safety.
Before taking the leap, however, the Huron paused, and shaking his hand at the scout,
he shouted: "The pale faces are dogs! the Delawares
Magua leaves them on the rocks, for the crows!"
Laughing hoarsely, he made a desperate leap, and fell short of his mark, though
his hands grasped a shrub on the verge of the height.
The form of Hawkeye had crouched like a beast about to take its spring, and his
frame trembled so violently with eagerness that the muzzle of the half-raised rifle
played like a leaf fluttering in the wind.
Without exhausting himself with fruitless efforts, the cunning Magua suffered his
body to drop to the length of his arms, and found a fragment for his feet to rest on.
Then, summoning all his powers, he renewed the attempt, and so far succeeded as to
draw his knees on the edge of the mountain.
It was now, when the body of his enemy was most collected together, that the agitated
weapon of the scout was drawn to his shoulder.
The surrounding rocks themselves were not steadier than the piece became, for the
single instant that it poured out its contents.
The arms of the Huron relaxed, and his body fell back a little, while his knees still
kept their position. Turning a relentless look on his enemy, he
shook a hand in grim defiance.
But his hold loosened, and his dark person was seen cutting the air with its head
downward, for a fleeting instant, until it glided past the fringe of shrubbery which
clung to the mountain, in its rapid flight to destruction.
"They fought, like brave men, long & well, They piled that ground with Moslem slain,
They conquered--but Bozzaris fell, Bleeding at every vein.
His few surviving comrades saw His smile when rang their loud hurrah,
And the red field was won;
Then saw in death his eyelids close Calmly, as to a night's repose,
Like flowers at set of sun." --Halleck.
The sun found the Lenape, on the succeeding day, a nation of mourners.
The sounds of the battle were over, and they had fed fat their ancient grudge, and
had avenged their recent quarrel with the Mengwe, by the destruction of a whole
The black and murky atmosphere that floated around the spot where the Hurons had
encamped, sufficiently announced of itself, the fate of that wandering tribe; while
hundreds of ravens, that struggled above
the summits of the mountains, or swept, in noisy flocks, across the wide ranges of the
woods, furnished a frightful direction to the scene of the combat.
In short, any eye at all practised in the signs of a frontier warfare might easily
have traced all those unerring evidences of the ruthless results which attend an Indian
Still, the sun rose on the Lenape a nation of mourners.
No shouts of success, no songs of triumph, were heard, in rejoicings for their
The latest straggler had returned from his fell employment, only to strip himself of
the terrific emblems of his bloody calling, and to join in the lamentations of his
countrymen, as a stricken people.
Pride and exultation were supplanted by humility, and the fiercest of human
passions was already succeeded by the most profound and unequivocal demonstrations of
The lodges were deserted; but a broad belt of earnest faces encircled a spot in their
vicinity, whither everything possessing life had repaired, and where all were now
collected, in deep and awful silence.
Though beings of every rank and age, of both sexes, and of all pursuits, had united
to form this breathing wall of bodies, they were influenced by a single emotion.
Each eye was riveted on the center of that ring, which contained the objects of so
much and of so common an interest.
Six Delaware girls, with their long, dark, flowing tresses falling loosely across
their bosoms, stood apart, and only gave proof of their existence as they
occasionally strewed sweet-scented herbs
and forest flowers on a litter of fragrant plants that, under a pall of Indian robes,
supported all that now remained of the ardent, high-souled, and generous Cora.
Her form was concealed in many wrappers of the same simple manufacture, and her face
was shut forever from the gaze of men. At her feet was seated the desolate Munro.
His aged head was bowed nearly to the earth, in compelled submission to the
stroke of Providence; but a hidden anguish struggled about his furrowed brow, that was
only partially concealed by the careless
locks of gray that had fallen, neglected, on his temples.
Gamut stood at his side, his meek head bared to the rays of the sun, while his
eyes, wandering and concerned, seemed to be equally divided between that little volume,
which contained so many quaint but holy
maxims, and the being in whose behalf his soul yearned to administer consolation.
Heyward was also nigh, supporting himself against a tree, and endeavoring to keep
down those sudden risings of sorrow that it required his utmost manhood to subdue.
But sad and melancholy as this group may easily be imagined, it was far less
touching than another, that occupied the opposite space of the same area.
Seated, as in life, with his form and limbs arranged in grave and decent composure,
Uncas appeared, arrayed in the most gorgeous ornaments that the wealth of the
tribe could furnish.
Rich plumes nodded above his head; wampum, gorgets, bracelets, and medals, adorned his
person in profusion; though his dull eye and vacant lineaments too strongly
contradicted the idle tale of pride they would convey.
Directly in front of the corpse Chingachgook was placed, without arms,
paint or adornment of any sort, except the bright blue blazonry of his race, that was
indelibly impressed on his naked bosom.
During the long period that the tribe had thus been collected, the Mohican warrior
had kept a steady, anxious look on the cold and senseless countenance of his son.
So riveted and intense had been that gaze, and so changeless his attitude, that a
stranger might not have told the living from the dead, but for the occasional
gleamings of a troubled spirit, that shot
athwart the dark visage of one, and the deathlike calm that had forever settled on
the lineaments of the other.
The scout was hard by, leaning in a pensive posture on his own fatal and avenging
weapon; while Tamenund, supported by the elders of his nation, occupied a high place
at hand, whence he might look down on the
mute and sorrowful assemblage of his people.
Just within the inner edge of the circle stood a soldier, in the military attire of
a strange nation; and without it was his warhorse, in the center of a collection of
mounted domestics, seemingly in readiness to undertake some distant journey.
The vestments of the stranger announced him to be one who held a responsible situation
near the person of the captain of the Canadas; and who, as it would now seem,
finding his errand of peace frustrated by
the fierce impetuosity of his allies, was content to become a silent and sad
spectator of the fruits of a contest that he had arrived too late to anticipate.
The day was drawing to the close of its first quarter, and yet had the multitude
maintained its breathing stillness since its dawn.
No sound louder than a stifled sob had been heard among them, nor had even a limb been
moved throughout that long and painful period, except to perform the simple and
touching offerings that were made, from time to time, in commemoration of the dead.
The patience and forbearance of Indian fortitude could alone support such an
appearance of abstraction, as seemed now to have turned each dark and motionless figure
into stone.
At length, the sage of the Delawares stretched forth an arm, and leaning on the
shoulders of his attendants, he arose with an air as feeble as if another age had
already intervened between the man who had
met his nation the preceding day, and him who now tottered on his elevated stand.
"Men of the Lenape!" he said, in low, hollow tones, that sounded like a voice
charged with some prophetic mission: "the face of the Manitou is behind a cloud!
His eye is turned from you; His ears are shut; His tongue gives no answer.
You see him not; yet His judgments are before you.
Let your hearts be open and your spirits tell no lie.
Men of the Lenape! the face of the Manitou is behind a cloud."
As this simple and yet terrible annunciation stole on the ears of the
multitude, a stillness as deep and awful succeeded as if the venerated spirit they
worshiped had uttered the words without the
aid of human organs; and even the inanimate Uncas appeared a being of life, compared
with the humbled and submissive throng by whom he was surrounded.
As the immediate effect, however, gradually passed away, a low murmur of voices
commenced a sort of chant in honor of the dead.
The sounds were those of females, and were thrillingly soft and wailing.
The words were connected by no regular continuation, but as one ceased another
took up the eulogy, or lamentation, whichever it might be called, and gave vent
to her emotions in such language as was suggested by her feelings and the occasion.
At intervals the speaker was interrupted by general and loud bursts of sorrow, during
which the girls around the bier of Cora plucked the plants and flowers blindly from
her body, as if bewildered with grief.
But, in the milder moments of their plaint, these emblems of purity and sweetness were
cast back to their places, with every sign of tenderness and regret.
Though rendered less connected by many and general interruptions and outbreakings, a
translation of their language would have contained a regular descant, which, in
substance, might have proved to possess a train of consecutive ideas.
A girl, selected for the task by her rank and qualifications, commenced by modest
allusions to the qualities of the deceased warrior, embellishing her expressions with
those oriental images that the Indians have
probably brought with them from the extremes of the other continent, and which
form of themselves a link to connect the ancient histories of the two worlds.
She called him the "panther of his tribe"; and described him as one whose moccasin
left no trail on the dews; whose bound was like the leap of a young fawn; whose eye
was brighter than a star in the dark night;
and whose voice, in battle, was loud as the thunder of the Manitou.
She reminded him of the mother who bore him, and dwelt forcibly on the happiness
she must feel in possessing such a son.
She bade him tell her, when they met in the world of spirits, that the Delaware girls
had shed tears above the grave of her child, and had called her blessed.
Then, they who succeeded, changing their tones to a milder and still more tender
strain, alluded, with the delicacy and sensitiveness of women, to the stranger
maiden, who had left the upper earth at a
time so near his own departure, as to render the will of the Great Spirit too
manifest to be disregarded.
They admonished him to be kind to her, and to have consideration for her ignorance of
those arts which were so necessary to the comfort of a warrior like himself.
They dwelled upon her matchless beauty, and on her noble resolution, without the taint
of envy, and as angels may be thought to delight in a superior excellence; adding,
that these endowments should prove more
than equivalent for any little imperfection in her education.
After which, others again, in due succession, spoke to the maiden herself, in
the low, soft language of tenderness and love.
They exhorted her to be of cheerful mind, and to fear nothing for her future welfare.
A hunter would be her companion, who knew how to provide for her smallest wants; and
a warrior was at her side who was able to protect he against every danger.
They promised that her path should be pleasant, and her burden light.
They cautioned her against unavailing regrets for the friends of her youth, and
the scenes where her father had dwelt; assuring her that the "blessed hunting
grounds of the Lenape," contained vales as
pleasant, streams as pure; and flowers as sweet, as the "heaven of the pale faces."
They advised her to be attentive to the wants of her companion, and never to forget
the distinction which the Manitou had so wisely established between them.
Then, in a wild burst of their chant they sang with united voices the temper of the
Mohican's mind.
They pronounced him noble, manly and generous; all that became a warrior, and
all that a maid might love.
Clothing their ideas in the most remote and subtle images, they betrayed, that, in the
short period of their intercourse, they had discovered, with the intuitive perception
of their sex, the truant disposition of his inclinations.
The Delaware girls had found no favor in his eyes!
He was of a race that had once been lords on the shores of the salt lake, and his
wishes had led him back to a people who dwelt about the graves of his fathers.
Why should not such a predilection be encouraged!
That she was of a blood purer and richer than the rest of her nation, any eye might
have seen; that she was equal to the dangers and daring of a life in the woods,
her conduct had proved; and now, they
added, the "wise one of the earth" had transplanted her to a place where she would
find congenial spirits, and might be forever happy.
Then, with another transition in voice and subject, allusions were made to the virgin
who wept in the adjacent lodge.
They compared her to flakes of snow; as pure, as white, as brilliant, and as liable
to melt in the fierce heats of summer, or congeal in the frosts of winter.
They doubted not that she was lovely in the eyes of the young chief, whose skin and
whose sorrow seemed so like her own; but though far from expressing such a
preference, it was evident they deemed her less excellent than the maid they mourned.
Still they denied her no need her rare charms might properly claim.
Her ringlets were compared to the exuberant tendrils of the vine, her eye to the blue
vault of heavens, and the most spotless cloud, with its glowing flush of the sun,
was admitted to be less attractive than her bloom.
During these and similar songs nothing was audible but the murmurs of the music;
relieved, as it was, or rather rendered terrible, by those occasional bursts of
grief which might be called its choruses.
The Delawares themselves listened like charmed men; and it was very apparent, by
the variations of their speaking countenances, how deep and true was their
Even David was not reluctant to lend his ears to the tones of voices so sweet; and
long ere the chant was ended, his gaze announced that his soul was enthralled.
The scout, to whom alone, of all the white men, the words were intelligible, suffered
himself to be a little aroused from his meditative posture, and bent his face
aside, to catch their meaning, as the girls proceeded.
But when they spoke of the future prospects of Cora and Uncas, he shook his head, like
one who knew the error of their simple creed, and resuming his reclining attitude,
he maintained it until the ceremony, if
that might be called a ceremony, in which feeling was so deeply imbued, was finished.
Happily for the self-command of both Heyward and Munro, they knew not the
meaning of the wild sounds they heard.
Chingachgook was a solitary exception to the interest manifested by the native part
of the audience.
His look never changed throughout the whole of the scene, nor did a muscle move in his
rigid countenance, even at the wildest or the most pathetic parts of the lamentation.
The cold and senseless remains of his son was all to him, and every other sense but
that of sight seemed frozen, in order that his eyes might take their final gaze at
those lineaments he had so long loved, and
which were now about to be closed forever from his view.
In this stage of the obsequies, a warrior much renowned for deed in arms, and more
especially for services in the recent combat, a man of stern and grave demeanor,
advanced slowly from the crowd, and placed himself nigh the person of the dead.
"Why hast thou left us, pride of the Wapanachki?" he said, addressing himself to
the dull ears of Uncas, as if the empty clay retained the faculties of the animated
man; "thy time has been like that of the
sun when in the trees; thy glory brighter than his light at noonday.
Thou art gone, youthful warrior, but a hundred Wyandots are clearing the briers
from thy path to the world of the spirits.
Who that saw thee in battle would believe that thou couldst die?
Who before thee has ever shown Uttawa the way into the fight?
Thy feet were like the wings of eagles; thine arm heavier than falling branches
from the pine; and thy voice like the Manitou when He speaks in the clouds.
The tongue of Uttawa is weak," he added, looking about him with a melancholy gaze,
"and his heart exceeding heavy. Pride of the Wapanachki, why hast thou left
He was succeeded by others, in due order, until most of the high and gifted men of
the nation had sung or spoken their tribute of praise over the manes of the deceased
When each had ended, another deep and breathing silence reigned in all the place.
Then a low, deep sound was heard, like the suppressed accompaniment of distant music,
rising just high enough on the air to be audible, and yet so indistinctly, as to
leave its character, and the place whence it proceeded, alike matters of conjecture.
It was, however, succeeded by another and another strain, each in a higher key, until
they grew on the ear, first in long drawn and often repeated interjections, and
finally in words.
The lips of Chingachgook had so far parted, as to announce that it was the monody of
the father.
Though not an eye was turned toward him nor the smallest sign of impatience exhibited,
it was apparent, by the manner in which the multitude elevated their heads to listen,
that they drank in the sounds with an
intenseness of attention, that none but Tamenund himself had ever before commanded.
But they listened in vain.
The strains rose just so loud as to become intelligible, and then grew fainter and
more trembling, until they finally sank on the ear, as if borne away by a passing
breath of wind.
The lips of the Sagamore closed, and he remained silent in his seat, looking with
his riveted eye and motionless form, like some creature that had been turned from the
Almighty hand with the form but without the spirit of a man.
The Delawares who knew by these symptoms that the mind of their friend was not
prepared for so mighty an effort of fortitude, relaxed in their attention; and,
with an innate delicacy, seemed to bestow
all their thoughts on the obsequies of the stranger maiden.
A signal was given, by one of the elder chiefs, to the women who crowded that part
of the circle near which the body of Cora lay.
Obedient to the sign, the girls raised the bier to the elevation of their heads, and
advanced with slow and regulated steps, chanting, as they proceeded, another
wailing song in praise of the deceased.
Gamut, who had been a close observer of rites he deemed so heathenish, now bent his
head over the shoulder of the unconscious father, whispering:
"They move with the remains of thy child; shall we not follow, and see them interred
with Christian burial?"
Munro started, as if the last trumpet had sounded in his ear, and bestowing one
anxious and hurried glance around him, he arose and followed in the simple train,
with the mien of a soldier, but bearing the full burden of a parent's suffering.
His friends pressed around him with a sorrow that was too strong to be termed
sympathy--even the young Frenchman joining in the procession, with the air of a man
who was sensibly touched at the early and melancholy fate of one so lovely.
But when the last and humblest female of the tribe had joined in the wild and yet
ordered array, the men of the Lenape contracted their circle, and formed again
around the person of Uncas, as silent, as grave, and as motionless as before.
The place which had been chosen for the grave of Cora was a little knoll, where a
cluster of young and healthful pines had taken root, forming of themselves a
melancholy and appropriate shade over the spot.
On reaching it the girls deposited their burden, and continued for many minutes
waiting, with characteristic patience, and native timidity, for some evidence that
they whose feelings were most concerned were content with the arrangement.
At length the scout, who alone understood their habits, said, in their own language:
"My daughters have done well; the white men thank them."
Satisfied with this testimony in their favor, the girls proceeded to deposit the
body in a shell, ingeniously, and not inelegantly, fabricated of the bark of the
birch; after which they lowered it into its dark and final abode.
The ceremony of covering the remains, and concealing the marks of the fresh earth, by
leaves and other natural and customary objects, was conducted with the same simple
and silent forms.
But when the labors of the kind beings who had performed these sad and friendly
offices were so far completed, they hesitated, in a way to show that they knew
not how much further they might proceed.
It was in this stage of the rites that the scout again addressed them:
"My young women have done enough," he said: "the spirit of the pale face has no need of
food or raiment, their gifts being according to the heaven of their color.
I see," he added, glancing an eye at David, who was preparing his book in a manner that
indicated an intention to lead the way in sacred song, "that one who better knows the
Christian fashions is about to speak."
The females stood modestly aside, and, from having been the principal actors in the
scene, they now became the meek and attentive observers of that which followed.
During the time David occupied in pouring out the pious feelings of his spirit in
this manner, not a sign of surprise, nor a look of impatience, escaped them.
They listened like those who knew the meaning of the strange words, and appeared
as if they felt the mingled emotions of sorrow, hope, and resignation, they were
intended to convey.
Excited by the scene he had just witnessed, and perhaps influenced by his own secret
emotions, the master of song exceeded his usual efforts.
His full rich voice was not found to suffer by a comparison with the soft tones of the
girls; and his more modulated strains possessed, at least for the ears of those
to whom they were peculiarly addressed, the additional power of intelligence.
He ended the anthem, as he had commenced it, in the midst of a grave and solemn
When, however, the closing cadence had fallen on the ears of his auditors, the
secret, timorous glances of the eyes, and the general and yet subdued movement of the
assemblage, betrayed that something was expected from the father of the deceased.
Munro seemed sensible that the time was come for him to exert what is, perhaps, the
greatest effort of which human nature is capable.
He bared his gray locks, and looked around the timid and quiet throng by which he was
encircled, with a firm and collected countenance.
Then, motioning with his hand for the scout to listen, he said:
"Say to these kind and gentle females, that a heart-broken and failing man returns them
his thanks.
Tell them, that the Being we all worship, under different names, will be mindful of
their charity; and that the time shall not be distant when we may assemble around His
throne without distinction of sex, or rank, or color."
The scout listened to the tremulous voice in which the veteran delivered these words,
and shook his head slowly when they were ended, as one who doubted their efficacy.
"To tell them this," he said, "would be to tell them that the snows come not in the
winter, or that the sun shines fiercest when the trees are stripped of their
Then turning to the women, he made such a communication of the other's gratitude as
he deemed most suited to the capacities of his listeners.
The head of Munro had already sunk upon his chest, and he was again fast relapsing into
melancholy, when the young Frenchman before named ventured to touch him lightly on the
As soon as he had gained the attention of the mourning old man, he pointed toward a
group of young Indians, who approached with a light but closely covered litter, and
then pointed upward toward the sun.
"I understand you, sir," returned Munro, with a voice of forced firmness; "I
understand you. It is the will of Heaven, and I submit.
Cora, my child! if the prayers of a heart- broken father could avail thee now, how
blessed shouldst thou be!
Come, gentlemen," he added, looking about him with an air of lofty composure, though
the anguish that quivered in his faded countenance was far too powerful to be
concealed, "our duty here is ended; let us depart."
Heyward gladly obeyed a summons that took them from a spot where, each instant, he
felt his self-control was about to desert him.
While his companions were mounting, however, he found time to press the hand of
the scout, and to repeat the terms of an engagement they had made to meet again
within the posts of the British army.
Then, gladly throwing himself into the saddle, he spurred his charger to the side
of the litter, whence low and stifled sobs alone announced the presence of Alice.
In this manner, the head of Munro again drooping on his bosom, with Heyward and
David following in sorrowing silence, and attended by the aide of Montcalm with his
guard, all the white men, with the
exception of Hawkeye, passed from before the eyes of the Delawares, and were buried
in the vast forests of that region.
But the tie which, through their common calamity, had united the feelings of these
simple dwellers in the woods with the strangers who had thus transiently visited
them, was not so easily broken.
Years passed away before the traditionary tale of the white maiden, and of the young
warrior of the Mohicans ceased to beguile the long nights and tedious marches, or to
animate their youthful and brave with a desire for vengeance.
Neither were the secondary actors in these momentous incidents forgotten.
Through the medium of the scout, who served for years afterward as a link between them
and civilized life, they learned, in answer to their inquiries, that the "Gray Head"
was speedily gathered to his fathers--borne
down, as was erroneously believed, by his military misfortunes; and that the "Open
Hand" had conveyed his surviving daughter far into the settlements of the pale faces,
where her tears had at last ceased to flow,
and had been succeeded by the bright smiles which were better suited to her joyous
nature. But these were events of a time later than
that which concerns our tale.
Deserted by all of his color, Hawkeye returned to the spot where his sympathies
led him, with a force that no ideal bond of union could destroy.
He was just in time to catch a parting look of the features of Uncas, whom the
Delawares were already inclosing in his last vestment of skins.
They paused to permit the longing and lingering gaze of the sturdy woodsman, and
when it was ended, the body was enveloped, never to be unclosed again.
Then came a procession like the other, and the whole nation was collected about the
temporary grave of the chief--temporary, because it was proper that, at some future
day, his bones should rest among those of his own people.
The movement, like the feeling, had been simultaneous and general.
The same grave expression of grief, the same rigid silence, and the same deference
to the principal mourner, were observed around the place of interment as have been
already described.
The body was deposited in an attitude of repose, facing the rising sun, with the
implements of war and of the chase at hand, in readiness for the final journey.
An opening was left in the shell, by which it was protected from the soil, for the
spirit to communicate with its earthly tenement, when necessary; and the whole was
concealed from the instinct, and protected
from the ravages of the beasts of prey, with an ingenuity peculiar to the natives.
The manual rites then ceased and all present reverted to the more spiritual part
of the ceremonies.
Chingachgook became once more the object of the common attention.
He had not yet spoken, and something consolatory and instructive was expected
from so renowned a chief on an occasion of such interest.
Conscious of the wishes of the people, the stern and self-restrained warrior raised
his face, which had latterly been buried in his robe, and looked about him with a
steady eye.
His firmly compressed and expressive lips then severed, and for the first time during
the long ceremonies his voice was distinctly audible.
"Why do my brothers mourn?" he said, regarding the dark race of dejected
warriors by whom he was environed; "why do my daughters weep? that a young man has
gone to the happy hunting-grounds; that a chief has filled his time with honor?
He was good; he was dutiful; he was brave. Who can deny it?
The Manitou had need of such a warrior, and He has called him away.
As for me, the son and the father of Uncas, I am a blazed pine, in a clearing of the
pale faces.
My race has gone from the shores of the salt lake and the hills of the Delawares.
But who can say that the serpent of his tribe has forgotten his wisdom?
I am alone--"
"No, no," cried Hawkeye, who had been gazing with a yearning look at the rigid
features of his friend, with something like his own self-command, but whose philosophy
could endure no longer; "no, Sagamore, not alone.
The gifts of our colors may be different, but God has so placed us as to journey in
the same path.
I have no kin, and I may also say, like you, no people.
He was your son, and a red-skin by nature; and it may be that your blood was nearer--
but, if ever I forget the lad who has so often fou't at my side in war, and slept at
my side in peace, may He who made us all,
whatever may be our color or our gifts, forget me!
The boy has left us for a time; but, Sagamore, you are not alone."
Chingachgook grasped the hand that, in the warmth of feeling, the scout had stretched
across the fresh earth, and in an attitude of friendship these two sturdy and intrepid
woodsmen bowed their heads together, while
scalding tears fell to their feet, watering the grave of Uncas like drops of falling
In the midst of the awful stillness with which such a burst of feeling, coming as it
did, from the two most renowned warriors of that region, was received, Tamenund lifted
his voice to disperse the multitude.
"It is enough," he said. "Go, children of the Lenape, the anger of
the Manitou is not done. Why should Tamenund stay?
The pale faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red men has not yet
come again. My day has been too long.
In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis happy and strong; and yet, before the night
has come, have I lived to see the last warrior
of the wise race of the Mohicans."