Part 2 - The Last of the Mohicans Audiobook by James Fenimore Cooper (Chs 06-10)

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"Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide; He wales a portion with judicious
care; And 'Let us worship God', he says, with solemn air."
Heyward and his female companions witnessed this mysterious movement with secret
uneasiness; for, though the conduct of the white man had hitherto been above reproach,
his rude equipments, blunt address, and
strong antipathies, together with the character of his silent associates, were
all causes for exciting distrust in minds that had been so recently alarmed by Indian
The stranger alone disregarded the passing incidents.
He seated himself on a projection of the rocks, whence he gave no other signs of
consciousness than by the struggles of his spirit, as manifested in frequent and heavy
Smothered voices were next heard, as though men called to each other in the bowels of
the earth, when a sudden light flashed upon those without, and laid bare the much-
prized secret of the place.
At the further extremity of a narrow, deep cavern in the rock, whose length appeared
much extended by the perspective and the nature of the light by which it was seen,
was seated the scout, holding a blazing knot of pine.
The strong glare of the fire fell full upon his sturdy, weather-beaten countenance and
forest attire, lending an air of romantic wildness to the aspect of an individual,
who, seen by the sober light of day, would
have exhibited the peculiarities of a man remarkable for the strangeness of his
dress, the iron-like inflexibility of his frame, and the singular compound of quick,
vigilant sagacity, and of exquisite
simplicity, that by turns usurped the possession of his muscular features.
At a little distance in advance stood Uncas, his whole person thrown powerfully
into view.
The travelers anxiously regarded the upright, flexible figure of the young
Mohican, graceful and unrestrained in the attitudes and movements of nature.
Though his person was more than usually screened by a green and fringed hunting-
shirt, like that of the white man, there was no concealment to his dark, glancing,
fearless eye, alike terrible and calm; the
bold outline of his high, haughty features, pure in their native red; or to the
dignified elevation of his receding forehead, together with all the finest
proportions of a noble head, bared to the generous scalping tuft.
It was the first opportunity possessed by Duncan and his companions to view the
marked lineaments of either of their Indian attendants, and each individual of the
party felt relieved from a burden of doubt,
as the proud and determined, though wild expression of the features of the young
warrior forced itself on their notice.
They felt it might be a being partially benighted in the vale of ignorance, but it
could not be one who would willingly devote his rich natural gifts to the purposes of
wanton treachery.
The ingenuous Alice gazed at his free air and proud carriage, as she would have
looked upon some precious relic of the Grecian chisel, to which life had been
imparted by the intervention of a miracle;
while Heyward, though accustomed to see the perfection of form which abounds among the
uncorrupted natives, openly expressed his admiration at such an unblemished specimen
of the noblest proportions of man.
"I could sleep in peace," whispered Alice, in reply, "with such a fearless and
generous-looking youth for my sentinel.
Surely, Duncan, those cruel murders, those terrific scenes of torture, of which we
read and hear so much, are never acted in the presence of such as he!"
"This certainly is a rare and brilliant instance of those natural qualities in
which these peculiar people are said to excel," he answered.
"I agree with you, Alice, in thinking that such a front and eye were formed rather to
intimidate than to deceive; but let us not practice a deception upon ourselves, by
expecting any other exhibition of what we
esteem virtue than according to the fashion of the savage.
As bright examples of great qualities are but too uncommon among Christians, so are
they singular and solitary with the Indians; though, for the honor of our
common nature, neither are incapable of producing them.
Let us then hope that this Mohican may not disappoint our wishes, but prove what his
looks assert him to be, a brave and constant friend."
"Now Major Heyward speaks as Major Heyward should," said Cora; "who that looks at this
creature of nature, remembers the shade of his skin?"
A short and apparently an embarrassed silence succeeded this remark, which was
interrupted by the scout calling to them, aloud, to enter.
"This fire begins to show too bright a flame," he continued, as they complied,
"and might light the Mingoes to our undoing.
Uncas, drop the blanket, and show the knaves its dark side.
This is not such a supper as a major of the Royal Americans has a right to expect, but
I've known stout detachments of the corps glad to eat their venison raw, and without
a relish, too.
(FOOTNOTE: In vulgar parlance the condiments of a repast are called by the
American "a relish," substituting the thing for its effect.
These provincial terms are frequently put in the mouths of the speakers, according to
their several conditions in life.
Most of them are of local use, and others quite peculiar to the particular class of
men to which the character belongs.
In the present instance, the scout uses the word with immediate reference to the
"salt," with which his own party was so fortunate as to be provided.)
Here, you see, we have plenty of salt, and can make a quick broil.
There's fresh sassafras boughs for the ladies to sit on, which may not be as proud
as their my-hog-guinea chairs, but which sends up a sweeter flavor, than the skin of
any hog can do, be it of Guinea, or be it of any other land.
Come, friend, don't be mournful for the colt; 'twas an innocent thing, and had not
seen much hardship.
Its death will save the creature many a sore back and weary foot!"
Uncas did as the other had directed, and when the voice of Hawkeye ceased, the roar
of the cataract sounded like the rumbling of distant thunder.
"Are we quite safe in this cavern?" demanded Heyward.
"Is there no danger of surprise? A single armed man, at its entrance, would
hold us at his mercy."
A spectral-looking figure stalked from out of the darkness behind the scout, and
seizing a blazing brand, held it toward the further extremity of their place of
Alice uttered a faint shriek, and even Cora rose to her feet, as this appalling object
moved into the light; but a single word from Heyward calmed them, with the
assurance it was only their attendant,
Chingachgook, who, lifting another blanket, discovered that the cavern had two outlets.
Then, holding the brand, he crossed a deep, narrow chasm in the rocks which ran at
right angles with the passage they were in, but which, unlike that, was open to the
heavens, and entered another cave,
answering to the description of the first, in every essential particular.
"Such old foxes as Chingachgook and myself are not often caught in a barrow with one
hole," said Hawkeye, laughing; "you can easily see the cunning of the place--the
rock is black limestone, which everybody
knows is soft; it makes no uncomfortable pillow, where brush and pine wood is
scarce; well, the fall was once a few yards below us, and I dare to say was, in its
time, as regular and as handsome a sheet of water as any along the Hudson.
But old age is a great injury to good looks, as these sweet young ladies have yet
to l'arn!
The place is sadly changed!
These rocks are full of cracks, and in some places they are softer than at othersome,
and the water has worked out deep hollows for itself, until it has fallen back, ay,
some hundred feet, breaking here and
wearing there, until the falls have neither shape nor consistency."
"In what part of them are we?" asked Heyward.
"Why, we are nigh the spot that Providence first placed them at, but where, it seems,
they were too rebellious to stay.
The rock proved softer on each side of us, and so they left the center of the river
bare and dry, first working out these two little holes for us to hide in."
"We are then on an island!"
"Ay! there are the falls on two sides of us, and the river above and below.
If you had daylight, it would be worth the trouble to step up on the height of this
rock, and look at the perversity of the water.
It falls by no rule at all; sometimes it leaps, sometimes it tumbles; there it
skips; here it shoots; in one place 'tis white as snow, and in another 'tis green as
grass; hereabouts, it pitches into deep
hollows, that rumble and crush the 'arth; and thereaways, it ripples and sings like a
brook, fashioning whirlpools and gullies in the old stone, as if 'twas no harder than
trodden clay.
The whole design of the river seems disconcerted.
First it runs smoothly, as if meaning to go down the descent as things were ordered;
then it angles about and faces the shores; nor are there places wanting where it looks
backward, as if unwilling to leave the wilderness, to mingle with the salt.
Ay, lady, the fine cobweb-looking cloth you wear at your throat is coarse, and like a
fishnet, to little spots I can show you, where the river fabricates all sorts of
images, as if having broke loose from order, it would try its hand at everything.
And yet what does it amount to!
After the water has been suffered so to have its will, for a time, like a
headstrong man, it is gathered together by the hand that made it, and a few rods below
you may see it all, flowing on steadily
toward the sea, as was foreordained from the first foundation of the 'arth!"
While his auditors received a cheering assurance of the security of their place of
concealment from this untutored description of Glenn's, (FOOTNOTE: Glenn's Falls are
on the Hudson, some forty or fifty miles
above the head of tide, or that place where the river becomes navigable for sloops.
The description of this picturesque and remarkable little cataract, as given by the
scout, is sufficiently correct, though the application of the water to uses of
civilized life has materially injured its beauties.
The rocky island and the two caverns are known to every traveler, since the former
sustains the pier of a bridge, which is now thrown across the river, immediately above
the fall.
In explanation of the taste of Hawkeye, it should be remembered that men always prize
that most which is least enjoyed.
Thus, in a new country, the woods and other objects, which in an old country would be
maintained at great cost, are got rid of, simply with a view of "improving" as it is
-they were much inclined to judge differently from Hawkeye, of its wild
But they were not in a situation to suffer their thoughts to dwell on the charms of
natural objects; and, as the scout had not found it necessary to cease his culinary
labors while he spoke, unless to point out,
with a broken fork, the direction of some particularly obnoxious point in the
rebellious stream, they now suffered their attention to be drawn to the necessary
though more vulgar consideration of their supper.
The repast, which was greatly aided by the addition of a few delicacies that Heyward
had the precaution to bring with him when they left their horses, was exceedingly
refreshing to the weary party.
Uncas acted as attendant to the females, performing all the little offices within
his power, with a mixture of dignity and anxious grace, that served to amuse
Heyward, who well knew that it was an utter
innovation on the Indian customs, which forbid their warriors to descend to any
menial employment, especially in favor of their women.
As the rights of hospitality were, however, considered sacred among them, this little
departure from the dignity of manhood excited no audible comment.
Had there been one there sufficiently disengaged to become a close observer, he
might have fancied that the services of the young chief were not entirely impartial.
That while he tendered to Alice the gourd of sweet water, and the venison in a
trencher, neatly carved from the knot of the pepperidge, with sufficient courtesy,
in performing the same offices to her
sister, his dark eye lingered on her rich, speaking countenance.
Once or twice he was compelled to speak, to command her attention of those he served.
In such cases he made use of English, broken and imperfect, but sufficiently
intelligible, and which he rendered so mild and musical, by his deep, guttural voice,
that it never failed to cause both ladies to look up in admiration and astonishment.
In the course of these civilities, a few sentences were exchanged, that served to
establish the appearance of an amicable intercourse between the parties.
In the meanwhile, the gravity of Chingcachgook remained immovable.
He had seated himself more within the circle of light, where the frequent, uneasy
glances of his guests were better enabled to separate the natural expression of his
face from the artificial terrors of the war paint.
They found a strong resemblance between father and son, with the difference that
might be expected from age and hardships.
The fierceness of his countenance now seemed to slumber, and in its place was to
be seen the quiet, vacant composure which distinguishes an Indian warrior, when his
faculties are not required for any of the greater purposes of his existence.
It was, however, easy to be seen, by the occasional gleams that shot across his
swarthy visage, that it was only necessary to arouse his passions, in order to give
full effect to the terrific device which he had adopted to intimidate his enemies.
On the other hand, the quick, roving eye of the scout seldom rested.
He ate and drank with an appetite that no sense of danger could disturb, but his
vigilance seemed never to desert him.
Twenty times the gourd or the venison was suspended before his lips, while his head
was turned aside, as though he listened to some distant and distrusted sounds--a
movement that never failed to recall his
guests from regarding the novelties of their situation, to a recollection of the
alarming reasons that had driven them to seek it.
As these frequent pauses were never followed by any remark, the momentary
uneasiness they created quickly passed away, and for a time was forgotten.
"Come, friend," said Hawkeye, drawing out a keg from beneath a cover of leaves, toward
the close of the repast, and addressing the stranger who sat at his elbow, doing great
justice to his culinary skill, "try a
little spruce; 'twill wash away all thoughts of the colt, and quicken the life
in your bosom.
I drink to our better friendship, hoping that a little horse-flesh may leave no
heart-burnings atween us. How do you name yourself?"
"Gamut--David Gamut," returned the singing master, preparing to wash down his sorrows
in a powerful draught of the woodsman's high-flavored and well-laced compound.
"A very good name, and, I dare say, handed down from honest forefathers.
I'm an admirator of names, though the Christian fashions fall far below savage
customs in this particular.
The biggest coward I ever knew as called Lyon; and his wife, Patience, would scold
you out of hearing in less time than a hunted deer would run a rod.
With an Indian 'tis a matter of conscience; what he calls himself, he generally is--not
that Chingachgook, which signifies Big Sarpent, is really a snake, big or little;
but that he understands the windings and
turnings of human natur', and is silent, and strikes his enemies when they least
expect him. What may be your calling?"
"I am an unworthy instructor in the art of psalmody."
"Anan!" "I teach singing to the youths of the
Connecticut levy."
"You might be better employed. The young hounds go laughing and singing
too much already through the woods, when they ought not to breathe louder than a fox
in his cover.
Can you use the smoothbore, or handle the rifle?"
"Praised be God, I have never had occasion to meddle with murderous implements!"
"Perhaps you understand the compass, and lay down the watercourses and mountains of
the wilderness on paper, in order that they who follow may find places by their given
"I practice no such employment." "You have a pair of legs that might make a
long path seem short! you journey sometimes, I fancy, with tidings for the
"Never; I follow no other than my own high vocation, which is instruction in sacred
"'Tis a strange calling!" muttered Hawkeye, with an inward laugh, "to go through life,
like a catbird, mocking all the ups and downs that may happen to come out of other
men's throats.
Well, friend, I suppose it is your gift, and mustn't be denied any more than if
'twas shooting, or some other better inclination.
Let us hear what you can do in that way; 'twill be a friendly manner of saying good-
night, for 'tis time that these ladies should be getting strength for a hard and a
long push, in the pride of the morning, afore the Maquas are stirring."
"With joyful pleasure do I consent", said David, adjusting his iron-rimmed
spectacles, and producing his beloved little volume, which he immediately
tendered to Alice.
"What can be more fitting and consolatory, than to offer up evening praise, after a
day of such exceeding jeopardy!" Alice smiled; but, regarding Heyward, she
blushed and hesitated.
"Indulge yourself," he whispered; "ought not the suggestion of the worthy namesake
of the Psalmist to have its weight at such a moment?"
Encouraged by his opinion, Alice did what her pious inclinations, and her keen relish
for gentle sounds, had before so strongly urged.
The book was open at a hymn not ill adapted to their situation, and in which the poet,
no longer goaded by his desire to excel the inspired King of Israel, had discovered
some chastened and respectable powers.
Cora betrayed a disposition to support her sister, and the sacred song proceeded,
after the indispensable preliminaries of the pitchpipe, and the tune had been duly
attended to by the methodical David.
The air was solemn and slow.
At times it rose to the fullest compass of the rich voices of the females, who hung
over their little book in holy excitement, and again it sank so low, that the rushing
of the waters ran through their melody, like a hollow accompaniment.
The natural taste and true ear of David governed and modified the sounds to suit
the confined cavern, every crevice and cranny of which was filled with the
thrilling notes of their flexible voices.
The Indians riveted their eyes on the rocks, and listened with an attention that
seemed to turn them into stone.
But the scout, who had placed his chin in his hand, with an expression of cold
indifference, gradually suffered his rigid features to relax, until, as verse
succeeded verse, he felt his iron nature
subdued, while his recollection was carried back to boyhood, when his ears had been
accustomed to listen to similar sounds of praise, in the settlements of the colony.
His roving eyes began to moisten, and before the hymn was ended scalding tears
rolled out of fountains that had long seemed dry, and followed each other down
those cheeks, that had oftener felt the
storms of heaven than any testimonials of weakness.
The singers were dwelling on one of those low, dying chords, which the ear devours
with such greedy rapture, as if conscious that it is about to lose them, when a cry,
that seemed neither human nor earthly, rose
in the outward air, penetrating not only the recesses of the cavern, but to the
inmost hearts of all who heard it.
It was followed by a stillness apparently as deep as if the waters had been checked
in their furious progress, at such a horrid and unusual interruption.
"What is it?" murmured Alice, after a few moments of terrible suspense.
"What is it?" repeated Hewyard aloud. Neither Hawkeye nor the Indians made any
They listened, as if expecting the sound would be repeated, with a manner that
expressed their own astonishment.
At length they spoke together, earnestly, in the Delaware language, when Uncas,
passing by the inner and most concealed aperture, cautiously left the cavern.
When he had gone, the scout first spoke in English.
"What it is, or what it is not, none here can tell, though two of us have ranged the
woods for more than thirty years.
I did believe there was no cry that Indian or beast could make, that my ears had not
heard; but this has proved that I was only a vain and conceited mortal."
"Was it not, then, the shout the warriors make when they wish to intimidate their
enemies?" asked Cora who stood drawing her veil about her person, with a calmness to
which her agitated sister was a stranger.
"No, no; this was bad, and shocking, and had a sort of unhuman sound; but when you
once hear the war-whoop, you will never mistake it for anything else.
Well, Uncas!" speaking in Delaware to the young chief as he re-entered, "what see
you? do our lights shine through the blankets?"
The answer was short, and apparently decided, being given in the same tongue.
"There is nothing to be seen without," continued Hawkeye, shaking his head in
discontent; "and our hiding-place is still in darkness.
Pass into the other cave, you that need it, and seek for sleep; we must be afoot long
before the sun, and make the most of our time to get to Edward, while the Mingoes
are taking their morning nap."
Cora set the example of compliance, with a steadiness that taught the more timid Alice
the necessity of obedience.
Before leaving the place, however, she whispered a request to Duncan, that he
would follow.
Uncas raised the blanket for their passage, and as the sisters turned to thank him for
this act of attention, they saw the scout seated again before the dying embers, with
his face resting on his hands, in a manner
which showed how deeply he brooded on the unaccountable interruption which had broken
up their evening devotions.
Heyward took with him a blazing knot, which threw a dim light through the narrow vista
of their new apartment.
Placing it in a favorable position, he joined the females, who now found
themselves alone with him for the first time since they had left the friendly
ramparts of Fort Edward.
"Leave us not, Duncan," said Alice: "we cannot sleep in such a place as this, with
that horrid cry still ringing in our ears."
"First let us examine into the security of your fortress," he answered, "and then we
will speak of rest."
He approached the further end of the cavern, to an outlet, which, like the
others, was concealed by blankets; and removing the thick screen, breathed the
fresh and reviving air from the cataract.
One arm of the river flowed through a deep, narrow ravine, which its current had worn
in the soft rock, directly beneath his feet, forming an effectual defense, as he
believed, against any danger from that
quarter; the water, a few rods above them, plunging, glancing, and sweeping along in
its most violent and broken manner.
"Nature has made an impenetrable barrier on this side," he continued, pointing down the
perpendicular declivity into the dark current before he dropped the blanket; "and
as you know that good men and true are on
guard in front I see no reason why the advice of our honest host should be
disregarded. I am certain Cora will join me in saying
that sleep is necessary to you both."
"Cora may submit to the justice of your opinion though she cannot put it in
practice," returned the elder sister, who had placed herself by the side of Alice, on
a couch of sassafras; "there would be other
causes to chase away sleep, though we had been spared the shock of this mysterious
Ask yourself, Heyward, can daughters forget the anxiety a father must endure, whose
children lodge he knows not where or how, in such a wilderness, and in the midst of
so many perils?"
"He is a soldier, and knows how to estimate the chances of the woods."
"He is a father, and cannot deny his nature."
"How kind has he ever been to all my follies, how tender and indulgent to all my
wishes!" sobbed Alice. "We have been selfish, sister, in urging
our visit at such hazard."
"I may have been rash in pressing his consent in a moment of much embarrassment,
but I would have proved to him, that however others might neglect him in his
strait his children at least were faithful."
"When he heard of your arrival at Edward," said Heyward, kindly, "there was a powerful
struggle in his bosom between fear and love; though the latter, heightened, if
possible, by so long a separation, quickly prevailed.
'It is the spirit of my noble-minded Cora that leads them, Duncan', he said, 'and I
will not balk it.
Would to God, that he who holds the honor of our royal master in his guardianship,
would show but half her firmness!'"
"And did he not speak of me, Heyward?" demanded Alice, with jealous affection;
"surely, he forgot not altogether his little Elsie?"
"That were impossible," returned the young man; "he called you by a thousand endearing
epithets, that I may not presume to use, but to the justice of which, I can warmly
Once, indeed, he said--"
Duncan ceased speaking; for while his eyes were riveted on those of Alice, who had
turned toward him with the eagerness of filial affection, to catch his words, the
same strong, horrid cry, as before, filled the air, and rendered him mute.
A long, breathless silence succeeded, during which each looked at the others in
fearful expectation of hearing the sound repeated.
At length, the blanket was slowly raised, and the scout stood in the aperture with a
countenance whose firmness evidently began to give way before a mystery that seemed to
threaten some danger, against which all his
cunning and experience might prove of no avail.
"They do not sleep, On yonder cliffs, a grizzly band, I see them sit."--Gray
"'Twould be neglecting a warning that is given for our good to lie hid any longer,"
said Hawkeye "when such sounds are raised in the forest.
These gentle ones may keep close, but the Mohicans and I will watch upon the rock,
where I suppose a major of the Sixtieth would wish to keep us company."
"Is, then, our danger so pressing?" asked Cora.
"He who makes strange sounds, and gives them out for man's information, alone knows
our danger.
I should think myself wicked, unto rebellion against His will, was I to burrow
with such warnings in the air!
Even the weak soul who passes his days in singing is stirred by the cry, and, as he
says, is 'ready to go forth to the battle' If 'twere only a battle, it would be a
thing understood by us all, and easily
managed; but I have heard that when such shrieks are atween heaven and 'arth, it
betokens another sort of warfare!"
"If all our reasons for fear, my friend, are confined to such as proceed from
supernatural causes, we have but little occasion to be alarmed," continued the
undisturbed Cora, "are you certain that our
enemies have not invented some new and ingenious method to strike us with terror,
that their conquest may become more easy?"
"Lady," returned the scout, solemnly, "I have listened to all the sounds of the
woods for thirty years, as a man will listen whose life and death depend on the
quickness of his ears.
There is no whine of the panther, no whistle of the catbird, nor any invention
of the devilish Mingoes, that can cheat me!
I have heard the forest moan like mortal men in their affliction; often, and again,
have I listened to the wind playing its music in the branches of the girdled trees;
and I have heard the lightning cracking in
the air like the snapping of blazing brush as it spitted forth sparks and forked
flames; but never have I thought that I heard more than the pleasure of him who
sported with the things of his hand.
But neither the Mohicans, nor I, who am a white man without a cross, can explain the
cry just heard. We, therefore, believe it a sign given for
our good."
"It is extraordinary!" said Heyward, taking his pistols from the place where he had
laid them on entering; "be it a sign of peace or a signal of war, it must be looked
Lead the way, my friend; I follow."
On issuing from their place of confinement, the whole party instantly experienced a
grateful renovation of spirits, by exchanging the pent air of the hiding-place
for the cool and invigorating atmosphere
which played around the whirlpools and pitches of the cataract.
A heavy evening breeze swept along the surface of the river, and seemed to drive
the roar of the falls into the recesses of their own cavern, whence it issued heavily
and constant, like thunder rumbling beyond the distant hills.
The moon had risen, and its light was already glancing here and there on the
waters above them; but the extremity of the rock where they stood still lay in shadow.
With the exception of the sounds produced by the rushing waters, and an occasional
breathing of the air, as it murmured past them in fitful currents, the scene was as
still as night and solitude could make it.
In vain were the eyes of each individual bent along the opposite shores, in quest of
some signs of life, that might explain the nature of the interruption they had heard.
Their anxious and eager looks were baffled by the deceptive light, or rested only on
naked rocks, and straight and immovable trees.
"Here is nothing to be seen but the gloom and quiet of a lovely evening," whispered
Duncan; "how much should we prize such a scene, and all this breathing solitude, at
any other moment, Cora!
Fancy yourselves in security, and what now, perhaps, increases your terror, may be made
conducive to enjoyment--" "Listen!" interrupted Alice.
The caution was unnecessary.
Once more the same sound arose, as if from the bed of the river, and having broken out
of the narrow bounds of the cliffs, was heard undulating through the forest, in
distant and dying cadences.
"Can any here give a name to such a cry?" demanded Hawkeye, when the last echo was
lost in the woods; "if so, let him speak; for myself, I judge it not to belong to
"Here, then, is one who can undeceive you," said Duncan; "I know the sound full well,
for often have I heard it on the field of battle, and in situations which are
frequent in a soldier's life.
'Tis the horrid shriek that a horse will give in his agony; oftener drawn from him
in pain, though sometimes in terror.
My charger is either a prey to the beasts of the forest, or he sees his danger,
without the power to avoid it.
The sound might deceive me in the cavern, but in the open air I know it too well to
be wrong."
The scout and his companions listened to this simple explanation with the interest
of men who imbibe new ideas, at the same time that they get rid of old ones, which
had proved disagreeable inmates.
The two latter uttered their usual expressive exclamation, "hugh!" as the
truth first glanced upon their minds, while the former, after a short, musing pause,
took upon himself to reply.
"I cannot deny your words," he said, "for I am little skilled in horses, though born
where they abound.
The wolves must be hovering above their heads on the bank, and the timorsome
creatures are calling on man for help, in the best manner they are able.
Uncas"--he spoke in Delaware--"Uncas, drop down in the canoe, and whirl a brand among
the pack; or fear may do what the wolves can't get at to perform, and leave us
without horses in the morning, when we
shall have so much need to journey swiftly!"
The young native had already descended to the water to comply, when a long howl was
raised on the edge of the river, and was borne swiftly off into the depths of the
forest, as though the beasts, of their own
accord, were abandoning their prey in sudden terror.
Uncas, with instinctive quickness, receded, and the three foresters held another of
their low, earnest conferences.
"We have been like hunters who have lost the points of the heavens, and from whom
the sun has been hid for days," said Hawkeye, turning away from his companions;
"now we begin again to know the signs of
our course, and the paths are cleared from briers!
Seat yourselves in the shade which the moon throws from yonder beech--'tis thicker than
that of the pines--and let us wait for that which the Lord may choose to send next.
Let all your conversation be in whispers; though it would be better, and, perhaps, in
the end, wiser, if each one held discourse with his own thoughts, for a time."
The manner of the scout was seriously impressive, though no longer distinguished
by any signs of unmanly apprehension.
It was evident that his momentary weakness had vanished with the explanation of a
mystery which his own experience had not served to fathom; and though he now felt
all the realities of their actual
condition, that he was prepared to meet them with the energy of his hardy nature.
This feeling seemed also common to the natives, who placed themselves in positions
which commanded a full view of both shores, while their own persons were effectually
concealed from observation.
In such circumstances, common prudence dictated that Heyward and his companions
should imitate a caution that proceeded from so intelligent a source.
The young man drew a pile of the sassafras from the cave, and placing it in the chasm
which separated the two caverns, it was occupied by the sisters, who were thus
protected by the rocks from any missiles,
while their anxiety was relieved by the assurance that no danger could approach
without a warning.
Heyward himself was posted at hand, so near that he might communicate with his
companions without raising his voice to a dangerous elevation; while David, in
imitation of the woodsmen, bestowed his
person in such a manner among the fissures of the rocks, that his ungainly limbs were
no longer offensive to the eye. In this manner hours passed without further
The moon reached the zenith, and shed its mild light perpendicularly on the lovely
sight of the sisters slumbering peacefully in each other's arms.
Duncan cast the wide shawl of Cora before a spectacle he so much loved to contemplate,
and then suffered his own head to seek a pillow on the rock.
David began to utter sounds that would have shocked his delicate organs in more wakeful
moments; in short, all but Hawkeye and the Mohicans lost every idea of consciousness,
in uncontrollable drowsiness.
But the watchfulness of these vigilant protectors neither tired nor slumbered.
Immovable as that rock, of which each appeared to form a part, they lay, with
their eyes roving, without intermission, along the dark margin of trees, that
bounded the adjacent shores of the narrow stream.
Not a sound escaped them; the most subtle examination could not have told they
It was evident that this excess of caution proceeded from an experience that no
subtlety on the part of their enemies could deceive.
It was, however, continued without any apparent consequences, until the moon had
set, and a pale streak above the treetops, at the bend of the river a little below,
announced the approach of day.
Then, for the first time, Hawkeye was seen to stir.
He crawled along the rock and shook Duncan from his heavy slumbers.
"Now is the time to journey," he whispered; "awake the gentle ones, and be ready to get
into the canoe when I bring it to the landing-place."
"Have you had a quiet night?" said Heyward; "for myself, I believe sleep has got the
better of my vigilance." "All is yet still as midnight.
Be silent, but be quick."
By this time Duncan was thoroughly awake, and he immediately lifted the shawl from
the sleeping females.
The motion caused Cora to raise her hand as if to repulse him, while Alice murmured, in
her soft, gentle voice, "No, no, dear father, we were not deserted; Duncan was
with us!"
"Yes, sweet innocence," whispered the youth; "Duncan is here, and while life
continues or danger remains, he will never quit thee.
Alice! awake! The hour has come to move!"
A loud shriek from the younger of the sisters, and the form of the other standing
upright before him, in bewildered horror, was the unexpected answer he received.
While the words were still on the lips of Heyward, there had arisen such a tumult of
yells and cries as served to drive the swift currents of his own blood back from
its bounding course into the fountains of his heart.
It seemed, for near a minute, as if the demons of hell had possessed themselves of
the air about them, and were venting their savage humors in barbarous sounds.
The cries came from no particular direction, though it was evident they
filled the woods, and, as the appalled listeners easily imagined, the caverns of
the falls, the rocks, the bed of the river, and the upper air.
David raised his tall person in the midst of the infernal din, with a hand on either
ear, exclaiming:
"Whence comes this discord! Has hell broke loose, that man should utter
sounds like these!"
The bright flashes and the quick reports of a dozen rifles, from the opposite banks of
the stream, followed this incautious exposure of his person, and left the
unfortunate singing master senseless on
that rock where he had been so long slumbering.
The Mohicans boldly sent back the intimidating yell of their enemies, who
raised a shout of savage triumph at the fall of Gamut.
The flash of rifles was then quick and close between them, but either party was
too well skilled to leave even a limb exposed to the hostile aim.
Duncan listened with intense anxiety for the strokes of the paddle, believing that
flight was now their only refuge.
The river glanced by with its ordinary velocity, but the canoe was nowhere to be
seen on its dark waters.
He had just fancied they were cruelly deserted by their scout, as a stream of
flame issued from the rock beneath them, and a fierce yell, blended with a shriek of
agony, announced that the messenger of
death sent from the fatal weapon of Hawkeye, had found a victim.
At this slight repulse the assailants instantly withdrew, and gradually the place
became as still as before the sudden tumult.
Duncan seized the favorable moment to spring to the body of Gamut, which he bore
within the shelter of the narrow chasm that protected the sisters.
In another minute the whole party was collected in this spot of comparative
"The poor fellow has saved his scalp," said Hawkeye, coolly passing his hand over the
head of David; "but he is a proof that a man may be born with too long a tongue!
'Twas downright madness to show six feet of flesh and blood, on a naked rock, to the
raging savages. I only wonder he has escaped with life."
"Is he not dead?" demanded Cora, in a voice whose husky tones showed how powerfully
natural horror struggled with her assumed firmness.
"Can we do aught to assist the wretched man?"
"No, no! the life is in his heart yet, and after he has slept awhile he will come to
himself, and be a wiser man for it, till the hour of his real time shall come,"
returned Hawkeye, casting another oblique
glance at the insensible body, while he filled his charger with admirable nicety.
"Carry him in, Uncas, and lay him on the sassafras.
The longer his nap lasts the better it will be for him, as I doubt whether he can find
a proper cover for such a shape on these rocks; and singing won't do any good with
the Iroquois."
"You believe, then, the attack will be renewed?" asked Heyward.
"Do I expect a hungry wolf will satisfy his craving with a mouthful!
They have lost a man, and 'tis their fashion, when they meet a loss, and fail in
the surprise, to fall back; but we shall have them on again, with new expedients to
circumvent us, and master our scalps.
Our main hope," he continued, raising his rugged countenance, across which a shade of
anxiety just then passed like a darkening cloud, "will be to keep the rock until
Munro can send a party to our help!
God send it may be soon and under a leader that knows the Indian customs!"
"You hear our probable fortunes, Cora," said Duncan, "and you know we have
everything to hope from the anxiety and experience of your father.
Come, then, with Alice, into this cavern, where you, at least, will be safe from the
murderous rifles of our enemies, and where you may bestow a care suited to your gentle
natures on our unfortunate comrade."
The sisters followed him into the outer cave, where David was beginning, by his
sighs, to give symptoms of returning consciousness, and then commending the
wounded man to their attention, he immediately prepared to leave them.
"Duncan!" said the tremulous voice of Cora, when he had reached the mouth of the
He turned and beheld the speaker, whose color had changed to a deadly paleness, and
whose lips quivered, gazing after him, with an expression of interest which immediately
recalled him to her side.
"Remember, Duncan, how necessary your safety is to our own--how you bear a
father's sacred trust--how much depends on your discretion and care--in short," she
added, while the telltale blood stole over
her features, crimsoning her very temples, "how very deservedly dear you are to all of
the name of Munro."
"If anything could add to my own base love of life," said Heyward, suffering his
unconscious eyes to wander to the youthful form of the silent Alice, "it would be so
kind an assurance.
As major of the Sixtieth, our honest host will tell you I must take my share of the
fray; but our task will be easy; it is merely to keep these blood-hounds at bay
for a few hours."
Without waiting for a reply, he tore himself from the presence of the sisters,
and joined the scout and his companions, who still lay within the protection of the
little chasm between the two caves.
"I tell you, Uncas," said the former, as Heyward joined them, "you are wasteful of
your powder, and the kick of the rifle disconcerts your aim!
Little powder, light lead, and a long arm, seldom fail of bringing the death screech
from a Mingo! At least, such has been my experience with
the creatur's.
Come, friends: let us to our covers, for no man can tell when or where a Maqua
(FOOTNOTE: Mingo was the Delaware term of the Five Nations.
Maquas was the name given them by the Dutch.
The French, from their first intercourse with them, called them Iroquois.)
-will strike his blow."
The Indians silently repaired to their appointed stations, which were fissures in
the rocks, whence they could command the approaches to the foot of the falls.
In the center of the little island, a few short and stunted pines had found root,
forming a thicket, into which Hawkeye darted with the swiftness of a deer,
followed by the active Duncan.
Here they secured themselves, as well as circumstances would permit, among the
shrubs and fragments of stone that were scattered about the place.
Above them was a bare, rounded rock, on each side of which the water played its
gambols, and plunged into the abysses beneath, in the manner already described.
As the day had now dawned, the opposite shores no longer presented a confused
outline, but they were able to look into the woods, and distinguish objects beneath
a canopy of gloomy pines.
A long and anxious watch succeeded, but without any further evidences of a renewed
attack; and Duncan began to hope that their fire had proved more fatal than was
supposed, and that their enemies had been effectually repulsed.
When he ventured to utter this impression to his companions, it was met by Hawkeye
with an incredulous shake of the head.
"You know not the nature of a Maqua, if you think he is so easily beaten back without a
scalp!" he answered.
"If there was one of the imps yelling this morning, there were forty! and they know
our number and quality too well to give up the chase so soon.
Hist! look into the water above, just where it breaks over the rocks.
I am no mortal, if the risky devils haven't swam down upon the very pitch, and, as bad
luck would have it, they have hit the head of the island.
Hist! man, keep close! or the hair will be off your crown in the turning of a knife!"
Heyward lifted his head from the cover, and beheld what he justly considered a prodigy
of rashness and skill.
The river had worn away the edge of the soft rock in such a manner as to render its
first pitch less abrupt and perpendicular than is usual at waterfalls.
With no other guide than the ripple of the stream where it met the head of the island,
a party of their insatiable foes had ventured into the current, and swam down
upon this point, knowing the ready access
it would give, if successful, to their intended victims.
As Hawkeye ceased speaking, four human heads could be seen peering above a few
logs of drift-wood that had lodged on these naked rocks, and which had probably
suggested the idea of the practicability of the hazardous undertaking.
At the next moment, a fifth form was seen floating over the green edge of the fall,
a little from the line of the island.
The savage struggled powerfully to gain the point of safety, and, favored by the
glancing water, he was already stretching forth an arm to meet the grasp of his
companions, when he shot away again with
the shirling current, appeared to rise into the air, with uplifted arms and starting
eyeballs, and fell, with a sudden plunge, into that deep and yawning abyss over which
he hovered.
A single, wild, despairing shriek rose from the cavern, and all was hushed again as the
The first generous impulse of Duncan was to rush to the rescue of the hapless wretch;
but he felt himself bound to the spot by the iron grasp of the immovable scout.
"Would ye bring certain death upon us, by telling the Mingoes where we lie?" demanded
Hawkeye, sternly; "'Tis a charge of powder saved, and ammunition is as precious now as
breath to a worried deer!
Freshen the priming of your pistols--the midst of the falls is apt to dampen the
brimstone--and stand firm for a close struggle, while I fire on their rush."
He placed a finger in his mouth, and drew a long, shrill whistle, which was answered
from the rocks that were guarded by the Mohicans.
Duncan caught glimpses of heads above the scattered drift-wood, as this signal rose
on the air, but they disappeared again as suddenly as they had glanced upon his
A low, rustling sound next drew his attention behind him, and turning his head,
he beheld Uncas within a few feet, creeping to his side.
Hawkeye spoke to him in Delaware, when the young chief took his position with singular
caution and undisturbed coolness.
To Heyward this was a moment of feverish and impatient suspense; though the scout
saw fit to select it as a fit occasion to read a lecture to his more youthful
associates on the art of using firearms with discretion.
"Of all we'pons," he commenced, "the long barreled, true-grooved, soft-metaled rifle
is the most dangerous in skillful hands, though it wants a strong arm, a quick eye,
and great judgment in charging, to put forth all its beauties.
The gunsmiths can have but little insight into their trade when they make their
fowling-pieces and short horsemen's--"
He was interrupted by the low but expressive "hugh" of Uncas.
"I see them, boy, I see them!" continued Hawkeye; "they are gathering for the rush,
or they would keep their dingy backs below the logs.
Well, let them," he added, examining his flint; "the leading man certainly comes on
to his death, though it should be Montcalm himself!"
At that moment the woods were filled with another burst of cries, and at the signal
four savages sprang from the cover of the driftwood.
Heyward felt a burning desire to rush forward to meet them, so intense was the
delirious anxiety of the moment; but he was restrained by the deliberate examples of
the scout and Uncas.
When their foes, who had leaped over the black rocks that divided them, with long
bounds, uttering the wildest yells, were within a few rods, the rifle of Hawkeye
slowly rose among the shrubs, and poured out its fatal contents.
The foremost Indian bounded like a stricken deer, and fell headlong among the clefts of
the island.
"Now, Uncas!" cried the scout, drawing his long knife, while his quick eyes began to
flash with ardor, "take the last of the screeching imps; of the other two we are
He was obeyed; and but two enemies remained to be overcome.
Heyward had given one of his pistols to Hawkeye, and together they rushed down a
little declivity toward their foes; they discharged their weapons at the same
instant, and equally without success.
"I know'd it! and I said it!" muttered the scout, whirling the despised little
implement over the falls with bitter disdain.
"Come on, ye bloody minded hell-hounds! ye meet a man without a cross!"
The words were barely uttered, when he encountered a savage of gigantic stature,
of the fiercest mien.
At the same moment, Duncan found himself engaged with the other, in a similar
contest of hand to hand.
With ready skill, Hawkeye and his antagonist each grasped that uplifted arm
of the other which held the dangerous knife.
For near a minute they stood looking one another in the eye, and gradually exerting
the power of their muscles for the mastery.
At length, the toughened sinews of the white man prevailed over the less practiced
limbs of the native.
The arm of the latter slowly gave way before the increasing force of the scout,
who, suddenly wresting his armed hand from the grasp of the foe, drove the sharp
weapon through his naked bosom to the heart.
In the meantime, Heyward had been pressed in a more deadly struggle.
His slight sword was snapped in the first encounter.
As he was destitute of any other means of defense, his safety now depended entirely
on bodily strength and resolution.
Though deficient in neither of these qualities, he had met an enemy every way
his equal.
Happily, he soon succeeded in disarming his adversary, whose knife fell on the rock at
their feet; and from this moment it became a fierce struggle who should cast the other
over the dizzy height into a neighboring cavern of the falls.
Every successive struggle brought them nearer to the verge, where Duncan perceived
the final and conquering effort must be made.
Each of the combatants threw all his energies into that effort, and the result
was, that both tottered on the brink of the precipice.
Heyward felt the grasp of the other at his throat, and saw the grim smile the savage
gave, under the revengeful hope that he hurried his enemy to a fate similar to his
own, as he felt his body slowly yielding to
a resistless power, and the young man experienced the passing agony of such a
moment in all its horrors.
At that instant of extreme danger, a dark hand and glancing knife appeared before
him; the Indian released his hold, as the blood flowed freely from around the severed
tendons of the wrist; and while Duncan was
drawn backward by the saving hand of Uncas, his charmed eyes still were riveted on the
fierce and disappointed countenance of his foe, who fell sullenly and disappointed
down the irrecoverable precipice.
"To cover! to cover!" cried Hawkeye, who just then had despatched the enemy; "to
cover, for your lives! the work is but half ended!"
The young Mohican gave a shout of triumph, and followed by Duncan, he glided up the
acclivity they had descended to the combat, and sought the friendly shelter of the
rocks and shrubs.
"They linger yet, Avengers of their native land."--Gray
The warning call of the scout was not uttered without occasion.
During the occurrence of the deadly encounter just related, the roar of the
falls was unbroken by any human sound whatever.
It would seem that interest in the result had kept the natives on the opposite shores
in breathless suspense, while the quick evolutions and swift changes in the
positions of the combatants effectually
prevented a fire that might prove dangerous alike to friend and enemy.
But the moment the struggle was decided, a yell arose as fierce and savage as wild and
revengeful passions could throw into the air.
It was followed by the swift flashes of the rifles, which sent their leaden messengers
across the rock in volleys, as though the assailants would pour out their impotent
fury on the insensible scene of the fatal contest.
A steady, though deliberate return was made from the rifle of Chingachgook, who had
maintained his post throughout the fray with unmoved resolution.
When the triumphant shout of Uncas was borne to his ears, the gratified father
raised his voice in a single responsive cry, after which his busy piece alone
proved that he still guarded his pass with unwearied diligence.
In this manner many minutes flew by with the swiftness of thought; the rifles of the
assailants speaking, at times, in rattling volleys, and at others in occasional,
scattering shots.
Though the rock, the trees, and the shrubs, were cut and torn in a hundred places
around the besieged, their cover was so close, and so rigidly maintained, that, as
yet, David had been the only sufferer in their little band.
"Let them burn their powder," said the deliberate scout, while bullet after bullet
whizzed by the place where he securely lay; "there will be a fine gathering of lead
when it is over, and I fancy the imps will
tire of the sport afore these old stones cry out for mercy!
Uncas, boy, you waste the kernels by overcharging; and a kicking rifle never
carries a true bullet.
I told you to take that loping miscreant under the line of white point; now, if your
bullet went a hair's breadth it went two inches above it.
The life lies low in a Mingo, and humanity teaches us to make a quick end to the
A quiet smile lighted the haughty features of the young Mohican, betraying his
knowledge of the English language as well as of the other's meaning; but he suffered
it to pass away without vindication of reply.
"I cannot permit you to accuse Uncas of want of judgment or of skill," said Duncan;
"he saved my life in the coolest and readiest manner, and he has made a friend
who never will require to be reminded of the debt he owes."
Uncas partly raised his body, and offered his hand to the grasp of Heyward.
During this act of friendship, the two young men exchanged looks of intelligence
which caused Duncan to forget the character and condition of his wild associate.
In the meanwhile, Hawkeye, who looked on this burst of youthful feeling with a cool
but kind regard made the following reply: "Life is an obligation which friends often
owe each other in the wilderness.
I dare say I may have served Uncas some such turn myself before now; and I very
well remember that he has stood between me and death five different times; three times
from the Mingoes, once in crossing Horican, and--"
"That bullet was better aimed than common!" exclaimed Duncan, involuntarily shrinking
from a shot which struck the rock at his side with a smart rebound.
Hawkeye laid his hand on the shapeless metal, and shook his head, as he examined
it, saying, "Falling lead is never flattened, had it come from the clouds this
might have happened."
But the rifle of Uncas was deliberately raised toward the heavens, directing the
eyes of his companions to a point, where the mystery was immediately explained.
A ragged oak grew on the right bank of the river, nearly opposite to their position,
which, seeking the freedom of the open space, had inclined so far forward that its
upper branches overhung that arm of the
stream which flowed nearest to its own shore.
Among the topmost leaves, which scantily concealed the gnarled and stunted limbs, a
savage was nestled, partly concealed by the trunk of the tree, and partly exposed, as
though looking down upon them to ascertain the effect produced by his treacherous aim.
"These devils will scale heaven to circumvent us to our ruin," said Hawkeye;
"keep him in play, boy, until I can bring 'killdeer' to bear, when we will try his
metal on each side of the tree at once."
Uncas delayed his fire until the scout uttered the word.
The rifles flashed, the leaves and bark of the oak flew into the air, and were
scattered by the wind, but the Indian answered their assault by a taunting laugh,
sending down upon them another bullet in
return, that struck the cap of Hawkeye from his head.
Once more the savage yells burst out of the woods, and the leaden hail whistled above
the heads of the besieged, as if to confine them to a place where they might become
easy victims to the enterprise of the warrior who had mounted the tree.
"This must be looked to," said the scout, glancing about him with an anxious eye.
"Uncas, call up your father; we have need of all our we'pons to bring the cunning
varmint from his roost."
The signal was instantly given; and, before Hawkeye had reloaded his rifle, they were
joined by Chingachgook.
When his son pointed out to the experienced warrior the situation of their dangerous
enemy, the usual exclamatory "hugh" burst from his lips; after which, no further
expression of surprise or alarm was suffered to escape him.
Hawkeye and the Mohicans conversed earnestly together in Delaware for a few
moments, when each quietly took his post, in order to execute the plan they had
speedily devised.
The warrior in the oak had maintained a quick, though ineffectual fire, from the
moment of his discovery.
But his aim was interrupted by the vigilance of his enemies, whose rifles
instantaneously bore on any part of his person that was left exposed.
Still his bullets fell in the center of the crouching party.
The clothes of Heyward, which rendered him peculiarly conspicuous, were repeatedly
cut, and once blood was drawn from a slight wound in his arm.
At length, emboldened by the long and patient watchfulness of his enemies, the
Huron attempted a better and more fatal aim.
The quick eyes of the Mohicans caught the dark line of his lower limbs incautiously
exposed through the thin foliage, a few inches from the trunk of the tree.
Their rifles made a common report, when, sinking on his wounded limb, part of the
body of the savage came into view.
Swift as thought, Hawkeye seized the advantage, and discharged his fatal weapon
into the top of the oak.
The leaves were unusually agitated; the dangerous rifle fell from its commanding
elevation, and after a few moments of vain struggling, the form of the savage was seen
swinging in the wind, while he still
grasped a ragged and naked branch of the tree with hands clenched in desperation.
"Give him, in pity, give him the contents of another rifle," cried Duncan, turning
away his eyes in horror from the spectacle of a fellow creature in such awful
"Not a karnel!" exclaimed the obdurate Hawkeye; "his death is certain, and we have
no powder to spare, for Indian fights sometimes last for days; 'tis their scalps
or ours! and God, who made us, has put into
our natures the craving to keep the skin on the head."
Against this stern and unyielding morality, supported as it was by such visible policy,
there was no appeal.
From that moment the yells in the forest once more ceased, the fire was suffered to
decline, and all eyes, those of friends as well as enemies, became fixed on the
hopeless condition of the wretch who was dangling between heaven and earth.
The body yielded to the currents of air, and though no murmur or groan escaped the
victim, there were instants when he grimly faced his foes, and the anguish of cold
despair might be traced, through the
intervening distance, in possession of his swarthy lineaments.
Three several times the scout raised his piece in mercy, and as often, prudence
getting the better of his intention, it was again silently lowered.
At length one hand of the Huron lost its hold, and dropped exhausted to his side.
A desperate and fruitless struggle to recover the branch succeeded, and then the
savage was seen for a fleeting instant, grasping wildly at the empty air.
The lightning is not quicker than was the flame from the rifle of Hawkeye; the limbs
of the victim trembled and contracted, the head fell to the bosom, and the body parted
the foaming waters like lead, when the
element closed above it, in its ceaseless velocity, and every vestige of the unhappy
Huron was lost forever.
No shout of triumph succeeded this important advantage, but even the Mohicans
gazed at each other in silent horror. A single yell burst from the woods, and all
was again still.
Hawkeye, who alone appeared to reason on the occasion, shook his head at his own
momentary weakness, even uttering his self- disapprobation aloud.
"'Twas the last charge in my horn and the last bullet in my pouch, and 'twas the act
of a boy!" he said; "what mattered it whether he struck the rock living or dead!
feeling would soon be over.
Uncas, lad, go down to the canoe, and bring up the big horn; it is all the powder we
have left, and we shall need it to the last grain, or I am ignorant of the Mingo
The young Mohican complied, leaving the scout turning over the useless contents of
his pouch, and shaking the empty horn with renewed discontent.
From this unsatisfactory examination, however, he was soon called by a loud and
piercing exclamation from Uncas, that sounded, even to the unpracticed ears of
Duncan, as the signal of some new and unexpected calamity.
Every thought filled with apprehension for the previous treasure he had concealed in
the cavern, the young man started to his feet, totally regardless of the hazard he
incurred by such an exposure.
As if actuated by a common impulse, his movement was imitated by his companions,
and, together they rushed down the pass to the friendly chasm, with a rapidity that
rendered the scattering fire of their enemies perfectly harmless.
The unwonted cry had brought the sisters, together with the wounded David, from their
place of refuge; and the whole party, at a single glance, was made acquainted with the
nature of the disaster that had disturbed
even the practiced stoicism of their youthful Indian protector.
At a short distance from the rock, their little bark was to be seen floating across
the eddy, toward the swift current of the river, in a manner which proved that its
course was directed by some hidden agent.
The instant this unwelcome sight caught the eye of the scout, his rifle was leveled as
by instinct, but the barrel gave no answer to the bright sparks of the flint.
"'Tis too late, 'tis too late!"
Hawkeye exclaimed, dropping the useless piece in bitter disappointment; "the
miscreant has struck the rapid; and had we powder, it could hardly send the lead
swifter than he now goes!"
The adventurous Huron raised his head above the shelter of the canoe, and, while it
glided swiftly down the stream, he waved his hand, and gave forth the shout, which
was the known signal of success.
His cry was answered by a yell and a laugh from the woods, as tauntingly exulting as
if fifty demons were uttering their blasphemies at the fall of some Christian
"Well may you laugh, ye children of the devil!" said the scout, seating himself on
a projection of the rock, and suffering his gun to fall neglected at his feet, "for the
three quickest and truest rifles in these
woods are no better than so many stalks of mullein, or the last year's horns of a
"What is to be done?" demanded Duncan, losing the first feeling of disappointment
in a more manly desire for exertion; "what will become of us?"
Hawkeye made no other reply than by passing his finger around the crown of his head, in
a manner so significant, that none who witnessed the action could mistake its
"Surely, surely, our case is not so desperate!" exclaimed the youth; "the
Hurons are not here; we may make good the caverns, we may oppose their landing."
"With what?" coolly demanded the scout.
"The arrows of Uncas, or such tears as women shed!
No, no; you are young, and rich, and have friends, and at such an age I know it is
hard to die!
But," glancing his eyes at the Mohicans, "let us remember we are men without a
cross, and let us teach these natives of the forest that white blood can run as
freely as red, when the appointed hour is come."
Duncan turned quickly in the direction indicated by the other's eyes, and read a
confirmation of his worst apprehensions in the conduct of the Indians.
Chingachgook, placing himself in a dignified posture on another fragment of
the rock, had already laid aside his knife and tomahawk, and was in the act of taking
the eagle's plume from his head, and
smoothing the solitary tuft of hair in readiness to perform its last and revolting
His countenance was composed, though thoughtful, while his dark, gleaming eyes
were gradually losing the fierceness of the combat in an expression better suited to
the change he expected momentarily to undergo.
"Our case is not, cannot be so hopeless!" said Duncan; "even at this very moment
succor may be at hand.
I see no enemies! They have sickened of a struggle in which
they risk so much with so little prospect of gain!"
"It may be a minute, or it may be an hour, afore the wily sarpents steal upon us, and
it is quite in natur' for them to be lying within hearing at this very moment," said
Hawkeye; "but come they will, and in such a fashion as will leave us nothing to hope!
Chingachgook"--he spoke in Delaware--"my brother, we have fought our last battle
together, and the Maquas will triumph in the death of the sage man of the Mohicans,
and of the pale face, whose eyes can make
night as day, and level the clouds to the mists of the springs!"
"Let the Mingo women go weep over the slain!" returned the Indian, with
characteristic pride and unmoved firmness; "the Great Snake of the Mohicans has coiled
himself in their wigwams, and has poisoned
their triumph with the wailings of children, whose fathers have not returned!
Eleven warriors lie hid from the graves of their tribes since the snows have melted,
and none will tell where to find them when the tongue of Chingachgook shall be silent!
Let them draw the sharpest knife, and whirl the swiftest tomahawk, for their bitterest
enemy is in their hands.
Uncas, topmost branch of a noble trunk, call on the cowards to hasten, or their
hearts will soften, and they will change to women!"
"They look among the fishes for their dead!" returned the low, soft voice of the
youthful chieftain; "the Hurons float with the slimy eels!
They drop from the oaks like fruit that is ready to be eaten! and the Delawares
"Ay, ay," muttered the scout, who had listened to this peculiar burst of the
natives with deep attention; "they have warmed their Indian feelings, and they'll
soon provoke the Maquas to give them a speedy end.
As for me, who am of the whole blood of the whites, it is befitting that I should die
as becomes my color, with no words of scoffing in my mouth, and without
bitterness at the heart!"
"Why die at all!" said Cora, advancing from the place where natural horror had, until
this moment, held her riveted to the rock; "the path is open on every side; fly, then,
to the woods, and call on God for succor.
Go, brave men, we owe you too much already; let us no longer involve you in our hapless
"You but little know the craft of the Iroquois, lady, if you judge they have left
the path open to the woods!" returned Hawkeye, who, however, immediately added in
his simplicity, "the down stream current,
it is certain, might soon sweep us beyond the reach of their rifles or the sound of
their voices." "Then try the river.
Why linger to add to the number of the victims of our merciless enemies?"
"Why," repeated the scout, looking about him proudly; "because it is better for a
man to die at peace with himself than to live haunted by an evil conscience!
What answer could we give Munro, when he asked us where and how we left his
"Go to him, and say that you left them with a message to hasten to their aid," returned
Cora, advancing nigher to the scout in her generous ardor; "that the Hurons bear them
into the northern wilds, but that by
vigilance and speed they may yet be rescued; and if, after all, it should
please heaven that his assistance come too late, bear to him," she continued, her
voice gradually lowering, until it seemed
nearly choked, "the love, the blessings, the final prayers of his daughters, and bid
him not mourn their early fate, but to look forward with humble confidence to the
Christian's goal to meet his children."
The hard, weather-beaten features of the scout began to work, and when she had
ended, he dropped his chin to his hand, like a man musing profoundly on the nature
of the proposal.
"There is reason in her words!" at length broke from his compressed and trembling
lips; "ay, and they bear the spirit of Christianity; what might be right and
proper in a red-skin, may be sinful in a
man who has not even a cross in blood to plead for his ignorance.
Chingachgook! Uncas! hear you the talk of the dark-eyed
He now spoke in Delaware to his companions, and his address, though calm and
deliberate, seemed very decided.
The elder Mohican heard with deep gravity, and appeared to ponder on his words, as
though he felt the importance of their import.
After a moment of hesitation, he waved his hand in assent, and uttered the English
word "Good!" with the peculiar emphasis of his people.
Then, replacing his knife and tomahawk in his girdle, the warrior moved silently to
the edge of the rock which was most concealed from the banks of the river.
Here he paused a moment, pointed significantly to the woods below, and
saying a few words in his own language, as if indicating his intended route, he
dropped into the water, and sank from
before the eyes of the witnesses of his movements.
The scout delayed his departure to speak to the generous girl, whose breathing became
lighter as she saw the success of her remonstrance.
"Wisdom is sometimes given to the young, as well as to the old," he said; "and what you
have spoken is wise, not to call it by a better word.
If you are led into the woods, that is such of you as may be spared for awhile, break
the twigs on the bushes as you pass, and make the marks of your trail as broad as
you can, when, if mortal eyes can see them,
depend on having a friend who will follow to the ends of the 'arth afore he desarts
He gave Cora an affectionate shake of the hand, lifted his rifle, and after regarding
it a moment with melancholy solicitude, laid it carefully aside, and descended to
the place where Chingachgook had just disappeared.
For an instant he hung suspended by the rock, and looking about him, with a
countenance of peculiar care, he added bitterly, "Had the powder held out, this
disgrace could never have befallen!" then,
loosening his hold, the water closed above his head, and he also became lost to view.
All eyes now were turned on Uncas, who stood leaning against the ragged rock, in
immovable composure.
After waiting a short time, Cora pointed down the river, and said:
"Your friends have not been seen, and are now, most probably, in safety.
Is it not time for you to follow?"
"Uncas will stay," the young Mohican calmly answered in English.
"To increase the horror of our capture, and to diminish the chances of our release!
Go, generous young man," Cora continued, lowering her eyes under the gaze of the
Mohican, and perhaps, with an intuitive consciousness of her power; "go to my
father, as I have said, and be the most confidential of my messengers.
Tell him to trust you with the means to buy the freedom of his daughters.
Go! 'tis my wish, 'tis my prayer, that you will go!"
The settled, calm look of the young chief changed to an expression of gloom, but he
no longer hesitated.
With a noiseless step he crossed the rock, and dropped into the troubled stream.
Hardly a breath was drawn by those he left behind, until they caught a glimpse of his
head emerging for air, far down the current, when he again sank, and was seen
no more.
These sudden and apparently successful experiments had all taken place in a few
minutes of that time which had now become so precious.
After a last look at Uncas, Cora turned and with a quivering lip, addressed herself to
"I have heard of your boasted skill in the water, too, Duncan," she said; "follow,
then, the wise example set you by these simple and faithful beings."
"Is such the faith that Cora Munro would exact from her protector?" said the young
man, smiling mournfully, but with bitterness.
"This is not a time for idle subtleties and false opinions," she answered; "but a
moment when every duty should be equally considered.
To us you can be of no further service here, but your precious life may be saved
for other and nearer friends."
He made no reply, though his eye fell wistfully on the beautiful form of Alice,
who was clinging to his arm with the dependency of an infant.
"Consider," continued Cora, after a pause, during which she seemed to struggle with a
pang even more acute than any that her fears had excited, "that the worst to us
can be but death; a tribute that all must pay at the good time of God's appointment."
"There are evils worse than death," said Duncan, speaking hoarsely, and as if
fretful at her importunity, "but which the presence of one who would die in your
behalf may avert."
Cora ceased her entreaties; and veiling her face in her shawl, drew the nearly
insensible Alice after her into the deepest recess of the inner cavern.
"Be gay securely; Dispel, my fair, with smiles, the tim'rous clouds, That hang on
thy clear brow." --Death of Agrippina
The sudden and almost magical change, from the stirring incidents of the combat to the
stillness that now reigned around him, acted on the heated imagination of Heyward
like some exciting dream.
While all the images and events he had witnessed remained deeply impressed on his
memory, he felt a difficulty in persuading him of their truth.
Still ignorant of the fate of those who had trusted to the aid of the swift current, he
at first listened intently to any signal or sounds of alarm, which might announce the
good or evil fortune of their hazardous undertaking.
His attention was, however, bestowed in vain; for with the disappearance of Uncas,
every sign of the adventurers had been lost, leaving him in total uncertainty of
their fate.
In a moment of such painful doubt, Duncan did not hesitate to look around him,
without consulting that protection from the rocks which just before had been so
necessary to his safety.
Every effort, however, to detect the least evidence of the approach of their hidden
enemies was as fruitless as the inquiry after his late companions.
The wooded banks of the river seemed again deserted by everything possessing animal
The uproar which had so lately echoed through the vaults of the forest was gone,
leaving the rush of the waters to swell and sink on the currents of the air, in the
unmingled sweetness of nature.
A fish-hawk, which, secure on the topmost branches of a dead pine, had been a distant
spectator of the fray, now swooped from his high and ragged perch, and soared, in wide
sweeps, above his prey; while a jay, whose
noisy voice had been stilled by the hoarser cries of the savages, ventured again to
open his discordant throat, as though once more in undisturbed possession of his wild
Duncan caught from these natural accompaniments of the solitary scene a
glimmering of hope; and he began to rally his faculties to renewed exertions, with
something like a reviving confidence of success.
"The Hurons are not to be seen," he said, addressing David, who had by no means
recovered from the effects of the stunning blow he had received; "let us conceal
ourselves in the cavern, and trust the rest to Providence."
"I remember to have united with two comely maidens, in lifting up our voices in praise
and thanksgiving," returned the bewildered singing-master; "since which time I have
been visited by a heavy judgment for my sins.
I have been mocked with the likeness of sleep, while sounds of discord have rent my
ears, such as might manifest the fullness of time, and that nature had forgotten her
"Poor fellow! thine own period was, in truth, near its accomplishment!
But arouse, and come with me; I will lead you where all other sounds but those of
your own psalmody shall be excluded."
"There is melody in the fall of the cataract, and the rushing of many waters is
sweet to the senses!" said David, pressing his hand confusedly on his brow.
"Is not the air yet filled with shrieks and cries, as though the departed spirits of
the damned--"
"Not now, not now," interrupted the impatient Heyward, "they have ceased, and
they who raised them, I trust in God, they are gone, too! everything but the water is
still and at peace; in, then, where you may
create those sounds you love so well to hear."
David smiled sadly, though not without a momentary gleam of pleasure, at this
allusion to his beloved vocation.
He no longer hesitated to be led to a spot which promised such unalloyed gratification
to his wearied senses; and leaning on the arm of his companion, he entered the narrow
mouth of the cave.
Duncan seized a pile of the sassafras, which he drew before the passage,
studiously concealing every appearance of an aperture.
Within this fragile barrier he arranged the blankets abandoned by the foresters,
darkening the inner extremity of the cavern, while its outer received a
chastened light from the narrow ravine,
through which one arm of the river rushed to form the junction with its sister branch
a few rods below.
"I like not the principle of the natives, which teaches them to submit without a
struggle, in emergencies that appear desperate," he said, while busied in this
employment; "our own maxim, which says,
'while life remains there is hope', is more consoling, and better suited to a soldier's
To you, Cora, I will urge no words of idle encouragement; your own fortitude and
undisturbed reason will teach you all that may become your sex; but cannot we dry the
tears of that trembling weeper on your bosom?"
"I am calmer, Duncan," said Alice, raising herself from the arms of her sister, and
forcing an appearance of composure through her tears; "much calmer, now.
Surely, in this hidden spot we are safe, we are secret, free from injury; we will hope
everything from those generous men who have risked so much already in our behalf."
"Now does our gentle Alice speak like a daughter of Munro!" said Heyward, pausing
to press her hand as he passed toward the outer entrance of the cavern.
"With two such examples of courage before him, a man would be ashamed to prove other
than a hero."
He then seated himself in the center of the cavern, grasping his remaining pistol with
a hand convulsively clenched, while his contracted and frowning eye announced the
sullen desperation of his purpose.
"The Hurons, if they come, may not gain our position so easily as they think," he
slowly muttered; and propping his head back against the rock, he seemed to await the
result in patience, though his gaze was
unceasingly bent on the open avenue to their place of retreat.
With the last sound of his voice, a deep, a long, and almost breathless silence
The fresh air of the morning had penetrated the recess, and its influence was gradually
felt on the spirits of its inmates.
As minute after minute passed by, leaving them in undisturbed security, the
insinuating feeling of hope was gradually gaining possession of every bosom, though
each one felt reluctant to give utterance
to expectations that the next moment might so fearfully destroy.
David alone formed an exception to these varying emotions.
A gleam of light from the opening crossed his wan countenance, and fell upon the
pages of the little volume, whose leaves he was again occupied in turning, as if
searching for some song more fitted to
their condition than any that had yet met their eye.
He was, most probably, acting all this time under a confused recollection of the
promised consolation of Duncan.
At length, it would seem, his patient industry found its reward; for, without
explanation or apology, he pronounced aloud the words "Isle of Wight," drew a long,
sweet sound from his pitch-pipe, and then
ran through the preliminary modulations of the air whose name he had just mentioned,
with the sweeter tones of his own musical voice.
"May not this prove dangerous?" asked Cora, glancing her dark eye at Major Heyward.
"Poor fellow! his voice is too feeble to be heard above the din of the falls," was the
answer; "beside, the cavern will prove his friend.
Let him indulge his passions since it may be done without hazard."
"Isle of Wight!" repeated David, looking about him with that dignity with which he
had long been wont to silence the whispering echoes of his school; "'tis a
brave tune, and set to solemn words! let it be sung with meet respect!"
After allowing a moment of stillness to enforce his discipline, the voice of the
singer was heard, in low, murmuring syllables, gradually stealing on the ear,
until it filled the narrow vault with
sounds rendered trebly thrilling by the feeble and tremulous utterance produced by
his debility.
The melody, which no weakness could destroy, gradually wrought its sweet
influence on the senses of those who heard it.
It even prevailed over the miserable travesty of the song of David which the
singer had selected from a volume of similar effusions, and caused the sense to
be forgotten in the insinuating harmony of the sounds.
Alice unconsciously dried her tears, and bent her melting eyes on the pallid
features of Gamut, with an expression of chastened delight that she neither affected
or wished to conceal.
Cora bestowed an approving smile on the pious efforts of the namesake of the Jewish
prince, and Heyward soon turned his steady, stern look from the outlet of the cavern,
to fasten it, with a milder character, on
the face of David, or to meet the wandering beams which at moments strayed from the
humid eyes of Alice.
The open sympathy of the listeners stirred the spirit of the votary of music, whose
voice regained its richness and volume, without losing that touching softness which
proved its secret charm.
Exerting his renovated powers to their utmost, he was yet filling the arches of
the cave with long and full tones, when a yell burst into the air without, that
instantly stilled his pious strains,
choking his voice suddenly, as though his heart had literally bounded into the
passage of his throat. "We are lost!" exclaimed Alice, throwing
herself into the arms of Cora.
"Not yet, not yet," returned the agitated but undaunted Heyward: "the sound came from
the center of the island, and it has been produced by the sight of their dead
We are not yet discovered, and there is still hope."
Faint and almost despairing as was the prospect of escape, the words of Duncan
were not thrown away, for it awakened the powers of the sisters in such a manner that
they awaited the results in silence.
A second yell soon followed the first, when a rush of voices was heard pouring down the
island, from its upper to its lower extremity, until they reached the naked
rock above the caverns, where, after a
shout of savage triumph, the air continued full of horrible cries and screams, such as
man alone can utter, and he only when in a state of the fiercest barbarity.
The sounds quickly spread around them in every direction.
Some called to their fellows from the water's edge, and were answered from the
heights above.
Cries were heard in the startling vicinity of the chasm between the two caves, which
mingled with hoarser yells that arose out of the abyss of the deep ravine.
In short, so rapidly had the savage sounds diffused themselves over the barren rock,
that it was not difficult for the anxious listeners to imagine they could be heard
beneath, as in truth they were above on every side of them.
In the midst of this tumult, a triumphant yell was raised within a few yards of the
hidden entrance to the cave.
Heyward abandoned every hope, with the belief it was the signal that they were
Again the impression passed away, as he heard the voices collect near the spot
where the white man had so reluctantly abandoned his rifle.
Amid the jargon of Indian dialects that he now plainly heard, it was easy to
distinguish not only words, but sentences, in the patois of the Canadas.
A burst of voices had shouted simultaneously, "La Longue Carabine!"
causing the opposite woods to re-echo with a name which, Heyward well remembered, had
been given by his enemies to a celebrated
hunter and scout of the English camp, and who, he now learned for the first time, had
been his late companion. "La Longue Carabine!
La Longue Carabine!" passed from mouth to mouth, until the whole band appeared to be
collected around a trophy which would seem to announce the death of its formidable
After a vociferous consultation, which was, at times, deafened by bursts of savage joy,
they again separated, filling the air with the name of a foe, whose body, Heywood
could collect from their expressions, they
hoped to find concealed in some crevice of the island.
"Now," he whispered to the trembling sisters, "now is the moment of uncertainty!
if our place of retreat escape this scrutiny, we are still safe!
In every event, we are assured, by what has fallen from our enemies, that our friends
have escaped, and in two short hours we may look for succor from Webb."
There were now a few minutes of fearful stillness, during which Heyward well knew
that the savages conducted their search with greater vigilance and method.
More than once he could distinguish their footsteps, as they brushed the sassafras,
causing the faded leaves to rustle, and the branches to snap.
At length, the pile yielded a little, a corner of a blanket fell, and a faint ray
of light gleamed into the inner part of the cave.
Cora folded Alice to her bosom in agony, and Duncan sprang to his feet.
A shout was at that moment heard, as if issuing from the center of the rock,
announcing that the neighboring cavern had at length been entered.
In a minute, the number and loudness of the voices indicated that the whole party was
collected in and around that secret place.
As the inner passages to the two caves were so close to each other, Duncan, believing
that escape was no longer possible, passed David and the sisters, to place himself
between the latter and the first onset of the terrible meeting.
Grown desperate by his situation, he drew nigh the slight barrier which separated him
only by a few feet from his relentless pursuers, and placing his face to the
casual opening, he even looked out with a
sort of desperate indifference, on their movements.
Within reach of his arm was the brawny shoulder of a gigantic Indian, whose deep
and authoritative voice appeared to give directions to the proceedings of his
Beyond him again, Duncan could look into the vault opposite, which was filled with
savages, upturning and rifling the humble furniture of the scout.
The wound of David had dyed the leaves of sassafras with a color that the native well
knew as anticipating the season.
Over this sign of their success, they sent up a howl, like an opening from so many
hounds who had recovered a lost trail.
After this yell of victory, they tore up the fragrant bed of the cavern, and bore
the branches into the chasm, scattering the boughs, as if they suspected them of
concealing the person of the man they had so long hated and feared.
One fierce and wild-looking warrior approached the chief, bearing a load of the
brush, and pointing exultingly to the deep red stains with which it was sprinkled,
uttered his joy in Indian yells, whose
meaning Heyward was only enabled to comprehend by the frequent repetition of
the name "La Longue Carabine!"
When his triumph had ceased, he cast the brush on the slight heap Duncan had made
before the entrance of the second cavern, and closed the view.
His example was followed by others, who, as they drew the branches from the cave of the
scout, threw them into one pile, adding, unconsciously, to the security of those
they sought.
The very slightness of the defense was its chief merit, for no one thought of
disturbing a mass of brush, which all of them believed, in that moment of hurry and
confusion, had been accidentally raised by the hands of their own party.
As the blankets yielded before the outward pressure, and the branches settled in the
fissure of the rock by their own weight, forming a compact body, Duncan once more
breathed freely.
With a light step and lighter heart, he returned to the center of the cave, and
took the place he had left, where he could command a view of the opening next the
While he was in the act of making this movement, the Indians, as if changing their
purpose by a common impulse, broke away from the chasm in a body, and were heard
rushing up the island again, toward the point whence they had originally descended.
Here another wailing cry betrayed that they were again collected around the bodies of
their dead comrades.
Duncan now ventured to look at his companions; for, during the most critical
moments of their danger, he had been apprehensive that the anxiety of his
countenance might communicate some
additional alarm to those who were so little able to sustain it.
"They are gone, Cora!" he whispered; "Alice, they are returned whence they came,
and we are saved!
To Heaven, that has alone delivered us from the grasp of so merciless an enemy, be all
the praise!"
"Then to Heaven will I return my thanks!" exclaimed the younger sister, rising from
the encircling arm of Cora, and casting herself with enthusiastic gratitude on the
naked rock; "to that Heaven who has spared
the tears of a gray-headed father; has saved the lives of those I so much love."
Both Heyward and the more temperate Cora witnessed the act of involuntary emotion
with powerful sympathy, the former secretly believing that piety had never worn a form
so lovely as it had now assumed in the youthful person of Alice.
Her eyes were radiant with the glow of grateful feelings; the flush of her beauty
was again seated on her cheeks, and her whole soul seemed ready and anxious to pour
out its thanksgivings through the medium of her eloquent features.
But when her lips moved, the words they should have uttered appeared frozen by some
new and sudden chill.
Her bloom gave place to the paleness of death; her soft and melting eyes grew hard,
and seemed contracting with horror; while those hands, which she had raised, clasped
in each other, toward heaven, dropped in
horizontal lines before her, the fingers pointed forward in convulsed motion.
Heyward turned the instant she gave a direction to his suspicions, and peering
just above the ledge which formed the threshold of the open outlet of the cavern,
he beheld the malignant, fierce and savage features of Le Renard Subtil.
In that moment of surprise, the self- possession of Heyward did not desert him.
He observed by the vacant expression of the Indian's countenance, that his eye,
accustomed to the open air had not yet been able to penetrate the dusky light which
pervaded the depth of the cavern.
He had even thought of retreating beyond a curvature in the natural wall, which might
still conceal him and his companions, when by the sudden gleam of intelligence that
shot across the features of the savage, he
saw it was too late, and that they were betrayed.
The look of exultation and brutal triumph which announced this terrible truth was
irresistibly irritating.
Forgetful of everything but the impulses of his hot blood, Duncan leveled his pistol
and fired.
The report of the weapon made the cavern bellow like an eruption from a volcano; and
when the smoke it vomited had been driven away before the current of air which issued
from the ravine the place so lately
occupied by the features of his treacherous guide was vacant.
Rushing to the outlet, Heyward caught a glimpse of his dark figure stealing around
a low and narrow ledge, which soon hid him entirely from sight.
Among the savages a frightful stillness succeeded the explosion, which had just
been heard bursting from the bowels of the rock.
But when Le Renard raised his voice in a long and intelligible whoop, it was
answered by a spontaneous yell from the mouth of every Indian within hearing of the
The clamorous noises again rushed down the island; and before Duncan had time to
recover from the shock, his feeble barrier of brush was scattered to the winds, the
cavern was entered at both its extremities,
and he and his companions were dragged from their shelter and borne into the day, where
they stood surrounded by the whole band of the triumphant Hurons.
"I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn As much as we this night have overwatched!"
--Midsummer Night's Dream
The instant the shock of this sudden misfortune had abated, Duncan began to make
his observations on the appearance and proceedings of their captors.
Contrary to the usages of the natives in the wantonness of their success they had
respected, not only the persons of the trembling sisters, but his own.
The rich ornaments of his military attire had indeed been repeatedly handled by
different individuals of the tribes with eyes expressing a savage longing to possess
the baubles; but before the customary
violence could be resorted to, a mandate in the authoritative voice of the large
warrior, already mentioned, stayed the uplifted hand, and convinced Heyward that
they were to be reserved for some object of particular moment.
While, however, these manifestations of weakness were exhibited by the young and
vain of the party, the more experienced warriors continued their search throughout
both caverns, with an activity that denoted
they were far from being satisfied with those fruits of their conquest which had
already been brought to light.
Unable to discover any new victim, these diligent workers of vengeance soon
approached their male prisoners, pronouncing the name "La Longue Carabine,"
with a fierceness that could not be easily mistaken.
Duncan affected not to comprehend the meaning of their repeated and violent
interrogatories, while his companion was spared the effort of a similar deception by
his ignorance of French.
Wearied at length by their importunities, and apprehensive of irritating his captors
by too stubborn a silence, the former looked about him in quest of Magua, who
might interpret his answers to questions
which were at each moment becoming more earnest and threatening.
The conduct of this savage had formed a solitary exception to that of all his
While the others were busily occupied in seeking to gratify their childish passion
for finery, by plundering even the miserable effects of the scout, or had been
searching with such bloodthirsty vengeance
in their looks for their absent owner, Le Renard had stood at a little distance from
the prisoners, with a demeanor so quiet and satisfied, as to betray that he had already
effected the grand purpose of his treachery.
When the eyes of Heyward first met those of his recent guide, he turned them away in
horror at the sinister though calm look he encountered.
Conquering his disgust, however, he was able, with an averted face, to address his
successful enemy.
"Le Renard Subtil is too much of a warrior," said the reluctant Heyward, "to
refuse telling an unarmed man what his conquerors say."
"They ask for the hunter who knows the paths through the woods," returned Magua,
in his broken English, laying his hand, at the same time, with a ferocious smile, on
the bundle of leaves with which a wound on his own shoulder was bandaged.
"'La Longue Carabine'!
His rifle is good, and his eye never shut; but, like the short gun of the white chief,
it is nothing against the life of Le Subtil."
"Le Renard is too brave to remember the hurts received in war, or the hands that
gave them."
"Was it war, when the tired Indian rested at the sugartree to taste his corn! who
filled the bushes with creeping enemies! who drew the knife, whose tongue was peace,
while his heart was colored with blood!
Did Magua say that the hatchet was out of the ground, and that his hand had dug it
As Duncan dared not retort upon his accuser by reminding him of his own premeditated
treachery, and disdained to deprecate his resentment by any words of apology, he
remained silent.
Magua seemed also content to rest the controversy as well as all further
communication there, for he resumed the leaning attitude against the rock from
which, in momentary energy, he had arisen.
But the cry of "La Longue Carabine" was renewed the instant the impatient savages
perceived that the short dialogue was ended.
"You hear," said Magua, with stubborn indifference: "the red Hurons call for the
life of 'The Long Rifle', or they will have the blood of him that keep him hid!"
"He is gone--escaped; he is far beyond their reach."
Renard smiled with cold contempt, as he answered:
"When the white man dies, he thinks he is at peace; but the red men know how to
torture even the ghosts of their enemies. Where is his body?
Let the Hurons see his scalp."
"He is not dead, but escaped." Magua shook his head incredulously.
"Is he a bird, to spread his wings; or is he a fish, to swim without air!
The white chief read in his books, and he believes the Hurons are fools!"
"Though no fish, 'The Long Rifle' can swim.
He floated down the stream when the powder was all burned, and when the eyes of the
Hurons were behind a cloud." "And why did the white chief stay?"
demanded the still incredulous Indian.
"Is he a stone that goes to the bottom, or does the scalp burn his head?"
"That I am not stone, your dead comrade, who fell into the falls, might answer, were
the life still in him," said the provoked young man, using, in his anger, that
boastful language which was most likely to excite the admiration of an Indian.
"The white man thinks none but cowards desert their women."
Magua muttered a few words, inaudibly, between his teeth, before he continued,
aloud: "Can the Delawares swim, too, as well as
crawl in the bushes?
Where is 'Le Gros Serpent'?"
Duncan, who perceived by the use of these Canadian appellations, that his late
companions were much better known to his enemies than to himself, answered,
reluctantly: "He also is gone down with the water."
"'Le Cerf Agile' is not here?"
"I know not whom you call 'The Nimble Deer'," said Duncan gladly profiting by any
excuse to create delay.
"Uncas," returned Magua, pronouncing the Delaware name with even greater difficulty
than he spoke his English words. "'Bounding Elk' is what the white man says,
when he calls to the young Mohican."
"Here is some confusion in names between us, Le Renard," said Duncan, hoping to
provoke a discussion.
"Daim is the French for deer, and cerf for stag; elan is the true term, when one would
speak of an elk."
"Yes," muttered the Indian, in his native tongue; "the pale faces are prattling
women! they have two words for each thing, while a red-skin will make the sound of his
voice speak to him."
Then, changing his language, he continued, adhering to the imperfect nomenclature of
his provincial instructors.
"The deer is swift, but weak; the elk is swift, but strong; and the son of 'Le
Serpent' is 'Le Cerf Agile.' Has he leaped the river to the woods?"
"If you mean the younger Delaware, he, too, has gone down with the water."
As there was nothing improbable to an Indian in the manner of the escape, Magua
admitted the truth of what he had heard, with a readiness that afforded additional
evidence how little he would prize such worthless captives.
With his companions, however, the feeling was manifestly different.
The Hurons had awaited the result of this short dialogue with characteristic
patience, and with a silence that increased until there was a general stillness in the
When Heyward ceased to speak, they turned their eyes, as one man, on Magua,
demanding, in this expressive manner, an explanation of what had been said.
Their interpreter pointed to the river, and made them acquainted with the result, as
much by the action as by the few words he uttered.
When the fact was generally understood, the savages raised a frightful yell, which
declared the extent of their disappointment.
Some ran furiously to the water's edge, beating the air with frantic gestures,
while others spat upon the element, to resent the supposed treason it had
committed against their acknowledged rights as conquerors.
A few, and they not the least powerful and terrific of the band, threw lowering looks,
in which the fiercest passion was only tempered by habitual self-command, at those
captives who still remained in their power,
while one or two even gave vent to their malignant feelings by the most menacing
gestures, against which neither the sex nor the beauty of the sisters was any
The young soldier made a desperate but fruitless effort to spring to the side of
Alice, when he saw the dark hand of a savage twisted in the rich tresses which
were flowing in volumes over her shoulders,
while a knife was passed around the head from which they fell, as if to denote the
horrid manner in which it was about to be robbed of its beautiful ornament.
But his hands were bound; and at the first movement he made, he felt the grasp of the
powerful Indian who directed the band, pressing his shoulder like a vise.
Immediately conscious how unavailing any struggle against such an overwhelming force
must prove, he submitted to his fate, encouraging his gentle companions by a few
low and tender assurances, that the natives
seldom failed to threaten more than they performed.
But while Duncan resorted to these words of consolation to quiet the apprehensions of
the sisters, he was not so weak as to deceive himself.
He well knew that the authority of an Indian chief was so little conventional,
that it was oftener maintained by physical superiority than by any moral supremacy he
might possess.
The danger was, therefore, magnified exactly in proportion to the number of the
savage spirits by which they were surrounded.
The most positive mandate from him who seemed the acknowledged leader, was liable
to be violated at each moment by any rash hand that might choose to sacrifice a
victim to the manes of some dead friend or relative.
While, therefore, he sustained an outward appearance of calmness and fortitude, his
heart leaped into his throat, whenever any of their fierce captors drew nearer than
common to the helpless sisters, or fastened
one of their sullen, wandering looks on those fragile forms which were so little
able to resist the slightest assault.
His apprehensions were, however, greatly relieved, when he saw that the leader had
summoned his warriors to himself in counsel.
Their deliberations were short, and it would seem, by the silence of most of the
party, the decision unanimous.
By the frequency with which the few speakers pointed in the direction of the
encampment of Webb, it was apparent they dreaded the approach of danger from that
This consideration probably hastened their determination, and quickened the subsequent
During his short conference, Heyward, finding a respite from his gravest fears,
had leisure to admire the cautious manner in which the Hurons had made their
approaches, even after hostilities had ceased.
It has already been stated that the upper half of the island was a naked rock, and
destitute of any other defenses than a few scattered logs of driftwood.
They had selected this point to make their descent, having borne the canoe through the
wood around the cataract for that purpose.
Placing their arms in the little vessel a dozen men clinging to its sides had trusted
themselves to the direction of the canoe, which was controlled by two of the most
skillful warriors, in attitudes that
enabled them to command a view of the dangerous passage.
Favored by this arrangement, they touched the head of the island at that point which
had proved so fatal to their first adventurers, but with the advantages of
superior numbers, and the possession of firearms.
That such had been the manner of their descent was rendered quite apparent to
Duncan; for they now bore the light bark from the upper end of the rock, and placed
it in the water, near the mouth of the outer cavern.
As soon as this change was made, the leader made signs to the prisoners to descend and
As resistance was impossible, and remonstrance useless, Heyward set the
example of submission, by leading the way into the canoe, where he was soon seated
with the sisters and the still wondering David.
Notwithstanding the Hurons were necessarily ignorant of the little channels among the
eddies and rapids of the stream, they knew the common signs of such a navigation too
well to commit any material blunder.
When the pilot chosen for the task of guiding the canoe had taken his station,
the whole band plunged again into the river, the vessel glided down the current,
and in a few moments the captives found
themselves on the south bank of the stream, nearly opposite to the point where they had
struck it the preceding evening.
Here was held another short but earnest consultation, during which the horses, to
whose panic their owners ascribed their heaviest misfortune, were led from the
cover of the woods, and brought to the sheltered spot.
The band now divided.
The great chief, so often mentioned, mounting the charger of Heyward, led the
way directly across the river, followed by most of his people, and disappeared in the
woods, leaving the prisoners in charge of
six savages, at whose head was Le Renard Subtil.
Duncan witnessed all their movements with renewed uneasiness.
He had been fond of believing, from the uncommon forbearance of the savages, that
he was reserved as a prisoner to be delivered to Montcalm.
As the thoughts of those who are in misery seldom slumber, and the invention is never
more lively than when it is stimulated by hope, however feeble and remote, he had
even imagined that the parental feelings of
Munro were to be made instrumental in seducing him from his duty to the king.
For though the French commander bore a high character for courage and enterprise, he
was also thought to be expert in those political practises which do not always
respect the nicer obligations of morality,
and which so generally disgraced the European diplomacy of that period.
All those busy and ingenious speculations were now annihilated by the conduct of his
That portion of the band who had followed the huge warrior took the route toward the
foot of the Horican, and no other expectation was left for himself and
companions, than that they were to be
retained as hopeless captives by their savage conquerors.
Anxious to know the worst, and willing, in such an emergency, to try the potency of
gold he overcame his reluctance to speak to Magua.
Addressing himself to his former guide, who had now assumed the authority and manner of
one who was to direct the future movements of the party, he said, in tones as friendly
and confiding as he could assume:
"I would speak to Magua, what is fit only for so great a chief to hear."
The Indian turned his eyes on the young soldier scornfully, as he answered:
"Speak; trees have no ears."
"But the red Hurons are not deaf; and counsel that is fit for the great men of a
nation would make the young warriors drunk. If Magua will not listen, the officer of
the king knows how to be silent."
The savage spoke carelessly to his comrades, who were busied, after their
awkward manner, in preparing the horses for the reception of the sisters, and moved a
little to one side, whither by a cautious gesture he induced Heyward to follow.
"Now, speak," he said; "if the words are such as Magua should hear."
"Le Renard Subtil has proved himself worthy of the honorable name given to him by his
Canada fathers," commenced Heyward; "I see his wisdom, and all that he has done for
us, and shall remember it when the hour to reward him arrives.
Yes! Renard has proved that he is not only a great chief in council, but one who knows
how to deceive his enemies!"
"What has Renard done?" coldly demanded the Indian.
"What! has he not seen that the woods were filled with outlying parties of the
enemies, and that the serpent could not steal through them without being seen?
Then, did he not lose his path to blind the eyes of the Hurons?
Did he not pretend to go back to his tribe, who had treated him ill, and driven him
from their wigwams like a dog?
And when he saw what he wished to do, did we not aid him, by making a false face,
that the Hurons might think the white man believed that his friend was his enemy?
Is not all this true?
And when Le Subtil had shut the eyes and stopped the ears of his nation by his
wisdom, did they not forget that they had once done him wrong, and forced him to flee
to the Mohawks?
And did they not leave him on the south side of the river, with their prisoners,
while they have gone foolishly on the north?
Does not Renard mean to turn like a fox on his footsteps, and to carry to the rich and
gray-headed Scotchman his daughters?
Yes, Magua, I see it all, and I have already been thinking how so much wisdom
and honesty should be repaid. First, the chief of William Henry will give
as a great chief should for such a service.
The medal (FOOTNOTE: It has long been a practice with the whites to conciliate the
important men of the Indians by presenting medals, which are worn in the place of
their own rude ornaments.
Those given by the English generally bear the impression of the reigning king, and
those given by the Americans that of the president.)
-of Magua will no longer be of tin, but of beaten gold; his horn will run over with
powder; dollars will be as plenty in his pouch as pebbles on the shore of Horican;
and the deer will lick his hand, for they
will know it to be vain to fly from the rifle he will carry!
As for myself, I know not how to exceed the gratitude of the Scotchman, but I--yes, I
"What will the young chief, who comes from toward the sun, give?" demanded the Huron,
observing that Heyward hesitated in his desire to end the enumeration of benefits
with that which might form the climax of an Indian's wishes.
"He will make the fire-water from the islands in the salt lake flow before the
wigwam of Magua, until the heart of the Indian shall be lighter than the feathers
of the humming-bird, and his breath sweeter than the wild honeysuckle."
Le Renard had listened gravely as Heyward slowly proceeded in this subtle speech.
When the young man mentioned the artifice he supposed the Indian to have practised on
his own nation, the countenance of the listener was veiled in an expression of
cautious gravity.
At the allusion to the injury which Duncan affected to believe had driven the Huron
from his native tribe, a gleam of such ungovernable ferocity flashed from the
other's eyes, as induced the adventurous
speaker to believe he had struck the proper chord.
And by the time he reached the part where he so artfully blended the thirst of
vengeance with the desire of gain, he had, at least, obtained a command of the deepest
attention of the savage.
The question put by Le Renard had been calm, and with all the dignity of an
Indian; but it was quite apparent, by the thoughtful expression of the listener's
countenance, that the answer was most cunningly devised.
The Huron mused a few moments, and then laying his hand on the rude bandages of his
wounded shoulder, he said, with some energy:
"Do friends make such marks?"
"Would 'La Longue Carbine' cut one so slight on an enemy?"
"Do the Delawares crawl upon those they love like snakes, twisting themselves to
"Would 'Le Gros Serpent' have been heard by the ears of one he wished to be deaf?"
"Does the white chief burn his powder in the faces of his brothers?"
"Does he ever miss his aim, when seriously bent to kill?" returned Duncan, smiling
with well acted sincerity.
Another long and deliberate pause succeeded these sententious questions and ready
replies. Duncan saw that the Indian hesitated.
In order to complete his victory, he was in the act of recommencing the enumeration of
the rewards, when Magua made an expressive gesture and said:
"Enough; Le Renard is a wise chief, and what he does will be seen.
Go, and keep the mouth shut. When Magua speaks, it will be the time to
Heyward, perceiving that the eyes of his companion were warily fastened on the rest
of the band, fell back immediately, in order to avoid the appearance of any
suspicious confederacy with their leader.
Magua approached the horses, and affected to be well pleased with the diligence and
ingenuity of his comrades.
He then signed to Heyward to assist the sisters into the saddles, for he seldom
deigned to use the English tongue, unless urged by some motive of more than usual
There was no longer any plausible pretext for delay; and Duncan was obliged, however
reluctantly, to comply.
As he performed this office, he whispered his reviving hopes in the ears of the
trembling females, who, through dread of encountering the savage countenances of
their captors, seldom raised their eyes from the ground.
The mare of David had been taken with the followers of the large chief; in
consequence, its owner, as well as Duncan, was compelled to journey on foot.
The latter did not, however, so much regret this circumstance, as it might enable him
to retard the speed of the party; for he still turned his longing looks in the
direction of Fort Edward, in the vain
expectation of catching some sound from that quarter of the forest, which might
denote the approach of succor.
When all were prepared, Magua made the signal to proceed, advancing in front to
lead the party in person.
Next followed David, who was gradually coming to a true sense of his condition, as
the effects of the wound became less and less apparent.
The sisters rode in his rear, with Heyward at their side, while the Indians flanked
the party, and brought up the close of the march, with a caution that seemed never to
In this manner they proceeded in uninterrupted silence, except when Heyward
addressed some solitary word of comfort to the females, or David gave vent to the
moanings of his spirit, in piteous
exclamations, which he intended should express the humility of resignation.
Their direction lay toward the south, and in a course nearly opposite to the road to
William Henry.
Notwithstanding this apparent adherence in Magua to the original determination of his
conquerors, Heyward could not believe his tempting bait was so soon forgotten; and he
knew the windings of an Indian's path too
well to suppose that its apparent course led directly to its object, when artifice
was at all necessary.
Mile after mile was, however, passed through the boundless woods, in this
painful manner, without any prospect of a termination to their journey.
Heyward watched the sun, as he darted his meridian rays through the branches of the
trees, and pined for the moment when the policy of Magua should change their route
to one more favorable to his hopes.
Sometimes he fancied the wary savage, despairing of passing the army of Montcalm
in safety, was holding his way toward a well-known border settlement, where a
distinguished officer of the crown, and a
favored friend of the Six Nations, held his large possessions, as well as his usual
To be delivered into the hands of Sir William Johnson was far preferable to being
led into the wilds of Canada; but in order to effect even the former, it would be
necessary to traverse the forest for many
weary leagues, each step of which was carrying him further from the scene of the
war, and, consequently, from the post, not only of honor, but of duty.
Cora alone remembered the parting injunctions of the scout, and whenever an
opportunity offered, she stretched forth her arm to bend aside the twigs that met
her hands.
But the vigilance of the Indians rendered this act of precaution both difficult and
She was often defeated in her purpose, by encountering their watchful eyes, when it
became necessary to feign an alarm she did not feel, and occupy the limb by some
gesture of feminine apprehension.
Once, and once only, was she completely successful; when she broke down the bough
of a large sumach, and by a sudden thought, let her glove fall at the same instant.
This sign, intended for those that might follow, was observed by one of her
conductors, who restored the glove, broke the remaining branches of the bush in such
a manner that it appeared to proceed from
the struggling of some beast in its branches, and then laid his hand on his
tomahawk, with a look so significant, that it put an effectual end to these stolen
memorials of their passage.
As there were horses, to leave the prints of their footsteps, in both bands of the
Indians, this interruption cut off any probable hopes of assistance being conveyed
through the means of their trail.
Heyward would have ventured a remonstrance had there been anything encouraging in the
gloomy reserve of Magua.
But the savage, during all this time, seldom turned to look at his followers, and
never spoke.
With the sun for his only guide, or aided by such blind marks as are only known to
the sagacity of a native, he held his way along the barrens of pine, through
occasional little fertile vales, across
brooks and rivulets, and over undulating hills, with the accuracy of instinct, and
nearly with the directness of a bird. He never seemed to hesitate.
Whether the path was hardly distinguishable, whether it disappeared, or
whether it lay beaten and plain before him, made no sensible difference in his speed or
It seemed as if fatigue could not affect him.
Whenever the eyes of the wearied travelers rose from the decayed leaves over which
they trod, his dark form was to be seen glancing among the stems of the trees in
front, his head immovably fastened in a
forward position, with the light plume on his crest fluttering in a current of air,
made solely by the swiftness of his own motion.
But all this diligence and speed were not without an object.
After crossing a low vale, through which a gushing brook meandered, he suddenly
ascended a hill, so steep and difficult of ascent, that the sisters were compelled to
alight in order to follow.
When the summit was gained, they found themselves on a level spot, but thinly
covered with trees, under one of which Magua had thrown his dark form, as if
willing and ready to seek that rest which was so much needed by the whole party.