The Last of the Mohicans


Narrative of 1757

by James Fenimore Cooper

first published in 1826 as a novel in the Leatherstocking Tales

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Introduction

It is believed that the scene of this tale, and most of the information
necessary to understand its allusions, are rendered sufficiently obvious to
the reader in the text itself, or in the accompanying notes. Still there is
so much obscurity in the Indian traditions, and so much confusion in the
Indian names, as to render some explanation useful.

Few men exhibit greater diversity, or, if we may so express it, greater
antithesis of character, than the native warrior of North America. In war,
he is daring, boastful, cunning, ruthless, self-denying, and self-devoted;
in peace, just, generous, hospitable, revengeful, superstitious, modest, and
commonly chaste. These are qualities, it is true, which do not distinguish
all alike; but they are so far the predominating traits of these remarkable
people as to be characteristic.

It is generally believed that the Aborigines of the American continent have
an Asiatic origin. There are many physical as well as moral facts which
corroborate this opinion, and some few that would seem to weigh against it.

The color of the Indian, the writer believes, is peculiar to himself, and
while his cheek- bones have a very striking indication of a Tartar origin,
his eyes have not. Climate may have had great influence on the former, but
it is difficult to see how it can have produced the substantial difference
which exists in the latter. The imagery of the Indian, both in his poetry
and in his oratory, is oriental; chastened, and perhaps improved, by the
limited range of his practical knowledge. He draws his metaphors from the
clouds, the seasons, the birds, the beasts, and the vegetable world. In
this, perhaps, he does no more than any other energetic and imaginative race
would do, being compelled to set bounds to fancy by experience; but the
North American Indian clothes his ideas in a dress which is different from
that of the African, and is oriental in itself. His language has the
richness and sententious fullness of the Chinese. He will express a phrase
in a word, and he will qualify the meaning of an entire sentence by a
syllable; he will even convey different significations by the simplest
inflections of the voice.

Philologists have said that there are but two or three languages, properly
speaking, among all the numerous tribes which formerly occupied the country
that now composes the United States. They ascribe the known difficulty one
people have to understand another to corruptions and dialects. The writer
remembers to have been present at an interview between two chiefs of the
Great Prairies west of the Mississippi, and when an interpreter was in
attendance who spoke both their languages. The warriors appeared to be on
the most friendly terms, and seemingly conversed much together; yet,
according to the account of the interpreter, each was absolutely ignorant of
what the other said. They were of hostile tribes, brought together by the
influence of the American government; and it is worthy of remark, that a
common policy led them both to adopt the same subject. They mutually
exhorted each other to be of use in the event of the chances of war throwing
either of the parties into the hands of his enemies. Whatever may be the
truth, as respects the root and the genius of the Indian tongues, it is
quite certain they are now so distinct in their words as to possess most of
the disadvantages of strange languages; hence much of the embarrassment that
has arisen in learning their histories, and most of the uncertainty which
exists in their traditions.

Like nations of higher pretensions, the American Indian gives a very
different account of his own tribe or race from that which is given by other
people. He is much addicted to overestimating his own perfections, and to
undervaluing those of his rival or his enemy; a trait which may possibly be
thought corroborative of the Mosaic account of the creation.

The whites have assisted greatly in rendering the traditions of the
Aborigines more obscure by their own manner of corrupting names. Thus, the
term used in the title of this book has undergone the changes of Mahicanni,
Mohicans, and Mohegans; the latter being the word commonly used by the
whites. When it is remembered that the Dutch (who first settled New York),
the English, and the French, all gave appellations to the tribes that dwelt
within the country which is the scene of this story, and that the Indians
not only gave different names to their enemies, but frequently to
themselves, the cause of the confusion will be understood.

In these pages, Lenni-Lenape, Lenope, Delawares, Wapanachki, and Mohicans,
all mean the same people, or tribes of the same stock. The Mengwe, the
Maquas, the Mingoes, and the Iroquois, though not all strictly the same, are
identified frequently by the speakers, being politically confederated and
opposed to those just named. Mingo was a term of peculiar reproach, as were
Mengwe and Maqua in a less degree.

The Mohicans were the possessors of the country first occupied by the
Europeans in this portion of the continent. They were, consequently, the
first dispossessed; and the seemingly inevitable fate of all these people,
who disappear before the advances, or it might be termed the inroads, of
civilization, as the verdure of their native forests falls before the
nipping frosts, is represented as having already befallen them. There is
sufficient historical truth in the picture to justify the use that has been
made of it.

In point of fact, the country which is the scene of the following tale has
undergone as little change, since the historical events alluded to had
place, as almost any other district of equal extent within the whole limits
of the United States. There are fashionable and well-attended
watering-places at and near the spring where Hawkeye halted to drink, and
roads traverse the forests where he and his friends were compelled to
journey without even a path. Glen's has a large village; and while William
Henry, and even a fortress of later date, are only to be traced as ruins,
there is another village on the shores of the Horican. But, beyond this, the
enterprise and energy of a people who have done so much in other places have
done little here. The whole of that wilderness, in which the latter
incidents of the legend occurred, is nearly a wilderness still, though the
red man has entirely deserted this part of the state. Of all the tribes
named in these pages, there exist only a few half-civilized beings of the
Oneidas, on the reservations of their people in New York. The rest have
disappeared, either from the regions in which their fathers dwelt, or
altogether from the earth.

There is one point on which we would wish to say a word before closing this
preface. Hawkeye calls the Lac du Saint Sacrement, the "Horican". As we
believe this to be an appropriation of the name that has its origin with
ourselves, the time has arrived, perhaps, when the fact should be frankly
admitted. While writing this book, fully a quarter of a century since, it
occurred to us that the French name of this lake was too complicated, the
American too commonplace, and the Indian too unpronounceable, for either to
be used familiarly in a work of fiction. Looking over an ancient map, it was
ascertained that a tribe of Indians, called "Les Horicans" by the French,
existed in the neighborhood of this beautiful sheet of water. As every word
uttered by Natty Bumppo was not to be received as rigid truth, we took the
liberty of putting the "Horican" into his mouth, as the substitute for "Lake
George". The name has appeared to find favor, and all things considered, it
may possibly be quite as well to let it stand, instead of going back to the
House of Hanover for the appellation of our finest sheet of water. We
relieve our conscience by the confession, at all events leaving it to
exercise its authority as it may see fit.

Chapter 1

"Mine ear is open, and my heart prepared:
The worst is wordly loss thou canst unfold:--
Say, is my kingdom lost"? -- Shakespeare

It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the
toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the
adverse hosts could meet. A wide and apparently an impervious boundary of
forests severed the possessions of the hostile provinces of France and
England. The hardy colonist, and the trained European who fought at his
side, frequently expended months in struggling against the rapids of the
streams, or in effecting the rugged passes of the mountains, in quest of an
opportunity to exhibit their courage in a more martial conflict. But,
emulating the patience and self-denial of the practiced native warriors,
they learned to overcome every difficulty; and it would seem that, in time,
there was no recess of the woods so dark, nor any secret place so lovely,
that it might claim exemption from the inroads of those who had pledged
their blood to satiate their vengeance, or to uphold the cold and selfish
policy of the distant monarchs of Europe.

Perhaps no district throughout the wide extent of the intermediate frontiers
can furnish a livelier picture of the cruelty and fierceness of the savage
warfare of those periods than the country which lies between the head waters
of the Hudson and the adjacent lakes.

The facilities which nature had there offered to the march of the combatants
were too obvious to be neglected. The lengthened sheet of the Champlain
stretched from the frontiers of Canada, deep within the borders of the
neighboring province of New York, forming a natural passage across half the
distance that the French were compelled to master in order to strike their
enemies. Near its southern termination, it received the contributions of
another lake, whose waters were so limpid as to have been exclusively
selected by the Jesuit missionaries to perform the typical purification of
baptism, and to obtain for it the title of lake "du Saint Sacrement". The
less zealous English thought they conferred a sufficient honor on its
unsullied fountains, when they bestowed the name of their reigning prince,
the second of the house of Hanover. The two united to rob the untutored
possessors of its wooded scenery of their native right to perpetuate its
original appellation of "Horican". 1 As each nation of the Indians had its
language or its dialect, they usually gave different names to the same
places, though nearly all of their appellations were descriptive of the
object. Thus a literal translation of the name of this beautiful sheet of
water, used by the tribe that dwelt on its banks, would be "The Tail of the
Lake". Lake George, as it is vulgarly, and now, indeed, legally, called,
forms a sort of tail to Lake Champlain, when viewed on the map. Hence, the
name.

Winding its way among countless islands, and imbedded in mountains, the
"holy lake" extended a dozen leagues still further to the south. With the
high plain that there interposed itself to the further passage of the water,
commenced a portage of as many miles, which conducted the adventurer to the
banks of the Hudson, at a point where, with the usual obstructions of the
rapids, or rifts, as they were then termed in the language of the country,
the river became navigable to the tide.

While, in the pursuit of their daring plans of annoyance, the restless
enterprise of the French even attempted the distant and difficult gorges of
the Alleghany, it may easily be imagined that their proverbial acuteness
would not overlook the natural advantages of the district we have just
described. It became, emphatically, the bloody arena, in which most of the
battles for the mastery of the colonies were contested. Forts were erected
at the different points that commanded the facilities of the route, and were
taken and retaken, razed and rebuilt, as victory alighted on the hostile
banners. While the husbandman shrank back from the dangerous passes, within
the safer boundaries of the more ancient settlements, armies larger than
those that had often disposed of the scepters of the mother countries, were
seen to bury themselves in these forests, whence they rarely returned but in
skeleton bands, that were haggard with care or dejected by defeat. Though
the arts of peace were unknown to this fatal region, its forests were alive
with men; its shades and glens rang with the sounds of martial music, and
the echoes of its mountains threw back the laugh, or repeated the wanton
cry, of many a gallant and reckless youth, as he hurried by them, in the
noontide of his spirits, to slumber in a long night of forgetfulness.

It was in this scene of strife and bloodshed that the incidents we shall
attempt to relate occurred, during the third year of the war which England
and France last waged for the possession of a country that neither was
destined to retain.

The imbecility of her military leaders abroad, and the fatal want of energy
in her councils at home, had lowered the character of Great Britain from the
proud elevation on which it had been placed by the talents and enterprise of
her former warriors and statesmen. No longer dreaded by her enemies, her
servants were fast losing the confidence of self-respect. In this mortifying
abasement, the colonists, though innocent of her imbecility, and too humble
to be the agents of her blunders, were but the natural participators. They
had recently seen a chosen army from that country, which, reverencing as a
mother, they had blindly believed invincible--an army led by a chief who had
been selected from a crowd of trained warriors, for his rare military
endowments, disgracefully routed by a handful of French and Indians, and
only saved from annihilation by the coolness and spirit of a Virginian boy,
whose riper fame has since diffused itself, with the steady influence of
moral truth, to the uttermost confines of Christendom.1 A wide frontier had
been laid naked by this unexpected disaster, and more substantial evils were
preceded by a thousand fanciful and imaginary dangers. The alarmed colonists
believed that the yells of the savages mingled wiht every fitful gust of
wind that issued from the interminable forests of the west. The terrific
character of their merciless enemies increased immeasurably the natural
horrors of warfare. Numberless recent massacres were still vivid in their
recollections; nor was there any ear in the provinces so deaf as not to have
drunk in with avidity the narrative of some fearful tale of midnight murder,
in which the natives of the forests were the principal and barbarous actors.
As the credulous and excited traveler related the hazardous chances of the
wilderness, the blood of the timid curdled with terror, and mothers cast
anxious glances even at those children which slumbered within the security
of the largest towns. In short, the magnifying influence of fear began to
set at naught the calculations of reason, and to render those who should
have remembered their manhood, the slaves of the basest passions. Even the
most confident and the stoutest hearts began to think the issue of the
contest was becoming doubtful; and that abject class was hourly increasing
in numbers, who thought they foresaw all the possessions of the English
crown in America subdued by their Christian foes, or laid waste by the
inroads of their relentless allies. 1 Washington, who, after uselessly
admonishing the European general of the danger into which he was heedlessly
running, saved the remnants of the British army, on this occasion, by his
decision and courage. The reputation earned by Washington in this battle was
the principal cause of his being selected to command the American armies at
a later day. It is a circumstance worthy of observation, that while all
America rang with his well-merited reputation, his name does not occur in
any European account of the battle; at least the author has searched for it
without success. In this manner does the mother country absorb even the
fame, under that system of rule.

When, therefore, intelligence was received at the fort which covered the
southern termination of the portage between the Hudson and the lakes, that
Montcalm had been seen moving up the Champlain, with an army "numerous as
the leaves on the trees", its truth was admitted with more of the craven
reluctance of fear than with the stern joy that a warrior should feel, in
finding an enemy within reach of his blow. The news had been brought, toward
the decline of a day in midsummer, by an Indian runner, who also bore an
urgent request from Munro, the commander of a work on the shore of the "holy
lake", for a speedy and powerful reinforcement. It has already been
mentioned that the distance between these two posts was less than five
leagues. The rude path, which originally formed their line of communication,
had been widened for the passage of wagons; so that the distance which had
been traveled by the son of the forest in two hours, might easily be
effected by a detachment of troops, with their necessary baggage, between
the rising and setting of a summer sun. The loyal servants of the British
crown had given to one of these forest-fastnesses the name of William Henry,
and to the other that of Fort Edward, calling each after a favorite prince
of the reigning family. The veteran Scotchman just named held the first,
with a regiment of regulars and a few provincials; a force really by far too
small to make head against the formidable power that Montcalm was leading to
the foot of his earthen mounds. At the latter, however, lay General Webb,
who commanded the armies of the king in the northern provinces, with a body
of more than five thousand men. By uniting the several detachments of his
command, this officer might have arrayed nearly double that number of
combatants against the enterprising Frenchman, who had ventured so far from
his reinforcements, with an army but little superior in numbers.

But under the influence of their degraded fortunes, both officers and men
appeared better disposed to await the approach of their formidable
antagonists, within their works, than to resist the progress of their march,
by emulating the successful example of the French at Fort du Quesne, and
striking a blow on their advance.

After the first surprise of the intelligence had a little abated, a rumor
was spread through the entrenched camp, which stretched along the margin of
the Hudson, forming a chain of outworks to the body of the fort itself, that
a chosen detachment of fifteen hundred men was to depart, with the dawn, for
William Henry, the post at the northern extremity of the portage. That which
at first was only rumor, soon became certainty, as orders passed from the
quarters of the commander-in-chief to the several corps he had selected for
this service, to prepare for their speedy departure. All doubts as to the
intention of Webb now vanished, and an hour or two of hurried footsteps and
anxious faces succeeded. The novice in the military art flew from point to
point, retarding his own preparations by the excess of his violent and
somewhat distempered zeal; while the more practiced veteran made his
arrangements with a deliberation that scorned every appearance of haste;
though his sober lineaments and anxious eye sufficiently betrayed that he
had no very strong professional relish for the, as yet, untried and dreaded
warfare of the wilderness. At length the sun set in a flood of glory, behind
the distant western hills, and as darkness drew its veil around the secluded
spot the sounds of preparation diminished; the last light finally
disappeared from the log cabin of some officer; the trees cast their deeper
shadows over the mounds and the rippling stream, and a silence soon pervaded
the camp, as deep as that which reigned in the vast forest by which it was
environed.

According to the orders of the preceding night, the heavy sleep of the army
was broken by the rolling of the warning drums, whose rattling echoes were
heard issuing, on the damp morning air, out of every vista of the woods,
just as day began to draw the shaggy outlines of some tall pines of the
vicinity, on the opening brightness of a soft and cloudless eastern sky. In
an instant the whole camp was in motion; the meanest soldier arousing from
his lair to witness the departure of his comrades, and to share in the
excitement and incidents of the hour. The simple array of the chosen band
was soon completed. While the regular and trained hirelings of the king
marched with haughtiness to the right of the line, the less pretending
colonists took their humbler position on its left, with a docility that long
practice had rendered easy. The scouts departed; strong guards preceded and
followed the lumbering vehicles that bore the baggage; and before the gray
light of the morning was mellowed by the rays of the sun, the main body of
the combatants wheeled into column, and left the encampment with a show of
high military bearing, that served to drown the slumbering apprehensions of
many a novice, who was now about to make his first essay in arms. While in
view of their admiring comrades, the same proud front and ordered array was
observed, until the notes of their fifes growing fainter in distance, the
forest at length appeared to swallow up the living mass which had slowly
entered its bosom.

The deepest sounds of the retiring and invisible column had ceased to be
borne on the breeze to the listeners, and the latest straggler had already
disappeared in pursuit; but there still remained the signs of another
departure, before a log cabin of unusual size and accommodations, in front
of which those sentinels paced their rounds, who were known to guard the
person of the English general. At this spot were gathered some half dozen
horses, caparisoned in a manner which showed that two, at least, were
destined to bear the persons of females, of a rank that it was not usual to
meet so far in the wilds of the country. A third wore trappings and arms of
an officer of the staff; while the rest, from the plainness of the housings,
and the traveling mails with which they were encumbered, were evidently
fitted for the reception of as many menials, who were, seemingly, already
waiting the pleasure of those they served. At a respectful distance from
this unusual show, were gathered divers groups of curious idlers; some
admiring the blood and bone of the high-mettled military charger, and others
gazing at the preparations, with the dull wonder of vulgar curiosity. There
was one man, however, who, by his countenance and actions, formed a marked
exception to those who composed the latter class of spectators, being
neither idle, nor seemingly very ignorant.

The person of this individual was to the last degree ungainly, without being
in any particular manner deformed. He had all the bones and joints of other
men, without any of their proportions. Erect, his stature surpassed that of
his fellows; though seated, he appeared reduced within the ordinary limits
of the race. The same contrariety in his members seemed to exist throughout
the whole man. His head was large; his shoulders narrow; his arms long and
dangling; while his hands were small, if not delicate. His legs and thighs
were thin, nearly to emaciation, but of extraordinary length; and his knees
would have been considered tremendous, had they not been outdone by the
broader foundations on which this false superstructure of blended human
orders was so profanely reared. The ill-assorted and injudicious attire of
the individual only served to render his awkwardness more conspicuous. A
sky-blue coat, with short and broad skirts and low cape, exposed a long,
thin neck, and longer and thinner legs, to the worst animadversions of the
evil-disposed. His nether garment was a yellow nankeen, closely fitted to
the shape, and tied at his bunches of knees by large knots of white ribbon,
a good deal sullied by use. Clouded cotton stockings, and shoes, on one of
the latter of which was a plated spur, completed the costume of the lower
extremity of this figure, no curve or angle of which was concealed, but, on
the other hand, studiously exhibitied, through the vanity or simplicity of
its owner. From beneath the flap of an enormous pocket of a soiled vest of
embossed silk, heavily ornamented with tarnished silver lace, projected an
instrument, which, from being seen in such martial company, might have been
easily mistaken for some mischievous and unknown implement of war. Small as
it was, this uncommon engine had excited the curiousity of most of the
Europeans in the camp, though several of the provincials were seen to handle
it, not only without fear, but with the utmost familiarity. A large, civil
cocked hat, like those worn by clergymen within the last thirty years,
surmounted the whole, furnishing dignity to a good-natured and somewhat
vacant countenance, that apparently needed such artificial aid, to support
the gravity of some high and extraordinary trust.

While the common herd stood aloof, in deference to the quarters of Webb, the
figure we have described stalked into the center of the domestics, freely
expressing his censures or commendations on the merits of the horses, as by
chance they displeased or satisfied his judgment.

"This beast, I rather conclude, friend, is not of home raising, but is from
foreign lands, or perhaps from the little island itself over the blue
water"? he said, in a voice as remarkable for the softness and sweetness of
its tones, as was his person for its rare proportions; "I may speak of these
things, and be no braggart; for I have been down at both havens; that which
is situate at the mouth of Thames, and is named after the capital of Old
England, and that which is called "Haven", with the addition of the word
"New"; and have seen the scows and brigantines collecting their droves, like
the gathering to the ark, being outward bound to the Island of Jamaica, for
the purpose of barter and traffic in four-footed animals; but never before
have I beheld a beast which verified the true scripture war-horse like this:
"He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength; he goeth on to meet
the armed men. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the
battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting" It would
seem that the stock of the horse of Israel had descended to our own time;
would it not, friend"?

Receiving no reply to this extraordinary appeal, which in truth, as it was
delivered with the vigor of full and sonorous tones, merited some sort of
notice, he who had thus sung forth the language of the holy book turned to
the silent figure to whom he had unwittingly addressed himself, and found a
new and more powerful subject of admiration in the object that encountered
his gaze. His eyes fell on the still, upright, and rigid form of the "Indian
runner", who had borne to the camp the unwelcome tidings of the preceding
evening. Although in a state of perfect repose, and apparently disregarding,
with characteristic stoicism, the excitement and bustle around him, there
was a sullen fierceness mingled with the quiet of the savage, that was
likely to arrest the attention of much more experienced eyes than those
which now scanned him, in unconcealed amazement. The native bore both the
tomahawk and knife of his tribe; and yet his appearance was not altogether
that of a warrior. On the contrary, there was an air of neglect about his
person, like that which might have proceeded from great and recent exertion,
which he had not yet found leisure to repair. The colors of the war-paint
had blended in dark confusion about his fierce countenance, and rendered his
swarthy lineaments still more savage and repulsive than if art had attempted
an effect which had been thus produced by chance. His eye, alone, which
glistened like a fiery star amid lowering clouds, was to be seen in its
state of native wildness. For a single instant his searching and yet wary
glance met the wondering look of the other, and then changing its direction,
partly in cunning, and partly in disdain, it remained fixed, as if
penetrating the distant air.

It is impossible to say what unlooked-for remark this short and silent
communication, between two such singular men, mnight have elicited from the
white man, had not his active curiosity been again drawn to other objects. A
general movement among the domestics, and a low sound of gentle voices,
announced the approach of those whose presence alone was wanted to enable
the cavalcade to move. The simple admirer of the war-horse instantly fell
back to a low, gaunt, switch-tailed mare, that was unconsciously gleaning
the faded herbage of the camp nigh by; where, leaning with one elbow on the
blanket that concealed an apology for a saddle, he became a spectator of the
departure, while a foal was quietly making its morning repast, on the
opposite side of the same animal.

A young man, in the dress of an officer, conducted to their steeds two
females, who, as it was apparent by their dresses, were prepared to
encounter the fatigues of a journey in the woods. One, and she was the more
juvenile in her appearance, though both were young, permitted glimpses of
her dazzling complexion, fair golden hair, and bright blue eyes, to be
caught, as she artlessly suffered the morning air to blow aside the green
veil which descended low from her beaver.

The flush which still lingered above the pines in the western sky was not
more bright nor delicate than the bloom on her cheek; nor was the opening
day more cheering than the animated smile which she bestowed on the youth,
as he assisted her into the saddle. The other, who appeared to share equally
in the attention of the young officer, concealed her charms from the gaze of
the soldiery with a care that seemed better fitted to the experience of four
or five additional years. It could be seen, however, that her person, though
molded with the same exquisite proportions, of which none of the graces were
lost by the traveling dress she wore, was rather fuller and more mature than
that of her companion.

No sooner were these females seated, than their attendant sprang lightly
into the saddle of the war-horse, when the whole three bowed to Webb, who in
courtesy, awaited their parting on the threshold of his cabin and turning
their horses' heads, they proceeded at a slow amble, followed by their
train, toward the northern entrance of the encampment. As they traversed
that short distance, not a voice was heard among them; but a slight
exclamation proceeded from the younger of the females, as the Indian runner
glided by her, unexpectedly, and led the way along the military road in her
front. Though this sudden and startling movement of the Indian produced no
sound from the other, in the surprise her veil also was allowed to open its
folds, and betrayed an indescribable look of pity, admiration, and horror,
as her dark eye followed the easy motions of the savage. The tresses of this
lady were shining and black, like the plumage of the raven. Her complexion
was not brown, but it rather appeared charged with the color of the rich
blood, that seemed ready to burst its bounds. And yet there was neither
coarseness nor want of shadowing in a countenance that was exquisitely
regular, and dignified and surpassingly beautiful. She smiled, as if in pity
at her own momentary forgetfulness, discovering by the act a row of teeth
that would have shamed the purest ivory; when, replacing the veil, she bowed
her face, and rode in silence, like one whose thoughts were abstracted from
the scene around her.

Chapter 2

"Sola, sola, wo ha, ho, sola"!--Shakespeare

While one of the lovely beings we have so cursorily presented to the reader
was thus lost in thought, the other quickly recovered from the alarm which
induced the exclamation, and, laughing at her own weakness, she inquired of
the youth who rode by her side:

"Are such specters frequent in the woods, Heyward, or is this sight an
especial entertainment ordered on our behalf? If the latter, gratitude must
close our mouths; but if the former, both Cora and I shall have need to draw
largely on that stock of hereditary courage which we boast, even before we
are made to encounter the redoubtable Montcalm".

"Yon Indian is a "runner" of the army; and, after the fashion of his people,
he may be accounted a hero", returned the officer. "He has volunteered to
guide us to the lake, by a path but little known, sooner than if we followed
the tardy movements of the column; and, by consequence, more agreeably".

"I like him not", said the lady, shuddering, partly in assumed, yet more in
real terror. "You know him, Duncan, or you would not trust yourself so
freely to his keeping"?

"Say, rather, Alice, that I would not trust you. I do know him, or he would
not have my confidence, and least of all at this moment. He is said to be a
Canadian too; and yet he served with our friends the Mohawks, who, as you
know, are one of the six allied nations. He was brought among us, as I have
heard, by some strange accident in which your father was interested, and in
which the savage was rigidly dealt by; but I forget the idle tale, it is
enough, that he is now our friend".

"If he has been my father's enemy, I like him still less"! exclaimed the now
really anxious girl. "Will you not speak to him, Major Heyward, that I may
hear his tones? Foolish though it may be, you have often heard me avow my
faith in the tones of the human voice"!

"It would be in vain; and answered, most probably, by an ejaculation. Though
he may understand it, he affects, like most of his people, to be ignorant of
the English; and least of all will he condescend to speak it, now that the
war demands the utmost exercise of his dignity. But he stops; the private
path by which we are to journey is, doubtless, at hand".

The conjecture of Major Heyward was true. When they reached the spot where
the Indian stood, pointing into the thicket that fringed the military road;
a narrow and blind path, which might, with some little inconvenience,
receive one person at a time, became visible.

"Here, then, lies our way", said the young man, in a low voice. "Manifest no
distrust, or you may invite the danger you appear to apprehend".

"Cora, what think you"? asked the reluctant fair one. "If we journey with
the troops, though we may find their presence irksome, shall we not feel
better assurance of our safety"?

"Being little accustomed to the practices of the savages, Alice, you mistake
the place of real danger", said Heyward. "If enemies have reached the
portage at all, a thing by no means probable, as our scouts are abroad, they
will surely be found skirting the column, where scalps abound the most. The
route of the detachment is known, while ours, having been determined within
the hour, must still be secret".

"Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and
that his skin is dark"? coldly asked Cora.

Alice hesitated no longer; but giving her Narrangansett 1 a smart cut of the
whip, she was the first to dash aside the slight branches of the bushes, and
to follow the runner along the dark and tangled pathway. The young man
regarded the last speaker in open admiration, and even permitted her fairer,
though certainly not more beautiful companion, to proceed unattended, while
he sedulously opened the way himself for the passage of her who has been
called Cora. It would seem that the domestics had been previously
instructed; for, instead of penetrating the thicket, they followed the route
of the column; a measure which Heyward stated had been dictated by the
sagacity of their guide, in order to diminish the marks of their trail, if,
haply, the Canadian savages should be lurking so far in advance of their
army. For many minutes the intricacy of the route admitted of no further
dialogue; after which they emerged from the broad border of underbrush which
grew along the line of the highway, and entered under the high but dark
arches of the forest. Here their progress was less interrupted; and the
instant the guide perceived that the females could command their steeds, he
moved on, at a pace between a trot and a walk, and at a rate which kept the
sure-footed and peculiar animals they rode at a fast yet easy amble. The
youth had turned to speak to the dark-eyed Cora, when the distant sound of
horses; hoofs, clattering over the roots of the broken way in his rear,
caused him to check his charger; and, as his companions drew their reins at
the same instant, the whole party came to a halt, in order to obtain an
explanation of the unlooked-for interruption. 1 In the state of Rhode Island
there is a bay called Narragansett, so named after a powerful tribe of
Indians, which formerly dwelt on its banks. Accident, or one of those
unaccountable freaks which nature sometimes plays in the animal world, gave
rise to a breed of horses which were once well known in America, and
distinguished by their habit of pacing. Horses of this race were, and are
still, in much request as saddle horses, on account of their hardiness and
the ease of their movements. As they were also sure of foot, the
Narragansetts were greatly sought for by females who were obliged to travel
over the roots and holes in the "new countries".

In a few moments a colt was seen gliding, like a fallow deer, among the
straight trunks of the pines; and, in another instant, the person of the
ungainly man, described in the preceding chapter, came into view, with as
much rapidity as he could excite his meager beast to endure without coming
to an open rupture. Until now this personage had escaped the observation of
the travelers. If he possessed the power to arrest any wandering eye when
exhibiting the glories of his altitude on foot, his equestrian graces were
still more likely to attract attention.

Notwithstanding a constant application of his one armed heel to the flanks
of the mare, the most confirmed gait that he could establish was a
Canterbury gallop with the hind legs, in which those more forward assisted
for doubtful moments, though generally content to maintain a loping trot.
Perhaps the rapidity of the changes from one of these paces to the other
created an optical illusion, which might thus magnify the powers of the
beast; for it is certain that Heyward, who possessed a true eye for the
merits of a horse, was unable, with his utmost ingenuity, to decide by what
sort of movement his pursuer worked his sinuous way on his footsteps with
such persevering hardihood.

The industry and movements of the rider were not less remarkable than those
of the ridden. At each change in the evolutions of the latter, the former
raised his tall person in the stirrups; producing, in this manner, by the
undue elongation of his legs, such sudden growths and diminishings of the
stature, as baffled every conjecture that might be made as to his
dimensions. If to this be added the fact that, in consequence of the ex
parte application of the spur, one side of the mare appeared to journey
faster than the other; and that the aggrieved flank was resolutely indicated
by unremitted flourishes of a bushy tail, we finish the picture of both
horse and man.

The frown which had gathered around the handsome, open, and manly brow of
Heyward, gradually relaxed, and his lips curled into a slight smile, as he
regarded the stranger. Alice made no very powerful effort to control her
merriment; and even the dark, thoughtful eye of Cora lighted with a humor
that it would seem, the habit, rather than the nature, of its mistress
repressed.

"Seek you any here"? demanded Heyward, when the other had arrived
sufficiently nigh to abate his speed; "I trust you are no messenger of evil
tidings"?

"Even so", replied the stranger, making diligent use of his triangular
castor, to produce a circulation in the close air of the woods, and leaving
his hearers in doubt to which of the young man's questions he responded;
when, however, he had cooled his face, and recovered his breath, he
continued, "I hear you are riding to William Henry; as I am journeying
thitherward myself, I concluded good company would seem consistent to the
wishes of both parties".

"You appear to possess the privilege of a casting vote", returned Heyward;
"we are three, while you have consulted no one but yourself".

"Even so. The first point to be obtained is to know one's own mind. Once
sure of that, and where women are concerned it is not easy, the next is, to
act up to the decision. I have endeavored to do both, and here I am".

"If you journey to the lake, you have mistaken your route", said Heyward,
haughtily; "the highway thither is at least half a mile behind you".

"Even so", returned the stranger, nothing daunted by this cold reception; "I
have tarried at "Edward" a week, and I should be dumb not to have inquired
the road I was to journey; and if dumb there would be an end to my calling".
After simpering in a small way, like one whose modesty prohibited a more
open expression of his admiration of a witticism that was perfectly
unintelligible to his hearers, he continued, "It is not prudent for any one
of my profession to be too familiar with those he has to instruct; for which
reason I follow not the line of the army; besides which, I conclude that a
gentleman of your character has the best judgment in matters of wayfaring; I
have, therefore, decided to join company, in order that the ride may be made
agreeable, and partake of social communion".

"A most arbitrary, if not a hasty decision"! exclaimed Heyward, undecided
whether to give vent to his growing anger, or to laugh in the other's face.
"But you speak of instruction, and of a profession; are you an adjunct to
the provincial corps, as a master of the noble science of defense and
offense; or, perhaps, you are one who draws lines and angles, under the
pretense of expounding the mathematics"?

The stranger regarded his interrogator a moment in wonder; and then, losing
every mark of self-satisfaction in an expression of solemn humility, he
answered:

"Of offense, I hope there is none, to either party: of defense, I make
none--by God's good mercy, having committed no palpable sin since last
entreating his pardoning grace. I understand not your allusions about lines
and angles; and I leave expounding to those who have been called and set
apart for that holy office. I lay claim to no higher gift than a small
insight into the glorious art of petitioning and thanksgiving, as practiced
in psalmody".

"The man is, most manifestly, a disciple of Apollo", cried the amused Alice,
"and I take him under my own especial protection. Nay, throw aside that
frown, Heyward, and in pity to my longing ears, suffer him to journey in our
train. Besides", she added, in a low and hurried voice, casting a glance at
the distant Cora, who slowly followed the footsteps of their silent, but
sullen guide, "it may be a friend added to our strength, in time of need".

"Think you, Alice, that I would trust those I love by this secret path, did
I imagine such need could happen"?

"Nay, nay, I think not of it now; but this strange man amuses me; and if he
"hath music in his soul", let us not churlishly reject his company". She
pointed persuasively along the path with her riding whip, while their eyes
met in a look which the young man lingered a moment to prolong; then,
yielding to her gentle influence, he clapped his spurs into his charger, and
in a few bounds was again at the side of Cora.

"I am glad to encounter thee, friend", continued the maiden, waving her hand
to the stranger to proceed, as she urged her Narragansett to renew its
amble. "Partial relatives have almost persuaded me that I am not entirely
worthless in a duet myself; and we may enliven our wayfaring by indulging in
our favorite pursuit. It might be of signal advantage to one, ignorant as I,
to hear the opinions and experience of a master in the art".

"It is refreshing both to the spirits and to the body to indulge in
psalmody, in befitting seasons", returned the master of song, unhesitatingly
complying with her intimation to follow; "and nothing would relieve the mind
more than such a consoling communion. But four parts are altogether
necessary to the perfection of melody. You have all the manifestations of a
soft and rich treble; I can, by especial aid, carry a full tenor to the
highest letter; but we lack counter and bass! Yon officer of the king, who
hesitated to admit me to his company, might fill the latter, if one may
judge from the intonations of his voice in common dialogue".

"Judge not too rashly from hasty and deceptive appearances", said the lady,
smiling; "though Major Heyward can assume such deep notes on occasion,
believe me, his natural tones are better fitted for a mellow tenor than the
bass you heard".

"Is he, then, much practiced in the art of psalmody"? demanded her simple
companion.

Alice felt disposed to laugh, though she succeeded in suppressing her
merriment, ere she answered:

"I apprehend that he is rather addicted to profane song. The chances of a
soldier's life are but little fitted for the encouragement of more sober
inclinations".

"Man's voice is given to him, like his other talents, to be used, and not to
be abused. None can say they have ever known me to neglect my gifts! I am
thankful that, though my boyhood may be said to have been set apart, like
the youth of the royal David, for the purposes of music, no syllable of rude
verse has ever profaned my lips".

"You have, then, limited your efforts to sacred song"?

"Even so. As the psalms of David exceed all other language, so does the
psalmody that has been fitted to them by the divines and sages of the land,
surpass all vain poetry. Happily, I may say that I utter nothing but the
thoughts and the wishes of the King of Israel himself; for though the times
may call for some slight changes, yet does this version which we use in the
colonies of New England so much exceed all other versions, that, by its
richness, its exactness, and its spiritual simplicity, it approacheth, as
near as may be, to the great work of the inspired writer. I never abid in
any place, sleeping or waking, without an example of this gifted work. 'Tis
the six-and-twentieth edition, promulgated at Boston, Anno Domini 1744; and
is entitled, "The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New
Testaments; faithfully translated into English Metre, for the Use,
Edification, and Comfort of the Saints, in Public and Private, especially in
New England"".

During this eulogium on the rare production of his native poets, the
stranger had drawn the book from his pocket, and fitting a pair of
iron-rimmed spectacles to his nose, opened the volume with a care and
veneration suited to its sacred purposes. Then, without circumlocution or
apology, first pronounced the word "Standish", and placing the unknown
engine, already described, to his mouth, from which he drew a high, shrill
sound, that was followed by an octave below, from his own voice, he
commenced singing the following words, in full, sweet, and melodious tones,
that set the music, the poetry, and even the uneasy motion of his
ill-trained beast at defiance;

"How good it is, O see,
And how it pleaseth well,
Together e'en in unity,
For brethren so to dwell.
"It's like the choice ointment,
From the head to the beard did go;
Down Aaron's head, that downward went
His garment's skirts unto".

The delivery of these skillful rhymes was accompanied, on the part of the
stranger, by a regular rise and fall of his right hand, which terminated at
the descent, by suffering the fingers to dwell a moment on the leaves of the
little volume; and on the ascent, by such a flourish of the member as none
but the initiated may ever hope to imitate. It would seem that long practice
had rendered this manual accompaniment necessary; for it did not cease until
the preposition which the poet had selected for the close of his verse had
been duly delivered like a word of two syllables.

Such an innovation on the silence and retirement of the forest could not
fail to enlist the ears of those who jouneyed at so short a distance in
advance. The Indian muttered a few words in broken English to Heyward, who,
in his turn, spoke to the stranger; at once interrupting, and, for the time,
closing his musical efforts.

"Though we are not in danger, common prudence would teach us to journey
through this wilderness in as quiet a manner as possible. You will then,
pardon me, Alice, should I diminish your enjoyments, by requesting this
gentleman to pospone his chant until a safer opportunity".

"You will diminish them, indeed", returned the arch girl; "for never did I
hear a more unworthy conjunction of execution and language than that to
which I have been listening; and I was far gone in a learned inquiry into
the causes of such an unfitness between sound and sense, when you broke the
charm of my musings by that bass of yours, Duncan"!

"I know not what you call my bass", said Heyward, piqued at her remark, "but
I know that your safety, and that of Cora, is far dearer to me than could be
any orchestra of Handel's music". He paused and turned his head quickly
toward a thicket, and then bent his eyes suspiciously on their guide, who
continued his steady pace, in undisturbed gravity. The young man smiled to
himself, for he belived he had mistaken some shining berry of the woods for
the glistening eyeballs of a prowling savage, and he rode forward,
continuing the conversation which had been interrupted by the passing
thought.

Major Heyward was mistaken only in suffering his youthful and generous pride
to suppress his active watchfulness. The cavalcade had not long passed,
before the branches of the bushes that formed the thicket were cautiously
moved asunder, and a human visage, as fiercely wild as savage art and
unbridled passions could make it, peered out on the retiring footsteps of
the travelers. A gleam of exultation shot across the darkly-painted
lineaments of the inhabitant of the forest, as he traced the route of his
intended victims, who rode unconsciously onward, the light and graceful
forms of the females waving among the trees, in the curvatures of their
path, followed at each bend by the manly figure of Heyward, until, finally,
the shapeless person of the singing master was concealed behind the
numberless trunks of trees, that rose, in dark lines, in the intermediate
space.

Chapter 3

"Before these fields were shorn and till'd,
Full to the brim our rivers flow'd;
The melody of waters fill'd
The fresh and boundless wood;
And torrents dash'd, and rivulets play'd,
And fountains spouted in the shade".--Bryant

Leaving the unsuspecting Heyward and his confiding companions to penetrate
still deeper into a forest that contained such treacherous inmates, we must
use an author's privilege, and shift the scene a few miles to the westward
of the place where we have last seen them.

On that day, two men were lingering on the banks of a small but rapid
stream, within an hour's journey of the encampment of Webb, like those who
awaited the appearance of an absent person, or the approach of some expected
event. The vast canopy of woods spread itself to the margin of the river,
overhanging the water, and shadowing its dark current with a deeper hue. The
rays of the sun were beginning to grow less fierce, and the intense heat of
the day was lessened, as the cooler vapors of the springs and fountains rose
above their leafy beds, and rested in the atmosphere. Still that breathing
silence, which marks the drowsy sultriness of an American landscape in July,
pervaded the secluded spot, interrupted only by the low voices of the men,
the occasional and lazy tap of a woodpecker, the discordant cry of some
gaudy jay, or a swelling on the ear, from the dull roar of a distant
waterfall. These feeble and broken sounds were, however, too familiar to the
foresters to draw their attention from the more interesting matter of their
dialogue. While one of these loiterers showed the red skin and wild
accounterments of a native of the woods, the other exhibited, through the
mask of his rude and nearly savage equipments, the brighter, though
sun-burned and long-faced complexion of one who might claim descent from a
European parentage. The former was seated on the end of a mossy log, in a
posture that permitted him to heighten the effect of his earnest language,
by the calm but expressive gestures of an Indian engaged in debate. his
body, which was nearly naked, presented a terrific emblem of death, drawn in
intermingled colors of white and black. His closely- shaved head, on which
no other hair than the well-known and chivalrous scalping tuft1 was
preserved, was without ornament of any kind, with the exception of a
solitary eagle's plume, that crossed his crown, and depended over the left
shoulder. A tomahawk and scalping knife, of English manufacture, were in his
girdle; while a short military rifle, of that sort with which the policy of
the whites armed their savage allies, lay carelessly across his bare and
sinewy knee. The expanded chest, full formed limbs, and grave countenance of
this warrior, would denote that he had reached the vigor of his days, though
no symptoms of decay appeared to have yet weakened his manhood. 1 The North
American warrior caused the hair to be plucked from his whole body; a small
tuft was left on the crown of his head, in order that his enemy might avail
himself of it, in wrenching off the scalp in the event of his fall. The
scalp was the only admissible trophy of victory. Thus, it was deemed more
important to obtain the scalp than to kill the man. Some tribes lay great
stress on the honor of striking a dead body. These practices have nearly
disappeared among the Indians of the Atlantic states.

The frame of the white man, judging by such parts as were not concealed by
his clothes, was like that of one who had known hardships and exertion from
his earliest youth. His person, though muscular, was rather attenuated than
full; but every nerve and muscle appeared strung and indurated by unremitted
exposure and toil. He wore a hunting shirt of forest-green, fringed with
faded yellow, 1 and a summer cap of skins which had been shorn of their fur.
He also bore a knife in a girdle of wampum, like that which confined the
scanty garments of the Indian, but no tomahawk. His moccasins were
ornamented after the gay fashion of the natives, while the only part of his
under dress which appeared below the hunging frock was a pair of buckskin
leggings, that laced at the sides, and which were gartered above the knees,
with the sinews of a deer. A pouch and horn completed his personal
accouterments, though a rifle of great length,2 which the theory of the more
ingenious whites had taught them was the most dangerous of all firearms,
leaned against a neighboring sapling. The eye of the hunter, or scout,
whichever he might be, was small, quick, keen, and restless, roving while he
spoke, on every side of him, as if in quest of game, or distrusting the
sudden approach of some lurking enemy. Notwithstanding the symptoms of
habitual suspicion, his countenance was not only without guile, but at the
moment at which he is introduced, it was charged with an expression of
sturdy honesty. 1 The hunting-shirt is a picturesque smock-frock, being
shorter, and ornamented with fringes and tassels. The colors are intended to
imitate the hues of the wood, with a view to concealment. Many corps of
American riflemen have been thus attired, and the dress is one of the most
striking of modern times. The hunting-shirt is frequently white. 2 The rifle
of the army is short; that of the hunter is always long.

"Even your traditions make the case in my favor, Chingachgook", he said,
speaking in the tongue which was known to all the natives who formerly
inhabited the country between the Hudson and the Potomac, and of which we
shall give a free translation for the benefit of the reader; endeavoring, at
the same time, to preserve some of the peculiarities, both of the individual
and of the language. "Your fathers came from the setting sun, crossed the
big river,1 fought the people of the country, and took the land; and mine
came from the red sky of the morning, over the salt lake, and did their work
much after the fashion that had been set them by yours; then let God judge
the matter between us, and friends spare their words"! 1 The Mississippi.
The scout alludes to a tradition which is very popular among the tribes of
the Atlantic states. Evidence of their Asiatic origin is deduced from the
circumstances, though great uncertainty hangs over the whole history of the
Indians.

"My fathers fought with the naked red man"! returned the Indian, sternly, in
the same language. "Is there no difference, Hawkeye, between the
stone-headed arrow of the warrior, and the leaden bullet with which you
kill"?

"There is reason in an Indian, though nature has made him with a red skin"!
said the white man, shaking his head like one on whom such an appeal to his
justice was not thrown away. For a moment he appeared to be conscious of
having the worst of the argument, then, rallying again, he answered the
objection of his antagonist in the best manner his limited information would
allow:

"I am no scholar, and I care not who knows it; but, judging from what I have
seen, at deer chases and squirrel hunts, of the sparks below, I should think
a rifle in the hands of their grandfathers was not so dangerous as a hickory
bow and a good flint-head might be, if drawn with Indian judgment, and sent
by an Indian eye".

"You have the story told by your fathers", returned the other, coldly waving
his hand. "What say your old men? Do they tell the young warriors that the
pale faces met the red men, painted for war and armed with the stone hatchet
and wooden gun"?

"I am not a prejudiced man, nor one who vaunts himself on his natural
privileges, though the worst enemy I have on earth, and he is an Iroquois,
daren't deny that I am genuine white", the scout replied, surveying, with
secret satisfaction, the faded color of his bony and sinewy hand, "and I am
willing to own that my people have many ways, of which, as an honest man, I
can't approve. It is one of their customs to write in books what they have
done and seen, instead of telling them in their villages, where the lie can
be given to the face of a cowardly boaster, and the brave soldier can call
on his comrades to witness for the truth of his words. In consequence of
this bad fashion, a man, who is too conscientious to misspend his days among
the women, in learning the names of black marks, may never hear of the deeds
of his fathers, nor feel a pride in striving to outdo them. For myself, I
conclude the Bumppos could shoot, for I have a natural turn with a rifle,
which must have been handed down from generation to generation, as, our holy
commandments tell us, all good and evil gifts are bestowed; though I should
be loath to answer for other people in such a matter. But every story has
its two sides; so I ask you, Chingachgook, what passed, according to the
traditions of the red men, when our fathers first met"?

A silence of a minute succeeded, during which the Indian sat mute; then,
full of the dignity of his office, he commenced his brief tale, with a
solemnity that served to heighten its appearance of truth.

"Listen, Hawkeye, and your ear shall drink no lie. 'Tis what my fathers have
said, and what the Mohicans have done". He hesitated a single instant, and
bending a cautious glance toward his companion, he continued, in a manner
that was divided between interrogation and assertion. "Does not this stream
at our feet run toward the summer, until its waters grow salt, and the
current flows upward"?

"It can't be denied that your traditions tell you true in both these
matters", said the white man; "for I have been there, and have seen them,
though why water, which is so sweet in the shade, should become bitter in
the sun, is an alteration for which I have never been able to account".

"And the current"! demanded the Indian, who expected his reply with that
sort of interest that a man feels in the confirmation of testimony, at which
he marvels even while he respects it; "the fathers of Chingachgook have not
lied"!

"The holy Bible is not more true, and that is the truest thing in nature.
They call this up- stream current the tide, which is a thing soon explained,
and clear enough. Six hours the waters run in, and six hours they run out,
and the reason is this: when there is higher water in the sea than in the
river, they run in until the river gets to be highest, and then it runs out
again".

"The waters in the woods, and on the great lakes, run downward until they
lie like my hand", said the Indian, stretching the limb horizontally before
him, "and then they run no more".

"No honest man will deny it", said the scout, a little nettled at the
implied distrust of his explanation of the mystery of the tides; "and I
grant that it is true on the small scale, and where the land is level. But
everything depends on what scale you look at things. Now, on the small
scale, the 'arth is level; but on the large scale it is round. In this
manner, pools and ponds, and even the great fresh-water lakes, may be
stagnant, as you and I both know they are, having seen them; but when you
come to spread water over a great tract, like the sea, where the earth is
round, how in reason can the water be quiet? You might as well expect the
river to lie still on the brink of those black rocks a mile above us, though
your own ears tell you that it is tumbling over them at this very moment".

If unsatisfied by the philosophy of his companion, the Indian was far too
dignified to betray his unbelief. He listened like one who was convinced,
and resumed his narrative in his former solemn manner.

"We came from the place where the sun is hid at night, over great plains
where the buffaloes live, until we reached the big river. There we fought
the Alligewi, till the ground was red with their blood. From the banks of
the big river to the shores of the salt lake, there was none to meet us. The
Maquas followed at a distance. We said the country should be ours from the
place where the water runs up no longer on this stream, to a river twenty
sun's journey toward the summer. We drove the Maquas into the woods with the
bears. They only tasted salt at the licks; they drew no fish from the great
lake; we threw them the bones".

"All this I have heard and believe", said the white man, observing that the
Indian paused; "but it was long before the English came into the country".

"A pine grew then where this chestnut now stands. The first pale faces who
came among us spoke no English. They came in a large canoe, when my fathers
had buried the tomahawk with the red men around them. Then, Hawkeye", he
continued, betraying his deep emotion, only by permitting his voice to fall
to those low, guttural tones, which render his language, as spoken at times,
so very musical; "then, Hawkeye, we were one people, and we were happy. The
salt lake gave us its fish, the wood its deer, and the air its birds. We
took wives who bore us children; we worshipped the Great Spirit; and we kept
the Maquas beyond the sound of our songs of triumph".

"Know you anything of your own family at that time"? demanded the white.
"But you are just a man, for an Indian; and as I suppose you hold their
gifts, your fathers must have been brave warriors, and wise men at the
council-fire".

"My tribe is the grandfather of nations, but I am an unmixed man. The blood
of chiefs is in my veins, where it must stay forever. The Dutch landed, and
gave my people the fire- water; they drank until the heavens and the earth
seemed to meet, and they foolishly thought they had found the Great Spirit.
Then they parted with their land. Foot by foot, they were driven back from
the shores, until I, that am a chief and a Sagamore, have never seen the sun
shine but through the trees, and have never visited the graves of my
fathers".

"Graves bring solemn feelings over the mind", returned the scout, a good
deal touched at the calm suffering of his companion; "and they often aid a
man in his good intentions; though, for myself, I expect to leave my own
bones unburied, to bleach in the woods, or to be torn asunder by the wolves.
But where are to be found those of your race who came to their kin in the
Delaware country, so many summers since"?

"Where are the blossoms of those summers!--fallen, one by one; so all of my
family departed, each in his turn, to the land of spirits. I am on the
hilltop and must go down into the valley; and when Uncas follows in my
footsteps there will no longer be any of the blood of the Sagamores, for my
boy is the last of the Mohicans".

"Uncas is here", said another voice, in the same soft, guttural tones, near
his elbow; "who speaks to Uncas"?

The white man loosened his knife in his leathern sheath, and made an
involuntary movement of the hand toward his rifle, at this sudden
interruption; but the Indian sat composed, and without turning his head at
the unexpected sounds.

At the next instant, a youthful warrior passed between them, with a
noiseless step, and seated himself on the bank of the rapid stream. No
exclamation of surprise escaped the father, nor was any question asked, or
reply given, for several minutes; each appearing to await the moment when he
might speak, without betraying womanish curiosity or childish impatience.
The white man seemed to take counsel from their customs, and, relinquishing
his grasp of the rifle, he also remained silent and reserved. At length
Chingachgook turned his eyes slowly toward his son, and demanded:

"Do the Maquas dare to leave the print of their moccasins in these woods"?

"I have been on their trail", replied the young Indian, "and know that they
number as many as the fingers of my two hands; but they lie hid like
cowards".

"The thieves are outlying for scalps and plunder", said the white man, whom
we shall call Hawkeye, after the manner of his companions. "That busy
Frenchman, Montcalm, will send his spies into our very camp, but he will
know what road we travel"!

"'Tis enough", returned the father, glancing his eye toward the setting sun;
"they shall be driven like deer from their bushes. Hawkeye, let us eat
to-night, and show the Maquas that we are men to-morrow".

"I am as ready to do the one as the other; but to fight the Iroquois 'tis
necessary to find the skulkers; and to eat, 'tis necessary to get the
game--talk of the devil and he will come; there is a pair of the biggest
antlers I have seen this season, moving the bushes below the hill! Now,
Uncas", he continued, in a half whisper, and laughing with a kind of inward
sound, like one who had learned to be watchful, "I will bet my charger three
times full of powder, against a foot of wampum, that I take him atwixt the
eyes, and nearer to the right than to the left".

"It cannot be"! said the young Indian, springing to his feet with youthful
eagerness; "all but the tips of his horns are hid"!

"He's a boy"! said the white man, shaking his head while he spoke, and
addressing the father. "Does he think when a hunter sees a part of the
creatur', he can't tell where the rest of him should be"!

Adjusting his rifle, he was about to make an exhibition of that skill on
which he so much valued himself, when the warrior struck up the piece with
his hand, saying:

"Hawkeye! will you fight the Maquas"?

"These Indians know the nature of the woods, as it might be by instinct"!
returned the scout, dropping his rifle, and turning away like a man who was
convinced of his error. "I must leave the buck to your arrow, Uncas, or we
may kill a deer for them thieves, the Iroquois, to eat".

The instant the father seconded this intimation by an expressive gesture of
the hand, Uncas threw himself on the ground, and approached the animal with
wary movements. When within a few yards of the cover, he fitted an arrow to
his bow with the utmost care, while the antlers moved, as if their owner
snuffed an enemy in the tainted air. In another moment the twang of the cord
was heard, a white streak was seen glancing into the bushes, and the wounded
buck plunged from the cover, to the very feet of his hidden enemy. Avoiding
the horns of the infuriated animal, Uncas darted to his side, and passed his
knife across the throat, when bounding to the edge of the river it fell,
dyeing the waters with its blood.

"'Twas done with Indian skill", said the scout laughing inwardly, but with
vast satisfaction; "and 'twas a pretty sight to behold! Though an arrow is a
near shot, and needs a knife to finish the work".

"Hugh"! ejaculated his companion, turning quickly, like a hound who scented
game.

"By the Lord, there is a drove of them"! exclaimed the scout, whose eyes
began to glisten with the ardor of his usual occupation; "if they come
within range of a bullet I will drop one, though the whole Six Nations
should be lurking within sound! What do you hear, Chingachgook? for to my
ears the woods are dumb".

"There is but one deer, and he is dead", said the Indian, bending his body
till his ear nearly touched the earth. "I hear the sounds of feet"!

"Perhaps the wolves have driven the buck to shelter, and are following on
his trail".

"No. The horses of white men are coming"! returned the other, raising
himself with dignity, and resuming his seat on the log with his former
composure. "Hawkeye, they are your brothers; speak to them".

"That I will, and in English that the king needn't be ashamed to answer",
returned the hunter, speaking in the language of which he boasted; "but I
see nothing, nor do I hear the sounds of man or beast; 'tis strange that an
Indian should understand white sounds better than a man who, his very
enemies will own, has no cross in his blood, although he may have lived with
the red skins long enough to be suspected! Ha! there goes something like the
cracking of a dry stick, too--now I hear the bushes move--yes, yes, there is
a trampling that I mistook for the falls--and--but here they come
themselves; God keep them from the Iroquois"!

Chapter 4

"Well go thy way: thou shalt not from this grove
Till I torment thee for this injury".--

Midsummer Night's Dream.

The words were still in the mouth of the scout, when the leader of the
party, whose approaching footsteps had caught the vigilant ear of the
Indian, came openly into view. A beaten path, such as those made by the
periodical passage of the deer, wound through a little glen at no great
distance, and struck the river at the point where the white man and his red
companions had posted themselves. Along this track the travelers, who had
produced a surprise so unusual in the depths of the forest, advanced slowly
toward the hunter, who was in front of his associates, in readiness to
receive them.

"Who comes"? demanded the scout, throwing his rifle carelessly across his
left arm, and keeping the forefinger of his right hand on the trigger,
though he avoided all appearance of menace in the act. "Who comes hither,
among the beasts and dangers of the wilderness"?

"Believers in religion, and friends to the law and to the king", returned he
who rode foremost. "Men who have journeyed since the rising sun, in the
shades of this forest, without nourishment, and are sadly tired of their
wayfaring".

"You are, then, lost", interrupted the hunter, "and have found how helpless
'tis not to know whether to take the right hand or the left"?

"Even so; sucking babes are not more dependent on those who guide them than
we who are of larger growth, and who may now be said to possess the stature
without the knowledge of men. Know you the distance to a post of the crown
called William Henry"?

"Hoot"! shouted the scout, who did not spare his open laughter, though
instantly checking the dangerous sounds he indulged his merriment at less
risk of being overheard by any lurking enemies. "You are as much off the
scent as a hound would be, with Horican atwixt him and the deer! William
Henry, man! if you are friends to the king and have business with the army,
your way would be to follow the river down to Edward, and lay the matter
before Webb, who tarries there, instead of pushing into the defiles, and
driving this saucy Frenchman back across Champlain, into his den again".

Before the stranger could make any reply to this unexpected proposition,
another horseman dashed the bushes aside, and leaped his charger into the
pathway, in front of his companion.

"What, then, may be our distance from Fort Edward"? demanded a new speaker;
"the place you advise us to seek we left this morning, and our destination
is the head of the lake".

"Then you must have lost your eyesight afore losing your way, for the road
across the portage is cut to a good two rods, and is as grand a path, I
calculate, as any that runs into London, or even before the palace of the
king himself".

"We will not dispute concerning the excellence of the passage", returned
Heyward, smiling; for, as the reader has anticipated, it was he. "It is
enough, for the present, that w trusted to an Indian guide to take us by a
nearer, though blinder path, and that we are deceived in his knowledge. In
plain words, we know not where we are".

"An Indian lost in the woods"! said the scout, shaking his head doubtingly;
"When the sun is scorching the tree tops, and the water courses are full;
when the moss on every beech he sees will tell him in what quarter the north
star will shine at night. The woods are full of deer-paths which run to the
streams and licks, places well known to everybody; nor have the geese done
their flight to the Canada waters altogether! 'Tis strange that an Indian
should be lost atwixt Horican and the bend in the river! Is he a Mohawk"?

"Not by birth, though adopted in that tribe; I think his birthplace was
farther north, and he is one of those you call a Huron".

"Hugh"! exclaimed the two companions of the scout, who had continued until
this part of the dialogue, seated immovable, and apparently indifferent to
what passed, but who now sprang to their feet with an activity and interest
that had evidently got the better of their reserve by surprise.

"A Huron"! repeated the sturdy scout, once more shaking his head in open
distrust; "they are a thievish race, nor do I care by whom they are adopted;
you can never make anything of them but skulls and vagabonds. Since you
trusted yourself to the care of one of that nation, I only wonder that you
have not fallen in with more".

"Of that there is little danger, since William Henry is so many miles in our
front. You forget that I have told you our guide is now a Mohawk, and that
he serves with our forces as a friend".

"And I tell you that he who is born a Mingo will die a Mingo", returned the
other positively. "A Mohawk! No, give me a Delaware or a Mohican for
honesty; and when they will fight, which they won't all do, having suffered
their cunning enemies, the Maquas, to make them women--but when they will
fight at all, look to a Delaware, or a Mohican, for a warrior"!

"Enough of this", said Heyward, impatiently; "I wish not to inquire into the
character of a man that I know, and to whom you must be a stranger. You have
not yet answered my question; what is our distance from the main army at
Edward"?

"It seems that may depend on who is your guide. One would think such a horse
as that might get over a good deal of ground atwixt sun-up and sun-down".

"I wish no contention of idle words with you, friend", said Heyward, curbing
his dissatisfied manner, and speaking in a more gentle voice; "if you will
tell me the distance to Fort Edward, and conduct me thither, your labor
shall not go without its reward".

"And in so doing, how know I that I don't guide an enemy and a spy of
Montcalm, to the works of the army? It is not every man who can speak the
English tongue that is an honest subject".

"If you serve with the troops, of whom I judge you to be a scout, you should
know of such a regiment of the king as the Sixtieth".

"The Sixtieth! you can tell me little of the Royal Americans that I don't
know, though I do wear a hunting-shirt instead of a scarlet jacket".

"Well, then, among other things, you may know the name of its major"?

"Its major"! interrupted the hunter, elevating his body like one who was
proud of his trust. "If there is a man in the country who knows Major
Effingham, he stands before you".

"It is a corps which has many majors; the gentleman you name is the senior,
but I speak of the junior of them all; he who commands the companies in
garrison at William Henry".

"Yes, yes, I have heard that a young gentleman of vast riches, from one of
the provinces far south, has got the place. He is over young, too, to hold
such rank, and to be put above men whose heads are beginning to bleach; and
yet they say he is a soldier in his knowledge, and a gallant gentleman"!

"Whatever he may be, or however he may be qualified for his rank, he now
speaks to you and, of course, can be no enemy to dread".

The scout regarded Heyward in surprise, and then lifting his cap, he
answered, in a tone less confident than before--though still expressing
doubt.

"I have heard a party was to leave the encampment this morning for the lake
shore"?

"You have heard the truth; but I preferred a nearer route, trusting to the
knowledge of the Indian I mentioned".

"And he deceived you, and then deserted"?

"Neither, as I believe; certainly not the latter, for he is to be found in
the rear".

"I should like to look at the creatur'; if it is a true Iroquois I can tell
him by his knavish look, and by his paint", said the scout; stepping past
the charger of Heyward, and entering the path behind the mare of the singing
master, whose foal had taken advantage of the halt to exact the maternal
contribution. After shoving aside the bushes, and proceeding a few paces, he
encountered the females, who awaited the result of the conference with
anxiety, and not entirely without apprehension. Behind these, the runner
leaned against a tree, where he stood the close examination of the scout
with an air unmoved, though with a look so dark and savage, that it might in
itself excite fear. Satisfied with his scrutiny, the hunter soon left him.
As he repassed the females, he paused a momen to gaze upon their beauty,
answering to the smile and nod of Alice with a look of open pleasure. Thence
he went to the side of the motherly animal, and spending a minute in a
fruitless inquiry into the character of her rider, he shook his head and
returned to Heyward.

"A Mingo is a Mingo, and God having made him so, neither the Mohawks nor any
other tribe can alter him", he said, when he had regained his former
position. "If we were alone, and you would leave that noble horse at the
mercy of the wolves to-night, I could show you the way to Edward myself,
within an hour, for it lies only about an hour's journey hence; but with
such ladies in your company 'tis impossible"!

"And why? They are fatigued, but they are quite equal to a ride of a few
more miles".

"'Tis a natural impossibility"! repeated the scout; "I wouldn't walk a mile
in these woods after night gets into them, in company with that runner, for
the best rifle in the colonies. They are full of outlying Iroquois, and your
mongrel Mohawk knows where to find them too well to be my companion".

"Think you so"? said Heyward, leaning forward in the saddle, and dropping
his voice nearly to a whisper; "I confess I have not been without my own
suspicions, though I have endeavored to conceal them, and affected a
confidence I have not always felt, on account of my companions. It was
because I suspected him that I would follow no longer; making him, as you
see, follow me".

"I knew he was one of the cheats as soon as I laid eyes on him"! returned
the scout, placing a finger on his nose, in sign of caution.

"The thief is leaning against the foot of the sugar sapling, that you can
see over them bushes; his right leg is in a line with the bark of the tree,
and", tapping his rifle, "I can take him from where I stand, between the
angle and the knee, with a single shot, putting an end to his tramping
through the woods, for at least a month to come. If I should go back to him,
the cunning varmint would suspect something, and be dodging through the
trees like a frightened deer".

"It will not do. He may be innocent, and I dislike the act. Though, if I
felt confident of his treachery----"

"'Tis a safe thing to calculate on the knavery of an Iroquois", said the
scout, throwing his rifle forward, by a sort of instinctive movement.

"Hold"! interrupted Heyward, "it will not do--we must think of some other
scheme--and yet, I have much reason to believe the rascal has deceived me".

The hunter, who had already abandoned his intention of maiming the runner,
mused a moment, and then made a gesture, which instantly brought his two red
companions to his side. They spoke together earnestly in the Delaware
language, though in an undertone; and by the gestures of the white man,
which were frequently directed towards the top of the sapling, it was
evident he pointed out the situation of their hidden enemy. His companions
were not long in comprehending his wishes, and laying aside their firearms,
they parted, taking opposite sides of the path, and burying themselves in
the thicket, with such cautious movements, that their steps were inaudible.

"Now, go you back", said the hunter, speaking again to Heyward, "and hold
the imp in talk; these Mohicans here will take him without breaking his
paint".

"Nay", said Heyward, proudly, "I will seize him myself".

"Hist! what could you do, mounted, against an Indian in the bushes"!

"I will dismount".

"And, think you, when he saw one of your feet out of the stirrup, he would
wait for the other to be free? Whoever comes into the woods to deal with the
natives, must use Indian fashions, if he would wish to prosper in his
undertakings. Go, then; talk openly to the miscreant, and seem to believe
him the truest friend you have on 'arth".

Heyward prepared to comply, though with strong disgust at the nature of the
office he was compelled to execute. Each moment, however, pressed upon him a
conviction of the critical situation in which he had suffered his invaluable
trust to be involved through his own confidence. The sun had already
disappeared, and the woods, suddenly deprived of his light,1 were assuming a
dusky hue, which keenly reminded him that the hour the savage usually chose
for his most barbarous and remorseless acts of vengeance or hostility, was
speedily drawing near. Stimulated by apprehension, he left the scout, who
immediately entered into a loud conversation with the stranger that had so
unceremoniously enlisted himself in the party of travelers that morning. In
passing his gentler companions Heyward uttered a few words of encouragement,
and was pleased to find that, though fatigued with the exercise of the day,
they appeared to entertain no suspicion that their present embarrassment was
other than the result of accident. Giving them reason to believe he was
merely employed in a consultation concerning the future route, he spurred
his charger, and drew the reins again when the animal had carried him within
a few yards of the place where the sullen runner still stood, leaning
against the tree. 1 The scene of this tale was in the 42d degree of
latitude, where the twilight is never of long continuation.

"You may see, Magua", he said, endeavoring to assume an air of freedom and
confidence, "that the night is closing around us, and yet we are no nearer
to William Henry than when we left the encampment of Webb with the rising
sun. You have missed the way, nor have I been more fortunate. But, happily,
we have fallen in with a hunter, he whom you hear talking to the singer,
that is acquainted with the deerpaths and by-ways of the woods, and who
promises to lead us to a place where we may rest securely till the morning".

The Indian riveted his glowing eyes on Heyward as he asked, in his imperfect
English, "Is he alone"?

"Alone"! hesitatingly answered Heyward, to whom deception was too new to be
assumed without embarrassment. "Oh! not alone, surely, Magua, for you know
that we are with him".

"Then Le Renard Subtil will go", returned the runner, coolly raising his
little wallet from the place where it had lain at his feet; "and the pale
faces will see none but their own color".

"Go! Whom call you Le Renard"?

"'Tis the name his Canada fathers have given to Magua", returned the runner,
with an air that manifested his pride at the distinction. "Night is the same
as day to Le Subtil, when Munro waits for him".

"And what account will Le Renard give the chief of William Henry concerning
his daughters? Will he dare to tell the hot-blooded Scotsman that his
children are left without a guide, though Magua promised to be one"?

"Though the gray head has a loud voice, and a long arm, Le Renard will not
hear him, nor feel him, in the woods".

"But what will the Mohawks say? They will make him petticoats, and bid him
stay in the wigwam with the women, for he is no longer to be trusted with
the business of a man".

"Le Subtil knows the path to the great lakes, and he can find the bones of
his fathers", was the answer of the unmoved runner.

"Enough, Magua", said Heyward; "are we not friends? Why should there be
bitter words between us? Munro has promised you a gift for your services
when performed, and I shall be your debtor for another. Rest your weary
limbs, then, and open your wallet to eat. We have a few moments to spare;
let us not waste them in talk like wrangling women. When the ladies are
refreshed we will proceed".

"The pale faces make themselves dogs to their women", muttered the Indian,
in his native language, "and when they want to eat, their warriors must lay
aside the tomahawk to feed their laziness".

"What say you, Renard"?

"Le Subtil says it is good".

The Indian then fastened his eyes keenly on the open countenance of Heyward,
but meeting his glance, he turned them quickly away, and seating himself
deliberately on the ground, he drew forth the remnant of some former repast,
and began to eat, though not without first bending his looks slowly and
cautiously around him.

"This is well", continued Heyward; "and Le Renard will have strength and
sight to find the path in the morning"; he paused, for sounds like the
snapping of a dried stick, and the rustling of leaves, rose from the
adjacent bushes, but recollecting himself instantly, he continued, "we must
be moving before the sun is seen, or Montcalm may lie in our path, and shut
us out from the fortress".

The hand of Magua dropped from his mouth to his side, and though his eyes
were fastened on the ground, his head was turned aside, his nostrils
expanded, and his ears seemed even to stand more erect than usual, giving to
him the appearance of a statue that was made to represent intense attention.

Heyward, who watched his movements with a vigilant eye, carelessly
extricated one of his feet from the stirrup, while he passed a hand toward
the bear-skin covering of his holsters. Every effort to detect the point
most regarded by the runner was completely frustrated by the tremulous
glances of his organs, which seemed not to rest a single instant on any
particular object, and which, at the same time, could be hardly said to
move. While he hesitated how to proceed, Le Subtil cautiously raised himself
to his feet, though with a motion so slow and guarded, that not the
slightest noise was produced by the change. Heyward felt it had now become
incumbent on him to act. Throwing his leg over the saddle, he dismounted,
with a determination to advance and seize his treacherous companion,
trusting the result to his own manhood. In order, however, to prevent
unnecessary alarm, he still preserved an air of calmness and friendship.

"Le Renard Subtil does not eat", he said, using the appellation he had found
most flattering to the vanity of the Indian. "His corn is not well parched,
and it seems dry. Let me examine; perhaps something may be found among my
own provisions that will help his appetite".

Magua held out the wallet to the proffer of the other. He even suffered
their hands to meet, without betraying the least emotion, or varying his
riveted attitude of attention. But when he felt the fingers of Heyward
moving gently along his own naked arm, he struck up the limb of the young
man, and, uttering a piercing cry, he darted beneath it, and plunged, at a
single bound, into the opposite thicket. At the next instant the form of
Chingachgook appeared from the bushes, looking like a specter in its paint,
and glided across the path in swift pursuit. Next followed the shout of
Uncas, when the woods were lighted by a sudden flash, that was accompanied
by the sharp report of the hunter's rifle.

Chapter 5

..."In such a night
Did Thisbe fearfully o'ertrip the dew;
And saw the lion's shadow ere himself".Merchant of Venice

The suddenness of the flight of his guide, and the wild cries of the
pursuers, caused Heyward to remain fixed, for a few moments, in inactive
surprise. Then recollecting the importance of securing the fugitive, he
dashed aside the surrounding bushes, and pressed eagerly forward to lend his
aid in the chase. Before he had, however, proceeded a hundred yards, he met
the three foresters already returning from their unsuccessful pursuit.

"Why so soon disheartened"! he exclaimed; "the scoundrel must be concealed
behind some of these trees, and may yet be secured. We are not safe while he
goes at large".

"Would you set a cloud to chase the wind"? returned the disappointed scout;
"I heard the imp brushing over the dry leaves, like a black snake, and
blinking a glimpse of him, just over ag'in yon big pine, I pulled as it
might be on the scent; but 'twouldn't do! and yet for a reasoning aim, if
anybody but myself had touched the trigger, I should call it a quick sight;
and I may be accounted to have experience in these matters, and one who
ought to know. Look at this sumach; its leaves are red, though everybody
knows the fruit is in the yellow blossom in the month of July"!

"'Tis the blood of Le Subtil! he is hurt, and may yet fall"!

"No, no", returned the scout, in decided disapprobation of this opinion, "I
rubbed the bark off a limb, perhaps, but the creature leaped the longer for
it. A rifle bullet acts on a running animal, when it barks him, much the
same as one of your spurs on a horse; that is, it quickens motion, and puts
life into the flesh, instead of taking it away. But when it cuts the ragged
hole, after a bound or two, there is, commonly, a stagnation of further
leaping, be it Indian or be it deer"!

"We are four able bodies, to one wounded man"!

"Is life grievous to you"? interrupted the scout. "Yonder red devil would
draw you within swing of the tomahawks of his comrades, before you were
heated in the chase. It was an unthoughtful act in a man who has so often
slept with the war-whoop ringing in the air, to let off his piece within
sound of an ambushment! But then it was a natural temptation! 'twas very
natural! Come, friends, let us move our station, and in such fashion, too,
as will throw the cunning of a Mingo on a wrong scent, or our scalps will be
drying in the wind in front of Montcalm's marquee, ag'in this hour
to-morrow".

This appalling declaration, which the scout uttered with the cool assurance
of a man who fully comprehended, while he did not fear to face the danger,
served to remind Heyward of the importance of the charge with which he
himself had been intrusted. Glancing his eyes around, with a vain effort to
pierce the gloom that was thickening beneath the leafy arches of the forest,
he felt as if, cut off from human aid, his unresisting companions would soon
lie at the entire mercy of those barbarous enemies, who, like beasts of
prey, only waited till the gathering darkness might render their blows more
fatally certain. His awakened imagination, deluded by the deceptive light,
converted each waving bush, or the fragment of some fallen tree, into human
forms, and twenty times he fancied he could distinguish the horrid visages
of his lurking foes, peering from their hiding places, in never ceasing
watchfulness of the movements of his party. Looking upward, he found that
the thin fleecy clouds, which evening had painted on the blue sky, were
already losing their faintest tints of rose-color, while the imbedded
stream, which glided past the spot where he stood, was to be traced only by
the dark boundary of its wooded banks.

"What is to be done"! he said, feeling the utter helplessness of doubt in
such a pressing strait; "desert me not, for God's sake! remain to defend
those I escort, and freely name your own reward"!

His companions, who conversed apart in the language of their tribe, heeded
not this sudden and earnest appeal. Though their dialogue was maintained in
low and cautious sounds, but little above a whisper, Heyward, who now
approached, could easily distinguish the earnest tones of the younger
warrior from the more deliberate speeches of his seniors. It was evident
that they debated on the propriety of some measure, that nearly concerned
the welfare of the travelers. Yielding to his powerful interest in the
subject, and impatient of a delay that seemed fraught with so much
additional danger, Heyward drew still nigher to the dusky group, with an
intention of making his offers of compensation more definite, when the white
man, motioning with his hand, as if he conceded the disputed point, turned
away, saying in a sort of solilquy, and in the English tongue:

"Uncas is right! it would not be the act of men to leave such harmless
things to their fate, even though it breaks up the harboring place forever.
If you would save these tender blossoms from the fangs of the worst of
sarpents, gentleman, you have neither time to lose nor resolution to throw
away"!

"How can such a wish be doubted! Have I not already offered----"

"Offer your prayers to Him who can give us wisdom to circumvent the cunning
of the devils who fill these woods", calmly interrupted the scout, "but
spare your offers of money, which neither you may live to realize, nor I to
profit by. These Mohicans and I will do what man's thoughts can invent, to
keep such flowers, which, though so sweet, were never made for the
wilderness, from harm, and that without hope of any other recompense but
such as God always gives to upright dealings. First, you must promise two
things, both in your own name and for your friends, or without serving you
we shall only injure ourselves"!

"Name them".

"The one is, to be still as these sleeping woods, let what will happen and
the other is, to keep the place where we shall take you, forever a secret
from all mortal men".

"I will do my utmost to see both these conditions fulfilled".

"Then follow, for we are losing moments that are as precious as the heart's
blood to a stricken deer"!

Heyward could distinguish the impatient gesture of the scout, through the
increasing shadows of the evening, and he moved in his footsteps, swiftly,
toward the place where he had left the remainder of the party. When they
rejoined the expecting and anxious females, he briefly acquainted them with
the conditions of their new guide, and with the necessity that existed for
their hushing every apprehension in instant and serious exertions. Although
his alarming communication was not received without much secret terror by
the listeners, his earnest and impressive manner, aided perhaps by the
nature of the danger, succeeded in bracing their nerves to undergo some
unlooked-for and unusual trial. Silently, and without a moment's delay, they
permitted him to assist them from their saddles, and when they descended
quickly to the water's edge, where the scout had collected the rest of the
party, more by the agency of expressive gestures than by any use of words.

"What to do with these dumb creatures"! muttered the white man, on whom the
sole control of their future movements appeared to devolve; "it would be
time lost to cut their throats, and cast them into the river; and to leave
them here would be to tell the Mingoes that they have not far to seek to
find their owners"!

"Then give them their bridles, and let them range the woods", Heyward
ventured to suggest.

"No; it would be better to mislead the imps, and make them believe they must
equal a horse's speed to run down their chase. Ay, ay, that will blind their
fireballs of eyes! Chingach--Hist! what stirs the bush"?

"The colt".

"That colt, at least, must die", muttered the scout, grasping at the mane of
the nimble beast, which easily eluded his hand; "Uncas, your arrows"!

"Hold"! exclaimed the proprietor of the condemned animal, aloud, without
regard to the whispering tones used by the others; "spare the foal of
Miriam! it is the comely offspring of a faithful dam, and would willingly
injure naught".

"When men struggle for the single life God has given them", said the scout,
sternly, "even their own kind seem no more than the beasts of the wood. If
you speak again, I shall leave you to the mercy of the Maquas! Draw to your
arrow's head, Uncas; we have no time for second blows".

The low, muttering sounds of his threatening voice were still audible, when
the wounded foal, first rearing on its hinder legs, plunged forward to its
knees. It was met by Chingachgook, whose knife passed across its throat
quicker than thought, and then precipitating the motions of the struggling
victim, he dashed into the river, down whose stream it glided away, gasping
audibly for breath with its ebbing life. This deed of apparent cruelty, but
of real necessity, fell upon the spirits of the travelers like a terrific
warning of the peril in which they stood, heightened as it was by the calm
though steady resolution of the actors in the scene. The sisters shuddered
and clung closer to each other, while Heyward instinctively laid his hand on
one of the pistols he had just drawn from their holsters, as he placed
himself between his charge and those dense shadows that seemed to draw an
impenetrable veil before the bosom of the forest.

The Indians, however, hestitated not a momnet, but taking the bridles, they
led the frightened and reluctant horses into the bed of the river.

At a short distance from the shore they turned, and were soon concealed by
the projection of the bank, under the brow of which they moved, in a
direction opposite to the course of the waters. In the meantime, the scout
drew a canoe of bark from its place of concealment beneath some low bushes,
whose branches wre waving with the eddies of the current, into which he
silently motioned for the females to enter. They complied without
hesitation, though many a fearful and anxious glance was thrown behind them,
toward the thickening gloom, which now lay like a dark barrier along the
margin of the stream.

So soon as Cora and Alice were seated, the scout, without regarding the
element, directed Heyward to support one side of the frail vessel, and
posting himself at the other, they bore it up against the stream, followed
by the dejected owner of the dead foal. In this manner they proceeded, for
many rods, in a silence that was only interrupted by the rippling of the
water, as its eddies played around them, or the low dash made by their own
cautious footsteps. Heyward yielded the guidance of the canoe implicitly to
the scout, who approached or receded from the shore, to avoid the fragments
of rocks, or deeper parts of the river, with a readiness that showed his
knowledge of the route they held. Occasionally he would stop; and in the
midst of a breathing stillness, that the dull but increasing roar of the
waterfall only served to render more impressive, he would listen with
painful intenseness, to catch any sounds that might arise from the
slumbering forest. When assured that all was still, and unable to detect,
even by the aid of his practiced senses, any sign of his approaching foes,
he would deliberately resume his slow and guarded progress. At length they
reached a point in the river where the roving eye of Heyward became riveted
on a cluster of black objects, collected at a spot where the high bank threw
a deeper shadow than usual on the dark waters. Hesitating to advance, he
pointed out the place to the attention of his companion.

"Ay", returned the composed scout, "the Indians have hid the beasts with the
judgment of natives! Water leaves no trail, and an owl's eyes would be
blinded by the darkness of such a hole".

The whole party was soon reunited, and another consultation was held between
the scout and his new comrades, during which, they, whose fates depended on
the faith and ingenuity of these unknown foresters, had a little leisure to
observe their situation more minutely.

The river was confined between high and cragged rocks, one of which impended
above the spot where the canoe rested. As these, again, were surmounted by
tall trees, which appeared to totter on the brows of the precipice, it gave
the stream the appearance of running through a deep and narrow dell. All
beneath the fantastic limbs and ragged tree tops, which were, here and
there, dimly painted against the starry zenith, lay alike in shadowed
obscurity. Behind them, the curvature of the banks soon bounded the view by
the same dark and wooded outline; but in front, and apparently at no great
distance, the water seemed piled against the heavens, whence it tumbled into
caverns, out of which issued those sullen sounds that had loaded the evening
atmosphere. It seemed, in truth, to be a spot devoted to seclusion, and the
sisters imbibed a soothing impression of security, as they gazed upon its
romantic though not unappalling beauties. A general movement among their
conductors, however, soon recalled them from a comtemplation of the wild
charms that night had assisted to lend the place to a painful sense of their
real peril.

The horses had been secured to some scattering shrubs that grew in the
fissures of the rocks, where, standing in the water, they were left to pass
the night. The scout directed Heyward and his disconsolate fellow travelers
to seat themselves in the forward end of the canoe, and took possession of
the other himself, as erect and steady as if he floated in a vessel of much
firmer materials. The Indians warily retraced their steps toward the place
they had left, when the scout, placing his pole against a rock, by a
powerful shove, sent his frail bark directly into the turbulent stream. For
many minutes the struggle between the light bubble in which they floated and
the swift current was severe and doubtful. Forbidden to stir even a hand,
and almost afraid to breath, lest they should expose the frail fabric to the
fury of the stream, the passengers watched the glancing waters in feverish
suspense. Twenty times they thought the whirling eddies were sweeping them
to destruction, when the masterhand of their pilot would bring the bows of
the canoe to stem the rapid. A long, a vigorous, and, as it appeared to the
females, a desperate effort, closed the struggle. Just as Alice veiled her
eyes in horror, under the impression that they were about to be swept within
the vortex at the foot of the cataract, the canoe floated, stationary, at
the side of a flat rock, that lay on a level with the water.

"Where are we, and what is next to be done"! demanded Heyward, perceiving
that the exertions of the scout had ceased.

"You are at the foot of Glenn's", returned the other, speaking aloud,
without fear of consequences within the roar of the cataract; "and the next
thing is to make a steady landing, lest the canoe upset, and you should go
down again the hard road we have traveled faster than you came up; 'tis a
hard rift to stem, when the river is a little swelled; and five is an
unnatural number to keep dry, in a hurry-skurry, with a little birchen bark
and gum. There, go you all on the rock, and I will bring up the Mohicans
with the venison. A man had better sleep without his scalp, than famish in
the midst of plenty".

His passengers gladly complied with these directions. As the last foot
touched the rock, the canoe whirled from its station, when the tall form of
the scout was seen, for an instant, gliding above the waters, before it
disappeared in the impenetrable darkness that rested on the bed of the
river. Left by their guide, the travelers remained a few minutes in helpless
ignorance, afraid even to move along the broken rocks, lest a false step
should precipitate them down some one of the many deep and roaring caverns,
into which the water seemed to tumble, on every side of them. Their
suspense, however, was soon relieved; for, aided by the skill of the
natives, the canoe shot back into the eddy, and floated again at the side of
the low rock, before they thought the scout had even time to rejoin his
companions.

"We are now fortified, garrisoned, and provisioned", cried Heyward
cheerfully, "and may set Montcalm and his allies at defiance. How, now, my
vigilant sentinel, can see anything of those you call the Iroquois, on the
main land"!

"I call them Iroquois, because to me every native, who speaks a foreign
tongue, is accounted an enemy, though he may pretend to serve the king! If
Webb wants faith and honesty in an Indian, let him bring out the tribes of
the Delawares, and send these greedy and lying Mohawks and Oneidas, with
their six nations of varlets, where in nature they belong, among the
French"!

"We should then exchange a warlike for a useless friend! I have heard that
the Delawares have laid aside the hatchet, and are content to be called
women"!

"Aye, shame on the Hollanders and Iroquois, who circumvented them by their
deviltries, into such a treaty! But I have known them for twenty years, and
I call him liar that says cowardly blood runs in the veins of a Delaware.
You have driven their tribes from the seashore, and would now believe what
their enemies say, that you may sleep at night upon an easy pillow. No, no;
to me, every Indian who speaks a foreign tongue is an Iroquois, whether the
castle 1 of his tribe be in Canada, or be in York". 1 The principal villages
of the Indians are still called "castles" by the whites of New York. "Oneida
castle" is no more than a scattered hamlet; but the name is in general use.

Heyward, perceiving that the stubborn adherence of the scout to the cause of
his friends the Delawares, or Mohicans, for they were branches of the same
numerous people, was likely to prolong a useless discussion, changed the
subject.

"Treaty or no treaty, I know full well that your two companions are brave
and cautious warriors! have they heard or seen anything of our enemies"!

"An Indian is a mortal to be felt afore he is seen", returned the scout,
ascending the rock, and throwing the deer carelessly down. "I trust to other
signs than such as come in at the eye, when I am outlying on the trail of
the Mingoes".

"Do your ears tell you that they have traced our retreat"?

"I should be sorry to think they had, though this is a spot that stout
courage might hold for a smart scrimmage. I will not deny, however, but the
horses cowered when I passed them, as though they scented the wolves; and a
wolf is a beast that is apt to hover about an Indian ambushment, craving the
offals of the deer the savages kill".

"You forget the buck at your feet! or, may we not owe their visit to the
dead colt? Ha! what noise is that"?

"Poor Miriam"! murmured the stranger; "thy foal was foreordained to become a
prey to ravenous beasts"! Then, suddenly lifting up his voice, amid the
eternal din of the waters, he sang aloud:

"First born of Egypt, smite did he,
Of mankind, and of beast also:
O, Egypt! wonders sent 'midst thee,
On Pharaoh and his servants too"!

"The death of the colt sits heavy on the heart of its owner", said the
scout; "but it's a good sign to see a man account upon his dumb friends. He
has the religion of the matter, in believing what is to happen will happen;
and with such a consolation, it won't be long afore he submits to the
rationality of killing a four-footed beast to save the lives of human men.
It may be as you say", he continued, reverting to the purport of Heyward's
last remark; "and the greater the reason why we should cut our steaks, and
let the carcass drive down the stream, or we shall have the pack howling
along the cliffs, begrudging every mouthful we swallow. Besides, though the
Delaware tongue is the same as a book to the Iroquois, the cunning varlets
are quick enough at understanding the reason of a wolf's howl".

The scout, while making his remarks, was busied in collecting certain
necessary implements; as he concluded, he moved silently by the group of
travelers, accompanied by the Mohicans, who seemed to comprehend his
intentions with instinctive readiness, when the whole three disappeared in
succession, seeming to vanish against the dark face of a perpendicular rock
that rose to the height of a few yards, within as many feet of the water's
edge.

Chapter 6

"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".--Burns

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 treachery.

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 sighs.
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 peole 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. 1 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"! 1 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.

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 retreat. 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,* they were
much inclined to judge differently from Hawkeye, of its wild beauties. 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. * 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
remakable 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 called.

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 nutr', 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 names"?

"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 general".

"Never; I follow no other than my own high vocation, which is instruction in
sacred music"!

"'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 reply. 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 noise. 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 testify. 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.

Chapter 7

"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 peach or a signal of war, it
must be looked to. 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. One 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 'arth"!

"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
abondoning 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 interruption. 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 breathed. 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 thoroughtly 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. Cora! 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 beofre 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 ws collected in this spot of comparative
safety.

"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 cavern. 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 stil 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 1 will strike his blow". 1 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.

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 grave.

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
sight. 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 striken 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 sartain"!

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.

Chapter 8

"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
sarpents".

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
treacheous 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 jeopardy.

"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 nature".

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 exlaimed, 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 soul.

"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 buck"!

"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 meaning.

"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 office.
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 form 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
laugh"!

"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 fortunes"!

"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 children"?

"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 woman"?

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 you".

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 turne,d and with a quivering lip, addressed herself to
Heyward:

"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.

Chapter 9

"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 life. 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 form 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 domains. 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 likensss of sleep, while sounds of discord have rent my
ears, such as might manifest the fullness of time, and that nature had
forgotten her harmony".

"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
temperament. 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 succeeded. 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 narrrow 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 companions. 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 discovered. 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 oppostie 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 owner. 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 andthe 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 fellows. 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 river. 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, towardheaven, 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 levelled 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 sound.

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.

Chapter 10

"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 fellows. 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 up"?

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;
élan 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 band. 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 protection. 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 quarter. This consideration probably hastened
their determination, and quickened the subsequent movements.

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 destitue 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 enter.

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 captors. 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 medal1 of Magua will no longer be on
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 will----" 1 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.

"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 strike"?

"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 answer".

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 moment.

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 seemd never to tire.

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, Hyeward 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
residence. 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 dangerous. 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 certainty. 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.

Chapter 11

"Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him".--Shylock

The Indian had selected for this desirable purpose one of those steep,
pyramidal hills, which bear a strong resemblance to artificial mounds, and
which so frequently occur in the valleys of America. The one in question was
high and precipitous; its top flattened, as usual; but with one of its sides
more than oridinarily irregular. It possessed no other apparent advantage
for a resting place, than in its elevation and form, which might render
defense easy, and surprise nearly impossible. As Heyward, however, no longer
expected that rescue which time and distance now rendered so improbable, he
regarded these little peculiarities with an eye devoid of interest, devoting
himself entirely to the comfort and condolence of his feebler companions.
The Narragansetts were suffered to browse on the branches of the trees and
shrubs that were thinly scattered over the summit of the hill, while the
remains of their provisions were spread under the shade of a beech, that
stretched its horizontal limbs like a canopy above them.

Notwithstanding the swiftness of their flight, one of the Indians had found
an opportunity to strike a straggling fawn with an arrow, and had borne the
more preferable fragments of the victim, patiently on his shoulders, to the
stopping place. Without any aid from the science of cookery, he was
immediately employed, in common with his fellows, in gorging himself with
this digestible sustenance. Magua alone sat apart, without participating in
the revolting meal, and apparently buried in the deepest thought.

This abstinence, so remarkable in an Indian, when he possessed the means of
satisfying hunger, at length attracted the notice of Heyward. The young man
willingly believed that the Huron deliberated on the most eligible manner of
eluding the vigilance of his associates. With a view to assist his plans by
any suggestion of his own, and to strengthen the temptation, he left the
beech, and straggled, as if without an object, to the spot where Le Renard
was seated.

"Has not Magua kept the sun in his face long enough to escape all danger
from the Canadians"? he asked, as though no longer doubtful of the good
intelligence established between them; "and will not the chief of William
Henry be better pleased to see his daughters before another night may have
hardened his heart to their loss, to make him less liberal in his reward"?

"Do the pale faces love their children less in the morning than at night"?
asked the Indian, coldly.

"By no means", returned Heyward, anxious to recall his error, if he had made
one; "the white man may, and does often, forget the burial place of his
fathers; he sometimes ceases to remember those he should love, and has
promised to cherish; but the affection of a parent for his child is never
permitted to die".

"And is the heart of the white-headed chief soft, and will he think of the
babes that his squaws have given him? He is hard on his warriors and his
eyes are made of stone"?

"He is severe to the idle and wicked, but to the sober and deserving he is a
leader, both just and humane. I have known many fond and tender parents, but
never have I seen a man whose heart was softer toward his child. You have
seen the gray-head in front of his warriors, Magua; but I have seen his eyes
swimming in water, when he spoke of those children who are now in your
power"!

Heyward paused, for he knew not how to construe the remarkable expression
that gleamed across the swarthy features of the attentive Indian. At first
it seemed as if the remembrance of the promised reward grew vivid in his
mind, while he listened to the sources of parental feeling which were to
assure its possession; but, as Duncan proceeded, the expression of joy
became so fiercely malignant that it was impossible not to apprehend it
proceeded from some passion more sinister than avarice.

"Go", said the Huron, suppressing the alarming exhibition in an instant, in
a death-like calmness of countenance; "go to the dark-haired daughter, and
say, "Magua waits to speak" The father will remember what the child
promises".

Duncan, who interpreted this speech to express a wish for some additional
pledge that the promised gifts should not be withheld, slowly and
reluctantly repaired to the place where the sisters were now resting from
their fatigue, to communicate its purport to Cora.

"You understand the nautre of an Indian's wishes", he concluded, as he led
her toward the place where she was expected, "and must be prodigal of your
offers of powder and blankets. Ardent spirits are, however, the most prized
by such as he; nor would it be amiss to add some boon from your own hand,
with that grace you so well know how to practise. Remember, Cora, that on
your presence of mind and ingenuity, even your life, as well as that of
Alice, may in some measure depend".

"Heyward, and yours"!

"Mine is of little moment; it is already sold to my king, and is a prize to
be seized by any enemy who may possess the power. I have no father to expect
me, and but few friends to lament a fate which I have courted with the
insatiable longings of youth after distinction. But hush! we approach the
Indian. Magua, the lady with whom you wish to speak, is here".

The Indian rose slowly from his seat, and stood for near a minute silent and
motionless. He then signed with his hand for Heyward to retire, saying,
coldly:

"When the Huron talks to the women, his tribe shut their ears".

Duncan, still lingering, as if refusing to comply, Coras said, with a calm
smile:

"You hear, Heyward, and delicacy at least should urge you to retire. Go to
Alice, and comfort her with our reviving prospects".

She waited until he had departed, and then turning to the native, with the
dignity of her sex in her voice and manner, she added: "What would Le Renard
say to the daughter of Munro"?

"Listen", said the Indian, laying his hand firmly upon her arm, as if
willing to draw her utmost attention to his words; a movement that Cora as
firmly but quietly repulsed, by extricating the limb from his grasp: "Magua
was born a chief and a warrior among the red Hurons of the lakes; he saw the
suns of twenty summers make the snows of twenty winters run off in the
streams before he saw a pale face; and he was happy! Then his Canada fathers
came into the woods, and taught him to drink the fire-water, and he became a
rascal. The Hurons drove him from the graves of his fathers, as they would
chase the hunted buffalo. He ran down the shores of the lakes, and followed
their outlet to the "city of cannon" There he hunted and fished, till the
people chased him again through the woods into the arms of his enemies. The
chief, who was born a Huron, was at last a warrior among the Mohawks"!

"Something like this I had heard before", said Cora, observing that he
paused to suppress those passions which began to burn with too bright a
flame, as he recalled the recollection of his supposed injuries.

"Was it the fault of Le Renard that his head was not made of rock? Who gave
him the fire-water? who made him a villain? 'Twas the pale faces, the people
of your own color".

"And am I answerable that thoughtless and unprincipled men exist, whose
shades of countenance may resemble mine"? Cora calmly demanded of the
excited savage.

"No; Magua is a man, and not a fool; such as you never open their lips to
the burning stream: the Great Spirit has given you wisdom"!

"What, then, have I do to, or say, in the matter of your misfortunes, not to
say of your errors"?

"Listen", repeated the Indian, resuming his earnest attitude; "when his
English and French fathers dug up the hatchet, Le Renard struck the war-post
of the Mohawks, and went out against his own nation. The pale faces have
driven the red-skins from their hunting grounds, and now when they fight, a
white man leads the way. The old chief at Horican, your father, was the
great captain of our war-party. He said to the Mohawks do this, and do that,
and he was minded. He made a law, that if an Indian swallowed the
fire-water, and came into the cloth wigwams of his warriors, it should not
be forgotten. Magua foolishly opened his mouth, and the hot liquor led him
into the cabin of Munro. What did the gray-head? let his daughter say".

"He forgot not his words, and did justice, by punishing the offender", said
the undaunted daughter.

"Justice"! repeated the Indian, casting an oblique glance of the most
ferocious expression at her unyielding countenance; "is it justice to make
evil and then punish for it? Magua was not himself; it was the fire-water
that spoke and acted for him! but Munro did believe it. The Huron chief was
tied up before all the pale-faced warriors, and whipped like a dog".

Cora remained silent, for she knew not how to palliate this imprudent
severity on the part of her father in a manner to suit the comprehension of
an Indian.

"See"! continued Magua, tearing aside the slight calico that very
imperfectly concealed his painted breast; "here are scars given by knives
and bullets--of these a warrior may boast before his nation; but the
gray-head has left marks on the back of the Huron chief that he must hide
like a squaw, under this painted cloth of the whites".

"I had thought", resumed Cora, "that an Indian warrior was patient, and that
his spirit felt not and knew not the pain his body suffered".

"When the Chippewas tied Magua to the stake, and cut this gash", said the
other, laying his finger on a deep scar, "the Huron laughed in their faces,
and told them, Women struck so light! His spirit was then in the clouds! But
when he felt the blows of Munro, his spirit lay under the birch. The spirit
of a Huron is never drunk; it remembers forever"!

"But it may be appeased. If my father has done you this injustice, show him
how an Indian can forgive an injury, and take back his daughters. You hve
heard from Major Heyward----"

Magua shook his head, forbidding the repetition of offers he so much
despised.

"What would you have"? continued Cora, after a most painful pause, while the
conviction forced itself on her mind that the too sanguine and generous
Duncan had been cruelly deceived by the cunning of the savage.

"What a Huron loves--good for good; bad for bad"!

"You would, then, revenge the injury inflicted by Munro on his helpless
daughters. Would it not be more like a man to go before his face, and take
the satisfaction of a warrior"?

"The arms of the pale faces are long, and their knives sharp"! returned the
savage, with a malignant laugh: "why should Le Renard go among the muskets
of his warriors, when he holds the spirit of the gray-head in his hand"?

"Name your intention, Magua", said Cora, struggling with herself to speak
with steady calmness. "Is it to lead us prisoners to the woods, or do you
contemplate even some greater evil? Is there no reward, no means of
palliating the injury, and of softening your heart? At least, release my
gentle sister, and pour out all your malice on me. Purchase wealth by her
safety and satisfy your revenge with a single victim. The loss of both his
daughters might bring the aged man to his grave, and where would then be the
satisfaction of Le Renard"?

"Listen", said the Indian again. "The light eyes can go back to the Horican,
and tell the old chief what has been done, if the dark-haired woman will
swear by the Great Spirit of her fathers to tell no lie".

"What must I promise"? demanded Cora, still maintaining a secret ascendency
over the fierce native by the collected and feminine dignity of her
presence.

"When Magua left his people his wife was given to another chief; he has now
made friends with the Hurons, and will go back to the graves of his tribe,
on the shores of the great lake. Let the daughter of the English chief
follow, and live in his wigwam forever".

However revolting a proposal of such a character might prove to Cora, she
retained, notwithstanding her powerful disgust, sufficient self-command to
reply, without betraying the weakness.

"And what pleasure would Magua find in sharing his cabin with a wife he did
not love; one who would be of a nation and color different from his own? It
would be better to take the gold of Munro, and buy the heart of some Huron
maid with his gifts".

The Indian made no reply for near a minute, but bent his fierce looks on the
countenance of Cora, in such wavering glances, that her eyes sank with
shame, under an impression that for the first time they had encountered an
expression that no chaste female might endure. While she was shrinking
within herself, in dread of having her ears wounded by some proposal still
more shocking than the last, the voice of Magua answered, in its tones of
deepest malignancy:

"When the blows scorched the back of the Huron, he would know where to find
a woman to feel the smart. The daughter of Munro would draw his water, hoe
his corn, and cook his venison. The body of the gray-head would sleep among
his cannon, but his heart would lie within reach of the knife of Le Subtil".

"Monster! well dost thou deserve thy treacherous name", cried Cora, in an
ungovernable burst of filial indignation. "None but a fiend could meditate
such a vengance. But thou overratest thy power! You shall find it is, in
truth, the heart of Munro you hold, and that it will defy your utmost
malice"!

The Indian answered this bold defiance by a ghastly smile, that showed an
unaltered purpose, while he motioned her away, as if to close the conference
forever. Cora, already regretting her precipitation, was obliged to comply,
for Magua instantly left the spot, and approached his gluttonous comrades.
Heyward flew to the side of the agitated female, and demanded the result of
a dialogue that he had watched at a distance with so much interest. But,
unwilling to alarm the fears of Alice, she evaded a direct reply, betraying
only by her anxious looks fastened on the slightest movements of her
captors. To the reitereated and earnest questions of her sister concerning
their probable destination, she made no other answer than by pointing toward
the dark group, with an agitation she could not control, and murmuring as
she folded Alice to her bosom.

"There, there; read our fortunes in their faces; we shall see; we shall
see"!

The action, and the choked utterance of Cora, spoke more impressively than
any words, and quickly drew the attention of her companions on that spot
where her own was riveted with an intenseness that nothing but the
importance of the stake could create.

When Magua reached the cluster of lolling savages, who, gorged with their
disgusting meal, lay stretched on the earth in brutal indulgence, he
commenced speaking with the dignity of an Indian chief. The first syllables
he uttered had the effect to cause his listeners to raise themselves in
attitudes of respectful attention. As the Huron used his native language,
the prisoners, notwithstanding the caution of the natives had kept them
within the swing of their tomahawks, could only conjecture the substance of
his harangue from the nature of those significant gestures with which an
Indian always illustrates his eloquence.

At first, the language, as well as the action of Magua, appeared calm and
deliberative. When he had succeeded in sufficiently awakening the attention
of his comrades, Heyward fancied, by his pointing so frequently toward the
direction of the great lakes, that he spoke of the land of their fathers,
and of their distant tribe. Frequent indications of applause escaped the
listeners, who, as they uttered the expressive "Hugh"! looked at each other
in commendation of the speaker. Le Renard was too skillful to neglect his
advantage. He now spoke of the long and painful route by which they had left
those spacious grounds and happy villages, to come and battle against the
enemies of their Canadian fathers. He enumerated the wariors of the party;
their several merits; their frequent services to the nation; their wounds,
and the number of the scalps they had taken. Whenever he alluded to any
present (and the subtle Indian neglected none), the dark countenance of the
flattered individual gleamed with exultation, nor did he even hesitate to
assert the truth of the words, by gestures of applause and confirmation.
Then the voice of the speaker fell, and lost the loud, animated tones of
triumph with which he had enumerated their deeds of success and victory. He
described the cataract of Glenn's; the impregnable position of its rocky
island, with its caverns and its numerous rapids and whirlpools; he named
the name of "La Longue Carabine", and paused until the forest beneath them
had sent up the last echo of a loud and long yell, with which the hated
appellation was received. He pointed toward the youthful military captive,
and described the death of a favorite warrior, who had been precipitated
into the deep ravine by his hand. He not only mentioned the fate of him who,
hanging between heaven and earth, had presented such a spectacle of horror
to the whole band, but he acted anew the terrors of his situation, his
resolution and his death, on the branches of a sapling; and, finally, he
rapidly recounted the manner in which each of their friends had fallen,
never failing to touch upon their courage, and their most acknowledged
virtues. When this recital of events was ended, his voice once more changed,
and became plaintive and even musical, in its low guttural sounds. He now
spoke of the wives and children of the slain; their destitution; their
misery, both physical and moral; their distance; and, at last, of their
unavenged wrongs. Then suddenly lifting his voice to a pitch of terrific
energy, he concluded by demanding:

"Are the Hurons dogs to bear this? Who shall say to the wife of Menowgua
that the fishes have his scalp, and that his nation have not taken revenge!
Who will dare meet the mother of Wassawattimie, that scornful woman, with
his hands clean! What shall be said to the old men when they ask us for
scalps, and we have not a hair from a white head to give them! The women
will point their fingers at us. There is a dark spot on the names of the
Hurons, and it must be hid in blood"! His voice was no longer audible in the
burst of rage which now broke into the air, as if the wood, instead of
containing so small a band, was filled with the nation. During the foregoing
address the progress of the speaker was too plainly read by those most
interested in his success through the medium of the countenances of the men
he addressed. They had answered his melancholy and mourning by sympathy and
sorrow; his assertions, by gestures of confirmation; and his boasting, with
the exultation of savages. When he spoke of courage, their looks were firm
and responsive; when he alluded to their injuries, their eyes kindled with
fury; when he mentioned the taunts of the women, they dropped their heads in
shame; but when he pointed out their means of vengeance, he struck a chord
which never failed to thrill in the breast of an Indian. With the first
intimation that it was within their reach, the whole band sprang upon their
feet as one man; giving utterance to their rage in the most frantic cries,
they rushed upon their prisoners in a body with drawn knives and uplifted
tomahawks. Heyward threw himself between the sisters and the foremost, whom
he grappled with a desperate strength that for a moment checked his
violence. This unexpected resistance gave Magua time to interpose, and with
rapid enunciaton and animated gesture, he drew the attention of the band
again to himself. In that language he knew so well how to assume, he
diverted his comrades from their instant purpose, and invited them to
prolong the misery of their victims. His proposal was received with
acclamations, and executed with the swiftness of thought.

Two powerful warriors cast themselves on Heyward, while another was occupied
in securing the less active singing-master. Neither of the captives,
however, submitted without a desperate, though fruitless, struggle. Even
David hurled his assailant to the earth; nor was Heyward secured until the
victory over his companion enabled the Indians to direct their united force
to that object. He was then bound and fastened to the body of the sapling,
on whose branches Magua had acted the pantomime of the falling Huron. When
the young soldier regained his recollection, he had the painful certainty
before his eyes that a common fate was intended for the whole party. On his
right was Cora in a durance similar to his own, pale and agitated, but with
an eye whose steady look still read the proceedings of their enemies. On his
left, the withes which bound her to a pine, performed that office for Alice
which her trembling limbs refused, and alone kept her fragile form from
sinking. Her hands were clasped before her in prayer, but instead of looking
upward toward that power which alone could rescue them, her unconscious
looks wandered to the countenance of Duncan with infantile dependency. David
had contended, and the novelty of the circumstance held him silent, in
deliberation on the propriety of the unusual occurrence.

The vengeance of the Hurons had now taken a new direction, and they prepared
to execute it with that barbarous ingenuity with which they were
familiarized by the practise of centuries. Some sought knots, to raise the
blazing pile; one was riving the splinters of pine, in order to pierce the
flesh of their captives with the burning fragments; and others bent the tops
of two saplings to the earth, in order to suspend Heyward by the arms
between the recoiling branches. But the vengeance of Magua sought a deeper
and more malignant enjoyment.

While the less refined monsters of the band prepared, before the eyes of
those who were to suffer, these well-known and vulgar means of torture, he
approached Cora, and pointed out, with the most malign expression of
countenance, the speedy fate that awaited her:

"Ha"! he added, "what says the daughter of Munro? Her head is too good to
find a pillow in the wigwam of Le Renard; will she like it better when it
rolls about this hill a plaything for the wolves? Her bosom cannot nurse the
children of a Huron; she will see it spit upon by Indians"!

"What means the monster"! demanded the astonished Heyward.

"Nothing"! was the firm reply. "He is a savage, a barbarous and ignorant
savage, and knows not what he does. Let us find leisure, with our dying
breath, to ask for him penitence and pardon".

"Pardon"! echoed the fierce Huron, mistaking in his anger, the meaning of
her words; "the memory of an Indian is no longer than the arm of the pale
faces; his mercy shorter than their justice! Say; shall I send the yellow
hair to her father, and will you follow Magua to the great lakes, to carry
his water, and feed him with corn"?

Cora beckoned him away, with an emotion of disgust she could not control.

"Leave me", she said, with a solemnity that for a moment checked the
barbarity of the Indian; "you mingle bitterness in my prayers; you stand
between me and my God"!

The slight impression produced on the savage was, however, soon forgotten,
and he continued pointing, with taunting irony, toward Alice.

"Look! the child weeps! She is too young to die! Send her to Munro, to comb
his gray hairs, and keep life in the heart of the old man".

Cora could not resist the desire to look upon her youthful sister, in whose
eyes she met an imploring glance, that betrayed the longings of nature.

"What says he, dearest Cora"? asked the trembling voice of Alice. "Did he
speak of sending me to our father"?

For many moments the elder sister looked upon the younger, with a
countenance that wavered with powerful and contending emotions. At length
she spoke, though her tones had lost their rich and calm fullness, in an
expression of tenderness that seemed maternal.

"Alice", she said, "the Huron offers us both life, nay, more than both; he
offers to restore Duncan, our invaluable Duncan, as well as you, to our
friends--to our father--to our heart-stricken, childless father, if I will
bow down this rebellious, stubborn pride of mine, and consent----"

Her voice became choked, and clasping her hands, she looked upward, as if
seeking, in her agony, intelligence from a wisdom that was infinite.

"Say on", cried Alice; "to what, dearest Cora? Oh! that the proffer were
made to me! to save you, to cheer our aged father, to restore Duncan, how
cheerfully could I die"!

"Die"! repeated Cora, with a calmer and firmer voice "that were easy!
Perhaps the alternative may not be less so. He would have me", she
continued, her accents sinking under a deep consciousness of the degradation
of the proposal, "follow him to the wilderness; go to the habitations of the
Hurons; to remain there; in short, to become his wife! Speak, then, Alice;
child of my affections! sister of my love! And you, too, Major Heyward, aid
my weak reason with your counsel. Is life to be purchased by such a
sacrifice? Will you, Alice, receive it at my hands at such a price? And you,
Duncan, guide me; control me between you; for I am wholly yours"!

"Would I"! echoed the indignant and astonished youth. "Cora! Cora! you jest
with our misery! Name not the horrid alternative again; the thought itself
is worse than a thousand deaths".

"That such would be your answer, I well knew"! exclaimed Cora, her cheeks
flushing, and her dark eyes once more sparkling with the lingering emotions
of a woman. "What says my Alice? for her will I submit without another
murmur".

Although both Heyward and Cora listened with painful suspense and the
deepest attention, no sounds were heard in reply. It appeared as if the
delicate and sensitive form of Alice would shrink into itself, as she
listened to this proposal. Her arms had fallen lengthwise before her, the
fingers moving in slight convulsions; her head dropped upon her bosom, and
her whole person seemed suspended against the tree, looking like some
beautiful emblem of the wounded delicacy of her sex, devoid of animation and
yet keenly conscious. In a few moments, however, her head began to move
slowly, in a sign of deep, unconquerable disapprobation.

"No, no, no; better that we die as we have lived, together"!

"Then die"! shouted Magua, hurling his tomahawk with violence at the
unresisting speaker, and gnashing his teeth with a rage that could no longer
be bridled at this sudden exhibition of firmness in the one he believed the
weakest of the party. The axe cleaved the air in front of Heyward, and
cutting some of the flowing ringlets of Alice, quivered in the tree above
her head. The sight maddened Duncan to desperation. Collecting all his
energies in one effort he snapped the twigs which bound him and rushed upon
another savage, who was preparing, with loud yells and a more deliberate
aim, to repeat the blow. They encountered, grappled, and fell to the earth
together. The naked body of his antagonist afforded Heyward no means of
holding his adversary, who glided from his grasp, and rose again with one
knee on his chest, pressing him down with the weight of a giant. Duncan
already saw the knife gleaming in the air, when a whistling sound swept past
him, and was rather accompanied than followed by the sharp crack of a rifle.
He felt his breast relieved from the load it had endured; he saw the savage
expression of his adversary's countenance change to a look of vacant
wildness, when the Indian fell dead on the faded leaves by his side.

Chapter 12

"Clo.--I am gone, sire,
And anon, sire,
I'll be with you again".--Twelfth Night

The Hurons stood aghast at this sudden visitation of death on one of their
band. But as they regarded the fatal accuracy of an aim which had dared to
immolate an enemy at so much hazard to a friend, the name of "La Longue
Carabine" burst simultaneously from every lip, and was succeeded by a wild
and a sort of plaintive howl. The cry was answered by a loud shout from a
little thicket, where the incautious party had piled their arms; and at the
next moment, Hawkeye, too eager to load the rifle he had regained, was seen
advancing upon them, brandishing the clubbed weapon, and cutting the air
with wide and powerful sweeps. Bold and rapid as was the progress of the
scout, it was exceeded by that of a light and vigorous form which, bounding
past him, leaped, with incredible activity and daring, into the very center
of the Hurons, where it stood, whirling a tomahawk, and flourishing a
glittering knife, with fearful menaces, in front of Cora. Quicker than the
thoughts could follow those unexpected and audacious movements, an image,
armed in the emblematic panoply of death, glided before their eyes, and
assumed a threatening attitude at the other's side. The savage tormentors
recoiled before these warlike intruders, and uttered, as they appeared in
such quick succession, the often repeated and peculiar exclamations of
surprise, followed by the well-known and dreaded appellations of:

"Le Cerf Agile! Le Gros Serpent"!

But the wary and vigilant leader of the Hurons was not so easily
disconcerted. Casting his keen eyes around the little plain, he comprehended
the nature of the assault at a glance, and encouraging his followers by his
voice as well as by his example, he unsheathed his long and dangerous knife,
and rushed with a loud whoop upon the expected Chingachgook. It was the
signal for a general combat. Neither party had firearms, and the contest was
to be decided in the deadliest manner, hand to hand, with weapons of
offense, and none of defense.

Uncas answered the whoop, and leaping on an enemy, with a single,
well-directed blow of his tomahawk, cleft him to the brain. Heyward tore the
weapon of Magua from the sapling, and rushed eagerly toward the fray. As the
combatants were now equal in number, each singled an opponent from the
adverse band. The rush and blows passed with the fury of a whirlwind, and
the swiftness of lightning. Hawkeye soon got another enemy within reach of
his arm, and with one sweep of his formidable weapon he beat down the slight
and inartificial defenses of his antagonist, crushing him to the earth with
the blow. Heyward ventured to hurl the tomahawk he had seized, too ardent to
await the moment of closing. It struck the Indian he had selected on the
forehead, and checked for an instant his onward rush. Encouraged by this
slight advantage, the impetuous young man continued his onset, and sprang
upon his enemy with naked hands. A single instant was enough to assure him
of the rashness of the measure, for he immediately found himself fully
engaged, with all his activity and courage, in endeavoring to ward the
desperate thrusts made with the knife of the Huron. Unable longer to foil an
enemy so alert and vigilant, he threw his arms about him, and succeeded in
pinning the limbs of the other to his side, with an iron grasp, but one that
was far too exhausting to himself to continue long. In this extremity he
heard a voice near him, shouting:

"Extarminate the varlets! no quarter to an accursed Mingo"!

At the next moment, the breech of Hawkeye's rifle fell on the naked head of
his adversary, whose muscles appeared to wither under the shock, as he sank
from the arms of Duncan, flexible and motionless.

When Uncas had brained his first antagonist, he turned, like a hungry lion,
to seek another. The fifth and only Huron disengaged at the first onset had
paused a moment, and then seeing that all around him were employed in the
deadly strife, he had sought, with hellish vengeance, to complete the
baffled work of revenge. Raising a shout of triumph, he sprang toward the
defenseless Cora, sending his keen axe as the dreadful precursor of his
approach. The tomahawk grazed her shoulder, and cutting the withes which
bound her to the tree, left the maiden at liberty to fly. She eluded the
grasp of the savage, and reckless of her own safety, threw herself on the
bosom of Alice, striving with convulsed and ill-directed fingers, to tear
asunder the twigs which confined the person of her sister. Any other than a
monster would have relented at such an act of generous devotion to the best
and purest affection; but the breast of the Huron was a stranger to
sympathy. Seizing Cora by the rich tresses which fell in confusion about her
form, he tore her from her frantic hold, and bowed her down with brutal
violence to her knees. The savage drew the flowing curls through his hand,
and raising them on high with an outstretched arm, he passed the knife
around the exquisitely molded head of his victim, with a taunting and
exulting laugh. But he purchased this moment of fierce gratification with
the loss of the fatal opportunity. It was just then the sight caught the eye
of Uncas. Bounding from his footsteps he appeared for an instant darting
through the air and descending in a ball he fell on the chest of his enemy,
driving him many yards from the spot, headlong and prostrate. The violence
of the exertion cast the young Mohican at his side. They arose together,
fought, and bled, each in his turn. But the conflict was soon decided; the
tomahawk of Heyward and the rifle of Hawkeye descended on the skull of the
Huron, at the same moment that the knife of Uncas reached his heart.

The battle was now entirely terminated with the exception of the protracted
struggle between "Le Renard Subtil" and "Le Gros Serpent". Well did these
barbarous warriors prove that they deserved those significant names which
had been bestowed for deeds in former wars. When they engaged, some little
time was lost in eluding the quick and vigorous thrusts which had been aimed
at their lives. Suddenly darting on each other, they closed, and came to the
earth, twisted together like twining serpents, in pliant and subtle folds.
At the moment when the victors found themselves unoccupied, the spot where
these experienced and desperate combatants lay could only be distinguished
by a cloud of dust and leaves, which moved from the center of the little
plain toward its boundary, as if raised by the passage of a whirlwind. Urged
by the different motives of filial affection, friendship and gratitude,
Heyward and his companions rushed with one accord to the place, encircling
the little canopy of dust which hung above the warriors. In vain did Uncas
dart around the cloud, with a wish to strike his knife into the heart of his
father's foe; the threatening rifle of Hawkeye was raised and suspended in
vain, while Duncan endeavored to seize the limbs of the Huron with hands
that appeared to have lost their power. Covered as they were with dust and
blood, the swift evolutions of the combatants seemed to incorporate their
bodies into one. The death-like looking figure of the Mohican, and the dark
form of the Huron, gleamed before their eyes in such quick and confused
succession, that the friends of the former knew not where to plant the
succoring blow. It is true there were short and fleeting moments, when the
fiery eyes of Magua were seen glittering, like the fabled organs of the
basilisk through the dusty wreath by which he was enveloped, and he read by
those short and deadly glances the fate of the combat in the presence of his
enemies; ere, however, any hostile hand could descend on his devoted head,
its place was filled by the scowling visage of Chingachgook. In this manner
the scene of the combat was removed from the center of the little plain to
its verge. The Mohican now found an opportunity to make a powerful thrust
with his knife; Magua suddenly relinquished his grasp, and fell backward
without motion, and seemingly without life. His adversary leaped on his
feet, making the arches of the forest ring with the sounds of triumph.

"Well done for the Delawares! victory to the Mohicans"! cried Hawkeye, once
more elevating the butt of the long and fatal rifle; "a finishing blow from
a man without a cross will never tell against his honor, nor rob him of his
right to the scalp".

But at the very moment when the dangerous weapon was in the act of
descending, the subtle Huron rolled swiftly from beneath the danger, over
the edge of the precipice, and falling on his feet, was seen leaping, with a
single bound, into the center of a thicket of low bushes, which clung along
its sides. The Delawares, who had believed their enemy dead, uttered their
exclamation of surprise, and were following with speed and clamor, like
hounds in open view of the deer, when a shrill and peculiar cry from the
scout instantly changed their purpose, and recalled them to the summit of
the hill.

"'Twas like himself"! cried the inveterate forester, whose prejudices
contributed so largely to veil his natural sense of justice in all matters
which concerned the Mingoes; "a lying and deceitful varlet as he is. An
honest Delaware now, being fairly vanquished, would have lain still, and
been knocked on the head, but these knavish Maquas cling to life like so
many cats-o'-the-mountain. Let him go--let him go; 'tis but one man, and he
without rifle or bow, many a long mile from his French commerades; and like
a rattler that lost his fangs, he can do no further mischief, until such
time as he, and we too, may leave the prints of our moccasins over a long
reach of sandy plain. See, Uncas", he added, in Delaware, "your father if
flaying the scalps already. It may be well to go round and feel the
vagabonds that are left, or we may have another of them loping through the
woods, and screeching like a jay that has been winged".

So saying the honest but implacable scout made the circuit of the dead, into
whose senseless bosoms he thrust his long knife, with as much coolness as
though they had been so many brute carcasses. He had, however, been
anticipated by the elder Mohican, who had already torn the emblems of
victory from the unresisting heads of the slain.

But Uncas, denying his habits, we had almost said his nature, flew with
instinctive delicacy, accompanied by Heyward, to the assistance of the
females, and quickly releasing Alice, placed her in the arms of Cora. We
shall not attempt to describe the gratitude to the Almighty Disposer of
Events which glowed in the bosoms of the sisters, who were thus unexpectedly
restored to life and to each other. Their thanksgivings were deep and
silent; the offerings of their gentle spirits burning brightest and purest
on the secret altars of their hearts; and their renovated and more earthly
feelings exhibiting themselves in long and fervent though speechless
caresses. As Alice rose from her knees, where she had sunk by the side of
Cora, she threw herself on the bosom of the latter, and sobbed aloud the
name of their aged father, while her soft, dove-like eyes, sparkled with the
rays of hope.

"We are saved! we are saved"! she murmured; "to return to the arms of our
dear, dear father, and his heart will not be broken with grief. And you,
too, Cora, my sister, my more than sister, my mother; you, too, are spared.
And Duncan", she added, looking round upon the youth with a smile of
ineffable innocence, "even our own brave and noble Duncan has escaped
without a hurt".

To these ardent and nearly innocent words Cora made no other answer than by
straining the youthful speaker to her heart, as she bent over her in melting
tenderness. The manhood of Heyward felt no shame in dropping tears over this
spectacle of affectionate rapture; and Uncas stood, fresh and blood-stained
from the combat, a calm, and, apparently, an unmoved looker-on, it is true,
but with eyes that had already lost their fierceness, and were beaming with
a sympathy that elevated him far above the intelligence, and advanced him
probably centuries before, the practises of his nation.

During this display of emotions so natural in their situation, Hawkeye,
whose vigilant distrust had satisfied itself that the Hurons, who disfigued
the heavenly scene, no longer possessed the power to interrupt its harmony,
approached David, and liberated him from the bonds he had, until that
moment, endured with the most exemplary patience.

"There", exclaimed the scout, casting the last withe behind him, "you are
once more master of your own limbs, though you seem not to use them with
much greater judgment than that in which they were first fashioned. If
advice from one who is not older than yourself, but who, having lived most
of his time in the wilderness, may be said to have experience beyond his
years, will give no offense, you are welcome to my thoughts; and these are,
to part with the little tooting instrument in your jacket to the first fool
you meet with, and buy some we'pon with the money, if it be only the barrel
of a horseman's pistol. By industry and care, you might thus come to some
prefarment; for by this time, I should think, your eyes would plainly tell
you that a carrion crow is a better bird than a mocking-thresher. The one
will, at least, remove foul sights from before the face of man, while the
other is only good to brew disturbances in the woods, by cheating the ears
of all that hear them".

"Arms and the clarion for the battle, but the song of thanksgiving to the
victory"! answered the liberated David. "Friend", he added, thrusting forth
his lean, delicate hand toward Hawkeye, in kindness, while his eyes twinkled
and grew moist, "I thank thee that the hairs of my head still grow where
they were first rooted by Providence; for, though those of other men may be
more glossy and curling, I have ever found mine own well suited to the brain
they shelter. That I did not join myself to the battle, was less owing to
disinclination, than to the bonds of the heathen. Valiant and skillful hast
thou proved thyself in the conflict, and I hereby thank thee, before
proceeding to discharge other and more important duties, because thou hast
proved thyself well worthy of a Christian's praise".

"The thing is but a trifle, and what you may often see if you tarry long
among us", returned the scout, a good deal softened toward the man of song,
by this unequivocal expression of gratitude. "I have got back my old
companion, "killdeer"", he added, striking his hand on the breech of his
rifle; "and that in itself is a victory. These Iroquois are cunning, but
they outwitted themselves when they placed their firearms out of reach; and
had Uncas or his father been gifted with only their common Indian patience,
we should have come in upon the knaves with three bullets instead of one,
and that would have made a finish of the whole pack; yon loping varlet, as
well as his commerades. But 'twas all fore-ordered, and for the best".

"Thou sayest well", returned David, "and hast caught the true spirit of
Christianity. He that is to be saved will be saved, and he that is
predestined to be damned will be damned. This is the doctrine of truth, and
most consoling and refreshing it is to the true believer".

The scout, who by this time was seated, examining into the state of his
rifle with a species of parental assiduity, now looked up at the other in a
displeasure that he did not affect to conceal, roughly interrupting further
speech.

"Doctrine or no doctrine", said the sturdy woodsman, "'tis the belief of
knaves, and the curse of an honest man. I can credit that yonder Huron was
to fall by my hand, for with my own eyes I have seen it; but nothing short
of being a witness will cause me to think he has met with any reward, or
that Chingachgook there will be condemned at the final day".

"You have no warranty for such an audacious doctrine, nor any covenant to
support it", cried David who was deeply tinctured with the subtle
distinctions which, in his time , and more especially in his province, had
been drawn around the beautiful simplicity of revelation, by endeavoring to
penetrate the awful mystery of the divine nature, supplying faith by
self-sufficiency, and by consequence, involving those who reasoned from such
human dogmas in absurdities and doubt; "your temple is reared on the sands,
and the first tempest will wash away its foundation. I demand your
authorities for such an uncharitable assertion (like other advocates of a
system, David was not always accurate in his use of terms). Name chapter and
verse; in which of the holy books do you find language to support you"?

"Book"! repeated Hawkeye, with singular and ill-concealed disdain; "do you
take me for a whimpering boy at the apronstring of one of your old gals; and
this good rifle on my knee for the feather of a goose's wing, my ox's horn
for a bottle of ink, and my leathern pouch for a cross-barred handkercher to
carry my dinner? Book! what have such as I, who am a warrior of the
wilderness, though a man without a cross, to do with books? I never read but
in one, and the words that are written there are too simple and too plain to
need much schooling; though I may boast that of forty long and hard-working
years".

"What call you the volume"? said David, misconceiving the other's meaning.

"'Tis open before your eyes", returned the scout; "and he who owns it is not
a niggard of its use. I have heard it said that there are men who read in
books to convince themselves there is a God. I know not but man may so
deform his works in the settlement, as to leave that which is so clear in
the wilderness a matter of doubt among traders and priests. If any such
there be, and he will follow me from sun to sun, through the windings of the
forest, he shall see enough to teach him that he is a fool, and that the
greatest of his folly lies in striving to rise to the level of One he can
never equal, be it in goodness, or be it in power".

The instant David discovered that he battled with a disputant who imbibed
his faith from the lights of nature, eschewing all subtleties of doctrine,
he willingly abondoned a controversy from which he believed neither profit
nor credit was to be derived. While the scout was speaking, he had also
seated himself, and producing the ready little volume and the iron-rimmed
spectacles, he prepared to discharge a duty, which nothing but the
unexpected assault he had received in his orthodoxy could have so long
suspended. He was, in truth, a minstrel of the western continent--of a much
later day, certainly, than those gifted bards, who formerly sang the profane
renown of baron and prince, but after the spirit of his own age and country;
and he was now prepared to exercise the cunning of his craft, in celebration
of, or rather in thanksgiving for, the recent victory. He waited patiently
for Hawkeye to cease, then lifting his eyes, together with his voice, he
said, aloud:

"I invite you, friends, to join in praise for this signal deliverance from
the hands of barbarians and infidels, to the comfortable and solemn tones of
the tune called " Northampton"".

He next named the page and verse where the rhymes selected were to be found,
and applied the pitch-pipe to his lips, with the decent gravity that he had
been wont to use in the temple. This time he was, however, without any
accompaniment, for the sisters were just then pouring out those tender
effusions of affection which have been already alluded to. Nothing deterred
by the smallness of his audience, which, in truth, consisted only of the
discontented scout, he raised his voice, commencing and ending the sacred
song without accident or interruption of any kind.

Hawkeye listened while he coolly adjusted his flint and reloaded his rifle;
but the sounds, wanting the extraneous assistance of scene and sympathy,
failed to awaken his slumbering emotions. Never minstrel, or by whatever
more suitable name David should be known, drew upon his talents in the
presence of more insensible auditors; though considering the singleness and
sincerity of his motive, it is probably that no bard of profane song ever
uttered notes that ascended so near to that throne where all homage and
praise is due. The scout shook his head, and muttering some unintelligible
words, among which "throat" and "Iroquois" were alone audible, he walked
away, to collect and to examine into the state of the captured arsenal of
the Hurons. In this office he was now joined by Chingachgook, who found his
own, as well as the rifle of his son, among the arms. Even Heyward and David
were furnished with weapons; nor was ammunition wanting to render them all
effectual.

When the foresters had made their selection, and distributed their prizes,
the scout announced that the hour had arrived when it was necessary to move.
By this time the song of Gamut had ceased, and the sisters had learned to
still the exhibition of their emotions. Aided by Duncan and the younger
Mohican, the two latter descended the precipitous sides of that hill which
they had so lately ascended under so very different auspices, and whose
summit had so nearly proved the scene of their massacre. At the foot they
found the Narragansetts browsing the herbage of the bushes, and having
mounted, they followed the movements of a guide, who, in the most deadly
straits, had so often proved himself their friend. The journey was, however,
short. Hawkeye, leaving the blind path that the Hurons had followed, turned
short to his right, and entering the thicket, he crossed a babbling brook,
and halted in a narrow dell, under the shade of a few water elms. Their
distance from the base of the fatal hill was but a few rods, and the steeds
had been serviceable only in crossing the shallow stream.

The scout and the Indians appeared to be familiar with the sequestered place
where they now were; for, leaning their rifle against the trees, they
commenced throwing aside the dried leaves, and opening the blue clay, out of
which a clear and sparkling spring of bright, glancing water, quickly
bubbled. The white man then looked about him, as though seeking for some
object, which was not to be found as readily as he expected.

"Them careless imps, the Mohawks, with their Tuscarora and Onondaga
brethren, have been here slaking their thirst", he muttered, "and the
vagabonds have thrown away the gourd! This is the way with benefits, when
they are bestowed on such disremembering hounds! Here has the Lord laid his
hand, in the midst of the howling wilderness, for their good, and raised a
fountain of water from the bowels of the 'arth, that might laugh at the
richest shop of apothecary's ware in all the colonies; and see! the knaves
have trodden in the clay, and deformed the cleanliness of the place, as
though they were brute beasts, instead of human men".

Uncas silently extended toward him the desired gourd, which the spleen of
Hawkeye had hitherto prevented him from observing on a branch of an elm.
Filling it with water, he retired a short distance, to a place where the
ground was more firm and dry; here he coolly seated himself, and after
taking a long, and, apparently, a grateful draught, he commenced a very
strict examination of the fragments of food left by the Hurons, which had
hung in a wallet on his arm.

"Thank you, lad"! he continued, returning the empty gourd to Uncas; "now we
will see how these rampaging Hurons lived, when outlying in ambushments.
Look at this! The varlets know the better pieces of the deer; and one would
think they might carve and roast a saddle, equal to the best cook in the
land! But everything is raw, for the Iroquois are thorough savages. Uncas,
take my steel and kindle a fire; a mouthful of a tender broil will give
natur' a helping hand, after so long a trail".

Heyward, perceiving that their guides now set about their repast in sober
earnest, assisted the ladies to alight, and placed himself at their side,
not unwilling to enjoy a few moments of grateful rest, after the bloody
scene he had just gone through. While the culinary process was in hand,
curiosity induced him to inquire into the circumstances which had led to
their timely and unexpected rescue:

"How is it that we see you so soon, my generous friend", he asked, "and
without aid from the garrison of Edward"?

"Had we gone to the bend in the river, we might have been in time to rake
the leaves over your bodies, but too late to have saved your scalps", coolly
answered the scout. "No, no; instead of throwing away strength and
opportunity by crossing to the fort, we lay by, under the bank of the
Hudson, waiting to watch the movements of the Hurons".

"You were, then, witnesses of all that passed"?

"Not of all; for Indian sight is too keen to be easily cheated, and we kept
close. A difficult matter it was, too, to keep this Mohican boy snug in the
ambushment. Ah! Uncas, Uncas, your behavior was more like that of a curious
woman than of a warrior on his scent".

Uncas permitted his eyes to turn for an instant on the sturdy countenance of
the speaker, but he neither spoke nor gave any indication of repentance. On
the contrary, Heyward thought the manner of the young Mohican was
disdainful, if not a little fierce, and that he suppressed passions that
were ready to explode, as much in compliment to the listeners, as from the
deference he usually paid to his white associate.

"You saw our capture"? Heyward next demanded.

"We heard it", was the significant answer. "An Indian yell is plain language
to men who have passed their days in the woods. But when you landed, we were
driven to crawl like sarpents, beneath the leaves; and then we lost sight of
you entirely, until we placed eyes on you again trussed to the trees, and
ready bound for an Indian massacre".

"Our rescue was the deed of Providence. It was nearly a miracle that you did
not mistake the path, for the Hurons divided, and each band had its horses".

"Ay! there we were thrown off the scent, and might, indeed, have lost the
trail, had it not been for Uncas; we took the path, however, that led into
the wilderness; for we judged, and judged rightly, that the savages would
hold that course with their prisoners. But when we had followed it for many
miles, without finding a single twig broken, as I had advised, my mind
misgave me; especially as all the footsteps had the prints of moccasins".

"Our captors had the precaution to see us shod like themselves", said
Duncan, raising a foot, and exhibiting the buckskin he wore.

"Aye, 'twas judgmatical and like themselves; though we were too expart to be
thrown from a trail by so common an invention".

"To what, then, are we indebted for our safety"?

"To what, as a white man who has no taint of Indian blood, I should be
ashamed to own; to the judgment of the young Mohican, in matters which I
should know better than he, but which I can now hardly believe to be true,
though my own eyes tell me it is so".

"'Tis extraordinary! will you not name the reason"?

"Uncas was bold enough to say, that the beasts ridden by the gentle ones",
continued Hawkeye, glancing his eyes, not without curious interest, on the
fillies of the ladies, "planted the legs of one side on the ground at the
same time, which is contrary to the movements of all trotting four-footed
animals of my knowledge, except the bear. And yet here are horses that
always journey in this manner, as my own eyes have seen, and as their trail
has shown for twenty long miles".

"'Tis the merit of the animal! They come from the shores of Narrangansett
Bay, in the small province of Providence Plantations, and are celebrated for
their hardihood, and the ease of this peculiar movement; though other horses
are not unfrequently trained to the same".

"It may be--it may be", said Hawkeye, who had listened with singular
attention to this explanation; "though I am a man who has the full blood of
the whites, my judgment in deer and beaver is greater than in beasts of
burden. Major Effingham has many noble chargers, but I have never seen one
travel after such a sidling gait".

"True; for he would value the animals for very different properties. Still
is this a breed highly esteemed and, as you witness, much honored with the
burdens it is often destined to bear".

The Mohicans had suspended their operations about the glimmering fire to
listen; and, when Duncan had done, they looked at each other significantly,
the father uttering the never-failing exclamation of surprise. The scout
ruminated, like a man digesting his newly-acquired knowledge, and once more
stole a glance at the horses.

"I dare to say there are even stranger sights to be seen in the
settlements"! he said, at length "natur' is sadly abused by man, when he
once gets the mastery. But, go sidling or go straight, Uncas had seen the
movement, and their trail led us on to the broken bush. The outer branch,
near the prints of one of the horses, was bent upward, as a lady breaks a
flower from its stem, but all the rest were ragged and broken down, as if
the strong hand of a man had been tearing them! So I concluded that the
cunning varments had seen the twig bent, and had torn the rest, to make us
believe a buck had been feeling the boughs with his antlers".

"I do believe your sagacity did not deceive you; for some such thing
occurred"!

"That was easy to see", added the scout, in no degree conscious of having
exhibited any extraordinary sagacity; "and a very different matter it was
from a waddling horse! It then struck me the Mingoes would push for this
spring, for the knaves well know the vartue of its waters"!

"Is it, then, so famous"? demanded Heyward, examining, with a more curious
eye, the secluded dell, with its bubbling fountain, surrounded, as it was,
by earth of a deep, dingy brown.

"Few red-skins, who travel south and east of the great lakes but have heard
of its qualities. Will you taste for yourself"?

Heyward took the gourd, and after swallowing a little of the water, threw it
aside with grimaces of discontent. The scout laughed in his silent but
heartfelt manner, and shook his head with vast satisfaction.

"Ah! you want the flavor that one gets by habit; the time was when I liked
it as little as yourself; but I have come to my taste, and I now crave it,
as a deer does the licks.1 Your high-spiced wines are not better liked than
a red-skin relishes this water; especially when his natur' is ailing. But
Uncas has made his fire, and it is time we think of eating, for our journey
is long, and all before us". 1 Many of the animals of the American forests
resort to those spots where salt springs are found. These are called "licks"
or "salt licks", in the language of the country, from the circumstance that
the quadruped is often obliged to lick the earth, in order to obtain the
saline particles. These licks are great places of resort with the hunters,
who waylay their game near the paths that lead to them.

Interrrupting the dialogue by this abrupt transition, the scout had instant
recourse to the fragments of food which had escaped the voracity of the
Hurons. A very summary process completed the simple cookery, when he and the
Mohicans commenced their humble meal, with the silence and characteristic
diligence of men who ate in order to enable themselves to endure great and
unremitting toil.

When this necessary, and, happily, grateful duty had been performed, each of
the foresters stooped and took a long and parting draught at that solitary
and silent spring,1 around which and its sister fountains, within fifty
years, the wealth, beauty and talents of a hemisphere were to assemble in
throngs, in pursuit of health and pleasure. Then Hawkeye announced his
determination to proceed. The sisters resumed their saddles; Duncan and
David grapsed their rifles, and followed on footsteps; the scout leading the
advance, and the Mohicans bringing up the rear. The whole party moved
swiftly through the narrow path, toward the north, leaving the healing
waters to mingle unheeded with the adjacent brooks and the bodies of the
dead to fester on the neighboring mount, without the rites of sepulture; a
fate but too common to the warriors of the woods to excite either
commiseration or comment. 1 The scene of the foregoing incidents is on the
spot where the village of Ballston now stands; one of the two principal
watering places of America.

Chapter 13

"I'll seek a readier path".--Parnell

The route taken by Hawkeye lay across those sandy plains, relived by
occasional valleys and swells of land, which had been traversed by their
party on the morning of the same day, with the baffled Magua for their
guide. The sun had now fallen low toward the distant mountains; and as their
journey lay through the interminable forest, the heat was no longer
oppressive. Their progress, in consequence, was proportionate; and long
before the twilight gathered about them, they had made good many toilsome
miles on their return.

The hunter, like the savage whose place he filled, seemed to select among
the blind signs of their wild route, with a species of instinct, seldom
abating his speed, and never pausing to deliberate. A rapid and oblique
glance at the moss on the trees, with an occasional upward gaze toward the
setting sun, or a steady but passing look at the direction of the numerous
water courses, through which he waded, were sufficient to determine his
path, and remove his greatest difficulties. In the meantime, the forest
began to change its hues, losing that lively green which had embellished its
arches, in the graver light which is the usual presursor of the close of
day.

While the eyes of the sisters were endeavoring to catch glimpses through the
trees, of the flood of golden glory which formed a glittering halo around
the sun, tinging here and there with ruby streaks, or bordering with narrow
edgings of shining yellow, a mass of clouds that lay piled at no great
distance above the western hills, Hawkeye turned suddenly and pointing
upward toward the gorgeous heavens, he spoke:

"Yonder is the signal given to man to seek his food and natural rest", he
said; "better and wiser would it be, if he could understand the signs of
nature, and take a lesson from the fowls of the air and the beasts of the
field! Our night, however, will soon be over, for with the moon we must be
up and moving again. I remember to have fou't the Maquas, hereaways, in the
first war in which I ever drew blood from man; and we threw up a work of
blocks, to keep the ravenous varmints from handling our scalps. If my marks
do not fail me, we shall find the place a few rods further to our left".

Without waiting for an assent, or, indeed, for any reply, the sturdy hunter
moved boldly into a dense thicket of young chestnuts, shoving aside the
branches of the exuberant shoots which nearly covered the ground, like a man
who expected, at each step, to discover some object he had formerly known.
The recollection of the scout did not deceive him. After penetrating through
the brush, matted as it was with briars, for a few hundred feet, he entered
an open space, that surrounded a low, green hillock, which was crowned by
the decayed blockhouse in question. This rude and neglected building was one
of those deserted works, which, having been thrown up on an emergency, had
been abandoned with the disappearance of danger, and was now quietly
crumbling in the solitude of the forest, neglected and nearly forgotten,
like the circumstances which had caused it to be reared. Such memorials of
the passage and struggles of man are yet frequent throughout the broad
barrier of wilderness which once separated the hostile provinces, and form a
species of ruins that are intimately associated with the recollections of
colonial history, and which are in appropriate keeping with the gloomy
character of the surrounding scenery. The roof of bark had long since
fallen, and mingled with the soil, but the huge logs of pine, which had been
hastily thrown together, still preserved their relative positions, though
one angle of the work had given way under the pressure, and threatened a
speedy downfall to the remainder of the rustic edifice. While Heyward and
his companions hesitated to approach a building so decayed, Hawkeye and the
Indians entered within the low walls, not only without fear, but with
obvious interest. While the former surveyed the ruins, both internally and
externally, with the curiosity of one whose recollections were reviving at
each moment, Chingachgook related to his son, in the language of the
Delawares, and with the pride of a conqueror, the brief history of the
skirmish which had been fought, in his youth, in that secluded spot. A
strain of melancholy, however, blended with his triumph, rendering his
voice, as usual, soft and musical.

In the meantime, the sisters gladly dismounted, and prepared to enjoy their
halt in the coolness of the evening, and in a security which they believed
nothing but the beasts of the forest could invade.

"Would not our resting-place have been more retired, my worthy friend",
demanded the more vigilant Duncan, perceiving that the scout had already
finished his short survey, "had we chosen a spot less known, and one more
rarely visited than this"?

"Few live who know the blockhouse was ever raised", was the slow and musing
answer; "'tis not often that books are made, and narratives written of such
a scrimmage as was here fou't atween the Mohicans and the Mohawks, in a war
of their own waging. I was then a younker, and went out with the Delawares,
because I know'd they were a scandalized and wronged race. Forty days and
forty nights did the imps crave our blood around this pile of logs, which I
designed and partly reared, being, as you'll remember, no Indian myself, but
a man without a cross. The Delawares lent themselves to the work, and we
made it good, ten to twenty, until our numbers were nearly equal, and then
we sallied out upon the hounds, and not a man of them ever got back to tell
the fate of his party. Yes, yes; I was then young, and new to the sight of
blood; and not relishing the thought that creatures who had spirits like
myself should lay on the naked ground, to be torn asunder by beasts, or to
bleach in the rains, I buried the dead with my own hands, under that very
little hillock where you have placed yourselves; and no bad seat does it
make neither, though it be raised by the bones of mortal men".

Heyward and the sisters arose, on the instant, from the grassy sepulcher;
nor could the two latter, notwithstanding the terrific scenes they had so
recently passed through, entirely suppress an emotion of natural horror,
when they found themselves in such familiar contact with the grave of the
dead Mohawks. The gray light, the gloomy little area of dark grass,
surrounded by its border of brush, beyond which the pines rose, in breathing
silence, apparently into the very clouds, and the deathlike stillness of the
vast forest, were all in unison to deepen such a sensation. "They are gone,
and they are harmless", continued Hawkeye, waving his hand, with a
melancholy smile at their manifest alarm; "they'll never shout the war-whoop
nor strike a blow with the tomahawk again! And of all those who aided in
placing them where they lie, Chingachgook and I only are living! The
brothers and family of the Mohican formed our war party; and you see before
you all that are now left of his race".

The eyes of the listeners involuntarily sought the forms of the Indians,
with a compassionate interest in their desolate fortune. Their dark persons
were still to be seen within the shadows of the blockhouse, the son
listening to the relation of his father with that sort of intenseness which
would be created by a narrative that redounded so much to the honor of those
whose names he had long revered for their courage and savage virtues.

"I had thought the Delawares a pacific people", said Duncan, "and that they
never waged war in person; trusting the defense of their hands to those very
Mohawks that you slew"!

"'Tis true in part", returned the scout, "and yet, at the bottom, 'tis a
wicked lie. Such a treaty was made in ages gone by, through the deviltries
of the Dutchers, who wished to disarm the natives that had the best right to
the country, where they had settled themselves. The Mohicans, though a part
of the same nation, having to deal with the English, never entered into the
silly bargain, but kept to their manhood; as in truth did the Delawares,
when their eyes were open to their folly. You see before you a chief of the
great Mohican Sagamores! Once his family could chase their deer over tracts
of country wider than that which belongs to the Albany Patteroon, without
crossing brook or hill that was not their on; but what is left of their
descendant? He may find his six feet of earth when God chooses, and keep it
in peace, perhaps, if he has a friend who will take the pains to sink his
head so low that the plowshares cannot reach it"!

"Enough"! said Heyward, apprehensive that the subject might lead to a
discussion that would interrupt the harmony so necessary to the preservation
of his fair companions; "we have journeyed far, and few among us are blessed
with forms like that of yours, which seems to know neither fatigue nor
weakness".

"The sinews and bones of a man carry me through it all", said the hunter,
surveying his muscular limbs with a simplicity that betrayed the honest
pleasure the compliment afforded him; "there are larger and heavier men to
be found in the settlements, but you might travel many days in a city before
you could meet one able to walk fifty miles without stopping to take breath,
or who has kept the hounds within hearing during a chase of hours. However,
as flesh and blood are not always the same, it is quite reasonable to
suppose that the gentle ones are willing to rest, after all they have seen
and done this day. Uncas, clear out the spring, while your father and I make
a cover for their tender heads of these chestnut shoots, and a bed of grass
and leaves".

The dialogue ceased, while the hunter and his companions busied themselves
in preparations for the comfort and protection of those they guided. A
spring, which many long years before had induced the natives to select the
place for their temporary fortification, was soon cleared of leaves, and a
fountain of crystal gushed from the bed, diffusing its waters over the
verdant hillock. A corner of the building was then roofed in such a manner
as to exclude the heavy dew of the climate, and piles of sweet shrubs and
dried leaves were laid beneath it for the sisters to repose on.

While the diligent woodsmen were employed in this manner, Cora and Alice
partook of that refreshment which duty required much more than inclination
prompted them to accept. They then retired within the walls, and first
offering up their thanksgivings for past mercies, and petitioning for a
continuance of the Divine favor throughout the coming night, they laid their
tender forms on the fragrant couch, and in spite of recollections and
forebodings, soon sank into those slumbers which nature so imperiously
demanded, and which were sweetened by hopes for the morrow. Duncan had
prepared himself to pass the night in watchfulness near them, just without
the ruin, but the scout, perceiving his intention, pointed toward
Chingachgook, as he coolly disposed his own person on the grass, and said:

"The eyes of a white man are too heavy and too blind for such a watch as
this! The Mohican will be our sentinel, therefore let us sleep".

"I proved myself a sluggard on my post during the past night", said Heyward,
"and have less need of repose than you, who did more credit to the character
of a soldier. Let all the party seek their rest, then, while I hold the
guard".

"If we lay among the white tents of the Sixtieth, and in front of an enemy
like the French, I could not ask for a better watchman", returned the scout;
"but in the darkness and among the signs of the wilderness your judgment
would be like the folly of a child, and your vigilance thrown away. Do then,
like Uncas and myself, sleep, and sleep in safety".

Heyward perceived, in truth, that the younger Indian had thrown his form on
the side of the hillock while they were talking, like one who sought to make
the most of the time allotted to rest, and that his example had been
followed by David, whose voice literally "clove to his jaws", with the fever
of his wound, heightened, as it was, by their toilsome march. Unwilling to
prolong a useless discussion, the young man affected to comply, by posting
his back against the logs of the blockhouse, in a half recumbent posture,
though resolutely determined, in his own mind, not to close an eye until he
had delivered his precious charge into the arms of Munro himself. Hawkeye,
believing he had prevailed, soon fell asleep, and a silence as deep as the
solitude in which they had found it, pervaded the retired spot.

For many minutes Duncan succeeded in keeping his senses on the alert, and
alive to every moaning sound that arose from the forest. His vision became
more acute as the shades of evening settled on the place; and even after the
stars were glimmering above his head, he was able to distinguish the
recumbent forms of his companions, as they lay stretched on the grass, and
to note the person of Chingachgook, who sat upright and motionless as one of
the trees which formed the dark barrier on every side. He still heard the
gentle breathings of the sisters, who lay within a few feet of him, and not
a leaf was ruffled by the passing air of which his ear did not detect the
whispering sound. At length, however, the mournful notes of a whip-poor-will
became blended with the moanings of an owl; his heavy eyes occasionally
sought the bright rays of the stars, and he then fancied he saw them through
the fallen lids. At instants of momentary wakefulness he mistook a bush for
his associate sentinel; his head next sank upon his shoulder, which, in its
turn, sought the support of the ground; and, finally, his whole person
became relaxed and pliant, and the young man sank into a deep sleep,
dreaming that he was a knight of ancient chivalry, holding his midnight
vigils before the tent of a recaptured princess, whose favor he did not
despair of gaining, by such a proof of devotion and watchfulness.

How long the tired Duncan lay in this insensible state he never knew
himself, but his slumbering visions had been long lost in total
forgetfulness, when he was awakened by a light tap on the shoulder. Aroused
by this signal, slight as it was, he sprang upon his feet with a confused
recollection of the self-imposed duty he had assumed with the commencement
of the night.

"Who comes"? he demanded, feeling for his sword, at the place where it was
usually suspended. "Speak! friend or enemy"?

"Friend", replied the low voice of Chingachgook; who, pointing upward at the
luminary which was shedding its mild light through the opening in the trees,
directly in their bivouac, immediately added, in his rude English: "Moon
comes and white man's fort far--far off; time to move, when sleep shuts both
eyes of the Frenchman"!

"You say true! Call up your friends, and bridle the horses while I prepare
my own companions for the march"!

"We are awake, Duncan", said the soft, silvery tones of Alice within the
building, "and ready to travel very fast after so refreshing a sleep; but
you have watched through the tedious night in our behalf, after having
endured so much fatigue the livelong day"!

"Say, rather, I would have watched, but my treacherous eyes betrayed me;
twice have I proved myself unfit for the trust I bear".

"Nay, Duncan, deny it not", interrupted the smiling Alice, issuing from the
shadows of the building into the light of the moon, in all the loveliness of
her freshened beauty; "I know you to be a heedless one, when self is the
object of your care, and but too vigilant in favor of others. Can we not
tarry here a little longer while you find the rest you need? Cheerfully,
most cheerfully, will Cora and I keep the vigils, while you and all these
brave men endeavor to snatch a little sleep"!

"If shame could cure me of my drowsiness, I should never close an eye
again", said the uneasy youth, gazing at the ingenuous countenance of Alice,
where, however, in its sweet solicitude, he read nothing to confirm his
half-awakened suspicion. "It is but too true, that after leading you into
danger by my heedlessness, I have not even the merit of guarding your
pillows as should become a soldier".

"No one but Duncan himself should accuse Duncan of such a weakness. Go,
then, and sleep; believe me, neither of us, weak girls as we are, will
betray our watch".

The young man was relieved from the awkwardness of making any further
protestations of his own demerits, by an exlamation from Chingachgook, and
the attitude of riveted attention assumed by his son.

"The Mohicans hear an enemy"! whispered Hawkeye, who, by this time, in
common with the whole party, was awake and stirring. "They scent danger in
the wind"!

"God forbid"! exclaimed Heyward. "Surely we have had enough of bloodshed"!

While he spoke, however, the young soldier seized his rifle, and advancing
toward the front, prepared to atone for his venial remissness, by freely
exposing his life in defense of those he attended.

"'Tis some creature of the forest prowling around us in quest of food", he
said, in a whisper, as soon as the low, and aparently distant sounds, which
had startled the Mohicans, reached his own ears.

"Hist"! returned the attentive scout; "'tis man; even I can now tell his
tread, poor as my senses are when compared to an Indian's! That Scampering
Huron has fallen in with one of Montcalm's outlying parties, and they have
struck upon our trail. I shouldn't like, myself, to spill more human blood
in this spot", he added, looking around with anxiety in his features, at the
dim objects by which he was surrounded; "but what must be, must! Lead the
horses into the blockhouse, Uncas; and, friends, do you follow to the same
shelter. Poor and old as it is, it offers a cover, and has rung with the
crack of a rifle afore to-night"!

He was instantly obeyed, the Mohicans leading the Narrangansetts within the
ruin, whither the whole party repaired with the most guarded silence.

The sound of approaching footsteps were now too distinctly audible to leave
any doubts as to the nature of the interruption. They were soon mingled with
voices calling to each other in an Indian dialect, which the hunter, in a
whisper, affirmed to Heyward was the language of the Hurons. When the party
reached the point where the horses had entered the thicket which surrounded
the blockhouse, they were evidently at fault, having lost those marks which,
until that moment, had directed their pursuit.

It would seem by the voices that twenty men were soon collected at that one
spot, mingling their different opinions and advice in noisy clamor.

"The knaves know our weakness", whispered Hawkeye, who stood by the side of
Heyward, in deep shade, looking through an opening in the logs, "or they
wouldn't indulge their idleness in such a squaw's march. Listen to the
reptiles! each man among them seems to have two tongues, and but a single
leg".

Duncan, brave as he was in the combat, could not, in such a moment of
painful suspense, make any reply to the cool and characteristic remark of
the scout. He only grasped his rifle more firmly, and fastened his eyes upon
the narrow opening, through which he gazed upon the moonlight view with
increasing anxiety. The deeper tones of one who spoke as having authority
were next heard, amid a silence that denoted the respect with which his
orders, or rather advice, was received. After which, by the rustling of
leaves, and crackling of dried twigs, it was apparent the savages were
separating in pursuit of the lost trail. Fortunately for the pursued, the
light of the moon, while it shed a flood of mild luster upon the little area
around the ruin, was not sufficiently strong to penetrate the deep arches of
the forest, where the objects still lay in deceptive shadow. The search
proved fruitless; for so short and sudden had been the passage from the
faint path the travelers had journeyed into the thicket, that every trace of
their footsteps was lost in the obscurity of the woods.

It was not long, however, before the restless savages were heard beating the
brush, and gradually approaching the inner edge of that dense border of
young chestnuts which encircled the little area.

"They are coming", muttered Heyward, endeavoring to thrust his rifle through
the chink in the logs; "let us fire on their approach".

"Keep everything in the shade", returned the scout; "the snapping of a
flint, or even the smell of a single karnel of the brimstone, would bring
the hungry varlets upon us in a body. Should it please God that we must give
battle for the scalps, trust to the experience of men who know the ways of
the savages, and who are not often backward when the war-whoop is howled".

Duncan cast his eyes behind him, and saw that the trembling sisters were
cowering in the far corner of the building, while the Mohicans stood in the
shadow, like two upright posts, ready, and apparently willing, to strike
when the blow should be needed. Curbing his impatience, he again looked out
upon the area, and awaited the result in silence. At that instant the
thicket opened, and a tall and armed Huron advanced a few paces into the
open space. As he gazed upon the silent blockhouse, the moon fell upon his
swarthy countenance, and betrayed its surprise and curiosity. He made the
exclamation which usually accompanies the former emotion in an Indian, and,
calling in a low voice, soon drew a companion to his side.

These children of the woods stood together for several moments pointing at
the crumbling edifice, and conversing in the unintelligible language of
their tribe. They then approached, though with slow and cautious steps,
pausing every instant to look at the building, like startled deer whose
curiosity struggled powerfully with their awakened apprehensions for the
mastery. The foot of one of them suddenly rested on the mound, and he
stopped to examine its nature. At this moment, Heyward observed that the
scout loosened his knife in its sheath, and lowered the muzzle of his rifle.
Imitating these movements, the young man prepared himself for the struggle
which now seemed inevitable.

The savages were so near, that the least motion in one of the horses, or
even a breath louder than common, would have betrayed the fugitives. But in
discovering the character of the mound, the attention of the Hurons appeared
directed to a different object. They spoke together, and the sounds of their
voices were low and solemn, as if influenced by a reverence that was deeply
blended with awe. Then they drew warily back, keeping their eyes riveted on
the ruin, as if they expected to see the apparitions of the dead issue from
its silent walls, until, having reached the boundary of the area, they moved
slowly into the thicket and disappeared.

Hawkeye dropped the breech of his rifle to the earth, and drawing a long,
free breath, exclaimed, in an audible whisper:

"Ay! they respect the dead, and it has this time saved their own lives, and,
it may be, the lives of better men too".

Heyward lent his attention for a single moment to his companion, but without
replying, he again turned toward those who just then interested him more. He
heard the two Hurons leave the bushes, and it was soon plain that all the
pursuers were gathered about them, in deep attention to their report. After
a few minutes of earnest and solemn dialogue, altogether different from the
noisy clamor with which they had first collected about the spot, the sounds
grew fainter and more distant, and finally were lost in the depths of the
forest.

Hawkeye waited until a signal from the listening Chingachgook assured him
that every sound from the retiring party was completely swallowed by the
distance, when he motioned to Heyward to lead forth the horses, and to
assist the sisters into their saddles. The instant this was done they issued
through the broken gateway, and stealing out by a direction opposite to the
one by which they entered, they quitted the spot, the sisters casting
furtive glances at the silent, grave and crumbling ruin, as they left the
soft light of the moon, to bury themselves in the gloom of the woods.

Chapter 14

"Guard.--Qui est la?
Puc.--Paisans, pauvres gens de France".--King Henry VI

During the rapid movement from the blockhouse, and until the party was
deeply buried in the forest, each individual was too much interested in the
escape to hazard a word even in whispers. The scout resumed his post in
advance, though his steps, after he had thrown a safe distance between
himself and his enemies, were more deliberate than in their previous march,
in consequence of his utter ignorance of the localities of the surrounding
woods. More than once he halted to consult with his confederates, the
Mohicans, pointing upward at the moon, and examining the barks of the trees
with care. In these brief pauses, Heyward and the sisters listened, with
senses rendered doubly acute by the danger, to detect any symptoms which
might announce the proximity of their foes. At such moments, it seemed as if
a vast range of country lay buried in eternal sleep; not the least sound
arising from the forest, unless it was the distant and scarcely audible
rippling of a water-course. Birds, beasts, and man, appeared to slumber
alike, if, indeed, any of the latter were to be found in that wide tract of
wilderness. But the sounds of the rivulet, feeble and murmuring as they
were, relieved the guides at once from no trifling embarrassment, and toward
it they immediately held their way.

When the banks of the little stream were gained, Hawkeye made another halt;
and taking the moccasins from his feet, he invited Heyward and Gamut to
follow his example. He then entered the water, and for near an hour they
traveled in the bed of the brook, leaving no trail. The moon had already
sunk into an immense pile of black clouds, which lay impending above the
western horizon, when they issued from the low and devious water-course to
rise again to the light and level of the sandy but wooded plain. Here the
scout seemed to be once more at home, for he held on this way with the
certainty and diligence of a man who moved in the security of his own
knowledge. The path soon became more uneven, and the travelers could plainly
perceive that the mountains drew nigher to them on each hand, and that they
were, in truth, about entering one of their gorges. Suddenly, Hawkeye made a
pause, and, waiting until he was joined by the whole party, he spoke, though
in tones so low and cautious, that they added to the solemnity of his words,
in the quiet and darkness of the place.

"It is easy to know the pathways, and to find the licks and water-courses of
the wilderness", he said; "but who that saw this spot could venture to say,
that a mighty army was at rest among yonder silent trees and barren
mountains"?

"We are, then, at no great distance from William Henry"? said Heyward,
advancing nigher to the scout.

"It is yet a long and weary path, and when and where to strike it is now our
greatest difficulty. See", he said, pointing through the trees toward a spot
where a little basin of water reflected the stars from its placid bosom,
"here is the "bloody pond"; and I am on ground that I have not only often
traveled, but over which I have fou't the enemy, from the rising to the
setting sun".

"Ha! that sheet of dull and dreary water, then, is the sepulcher of the
brave men who fell in the contest. I have heard it named, but never have I
stood on its banks before".

"Three battles did we make with the Dutch-Frenchman 1 in a day", continued
Hawkeye, pursuing the train of his own thoughts, rather than replying to the
remark of Duncan. "He met us hard by, in our outward march to ambush his
advance, and scattered us, like driven deer, through the defile, to the
shores of Horican. Then we rallied behind our fallen trees, and made head
against him, under Sir William--who was made Sir William for that very deed;
and well did we pay him for the disgrace of the morning! Hundreds of
Frenchmen saw the sun that day for the last time; and even their leader,
Dieskau himself, fell into our hands, so cut and torn with the lead, that he
has gone back to his own country, unfit for further acts in war". 1 Baron
Dieskau, a German, in the service of France. A few years previously to the
period of the tale, this officer was defeated by Sir William Johnson, of
Johnstown, New York, on the shores of Lake George.

"'Twas a nobel repulse"! exclaimed Heyward, in the heat of his youthful
ardor; "the fame of it reached us early, in our southern army".

"Ay! but it did not end there. I was sent by Major Effingham, at Sir
William's own bidding, to outflank the French, and carry the tidings of
their disaster across the portage, to the fort on the Hudson. Just hereaway,
where you see the trees rise into a mountain swell, I met a party coming
down to our aid, and I led them where the enemy were taking their meal,
little dreaming that they had not finished the bloody work of the day".

"And you surprised them"?

"If death can be a surprise to men who are thinking only of the cravings of
their appetites. We gave them but little breathing time, for they had borne
hard upon us in the fight of the morning, and there were few in our party
who had not lost friend or relative by their hands".

"When all was over, the dead, and some say the dying, were cast into that
little pond. These eyes have seen its waters colored with blood, as natural
water never yet flowed from the bowels of the 'arth".

"It was a convenient, and, I trust, will prove a peaceful grave for a
soldier. You have then seen much service on this frontier"?

"Ay"! said the scout, erecting his tall person with an air of military
pride; "there are not many echoes among these hills that haven't rung with
the crack of my rifle, nor is there the space of a square mile atwixt
Horican and the river, that "killdeer" hasn't dropped a living body on, be
it an enemy or be it a brute beast. As for the grave there being as quiet as
you mention, it is another matter. There are them in the camp who say and
think, man, to lie still, should not be buried while the breath is in the
body; and certain it is that in the hurry of that evening, the doctors had
but little time to say who was living and who was dead. Hist! see you
nothing walking on the shore of the pond"?

"'Tis not probable that any are as houseless as ourselves in this dreary
forest".

"Such as he may care but little for house or shelter, and night dew can
never wet a body that passes its days in the water", returned the scout,
grsping the shoulder of Heyward with such convulsive strength as to make the
young soldier painfully sensible how much superstitious terror had got the
mastery of a man usually so dauntless.

"By heaven, there is a human form, and it approaches! Stand to your arms, my
friends; for we know not whom we encounter".

"Qui vive"? demanded a stern, quick voice, which sounded like a challenge
from another world, issuing out of that solitary and solemn place.

"What says it"? whispered the scout; "it speaks neither Indian nor English".

"Qui vive"? repeated the same voice, which was quickly followed by the
rattling of arms, and a menacing attitude.

"France"! cried Heyward, advancing from the shadow of the trees to the shore
of the pond, within a few yards of the sentinel.

"D'où venez-vous--où allez-vous, d'aussi bonne heure"? demanded the
grenadier, in the language and with the accent of a man from old France.

"Je viens de la découverte, et je vais me coucher".

"Etes-vous officier du roi"?

"Sans doute, mon camarade; me prends-tu pour un provincial! Je suis
capitaine de chasseurs (Heyward well knew that the other was of a regiment
in the line); j'ai ici, avec moi, les filles du commandant de la
fortification. Aha! tu en as entendu parler! je les ai fait prisonnières
près de l'autre fort, et je les conduis au général".

"Ma foi! mesdames; j'en suis fâché pour vous", exlaimed the young soldier,
touching his cap with grace; "mais--fortune de guerre! vous trouverez notre
général un brave homme, et bien poli avec les dames".

"C'est le caractère des gens de guerre", said Cora, with admirable self-
possession. "Adieu, mon ami; je vous souhaiterais un devoir plus agréable à
remplir".

The soldier made a low and humble acknowledgment for her civility; and
Heyward adding a "Bonne nuit, mon camarade", they moved deliberately
forward, leaving the sentinel pacing the banks of the silent pond, little
suspecting an enemy of so much effrontery, and humming to himself those
words which were recalled to his mind by the sight of women, and, perhaps,
by recollections of his own distant and beautiful France: "Vive le vin, vive
l'amour", etc., etc.

"'Tis well you understood the knave"! whispered the scout, when they had
gained a little distance from the place, and letting his rifle fall into the
hollow of his arm again; "I soon saw that he was one of them uneasy
Frenchers; and well for him it was that his speech was friendly and his
wishes kind, or a place might have been found for his bones among those of
his countrymen".

He was interrupted by a long and heavy groan which arose from the little
basin, as though, in truth, the spirits of the departed lingered about their
watery sepulcher.

"Surely it was of flesh", continued the scout; "no spirit could handle its
arms so steadily".

"It was of flesh; but whether the poor fellow still belongs to this world
may well be doubted", said Heyward, glancing his eyes around him, and
missing Chingachgook from their little band. Another groan more faint than
the former was succeeded by a heavy and sullen plunge into the water, and
all was still again as if the borders of the dreary pool had never been
awakened from the silence of creation. While they yet hesitated in
uncertainty, the form of the Indian was seen gliding out of the thicket. As
the chief rejoined them, with one hand he attached the reeking scalp of the
unfortuante young Frenchman to his girdle, and with the other he replaced
the knife and tomahawk that had drunk his blood. He then took his wonted
station, with the air of a man who believed he had done a deed of merit.

The scout dropped one end of his rifle to the earth, and leaning his hands
on the other, he stood musing in profound silence. Then, shaking his head in
a mournful manner, he muttered:

"'Twould have been a cruel and an unhuman act for a white-skin; but 'tis the
gift and natur' of an Indian, and I suppose it should not be denied. I could
wish, though it had befallen an accursed Mingo, rather than that gay young
boy from the old countries".

"Enough"! said Heyward, apprehensive the unconscious sisters might
comprehend the nature of the detention, and conquering his disgust by a
train of reflections very much like that of the hunter; "'tis done; and
though better it were left undone, cannot be amended. You see, we are, too
obviously within the sentinels of the enemy; what course do you propose to
follow"?

"Yes", said Hawkeye, rousing himself again; "'tis as you say, too late to
harbor further thoughts about it. Ay, the French have gatheredaround the
fort in good earnest and we have a delicate needle to thread in passing
them".

"And but little time to do it in", added Heyward, glancing his eyes upwards,
toward the bank of vapor that concealed the setting moon.

"And little time to do it in"! repeated the scout. "The thing may be done in
two fashions, by the help of Providence, without which it may not be done at
all".

"Name them quickly for time presses".

"One would be to dismount the gentle ones, and let their beasts range the
plain, by sending the Mohicans in front, we might then cut a lane through
their sentries, and enter the fort over the dead bodies".

"It will not do--it will not do"! interrupted the generous Heyward; "a
soldier might force his way in this manner, but never with such a convoy".

"'Twould be, indeed, a bloody path for such tender feet to wade in",
returned the equally reluctant scout; "but I thought it befitting my manhood
to name it. We must, then, turn in our trail and get without the line of
their lookouts, when we will bend short to the west, and enter the
mountains; where I can hide you, so that all the devil's hounds in
Montcalm's pay would be thrown off the scent for months to come".

"Let it be done, and that instantly".

Further words were unnecessary; for Hawkeye, merely uttering the mandate to
"follow", moved along the route by which they had just entered their present
critical and even dangerous situation. Their progress, like their late
dialogue, was guarded, and without noise; for none knew at what moment a
passing patrol, or a crouching picket of the enemy, might rise upon their
path. As they held their silent way along the margin of the pond, again
Heyward and the scout stole furtive glances at its appalling dreariness.
They looked in vain for the form they had so recently seen stalking along in
silent shores, while a low and regular wash of the little waves, by
announcing that the waters were not yet subsidd, furnished a frightful
memorial of the deed of blood they had just witnessed. Like all that passing
and gloomy scene, the low basin, however, quickly melted in the darkness,
and became blended with the mass of black objects in the rear of the
travelers.

Hawkeye soon deviated from the line of their retreat, and striking off
towards the mountains which form the western boundary of the narrow plain,
he led his followers, with swift steps, deep within the shadows that were
cast from their high and broken summits. The route was now painful; lying
over ground ragged with rocks, and intersected with ravines, and their
progress proportionately slow. Bleak and black hills lay on every side of
them, compensating in some degree for the additional toil of the march by
the sense of security they imparted. At length the party began slowly to
rise a steep and rugged ascent, by a path that cruiously wound among rocks
and trees, avoiding the one and supported by the other, in a manner that
showed it had been devised by men long practised in the arts of the
wilderness. As they gradually rose from the level of the valleys, the thick
darkness which usually precedes the approach of day began to disperse, and
objects were seen in the plain and palpable colors with which they had been
gifted by nature. When they issued from the stunted woods which clung to the
barren sides of the mountain, upon a flat and mossy rock that formed its
summit, they met the morning, as it came blushing above the green pines of a
hill that lay on the opposite side of the valley of the Horican.

The scout now told the sisters to dismount; and taking the bridles from the
mouths, and the saddles off the backs of the jaded beasts, he turned them
loose, to glean a scanty subsistence among the shrubs and meager herbage of
that elevated region.

"Go", he said, "and seek your food where natur' gives it to you; and beware
that you become not food to ravenous wolves yourselves, among these hills".

"Have we no further need of them"? demanded Heyward.

"See, and judge with your own eyes", said the scout, advancing toward the
eastern brow of the mountain, whither he beckoned for the whole party to
follow; "if it was as easy to look into the heart of man as it is to spy out
the nakedness of Montcalm's camp from this spot, hypocrites would grow
scarce, and the cunning of a Mingo might prove a losing game, compared to
the honesty of a Delaware".

When the travelers reached the verge of the precipices they saw, at a
glance, the truth of the scout's declaration, and the admirable foresight
with which he had led them to their commanding station.

The mountain on which they stood, elevated perhaps a thousand feet in the
air, was a high cone that rose a little in advance of that range which
stretches for miles along the western shores of the lake, until meeting its
sisters miles beyond the water, it ran off toward the Canadas, in confused
and broken masses of rock, thinly sprinkled with evergreens. Immediately at
the feet of the party, the southern shore of the Horican swept in a broad
semicircle from mountain to mountain, marking a wide strand, that soon rose
into an uneven and somewhat elevated plain. To the north stretched the
limpid, and, as it appeared from that dizzy height, the narrow sheet of the
"holy lake", indented with numberless bays, embellished by fantastic
headlands, and dotted with countless islands. At the distance of a few
leagues, the bed of the water became lost among mountains, or was wrapped in
the masses of vapor that came slowly rolling along their bosom, before a
light morning air. But a narrow opening between the crests of the hills
pointed out the passage by which they found their way still further north,
to spread their pure and ample sheets again, before pouring out their
tribute into the distant Champlain. To the shout stretched the defile, or
rather broken plain, so often mentioned. For several miles in this direcion,
the mountains appeared reluctant to yield their dominion, but within reach
of the eye they diverged, and finally melted into the level and sandy lands,
across which we have accompanied our adventurers in their double journey.
Along both ranges of hills, which bounded the opposite sides of the lake and
valley, clouds of light vapor were rising in spiral wreaths from the
uninhabited woods, looking like the smoke of hidden cottages; or rolled
lazily down the declivities, to mingle with the fogs of the lower land. A
single, solitary, snow-white cloud floated above the valley, and marked the
spot beneath which lay the silent pool of the "bloody pond".

Directly on the shore of the lake, and nearer to its western than to its
eastern margin, lay the extensive earthen ramparts and low buildings of
William Henry. Two of the sweeping bastions appeared to rest on the water
which washed their bases, while a deep ditch and extensive morasses guarded
its other sides and angles. The land had been cleared of wood for a
reasonable distance around the work, but every other part of the scene lay
in the green livery of nature, except where the limpid water mellowed the
view, or the bold rocks thrust their black and naked heads above the
undulating outline of the mountain ranges. In its front might be seen the
scattered sentinels, who held a weary watch against their numerous foes; and
within the walls themselves, the travelers looked down upon men still drowsy
with a night of vigilance. Toward the southeast, but in immediate contact
with the fort, was an entrenched camp, posted on a rocky eminence, that
would have been far more eligible for the work itself, in which Hawkeye
pointed out the presence of those auxiliary regiments that had so recently
left the Hudson in their company. From the woods, a little further to the
south, rose numerous dark and lurid smokes, that were easily to be
distinguished from the purer exhalations of the springs, and which the scout
also showed to Heyward, as evidences that the enemy lay in force in that
direction.

But the spectacle which most concerned the young soldier was on the western
bank of the lake, though quite near to its southern termination. On a strip
of land, which appeared from his stand too narrow to contain such an army,
but which, in truth, extended many hundreds of yards from the shores of the
Horican to the base of the mountain, were to be seen the white tents and
military engines of an encampment of ten thousand men. Batteries were
already thrown up in their front, and even while the spectators above them
were looking down, with such different emotions, on a scene which lay like a
map beneath their feet, the roar of artillery rose from the valley, and
passed off in thundering echoes along the eastern hills.

"Morning is just touching them below", said the deliberate and musing scout,
"and the watchers have a mind to wake up the sleepers by the sound of
cannon. We are a few hours too late! Montcalm has already filled the woods
with his accursed Iroquois".

"The place is, indeed, invested", returned Duncan; "but is there no
expedient by which we may enter? capture in the works would be far
preferable to falling again into the hands of roving Indians".

"See"! exclaimed the scout, unconsciously directing the attention of Cora to
the quarters of her own father, "how that shot has made the stones fly from
the side of the commandant's house! Ay! these Frenchers will pull it to
pieces faster than it was put together, solid and thick though it be"!

"Heyward, I sicken at the sight of danger that I cannot share", said the
undaunted but anxious daughter. "Let us go to Montcalm, and demand
admission: he dare not deny a child the boon".

"You would scarce find the tent of the Frenchman with the hair on your
head"; said the blunt scout. "If I had but one of the thousand boats which
lie empty along that shore, it might be done! Ha! here will soon be an end
of the firing, for yonder comes a fog that will turn day to night, and make
an Indian arrow more dangerous than a molded cannon. Now, if you are equal
to the work, and will follow, I will make a push; for I long to get down
into that camp, if it be only to scatter some Mingo dogs that I see lurking
in the skirts of yonder thicket of birch".

"We are equal", said Cora, firmly; "on such an errand we will follow to any
danger".

The scout turned to her with a smile of honest and cordial approbation, as
he answered:

"I would I had a thousand men, of brawny limbs and quick eyes, that feared
death as little as you! I'd send them jabbering Frenchers back into their
den again, afore the week was ended, howling like so many fettered hounds or
hungry wolves. But, sir", he added, turning from her to the rest of the
party, "the fog comes rolling down so fast, we shall have but just the time
to meet it on the plain, and use it as a cover. Remember, if any accident
should befall me, to keep the air blowing on your left cheeks--or, rather,
follow the Mohicans; they'd scent their way, be it in day or be it at
night".

He then waved his hand for them to follow, and threw himself down the steep
declivity, with free, but careful footsteps. Heyward assisted the sisters to
descend, and in a few minutes they were all far down a mountain whose sides
they had climbed with so much toil and pain.

The direction taken by Hawkeye soon brought the travelers to the level of
the plain, nearly opposite to a sally-port in the western curtain of the
fort, which lay itself at the distance of about half a mile from the point
where he halted to allow Duncan to come up with his charge. In their
eagerness, and favored by the nature of the ground, they had anticipated the
fog, which was rolling heavily down the lake, and it became necessary to
pause, until the mists had wrapped the camp of the enemy in their fleecy
mantle. The Mohicans profited by the delay, to steal out of the woods, and
to make a survey of surrounding objects. They were followed at a little
distance by the scout, with a view to profit early by their report, and to
obtain some faint knowledge for himself of the more immediate localities.

In a very few moments he returned, his face reddened with vexation, while he
muttered his disappointment in words of no very gentle import.

"Here has the cunning Frenchman been posting a picket directly in our path",
he said; "red-skins and whites; and we shall be as likely to fall into their
midst as to pass them in the fog"!

"Cannot we make a circuit to avoid the danger", asked Heyward, "and come
into our path again when it is passed"?

"Who that once bends from the line of his march in a fog can tell when or
how to find it again! The mists of Horican are not like the curls from a
peace-pipe, or the smoke which settles above a mosquito fire".

He was yet speaking, when a crashing sound was heard, and a cannon-ball
entered the thicket, striking the body of a sapling, and rebounding to the
earth, its force being much expended by previous resistance. The Indians
followed instantly like busy attendants on the terrible messenger, and Uncas
commenced speaking earnestly and with much action, in the Delaware tongue.

"It may be so, lad", muttered the scout, when he had ended; "for desperate
fevers are not to be treated like a toothache. Come, then, the fog is
shutting in".

"Stop"! cried Heyward; "first explain your expectations".

"'Tis soon done, and a small hope it is; but it is better than nothing. This
shot that you see", added the scout, kicking the harmless iron with his
foot, "has plowed the 'arth in its road from the fort, and we shall hunt for
the furrow it has made, when all other signs may fail. No more words, but
follow, or the fog may leave us in the middle of our path, a mark for both
armies to shoot at".

Heyward perceiving that, in fact, a crisis had arrived, when acts were more
required than words, placed himself between the sisters, and drew them
swiftly forward, keeping the dim figure of their leader in his eye. It was
soon apparent that Hawkeye had not magnified the power of the fog, for
before they had proceeded twenty yards, it was difficult for the different
individuals of the party to distinguish each other in the vapor.

They had made their little circuit to the left, and were already inclining
again toward the right, having, as Heyward thought, got over nearly half the
distance to the friendly works, when his ears were saluted with the fierce
summons, apparently within twenty feet of them, of:

"Qui va là"?

"Push on"! whispered the scout, once more bending to the left.

"Push on"! repeated Heyward; when the summons was renewed by a dozen voices,
each of which seemed charged with menace.

"C'est moi", cried Duncan, dragging rather than leading those he supported
swiftly onward.

"Bâte!--qui?--moi"!

"Ami de la France".

"Tu m'as plus l'air d'un ennemi de la France; arrâte ou pardieu je te ferai
ami du diable. Non! feu, camarades, feu"!

The order was instantly obeyed, and the fog was stirred by the explosion of
fifty muskets. Happily, the aim was bad, and the bullets cut the air in a
direction a little different from that taken by the fugitives; though still
so nigh them, that to the unpractised ears of David and the two females, it
appeared as if they whistled within a few inches of the organs. The outcry
was renewed, and the order, not only to fire again, but to pursue, was too
plainly audible. When Heyward briefly explained the meaning of the words
they heard, Hawkeye halted and spoke with quick decision and great firmness.

"Let us deliver our fire", he said; "they will believe it a sortie, and give
way, or they will wait for reinforcements".

The scheme was well conceived, but failed in its effects. The instant the
French heard the pieces, it seemed as if the plain was alive with men,
muskets rattling along its whole extent, from the shores of the lake to the
furthest boundary of the woods.

"We shall draw their entire army upon us, and bring on a general assault",
said Duncan: "lead on, my friend, for your own life and ours".

The scout seemed willing to comply; but, in the hurry of the moment, and in
the change of position, he had lost the direction. In vain he turned either
cheek toward the light air; they felt equally cool. In this dilemma, Uncas
lighted on the furrow of the cannon ball, where it had cut the ground in
three adjacent ant-hills.

"Give me the range"! said Hawkeye, bending to catch a glimpse of the
direction, and then instantly moving onward.

Cries, oaths, voices calling to each other, and the reports of muskets, were
now quick and incessant, and, apparently, on every side of them. Suddenly a
strong glare of light flashed across the scene, the fog rolled upward in
thick wreaths, and several cannons belched across the plain, and the roar
was thrown heavily back from the bellowing echoes of the mountain.

"'Tis from the fort"! exclaimed Hawkeye, turning short on his tracks; "and
we, like stricken fools, were rushing to the woods, under the very knives of
the Maquas".

The instant their mistake was rectified, the whole party retraced the error
with the utmost diligence. Duncan willingly relinquished the support of Cora
to the arm of Uncas and Cora as readily accepted the welcome assistance.
Men, hot and angry in pursuit, were evidently on their footsteps, and each
instant threatened their capture, if not their destruction.

"Point de quartier aux coquins"! cried an eager pursuer, who seemed to
direct the operations of the enemy.

"Stand firm, and be ready, my gallant Sixtieths"! suddenly exclaimed a voice
above them; "wait to see the enemy, fire low and sweep the glacis".

"Father! father!" exclaimed a piercing cry from out the mist: "it is I!
Alice! thy own Elsie! Spare, oh! save your daughters"!

"Hold"! shouted the former speaker, in the awful tones of parental agony,
the sound reaching even to the woods, and rolling back in solemn echo. "'Tis
she! God has restored me to my children! Throw open the sally-port; to the
field, Sixtieths, to the field; pull not a trigger, lest ye kill my lambs!
Drive off these dogs of France with your steel".

Duncan heard the grating of the rusty hinges, and darting to the spot,
directed by the sound, he met a long line of dark red warriors, passing
swiftly toward the glacis. He knew them for his own battalion of the Royal
Americans, and flying to their head, soon swept every trace of his pursuers
from before the works.

For an instant, Cora and Alice had stood trembling and bewildered by this
unexpected desertion; but before either had leisure for speech, or even
thought, an officer of gigantic frame, whose locks were bleached with years
and service, but whose air of military grandeur had been rather softened
than destroyed by time, rushed out of the body of mist, and folded them to
his bosom, while large scalding tears rolled down his pale and wrinkled
cheeks, and he exclaimed, in the peculiar accent of Scotland:

"For this I thank thee, Lord! Let danger come as it will, thy servant is now
prepared"!

Chapter 15

"Then go we in, to know his embassy;
Which I could, with ready guess, declare,
Before the Frenchmen speak a word of it",--King Henry V

A few succeeding days were passed amid the privations, the uproar, and the
dangers of the siege, which was vigorously pressed by a power, against whose
approaches Munro possessed no competent means of resistance. It appeared as
if Webb, with his army, which lay slumbering on the banks of the Hudson, had
utterly forgotten the strait to which his countrymen were reduced. Montcalm
had filled the woods of the portage with his savages, every yell and whoop
from whom rang through the British encampment, chilling the hearts of men
who were already but too much disposed to magnify the danger.

Not so, however, with the besieged. Animated by the words, and stimulated by
the examples of their leaders, they had found their courage, and maintained
their ancient reputation, with a zeal that did justice to the stern
character of their commander. As if satisfied with the toil of marching
through the wilderness to encounter his enemy, the French general, though of
approved skill, had neglected to seize the adjacent mountains; whence the
besieged might have been exterminated with impunity, and which, in the more
modern warfare of the country, would not have been neglected for a single
hour. This sort of contempt for eminences, or rather dread of the labor of
ascending them, might have been termed the besetting weakness of the warfare
of the period. It originated in the simplicity of the Indian contests, in
which, from the nature of the combats, and the density of the forests,
fortresses were rare, and artillery next to useless. The carelessness
engendered by these usages descended even to the war of the Revolution and
lost the States the important fortress of Ticonderoga opening a way for the
army of Burgoyne into what was then the bosom of the country. We look back
at this ignorance, or infatuation, whichever it may be called, with wonder,
knowing that the neglect of an eminence, whose difficultires, like those of
Mount Defiance, have been so greatly exaggerated, would, at the present
time, prove fatal to the reputation of the engineer who had planned the
works at their base, or to that of the general whose lot it was to defend
them.

The tourist, the valetudinarian, or the amateur of the beauties of nature,
who, in the train of his four-in-hand, now rolls through the scenes we have
attempted to describe, in quest of information, health, or pleasure, or
floats steadily toward his object on those artificial waters which have
sprung up under the administration of a statesman 1 who has dared to stake
his political character on the hazardous issue, is not to suppose that his
ancestors traversed those hills, or struggled with the same currents with
equal facility. The transportation of a single heavy gun was often
considered equal to a victory gained; if happily, the difficulties of the
passage had not so far separated it from its necessary concomitant, the
ammunition, as to render it no more than a useless tube of unwieldy iron. 1
Evidently the late De Witt Clinton, who died governor of New York in 1828.

The evils of this state of things pressed heavily on the fortunes of the
resolute Scotsman who now defended William Henry. Though his adversary
neglected the hills, he had planted his batteries with judgment on the
plain, and caused them to be served with vigor and skill. Against this
assualt, the besieged could only oppose the imperfect and hasty preparations
of a fortress in the wilderness.

It was in the afternoon of the fifth day of the siege, and the fourth of his
own service in it, that Major Heyward profited by a parley that had just
been beaten, by repairing to the ramparts of one of the water bastions, to
breathe the cool air from the lake, and to take a survey of the progress of
the siege. He was alone, if the solitary sentinel who paced the mound be
excepted; for the artillerists had hastened also to profit by the temporary
suspension of their arduous duties. The evening was delightfully calm, and
the light air from the limpid water fresh and soothing. It seemed as if,
with the termination of the roar of artillery and the plunging of shot,
nature had also seized the moment to assume her mildest and most captivating
form. The sun poured down his parting glory on the scene, without the
oppression of those fierce rays that belong to the climate and the season.
The mountains looked green, and fresh, and lovely, tempered with the milder
light, or softened in shadow, as thin vapors floated between them and the
sun. The numerous islands rested on the bosom of the Horican, some low and
sunken, as if embedded in the waters, and others appearing to hover about
the element, in little hillocks of green velvet; among which the fishermen
of the beleaguering army peacefully rowed their skiffs, or floated at rest
on the glassy mirror in quiet pursuit of their employment.

The scene was at once animated and still. All that pertained to nature was
sweet, or simply grand; while those parts which depended on the temper and
movements of man were lively and playful.

Two little spotless flags were abroad, the one on a salient angle of the
fort, and the other on the advanced battery of the besiegers; emblems of the
truth which existed, not only to the acts, but it would seem, also, to the
enmity of the combatants.

Behind these again swung, heavily opening and closing in silken folds, the
rival standards of England and France.

A hundred gay and thoughtless young Frenchmen were drawing a net to the
pebbly beach, within dangerous proximity to the sullen but silent cannon of
the fort, while the eastern mountain was sending back the loud shouts and
gay merriment that attended their sport. Some were rushing eagerly to enjoy
the aquatic games of the lake, and others were already toiling their way up
the neighboring hills, with the restless curiosity of their nation. To all
these sports and pursuits, those of the enemy who watched the besieged, and
the besieged themselves, were, however, merely the idle though sympathizing
spectators. Here and there a picket had, indeed, raised a song, or mingled
in a dance, which had drawn the dusky savages around them, from their lairs
in the forest. In short, everything wore rather the appearance of a day of
pleasure, than of an hour stolen from the dangers and toil of a bloody and
vindictive warfare.

Duncan had stood in a musing attitude, contemplating this scene a few
minutes, when his eyes were directed to the glacis in front of the
sally-port already mentioned, by the sounds of approaching footsteps. He
walked to an angle of the bastion, and beheld the scout advancing, under the
custody of a French officer, to the body of the fort. The countenance of
Hawkeye was haggard and careworn, and his air dejected, as though he felt
the deepest degradation at having fallen into the power of his enemies. He
was without his favorite weapon, and his arms were even bound behind him
with thongs, made of the skin of a deer. The arrival of flags to cover the
messengers of summons, had occurred so often of late, that when Heyward
first threw his careless glance on this group, he expected to see another of
the officers of the enemy, charged with a similar office but the instant he
recognized the tall person and still sturdy though downcast features of his
friend, the woodsman, he started with surprise, and turned to descend from
the bastion into the bosom of the work.

The sounds of other voices, however, caught his attention, and for a moment
caused him to forget his purpose. At the inner angle of the mound he met the
sisters, walking along the parapet, in search, like himself, of air and
relief from confinement. They had not met from that painful moment when he
deserted them on the plain, only to assure their safety. He had parted from
them worn with care, and jaded with fatigue; he now saw them refreshed and
blooming, though timid and anxious. Under such an inducement it will cause
no surprise that the young man lost sight for a time, of other objects in
order to address them. He was, however, anticipated by the voice of the
ingenuous and youthful Alice.

"Ah! thou tyrant! thou recreant knight! he who abandons his damsels in the
very lists", she cried; "here have we been days, nay, ages, expecting you at
our feet, imploring mercy and forgetfulness of your craven backsliding, or I
should rather say, backrunning--for verily you fled in the manner that no
striken deer, as our worthy friend the scout would say, could equal"!

"You know that Alice means our thanks and our blessings", added the graver
and more thoughtful Cora. "In truth, we have a little wonder why you should
so rigidly absent yourself from a place where the gratitude of the daughters
might receive the support of a parent's thanks".

"Your father himself could tell you, that, though absent from your presence,
I have not been altogether forgetful of your safety", returned the young
man; "the mastery of yonder village of huts", pointing to the neighboring
entrenched camp, "has been keenly disputed; and he who holds it is sure to
be possessed of this fort, and that which it contains. My days and nights
have all been passed there since we separated, because I thought that duty
called me thither. But", he added, with an air of chagrin, which he
endeavored, though unsuccessfully, to conceal, "had I been aware that what I
then believed a soldier's conduct could be so construed, shame would have
been added to the list of reasons".

"Heyward! Duncan"! exclaimed Alice, bending forward to read his half-averted
countenance, until a lock of her golden hair rested on her flushed cheek,
and nearly concealed the tear that had started to her eye; "did I think this
idle tongue of mine had pained you, I would silence it forever. Cora can
say, if Cora would, how justly we have prized your services, and how deep--I
had almost said, how fervent--is our gratitude". "And will Cora attest the
truth of this"? cried Duncan, suffering the cloud to be chased from his
countenance by a smile of open pleasure. "What says our graver sister? Will
she find an excuse for the neglect of the knight in the duty of a soldier"?

Cora made no immediate answer, but turned her face toward the water, as if
looking on the sheet of the Horican. When she did bend her dark eyes on the
young man, they were yet filled with an expression of anguish that at once
drove every thought but that of kind solicitude from his mind.

"You are not well, dearest Miss Munro"! he exclaimed; "we have trifled while
you are in suffering"!

"'Tis nothing", she answered, refusing his support with feminine reserve.
"That I cannot see the sunny side of the picture of life, like this artless
but ardent enthusiast", she added, laying her hand lightly, but
affectionately, on the arm of her sister, "is the penalty of experience,
and, perhaps, the misfortune of my nature. See", she continued, as if
determined to shake off infirmity, in a sense of duty; "look around you,
Major Heyward, and tell me what a prospect is this for the daughter of a
soldier whose greatest happiness is his honor and his military renown".

"Neither ought nor shall be tarnished by circumstances over which he has had
no control", Duncan warmly replied. "But your words recall me to my own
duty. I go now to your gallant father, to hear his determination in matters
of the last moment to the defense. God bless you in every fortune,
noble--Cora--I may and must call you". She frankly gave him her hand, though
her lip quivered, and her cheeks gradually became of ashly palness. "In
every fortune, I know you will be an ornament and honor to your sex. Alice,
adieu"--his voice changed from admiration to tenderness--"adieu, Alice; we
shall soon meet again; as conquerors, I trust, and amid rejoicings"!

Without waiting for an answer from either, the young man threw himself down
the grassy steps of the bastion, and moving rapidly across the parade, he
was quickly in the presence of their father. Munro was pacing his narrow
apartment with a disturbed air and gigantic strides as Duncan entered.

"You have anticipated my wishes, Major Heyward", he said; "I was about to
request this favor".

"I am sorry to see, sir, that the messenger I so warmly recommended has
returned in custody of the French! I hope there is no reason to distrust his
fidelity"?

"The fidelity of "The Long Rifle" is well known to me", returned Munro, "and
is above suspicion; though his usual good fortune seems, at last, to have
failed. Montcalm has got him, and with the accursed politeness of his
nation, he has sent him in with a doleful tale, of "knowing how I valued the
fellow, he could not think of retaining him" A Jesuitical way that, Major
Duncan Heyward, of telling a man of his misfortunes"!

"But the general and his succor"?

"Did ye look to the south as ye entered, and could ye not see them"? said
the old soldier, laughting bitterly.

"Hoot! hoot! you're an impatient boy, sir, and cannot give the gentlemen
leisure for their march"!

"They are coming, then? The scout has said as much"?

"When? and by what path? for the dunce has omitted to tell me this. There is
a letter, it would seem, too; and that is the only agreeable part of the
matter. For the customary attentions of your Marquis of Montcalm--I warrant
me, Duncan, that he of Lothian would buy a dozen such marquisates--but if
the news of the letter were bad, the gentility of this French monsieur would
certainly compel him to let us know it".

"He keeps the letter, then, while he releases the messenger"?

"Ay, that does he, and all for the sake of what you call your "bonhommie" I
would venture, if the truth was known, the fellow's grandfather taught the
noble science of dancing".

"But what says the scout? he has eyes and ears, and a tongue. What verbal
report does he make"?

"Oh! sir, he is not wanting in natural organs, and he is free to tell all
that he has seen and heard. The whole amount is this; there is a fort of his
majesty's on the banks of the Hudson, called Edward, in honor of his
gracious highness of York, you'll know; and it is well filled with armed
men, as such a work should be".

"But was there no movement, no signs of any intention to advance to our
relief"?

"There were the morning and evening parades; and when one of the provincial
loons--you'll know, Dunca, you're half a Scotsman yourself--when one of them
dropped his powder over his porretch, if it touched the coals, it just
burned"! Then, suddenly changing his bitter, ironical manner, to one more
grave and thoughtful, he continued: "and yet there might, and must be,
something in that letter which it would be well to know"!

"Our decision should be speedy", said Duncan, gladly availing himself of
this change of humor, to press the more important objects of their
interview; "I cannot conceal from you, sir, that the camp will not be much
longer tenable; and I am sorry to add, that things appear no better in the
fort; more than half the guns are bursted".

"And how should it be otherwise? Some were fished from the bottom of the
lake; some have been rusting in woods since the discovery of the country;
and some were never guns at all--mere privateersmen's playthings! Do you
think, sir, you can have Woolwich Warren in the midst of a wilderness, three
thousand miles from Great Britain"?

"The walls are crumbling about our ears, and provisions begin to fail us",
continued Heyward, without regarding the new burst of indignation; "even the
men show signs of discontent and alarm".

"Major Heyward", said Munro, turning to his youthful associate with the
dignity of his years and superior rank; "I should have served his majesty
for half a century, and earned these gray hairs in vain, were I ignorant of
all you say, and of the pressing nature of our circumstances; still, there
is everything due to the honor of the king's arms, and something to
ourselves. While there is hope of succor, this fortress will I defend,
though it be to be done with pebbles gathered on the lake shore. It is a
sight of the letter, therefore, that we want, that we may know the
intentions of the man the earl of Loudon has left among us as his
substitute".

"And can I be of service in the matter"?

"Sir, you can; the marquis of Montcalm has, in addition to his other
civilities, invited me to a personal interview between the works and his own
camp; in order, as he says, to impart some additional information. Now, I
think it would not be wise to show any undue solicitude to meet him, and I
would employ you, an officer of rank, as my substitute; for it would but ill
comport with the honor of Scotland to let it be said one of her gentlemen
was outdone in civility by a native of any other country on earth".

Without assuming the supererogatory task of entering into a discussion of
the comparative merits of national courtesy, Duncan cheerfully assented to
supply the place of the veteran in the approaching interview. A long
andconfidential communication now succeeded, during which the young man
received some additional insight into his duty, from the experience and
native acuteness of his commander, and then the former took his leave.

As Duncan could only act as the representative of the commandant of the
fort, the ceremonies which should have accompanied a meeting between the
heads of the adverse forces were, of course, dispensed with. The truce still
existed, and with a roll and beat of the drum, and covered by a little white
flag, Duncan left the sally-port, within ten minutes after his instructions
were ended. He was received by the French officer in advance with the usual
formalities, and immediately accompanied to a distant marquee of the
renowned soldier who led the forces of France.

The general of the enemy received the youthful messenger, surrounded by his
principal officers, and by a swarthy band of the native chiefs, who had
followed him to the field, with the warriors of their several tribes.
Heyward paused short, when, in glancing his eyes rapidly over the dark group
of the latter, he beheld the malignant countenance of Magua, regarding him
with the calm but sullen attention which marked the expression of that
subtle savage. A slight exclamation of surprise even burst from the lips of
the young man, but instantly, recollecting his errand, and the presence in
which he stood, he suppressed every appearance of emotion, and turned to the
hostile leader, who had already advanced a step to receive him.

The marquis of Montcalm was, at the period of which we write, in the flower
of his age, and, it may be added, in the zenith of his fortunes. But even in
that enviable situation, he was affable, and distinguished as much for his
attention to the forms of courtesy, as for that chivalrous courage which,
only two short years afterward, induced him to throw away his life on the
plains of Abraham. Duncan, in turning his eyes from the malign expression of
Magua, suffered them to rest with pleasure on the smiling and polished
features, and the noble military air, of the French general.

"Monsieur", said the latter, "j'ai beaucoup de plaisir à--bah!--où est cet
interprâte"?

"Je crois, monsieur, qu'il ne sear pas nécessaire", Heyward modestly
replied; "je parle un peu français".

"Ah! j'en suis bien aise", said Montcalm, taking Duncan familiarly by the
arm, and leading him deep into the marquee, a little out of earshot; "je
déteste ces fripons- là; on ne sait jamais sur quel pié on est avec eux. Eh,
bien! monsieur", he continued still speaking in French; "though I should
have been proud of receiving your commandant, I am very happy that he has
seen proper to employ an officer so distinguished, and who, I am sure, is so
amiable, as yourself".

Duncan bowed low, pleased with the compliment, in spite of a most heroic
determination to suffer no artifice to allure him into forgetfulness of the
interest of his prince; and Montcalm, after a pause of a moment, as if to
collect his thoughts, proceeded:

"Your commandant is a brave man, and well qualified to repel my assault.
Mais, monsieur, is it not time to begin to take more counsel of humanity,
and less of your courage? The one as strongly characterizes the hero as the
other".

"We consider the qualities as inseparable", returned Duncan, smiling; "but
while we find in the vigor of your excellency every motive to stimulate the
one, we can, as yet, see no particular call for the exercise of the other".

Montcalm, in his turn, slightly bowed, but it was with the air of a man too
practised to remember the language of flattery. After musing a moment, he
added:

"It is possible my glasses have deceived me, and that your works resist our
cannon better than I had supposed. You know our force"?

"Our accounts vary", said Duncan, carelessly; "the highest, however, has not
exceeded twenty thousand men".

The Frenchman bit his lip, and fastened his eyes keenly on the other as if
to read his thoughts; then, with a readiness peculiar to himself, he
continued, as if assenting to the truth of an enumeration which quite
doubled his army:

"It is a poor compliment to the vigilance of us soldiers, monsieur, that, do
what we will, we never can conceal our numbers. If it were to be done at
all, one would believe it might succeed in these woods. Though you think it
too soon to listen to the calls of humanity", he added, smiling archly, "I
may be permitted to believe that gallantry is not forgotten by one so young
as yourself. The daughters of the commandant, I learn, have passed into the
fort since it was invested"?

"It is true, monsieur; but, so far from weakening our efforts, they set us
an example of courage in their own fortitude. Were nothing but resolution
necessary to repel so accomplished a soldier as M. de Montcalm, I would
gladly trust the defense of William Henry to the elder of those ladies".

"We have a wise ordinance in our Salique laws, which says, "The crown of
France shall never degrade the lance to the distaff"", said Montcalm, dryly,
and with a little hauteur; but instantly adding, with his former frank and
easy air: "as all the nobler qualities are hereditary, I can easily credit
you; though, as I said before, courage has its limits, and humanity must not
be forgotten. I trust, monsieur, you come authorized to treat for the
surrender of the place"?

"Has your excellency found our defense so feeble as to believe the measure
necessary"?

"I should be sorry to have the defense protracted in such a manner as to
irritate my red friends there", continued Montcalm, glancing his eyes at the
group of grave and attentive Indians, without attending to the other's
questions; "I find it difficult, even now, to limit them to the usages of
war".

Heyward was silent; for a painful recollection of the dangers he had so
recently escaped came over his mind, and recalled the images of those
defenseless beings who had shared in all his sufferings.

"Ces messieurs-là", said Montcalm, following up the advantage which he
conceived he had gained, "are most formidable when baffled; and it is
unnecessary to tell you with what difficulty they are restrained in their
anger. Eh bien, monsieur! shall we speak of the terms"?

"I fear your excellency has been deceived as to the strength of William
Henry, and the resources of its garrison"!

"I have not sat down before Quebec, but an earthen work, that is defended by
twenty- three hundred gallant men", was the laconic reply.

"Our mounds are earthen, certainly--nor are they seated on the rocks of Cape
Diamond; but they stand on that shore which proved so destructive to Dieskau
and his army. There is also a powerful force within a few hours' march of
us, which we account upon as a part of our means".

"Some six or eight thousand men", returned Montcalm, with much apparent
indifference, "whom their leader wisely judges to be safer in their works
than in the field".

It was now Heyward's turn to bite his lip with vexation as the other so
coolly alluded to a force which the young man knew to be overrated. Both
mused a little while in silence, when Montcalm renewed the conversation, in
a way that showed he believed the visit of his guest was solely to propose
terms of capitulation. On the other hand, Heyward began to throw sundry
inducements in the way of the French general, to betray the discoveries he
had made through the intercepted letter. The artifice of neither, however,
succeeded; and after a protracted and fruitless interview, Duncan took his
leave, favorably impressed with an opinion of the courtesy and talents of
the enemy's captain, but as ignorant of what he came to learn as when he
arrived. Montcalm followed him as far as the entrance of the marquee,
renewing his invitations to the commandant of the fort to give him an
immediate meeting in the open ground between the two armies.

There they separated, and Duncan returned to the advanced post of the
French, accompanied as before; whence he instantly proceeded to the fort,
and to the quarters of his own commander.

Chapter 16

"Edg.--Before you fight the battle ope this letter".--Lear

Major Heyward found Munro attended only by his daughters. Alice sat upon his
knee, parting the gray hairs on the forehead of the old man with her
delicate fingers; and whenever he affected to frown on her trifling,
appeasing his assumed anger by pressing her ruby lips fondly on his wrinkled
brow. Cora was seated nigh them, a calm and amused looker-on; regarding the
wayward movements of her more youthful sister with that species of maternal
fondness which characterized her love for Alice. Not only the dangers
through which they had passed, but those which still impended above them,
appeared to be momentarily forgotten, in the soothing indulgence of such a
family meeting. It seemed as if they had profited by the short truce, to
devote an instant to the purest and best affection; the daughters forgetting
their fears, and the veteran his cares, in the security of the moment. Of
this scene, Duncan, who, in his eagerness to report his arrival, had entered
unannounced, stood many moments an unobserved and a delighted spectator. But
the quick and dancing eyes of Alice soon caught a glimpse of his figure
reflected from a glass, and she sprang blushing from her father's knee,
exclaiming aloud:

"Major Heyward"!

"What of the lad"? demanded her father; "I have sent him to crack a little
with the Frenchman. Ha, sir, you are young, and you're nimble! Away with
you, ye baggage; as if there were not troubles enough for a soldier, without
having his camp filled with such prattling hussies as yourself"!

Alice laughingly followed her sister, who instantly led the way from an
apartment where she perceived their presence was no longer desirable. Munro,
instead of demanding the result of the young man's mission, paced the room
for a few moments, with his hands behind his back, and his head inclined
toward the floor, like a man lost in thought. At length he raised his eyes,
glistening with a father's fondness, and exclaimed:

"They are a pair of excellent girls, Heyward, and such as any one may boast
of".

"You are not now to learn my opinion of your daughters, Colonel Munro".

"True, lad, true", interrupted the impatient old man; "you were about
opening your mind more fully on that matter the day you got in, but I did
not think it becoming in an old soldier to be talking of nuptial blessings
and wedding jokes when the enemies of his king were likely to be unbidden
guests at the feast. But I was wrong, Duncan, boy, I was wrong there; and I
am now ready to hear what you have to say".

"Notwithstanding the pleasure your assurance gives me, dear sir, I have just
now, a message from Montcalm----"

"Let the Frenchman and all his host go to the devil, sir"! exclaimed the
hasty veteran. "He is not yet master of William Henry, nor shall he ever be,
provided Webb proves himself the man he should. No, sir, thank Heaven we are
not yet in such a strait that it can be said Munro is too much pressed to
discharge the little domestic duties of his own family. Your mother was the
only child of my bosom friend, Duncan; and I'll just give you a hearing,
though all the knights of St. Louis were in a body at the sally-port, with
the French saint at their head, crying to speak a word under favor. A pretty
degree of knighthood, sir, is that which can be bought with sugar hogsheads!
and then your twopenny marquisates. The thistle is the order for dignity and
antiquity; the veritable "nemo me impune lacessit" of chivalry. Ye had
ancestors in that degree, Duncan, and they were an ornamnet to the nobles of
Scotland".

Heyward, who perceived that his superior took a malicious pleasure in
exhibiting his contempt for the message of the French general, was fain to
humor a spleen that he knew would be short-lived; he therefore, replied with
as much indifference as he could assume on such a subject:

"My request, as you know, sir, went so far as to presume to the honor of
being your son".

"Ay, boy, you found words to make yourself very plainly comprehended. But,
let me ask ye, sir, have you been as intelligible to the girl"?

"On my honor, no", exclaimed Duncan, warmly; "there would have been an abuse
of a confided trust, had I taken advantage of my situation for such a
purpose".

"Your notions are those of a gentleman, Major Heyward, and well enough in
their place. But Cora Munro is a maiden too discreet, and of a mind too
elevated and improved, to need the guardianship even of a father".

"Cora"!

"Ay--Cora! we are talking of your pretensions to Miss Munro, are we not,
sir"?

"I--I--I was not conscious of having mentioned her name", said Duncan,
stammering.

"And to marry whom, then, did you wish my consent, Major Heyward"? demanded
the old soldier, erecting himself in the dignity of offended feeling.

"You have another, and not less lovely child".

"Alice"! exclaimed the father, in an astonishment equal to that with which
Duncan had just repeated the name of her sister.

"Such was the direction of my wishes, sir".

The young man awaited in silence the result of the extraordinary effect
produced by a communication, which, as it now appeared, was so unexpected.
For several minutes Munro paced the chamber with long and rapid strides, his
rigid features working convulsively, and every faculty seemingly absorbed in
the musings of his own mind. At length, he paused directly in front of
Heyward, and riveting his eyes upon those of the other, he said, with a lip
that quivered violently:

"Duncan Heyward, I have loved you for the sake of him whose blood is in your
veins; I have loved you for your own good qualities; and I have loved you,
because I thought you would contribute to the happiness of my child. But all
this love would turn to hatred, were I assured that what I so much apprehend
is true".

"God forbid that any act or thought of mine should lead to such a change"!
exclaimed the young man, whose eye never quailed under the penetrating look
it encountered. Without adverting to the impossibility of the other's
comprehending those feelings which were hid in his own bosom, Munro suffered
himself to be appeased by the unaltered countenance he met, and with a voice
sensibly softened, he continued:

"You would be my son, Duncan, and you're ignorant of the history of the man
you wish to call your father. Sit ye down, young man, and I will open to you
the wounds of a seared heart, in as few words as may be suitable".

By this time, the message of Montcalm was as much forgotten by him who bore
it as by the man for whose ears it was intended. Each drew a chair, and
while the veteran communed a few moments with his own thoughts, apparently
in sadness, the youth suppressed his impatience in a look and attitude of
respectful attention. At length, the former spoke:

"You'll know, already, Major Heyward, that my family was both ancient and
honorable", commenced the Scotsman; "though it might not altogether be
endowed with that amount of wealth that should correspond with its degree. I
was, maybe, such an one as yourself when I plighted my faith to Alice
Graham, the only child of a neighboring laird of some estate. But the
connection was disagreeable to her father, on more accounts than my poverty.
I did, therefore, what an honest man should--restored the maiden her troth,
and departed the country in the service of my king. I had seen many regions,
and had shed much blood in different lands, before duty called me to the
islands of the West Indies. There it was my lot to form a connection with
one who in time became my wife, and the mother of Cora. She was the daughter
of a gentleman of those isles, by a lady whose misfortune it was, if you
will", said the old man, proudly, "to be descended, remotely, from that
unfortunate class who are so basely enslaved to administer to the wants of a
luxurious people. Ay, sir, that is a curse, entailed on Scotland by her
unnatural union with a foreign and trading people. But could I find a man
among them who would dare to reflect on my child, he should feel the weight
of a father's anger! Ha! Major Heyward, you are yourself born at the south,
where these unfortunate beings are considered of a race inferior to your
own".

"'Tis most unfortunately true, sir", said Duncan, unable any longer to
prevent his eyes from sinking to the floor in embarrassment.

"And you cast it on my child as a reproach! You scorn to mingle the blood of
the Heywards with one so degraded--lovely and virtuous though she be"?
fiercely demanded the jealous parent.

"Heaven protect me from a prejudice so unworthy of my reason"! returned
Duncan, at the same time conscious of such a feeling, and that as deeply
rooted as if it had been ingrafted in his nature. "The sweetness, the
beauty, the witchery of your younger daughter, Colonel Munro, might explain
my motives without imputing to me this injustice".

"Ye are right, sir", returned the old man, again changing his tones to those
of gentleness, or rather softness; "the girl is the image of what her mother
was at her years, and before she had become acquainted with grief. When
death deprived me of my wife I returned to Scotland, enriched by the
marriage; and, would you think it, Duncan! the suffering angel had remained
in the heartless state of celibacy twenty long years, and that for the sake
of a man who could forget her! She did more, sir; she overlooked my want of
faith, and, all difficulties being now removed, she took me for her
husband".

"And became the mother of Alice"? exclaimed Duncan, with an eagerness that
might have proved dangerous at a moment when the thoughts of Munro were less
occupied that at present.

"She did, indeed", said the old man, "and dearly did she pay for the
blessing she bestowed. But she is a saint in heaven, sir; and it ill becomes
one whose foot rests on the grave to mourn a lot so blessed. I had her but a
single year, though; a short term of happiness for one who had seen her
youth fade in hopeless pining".

There was something so commanding in the distress of the old man, that
Heyward did not dare to venture a syllable of consolation. Munro sat utterly
unconscious of the other's presence, his features exposed and working with
the anguish of his regrets, while heavy tears fell from his eyes, and rolled
unheeded from his cheeks to the floor. At length he moved, and as if
suddenly recovering his recollection; when he arose, and taking a single
turn across the room, he approached his companion with an air of military
grandeur, and demanded:

"Have you not, Major Heyward, some communication that I should hear from the
marquis de Montcalm"?

Duncan started in his turn, and immediately commenced in an embarrassed
voice, the half-forgotten message. It is unnecessary to dwell upon the
evasive though polite manner with which the French general had eluded every
attempt of Heyward to worm from him the purport of the communication he had
proposed making, or on the decided, though still polished message, by which
he now gave his enemy to understand, that, unless he chose to receive it in
person, he should not receive it at all. As Munro listened to the detail of
Duncan, the excited feelings of the father gradually gave way before the
obligations of his station, and when the other was done, he saw before him
nothing but the veteran, swelling with the wounded feelings of a soldier.

"You have said enough, Major Heyward", exclaimed the angry old man; "enough
to make a volume of commentary on French civility. Here has this gentleman
invited me to a conference, and when I send him a capable substitute, for
ye're all that, Duncan, though your years are but few, he answers me with a
riddle".

"He may have thought less favorably of the substitue, my dear sir; and you
will remember that the invitation, which he now repeats, was to the
commandant of the works, and not to his second".

"Well, sir, is not a substitute clothed with all the power and dignity of
him who grants the commission? He wishes to confer with Munro! Faith, sir, I
have much inclination to indulge the man, if it should only be to let him
behold the firm countenance we maintain in spite of his numbers and his
summons. There might be not bad policy in such a stroke, young man".

Duncan, who believe it of the last importance that they should speedily come
to the contents of the letter borne by the scout, gladly encouraged this
idea.

"Without doubt, he could gather no confidence by witnessing our
indifference", he said.

"You never said truer word. I could wish, sir, that he would visit the works
in open day, and in the form of a storming party; that is the least failing
method of proving the countenance of an enemy, and would be far preferable
to the battering system he has chosen. The beauty and manliness of warfare
has been much deformed, Major Heyward, by the arts of your Monsieur Vauban.
Our ancestors were far above such scientific cowardice"!

"It may be very true, sir; but we are now obliged to repel art by art. What
is your pleasure in the matter of the interview"?

"I will meet the Frenchman, and that without fear or delay; promptly, sir,
as becomes a servant of my royal master. Go, Major Heyward, and give them a
flourish of the music; and send out a messenger to let them know who is
coming. We will follow with a small guard, for such respect is due to one
who holds the honor of his king in keeping; and hark'ee, Duncan", he added,
in a half whisper, though they were alone, "it may be prudent to have some
aid at hand, in case there should be treachery at the bottom of it all".

The young man availed himself of this order to quit the apartment; and, as
the day was fast coming to a close, he hastened without delay, to make the
necessary arrangements. A very few minutes only were necessary to parade a
few files, and to dispatch an orderly with a flag to announce the approach
of the commandant of the fort. When Duncan had done both these, he led the
guard to the sally-port, near which he found his superior ready, waiting his
appearance. As soon as the usual ceremonials of a military departure were
observed, the veteran and his more youthful companion left the fortress,
attended by the escort.

They had proceeded only a hundred yards from the works, when the little
array which attended the French general to the conference was seen issuing
from the hollow way which formed the bed of a brook that ran between the
batteries of the besiegers and the fort. From the moment that Munro left his
own works to appear in front of his enemy's, his air had been grand, and his
step and countenance highly military. The instant he caught a glimpse of the
white plume that waved in the hat of Montcalm, his eye lighted, and age no
longer appeared to possess any influence over his vast and still muscular
person.

"Speak to the boys to be watchful, sir", he said, in an undertone, to
Duncan; "and to look well to their flints and steel, for one is never safe
with a servant of these Louis's; at the same time, we shall show them the
front of men in deep security. Ye'll understand me, Major Heyward"!

He was interrupted by the clamor of a drum from the approaching Frenchmen,
which was immediately answered, when each party pushed an orderly in
advance, bearing a white flag, and the wary Scotsman halted with his guard
close at his back. As soon as this slight salutation had passed, Montcalm
moved toward them with a quick but graceful step, baring his head to the
veteran, and dropping his spotless plume nearly to the earth in courtesy. If
the air of Munro was more commanding and manly, it wanted both the ease and
insinuating polish of that of the Frenchman. Neither spoke for a few
moments, each regarding the other with curious and interested eyes. Then, as
became his superior rank and the nature of the interview, Montcalm broke the
silence. After uttering the usual words of greeting, he turned to Duncan,
and continued, with a smile of recognition, speaking always in French:

"I am rejoiced, monsieur, that you have given us the pleasure of your
company on this occasion. There will be no necessity to employ an ordinary
interpreter; for, in your hands, I feel the same security as if I spoke your
langauge myself".

Duncan acknowledged the compliment, when Montcalm, turning to his guard,
which in imitation of that of their enemies, pressed close upon him,
continued:

"En arrière, mes enfants--il fait chaud--retirez-vous un peu".

Before Major Heyward would imitate this proof of coinfidence, he glanced his
eyes around the plain, and beheld with uneasiness the numerous dusky groups
of savages, who looked out from the margin of the surrounding woods, curious
spectators of the interview.

"Monsieur de Montcalm will readily acknowledge the difference in our
situation", he said, with some embarrassment, pointing at the same time
toward those dangerous foes, who were to be seen in almost every direction.
"were we to dismiss our guard, we should stand here at the mercy of our
enemies".

"Monsieur, you have the plighted faith of "un gentilhomme Français", for
your safety", returned Montcalm, laying his hand impressively on his heart;
"it should suffice".

"It shall. Fall back", Duncan added to the officer who led the escort; "fall
back, sir, beyond hearing, and wait for orders".

Munro witnessed this movement with manifest uneasiness; nor did he fail to
demand an instant explanation.

"Is it not our interest, sir, to betray distrust"? retorted Duncan.
"Monsieur de Montcalm pledges his word for our safety, and I have ordered
the men to withdraw a little, in order to prove how much we depend on his
assurance".

"It may be all right, sir, but I have no overweening reliance on the faith
of these marquesses, or marquis, as they call themselves. Their patents of
nobility are too common to be certain that they bear the seal of true
honor".

"You forget, dear sir, that we confer with an officer, distinguished alike
in Europe and America for his deeds. From a soldier of his reputation we can
have nothing to apprehend".

The old man made a gesture of resignation, though his rigid features still
betrayed his obstinate adherence to a distrust, which he derived from a sort
of hereditary contempt of his enemy, rather than from any present signs
which might warrant so uncharitable a feeling. Montcalm waited patiently
until this little dialogue in demi-voice was ended, when he drew nigher, and
opened the subject of their conference.

"I have solicited this interview from your superior, monsieur", he said,
"because I believe he will allow himself to be persuaded that he has already
done everything which is necessary for the honor of his prince, and will now
listen to the admonitions of humanity. I will forever bear testimony that
his resistance has been gallant, and was continued as long as there was
hope".

When this opening was translated to Munro, he answered with dignity, but
with sufficienct courtesy:

"However I may prize such testimony from Monsieur Montcalm, it will be more
valuable when it shall be better merited".

The French general smiled, as Duncan gave him the purport of this reply, and
observed:

"What is now so freely accorded to approved courage, may be refused to
useless obstinacy. Monsieur would wish to see my camp, and witness for
himself our numbers, and the impossibility of his resisting them with
success"?

"I know that the king of France is well served", returned the unmoved
Scotsman, as soon as Duncan ended his translation; "but my own royal master
has as many and as faithful troops".

"Though not at hand, fortunately for us", said Montcalm, without waiting, in
his ardor, for the interpreter. "There is a destiny in war, to which a brave
man knows how to submit with the same courage that he faces his foes".

"Had I been conscious that Monsieur Montcalm was master of the English, I
should have spared myself the trouble of so awkward a translation", said the
vexed Duncan, dryly; remembering instantly his recent by-play with Munro.

"Your pardon, monsieur", rejoined the Frenchman, suffering a slight color to
appear on his dark cheek. "There is a vast difference between understanding
and speaking a foreign tongue; you will, therefore, please to assist me
still". Then, after a short pause, he added: "These hills afford us every
opportunity of reconnoitering your works, messieurs, and I am possibly as
well acquainted with their weak condition as you can be yourselves".

"Ask the French general if his glasses can reach to the Hudson", said Munro,
proudly; "and if he knows when and where to expect the army of Webb".

"Let General Webb be his own interpreter", returned the politic Montcalm,
suddenly extending an open letter toward Munro as he spoke; "you will there
learn, monsieur, that his movements are not likely to prove embarrassing to
my army".

The veteran seized the offered paper, without waiting for Duncan to
translate the speech, and with an eagerness that betrayed how important he
deemed its contents. As his eye passed hastily over the words, his
countenance changed from its look of military pride to one of deep chagrin;
his lip began to quiver; and suffering the paper to fall from his hand, his
head dropped upon his chest, like that of a man whose hopes were withered at
a single blow. Duncan caught the letter from the ground, and without apology
for the liberty he took, he read at a glance its cruel purport. Their common
superior, so far from encouraging them to resist, advised a speedy
surrender, urging in the plainest language, as a reason, the utter
impossibility of his sending a single man to their rescue.

"Here is no deception"! exclaimed Duncan, examining the billet both inside
and out; "this is the signature of Webb, and must be the captured letter".

"The man has betrayed me"! Munro at length bitterly exclaimed; "he has
brought dishonor to the door of one where disgrace was never before known to
dwell, and shame has he heaped heavily on my gray hairs".

"Say not so", cried Duncan; "we are yet masters of the fort, and of our
honor. Let us, then, sell our lives at such a rate as shall make our enemies
believe the purchase too dear".

"Boy, I thank thee", exclaimed the old man, rousing himself from his stupor;
"you have, for once, reminded Munro of his duty. We will go back, and dig
our graves behind those ramparts".

"Messieurs", said Montcalm, advancing toward them a step, in generous
interest, "you little know Louis de St. Vèran if you believe him capable of
profiting by this letter to humble brave men, or to build up a dishonest
reputation for himself. Listen to my terms before you leave me".

"What says the Frenchman"? demanded the veteran, sternly; "does he make a
merit of having captured a scout, with a note from headquarters? Sir, he had
better raise this siege, to go and sit down before Edward if he wishes to
frighten his enemy with words".

Duncan explained the other's meaning.

"Monsieur de Montcalm, we will hear you", the veteran added, more calmly, as
Duncan ended.

"To retain the fort is now impossible", said his liberal enemy; "it is
necessary to the interests of my master that it should be destroyed; but as
for yourselves and your brave comrades, there is no privilege dear to a
soldier that shall be denied".

"Our colors"? demanded Heyward.

"Carry them to England, and show them to your king".

"Our arms"?

"Keep them; none can use them better".

"Our march; the surrender of the place"?

"Shall all be done in a way most honorable to yourselves".

Duncan now turned to explain these proposals to his commander, who heard him
with amazement, and a sensibility that was deeply touched by so unusual and
unexpected generosity.

"Go you, Duncan", he said; "go with this marquess, as, indeed, marquess he
should be; go to his marquee and arrange it all. I have lived to see two
things in my old age that never did I expect to behold. An Englishman afraid
to support a friend, and a Frenchman too honest to profit by his advantage".

So saying, the veteran again dropped his head to his chest, and returned
slowly toward the fort, exhibiting, by the dejection of his air, to the
anxious garrison, a harbinger of evil tidings.

From the shock of this unexpected blow the haughty feelings of Munro never
recovered; but from that moment there commenced a change in his determined
character, which accompanied him to a speedy grave. Duncan remained to
settle the terms of the capitulation. He was seen to re-enter the works
during the first watches of the night, and immediately after a private
conference with the commandant, to leave them again. It was then openly
announced that hostilities must cease--Munro having signed a treaty by which
the place was to be yielded to the enemy, with the morning; the garrison to
retain their arms, the colors and their baggage, and, consequently,
according to military opinion, their honor.

Chapter 17

"Weave we the woof. The thread is spun.
The web is wove. The work is done".--Gray

The hostile armies, which lay in the wilds of the Horican, passed the night
of the ninth of August, 1757, much in the manner they would, had they
encountered on the fairest field of Europe. While the conquered were still,
sullen, and dejected, the victors triumphed. But there are limits alike to
grief and joy; and long before the watches of the morning came the stillness
of those boundless woods was only broken by a gay call from some exulting
young Frenchman of the advanced pickets, or a menacing challenge from the
fort, which sternly forbade the approach of any hostile footsteps before the
stipulated moment. Even these occasional threatening sounds ceased to be
heard in that dull hour which precedes the day, at which period a listener
might have sought in vain any evidence of the presence of those armed powers
that then slumbered on the shores of the "holy lake".

It was during these moments of deep silence that the canvas which concealed
the entrance to a spacious marquee in the French encampment was shoved
aside, and a man issued from beneath the drapery into the open air. He was
enveloped in a cloak that might have been intended as a protection from the
chilling damps of the woods, but which served equally well as a mantle to
conceal his person. He was permitted to pass the grenadier, who watched over
the slumbers of the French commander, without interruption, the man making
the usual salute which betokens military deference, as the other passed
swiftly through the little city of tents, in the direction of William Henry.
Whenever this unknown individual encountered one of the numberless sentinels
who crossed his path, his answer was prompt, and, as it appeared,
satisfactory; for he was uniformly allowed to proceed without further
interrogation.

With the exception of such repeated but brief interruptions, he had moved
silently from the center of the camp to its most advanced outposts, when he
drew nigh the soldier who held his watch nearest to the works of the enemy.
As he approached he was received with the usual challenge:

"Qui vive"?

"France", was the reply.

"Le mot d'ordre"?

"La victorie", said the other, drawing so nigh as to be heard in a loud
whisper.

"C'est bien", returned the sentinel, throwing his musket from the charge to
his shoulder; "vous promenez bien matin, monsieur"!

"Il est nécessaire d'âtre vigilant, mon enfant", the other observed,
dropping a fold of his cloak, and looking the soldier close in the face as
he passed him, still continuing his way toward the British fortification.
The man started; his arms rattled heavily as he threw them forward in the
lowest and most respectful salute; and when he had again recovered his
piece, he turned to walk his post, muttering between his teeth:

"Il faut âtre vigilant, en vérité! je crois que nous avons là, un caporal
qui ne dort jamais"!

The officer proceeded, without affecting to hear the words which escaped the
sentinel in his surprise; nor did he again pause until he had reached the
low strand, and in a somewhat dangerous vicinity to the western water
bastion of the fort. The light of an obscure moon was just sufficient to
render objects, though dim, perceptible in their outlines. He, therefore,
took the precaution to place himself against the trunk of a tree, where he
leaned for many minutes, and seemed to contemplate the dark and silent
mounds of the English works in profound attention. His gaze at the ramparts
was not that of a curious or idle spectator; but his looks wandered from
point to point, denoting his knowledge of military usages, and betraying
that his search was not unaccompanied by distrust. At length he appeared
satisfied; and having cast his eyes impatiently upward toward the summit of
the eastern mountain, as if anticipating the approach of the morning, he was
in the act of turning on his footsteps, when a light sound on the nearest
angle of the bastion caught his ear, and induced him to remain.

Just then a figure was seen to approach the edge of the rampart, where it
stood, apparently contemplating in its turn the distant tents of the French
encampment. Its head was then turned toward the east, as though equally
anxious for the appearance of light, when the form leaned against the mound,
and seemed to gaze upon the glassy expanse of the waters, which, like a
submarine firmament, glittered with its thousand mimic stars. The melancholy
air, the hour, together with the vast frame of the man who thus leaned,
musing, against the English ramparts, left no doubt as to his person in the
mind of the observant spectator. Delicacy, no less than prudence, now urged
him to retire; and he had moved cautiously round the body of the tree for
that purpose, when another sound drew his attention, and once more arrested
his footsteps. It was a low and almost inaudible movement of the water, and
was succeeded by a grating of pebbles one against the other. In a moment he
saw a dark form rise, as it were, out of the lake, and steal without further
noise to the land, within a few feet of the place where he himself stood. A
rifle next slowly rose between his eyes and the watery mirror; but before it
could be discharged his own hand was on the lock.

"Hugh"! exclaimed the savage, whose treacherous aim was so singularly and so
unexpectedly interrupted.

Without making any reply, the French officer laid his hand on the shoulder
of the Indian, and led him in profound silence to a distance from the spot,
where their subsequent dialogue might have proved dangerous, and where it
seemed that one of them, at least, sought a victim. Then throwing open his
cloak, so as to expose his uniform and the cross of St. Louis which was
suspended at his breast, Montcalm sternly demanded:

"What means this? Does not my son know that the hatchet is buried between
the English and his Canadian Father"?

"What can the Hurons do"? returned the savage, speaking also, though
imperfectly, in the French language.

"Not a warrior has a scalp, and the pale faces make friends"!

"Ha, Le Renard Subtil! Methinks this is an excess of zeal for a friend who
was so late an enemy! How many suns have set since Le Renard struck the
war-post of the English"?

"Where is that sun"? demanded the sullen savage. "Behind the hill; and it is
dark and cold. But when he comes again, it will be bright and warm. Le
Subtil is the sun of his tribe. There have been clouds, and many mountains
between him and his nation; but now he shines and it is a clear sky"!

"That Le Renard has power with his people, I well know", said Montcalm; "for
yesterday he hunted for their scalps, and to-day they hear him at the
council-fire".

"Magua is a great chief".

"Let him prove it, by teaching his nation how to conduct themselves toward
our new friends".

"Why did the chief of the Canadas bring his young men into the woods, and
fire his cannon at the earthen house"? demanded the subtle Indian.

"To subdue it. My master owns the land, and your father was ordered to drive
off these English squatters. They have consented to go, and now he calls
them enemies no longer".

"'Tis well. Magua took the hatchet to color it with blood. It is now bright;
when it is red, it shall be buried".

"But Magua is pledged not to sully the lilies of France. The enemies of the
great king across the salt lake are his enemies; his friends, the friends of
the Hurons".

"Friends"! repeated the Indian in scorn. "Let his father give Magua a hand".

Montcalm, who felt that his influence over the warlike tribes he had
gathered was to be maintained by concession rather than by power, complied
reluctantly with the other's request. The savage placed the fingers of the
French commander on a deep scar in his bosom, and then exultingly demanded:

"Does my father know that"?

"What warrior does not? 'Tis where a leaden bullet has cut".

"And this"? continued the Indian, who had turned his naked back to the
other, his body being without its usual calico mantle.

"This!--my son has been sadly injured here; who has done this"?

"Magua slept hard in the English wigwams, and the sticks have left their
mark", returned the savage, with a hollow laugh, which did not conceal the
fierce temper that nearly choked him. Then, recollecting himself, with
sudden and native dignity, he added: "Go; teach your young men it is peace.
Le Renard Subtil knows how to speak to a Huron warrior".

Without deigning to bestow further words, or to wait for any answer, the
savage cast his rifle into the hollow of his arm, and moved silently through
the encampment toward the woods where his own tribe was known to lie. Every
few yards as he proceeded he was challenged by the sentinels; but he stalked
sullenly onward, utterly disregarding the summons of the soldiers, who only
spared his life because they knew the air and tread no less than the
obstinate daring of an Indian.

Montcalm lingered long and melancholy on the strand where he had been left
by his companion, brooding deeply on the temper which his ungovernable ally
had just discovered. Already had his fair fame been tarnished by one horrid
scene, and in circumstances fearfully resembling those under which he how
found himself. As he mused he became keenly sensible of the deep
responsibility they assume who disregard the means to attain the end, and of
all the danger of setting in motion an engine which it exceeds human power
to control. Then shaking off a train of reflections that he accounted a
weakness in such a moment of triumph, he retraced his steps toward his tent,
giving the order as he passed to make the signal that should arouse the army
from its slumbers.

The first tap of the French drums was echoed from the bosom of the fort, and
presently the valley was filled with the strains of martial music, rising
long, thrilling and lively above the rattling accompaniment. The horns of
the victors sounded merry and cheerful flourishes, until the last laggard of
the camp was at his post; but the instant the British fifes had blown their
shrill signal, they became mute. In the meantime the day had dawned, and
when the line of the French army was ready to receive its general, the rays
of a brilliant sun were glancing along the glittering array. Then that
success, which was already so well known, was officially announced; the
favored band who were selected to guard the gates of the fort were detailed,
and defiled before their chief; the signal of their approach was given, and
all the usual preparations for a change of masters were ordered and executed
directly under the guns of the contested works.

A very different scene presented itself within the lines of the
Anglo-American army. As soon as the warning signal was given, it exhibited
all the signs of a hurried and forced departure. The sullen soldiers
shouldered their empty tubes and fell into their places, like men whose
blood had been heated by the past contest, and who only desired the
opportunity to revenge an indignity which was still wounding to their pride,
concealed as it was under the observances of military etiquette.

Women and children ran from place to place, some bearing the scanty remnants
of their baggage, and others searching in the ranks for those countenances
they looked up to for protection.

Munro appeared among his silent troops firm but dejected. It was evident
that the unexpected blow had struck deep into his heart, though he struggled
to sustain his misfortune with the port of a man.

Duncan was touched at the quiet and impressive exhibition of his grief. He
had discharged his own duty, and he now pressed to the side of the old man,
to know in what particular he might serve him.

"My daughters", was the brief but expressive reply.

"Good heavens! are not arrangements already made for their convenience"?

"To-day I am only a soldier, Major Heyward", said the veteran. "All that you
see here, claim alike to be my children".

Duncan had heard enough. Without losing one of those moments which had now
become so precious, he flew toward the quarters of Munro, in quest of the
sisters. He found them on the threshold of the low edifice, already prepared
to depart, and surrounded by a clamorous and weeping assemblage of their own
sex, that had gathered about the place, with a sort of instinctive
consciousness that it was the point most likely to be protected. Though the
cheeks of Cora were pale and her countenance anxious, she had lost none of
her firmness; but the eyes of Alice were inflamed, and betrayedhow long and
bitterly she had wept. They both, however, received the young man with
undisguised pleasure; the former, for a novelty, being the first to speak.

"The fort is lost", she said, with a melancholy smile; "though our good
name, I trust, remains".

"'Tis brighter than ever. But, dearest Miss Munro, it is time to think less
of others, and to make some provision for yourself. Military
usage--pride--that pride on which you so much value yourself, demands that
your father and I should for a little while continue with the troops. Then
where to seek a proper protector for you against the confusion and chances
of such a scene"?

"None is necessary", returned Cora; "who will dare to injure or insult the
daughter of such a father, at a time like this"?

"I would not leave you alone", continued the youth, looking about him in a
hurried manner, "for the command of the best regiment in the pay of the
king. Remember, our Alice is not gifted with all your firmness, and God only
knows the terror she might endure".

"You may be right", Cora replied, smiling again, but far more sadly than
before. "Listen! chance has already sent us a friend when he is most
needed".

Duncan did listen, and on the instant comprehended her meaning. The low and
serious sounds of the sacred music, so well known to the eastern provinces,
caught his ear, and instantly drew him to an apartment in an adjacent
building, which had already been deserted by its customary tenants. There he
found David, pouring out his pious feelings through the only medium in which
he ever indulged. Duncan waited, until, by the cessation of the movment of
the hand, he believed the strain was ended, when, by touching his shoulder,
he drew the attention of the other to himself, and in a few words explained
his wishes.

"Even so", replied the single-minded disciple of the King of Israel, when
the young man had ended; "I have found much that is comely and melodious in
the maidens, and it is fitting that we who have consorted in so much peril,
should abide together in peace. I will attend them, when I have completed my
morning praise, to which nothing is now wanting but the doxology. Wilt thou
bear a part, friend? The meter is common, and the tune "Southwell"".

Then, extending the little volume, and giving the pitch of the air anew with
considerate attention, David recommenced and finished his strains, with a
fixedness of manner that it was not easy to interrupt. Heyward was fain to
wait until the verse ws ended; when, seeing David relieving himself from the
spectacles, and replacing the book, he continued.

"It will be your duty to see that none dare to approach the ladies with any
rude intention, or to offer insult or taunt at the misfortune of their brave
father. In this task you will be seconded by the domestics of their
household".

"Even so".

"It is possible that the Indians and stragglers of the enemy may intrude, in
which case you will remind them of the terms of the capitulation, and
threaten to report their conduct to Montcalm. A word will suffice".

"If not, I have that here which shall", returned David, exhibiting his book,
with an air in which meekness and confidence were singularly blended. Here
are words which, uttered, or rather thundered, with proper emphasis, and in
measured time, shall quiet the most unruly temper:

""Why rage the heathen furiously""?

"Enough", said Heyward, interrupting the burst of his musical invocation;
"we understand each other; it is time that we should now assume our
respective duties".

Gamut cheerfully assented, and together they sought the females. Cora
received her new and somewhat extraordinary protector courteously, at least;
and even the pallid features of Alice lighted again with some of their
native archness as she thanked Heyward for his care. Duncan took occasion to
assure them he had done the best that circumstances permitted, and, as he
believed, quite enough for the security of their feelings; of danger there
was none. He then spoke gladly of his intention to rejoin them the moment he
had led the advance a few miles toward the Hudson, and immediately took his
leave.

By this time the signal for departure had been given, and the head of the
English column was in motion. The sisters started at the sound, and glancing
their eyes around, they saw the white uniforms of the French grenadiers, who
had already taken possession of the gates of the fort. At that moment an
enormous cloud seemed to pass suddenly above their heads, and, looking
upward, they discovered that they stood beneath the wide folds of the
standard of France.

"Let us go", said Cora; "this is no longer a fit place for the children of
an English officer".

Alice clung to the arm of her sister, and together they left the parade,
accompanied by the moving throng that surrounded them.

As they passed the gates, the French officers, who had learned their rank,
bowed often and low, forbearing, however, to intrude those attentions which
they saw, with peculiar tact, might not be agreeable. As every vehicle and
each beast of burden was occupied by the sick and wounded, Cora had decided
to endure the fatigues of a foot march, rather than interfere with their
comforts. Indeed, many a maimed and feeble soldier was compelled to drag his
exhausted limbs in the rear of the columns, for the want of the necessary
means of conveyance in that wilderness. The whole, however, was in motion;
the weak and wounded, groaning and in suffering; their comrades silent and
sullen; and the women and children in terror, they knew not of what.

As the confused and timid throng left the protecting mounds of the fort, and
issued on the open plain, the whole scene was at once presented to their
eyes. At a little distance on the right, and somewhat in the rear, the
French army stood to their arms, Montcalm having collected his parties, so
soon as his guards had possession of the works. They were attentive but
silent observers of the proceedings of the vanquished, failing in none of
the stipulated military honors, and offering no taunt or insult, in their
success, to their less fortunate foes. Living masses of the English, to the
amount, in the whole, of near three thousand, were moving slowly across the
plain, toward the common center, and gradually approached each other, as
they converged to the point of their march, a vista cut through the lofty
trees, where the road to the Hudson entered the forest. Along the sweeping
borders of the woods hung a dark cloud of savages, eyeing the passage of
their enemies, and hovering at a distance, like vultures who were only kept
from swooping on their prey by the presence and restraint of a superior
army. A few had straggled among the conquered columns, where they stalked in
sullen discontent; attentive, though, as yet, passive observers of the
moving multitude.

The advance, with Heyward at its head, had already reached the defile, and
was slowly disappearing, when the attention of Cora was drawn to a
collection of stragglers by the sounds of contention. A truant provincial
was paying the forfeit of his disobedience, by being plundered of those very
effects which had caused him to desert his place in the ranks. The man was
of powerful frame, and too avaricious to part with his goods without a
struggle. Individuals from either party interfered; the one side to prevent
and the other to aid in the robbery. Voices grew loud and angry, and a
hundred savages appeared, as it were, by magic, where a dozen only had been
seen a minute before. It was then that Cora saw the form of Magua gliding
among his countrymen, and speaking with his fatal and artful eloquence. The
mass of women and children stopped, and hovered together like alarmed and
fluttering birds. But the cupidity of the Indian was soon gratified, and the
different bodies again moved slowly onward.

The savages now fell back, and seemed content to let their enemies advance
without further molestation. But, as the female crowd approached them, the
gaudy colors of a shawl attracted the eyes of a wild and untutored Huron. He
advanced to seize it without the least hesitation. The woman, more in terror
than through love of the ornament, wrapped her child in the coveted article,
and folded both more closely to her bosom. Cora was in the act of speaking,
with an intent to advise the woman to abandon the trifle, when the savage
relinquished his hold of the shawl, and tore the screaming infant from her
arms. Abandoning everything to the greedy grasp of those around her, the
mother darted, with distraction in her mien, to reclaim her child. The
Indian smiled grimly, and extended one hand, in sign of a willingness to
exchange, while, with the other, he flourished the babe over his head,
holding it by the feet as if to enhance the value of the ransom.

"Here--here--there--all--any--everything"! exclaimed the breathless woman,
tearing the lighter articles of dress from her person with ill-directed and
trembling fingers; "take all, but give me my babe"!

The savage spurned the worthless rags, and perceiving that the shawl had
already become a prize to another, his bantering but sullen smile changing
to a gleam of ferocity, he dashed the head of the infant against a rock, and
cast its quivering remains to her very feet. For an instant the mother
stood, like a statue of despair, looking wildly down at the unseemly object,
which had so lately nestled in her bosom and smiled in her face; and then
she raised her eyes and countenance toward heaven, as if calling on God to
curse the perpetrator of the foul deed. She was spared the sin of such a
prayer for, maddened at his disappointment, and excited at the sight of
blood, the Huron mercifully drove his tomahawk into her own brain. The
mother sank under the blow, and fell, grasping at her child, in death, with
the same engrossing love that had caused her to cherish it when living.

At that dangerous moment, Magua placed his hands to his mouth, and rasied
the fatal and appalling whoop. The scattered Indians started at the
well-known cry, as coursers bound at the signal to quit the goal; and
directly there arose such a yell along the plain, and through the arches of
the wood, as seldom burst from human lips before. They who heard it listened
with a curdling horror at the heart, little inferior to that dread which may
be expected to attend the blasts of the final summons.

More than two thousand raving savages broke from the forest at the signal,
and threw themselves across the fatal plain with instinctive alacrity. We
shall not dwell on the revolting horrors that succeeded. Death was
everywhere, and in his most terrific and disgusting aspects. Resistance only
served to inflame the murderers, who inflicted their furious blows long
after their victims were beyond the power of their resentment. The flow of
blood might be likened to the outbreaking of a torrent; and as the natives
became heated and maddened by the sight, many among them even kneeled to the
earth, and drank freely, exultingly, hellishly, of the crimson tide.

The trained bodies of the troops threw themselves quickly into solid masses,
endeavoring to awe their assailants by the imposing appearance of a military
front. The experiment in some measure succeeded, though far too many
suffered their unloaded muskets to be torn from their hands, in the vain
hope of appeasing the savages.

In such a scene none had leisure to note the fleeting moments. It might have
been ten minutes (it seemed an age) that the sisters had stood riveted to
one spot, horror-stricken and nearly helpless. When the first blow was
struck, their screaming companions had pressed upon them in a body,
rendering flight impossible; and now that fear or death had scattered most,
if not all, from around them, they saw no avenue open, but such as conducted
to the tomahawks of their foes. On every side arose shrieks, groans,
exhortations and curses. At this moment, Alice caught a glimpse of the vast
form of her father, moving rapidly across the plain, in the direction of the
French army. He was, in truth, proceeding to Montcalm, fearless of every
danger, to claim the tardy escort for which he had before conditioned. Fifty
glittering axes and barbed spears were offered unheeded at his life, but the
savages respected his rank and calmness, even in their fury. The dangerous
weapons were brushed aside by the still nervous arm of the veteran, or fell
of themselves, after menacing an act that it would seem no one had courage
to perform. Fortunately, the vindictive Magua was searching for his victim
in the very band the veteran hd just quitted.

"Father--father--we are here"! shrieked Alice, as he passed, at no great
distance, without appearing to heed them. "Come to us, father, or we die"!

The cry was repeated, and in terms and tones that might have melted a heart
of stone, but it was unanswered. Once, indeed, the old man appeared to catch
the sound, for he paused and listened; but Alice had dropped senseless on
the earth, and Cora had sunk at her side, hovering in untiring tenderness
over her lifeless form. Munro shook his head in disappointment, and
proceeded, bent on the high duty of his station.

"Lady", said Gamut, who, helpless and useless as he was, had not yet dreamed
of deserting his trust, "it is the jubilee of the devils, and this is not a
meet place for Christians to tarry in. Let us up and fly".

"Go", said Cora, still gazing at her unconscious sister; "save thyself. To
me thou canst not be of further use".

David comprehended the unyielding character of her resolution, by the simple
but expressive gesture that accompanied her words. He gazed for a moment at
the dusky forms that were acting their hellish rites on every side of him,
and his tall person grew more erect while his chest heaved, and every
feature swelled, and seemed to speak with the power of the feelings by which
he was governed.

"If the Jewish boy might tame the great spirit of Saul by the sound of his
harp, and the words of sacred song, it may not be amiss", he said, "to try
the potency of music here".

Then raising his voice to its highest tone, he poured out a strain so
powerful as to be heard even amid the din of that bloody field. More than
one savage rushed toward them, thinking to rifle the unprotected sisters of
their attire, and bear away their scalps; but when they found this strange
and unmoved figure riveted to his post, they paused to listen. Astonishment
soon changed to admiration, and they passed on to other and less courageous
victims, openly expressing their satisfaction at the firmness with which the
white warrior sang his death song. Encouraged and deluded by his success,
David exerted all his powers to extend what he believed so holy an
influence. The unwonted sounds caught the ears of a distant savage, who flew
raging from group to group, like one who, scorning to touch the vulgar herd,
hunted for some victim more worthy of his renown. It was Magua, who uttered
a yell of pleasure when he beheld his ancient prisoners again at his mercy.

"Come", he said, laying his soiled hands on the dress of Cora, "the wigwam
of the Huron is still open. Is it not better than this place"?

"Away"! cried Cora, veiling her eyes from his revolting aspect.

The Indian laughed tauntingly, as he held up his reeking hand, and answered:
"It is red, but it comes from white veins"!

"Monster! there is blood, oceans of blood, upon thy soul; thy spirit has
moved this scene".

"Magua is a great chief"! returned the exulting savage, "will the dark-hair
go to his tribe"?

"Never! strike if thou wilt, and complete thy revenge". He hesitated a
moment, and then catching the light and senseless form of Alice in his arms,
the subtle Indian moved swiftly across the plain toward the woods.

"Hold"! shrieked Cora, following wildly on his footsteps; "release the
child! wretch! what is't you do"?

But Magua was deaf to her voice; or, rather, he knew his power, and was
determined to maintain it.

"Stay--lady--stay", called Gamut, after the unconscious Cora. "The holy
charm is beginning to be felt, and soon shalt thou see this horrid tumult
stilled".

Perceiving that, in his turn, he was unheeded, the faithful David followed
the distracted sister, raising his voice again in sacred song, and sweeping
the air to the measure, with his long arm, in diligent accompaniment. In
this manner they traversed the plain, through the flying, the wounded and
the dead. The fierce Huron was, at any time, sufficient for himself and the
victim that he bore; though Cora would have fallen more than once under the
blows of her savage enemies, but for the extraordinary being who stalked in
her rear, and who now appeared to the astonished natives gifted with the
protecting spirit of madness.

Magua, who knew how to avoid the more pressing dangers, and also to elude
pursuit, entered the woods through a low ravine, where he quickly found the
Narragansetts, which the travelers had abandoned so shortly before, awaiting
his appearance, in custody of a savage as fierce and malign in his
expression as himself. Laying Alice on one of the horses, he made a sign to
Cora to mount the other.

Notwithstanding the horror excited by the presence of her captor, there was
a present relief in escaping from the bloody scene enacting on the plain, to
which Cora could not be altogether insensible. She took her seat, and held
forth her arms for her sister, with an air of entreaty and love that even
the Huron could not deny. Placing Alice, then, on the same animal with Cora,
he seized the bridle, and commenced his route by plunging deeper into the
forest. David, perceiving that he was left alone, utterly disregarded as a
subject too worthless even to destroy, threw his long limb across the saddle
of the beast they had deserted, and made such progress in the pursuit as the
difficulties of the path permitted.

They soon began to ascend; but as the motion had a tendency to revive the
dormant faculties of her sister, the attention of Cora was too much divided
between the tenderest solicitude in her behalf, and in listening to the
cries which were still too audible on the plain, to note the direction in
which they journeyed. When, however, they gained the flattened surface of
the mountain-top, and approached the eastern precipice, she recognized the
spot to which she had once before been led under the more friendly auspices
of the scout. Here Magua suffered them to dismount; and notwithstanding
their own captivity, the curiosity which seems inseparable from horror,
induced them to gaze at the sickening sight below.

The cruel work was still unchecked. On every side the captured were flying
before their relentless persecutors, while the armed columns of the
Christian king stood fast in an apathy which has never been explained, and
which has left an immovable blot on the otherwise fair escutcheon of their
leader. Nor was the sword of death stayed until cupidity got the mastery of
revenge. Then, indeed, the shrieks of the wounded, and the yells of their
murderers grew less frequent, until, finally, the cries of horror were lost
to their ear, or were drowned in the loud, long and piercing whoops of the
triumphant savages.

Chapter 18

"Why, anything;
An honorable murderer, if you will;
For naught I did in hate, but all in honor".-- Othello

The bloody and inhuman scene rather incidentally mentioned than described in
the preceding chapter, is conspicuous in the pages of colonial history by
the merited title of "The Massacre of William Henry". It so far deepened the
stain which a previous and very similar event had left upon the reputation
of the French commander that it was not entirely erased by his early and
glorious death. It is now becoming obscured by time; and thousands, who know
that Montcalm died like a hero on the plains of Abraham, have yet to learn
how much he was deficient in that moral courage without which no man can be
truly great. Pages might be written to prove, from this illustrious example,
the defects of human excellence; to show how easy it is for generous
sentiments, high courtesy, and chivalrous courage to lose their influence
beneath the chilling blight of selfishness, and to exhibit to the world a
man who was great in all the minor attributes of character, but who was
found wanting when it became necessary to prove how much principle is
superior to policy. But the task would exceed our prerogatives; and, as
history, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of
imaginary brightness, it is probable that Louis de Saint Vèran will be
viewed by posterity only as the gallant defender of his country, while his
cruel apathy on the shores of the Oswego and of the Horican will be
forgotten. Deeply regretting this weakness on the part of a sister muse, we
shall at once retire from her sacred precincts, within the proper limits of
our own humble vocation.

The third day from the capture of the fort was drawing to a close, but the
business of the narrative must still detain the reader on the shores of the
"holy lake". When last seen, the environs of the works were filled with
violence and uproar. They were now possessed by stillness and death. The
blood-stained conquerors had departed; and their camp, which had so lately
rung with the merry rejoicings of a victorious army, lay a silent and
deserted city of huts. The fortress was a smoldering ruin; charred rafters,
fragments of exploded artillery, and rent mason-work covering its earthen
mounds in confused disorder.

A frightful change had also occurred in the season. The sun had hid its
warmth behind an impenetrable mass of vapor, and hundreds of human forms,
which had blackened beneath the fierce heats of August, were stiffening in
their deformity before the blasts of a premature November. The curling and
spotless mists, which had been seen sailing above the hills toward the
north, were now returning in an interminable dusky sheet, that was urged
along by the fury of a tempest. The crowded mirror of the Horican was gone;
and, in its place, the green and angry waters lashed the shores, as if
indignantly casting back its impurities to the polluted strand. Still the
clear fountain retained a portion of its charmed influence, but it reflected
only the somber gloom that fell from the impending heavens. That humid and
congenial atmosphere which commonly adorned the view, veiling its harshness,
and softening its asperities, had disappeared, the northern air poured
across the waste of water so harsh and unmingled, that nothing was left to
be conjectured by the eye, or fashioned by the fancy.

The fiercer element had cropped the verdure of the plain, which looked as
though it were scathed by the consuming lightning. But, here and there, a
dark green tuft rose in the midst of the desolation; the earliest fruits of
a soil that had been fattened with human blood. The whole landscape, which,
seen by a favoring light, and in a genial temperature, had been found so
lovely, appeared now like some pictured allegory of life, in which objects
were arrayed in their harshest but truest colors, and without the relief of
any shadowing.

The solitary and arid blades of grass arose from the passing gusts fearfully
perceptible; the bold and rocky mountains were too distinct in their
barrenness, and the eye even sought relief, in vain, by attempting to pierce
the illimitable void of heaven, which was shut to its gaze by the dusky
sheet of ragged and driving vapor.

The wind blew unequally; sometimes sweeping heavily along the ground,
seeming to whisper its moanings in the cold ears of the dead, then rising in
a shrill and mournful whistling, it entered the forest with a rush that
filled the air with the leaves and branches it scattered in its path. Amid
the unnatural shower, a few hungry ravens struggled with the gale; but no
sooner was the green ocean of woods which stretched beneath them, passed,
than they gladly stopped, at random, to their hideous banquet.

In short, it was a scene of wildness and desolation; and it appeared as if
all who had profanely entered it had been stricken, at a blow, by the
relentless arm of death. But the prohibition had ceased; and for the first
time since the perpetrators of those foul deeds which had assisted to
disfigure the scene were gone, living human beings had now presumed to
approach the place.

About an hour before the setting of the sun, on the day already mentioned,
the forms of five men might have been seen issuing from the narrow vista of
trees, where the path to the Hudson entered the forest, and advancing in the
direction of the ruined works. At first their progress was slow and guarded,
as though they entered with reluctance amid the horrors of the post, or
dreaded the renewal of its frightful incidents. A light figure preceded the
rest of the party, with the caution and activity of a native; ascending
every hillock to reconnoiter, and indicating by gestures, to his companions,
the route he deemed it most prudent to pursue. Nor were those in the rear
wanting in every caution and foresight known to forest warfare. One among
them, he also was an Indian, moved a little on one flank, and watched the
margin of the woods, with eyes long accustomed to read the smallest sign of
danger. The remaining three were white, though clad in vestments adapted,
both in quality and color, to their present hazardous pursuit--that of
hanging on the skirts of a retiring army in the wilderness.

The effects produced by the appalling sights that constantly arose in their
path to the lake shore, were as different as the characters of the
respective individuals who composed the party. The youth in front threw
serious but furtive glances at the mangled victims, as he stepped lightly
across the plain, afraid to exhibit his feelings, and yet too inexperienced
to quell entirely their sudden and powerful influence. His red associate,
however, was superior to such a weakness. He passed the groups of dead with
a steadiness of purpose, and an eye so calm,that nothing but long and
inveterate practise could enable him to maintain. The sensations produced in
the minds of even the white men were different, though uniformly sorrowful.
One, whose gray locks and furrowed lineaments, blending with a martial air
and tread, betrayed, in spite of the disguise of a woodsman's dress, a man
long experienced in scenes of war, was not ashamed to groan aloud, whenever
a spectacle of more than usual horror came under his view. The young man at
his elbow shuddered, but seemed to suppress his feelings in tenderness to
his companion. Of them all, the straggler who brought up the rear appeared
alone to betray his real thoughts, without fear of observation or dread of
consequences. He gazed at the most appalling sight with eyes and muscles
that knew not how to waver, but with execrations so bitter and deep as to
denote how much he denounced the crime of his enemies.

The reader will perceive at once, in these respective characters, the
Mohicans, and their white friend, the scout; together with Munro and
Heyward. It was, in truth, the father in quest of his children, attended by
the youth who felt so deep a stake in their happiness, and those brave and
trusty foresters, who had already proved their skill and fidelity through
the trying scenes related.

When Uncas, who moved in front, had reached the center of the plain, he
raised a cry that drew his companions in a body to the spot. The young
warrior had halted over a group of females who lay in a cluster, a confused
mass of dead. Notwithstanding the revolting horror of the exhibition, Munro
and Heyward flew toward the festering heap, endeavoring, with a love that no
unseemliness could extinguish, to discover whether any vestiges of those
they sought were to be seen among the tattered and many-colored garments.
The father and the lover found instant relief in the search; though each was
condemned again to experience the misery of an uncertainty that was hardly
less insupportable than the most revolting truth. They were standing, silent
and thoughtful, around the melancholy pile, when the scout approached.
Eyeing the sad spectacle with an angry countenance, the sturdy woodsman, for
the first time since his entering the plain, spoke intelligibly and aloud:

"I have been on many a shocking field, and have followed a trail of blood
for weary miles", he said, "but never have I found the hand of the devil so
plain as it is here to be seen! Revenge is an Indian feeling, and all who
know me know that there is no cross in my veins; but this much will I
say--here, in the face of heaven, and with the power of the Lord so manifest
in this howling wilderness--that should these Frenchers ever trust
themselves again within the range of a ragged bullet, there is one rifle
which shall play its part so long as flint will fire or powder burn! I leave
the tomahawk and knife to such as have a natural gift to use them. What say
you, Chingachgook", he added, in Delaware; "shall the Hurons boast of this
to their women when the deep snows come"?

A gleam of resentment flashed across the dark lineaments of the Mohican
chief; he loosened his knife in his sheath; and then turning calmly from the
sight, his countenance settled into a repose as deep as if he knew the
instigation of passion.

"Montcalm! Montcalm"! continued the deeply resentful and less
self-restrained scout; "they say a time must come when all the deeds done in
the flesh will be seen at a single look; and that by eyes cleared from
mortal infirmities. Woe betide the wretch who is born to behold this plain,
with the judgment hanging about his soul! Ha--as I am a man of white blood,
yonder lies a red-skin, without the hair of his head where nature rooted it!
Look to him, Delaware; it may be one of your missing people; and he should
have burial like a stout warrior. I see it in your eye, Sagamore; a Huron
pays for this, afore the fall winds have blown away the scent of the blood"!

Chingachgook approached the mutilated form, and, turning it over, he found
the distinguishing marks of one of those six allied tribes, or nations, as
they were called, who, while they fought in the English ranks, were so
deadly hostile to his own people. Spurning the loathsome object with his
foot, he turned from it with the same indifference he would have quitted a
brute carcass. The scout comprehended the action, and very deliberately
pursued his own way, continuing, however, his denunciations against the
French commander in the same resentful strain.

"Nothing but vast wisdom and unlimited power should dare to sweep off men in
multitudes", he added; "for it is only the one that can know the necessity
of the judgment; and what is there, short of the other, that can replace the
creatures of the Lord? I hold it a sin to kill the second buck afore the
first is eaten, unless a march in front, or an ambushment, be contemplated.
It is a different matter with a few warriors in open and rugged fight, for
'tis their gift to die with the rifle or the tomahawk in hand; according as
their natures may happen to be, white or red. Uncas, come this way, lad, and
let the ravens settle upon the Mingo. I know, from often seeing it, that
they have a craving for the flesh of an Oneida; and it is as well to let the
bird follow the gift of its natural appetite".

"Hugh"! exclaimed the young Mohican, rising on the extremities of his feet,
and gazing intently in his front, frightening the ravens to some other prey
by the sound and the action.

"What is it, boy"? whispered the scout, lowering his tall form into a
crouching attitude, like a panther about to take his leap; "God send it be a
tardy Frencher, skulking for plunder. I do believe "killdeer" would take an
uncommon range today"!

Uncas, without making any reply, bounded away from the spot, and in the next
instant he was seen tearing from a bush, and waving in triumph, a fragment
of the green riding-veil of Cora. The movement, the exhibition, and the cry
which again burst from the lips of the young Mohican, instantly drew the
whole party about him.

"My child"! said Munro, speaking quickly and wildly; "give me my child"!

"Uncas will try", was the short and touching answer.

The simple but meaning assurance was lost on the father, who seized the
piece of gauze, and crushed it in his hand, while his eyes roamed fearfully
among the bushes, as if he equally dreaded and hoped for the secrets they
might reveal.

"Here are no dead", sadi Heyward; "the storm seems not to have passed this
way".

"That's manifest; and clearer than the heavens above our heads", returned
the undisturbed scout; "but either she, or they that have robbed her, have
passed the bush; for I remember the rag she wore to hide a face that all did
love to look upon. Uncas, you are right; the dark-hair has been here, and
she has fled like a frightened fawn, to the wood; none who could fly would
remain to be murdered. Let us search for the marks she left; for, to Indian
eyes, I sometimes think a humming-bird leaves his trail in the air".

The young Mohican darted away at the suggestion, and the scout had hardly
done speaking, before the former raised a cry of success from the margin of
the forest. On reaching the spot, the anxious party perceived another
portion of the veil fluttering on the lower branch of a beech.

"Softly, softly", said the scout, extending his long rifle in front of the
eager Heyward; "we now know our work, but the beauty of the trail must not
be deformed. A step too soon may give us hours of trouble. We have them,
though; that much is beyond denial".

"Bless ye, bless ye, worthy man"! exclaimed Munro; "whither then, have they
fled, and where are my babes"?

"The path they have taken depends on many chances. If they have gone alone,
they are quite as likely to move in a circle as straight, and they may be
within a dozen miles of us; but if the Hurons, or any of the French Indians,
have laid hands on them, 'tis probably they are now near the borders of the
Canadas. But what matters that"? continued the deliberate scout, observing
the powerful anxiety and disappointment the listeners exhibited; "here are
the Mohicans and I on one end of the trail, and, rely on it, we find the
other, though they should be a hundred leagues asunder! Gently, gently,
Uncas, you are as impatient as a man in the settlements; you forget that
light feet leave but faint marks"!

"Hugh"! exclaimed Chingachgook, who had been occupied in examining an
opening that had been evidently made through the low underbrush which
skirted the forest; and who now stood erect, as he pointed downward, in the
attitude and with the air of a man who beheld a disgusting serpent.

"Here is the palpable impression of the footstep of a man", cried Heyward,
bending over the indicated spot; "he has trod in the margin of this pool,
and the mark cannot be mistaken. They are captives".

"Better so than left to starve in the wilderness", returned the scout; "and
they will leave a wider trail. I would wager fifty beaver skins against as
many flints, that the Mohicans and I enter their wigwams within the month!
Stoop to it, Uncas, and try what you can make of the moccasin; for moccasin
it plainly is, and no shoe".

The young Mohican bent over the track, and removing the scattered leaves
from around the place, he examined it with much of that sort of scrutiny
that a money dealer, in these days of pecuniary doubts, would bestow on a
suspected due-bill. At length he arose from his knees, satisfied with the
result of the examination.

"Well, boy", demanded the attentive scout; "what does it say? Can you make
anything of the tell-tale"?

"Le Renard Subtil"!

"Ha! that rampaging devil again! there will never be an end of his loping
till "killdeer" has said a friendly word to him".

Heyward reluctantly admitted the truth of this intelligence, and now
expressed rather his hopes than his doubts by saying:

"One moccasin is so much like another, it is probable there is some
mistake".

"One moccasin like another! you may as well say that one foot is like
another; though we all know that some are long, and others short; some broad
and others narrow; some with high, and some with low insteps; some intoed,
and some out. One moccasin is no more like another than one book is like
another: though they who can read in one are seldom able to tell the marks
of the other. Which is all ordered for the best, giving to every man his
natural advantages. Let me get down to it, Uncas; neither book nor moccasin
is the worse for having two opinions, instead of one". The scout stooped to
the task, and instantly added:

"You are right, boy; here is the patch we saw so often in the other chase.
And the fellow will drink when he can get an opportunity; your drinking
Indian always learns to walk with a wider toe than the natural savage, it
being the gift of a drunkard to straddle, whether of white or red skin. 'Tis
just the length and breadth, too! look at it, Sagamore; you measured the
prints more than once, when we hunted the varmints from Glenn's to the
health springs".

Chingachgook complied; and after finishing his short examination, he arose,
and with a quiet demeanor, he merely pronounced the word:

"Magua"!

"Ay, 'tis a settled thing; here, then, have passed the dark-hair and Magua".

"And not Alice"? demanded Heyward.

"Of her we have not yet seen the signs", returned the scout, looking closely
around at the trees, the bushes and the ground. "What have we there? Uncas,
bring hither the thing you see dangling from yonder thorn-bush".

When the Indian had complied, the scout received the prize, and holding it
on high, he laughed in his silent but heartfelt manner.

"'Tis the tooting we'pon of the singer! now we shall have a trail a priest
might travel", he said. "Uncas, look for the marks of a shoe that is long
enough to uphold six feet two of tottering human flesh. I begin to have some
hopes of the fellow, since he has given up squalling to follow some better
trade".

"At least he has been faithful to his trust", said Heyward. "And Cora and
Alice are not without a friend".

"Yes", said Hawkeye, dropping his rifle, and leaning on it with an air of
visibile contempt, "he will do their singing. Can he slay a buck for their
dinner; journey by the moss on the beeches, or cut the throat of a Huron? If
not, the first catbird 1 he meets is the cleverer of the two. Well, boy, any
signs of such a foundation"? 1 The powers of the American mocking-bird are
generally known. But the true mocking-bird is not found so far north as the
state of New York, where it has, however, two substitutes of inferior
excellence, the catbird, so often named by the scout, and the bird vulgarly
called ground-thresher. Either of these last two birds is superior to the
nightingale or the lark, though, in general, the American birds are less
musical than those of Europe.

"Here is something like the footstep of one who has worn a shoe; can it be
that of our friend"?

"Touch the leaves lightly or you'll disconsart the formation. That! that is
the print of a foot, but 'tis the dark-hair's; and small it is, too, for one
of such a noble height and grand appearance. The singer would cover it with
his heel".

"Where! let me look on the footsteps of my child", said Munro, shoving the
bushes aside, and bending fondly over the nearly obliterated impression.
Though the tread which had left the mark had been light and rapid, it ws
still plainly visible. The aged soldier examined it with eyes that grew dim
as he gazed; nor did he rise from this stooping posture until Heyward saw
that he had watered the trace of his daughter's passage with a scalding
tear. Willing to divert a distress which threatened each moment to break
through the restraint of appearances, by giving the veteran something to do,
the young man said to the scout:

"As we now possess these infallible signs, let us commence our march. A
moment, at such a time, will appear an age to the captives".

"It is not the swiftest leaping deer that gives the longest chase", returned
Hawkeye, without moving his eyes from the different marks that had come
under his view; "we know that the rampaging Huron has passed, and the
dark-hair, and the singer, but where is she of the yellow locks and blue
eyes? Though little, and far from being as bold as her sister, she is fair
to the view, and pleasant in discourse. Has she no friend, that none care
for her"?

"God forbid she should ever want hundreds! Are we not now in her pursuit?
For one, I will never cease the search till she be found".

"In that case we may have to journey by different paths; for here she has
not passed, light and little as her footsteps would be".

Heyward drew back, all his ardor to proceed seeming to vanish on the
instant. Without attending to this sudden change in the other's humor, the
scout after musing a moment continued:

"There is no woman in this wilderness could leave such a print as that, but
the dark-hair or her sister. We know that the first has been here, but where
are the signs of the other? Let us push deeper on the trail, and if nothing
offers, we must go back to the plain and strike another scent. Move on,
Uncas, and keep your eyes on the dried leaves. I will watch the bushes,
while your father shall run with a low nose to the ground. Move on, friends;
the sun is getting behind the hills".

"Is there nothing that I can do"? demanded the anxious Heyward.

"You"? repeated the scout, who, with his red friends, was already advancing
in the order he had prescribed; "yes, you can keep in our rear and be
careful not to cross the trail".

Before they had proceeded many rods, the Indians stopped, and appeared to
gaze at some signs on the earth with more than their usual keenness. Both
father and son spoke quick and loud, now looking at the object of their
mutual admiration, and now regarding each other with the most unequivocal
pleasure.

"They have found the little foot"! exclaimed the scout, moving forward,
without attending further to his own portion of the duty. "What have we
here? An ambushment has been planted in the spot! No, by the truest rifle on
the frontiers, here have been them one-sided horses again! Now the whole
secret is out, and all is plain as the north star at midnight. Yes, here
they have mounted. There the beasts have been bound to a sapling, in
waiting; and yonder runs the broad path away to the north, in full sweep for
the Canadas".

"But still there are no signs of Alice, of the younger Miss Munro", said
Duncan.

"Unless the shining bauble Uncas has just lifted from the ground should
prove one. Pass it this way, lad, that we may look at it".

Heyward instantly knew it for a trinket that Alice was fond of wearing, and
which he recollected, with the tenacious memory of a lover, to have seen, on
the fatal morning of the massacre, dangling from the fair neck of his
mistress. He seized the highly prized jewel; and as he proclaimed the fact,
it vanished from the eyes of the wondering scout, who in vain looked for it
on the ground, long after it was warmly pressed against the beating heart of
Duncan.

"Pshaw"! said the disappointed Hawkeye, ceasing to rake the leaves with the
breech of his rifle; "'tis a certain sign of age, when the sight begins to
weaken. Such a glittering gewgaw, and not to be seen! Well, well, I can
squint along a clouded barrel yet, and that is enough to settle all disputes
between me and the Mingoes. I should like to find the thing, too, if it were
only to carry it to the right owner, and that would be bringing the two ends
of what I call a long trail together, for by this time the broad St.
Lawrence, or perhaps, the Great Lakes themselves, are between us".

"So much the more reason why we should not delay our march", returned
Heyward; "let us proceed".

"Young blood and hot blood, they say, are much the same thing. We are not
about to start on a squirrel hunt, or to drive a deer into the Horican, but
to outlie for days and nights, and to stretch across a wilderness where the
feet of men seldom go, and where no bookish knowledge would carry you
through harmless. An Indian never starts on such an expedition without
smoking over his council-fire; and, though a man of white blood, I honor
their customs in this particular, seeing that they are deliberate and wise.
We will, therefore, go back, and light our fire to-night in the ruins of the
old fort, and in the morning we shall be fresh, and ready to undertake our
work like men, and not like babbling women or eager boys".

Heyward saw, by the manner of the scout, that altercation would be useless.
Munro had again sunk into that sort of apathy which had beset him since his
late overwhelming misfortunes, and from which he was apparently to be roused
only by some new and powerful excitement. Making a merit of necessity, the
young man took the veteran by the arm, and followed in the footsteps of the
Indians and the scout, who had already begun to retrace the path which
conducted them to the plain.

Chapter 19

"Salar.--Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh; what's
that good for? Shy.--To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it
will feed my revenge".--Merchant of Venice

The shades of evening had come to increase the dreariness of the place, when
the party entered the ruins of William Henry. The scout and his companions
immediately made their preparations to pass the night there; but with an
earnestness and sobriety of demeanor that betrayed how much the unusual
horrors they had just witnessed worked on even their practised feelings. A
few fragments of rafters were reared against a blackened wall; and when
Uncas had covered them slightly with brush, the temporary accommodations
were deemed sufficient. The young Indian point3ed toward his rude hut when
his labor was ended; and Heyward, who understood the meaning of the silent
gestures, gently urged Munro to enter. Leaving the bereaved old man alone
with his sorrows, Duncan immediately returned into the open air, too much
excited himself to seek the repose he had recommended to his veteran friend.

While Hawkeye and the Indians lighted their fire and took their evening's
repast, a frugal meal of dried bear's meat, the young man paid a visit to
that curtain of the dilapidated fort which looked out on the sheet of the
Horican. The wind had fallen, and th e waves were already rolling on the
sandy beach beneath him, in a more regular and tempered succession. The
clouds, as if tired of their furious chase, were breaking asunder; the
heavier volumes, gathering in black masses about the horizon, while the
lighter scud still hurried above the water, or eddied among the tops of the
mountains, like broken flights of birds, hovering around their roosts. Here
and there, a red and fiery star struggled through the drifting vapor,
furnishing a lurid gleam of brightness to the dull aspect of the heavens.
Within the bosom of the encircling hills, an impenetrable darkness had
already settled; and the plain lay like a vast and deserted charnel-house,
without omen or whisper to disturb the slumbers of its numerous and hapless
tenants.

Of this scene, so chillingly in accordance with the past, Duncan stood for
many minutes a rapt observer. His eyes wandered from the bosom of the mound,
where the foresters were seated around their glimmering fire, to the fainter
light which still lingered in the skies, and then rested long and anxiously
on the embodied gloom, which lay like a dreary void on that side of him
where the dead reposed. He soon fancied that inexplicable sounds arose from
the place, though so indistinct and stolen, as to render not only their
nature but even their existence uncertain. Ashamed of his apprehensions, the
young man turned toward the water, and strove to divert his attention to the
mimic stars that dimly glimmered on its moving surface. Still, his
too-conscious ears performed their ungrateful duty, as if to warn him of
some lurking danger. At length, a swift trampling seemed, quite audibly, to
rush athwart the darkness. Unable any longer to quiet his uneasiness, Duncan
spoke in a low voice to the scout, requesting him to ascend the mound to the
place where he stood. Hawkeye threw his rifle across an arm and complied,
but with an air so unmoved and calm, as to prove how much he counted on the
security of their position.

"Listen"! said Duncan, when the other placed himself deliberately at his
elbow; "there are suppressed noises on the plain which may show Montcalm has
not yet entirely deserted his conquest".

"Then ears are better than eyes", said the undisturbed scout, who, having
just deposited a portion of a bear between his grinders, spoke thick and
slow, like one whose mouth was doubly occupied. "I myself saw him caged in
Ty, with all his host; for your Frenchers, when they have done a clever
thing, like to get back, and have a dance, or a merry-making, with the women
over their success".

"I know not. An Indian seldom sleeps in war, and plunder may keep a Huron
here after his tribe has departed. It would be well to extinguish the fire,
and have a watch--listen! you hear the noise I mean"!

"An Indian more rarely lurks about the graves. Though ready to slay, and not
over regardful of the means, he is commonly content with the scalp, unless
when blood is hot, and temper up; but after spirit is once fairly gone, he
forgets his enmity, and is willling to let the dead find their natural rest.
Speaking of spirits, major, are you of opinion that the heaven of a red-skin
and of us whites will be of one and the same"?

"No doubt--no doubt. I thought I heard it again! or was it the rustling of
the leaves in the top of the beech"?

"For my own part", continued Hawkeye, turning his face for a moment in the
direction indicated by Heyward, but with a vacant and careless manner, "I
believe that paradise is ordained for happiness; and that men will be
indulged in it according to their dispositions and gifts. I, therefore,
judge that a red-skin is not far from the truth when he believes he is to
find them glorious hunting grounds of which his traditions tell; nor, for
that matter, do I think it would be any disparagement to a man without a
cross to pass his time----"

"You hear it again"? interrupted Duncan.

"Ay, ay; when food is scarce, and when food is plenty, a wolf grows bold",
said the unmoved scout. "There would be picking, too, among the skins of the
devils, if there was light and time for the sport. But, concerning the life
that is to come, major; I have heard preachers say, in the settlements, that
heaven was a place of rest. Now, men's minds differ as to their ideas of
enjoyment. For myself, and I say it with reverence to the ordering of
Providence, it would be no great indulgence to be kept shut up in those
mansions of which they preach, having a natural longing for motion and the
chase".

Duncan, who was now made to understand the nature of the noise he had heard,
answered, with more attention to the subject which the humor of the scout
had chosen for discussion, by saying:

"It is difficult to account for the feelings that may attend the last great
change".

"It would be a change, indeed, for a man who has passed his days in the open
air", returned the single-minded scout; "and who has so often broken his
fast on the head waters of the Hudson, to sleep within sound of the roaring
Mohawk. But it is a comfort to know we serve a merciful Master, though we do
it each after his fashion, and with great tracts of wilderness atween
us--what goes there"?

"Is it not the rushing of the wolves you have mentioned"?

Hawkeye slowly shook his head, and beckoned for Duncan to follow him to a
spot to which the glare from the fire did not extend. When he had taken this
precaution, the scout placed himself in an attitude of intense attention and
listened long and keenly for a repetition of the low sound that had so
unexpectedly startled him. His vigilance, however, seemed exercised in vain;
for after a fruitless pause, he whispered to Duncan:

"We must give a call to Uncas. The boy has Indian senses, and he may hear
what is hid from us; for, being a white-skin, I will not deny my nature".

The young Mohican, who was conversing in a low voice with his father,
started as he heard the moaning of an owl, and, springing on his feet, he
looked toward the black mounds, as if seeking the place whence the sounds
proceeded. The scout repeated the call, and in a few moments, Duncan saw the
figure of Uncas stealing cautiously along the rampart, to the spot where
they stood.

Hawkeye explained his wishes in a very few words, which were spoken in the
Delaware tongue. So soon as Uncas was in possession of the reason why he was
summoned, he threw himself flat on the turf; where, to the eyes of Duncan,
he appeared to lie quiet and motionless. Surprised at the immovable attitude
of the young warrior, and curious to observe the manner in which he employed
his faculties to obtain the desired information, Heyward advanced a few
steps, and bent over the dark object on which he had kept his eye riveted.
Then it was he discovered that the form of Uncas vanished, and that he
beheld only the dark outline of an inequality in the embankment.

"What has become of the Mohican"? he demanded of the scout, stepping back in
amazement; "it was here that I saw him fall, and could have sworn that here
he yet remained".

"Hist! speak lower; for we know not what ears are open, and the Mingoes are
a quick- witted breed. As for Uncas, he is out on the plain, and the Maquas,
if any such are about us, will find their equal".

"You think that Montcalm has not called off all his Indians? Let us give the
alarm to our companions, that we may stand to our arms. Here are five of us,
who are not unused to meet an enemy".

"Not a word to either, as you value your life. Look at the Sagamore, how
like a grand Indian chief he sits by the fire. If there are any skulkers out
in the darkness, they will never discover, by his countenance, that we
suspect danger at hand".

"But they may discover him, and it will prove his death. His person can be
too plainly seen by the light of that fire, and he will become the first and
most certain victim".

"It is undeniable that now you speak the truth", returned the scout,
betraying more anxiety than was usual; "yet what can be done? A single
suspicious look might bring on an attack before we are ready to receive it.
He knows, by the call I gave to Uncas, that we have struck a scent; I will
tell him that we are on the trail of the Mingoes; his Indian nature will
teach him how to act".

The scout applied his fingers to his mouth, and raised a low hissing sound,
that caused Duncan at first to start aside, believing that he heard a
serpent. The head of Chingachgook was resting on a hand, as he sat musing by
himself but the moment he had heard the warning of the animal whose name he
bore, he arose to an upright position, and his dark eyes glanced swiftly and
keenly on every side of him. With his sudden and, perhaps, involuntary
movement, every appearance of surprise or alarm ended. His rifle lay
untouched, and apparently unnoticed, within reach of his hand. The tomahawk
that he had loosened in his belt for the sake of ease, was even suffered to
fall from its usual situation to the ground, and his form seemed to sink,
like that of a man whose nerves and sinews were suffered to relax for the
purpose of rest. Cunningly resuming his former position, though with a
change of hands, as if the movement had been made merely to relieve the
limb, the native awaited the result with a calmness and fortitude that none
but an Indian warrior would have known how to exercise.

But Heywad saw that while to a less instructed eye the Mohican chief
appeared to slumber, his nostrils were expanded, his head was turned a
little to one side, as if to assist the organs of hearing, and that his
quick and rapid glances ran incessantly over every object within the power
of his vision.

"See the noble fellow"! whispered Hawkeye, pressing the arm of Heyward; "he
knows that a look or a motion might disconsart our schemes, and put us at
the mercy of them imps----"

He was interrupted by the flash and report of a rifle. The air was filled
with sparks of fire, around that spot where the eyes of Heyward wre still
fastened, with admiration and wonder. A second look told him that
Chingachgook had disappeared in the confusion. In the meantime, the scout
had thrown forward his rifle, like one prepared for service, and awaited
impatiently the moment when an enemy might rise to view. But with the
solitary and fruitless attempt made on the life of Chingachgook, the attack
appeared to have terminated. Once or twice the listeners thought they could
distinguish the distant rustling of bushes, as bodies of some unknown
description rushed through them; nor was it long before Hawkeye pointed out
the "scampering of the wolves", as they fled precipitately before the
passage of some intruder on their proper domains. After an impatient and
breathless pause, a plunge was heard in the water, and it was immediately
followed by the report of another rifle.

"There goes Uncas"! said the scout; "the boy bears a smart piece! I know its
crack, as well as a father knows the language of his child, for I carried
the gun myself until a better offered".

"What can this mean"? demanded Duncan' "we are watched, and, as it would
seem, marked for destruction".

"Yonder scattered brand can witness that no good was intended, and this
Indian will testify that no harm has been done", returned the scout,
dropping his rifle across his arm again, and following Chingachgook, who
just then reappeared within the circle of light, into the bosom of the work.
"How is it, Sagamore? Are the Mingoes upon us in earnest, or is it only one
of those reptiles who hang upon the skirts of a war-party, to scalp the
dead, go in, and make their boast among the squaws of the valient deeds done
on the pale faces"?

Chingachgook very quietly resumed his seat; nor did he make any reply, until
after he had examined the firebrand which had been struck by the bullet that
had nearly proved fatal to himself. After which he was content to reply,
holding a single finger up to view, with the English monosyllable:

"One".

"I thought as much", returned Hawkeye, seating himself; "and as he had got
the cover of the lake afore Uncas pulled upon him, it is more than probable
the knave will sing his lies about some great ambushment, in which he was
outlying on the trail of two Mohicans and a white hunter--for the officers
can be considered as little better than idlers in such a scrimmage. Well,
let him--let him. There are always some honest men in every nation, though
heaven knows, too, that they are scarce among the Maquas, to look down an
upstart when he brags ag'in the face of reason. The varlet sent his lead
within whistle of your ears, Sagamore".

Chingachgook turned a calm and incurious eye toward the place where the ball
had struck, and then resumed his former attitude, with a composure that
could not be disturbed by so trifling an incident. Just then Uncas glided
into the circle, and seated himself at the fire, with the same appearance of
indifference as was maintained by his father.

Of these several moments Heyward was a deeply interested and wondering
observer. It appeared to him as though the foresters had some secret means
of intelligence, which had escaped the vigilance of his own faculties. In
place of that eager and garrulous narration with which a white youth would
have endeavored to communicate, and perhaps exaggerate, that which had
passed out in the darkness of the plain, the young warrior was seemingly
content to let his deeds speak for themselves. It was, in fact, neither the
moment nor the occasion for an Indian to boast of his exploits; and it is
probably that, had Heyward neglected to inquire, not another syllable would,
just then, have been uttered on the subject.

"What has become of our enemy, Uncas"? demanded Duncan; "we heard your
rifle, and hoped you had not fired in vain".

The young chief removed a fold of his hunting skirt, and quietly exposed the
fatal tuft of hair, which he bore as the symbol of victory. Chingachgook
laid his hand on the scalp, and considered it for a moment with deep
attention. Then dropping it, with disgust depicted in his strong features,
he ejaculated:

"Oneida"!

"Oneida!" repeated the scout, who was fast losing his interest in the scene,
in an apathy nearly assimilated to that of his red associates, but who now
advanced in uncommon earnestness to regard the bloody badge. "By the Lord,
if the Oneidas are outlying upon the trail, we shall by flanked by devils on
every side of us! Now, to white eyes there is no difference between this bit
of skin and that of any other Indian, and yet the Sagamore declares it came
from the poll of a Mingo; nay, he even names the tribe of the poor devil,
with as much ease as if the scalp was the leaf of a book, and each hair a
letter. What right have Christian whites to boast of their learning, when a
savage can read a language that would prove too much for the wisest of them
all! What say you, lad, of what people was the knave"?

Uncas raised his eyes to the face of the scout, and answered, in his soft
voice:

"Oneida".

"Oneida, again! when one Indian makes a declaration it is commonly true; but
when he is supported by his people, set it down as gospel"!

"The poor fellow has mistaken us for French", said Heyward; "or he would not
have attempted the life of a friend".

"He mistake a Mohican in his paint for a Huron! You would be as likely to
mistake the white-coated grenadiers of Montcalm for the scarlet jackets of
the Royal Americans", returned the scout. "No, no, the sarpent knew his
errand; nor was there any great mistake in the matter, for there is but
little love atween a Delaware and a Mingo, let their tribes go out to fight
for whom they may, in a white quarrel. For that matter, though the Oneidas
do serve his sacred majesty, who is my sovereign lord and master, I should
not have deliberated long about letting off "killdeer" at the imp myself,
had luck thrown him in my way".

"That would have been an abuse of our treaties, and unworthy of your
character".

"When a man consort much with a people", continued Hawkeye, "if they were
honest and he no knave, love will grow up atwixt them. It is true that white
cunning has managed to throw the tribes into great confusion, as respects
friends and enemies; so that the Hurons and the Oneidas, who speak the same
tongue, or what may be called the same, take each other's scalps, and the
Delawares are divided among themselves; a few hanging about their great
council-fire on their own river, and fighting on the same side with the
Mingoes while the greater part are in the Canadas, out of natural enmity to
the Maquas--thus throwing everything into disorder, and destroying all the
harmony of warfare. Yet a red natur' is not likely to alter with every shift
of policy; so that the love atwixt a Mohican and a Mingo is much like the
regard between a white man and a sarpent".

"I regret to hear it; for I had believed those natives who dwelt within our
boundaries had found us too just and liberal, not to identify themselves
fully with our quarrels".

"Why, I believe it is natur' to give a preference to one's own quarrels
before those of strangers. Now, for myself, I do love justice; and,
therefore, I will not say I hate a Mingo, for that may be unsuitable to my
color and my religion, though I will just repeat, it may have been owing to
the night that "killdeer" had no hand in the death of this skulking Oneida".

Then, as if satisfied with the force of his own reasons, whatever might be
their effect on the opinions of the other disputant, the honest but
implacable woodsman turned from the fire, content to let the controversy
slumber. Heyward withdrew to the rampart, too uneasy and too little
accusomed to the warfare of the woods to remain at ease under the
possibility of such insidious attacks. Not so, however, with the scout and
the Mohicans. Those acute and long-practised senses, whose powers so often
exceed the limits of all ordinary credulity, after having detected the
danger, had enabled them to ascertain its magnitude and duration. Not one of
the three appeared in the least to doubt their perfect security, as was
indicated by the preparations that were soon made to sit in council over
their future proceedings.

The confusion of nations, and even of tribes, to which Hawkeye allluded,
existed at that period in the fullest force. The great tie of language, and,
of course, of a common origin, was severed in many places; and it was one of
its consequences, that the Delaware and the Mingo (as the people of the Six
Nations were called) were found fighting in the same ranks, while the latter
sought the scalp of the Huron, though believed to be the root of his own
stock. The Delawares were even divided among themselves. Though love for the
soil which had belonged to his ancestors kept the Sagamore of the Mohicans
with a small band of followers who were serving at Edward, under the banners
of the English king, by far the largest portion of his nation were known to
be in the field as allies of Montcalm. The reader probably knows, if enough
has not already been gleaned form this narrative, that the Delaware, or
Lenape, claimed to be the progenitors of that numerous people, who once were
masters of most of the eastern and northern states of America, of whom the
community of the Mohicans was an ancient and highly honored member.

It was, of course, with a perfect understanding of the minute and intricate
interests which had armed friend against friend, and brought natural enemies
to combat by each other's side, that the scout and his companions now
disposed themselves to deliberate on the measures that were to govern their
future movements, amid so many jarring and savage races of men. Duncan knew
enough of Indian customs to understand the reason that the fire was
replenished, and why the warriors, not excepting Hawkeye, took their seats
within the curl of its smoke with so much gravity and decorum. Placing
himself at an angle of the works, where he might be a spectator of the scene
without, he awaited the result with as much patience as he could summon.

After a short and impressive pause, Chingachgook lighted a pipe whose bowl
was curiously carved in one of the soft stones of the country, and whose
stem was a tube of wood, and commenced smoking. When he had inhaled enough
of the fragrance of the soothing weed, he passed the instrument into the
hands of the scout. In this manner the pipe had made its rounds three
several times, amid the most profound silence, before either of the party
opened his lips. Then the Sagamore, as the oldest and highest in rank, in a
few calm and dignified words, proposed the subject for deliberation. He was
answered by the scout; and Chingachgook rejoined, when the other objected to
his opinions. But the youthful Uncas continued a silent and respectful
listener, until Hawkeye, in complaisance, demanded his opinion. Heyward
gathered from the manners of the different speakers, that the father and son
espoused one side of a disputed question, while the white man maintained the
other. The contest gradually grew warmer, until it was quite evident the
feelings of the speakers began to be somewhat enlisted in the debate.

Notwithstanding the increasing warmth of the amicable contest, the most
decorous Christian assembly, not even excepting those in which its reverend
ministers are collected, might have learned a wholesome lesson of moderation
from the forbearance and courtesy of the disputants. The words of Uncas were
received with the same deep attention as those which fell from the maturer
wisdom of his father; and so far from manifesting any impatience, neither
spoke in reply, until a few moments of silent meditation were, seemingly,
bestowed in deliberating on what had already been said.

The language of the Mohicans was accompanied by gestures so direct and
natural that Heyward had but little difficulty in following the thread of
their argument. On the other hand, the scout was obscure; because from the
lingering pride of color, he rather affected the cold and artificial manner
which characterizes all classes of Anglo-Americans when unexcited. By the
frequency with which the Indians described the marks of a forest trial, it
was evident they urged a pursuit by land, while the repeated sweep of
Hawkeye's arm toward the Horican denoted that he was for a passage across
its waters.

The latter was to every appearance fast losing ground, and the point was
about to be decided agaisnt him, when he arose to his feet, and shaking off
his apathy, he suddenly assumed the manner of an Indian, and adopted all the
arts of native eloquence. Elevating an arm, he pointed out the track of the
sun, repeating the gesture for every day that was necessary to accomplish
their objects. Then he delineated a long and painful path, amid rocks and
water-courses. The age and weakness of the slumbering and unconscious Munro
were indicated by signs too palpable to be mistaken. Duncan perceived that
even his own powers were spoken lightly of, as the scout extended his palm,
and mentioned him by the appellation of the "Open Hand"--a name his
liberality had purchased of all the friendly tribes. Then came a
representation of the light and graceful movements of a canoe, set in
forcible contrast to the tottering steps of one enfeebled and tired. He
concluded by pointing to the scalp of the Oneida, and apparently urging the
necessity of their departing speedily, and in a manner that should leave no
trail.

The Mohicans listened gravely, and with countenances that reflected the
sentiments of the speaker. Conviction gradually wrought its influence, and
toward the close of Hawkeye's speech, his sentences were accompanied by the
customary exclamation of commendation. In short, Uncas and his father became
converts to his way of thinking, abandoning their own previously expressed
opinions with a liberality and candor that, had they been the
representatives of some great and civilized people, would have infallibly
worked their political ruin, by destroying forever their reputation for
consistency.

The instant the matter in discussion was decided, the debate, and everything
connected with it, except the result appeared to be forgotten. Hawkeye,
without looking round to read his triumph in applauding eyes, very
composedly stretched his tall frame before the dying embers, and closed his
own organs in sleep.

Left now in a measure to themselves, the Mohicans, whose time had been so
much devoted to the interests of others, seized the moment to devote some
attention to themselves. Casting off at once the grave and austere demeanor
of an Indian chief, Chingachgook commenced speaking to his son in the soft
and playful tones of affection. Uncas gladly met the familiar air of his
father; and before the hard breathing of the scout announced that he slept,
a complete change was effected in the manner of his two associates.

It is impossible to describe the music of their language, while thus engaged
in laughter and endearments, in such a way as to render it intelligible to
those whose ears have never listened to its melody. The compass of their
voices, particularly that of the youth, was wonderful--extending from the
deepest bass to tones that were even feminine in softness. The eyes of the
father followed the plastic and ingenious movements of the son with open
delight, and he never failed to smile in reply to the other's contagious but
low laughter. While under the influence of these gentle and natural
feelings, no trace of ferocity was to be seen in the softened features of
the Sagamore. His figured panoply of death looked more like a disguise
assumed in mockery than a fierce annunciation of a desire to carry
destruction in his footsteps.

After an hour had passed in the indulgence of their better feelings,
Chingachgook abruptly announced his desire to sleep, by wrapping his head in
his blanket and stretching his form on the naked earth. The merriment of
Uncas instantly ceased; and carefully raking the coals in such a manner that
they should impart their warmth to his father's feet, the youth sought his
own pillow among the ruins of the place.

Imbibing renewed confidence from the security of these experienced
foresters, Heyward soon imitated their example; and long before the night
had turned, they who lay in the bosom of the ruined work, seemed to slumber
as heavily as the unconscious multitude whose bones were already beginning
to bleach on the surrounding plain.

Chapter 20

"Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes
On thee; thou rugged nurse of savage men"!--Childe Harold

The heavens were still studded with stars, when Hawkeye came to arouse the
sleepers. Casting aside their cloaks Munro and Heyward were on their feet
while the woodsman was still making his low calls, at the entrance of the
rude shelter where they had passed the night. When they issued from beneath
its concealment, they found the scout awaiting their appearance nigh by, and
the only salutation between them was the significant gesture for silence,
made by their sagacious leader.

"Think over your prayers", he whispered, as they approached him; "for He to
whom you make them, knows all tongues; that of the heart, as well as those
of the mouth. But speak not a syllable; it is rare for a white voice to
pitch itself properly in the woods, as we have seen by the example of that
miserable devil, the singer. Come", he continued, turning toward a curtain
of the works; "let us get into the ditch on this side, and be regardful to
step on the stones and fragments of wood as you go".

His companions complied, though to two of them the reasons of this
extraordinary precaution were yet a mystery. When they were in the low
cavity that surrounded the earthen fort on three sides, they found that
passage nearly choked by the ruins. With care and patience, however, they
succeeded in clambering after the scout, until they reached the sandy shore
of the Horican.

"That's a trail that nothing but a nose can follow", said the satisfied
scout, looking back along their difficult way; "grass is a treacherous
carpet for a flying party to tread on, but wood and stone take no print from
a moccasin. Had you worn your armed boots, there might, indeed, have been
something to fear; but with the deer-skin suitably prepared, a man may trust
himself, generally, on rocks with safety. Shove in the canoe nigher to the
land, Uncas; this sand will take a stamp as easily as the butter of the
Jarmans on the Mohawk. Softly, lad, softly; it must not touch the beach, or
the knaves will know by what road we have left the place".

The young man observed the precaution; and the scout, laying a board from
the ruins to the canoe, made a sign for the two officers to enter. When this
was done, everything was studiously restored to its former disorder; and
then Hawkeye succeeded in reaching his little birchen vessel, without
leaving behind him any of those marks which he appeared so much to dread.
Heyward was silent until the Indians had cautiously paddled the canoe some
distance from the fort, and within the broad and dark shadows that fell from
the eastern mountain on the glassy surface of the lake; then he demanded:

"What need have we for this stolen and hurried departure"?

"If the blood of an Oneida could stain such a sheet of pure water as this we
float on", returned the scout, "your two eyes would answer your own
question. Have you forgotten the skulking reptile Uncas slew"?

"By no means. But he was said to be alone, and dead men give no cause for
fear".

"Ay, he was alone in his deviltry! but an Indian whose tribe counts so many
warriors, need seldom fear his blood will run without the death shriek
coming speedily from some of his enemies".

"But our presence--the authority of Colonel Munro--would prove sufficient
protection against the anger of our allies, especially in a case where the
wretch so well merited his fate. I trust in Heaven you have not deviated a
single foot from the direct line of our course with so slight a reason"!

"Do you think the bullet of that varlet's rifle would have turned aside,
though his sacred majesty the king had stood in its path"? returned the
stubborn scout. "Why did not the grand Frencher, he who is captain-general
of the Canadas, bury the tomahawks of the Hurons, if a word from a white can
work so strongly on the natur' of an Indian"?

The reply of Heyward was interrupted by a groan from Munro; but after he had
paused a moment, in deference to the sorrow of his aged friend he resumed
the subject.

"The marquis of Montcalm can only settle that error with his God", said the
young man solemnly.

"Ay, ay, now there is reason in your words, for they are bottomed on
religion and honesty. There is a vast difference between throwing a regiment
of white coats atwixt the tribes and the prisoners, and coaxing an angry
savage to forget he carries a knife and rifle, with words that must begin
with calling him your son. No, no", continued the scout, looking back at the
dim shore of William Henry, which was now fast receding, and laughing in his
own silent but heartfelt manner; "I have put a trail of water atween us; and
unless the imps can make friends with the fishes, and hear who has paddled
across their basin this fine morning, we shall throw the length of the
Horican behind us before they have made up their minds which path to take".

"With foes in front, and foes in our rear, our journey is like to be one of
danger".

"Danger"! repeated Hawkeye, calmly; "no, not absolutely of danger; for, with
vigilant ears and quick eyes, we can manage to keep a few hours ahead of the
knaves; or, if we must try the rifle, there are three of us who understand
its gifts as well as any you can name on the borders. No, not of danger; but
that we shall have what you may call a brisk push of it, is probable; and it
may happen, a brush, a scrimmage, or some such divarsion, but always where
covers are good, and ammunition abundant".

It is possible that Heyward's estimate of danger differed in some degree
from that of the scout, for, instead of replying, he now sat in silence,
while the canoe glided over several miles of water. Just as the day dawned,
they entered the narrows of the lake, 1 and stole swiftly and cautiously
among their numberless little islands. It was by this road that Montcalm had
retired with his army, and the adventurers knew not but he had left some of
his Indians in ambush, to protect the rear of his forces, and collect the
stragglers. They, therefore, approached the passage with the customary
silence of their guarded habits. 1 The beauties of Lake George are well
known to every American tourist. In the height of the mountains which
surround it, and in artificial accessories, it is inferior to the finest of
the Swiss and Italian lakes, while in outline and purity of water it is
fully their equal; and in the number and disposition of its isles and islets
much superior to them all together. There are said to be some hundreds of
islands in a sheet of water less than thirty miles long. The narrows, which
connect what may be called, in truth, two lakes, are crowded with islands to
such a degree as to leave passages between them frequently of only a few
feet in width. Thelake itself varies in breadth from one to three miles.

Chingachgook laid aside his paddle; while Uncas and the scout urged the
light vessel through crooked and intricate channels, where every foot that
they advanced exposed them to the danger of some sudden rising on their
progress. The eyes of the Sagamore moved warily from islet to islet, and
copse to copse, as the canoe proceeded; and, when a clearer sheet of water
permitted, his keen vision was bent along the bald rocks and impending
forests that frowned upon the narrow strait.

Heyward, who was a doubly interested spectator, as well from the beauties of
the place as from the apprehension natural to his situation, was just
believing that he had permitted the latter to be excited without sufficient
reason, when the paddle ceased moving, in obedience to a signal from
Chingachgook.

"Hugh"! exlaimed Uncas, nearly at the moment that the light tap his father
had made on the side of the canoe notified them of the vicinity of danger.

"What now"? asked the scout; "the lake is as smooth as if the winds had
never blown, and I can see along its sheet for miles; there is not so much
as the black head of a loon dotting the water".

The Indian gravely raised his paddle, and pointed in the direction in which
his own steady look was riveted. Duncan's eyes followed the motion. A few
rods in their front lay another of the wooded islets, but it appeared as
calm and peaceful as if its solitude had never been disturbed by the foot of
man.

"I see nothing", he said, "but land and water; and a lovely scene it is".

"Hist"! interrupted the scout. "Ay, Sagamore, there is always a reason for
what you do. 'Tis but a shade, and yet it is not natural. You see the mist,
major, that is rising above the island; you can't call it a fog, for it is
more like a streak of thin cloud----"

"It is vapor from the water".

"That a child could tell. But what is the edging of blacker smoke that hangs
along its lower side, and which you may trace down into the thicket of
hazel? 'Tis from a fire; but one that, in my judgment, has been suffered to
burn low".

"Let us, then, push for the place, and relieve our doubts", said the
impatient Duncan; "the party must be small that can lie on such a bit of
land".

"If you judge of Indian cunning by the rules you find in books, or by white
sagacity, they will lead you astray, if not to your death", returned
Hawkeye, examining the signs of the place with that acuteness which
distinguished him. "If I may be permitted to speak in this matter, it will
be to say, that we have but two things to choose between: the one is, to
return, and give up all thoughts of following the Hurons----"

"Never"! exclaimed Heyward, in a voice far too loud for their circumstances.

"Well, well", continued Hawkeye, making a hasty sign to repress his
impatience; "I am much of your mind myself; though I thought it becoming my
experience to tell the whole. We must, then, make a push, and if the Indians
or Frenchers are in the narrows, run the gauntlet through these toppling
mountains. Is there reason in my words, Sagamore"?

The Indian made no other answer than by dropping his paddle into the water,
and urging forward the canoe. As he held the office of directing its course,
his resolution was sufficiently indicated by the movement. The whole party
now plied their paddles vigorously, and in a very few moments they had
reached a point whence they might command an entire view of the northern
shore of the island, the side that had hitherto been concealed.

"There they are, by all the truth of signs", whispered the scout, "two
canoes and a smoke. The knaves haven't yet got their eyes out of the mist,
or we should hear the accursed whoop. Together, friends! we are leaving
them, and are already nearly out of whistle of a bullet".

The well-known crack of a rifle, whose ball came skipping along the placid
surface of the strait, and a shrill yell from the island, interrupted his
speech, and announced that their passage was discovered. In another instant
several savages were seen rushing into canoes, which were soon dancing over
the water in pursuit. These fearful precursors of a coming struggle produced
no change in the countenances and movements of his three guides, so far as
Duncan could discover, except that the strokes of their paddles were longer
and more in unison, and caused the little bark to spring forward like a
creature possessing life and volition.

"Hold them there, Sagamore", said Hawkeye, looking coolly backward over this
left shoulder, while he still plied his paddle; "keep them just there. Them
Hurons have never a piece in their nation that will execute at this
distance; but "killdeer" has a barrel on which a man may calculate".

The scout having ascertained that the Mohicans were sufficient of themselves
to maintain the requisite distance, deliberately laid aside his paddle, and
raised the fatal rifle. Three several times he brought the piece to his
shoulder, and when his companions were expecting its report, he as often
lowered it to request the Indians would permit their enemies to approach a
little nigher. At length his accurate and fastidious eye seemed satisfied,
and, throwing out his left arm on the barrel, he was slowly elevating the
muzzle, when an exclamation from Uncas, who sat in the bow, once more caused
him to suspend the shot.

"What, now, lad"? demanded Hawkeye; "you save a Huron from the death-shriek
by that word; have you reason for what you do"?

Uncas pointed toward a rocky shore a little in their front, whence another
war canoe was darting directly across their course. It was too obvious now
that their situation was imminently perilous to need the aid of language to
confirm it. The scout laid aside his rifle, and resumed the paddle, while
Chingachgook inclined the bows of the canoe a little toward the western
shore, in order to increase the distance between them and this new enemy. In
the meantime they were reminded of the presence of those who pressed upon
their rear, by wild and exulting shouts. The stirring scene awakened even
Munro from his apathy.

"Let us make for the rocks on the main", he said, with the mien of a tired
soldier, "and give battle to the savages. God forbid that I, or those
attached to me and mine, should ever trust again to the faith of any servant
of the Louis's"!

"He who wishes to prosper in Indian warfare", returned the scout, "must not
be too proud to learn from the wit of a native. Lay her more along the land,
Sagamore; we are doubling on the varlets, and perhaps they may try to strike
our trail on the long calculation".

Hawkeye was not mistaken; for when the Huyrons found their course was likely
to throw them behind their chase they rendered it less direct, until, by
gradually bearing more and more obliquely, the two canoes were, ere long,
gliding on parallel lines, within two hundred yards of each other. It now
became entirely a trial of speed. So rapid was the progress of the light
vessles, that the lake curled in their front, in miniature waves, and their
motion became undulating by its own velocity. It was, perhaps, owing to this
circumstance, in addition to the necessity of keeping every hand employed at
the paddles, that the Hurons had not immediate recourse to their firearms.
The exertions of the fugitives were too severe to continue long, and the
pursuers had the advantage of numbers. Duncan observed with uneasiness, that
the scout began to look anxiously about him, as if searching for some
further means of assisting their flight.

"Edge her a little more from the sun, Sagamore", said the stubborn woodsman;
"I see the knaves are sparing a man to the rifle. A single broken bone might
lose us our scalps. Edge more from the sun and we will put the island
between us".

The expedient was not without its use. A long, low island lay at a little
distance before them, and, as they closed with it, the chasing canoe was
compelled to take a side opposite to that on which the pursued passed. The
scout and his companions did not neglect this advantage, but the instant
they were hid from observation by the bushes, they redoubled efforts that
before had seemed prodigious. The two canoes came round the last low point,
like two coursers at the top of their speed, the fugitives taking the lead.
This change had brought them nigher to each other, however, while it altered
their relative positions.

"You showed knowledge in the shaping of a birchen bark, Uncas, when you
chose this from among the Huron canoes", said the scout, smiling, apparently
more in satisfaction at their superiority in the race than from that
prospect of final escape which now began to open a little upon them. "The
imps have put all their strength again at the paddles, and we are to
struggle for our scalps with bits of flattened wood, instead of clouded
barrels and true eyes. A long stroke, and together, friends".

"They are preparing for a shot", said Heyward; "and as we are in a line with
them, it can scarcely fail".

"Get you, then, into the bottom of the canoe", returned the scout; "you and
the colonel; it will be so much taken from the size of the mark".

Heyward smiled, as he answered:

"It would be but an ill example for the highest in rank to dodge, while the
warriors were under fire".

"Lord! Lord! That is now a white man's courage"! exclaimed the scout; "and
like to many of his notions, not to be maintained by reason. Do you think
the Sagamore, or Uncas, or even I, who am a man without a cross, would
deliberate about finding a cover in the scrimmage, when an open body would
do no good? For what have the Frenchers reared up their Quebec, if fighting
is always to be done in the clearings"?

"All that you say is very true, my friend", replied Heyward; "still, our
customs must prevent us from doing as you wish".

A volley from the Hurons interrupted the discourse, and as the bullets
whistled about them, Duncan saw the head of Uncas turned, looking back at
himself and Munro. Notwithstanding the nearness of the enemy, and his own
great personal danger, the countenance of the young warrior expressed no
other emotion, as the former was compelled to think, than amazement at
finding men willing to encounter so useless an exposure. Chingachgook was
probably better acquainted with the notions of white men, for he did not
even cast a glance aside from the riveted look his eye maintained on the
object by which he governed their course. A ball soon struck the light and
polished paddle from the hands of the chief, and drove it through the air,
far in the advance. A shout arose from the Hurons, who seized the
opportunity to fire another volley. Uncas described an arc in the water with
his own blade, and as the canoe passed swiftly on, Chingachgook recovered
his paddle, and flourishing it on high, he gave the war-whoop of the
Mohicans, and then lent his strength and skill again to the important task.

The clamorous sounds of "Le Gros Serpent"! "La Longue Carabine"! "Le Cerf
Agile"! burst at once from the canoes behind, and seemed to give new zeal to
the pursuers. The scout seized "killdeer" in his left hand, and elevating it
about his head, he shook it in triumph at his enemies. The savages answered
the insult with a yell, and immediately another volley succeeded. The
bullets pattered along the lake, and one even pierced the bark of their
little vessel. No perceptible emotion could be discovered in the Mohicans
during this critical moment, their rigid features expressing neither hope
nor alarm; but the scout again turned his head, and, laughing in his own
silent manner, he said to Heyward:

"The knaves love to hear the sounds of their pieces; but the eye is not to
be found among the Mingoes that can calculate a true range in a dancing
canoe! You see the dumb devils have taken off a man to charge, and by the
smallest measurement that can be allowed, we move three feet to their two"!

Duncan, who was not altogether as easy under this nice estimate of distances
as his companions, was glad to find, however, that owing to their superior
dexterity, and the diversion among their enemies, they were very sensibly
obtaining the advantage. The Hurons soon fired again, and a bullet struck
the blade of Hawkeye's paddle without injury.

"That will do", said the scout, examining the slight indentation with a
curious eye; "it would not have cut the skin of an infant, much less of men,
who, like us, have been blown upon by the heavens in their anger. Now,
major, if you will try to use this piece of flattened wood, I'll let
"killdeer" take a part in the conversation".

Heyward seized the paddle, and applied himself to the work with an eagerness
that supplied the place of skill, while Hawkeye was engaged in inspecting
the priming of his rifle. The latter then took a swift aim and fired. The
Huron in the bows of the leading canoe had risen with a similar object, and
he now fell backward, suffering his gun to escape from his hands into the
water. In an instant, however, he recovered his feet, though his gestures
were wild and bewildered. At the same moment his companions suspended their
efforts, and the chasing canoes clustered together, and became stationary.
Chingachgook and Uncas profited by the interval to regain their wind, though
Duncan continued to work with the most persevering industry. The father and
son now cast calm but inquiring glances at each other, to learn if either
had sustained any injury by the fire; for both well knew that no cry or
exclamation would, in such a moment of necessity have been permitted to
betray the accident. A few large drops of blood were trickling down the
shoulder of the Sagamore, who, when he perceived that the eyes of Uncas
dwelt too long on the sight, raised some water in the hollow of his hand,
and washing off the stain, was content to manifest, in this simple manner,
the slightness of the injury.

"Softly, softly, major", said the scout, who by this time had reloaded his
rifle; "we are a little too far already for a rifle to put forth its
beauties, and you see yonder imps are holding a council. Let them come up
within striking distance--my eye may well be trusted in such a matter--and I
will trail the varlets the length of the Horican, guaranteeing that not a
shot of theirs shall, at the worst, more than break the skin, while
"killdeer" shall touch the life twice in three times".

"We forget our errand", returned the diligent Duncan. "For God's sake let us
profit by this advantage, and increase our distance from the enemy".

"Give me my children", said Munro, hoarsely; "trifle no longer with a
father's agony, but restore me my babes".

Long and habitual deference to the mandates of his superiors had taught the
scout the virtue of obedience. Throwing a last and lingering glance at the
distant canoes, he laid aside his rifle, and, relieving the wearied Duncan,
resumed the paddle, which he wielded with sinews that never tired. His
efforts were seconded by those of the Mohicans and a very few minutes served
to place such a sheet of water between them and their enemies, that Heyward
once more breathed freely.

The lake now began to expand, and their route lay along a wide reach, that
was lined, as before, by high and ragged mountains. But the islands were
few, and easily avoided. The strokes of the paddles grew more measured and
regular, while they who plied them continued their labor, after the close
and deadly chase from which they had just relieved themselves, with as much
coolness as though their speed had been tried in sport, rather than under
such pressing, nay, almost desperate, circumstances.

Instead of following the western shore, whither their errand led them, the
wary Mohican inclined his course more toward those hills behind which
Montcalm was known to have led his army into the formidable fortress of
Ticonderoga. As the Hurons, to every appearance, had abandoned the pursuit,
there was no apparent reason for this excess of caution. It was, however,
maintained for hours, until they had reached a bay, nigh the northern
termination of the lake. Here the canoe was driven upon the beach, and the
whole party landed. Hawkeye and Heyward ascended an adjacent bluff, where
the former, after considering the expanse of water beneath him, pointed out
to the latter a small black object, hovering under a headland, at the
distance of several miles.

"Do you see it"? demanded the scout. "Now, what would you account that spot,
were you left alone to white experience to find your way through this
wilderness"?

"But for its distance and its magnitude, I should suppose it a bird. Can it
be a living object"?

"'Tis a canoe of good birchen bark, and paddled by fierce and crafty
Mingoes. Though Providence has lent to those who inhabit the woods eyes that
would be needless to men in the settlements, where there are inventions to
assist the sight, yet no human organs can see all the dangers which at this
moment circumvent us. These varlets pretend to be bent chiefly on their
sun-down meal, but the moment it is dark they will be on our trail, as true
as hounds on the scent. We must throw them off, or our pursuit of Le Renard
Subtil may be given up. These lakes are useful at times, especially when the
game take the water", continued the scout, gazing about him with a
countenance of concern; "but they give no cover, except it be to the fishes.
God knows what the country would be, if the settlements should ever spread
far from the two rivers. Both hunting and war would lose their beauty".

"Let us not delay a moment, without some good and obvious cause".

"I little like that smoke, which you may see worming up along the rock above
the canoe", interrupted the abstracted scout. "My life on it, other eyes
than ours see it, and know its meaning. Well, words will not mend the
matter, and it is time that we were doing".

Hawkeye moved away from the lookout, and descended, musing profoundly, to
the shore. He communicated the result of his observations to his companions,
in Delaware, and a short and earnest consultation succeeded. When it
terminated, the three instantly set about executing their new resolutions.

The canoe was lifted from the water, and borne on the shoulders of the
party, they proceeded into the wood, making as broad and obvious a trail as
possible. They soon reached the water-course, which they crossed, and,
continuing onward, until they came to an extensive and naked rock. At this
point, where their footsteps might be expected to be no longer visible, they
retraced their route to the brook, walking backward, with the utmost care.
They now followed the bed of the little stream to the lake, into which they
immediately launched their canoe again. A low point concealed them from the
headland, and the margin of the lake was fringed for some distance with
dense and overhanging bushes. Under the cover of these natural advantages,
they toiled their way, with patient industry, until the scout pronounced
that he believed it would be safe once more to land.

The halt continued until evening rendered objects indistinct and uncertain
to the eye. Then they resumed their route, and, favored by the darkness,
pushed silently and vigorously toward the western shore. Although the rugged
outline of mountain, to which they were steering, presented no distinctive
marks to the eyes of Duncan, the Mohican entered the little haven he had
selected with the confidence and accuracy of an experienced pilot.

The boat was again lifted and borne into the woods, where it was carefully
concealed under a pile of brush. The adventurers assumed their arms and
packs, and the scout announced to Munro and Heyward that he and the Indians
were at last in readiness to proceed.

Chapter 21

"If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death".-- Merry Wives of
Windsor

The party had landed on the border of a region that is, even to this day,
less known to the inhabitants of the States than the deserts of Arabia, or
the steppes of Tartary. It was the sterile and rugged district which
separates the tributaries of Champlain from those of the Hudson, the Mohawk,
and the St. Lawrence. Since the period of our tale the active spirit of the
country has surrounded it with a belt of rich and thriving settlements,
though none but the hunter or the savage is ever known even now to penetrate
its wild recesses.

As Hawkeye and the Mohicans had, however, often traversed the mountains and
valleys of this vast wilderness, they did not hesitate to plunge into its
depth, with the freedom of men accustomed to its privations and
difficulties. For many hours the travelers toiled on their laborious way,
guided by a star, or following the direction of some water-course, until the
scout called a halt, and holding a short consultation with the Indians, they
lighted their fire, and made the usual preparations to pass the remainder of
the night where they then were.

Imitating the example, and emulating the confidence of their more
experienced associates, Munro and Duncan slept without fear, if now without
uneasiness. The dews were suffered to exhale, and the sun had dispersed the
mists, and was shedding a strong and clear light in the forest, when the
travelers resumed their journey.

After proceeding a few miles, the progress of Hawkeye, who led the advance,
became more deliberate and watchful. He often stopped to examine the trees;
nor did he cross a rivulet without attentively considering the quantity, the
velocity, and the color of its waters. Distrusting his own judgment, his
appeals to the opinion of Chingachgook were frequent and earnest. During one
of these conferences Heyward observed that Uncas stood a patient and silent,
though, as he imagined, an interested listener. He was strongly tempted to
address the young chief, and demand his opinion of their progress; but the
calm and dignified demeanor of the native induced him to believe, that, like
himself, the other was wholly dependent on the sagacity and intelligence of
the seniors of the party. At last the scout spoke in English, and at once
explained the embarrassment of their situation.

"When I found that the home path of the Hurons run north", he said, "it did
not need the judgment of many long years to tell that they would follow the
valleys, and keep atween the waters of the Hudson and the Horican, until
they might strike the springs of the Canada streams, which would lead them
into the heart of the country of the Frenchers. Yet here are we, within a
short range of the Scaroons, and not a sign of a trail have we crossed!
Human natur' is weak, and it is possible we may not have taken the proper
scent".

"Heaven protect us from such an error"! exclaimed Duncan. "Let us retrace
our steps, and examine as we go, with keener eyes. Has Uncas no counsel to
offer in such a strait"?

The young Mohican cast a glance at his father, but, maintaining his quiet
and reserved mien, he continued silent. Chingachgook had caught the look,
and motioning with his hand, he bade him speak. The moment this permission
was accorded, the countenance of Uncas changed from its grave composure to a
gleam of intelligence and joy. Bounding forward like a deer, he sprang up
the side of a little acclivity, a few rods in advance, and stood,
exultingly, over a spot of fresh earth, that looked as though it had been
recently upturned by the passage of some heavy animal. The eyes of the whole
party followed the unexpected movement, and read their success in the air of
triumph that the youth assumed.

"'Tis the trail"! exclaimed the scout, advancing to the spot; "the lad is
quick of sight and keen of wit for his years".

"'Tis extraordinary that he should have withheld his knowledge so long",
muttered Duncan, at his elbow.

"It would have been more wonderful had he spoken without a bidding. No, no;
your young white, who gathers his learning from books and can measure what
he knows by the page, may conceit that his knowledge, like his legs, outruns
that of his fathers', but, where experience is the master, the scholar is
made to know the value of years, and respects them accordingly".

"See"! said Uncas, pointing north and south, at the evident marks of the
broad trail on either side of him, "the dark-hair has gone toward the
forest".

"Hound never ran on a more beautiful scent", responded the scout, dashing
forward, at once, on the indicated route; "we are favored, greatly favored,
and can follow with high noses. Ay, here are both your waddling beasts: this
Huron travels like a white general. The fellow is stricken with a judgment,
and is mad! Look sharp for wheels, Sagamore", he continued, looking back,
and laughing in his newly awakened satisfaction; "we shall soon have the
fool journeying in a coach, and that with three of the best pair of eyes on
the borders in his rear".

The spirits of the scout, and the astonishing success of the chase, in which
a circuitous distance of more than forty miles had been passed, did not fail
to impart a portion of hope to the whole party. Their advance was rapid; and
made with as much confidence as a traveler would proceed along a wide
highway. If a rock, or a rivulet, or a bit of earth harder than common,
severed the links of the clew they followed, the true eye of the scout
recovered them at a distance, and seldom rendered the delay of a single
moment necessary. Their progress was much facilitiated by the certainty that
Magua had found it necessary to journey through the valleys; a circumstance
which rendered the general direction of the route sure. Nor had the Huron
entirely neglected the arts uniformly practised by the natives when retiring
in front of an enemy. False trails and sudden turnings were frequent,
wherever a brook or the formation of the ground rendered them feasible; but
his pursuers were rarely deceived, and never failed to detect their error,
before they had lost either time or distance on the deceptive track.

By the middle of the afternoon they had passed the Scaroons, and were
following the route of the declining sun. After descending an eminence to a
low bottom, through which a swift stream glided, they suddenly came to a
place where the party of Le Renard had made a halt. Extinguished brands were
lying around a spring, the offals of a deer were scattered about the place,
and the trees bore evident marks of having been browsed by the horses. At a
little distance, Heyward discovered, and contemplated with tender emotion,
the small bower under which he was fain to believe that Cora and Alice had
resposed. But while the earth was trodden, and the footsteps of both men and
beasts were so plainly visible around the place, the trail appeared to have
suddenly ended.

It was easy to follow the tracks of the Narragansetts, but they seemed only
to have wandered without guides, or any other object than the pursuit of
food. At length Uncas, who, with his father, had endeavored to trace the
route of the horses, came upon a sign of their presence that was quite
recent. Before following the clew, he communicated his success to his
companions; and while the latter were consulting on the circumstance, the
youth reappeared, leading the two fillies, with their saddles broken, and
the housings soiled, as though they had been permitted to run at will for
several days.

"What should this prove"? said Duncan, turning pale, and glancing his eyes
around him, as if he feared the brush and leaves were about to give up some
horrid secret.

"That our march is come to a quick end, and that we are in an enemy's
country", returned the scout. "Had the knave been pressed, and the gentle
ones wanted horses to keep up with the party, he might have taken their
scalps; but without an enemy at his heels, and with such rugged beasts as
these, he would not hurt a hair of their heads. I know your thoughts, and
shame be it to our color that you have reason for them; but he who thinks
that even a Mingo would ill-treat a woman, unless it be to tomahawk her,
knows nothing of Indian natur', or the laws of the woods. No, no; I have
heard that the French Indians had come into these hills to hunt the moose,
and we are getting within scent of their camp. Why should they not? The
morning and evening guns of Ty may be heard any day among these mountains;
for the Frenchers are running a new line atween the provinces of the king
and the Canadas. It is true that the horses are here, but the Hurons are
gone; let us, then, hunt for the path by which they parted".

Hawkeye and the Mohicans now applied themselves to their task in good
earnest. A circle of a few hundred feet in circumference was drawn, and each
of the party took a segment for his portion. The examination, however,
resulted in no discovery. The impressions of footsteps were numerous, but
they all appeared like those of men who had wandered about the spot, without
any design to quit it. Again the scout and his companions made the circuit
of the halting place, each slowly following the other, until they assembled
in the center once more, no wiser than when they started.

"Such cunning is not without its deviltry", exclaimed Hawkeye, when he met
the disappointed looks of his assistants.

"We must get down to it, Sagamore, beginning at the spring, and going over
the ground by inches. The Huron shall never brag in his tribe that he has a
foot which leaves no print".

Setting the example himself, the scout engaged in the scrutiny with renewed
zeal. Not a leaf was left unturned. The sticks were removed, and the stones
lifted; for Indian cunning was known frequently to adopt these objects as
covers, laboring with the utmost patience and industry, to conceal each
footstep as they proceeded. Still no discovery was made. At length Uncas,
whose activity had enabled him to achieve his portion of the task the
soonest, raked the earth across the turbid little rill which ran from the
spring, and diverted its course into another channel. So soon as its narrow
bed below the dam was dry, he stooped over it with keen and curious eyes. A
cry of exultation immediately announced the success of the young warrior.
The whole party crowded to the spot where Uncas pointed out the impression
of a moccasin in the moist alluvion.

"This lad will be an honor to his people", said Hawkeye, regarding the trail
with as much admiration as a naturalist would expend on the tusk of a
mammoth or the rib of a mastodon; "ay, and a thorn in the sides of the
Hurons. Yet that is not the footstep of an Indian! the weight is too much on
the heel, and the toes are squared, as though one of the French dancers had
been in, pigeon-winging his tribe! Run back, Uncas, and bring me the size of
the singer's foot. You will find a beautiful print of it just opposite yon
rock, agin the hillside".

While the youth was engaged in this commission, the scout and Chingachgook
were attentively considering the impressions. The measurements agreed, and
the former unhesitatingly pronounced that the footstep was that of David,
who had once more been made to exchange his shoes for moccasins.

"I can now read the whole of it, as plainly as if I had seen the arts of Le
Subtil", he added; "the singer being a man whose gifts lay chiefly in his
throat and feet, was made to go first, and the others have trod in his
steps, imitating their formation".

"But", cried Duncan, "I see no signs of----"

"The gentle ones", interrupted the scout; "the varlet has found a way to
carry them, until he supposed he had thrown any followers off the scent. My
life on it, we see their pretty little feet again, before many rods go by".

The whole party now proceeded, following the course of the rill, keeping
anxious eyes on the regular impressions. The water soon flowed into its bed
again, but watching the ground on either side, the foresters pursued their
way content with knowing that the trail lay beneath. More than half a mile
was passed, before the rill rippled close around the base of an extensive
and dry rock. Here they paused to make sure that the Hurons had not quitted
the water.

It was fortunate they did so. For the quick and active Uncas soon found the
impression of a foot on a bunch of moss, where it would seem an Indian had
inadvertently trodden. Pursuing the direction given by this discovery, he
entered the neighboring thicket, and struck the trail, as fresh and obvious
as it had been before they reached the spring. Another shout announced the
good fortune of the youth to his companions, and at once terminated the
search.

"Ay, it has been planned with Indian judgment", said the scout, when the
party was assembled around the place, "and would have blinded white eyes".

"Shall we proceed"? demanded Heyward.

"Softly, softly, we know our path; but it is good to examine the formation
of things. This is my schooling, major; and if one neglects the book, there
is little chance of learning from the open land of Providence. All is plain
but one thing, which is the manner that the knave contrived to get the
gentle ones along the blind trail. Even a Huron would be too proud to let
their tender feet touch the water".

"Will this assist in explaining the difficulty"? said Heyward, pointing
toward the framents of a sort of handbarrow, that had been rudely constucted
of boughs, and bound together with withes, and which now seemed carelessly
cast aside as useless.

"'Tis explained"! cried the delighted Hawkeye. "If them varlets have passed
a minute, they have spent hours in striving to fabricate a lying end to
their trail! Well, I've known them to waste a day in the same manner to as
little purpose. Here we have three pair of moccasins, and two of little
feet. It is amazing that any mortal beings can journey on limbs so small!
Pass me the thong of buckskin, Uncas, and let me take the length of this
foot. By the Lord, it is no longer than a child's and yet the maidens are
tall and comely. That Providence is partial in its gifts, for its own wise
reasons, the best and most contented of us must allow".

"The tender limbs of my daughters are unequal to these hardships", said
Munro, looking at the light footsteps of his children, with a parent's love;
"we shall find their fainting forms in this desert".

"Of that there is little cause of fear", returned the scout, slowly shaking
his head; "this is a firm and straight, though a light step, and not over
long. See, the heel has hardly touched the ground; and there the dark-hair
has made a little jump, from root to root. No, no; my knowledge for it,
neither of them was nigh fainting, hereaway. Now, the singer was beginning
to be footsore and leg-weary, as is plain by his trail. There, you see, he
slipped; here he has traveled wide and tottered; and there again it looks as
though he journeyed on snowshoes. Ay, ay, a man who uses his throat
altogether, can hardly give his legs a proper training".

From such undeniable testimony did the practised woodsman arrive at the
truth, with nearly as much certainty and precision as if he had been a
witness of all those events which his ingenuity so easily elucidated.
Cheered by these assurances, and satisfied by a reasoning that was so
obvious, while it was so simple, the party resumed its course, after making
a short halt, to take a hurried repast.

When the meal was ended, the scout cast a glance upward at the setting sun,
and pushed forward with a rapidity which compelled Heyward and the still
vigorous Munro to exert all their muscles to equal. Their route now lay
along the bottom which has already been mentioned. As the Hurons had made no
further efforts to conceal their footsteps, the progress of the pursuers was
no longer delayed by uncertainty. Before an hour had elapsed, however, the
speed of Hawkeye sensibly abated, and his head, instead of maintaining its
former direct and forward look, began to turn suspiciously from side to
side, as if he were conscious of approaching danger. He soon stopped again,
and waited for the whole party to come up.

"I scent the Hurons", he said, speaking to the Mohicans; "yonder is open
sky, through the treetops, and we are getting too nigh their encampment.
Sagamore, you will take the hillside, to the right; Uncas will bend along
the brook to the left, while I will try the trail. If anything should
happen, the call will be three croaks of a crow. I saw one of the birds
fanning himself in the air, just beyond the dead oak--another sign that we
are approaching an encampment".

The Indians departed their several ways without reply, while Hawkeye
cautiously proceeded with the two gentlemen. Heyward soon pressed to the
side of their guide, eager to catch an early glimpse of those enemies he had
pursued with so much toil and anxiety. His companion told him to steal to
the edge of the wood, which, as usual, was fringed with a thicket, and wait
his coming, for he wished to examine certain suspicous signs a little on one
side. Duncan obeyed, and soon found himself in a situation to command a view
which he found as extraordinary as it was novel.

The trees of many acres had been felled, and the glow of a mild summer's
evening had fallen on the clearing, in beautiful contrast to the gray light
of the forest. A short distance from the place where Duncan stood, the
stream had seemingly expanded into a little lake, covering most of the low
land, from mountain to mountain. The water fell out of this wide basin, in a
cataract so regular and gentle, that it appeared rather to be the work of
human hands than fashioned by nature. A hundred earthen dwellings stood on
the margin of the lake, and even in its waters, as though the latter had
overflowed its usual banks. Their rounded roofs, admirably molded for
defense against the weather, denoted more of industry and foresight than the
natives were wont to bestow on their regular habitations, much less on those
they occupied for the temporary purposes of hunting and war. In short, the
whole village or town, whichever it might be termed, possessed more of
method and neatness of execution, than the white men had been accustomed to
believe belonged, ordinarily, to the Indian habits. It appeared, however, to
be deserted. At least, so thought Duncan for many minutes; but, at length,
he fancied he discovered several human forms advancing toward him on all
fours, and apparently dragging in the train some heavy, and as he was quick
to apprehend, some formidable engine. Just then a few dark-looking heads
gleamed out of the dwellings, and the place seemed suddenly alive with
beings, which, however, glided from cover to cover so swiftly, as to allow
no opportunity of examining their humors or pursuits. Alarmed at these
suspicious and inexplicable movements, he was about to attempt the signal of
the crows, when the rustling of leaves at hand drew his eyes in another
direction.

The young man started, and recoiled a few paces instinctively, when he found
himself within a hundred yards of a stranger Indian. Recovering his
recollection on the instant, instead of sounding an alarm, which might prove
fatal to himself, he remained stationary, an attentive observer of the
other's motions.

An instant of calm observation served to assure Duncan that he was
undiscovered. The native, like himself, seemed occupied in considering the
low dwellings of the village, and the stolen movements of its inhabitants.
It was impossible to discover the expression of his features through the
grotesque mask of paint under which they were concealed, though Duncan
fancied it was rather melancholy than savage. His head was shaved, as usual,
with the exception of the crown, from whose tuft three or four faded
feathers from a hawk's wing were loosely dangling. A ragged calico mantle
half encircled his body, while his nether garment was composed of an
ordinary shirt, the sleeves of which were made to perform the office that is
usually executed by a much more commodious arrangement. His legs were,
however, covered with a pair of good deer-skin moccasins. Altogether, the
appearance of the individual was forlorn and miserable.

Duncan was still curiously observing the person of his neighbor when the
scout stole silently and cautiously to his side.

"You see we have reached their settlement or encampment", whispered the
young man; "and here is one of the savages himself, in a very embarrassing
position for our further movements".

Hawkeye started, and dropped his rifle, when, directed by the finger of his
companion, the stranger came under his view. Then lowering the dangerous
muzzle he stretched forward his long neck, as if to assist a scrutiny that
was already intensely keen.

"The imp is not a Huron", he said, "nor of any of the Canada tribes; and yet
you see, by his clothes, the knave has been plundering a white. Ay, Montcalm
has raked the woods for his inroad, and a whooping, murdering set of varlets
has he gathered together. Can you see where he has put his rifle or his
bow"?

"He appears to have no arms; nor does he seem to be viciously inclined.
Unless he communicate the alarm to his fellows, who, as you see, are dodging
about the water, we have but little to fear from him".

The scout turned to Heyward, and regarded him a moment with unconcealed
amazement. Then opening wide his mouth, he indulged in unrestrained and
heartfelt laughter, though in that silent and peculiar manner which danger
had so long taught him to practise.

Repeating the words, "Fellows who are dodging about the water"! he added,
"so much for schooling and passing a boyhood in the settlements! The knave
has long legs, though, and shall not be trusted. Do you keep him under your
rifle while I creep in behind, through the bush, and take him alive. Fire on
no account".

Heyward had already permitted his companion to bury part of his person in
the thicket, when, stretching forth his arm, he arrested him, in order to
ask:

"If I see you in danger, may I not risk a shot"?

Hawkeye regarded him a moment, like one who knew not how to take the
question; then, nodding his head, he answered, still laughing, though
inaudibly:

"Fire a whole platoon, major".

In the next moment he was concealed by the leaves. Duncan waited several
minutes in feverish impatience, before he caught another glimpse of the
scout. Then he reappeared, creeping along the earth, from which his dress
was hardly distinguishable, directly in the rear of his intended captive.
Having reached within a few yards of the latter, he arose to his feet,
silently and slowly. At that instant, several loud blows were struck on the
water, and Duncan turned his eyes just in time to perceive that a hundred
dark forms were plunging, in a body, into the troubled little sheet.
Grasping his rifle his looks were again bent on the Indian near him. Instead
of taking the alarm, the unconscious savage stretched forward his neck, as
if he also watched the movements about the gloomy lake, with a sort of silly
curiosity. In the meantime, the uplifted hand of Hawkeye was above him. But,
without any apparent reason, it was withdrawn, and its owner indulged in
another long, though still silent, fit of merriment. When the peculiar and
hearty laughter of Hawkeye was ended, instead of grasping his victim by the
throat, he tapped him lightly on the shoulder, and exclaimed aloud:

"How now, friend! have you a mind to teach the beavers to sing"?

"Even so", was the ready answer. "It would seem that the Being that gave
them power to improve His gifts so well, would not deny them voices to
proclaim His praise".

Chapter 22

"Bot.--Abibl we all met? Qui.--Pat--pat; and here's a marvelous
Convenient place for our rehearsal".-- Midsummer Night's Dream

The reader may better imagine, that we describe the surprise of Heyward. His
lurking Indians were suddenly converted into four-footed beasts; his lake
into a beaver pond; his cataract into a dam, constructed by those
industrious and ingenious quadrupeds; and a suspected enemy into his tried
friend, David Gamut, the master of psalmody. The presence of the latter
created so many unexpected hopes relative to the sisters that, without a
moment's hesitation, the young man broke out of his ambush, and sprang
forward to join the two principal actors in the scene.

The merriment of Hawkeye was not easily appeased. Without ceremony, and with
a rough hand, he twirled the supple Gamut arond on his heel, and more than
once affirmed that the Hurons had done themselves great credit in the
fashion of his costume. Then, seizing the hand of the other, he squeezed it
with a grip that brought tears into the eyes of the placid David, and wished
him joy of his new condition.

"You were about opening your throat-practisings among the beavers, were ye"?
he said. "The cunning devils know half the trade already, for they beat the
time with their tails, as you heard just now; and in good time it was, too,
or "killdeer" might have sounded the first note among them. I have known
greater fools, who could read and write, than an experienced old beaver; but
as for squalling, the animals are born dumb! What think you of such a song
as this"?

David shut his sensitive ears, and even Heyward apprised as he was of the
nature of the cry, looked upward in quest of the bird, as the cawing of a
crow rang in the air about them.

"See"! continued the laughing scout, as he pointed toward the remainder of
the party, who, in obedience to the signal, were already approaching; "this
is music which has its natural virtues; it brings two good rifles to my
elbow, to say nothing of the knives and tomahawks. But we see that you are
safe; now tell us what has become of the maidens".

"They are captives to the heathen", said David; "and, though greatly
troubled in spirit, enjoying comfort and safety in the body".

"Both"! demanded the breathless Heyward.

"Even so. Though our wayfaring has been sore and our sustenance scanty, we
have had little other cause for complaint, except the violence done our
feelings, by being thus led in captivity into a far land".

"Bless ye for these very words"! exclaimed the trembling Munro; "I shall
then receive my babes, spotless and angel-like, as I lost them"!

"I know not that their delivery is at hand", returned the doubting David;
"the leader of these savages is possessed of an evil spirit that no power
short of Omnipotence can tame. I have tried him sleeping and waking, but
neither sounds nor language seem to touch his soul".

"Where is the knave"? bluntly interrupted the scout.

"He hunts the moose to-day, with his young men; and tomorrow, as I hear,
they pass further into the forests, and nigher to the borders of Canada. The
elder maiden is conveyed to a neighboring people, whose lodges are situate
beyond yonder black pinnacle of rock; while the younger is detained among
the women of the Hurons, whose dwellings are but two short miles hence, on a
table-land, where the fire had done the office of the axe, and prepared the
place for their reception".

"Alice, my gentle Alice"! murmured Heyward; "she has lost the consolation of
her sister's presence"!

"Even so. But so far as praise and thanksgiving in psalmody can temper the
spirit in affliction, she has not suffered".

"Has she then a heart for music"?

"Of the graver and more solemn character; though it must be acknowledged
that, in spite of all my endeavors, the maiden weeps oftener than she
smiles. At such moments I forbear to press the holy songs; but there are
many sweet and comfortable periods of satisfactory communication, when the
ears of the savages are astounded with the upliftings of our voices".

"And why are you permitted to go at large, unwatched"?

David composed his features into what he intended should express an air of
modest humility, before he meekly replied:

"Little be the praise to such a worm as I. But, though the power of psalmody
was suspended in the terrible business of that field of blood through which
we have passed, it has recovered its influence even over the souls of the
heathen, and I am suffered to go and come at will".

The scout laughed, and, tapping his own forehead significantly, he perhaps
explained the singular indulgence more satisfactorily when he said:

"The Indians never harm a non-composser. But why, when the path lay open
before your eyes, did you not strike back on your own trail (it is not so
blind as that which a squirrel would make), and bring in the tidings to
Edward"?

The scout, remembering only his own sturdy and iron nature, had probably
exacted a task that David, under no circumstances, could have performed.
But, without entirely losing the meekness of his air, the latter was content
to answer:

"Though my soul would rejoice to visit the habitations of Christendom once
more, my feet would rather follow the tender spirits intrusted to my
keeping, even into the idolatrous province of the Jesuits, than take one
step backward, while they pined in captivity and sorrow".

Though the figurative language of David wa not very intelligible, the
sincere and steady expression of his eye, and the glow of his honest
countenance, were not easily mistaken. Uncas pressed closer to his side, and
regarded the speaker with a look of commendation, while his father expressed
his satisfaction by the ordinary pithy exclamation of approbation. The scout
shook his head as he rejoined:

"The Lord never intended that the man should place all his endeavors in his
throat, to the neglect of other and better gifts! But he has fallen into the
hands of some silly woman, when he should have been gathering his education
under a blue sky, among the beauties of the forest. Here, friend; I did
intend to kindle a fire with this tooting- whistle of thine; but, as you
value the thing, take it, and blow your best on it".

Gamut received his pitch-pipe with as strong an expression of pleasure as he
believed compatible with the grave functions he exercised. After essaying
its virtues repeatedly, in contrast with his own voice, and, satisfying
himself that none of its melody was lost, he made a very serious
demonstration toward achieving a few stanzas of one of the longest effusions
in the little volume so often mentioned.

Heyward, however, hastily interrupted his pious purpose by continuing
questions concerning the past and present condition of his fellow captives,
and in a manner more methodical than had been permitted by his feelings in
the opening of their interview. David, though he regarded his treasure with
longing eyes, was constrained to answer, especially as the venerable father
took a part in the interrogatories, with an interest too imposing to be
denied. Nor did the scout fail to throw in a pertinent inquiry, whenever a
fitting occasion presented. In this manner, though with frequent
interruptions which were filled with certain threatening sounds from the
recovered instrument, the pursuers were put in possession of such leading
circumstances as were likely to prove useful in accomplishing their great
and engrossing object--the recovery of the sisters. The narrative of David
was simple, and the facts but few.

Magua had waited on the mountain until a safe moment to retire presented
itself, when he had descended, and taken the route along the western side of
the Horican in direction of the Canadas. As the subtle Huron was familiar
with the paths, and well knew there was no immediate danger of pursuit,
their progress had been moderate, and far from fatiguing. It appeared from
the unembellished statement of David, that his own presence had been rather
endured than desired; though even Magua had not been entirely exempt from
that veneration with which the Indians regard those whom the Great Spirit
had visited in their intellects. At night, the utmost care had been taken of
the captives, both to prevent injury from the damps of the woods and to
guard against an escape. At the spring, the horses were turned loose, as has
been seen; and, notwithstanding the remoteness and length of their trail,
the artifices already named were resorted to, in order to cut off every clue
to their place of retreat. On their arrival at the encampment of his people,
Magua, in obedience to a policy seldom departed from, separated his
prisoners. Cora had been sent to a tribe that temporarily occupied an
adjacent valley, though David was far too ignorant of the customs and
history of the natives, to be able to declare anything satisfactory
concerning their name or character. He only knew that they had not engaged
in the late expedition against William Henry; that, like the Hurons
themselves they were allies of Montcalm; and that they maintained an
amicable, though a watchful intercourse with the warlike and savage people
whom chance had, for a time, brought in such close and disagreeable contact
with themselves.

The Mohicans and the scout listened to his interrupted and imperfect
narrative, with an interest that obviously increased as he proceeded; and it
was while attempting to explain the pursuits of the community in which Cora
was detained, that the latter abruptly demanded:

"Did you see the fashion of their knives? wee they of English or French
formation"?

"My thoughts were bent on no such vanities, but rather mingled in
consolation with those of the maidens".

"The time may come when you will not consider the knife of a savage such a
despicable vanity", returned the scout, with a strong expression of contempt
for the other's dullness. "Had they held their corn feast--or can you say
anything of the totems of the tribe"?

"Of corn, we had many and plentiful feasts; for the grain, being in the milk
is both sweet to the mouth and comfortable to the stomach. Of totem, I know
not the meaning; but if it appertaineth in any wise to the art of Indian
music, it need not be inquired after at their hands. They never join their
voices in praise, and it would seem that they are among the profanest of the
idolatrous".

"Therein you belie the natur' of an Indian. Even the Mingo adores but the
true and loving God. 'Tis wicked fabrication of the whites, and I say it to
the shame of my color that would make the warrior bow down before images of
his own creation. It is true, they endeavor to make truces to the wicked
one--as who would not with an enemy he cannot conquer! but they look up for
favor and assistance to the Great and Good Spirit only".

"It may be so", said David; "but I have seen strange and fantastic images
drawn in their paint, of which their admiration and care savored of
spiritual pride; especially one, and that, too, a foul and loathsome
object".

"Was it a sarpent"? quickly demanded the scout.

"Much the same. It was in the likeness of an abject and creeping tortoise".

"Hugh"! exclaimed both the attentive Mohicans in a breath; while the scout
shook his head with the air of one who had made an important but by no means
a pleasing discovery. Then the father spoke, in the language of the
Delawares, and with a calmness and dignity that instantly arrested the
attention even of those to whom his words were unintelligible. His gestures
were impressive, and at times energetic. Once he lifted his arm on high;
and, as it descended, the action threw aside the folds of his light mantle,
a finger resting on his breast, as if he would enforce his meaning by the
attitude. Duncan's eyes followed the movement, and he perceived that the
animal just mentioned was beautifully, though faintly, worked in blue tint,
on the swarthy breast of the chief. All that he had ever heard of the
violent separation of the vast tribes of the Delawares rushed across his
mind, and he awaited the proper moment to speak, with a suspense that was
rendered nearly intolerable by his interest in the stake. His wish, however,
was anticipated by the scout who turned from his red friend, saying:

"We have found that which may be good or evil to us, as heaven disposes. The
Sagamore is of the high blood of the Delawares, and is the great chief of
their Tortoises! That some of this stock are among the people of whom the
singer tells us, is plain by his words; and, had he but spent half the
breath in prudent questions that he has blown away in making a trumpet of
his throat, we might have known how many warriors they numbered. It is,
altogether, a dangerous path we move in; for a friend whose face is turned
from you often bears a bloodier mind than the enemy who seeks your scalp".

"Explain", said Duncan.

"'Tis a long and melancholy tradition, and one I little like to think of;
for it is not to be denied that the evil has been mainly done by men with
white skins. But it has ended in turning the tomahawk of brother against
brother, and brought the Mingo and the Delaware to travel in the same path".

"You, then, suspect it is a portion of that people among whom Cora resides"?

The scout nodded his head in assent, though he seemed anxious to waive the
further discussion of a subject that appeared painful. The impatient Duncan
now made several hasty and desperate propositions to attempt the release of
the sisters. Munro seemed to shake off his apathy, and listened to the wild
schemes of the young man with a deference that his gray hairs and reverend
years should have denied. But the scout, after suffering the ardor of the
lover to expend itself a little, found means to convince him of the folly of
precipitation, in a manner that would require their coolest judgment and
utmost fortitude.

"It would be well", he added, "to let this man go in again, as usual, and
for him to tarry in the lodges, giving notice to the gentle ones of our
approach, until we call him out, by signal, to consult. You know the cry of
a crow, friend, from the whistle of the whip-poor-will"?

"'Tis a pleasing bird", returned David, "and has a soft and melancholy note!
though the time is rather quick and ill-measured".

"He speaks of the wish-ton-wish", said the scout; "well, since you like his
whistle, it shall be your signal. Remember, then, when you hear the
whip-poor-will's call three times repeated, you are to come into the bushes
where the bird might be supposed----"

"Stop", interrupted Heyward; "I will accompany him".

"You"! exclaimed the astonished Hawkeye; "are you tired of seeing the sun
rise and set"?

"David is a living proof that the Hurons can be merciful".

"Ay, but David can use his throat, as no man in his senses would pervart the
gift".

"I too can play the madman, the fool, the hero; in short, any or everything
to rescue her I love. Name your objections no longer: I am resolved".

Hawkeye regarded the young man a moment in speechless amazement. But Duncan,
who, in deference to the other's skill and services, had hitherto submitted
somewhat implicitly to his dictation, now assumed the superior, with a
manner that was not easily resisted. He waved his hand, in sign of his
dislike to all remonstrance, and then, in more tempered language, he
continued:

"You have the means of disguise; change me; paint me, too, if you will; in
short, alter me to anything--a fool".

"It is not for one like me to say that he who is already formed by so
powerful a hand as Providence, stands in need of a change", muttered the
discontented scout. "When you send your parties abroad in war, you find it
prudent, at least, to arrange the marks and places of encampment, in order
that they who fight on your side may know when and where to expect a
friend".

"Listen", interrupted Duncan; "you have heard from this faithful follower of
the captives, that the Indians are of two tribes, if not of different
nations. With one, whom you think to be a branch of the Delawares, is she
you call the "dark-hair"; the other, and younger, of the ladies, is
undeniably with our declared enemies, the Hurons. It becomes my youth and
rank to attempt the latter adventure. While you, therefore, are negotiating
with your friends for the release of one of the sisters, I will effect that
of the other, or die".

The awakened spirit of the young soldier gleamed in his eyes, and his form
became imposing under its influence. Hawkeye, though too much accustomed to
Indian artifices not to foresee the danger of the experiment, knew not well
how to combat this sudden resolution.

Perhaps there was something in the proposal that suited his own hardy
nature, and that secret love of desperate adventure, which had increased
with his experience, until hazard and danger had become, in some measure,
necessary to the enjoyment of his existence. Instead of continuing to oppose
the scheme of Duncan, his humor suddenly altered, and he lent himself to its
execution.

"Come", he said, with a good-humored smile; "the buck that will take to the
water must be headed, and not followed. Chingachgook has as many different
paints as the engineer officer's wife, who takes down natur' on scraps of
paper, making the mountains look like cocks of rusty hay, and placing the
blue sky in reach of your hand. The Sagamore can use them, too. Seat
yourself on the log; and my life on it, he can soon make a natural fool of
you, and that well to your liking".

Duncan complied; and the Mohican, who had been an attentive listener to the
discourse, readily undertook the office. Long practised in all the subtle
arts of his race, he drew, with great dexterity and quickness, the fantastic
shadow that the natives were accustomed to consider as the evidence of a
friendly and jocular disposition. Every line that could possibly be
interpreted into a secret inclination for war, was carefully avoided; while,
on the other hand, he studied those conceits that might be construed into
amity.

In short, he entirely sacrificed every appearance of the warrior to the
masquerade of a buffoon. Such exhibitions were not uncommon among the
Indians, and as Duncan was already sufficiently disguised in his dress,
there certainly did exist some reason for believing that, with his knowledge
of French, he might pass for a juggler from Ticonderoga, straggling among
the allied and friendly tribes.

When he was thought to be sufficiently painted, the scout gave him much
friendly advice; concerted signals, and appointed the place where they
should meet, in the event of mutual success. The parting between Munro and
his young friend was more melancholy; still, the former submitted to the
separation with an indifference that his warm and honest nature would never
have permitted in a more healthful state of mind. The scout led Heyward
aside, and acquainted him with his intention to leave the veteran in some
safe encampment, in charge of Chingachgook, while he and Uncas pursued their
inquires among the people they had reason to believe were Delawares. Then,
renewing his cautions and advice, he concluded by saying, with a solemnity
and warmth of feeling, with which Duncan was deeply touched:

"And, now, God bless you! You have shown a spirit that I like; for it is the
gift of youth, more especially one of warm blood and a stout heart. But
believe the warning of a man who has reason to know all he says to be true.
You will have occasion for your best manhood, and for a sharper wit than
what is to be gathered in books, afore you outdo the cunning or get the
better of the courage of a Mingo. God bless you! if the Hurons master your
scalp, rely on the promise of one who has two stout warriors to back him.
They shall pay for their victory, with a life for every hair it holds. I
say, young gentleman, may Providence bless your undertaking, which is
altogether for good; and, remember, that to outwit the knaves it is lawful
to practise things that may not be naturally the gift of a white-skin".

Duncan shook his worthy and reluctant associate warmly by the hand, once
more recommended his aged friend to his care, and returning his good wishes,
he motioned to David to proceed. Hawkeye gazed after the high-spirited and
adventurous young man for several moments, in open admiration; then, shaking
his head doubtingly, he turned, and led his own division of the party into
the concealment of the forest.

The route taken by Duncan and David lay directly across the clearing of the
beavers, and along the margin of their pond.

When the former found himself alone with one so simple, and so little
qualified to render any assistance in desperate emergencies, he first began
to be sensible of the difficulties of the task he had undertaken. The fading
light increased the gloominess of the bleak and savage wilderness that
stretched so far on every side of him, and there was even a fearful
character in the stillness of those little huts, that he knew were so
abundantly peopled. It struck him, as he gazed at the admirable structures
and the wonderful precautions of their sagacious inmates, that even the
brutes of these vast wilds were possessed of an instinct nearly commensurate
with his own reason; and he could not reflect, without anxiety, on the
unequal contest that he had so rashly courted. Then came the glowing image
of Alice; her distress; her actual danger; and all the peril of his
sitaution was forgotten. Cheering David, he moved on with the light and
vigorous step of youth and enterprise.

After making nearly a semicircle around the pond, they diverged from the
water- course, and began to ascend to the level of a slight elevation in
that bottom land, over which they journeyed. Within half an hour they gained
the margin of another opening that bore all the signs of having been also
made by the beavers, and which those sagacious animals had probably been
induced, by some accident, to abandon, for the more eligible position they
now occupied. A very natural sensation caused Duncan to hesitate a moment,
unwilling to leave the cover of their bushy path, as a man pauses to collect
his energies before he essays any hazardous experiment, in which he is
secretly conscious they will all be needed. He profited by the halt, to
gather such information as might be obtained from his short and hasty
glances.

On the opposite side of the clearing, and near the point where the brook
tumbled over some rocks, from a still higher level, some fifty or sixty
lodges, rudely fabricated of logs brush, and earth intermingled, were to be
discovered. They were arranged without any order, and seemed to be
constructed with very little attention to neatness or beauty. Indeed, so
very inferior were they in the two latter particulars to the village Duncan
had just seen, that he began to expect a second surprise, no less
astonishing that the former. This expectation was is no degree diminished,
when, by the doubtful twilight, he beheld twenty or thirty forms rising
alternately from the cover of the tall, coarse grass, in front of the
lodges, and then sinking again from the sight, as it were to burrow in the
earth. By the sudden and hasty glimpses that he caught of these figures,
they seemed more like dark, glancing specters, or some other unearthly
beings, than creatures fashioned with the ordinary and vulgar materials of
flesh and blood. A gaunt, naked form was seen, for a single instant, tossing
its arms wildly in the air, and then the spot it had filled was vacant; the
figure appearing suddenly in some other and distant place, or being
succeeded by another, possessing the same mysterious character. David,
observing that his companion lingered, pursued the direction of his gaze,
and in some measure recalled the recollection of Heyward, by speaking.

"There is much fruitful soil uncultivated here", he said; "and, I may add,
without the sinful leaven of self-commendation, that, since my short sojourn
in these heathenish abodes, much good seed has been scattered by the
wayside".

"The tribes are fonder of the chase than of the arts of men of labor",
returned the unconscious Duncan, still gazing at the objects of his wonder.

"It is rather joy than labor to the spirit, to lift up the voice in praise;
but sadly do these boys abuse their gifts. Rarely have I found any of their
age, on whom nature has so freely bestowed the elements of psalmody; and
surely, surely, there are none who neglect them more. Three nights have I
now tarried here, and three several times have I assembled the urchins to
join in sacred song; and as often have they responded to my efforts with
whoopings and howlings that have chilled my soul"!

"Of whom speak you"?

"Of those children of the devil, who waste the precious moments in yonder
idle antics. Ah! the wholesome restraint of discipline is but little known
among this self-abandoned people. In a country of birches, a rod is never
seen, and it ought not to appear a marvel in my eyes, that the choicest
blessings of Providence are wasted in such cries as these".

David closed his ears against the juvenile pack, whose yell just then rang
shrilly through the forest; and Duncan, suffering his lip to curl, as in
mockery of his own superstition, said firmly:

"We will proceed".

Without removing the safeguards form his ears, the master of song complied,
and together they pursued their way toward what David was sometimes wont to
call the "tents of the Philistines".

Chapter 23

"But though the beast of game
The privilege of chase may claim;
Though space and law the stag we lend
Ere hound we slip, or bow we bend;
Whoever recked, where, how, or when
The prowling fox was trapped or slain"?--Lady of the Lake

It is unusual to find an encampment of the natives, like those of the more
instructed whites, guarded by the presence of armed men. Well informed of
the approach of every danger, while it is yet at a distance, the Indian
generally rests secure under his knowledge of the signs of the forest, and
the long and difficult paths that separate him from those he has most reason
to dread. But the enemy who, by any lucky concurrence of accidents, has
found means to elude the vigilance of the scouts, will seldom meet with
sentinels nearer home to sound the alarm. In addition to this general usage,
the tribes friendly to the Fench knew too well the weight of the blow that
had just been struck, to apprehend any immediate danger from the hostile
nations that were tributary to the crown of Britain.

When Duncan and David, therefore, found themselves in the center of the
children, who played the antics already mentioned, it was without the least
previous intimation of their approach. But so soon as they were observed the
whole of the juvenile pack raised, by common consent, a shrill and warning
whoop; and then sank, as it were, by magic, from before the sight of their
visitors. The naked, tawny bodies of the crouching urchins blended so nicely
at that hour, with the withered herbage, that at first it seemed as if the
earth had, in truth, swallowed up their forms; though when surprise
permitted Duncan to bend his look more curiously about the spot, he found it
everywhere met by dark, quick, and rolling eyeballs.

Gathering no encouragement from this startling presage of the nature of the
scrutiny he was likely to undergo from the more mature judgments of the men,
there was an instant when the young soldier would have retreated. It was,
however, too late to appear to hesitate. The cry of the children had drawn a
dozen warriors to the door of the nearest lodge, where they stood clustered
in a dark and savage group, gravely awaiting the nearer approach of those
who had unexpectedly come among them.

David, in some measure familiarized to the scene, led the way with a
steadiness that no slight obstacle was likely to disconcert, into this very
building. It was the principal edifice of the village, though roughly
constructed of the bark and branches of trees; being the lodge in which the
tribe held its councils and public meetings during their temporary residence
on the borders of the English province. Duncan found it difficult to assume
the necessary appearance of unconcern, as he brushed the dark and powerful
frames of the savages who thronged its threshold; but, conscious that his
existence depended on his presence of mind, he trusted to the discretion of
his companion, whose footsteps he closely followed, endeavoring, as he
proceeded, to rally his thoughts for the occasion. His blood curdled when he
found himself in absolute contact with such fierce and implacable enemies;
but he so far mastered his feelings as to pursue his way into the center of
the lodge, with an exterior that did not betray the weakness. Imitating the
example of the deliberate Gamut, he drew a bundle of fragrant brush from
beneath a pile that filled the corner of the hut, and seated himself in
silence.

So soon as their visitor had passed, the observant warriors fell back from
the entrance, and arranging themselves about him, they seemed patiently to
await the moment when it might comport with the dignity of the stranger to
speak. By far the greater number stood leaning, in lazy, lounging attitudes,
against the upright posts that supported the crazy building, while three or
four of the oldest and most distinguished of the chiefs placed themselves on
the earth a little more in advance.

A flaring torch was burning in the place, and set its red glare from face to
face and figure to figure, as it waved in the currents of air. Duncan
profited by its light to read the probable character of his reception, in
the countenances of his hosts. But his ingenuity availed him little, against
the cold artifices of the people he had encountered. The chiefs in front
scarce cast a glance at his person, keeping their eyes on the ground, with
an air that might have been intended for respect, but which it was quite
easy to construe into distrust. The men in the shadow were less reserved.
Duncan soon detected their searching, but stolen, looks which, in truth,
scanned his person and attire inch by inch; leaving no emotion of the
countenance, no gesture, no line of the paint, nor even the fashion of a
garment, unheeded, and without comment.

At length one whose hair was beginning to be sprinkled with gray, but whose
sinewy limbs and firm tread announced that he was still equal to the duties
of manhood, advanced out of the gloom of a corner, whither he had probably
posted himself to make his observations unseen, and spoke. He used the
language of the Wyandots, or Hurons; his words were, consequently,
unintelligible to Heyward, though they seemed, by the gestures that
accompanied them, to be uttered more in courtesy than anger. The latter
shook his head, and made a gesture indicative of his inability to reply.

"Do none of my brothers speak the French or the English"? he said, in the
former language, looking about him from countenance to countenance, in hopes
of finding a nod of assent.

Though more than one had turned, as if to catch the meaning of his words,
they remained unanswered.

"I should be grieved to think", continued Duncan, speaking slowly, and using
the simplest French of which he was the master, "to believe that none of
this wise and brave nation understand the language that the"Grand Monarque"
uses when he talks to his children. His heart would be heavy did he believe
his red warriors paid him so little respect"!

A long and grave pause succeeded, during which no movement of a limb, nor
any expression of an eye, betrayed the expression produced by his remark.
Duncan, who knew that silence was a virtue among his hosts, gladly had
recourse to the custom, in order to arrange his ideas. At length the same
warrior who had before addressed him replied, by dryly demanding, in the
language of the Canadas:

"When our Great Father speaks to his people, is it with the tongue of a
Huron"?

"He knows no difference in his children, whether the color of the skin be
red, or black, or white", returned Duncan, evasively; "though chiefly is he
satisfied with the brave Hurons".

"In what manner will he speak", demanded the wary chief, "when the runners
count to him the scalps which five nights ago grew on the heads of the
Yengeese"?

"They were his enemies", said Duncan, shuddering involuntarily; "and
doubtless, he will say, it is good; my Hurons are very gallant".

"Our Canada father does not think it. Instead of looking foward to reward
his Indians, his eyes are turned backward. He sees the dead Yengeese, but no
Huron. What can this mean"?

"A great chief, like him, has more thoughts than tongues. He looks to see
that no enemies are on his trail".

"The canoe of a dead warrior will not float on the Horican", returned the
savage, gloomily. "His ears are open to the Delawares, who are not our
friends, and they fill them with lies".

"It cannot be. See; he has bid me, who am a man that knows the art of
healing, to go to his children, the red Hurons of the great lakes, and ask
if any are sick"!

Another silence succeeded this annunciation of the character Duncan had
assumed. Every eye was simultaneously bent on his person, as if to inquire
into the truth or falsehood of the declaration, with an intelligence and
keenness that caused the subject of their scrutiny to tremble for the
result. He was, however, relieved again by the former speaker.

"Do the cunning men of the Canadas paint their skins"? the Huron coldly
continued; "we have heard them boast that their faces were pale".

"When an Indian chief comes among his white fathers", returned Duncan, with
great steadiness, "he lays aside his buffalo robe, to carry the shirt that
is offered him. My brothers have given me paint and I wear it".

A low murmur of applause announced that the compliment of the tribe was
favorably received. The elderly chief made a gesture of commendation, which
was answered by most of his companions, who each threw forth a hand and
uttered a brief exclamation of pleasure. Duncan began to breathe more
freely, believing that the weight of his examination was past; and, as he
had already prepared a simple and probable tale to support his pretended
occupation, his hopes of ultimate success grew brighter.

After a silence of a few moments, as if adjusting his thoughts, in order to
make a suitable answer to the declaration their guests had just given,
another warrior arose, and placed himself in an attitude to speak. While his
lips were yet in the act of parting, a low but fearful sound arose from the
forest, and was immediately succeeded by a high, shrill yell, that was drawn
out, until it equaled the longest and most plaintive howl of the wolf. The
sudden and terrible interruption caused Duncan to start from his seat,
unconscious of everything but the effect produced by so frightful a cry. At
the same moment, the warriors glided in a body from the lodge, and the outer
air was filled with loud shouts, that nearly drowned those awful sounds,
which were still ringing beneath the arches of the woods. Unable to command
himself any longer, the youth broke from the place, and presently stood in
the center of a disorderly throng, that included nearly everything having
life, within the limits of the encampment. Men, women, and children; the
aged, the inform, the active, and the strong, were alike abroad, some
exclaiming aloud, others clapping their hands with a joy that seemed
frantic, and all expressing their savage pleasure in some unecpected event.
Though astounded, at first, by the uproar, Heyward was soon enabled to find
its solution by the scene that followed.

There yet lingered sufficient light in the heavens to exhibit those bright
openings among the tree-tops, where different paths left the clearing to
enter the depths of the wilderness. Beneath one of them, a line of warriors
issued from the woods, and advanced slowly toward the dwellings. One in
front bore a short pole, on which, as it afterwards appeared, were suspended
several human scalps. The startling sounds that Duncan had heard were what
the whites have not inappropriately called the "death-hallo"; and each
repetition of the cry was intended to announce to the tribe the fate of an
enemy. Thus far the knowledge of Heyward assisted him in the explanation;
and as he now knew that the interruption was caused by the unlooked-for
return of a succcessful war-party, every disagreeable sensation was quieted
in inward congratulation, for the opportune relief and insignificance it
conferred on himself.

When at the distance of a few hundred feet from the lodges the newly arrived
warriors halted. Their plaintive and terrific cry, which was intended to
represent equally the wailings of the dead and the triumph to the victors,
had entirely ceased. One of their number now called aloud, in words that
were far from appalling, though not more intelligible to those for whose
ears they were intended, than their expressive yells. It would be difficult
to convey a suitable idea of the savage ecstasy with which the news thus
imparted was received. The whole encampment, in a moment, became a scene of
the most violent bustle and commotion. The warriors drew their knives, and
flourishing them, they arranged themselves in two lines, forming a lane that
extended from the war-party to the lodges. The squaws seized clubs, axes, or
whatever weapon of offense first offered itself to their hands, and rushed
eagerly to act their part in the cruel game that was at hand. Even the
children would not be excluded; but boys, little able to wield the
instruments, tore the tomahawks from the belts of their fathers, and stole
into the ranks, apt imitators of the savage traits exhibited by their
parents.

Large piles of brush lay scattered about the clearing, and a wary and aged
squaw was occupied in firing as many as might serve to light the coming
exhibition. As the flame arose, its power exceeded that of the parting day,
and assisted to render objects at the same time more distinct and more
hideous. The whole scene formed a striking picture, whose frame was composed
of the dark and tall border of pines. The warriors just arrived were the
most distant figures. A little in advance stood two men, who were apparently
selected from the rest, as the principal actors in what was to follow. The
light was not strong enough to render their features distinct, though it was
quite evident that they were governed by very different emotions. While one
stood erect and firm, prepared to meet his fate like a hero, the other bowed
his head, as if palsied by terror or stricken with shame. The high- spirited
Duncan felt a powerful impulse of admiration and pity toward the former,
though no opportunity could offer to exhibit his generous emotions. He
watched his slightest movement, however, with eager eyes; and, as he traced
the fine outline of his admirably proportioned and active frame, he
endeavored to persuade himself, that, if the powers of man, seconded by such
noble resolution, could bear one harmless through so severe a trial, the
youthful captive before him might hope for success in the hazardous race he
was about to run. Insensibly the young man drew nigher to the swarthy lines
of the Hurons, and scarcely breathed, so intense became his interest in the
spectacle. Just then the signal yell was given, and the momentary quiet
which had preceded it was broken by a burst of cries, that far exceeded any
before heard. The more abject of the two victims continued motionless; but
the other bounded from the place at the cry, with the activity and swiftness
of a deer. Instead of rushing through the hostile lines, as had been
expected, he just entered the dangerous defile, and before time was given
for a single blow, turned short, and leaping the heads of a row of children,
he gained at once the exterior and safer side of the formidable array. The
artifice was answered by a hundred voices raised in imprecations; and the
whole of the excited multitude broke from their order, and spread themselves
about the place in wild confusion.

A dozen blazing piles now shed their lurid brightness on the place, which
resembled some unhallowed and supernatural arena, in which malicious demons
had assembled to act their bloody and lawless rites. The forms in the
background looked like unearthly beings, gliding before the eye, and
cleaving the air with frantic and unmeaning gestures; while the savage
passions of such as passed the flames were rendered fearfully distinct by
the gleams that shot athwart their inflamed visages.

It will easily be understood that, amid such a concourse of vindictive
enemies, no breathing time was allowed the fugitive. There was a single
moment when it seemed as if he would have reached the forest, but the whole
body of his captors threw themselves before him, and drove him back into the
center of his relentless persecutors. Turning like a headed deer, he shot,
with the swiftness of an arrow, through a pillar of forked flame, and
passing the whole multitude harmless, he appeared on the opposite side of
the clearing. Here, too, he was met and turned by a few of the older and
more subtle of the Hurons. Once more he tried the throng, as if seeking
safety in its blindness, and then several moments succeeded, during which
Duncan believed the active and courageous young stranger was lost.

Nothing could be distinguished but a dark mass of human forms tossed and
involved in inexplicable confusion. Arms, gleaming knives, and formidable
clubs, appeared above them, but the blows were evidently given at random.
The awful effect was heightened by the piercing shrieks of the women and the
fierce yells of the warriors. Now and then Duncan caught a glimpse of a
light form cleaving the air in some desperate bound, and he rather hoped
than believed that the captive yet retained the command of his astonishing
powers of activity. Suddenly the multitude rolled backward, and approached
the spot where he himself stood. The heavy body in the rear pressed upon the
women and children in front, and bore them to the earth. The stranger
reappeared in the confusion. Human power could not, however, much longer
endure so severe a trial. Of this the captive seemed conscious. Profiting by
the momentary opening, he darted from among the warriors, and made a
desperate, and what seemed to Duncan a final effort to gain the wood. As if
aware that no danger was to be apprehended from the young soldier, the
fugitive nearly brushed his person in his flight. A tall and powerful Huron,
who had husbanded his forces, pressed close upon his heels, and with an
uplifted arm menaced a fatal blow. Duncan thrust forth a foot, and the shock
precipitated the eager savage headlong, many feet in advance of his intended
victim. Thought itself is not quicker than was the motion with which the
latter profited by the advantage; he turned, gleamed like a meteor again
before the eyes of Duncan, and, at the next moment, when the latter
recovered his recollection, and gazed around in quest of the captive, he saw
him quietly leaning against a small painted post, which stood before the
door of the principal lodge.

Apprehensive that the part he had taken in the escape might prove fatal to
himself, Duncan left the place without delay. He followed the crowd, which
drew nigh the lodges, gloomy and sullen, like any other multitude that had
been disappointed in an execution. Curiosity, or perhaps a better feeling,
induced him to approach the stranger. He found him, standing with one arm
cast about the protecting post, and breathing thick and hard, after his
exertions, but disdaining to permit a single sign of suffering to escape.
His person was now protected by immemorial and sacred usage, until the tribe
in council had deliberated and determined on his fate. It was not difficult,
however, to foretell the result, if any presage could be drawn from the
feelings of those who crowded the place.

There was no term of abuse known to the Huron vocabulary that the
disappointed women did not lavishly expend on the successful stranger. They
flouted at his efforts, and told him, with bitter scoffs, that his feet were
better than his hands; and that he merited wings, while he knew not the use
of an arrow or a knife. To all this the captive made no reply; but was
content to preserve an attitude in which dignity was singularly blended with
disdain. Exasperated as much by his composure as by his good-fortune, their
words became unintelligible, and were succeeded by shrill, piercing yells.
Just then the crafty squaw, who had taken the necessary precaution to fire
the piles, made her way through the throng, and cleared a place for herself
in front of the captive. The squalid and withered person of this hag might
well have obtained for her the character of possessing more than human
cunning. Throwing back her light vestment, she stretched forth her long,
skinny arm, in derision, and using the language of the Lenape, as more
intelligible to the subject of her gibes, she commenced aloud:

"Look you, Delaware", she said, snapping her fingers in his face; "your
nation is a race of women, and the hoe is better fitted to your hands than
the gun. Your squaws are the mothers of deer; but if a bear, or a wildcat,
or a serpent were born among you, ye would flee. The Huron girls shall make
you petticoats, and we will find you a husband".

A burst of savage laughter succeeded this attack, during which the soft and
musical merriment of the younger females strangely chimed with the cracked
voice of their older and more malignant companion. But the stranger was
superior to all their efforts. His head was immovable; nor did he betray the
slightest consciousness that any were present, except when his haughty eye
rolled toward the dusky forms of the warriors, who stalked in the background
silent and sullen observers of the scene.

Infuriated at the self-command of the captive, the woman placed her arms
akimbo; and, throwing herself into a posture of defiance, she broke out
anew, in a torrent of words that no art of ours could commit successfully to
paper. Her breath was, however, expended in vain; for, although
distinguished in her nation as a proficient in the art of abuse, she was
permitted to work herself into such a fury as actually to foam at the mouth,
without causing a muscle to vibrate in the motionless figure of the
stranger. The effect of his indifference began to extend itself to the other
spectators; and a youngster, who was just quitting the condition of a boy to
enter the state of manhood, attempted to assist the termagant, by
flourishing his tomahawk before their victim, and adding his empty boasts to
the taunts of the women. Then, indeed, the captive turned his face toward
the light, and looked down on the stripling with an expression that was
superior to contempt. At the next moment he resumed his quiet and reclining
attitude against the post. But the change of posture had permitted Duncan to
exchange glances with the firm and piercing eyes of Uncas.

Breathless with amazement, and heavily oppressed with the critical situation
of his friend, Heyward recoiled before the look, trembling lest its meaning
might, in some unknown manner, hasten the prisoner's fate. There was not,
however, any instant cause for such an apprehension. Just then a warrior
forced his way into the exasperated crowd. Motioning the women and children
aside with a stern gesture, he took Uncas by the arm, and led him toward the
door of the council-lodge. Thither all the chiefs, and most of the
distinguished warriors, followed; among whom the anxious Heyward found means
to enter without attracting any dangerous attention to himself.

A few minutes were consumed in disposing of those present in a manner
suitable to their rank and influence in the tribe. An order very similar to
that adopted in the preceding interview was observed; the aged and superior
chiefs occupying the area of the spacious apartment, within the powerful
light of a glaring torch, while their juniors and inferiors were arranged in
the background, presenting a dark outline of swarthy and marked visages. In
the very center of the lodge, immediately under an opening that admitted the
twinkling light of one or two stars, stood Uncas, calm, elevated, and
collected. His high and haughty carriage was not lost on his captors, who
often bent their looks on his person, with eyes which, while they lost none
of their inflexibility of purpose, plainly betrayed their admiration of the
stranger's daring.

The case was different with the individual whom Duncan had observed to stand
forth with his friend, previously to the desperate trial of speed; and who,
instead of joining in the chase, had remained, throughout its turbulent
uproar, like a cringing statue, expressive of shame and disgrace. Though not
a hand had been extended to greet him, nor yet an eye had condescended to
watch his movements, he had also entered the lodge, as though impelled by a
fate to whose decrees he submitted, seemingly, without a struggle. Heyward
profited by the first opportunity to gaze in his face, secretly apprehensive
he might find the features of another acquaintance; but they proved to be
those of a stranger, and, what was still more inexplicable, of one who bore
all the distinctive marks of a Huron warrior. Instead of mingling with his
tribe, however, he sat apart, a solitary being in a multitude, his form
shrinking into a crouching and abject attitude, as if anxious to fill as
little space as possible. When each individual had taken his proper station,
and silence reigned in the place, the gray-haired chief already introduced
to the reader, spoke aloud, in the language of the Lenni Lenape.

"Delaware", he said, "though one of a nation of women, you have proved
yourself a man. I would give you food; but he who eats with a Huron should
become his friend. Rest in peace till the morning sun, when our last words
shall be spoken".

"Seven nights, and as many summer days, have I fasted on the trail of the
Hurons", Uncas coldly replied; "the children of the Lenape know how to
travel the path of the just without lingering to eat".

"Two of my young men are in pursuit of your companion", resumed the other,
without appearing to regard the boast of his captive; "when they get back,
then will our wise man say to you "live" or "die"".

"Has a Huron no ears"? scornfully exclaimed Uncas; "twice, since he has been
your prisoner, has the Delaware heard a gun that he knows. Your young men
will never come back"!

A short and sullen pause succeeded this bold assertion. Duncan, who
understood the Mohican to allude to the fatal rifle of the scout, bent
forward in earnest observation of the effect it might produce on the
conquerors; but the chief was content with simply retorting:

"If the Lenape are so skillful, why is one of their bravest warriors here"?

"He followed in the steps of a flying coward, and fell into a snare. The
cunning beaver may be caught".

As Uncas thus replied, he pointed with his finger toward the solitary Huron,
but without deigning to bestow any other notice on so unworthy an object.
The words of the answer and the air of the speaker produced a strong
sensation among his auditors. Every eye rolled sullenly toward the
individual indicated by the simple gesture, and a low, threatening murmur
passed through the crowd. The ominous sounds reached the outer door, and the
women and children pressing into the throng, no gap had been left, between
shoulder and shoulder, that was not now filled with the dark lineaments of
some eager and curious human countenance.

In the meantime, the more aged chiefs, in the center, communed with each
other in short and broken sentences. Not a word was uttered that did not
convey the meaning of the speaker, in the simplest and most energetic form.
Again, a long and deeply solemn pause took place. It was known, by all
present, to be the brave precursor of a weighty and important judgment. They
who composed the outer circle of faces were on tiptoe to gaze; and even the
culprit for an instant forgot his shame in a deeper emotion, and exposed his
abject features, in order to cast an anxious and troubled glance at the dark
assemblage of chiefs. The silence was finally broken by the aged warrior so
often named. He arose from the earth, and moving past the immovable form of
Uncas, placed himself in a dignified attitude before the offender. At that
moment, the withered squaw already mentioned moved into the circle, in a
slow, sidling sort of a dance, holding the torch, and muttering the
indistinct words of what might have been a species of incantation. Though
her presence was altogether an intrusion, it was unheeded.

Approaching Uncas, she held the blazing brand in such a manner as to cast
its red glare on his person, and to expose the slightest emotion of his
countenance. The Mohican maintained his firm and haughty attitude; and his
eyes, so far from deigning to meet her inquisitive look, dwelt steadily on
the distance, as though it penetrated the obstacles which impeded the view
and looked into futurity. Satisfied with her examination, she left him, with
a slight expression of pleasure, and proceeded to practise the same trying
experiment on her delinquent countryman.

The young Huron was in his war paint, and very little of a finely molded
form was concealed by his attire. The light rendered every limb and joint
discernible, and Duncan turned away in horror when he saw they were writhing
in irrepressible agony. The woman was commencing a low and plaintive howl at
the sad and shameful spectacle, when the chief put forth his hand and gently
pushed her aside.

"Reed-that-bends", he said, addressing the young culprit by name, and in his
proper language, "though the Great Spirit has made you pleasant to the eyes,
it would have been better that you had not been born. Your tongue is loud in
the village, but in battle it is still. None of my young men strike the
tomahawk deeper into the war- post--none of them so lightly on the Yengeese.
The enemy know the shape of your back, but they have never seen the color of
your eyes. Three times have they called on you to come, and as often did you
forget to answer. Your name will never be mentioned again in your tribe--it
is already forgotten".

As the chief slowly uttered these words, pausing impressively between each
sentence, the culprit raised his face, in deference to the other's rank and
years. Shame, horror, and pride struggled in its lineaments. His eye, which
was contracted with inward anguish, gleamed on the persons of those whose
breath was his fame; and the latter emotion for an instant predominated. He
arose to his feet, and baring his bosom, looked steadily on the keen,
glittering knife, that was already upheld by his inexorable judge. As the
weapon passed slowly into his heart he even smiled, as if in joy at having
found death less dreadful than he had anticipated, and fell heavily on his
face, at the feet of the rigid and unyielding form of Uncas.

The squaw gave a loud and plaintive yell, dashed the torch to the earth, and
buried everything in darkness. The whole shuddering group of spectators
glided from the lodge like troubled sprites; and Duncan thought that he and
the yet throbbing body of the victim of an Indian judgment had now become
its only tenants.

Chapter 24

"Thus spoke the sage: the kings without delay
Dissolve the council, and their chief obey".--Pope's Iliad

A single moment served to convince the youth that he was mistaken. A hand
was laid, with a powerful pressure, on his arm, and the low voice of Uncas
muttered in his ear:

"The Hurons are dogs. The sight of a coward's blood can never make a warrior
tremble. The "Gray Head" and the Sagamore are safe, and the rifle of Hawkeye
is not asleep. Go--Uncas and the "Open Hand" are now strangers. It is
enough".

Heyward would gladly have heard more, but a gentle push from his friend
urged him toward the door, and admonished him of the danger that might
attend the discovery of their intercourse. Slowly and reluctantly yielding
to the necessity, he quitted the place, and mingled with the throng that
hovered nigh. The dying fires in the clearing cast a dim and uncertain light
on the dusky figures that were silently stalking to and fro; and
occasionally a brighter gleam than common glanced into the lodge, and
exhibited the figure of Uncas still maintaining its upright attitude near
the dead body of the Huron.

A knot of warriors soon entered the place again, and reissuing, they bore
the senseless remains into the adjacent woods. After this termination of the
scene, Duncan wandered among the lodges, unquestioned and unnoticed,
endeavoring to find some trace of her in whose behalf he incurred the risk
he ran. In the present temper of the tribe it would have been easy to have
fled and rejoined his companions, had such a wish crossed his mind. But, in
addition to the never-ceasing anxiety on account of Alice, a fresher though
feebler interest in the fate of Uncas assisted to chain him to the spot. He
continued, therefore, to stray from hut to hut, looking into each only to
encounter additional disappointment, until he had made the entire circuit of
the village. Abandoning a species of inquiry that proved so fruitless, he
retraced his steps to the council-lodge, resolved to seek and question
David, in order to put an end to his doubts.

On reaching the building, which had proved alike the seat of judgment and
the place of execution, the young man found that the excitement had already
subsided. The warriors had reassembled, and were now calmly smoking, while
they conversed gravely on the chief incidents of their recent expedition to
the head of the Horican. Though the return of Duncan was likely to remind
them of his character, and the suspicious circumstances of his visit, it
produced no visible sensation. So far, the terrible scene that had just
occurred proved favorable to his views, and he required no other prompter
than his own feelings to convince him of the expediency of profiting by so
unexpected an advantage.

Without seeming to hesitate, he walked into the lodge, and took his seat
with a gravity that accorded admirably with the deportment of his hosts. A
hasty but searching glance sufficed to tell him that, though Uncas still
remained where he had left him, David had not reappeared. No other restraint
was imposed on the former than the watchful looks of a young Huron, who had
placed himself at hand; though an armed warrior leaned against the post that
formed one side of the narrow doorway. In every other respect, the captive
seemed at liberty; still he was excluded from all participation in the
discourse, and possessed much more of the air of some finely molded statue
than a man having life and volition.

Heyward had too recently witnessed a frightful instance of the prompt
punishments of the people into whose hands he had fallen to hazard an
exposure by any officious boldness. He would greatly have preferred silence
and meditation to speech, when a discovery of his real condition might prove
so instantly fatal. Unfortunately for this prudent resolution, his
entertainers appeared otherwise disposed. He had not long occupied the seat
wisely taken a little in the shade, when another of the elder warriors, who
spoke the Frnech language, addressed him:

"My Canada father does not forget his children", said the chief; "I thank
him. An evil spirit lives in the wife of one of my young men. Can the
cunning stranger frighten him away"?

Heyward possessed some knowledge of the mummery practised among the Indians,
in the cases of such supposed visitations. He saw, at a glance, that the
circumstance might possibly be improved to further his own ends. It would,
therefore, have been difficult, just then to have uttered a proposal that
would have given him more satisfaction. Aware of the necessity of preserving
the dignity of his imaginary character, however, he repressed his feelings,
and answered with suitable mystery:

"Spirits differ; some yield to the power of wisdom, while others are too
strong".

"My brother is a great medicine", said the cunning savage; "he will try"?

A gesture of assent was the answer. The Huron was content with the
assurance, and, resuming his pipe, he awaited the proper moment to move. The
impatient Heyward, inwardly execrating the cold customs of the savages,
which required such sacrifices to appearance, was fain to assume an air of
indifference, equal to that maintained by the chief, who was, in truth, a
near relative of the afflicted woman. The minutes lingered, and the delay
had seemed an hour to the adventurer in empiricism, when the Huron laid
aside his pipe and drew his robe across his breast, as if about to lead the
way to the lodge of the invalid. Just then, a warrior of powerful frame,
darkened the door, and stalking silently among the attentive group, he
seated himself on one end of the low pile of brush which sustained Duncan.
The latter cast an impatient look at his neighbor, and felt his flesh creep
with uncontrollable horror when he found himself in actual contact with
Magua.

The sudden return of this artful and dreaded chief caused a delay in the
departure of the Huron. Several pipes, that had been extinguished, were
lighted again; while the newcomer, without speaking a word, drew his
tomahawk from his girdle, and filling the bowl on its head began to inhale
the vapors of the weed through the hollow handle, with as much indifference
as if he had not been absent two weary days on a long and toilsome hunt. Ten
minutes, which appeared so many ages to Duncan, might have passed in this
manner; and the warriors were fairly enveloped in a cloud of white smoke
before any of them spoke.

"Welcome"! one at length uttered; "has my friend found the moose"?

"The young men stagger under their burdens", returned Magua. "Let
"Reed-that- bends" go on the hunting path; he will meet them".

A deep and awful silence succeeded the utterance of the forbidden name. Each
pipe dropped from the lips of its owner as though all hadinhaled an impurity
at the same instant. The smoke wreathed above their heads in little eddies,
and curling in a spiral form it ascended swiftly through the opening in the
roof of the lodge, leaving the place beneath clear of its fumes, and each
dark visage distinctly visible. The looks of most of the warriors were
riveted on the earth; though a few of the younger and less gifted of the
party suffered their wild and glaring eyeballs to roll in the direction of a
white- headed savage, who sat between two of the most venerated chiefs of
the tribe. There was nothing in the air or attire of this Indian that would
seem to entitle him to such a distinction. The former was rather depressed,
than remarkable for the bearing of the natives; and the latter was such as
was commonly worn by the ordinary men of the nation. Like most around him
for more than a minute his look, too, was on the ground; but, trusting his
eyes at length to steal a glance aside, he perceived that he was becoming an
object of general attention. Then he arose and lifted his voice in the
general silence.

"It was a lie", he said; "I had no son. He who was called by that name is
forgotten; his blood was pale, and it came not from the veins of a Huron;
the wicked Chippewas cheated my squaw. The Great Spirit has said, that the
family of Wiss-entush should end; he is happy who knows that the evil of his
race dies with himself. I have done".

The speaker, who was the father of the recreant young Indian, looked round
and about him, as if seeking commendation of his stoicism in the eyes of the
auditors. But the stern customs of his people had made too severe an
exaction of the feeble old man. The expression of his eye contradicted his
figurative and boastful language, while every muscle in his wrinkled visage
was working with anguish. Standing a single minute to enjoy his bitter
triumph, he turned away, as if sickening at the gaze of men, and, veiling
his face in his blanket, he walked from the lodge with the noiseless step of
an Indian seeking, in the privacy of his own abode, the sympathy of one like
himself, aged, forlorn and childless.

The Indians, who believe in the hereditary transmission of virtues and
defects in character, suffered him to depart in silence. Then, with an
elevation of breeding that many in a more cultivated state of society might
profitably emulate, one of the chiefs drew the attention of the young men
from the weakness they had just witnessed, by saying, in a cheerful voice,
addressing himself in courtesy to Magua, as the newest comer:

"The Delawares have been like bears after the honey pots, prowling around my
village. But who has ever found a Huron asleep"?

The darkness of the impending cloud which precedes a burst of thunder was
not blacker than the brow of Magua as he exclaimed:

"The Delawares of the Lakes"!

"Not so. They who wear the petticoats of squaws, on their own river. One of
them has been passing the tribe".

"Did my young men take his scalp"?

"His legs were good, though his arm is better for the hoe than the
tomahawk", returned the other, pointing to the immovable form of Uncas.

Instead of manifesting any womanish curiosity to feast his eyes with the
sight of a captive from a people he was known to have so much reason to
hate, Magua continued to smoke, with the meditative air that he usually
maintained, when there was no immediate call on his cunning or his
eloquence. Although secretly amazed at the facts communicated by the speech
of the aged father, he permitted himself to ask no questions, reserving his
inquiries for a more suitable moment. It was only after a sufficient
interval that he shook the ashes from his pipe, replaced the tomahawk,
tightened his girdle, and arose, casting for the first time a glance in the
direction of the prisoner, who stood a little behind him. The wary, though
seemingly abstracted Uncas, caught a glimpse of the movement, and turning
suddenly to the light, their looks met. Near a minute these two bold and
untamed spirits stood regarding one another steadily in the eye, neither
quailing in the least before the fierce gaze he encountered. The form of
Uncas dilated, and his nostrils opened like those of a tiger at bay; but so
rigid and unyielding was his posture, that he might easily have been
converted by the imagination into an exquisite and faultless representation
of the warlike diety of his tribe. The lineaments of the quivering features
of Magua proved more ductile; his countenance gradually lost its character
of defiance in an expression of ferocious joy, and heaving a breath from the
very bottom of his chest, he pronounced aloud the formidable name of:

"Le Cerf Agile"!

Each warrior sprang upon his feet at the utterance of the well-known
appellation, and there was a short period during which the stoical constancy
of the natives was completely conquered by surprise. The hated and yet
respected name was repeated as by one voice, carrying the sound even beyond
the limits of the lodge. The women and children, who lingered around the
entrance, took up the words in an echo, which was succeeded by another
shrill and plaintive howl. The latter was not yet ended, when the sensation
among the men had entirely abated. Each one in presence seated himself, as
though ashamed of his precipitation; but it was many minutes before their
meaning eyes ceased to roll toward their captive, in curious examination of
a warrior who had so often proved his prowess on the best and proudest of
their nation. Uncas enjoyed his victory, but was content with merely
exhibiting his triumph by a quiet smile--an emblem of scorn which belongs to
all time and every nation.

Magua caught the expression, and raising his arm, he shook it at the
captive, the light silver ornaments attached to his bracelet rattling with
the trembling agitation of the limb, as, in a tone of vengeance, he
exclaimed, in English:

"Mohican, you die"!

"The healing waters will never bring the dead Hurons to life", returned
Uncas, in the music of the Delawares; "the tumbling river washes their
bones; their men are squaws: their women owls. Go! call together the Huron
dogs, that they may look upon a warrior, My nostrils are offended; they
scent the blood of a coward".

The latter allusion struck deep, and the injury rankled. Many of the Hurons
understood the strange tongue in which the captive spoke, among which number
was Magua. This cunning savage beheld, and instantly profited by his
advantage. Dropping the light robe of skin from his shoulder, he stretched
forth his arm, and commenced a burst of his dangerous and artful eloquence.
However much his influence among his people had been impaired by his
occasional and besetting weakness, as well as by his desertion of the tribe,
his courage and his fame as an orator were undeniable. He never spoke
without auditors, and rarely without making converts to his opinions. On the
present occasion, his native powers were stimulated by the thirst of
revenge.

He again recounted the events of the attack on the island at Glenn's, the
death of his associates and the escape of their most formidable enemies.
Then he described the nature and position of the mount whither he had led
such captives as had fallen into their hands. Of his own bloody intentions
toward the maidens, and of his baffled malice he made no mention, but passed
rapidly on to the surprise of the party by "La Longue Carabine", and its
fatal termination. Here he paused, and looked about him, in affected
veneration for the departed, but, in truth, to note the effect of his
opening narrative. As usual, every eye was riveted on his face. Each dusky
figure seemed a breathing statue, so motionless was the posture, so intense
the attention of the individual.

Then Magua dropped his voice which had hitherto been clear, strong and
elevated, and touched upon the merits of the dead. No quality that was
likely to command the sympathy of an Indian escaped his notice. One had
never been known to follow the chase in vain; another had been indefatigable
on the trail of their enemies. This was brave, that generous. In short, he
so managed his allusions, that in a nation which was composed of so few
families, he contrived to strike every chord that might find, in its turn,
some breast in which to vibrate.

"Are the bones of my young men", he concluded, "in the burial-place of the
Hurons? Yu know they are not. Their spirits are gone toward the setting sun,
and are already crossing the great waters, to the happy hunting-grounds. But
they departed without food, without guns or knives, without moccasins, naked
and poor as they were born. Shall this be? Are their souls to enter the land
of the just like hungry Iroquois or unmanly Delawares, or shall they meet
their friends with arms in their hands and robes on their backs? What will
our fathers think the tribes of the Wyandots have become? They will look on
their children with a dark eye, and say, "Go! a Chippewa has come hither
with the name of a Huron" Brothers, we must not forget the dead; a red- skin
never ceases to remember. We will load the back of this Mohican until he
staggers under our bounty, and dispatch him after my young men. They call to
us for aid, though our ears are not open; they say, "Forget us not" When
they see the spirit of this Mohican toiling after them with his burden, they
will know we are of that mind.Then will they go on happy; and our children
will say, "So did our fathers to their friends, so must we do to them" What
is a Yengee? we have slain many, but the earth is still pale. A stain on the
name of Huron can only be hid by blood that comes from the veins of an
Indian. Let this Delaware die".

The effect of such an harangue, delivered in the nervous language and with
the emphatic manner of a Huron orator, could scarcely be mistaken. Magua had
so artfully blended the natural sympathies with the religious superstition
of his auditors, that their minds, already prepared by custom to sacrifice a
victim to the manes of their countrymen, lost every vestige of humanity in a
wish for revenge. One warrior in particular, a man of wild and ferocious
mien, had been conspicuous for the attention he had given to the words of
the speaker. His countenance had changed with each passing emotion, until it
settled into a look of deadly malice. As Magua ended he arose and, uttering
the yell of a demon, his polished little axe was seen glancing in the
torchlight as he whirled it above his head. The motion and the cry were too
sudden for words to interrupt his bloody intention. It appeared as if a
bright gleam shot from his hand, which was crossed at the same moment by a
dark and powerful line. The former was the tomahawk in its passage; the
latter the arm that Magua darted forward to divert its aim. The quick and
ready motion of the chief was not entirely too late. The keen weapon cut the
war plume from the scalping tuft of Uncas, and passed through the frail wall
of the lodge as though it were hurled from some formidable engine.

Duncan had seen the threatening action, and sprang upon his feet, with a
heart which, while it leaped into his throat, swelled with the most generous
resolution in behalf of his friend. A glance told him that the blow had
failed, and terror changed to admiration. Uncas stood still, looking his
enemy in the eye with features that seemed superior to emotion. Marble could
not be colder, calmer, or steadier than the countenance he put upon this
sudden and vindictive attack. Then, as if pitying a want of skill which had
proved so fortunate to himself, he smiled, and muttered a few words of
contempt in his own tongue.

"No"! said Magua, after satisfying himself of the safety of the captive;
"the sun must shine on his shame; the squaws must see his flesh tremble, or
our revenge will be like the play of boys. Go! take him where there is
silence; let us see if a Delaware can sleep at night, and in the morning
die".

The young men whose duty it was to guard the prisoner instantly passed their
ligaments of bark across his arms, and led him from the lodge, amid a
profound and ominous silence. It was only as the figure of Uncas stood in
the opening of the door that his firm step hesitated. There he turned, and,
in the sweeping and haughty glance that he threw around the circle of his
enemies, Duncan caught a look which he was glad to construe into an
expression that he was not entirely deserted by hope.

Magua was content with his success, or too much occupied with his secret
purposes to push his inquiries any further. Shaking his mantle, and folding
it on his bosom, he also quitted the place, without pursuing a subject which
might have proved so fatal to the individual at his elbow. Nothwithstanding
his rising resentment, his natural firmness, and his anxiety on behalf of
Uncas, Heyward felt sensibly relieved by the absence of so dangerous and so
subtle a foe. The excitement produced by the speech gradually subsided. The
warriors resumed their seats and clouds of smoke once more filled the lodge.
For near half an hour, not a syllable was uttered, or scarcely a look cast
aside; a grave and meditative silence being the ordinary succession to every
scene of violence and commotion among these beings, who were alike so
impetuous and yet so self-restrained.

When the chief, who had solicited the aid of Duncan, finished his pipe, he
made a final and successful movement toward departing. A motion of a finger
was the intimation he gave the supposed physician to folllow; and passing
through the clouds of smoke, Duncad was glad, on more accounts than one, to
be able at last to breathe the pure air of a cool and refreshing summer
evening.

Instead of pursuing his way among those lodges where Heyward had already
made his unsuccessful search, his companion turned aside, and proceeded
directly toward the base of an adjacent mountain, which overhung the
temporary village. A thicket of brush skirted its foot, and it became
necessary to proceed through a crooked and narrow path. The boys had resumed
their sports in the clearing, and were enacting a mimic chase to the post
among themselves. In order to render their games as like the reality as
possible, one of the boldest of their number had conveyed a few brands into
some piles of tree- tops that had hitherto escaped the burning. The blaze of
one of these fires lighted the way of the chief and Duncan, and gave a
character of additional wildness to the rude scenery. At a little distance
from a bald rock, and directly in its front, they entered a grassy opening,
which they prepared to cross. Just then fresh fuel was added to the fire,
and a powerful light penetrated even to that distant spot. It fell upon the
white surface of the mountain, and was reflected downward upon a dark and
mysterious-looking being that arose, unexpectedly, in their path. The Indian
paused, as if doubtful whether to proceed, and permitted his companion to
approach his side. A large black ball, which at first seemed stationary, now
began to move in a manner that to the latter was inexplicable. Again the
fire brightened and its glare fell more distinctly on the object. Then even
Duncan knew it, by its restless and sidling attitudes, which kept the upper
part of its form in constant motion, while the animal itself appeared
seated, to be a bear. Though it growled loudly and fiercely, and there were
instants when its glistening eyeballs might be seen, it gave no other
indications of hostility. The Huron, at least, seemed assured that the
intentions of this singular intruder were peaceable, for after giving it an
attentive examination, he quietly pursued his course.

Duncan, who knew that the animal was often domesticated among the Indians,
followed the example of his companion, believing that some favorite of the
tribe had found its way into the thicket, in search of food. They passed it
unmolested. Though obliged to come nearly in contact with the monster, the
Huron, who had at first so warily determined the character of his strange
visitor, was now content with proceeding without wasting a moment in further
examination; but Heyward was unable to prevent his eyes from looking
backward, in salutary watchfulness against attacks in the rear. His
uneasiness was in no degree diminished when he perceived the beast rolling
along their path, and following their footsteps. He would have spoken, but
the Indian at that moment shoved aside a door of bark, and entered a cavern
in the bosom of the mountain.

Profiting by so easy a method of retreat, Duncan stepped after him, and was
gladly closing the slight cover to the opening, when he felt it drawn from
his hand by the beast, whose shaggy form immediately darkened the passage.
They were now in a straight and long gallery, in a chasm of the rocks, where
retreat without encountering the animal was impossible. Making the best of
the circumstances, the young man pressed forward, keeping as close as
possible to his conductor. The bear growled frequently at his heels, and
once or twice its enormous paws were laid on his person, as if disposed to
prevent his further passage into the den.

How long the nerves of Heyward would have sustained him in this
extraordinary situation, it might be difficult to decide, for, happily, he
soon found relief. A glimmer of light had constantly been in their front,
and they now arrived at the place whence it proceeded.

A large cavity in the rock had been rudely fitted to answer the purposes of
many apartments. The subdivisions were simple but ingenious, being composed
of stone, sticks, and bark, intermingled. Openings above admitted the light
by day, and at night fires and torches supplied the place of the sun. Hither
the Hurons had brought most of their valuables, especially those which more
particularly pertained to the nation; and hither, as it now appeared, the
sick woman, who was believed to be the victim of supernatural power, had
been transported also, under an impression that her tormentor would find
more difficulty in making his assaults through walls of stone than through
the leafy coverings of the lodges. The apartment into which Duncan and his
guide first entered, had been exclusively devoted to her accommodation. The
latter approached her bedside, which was surrounded by females, in the
center of whom Heyward was surprised to find his missing friend David.

A single look was sufficient to apprise the pretended leech that the invalid
was far beyond his powers of healing. She lay in a sort of paralysis,
indifferent to the objects which crowded before her sight, and happily
unconscious of suffering. Heyward was far from regretting that his mummeries
were to be performed on one who was much too ill to take an interest in
their failure or success. The slight qualm of conscience which had been
excited by the intended deception was instantly appeased, and he began to
collect his thoughts, in order to enact his part with suitable spirit, when
he found he was about to be anticipated in his skill by an attempt to prove
the power of music.

Gamut, who had stood prepared to pour forth his spirit in song when the
visitors entered, after delaying a moment, drew a strain from his pipe, and
commenced a hymn that might have worked a miracle, had faith in is efficacy
been of much avail. He was allowed to proceed to the close, the Indians
respecting his imaginary infirmity, and Duncan too glad of the delay to
hazard the slightest interruption. As the dying cadence of his strains was
falling on the ears of the latter, he started aside at hearing them repeated
behind him, in a voice half human and half sepulchral. Looking around, he
beheld the shaggy monster seated on end in a shadow of the cavern, where,
while his restless body swung in the uneasy manner of the animal, it
repeated, in a sort of low growl, sounds, if not words, which bore some
slight resemblance to the melody of the singer.

The effect of so strange an echo on David may better be imagined than
described. His eyes opened as if he doubted their truth; and his voice
became instantly mute in excess of wonder. A deep-laid scheme, of
communicating some important intelligence to Heyward, was driven from his
recollection by an emotion which very nearly resembled fear, but which he
was fain to believe was admiration. Under its influence, he exclaimed aloud:
"She expects you, and is at hand"; and precipitately left the cavern.

Chapter 25

"Snug.--Have you the lion's part written?Pray you, if it be, give it to me,
for I am slow of study.

Quince.--You may do it extempore, for it is nothing burtroaring".--Midsummer
Night's Dream

There was a strange blending of the ridiculous with that which was solemn in
this scene. The beast sill continued its rolling, and apparently untiring
movements, though its ludicrous attempt to imitate the melody of David
ceased the instant the latter abandoned the field. The words of Gamut were,
as has been seen, in his native tongue; and to Duncan they seem pregnant
with some hidden meaning, though nothing present assisted him in discovering
the object of their allusion. A speedy end was, however, put to every
conjecture on the subject, by the manner of the chief, who advanced to the
bedside of the invalid, and beckoned away the whole group of female
attendants that had clustered there to witness the skill of the stranger. He
was implicitly, though reluctantly, obeyed; and when the low echo which rang
along the hollow, natural gallery, from the distant closing door, had
ceased, pointing toward his insensible daughter, he said:

"Now let my brother show his power".

Thus unequivocally called on to exercise the functions of his assumed
character, Heyward was apprehensive that the smallest delay might prove
dangerous. Endeavoring, then, to collect his ideas, he prepared to perform
that species of incantation, and those uncouth rites, under which the Indian
conjurers are accustomed to conceal their ingnorance and impotency. It is
more than probable that, in the disordered state of his thoughts, he would
soon have fallen into some suspicious, if not fatal, error had not his
incipient attempts been interrupted by a fierce growl from the quadruped.
Three several times did he renew his efforts to proceed, and as often was he
met by the same unaccoutnable opposition, each interruption seeming more
savage and threatening than the preceding.

"The cunning ones are jealous", said the Huron; "I go Brother, the woman is
the wife of one of my bravest young men; deal justly by her. Peace"! he
added, beckoning to the discontented beast to be quiet; "I go".

The chief was as good as his word, and Duncan now found himself alone in
that wild and desolate abode with the helpless invalid and the fierce and
dangerous brute. The latter listened to the movements of the Indian with
that air of sagacity that a bear is known to possess, until another echo
announced that he had also left the cavern, when it turned and came waddling
up to Duncan before whom it seated itself in its natural attitude, erect
like a man. The youth looked anxiously about him for some weapon, with which
he might make a resistance against the attack he now seriously expected.

It seemed, however, as if the humor of the animal had suddenly changed.
Instead of continuing its discontented growls, or manifesting any further
signs of anger, the whole of its shaggy body shook violently, as if agitated
by some strange internal convulsion. The huge and unwieldly talons pawed
stupidly about the grinning muzzle, and while Heyward kept his eyes riveted
on its movements with jealous watchfulness, the grim head fell on one side
and in its place appeared the honest sturdy countenance of the scout, who
was indulging from the bottom of his soul in his own peculiar expression of
merriment.

"Hist"! said the wary woodsman, interrupting Heyward's exclamation of
surprise; "the varlets are about the place, and any sounds that are not
natural to witchcraft would bring them back upon us in a body".

"Tell me the meaning of this masquerade; and why you have attempted so
desperate an adventure"?

"Ah, reason and calculation are often outdone by accident", returned the
scout. "But, as a story should always commence at the beginning, I will tell
you the whole in order. After we parted I placed the commandant and the
Sagamore in an old beaver lodge, where they are safer from the Hurons than
they would be in the garrison of Edward for your high north-west Indians,
not having as yet got the traders among them, continued to venerate the
beaver. After which Uncas and I pushed for the other encampment as was
agreed. Have you seen the lad"?

"To my great grief! He is captive, and condemned to die at the rising of the
sun".

"I had misgivings that such would be his fate", resumed the scout, in a less
confident and joyous tone. But soon regaining his naturally firm voice, he
continued: "His bad fortune is the true reason of my being here, for it
would never do to abandon such a boy to the Hurons. A rare time the knaves
would have of it, could they tie "The Bounding Elk" and "The Long Carabine",
as they call me, to the same stake! Though why they have given me such a
name I never knew, there being as little likeness between the gifts of
"killdeer" and the performance of one of your real Canada carabynes, as
there is between the natur' of a pipe-stone and a flint".

"Keep to your tale", said the impatient Heyward; "we know not at what moment
the Hurons may return".

"No fear of them. A conjurer must have his time, like a straggling priest in
the settlements. We are as safe from interruption as a missionary would be
at the beginining of a two hours' discourse. Well, Uncas and I fell in with
a return party of the varlets; the lad was much too forward for a scout;
nay, for that matter, being of hot blood, he was not so much to blame; and,
after all, one of the Hurons proved a coward, and in fleeing led him into an
ambushment".

"And dearly has he paid for the weakness".

The scout significantly passed his hand across his own throat, and nodded,
as if he said, "I comprehend your meaning". After which he continued, in a
more audible though scarcely more intelligible language:

"After the loss of the boy I turned upon the Hurons, as you may judge. There
have been scrimmages atween one or two of their outlyers and myself; but
that is neither here nor there. So, after I had shot the imps, I got in
pretty nigh to the lodges without further commotion. Then what should luck
do in my favor but lead me to the very spot where one of the most famous
conjurers of the tribe was dressing himself, as I well knew, for some great
battle with Satan--though why should I call that luck, which it now seems
was an especial ordering of Providence. So a judgmatical rap over the head
stiffened the lying imposter for a time, and leaving him a bit of walnut for
his supper, to prevent an uproar, and stringing him up atween two saplings,
I made free with his finery, and took the part of the bear on myself, in
order that the operations might proceed".

"And admirably did you enact the character; the animal itself might have
been shamed by the representation".

"Lord, major", returned the flattered woodsman, "I should be but a poor
scholar for one who has studied so long in the wilderness, did I not know
how to set forth the movements of natur' of such a beast. Had it been now a
catamount, or even a full-size panther, I would have embellished a
performance for you worth regarding. But it is no such marvelous feat to
exhibit the feats of so dull a beast; though, for that matter, too, a bear
may be overacted. Yes, yes; it is not every imitator that knows natur' may
be outdone easier than she is equalled. But all our work is yet before us.
Where is the gentle one"?

"Heaven knows. I have examined every lodge in the village, without
discovering the slightest trace of her presence in the tribe".

"You heard what the singer said, as he left us: "She is at hand, and expects
you""?

"I have been compelled to believe he alluded to this unhappy woman".

"The simpleton was frightened, and blundered through his message; but he had
a deeper meaning. Here are walls enough to separate the hole settlement. A
bear ought to climb; therefore will I take a look above them. There may be
honey-pots hid in these rocks, and I am a beast, you know, that has a
hankering for the sweets".

The scout looked behind him, laughing at his own conceit, while he clambered
up the partition, imitating, as he went, the clumsy motions of the beast he
represented; but the instant the summit was gained he made a gesture for
silence, and slid down with the utmost precipitation.

"She is here", he whispered, "and by that door you will find her. I would
have spoken a word of comfort to the afflicted soul; but the sight of such a
monster might upset her reason. Though for that matter, major, you are none
of the most inviting yourself in your paint".

Duncan, who had already swung eagerly forward, drew instantly back on
hearing these discouraging words.

"Am I, then, so very revolting"? he demanded, with an air of chagrin.

"You might not startle a wolf, or turn the Royal Americans from a discharge;
but I have seen the time when you had a better favored look; your streaked
countenances are not ill-judged of by the squaws, but young women of white
blood give the preference to their own color. See", he added, pointing to a
place where the water trickled from a rock, forming a little crystal spring,
before it found an issue through the adjacent crevices; "you may easily get
rid of the Sagamore's daub, and when you come back I will try my hand at a
new embellishment. It's as common for a conjurer to alter his paint as for a
buck in the settlements to change his finery".

The deliberate woodsman had little occasion to hunt for arguments to enforce
his advice. He was yet speaking when Duncan availed himself of the water. In
a moment every frightful or offensive mark was obliterated, and the youth
appeared again in the lineaments with which he had been gifted by nature.
Thus prepared for an interview with his mistress, he took a hasty leave of
his companion, and disappeared through the indicated passage. The scout
witnessed his departure with complacency, nodding his head after him, and
muttering his good wishes; after which he very coolly set about an
examination of the state of the larder, among the Hurons, the cavern, among
other purposes, being used as a receptacle for the fruits of their hunts.

Duncan had no other guide than a distant glimmering light, which served,
however, the office of a polar star to the lover. By its aid he was enabled
to enter the haven of his hopes, which was merely another apartment of the
cavern, that had been solely appropriated to the safekeeping of so important
a prisoner as a daughter of the commandant of William Henry. It was
profusely strewed with the plunder of that unlucky fortress. In the midst of
this confusion he found her he sought, pale, anxious and terrified, but
lovely. David had prepared her for such a visit.

"Duncan"! she exclaimed, in a voice that seemed to tremble at the sounds
created by itself.

"Alice"! he answered, leaping carelessly among trunks, boxes, arms, and
furniture, until he stood at her side.

"I knew that you would never desert me", she said, looking up with a
momentary glow on her otherwise dejected countenance. "But you are alone!
Grateful as it is to be thus remembered, I could wish to think you are not
entirely alone".

Duncan, observing that she trembled in a manner which betrayed her inability
to stand, gently induced her to be seated, while he recounted those leading
incidents which it has been our task to accord. Alice listened with
breathless interest; and though the young man touched lightly on the sorrows
of the stricken father; taking care, however, not to wound the self-love of
his auditor, the tears ran as freely down the cheeks of the daughter as
though she had never wept before. The soothing tenderness of Duncan,
however, soon quieted the first burst of her emotions, and she then heard
him to the close with undivided attention, if not with composure.

"And now, Alice", he added, "you will see how much is still expected of you.
By the assistance of our experienced and invaluable friend, the scout, we
may find our way from this savage people, but you will have to exert your
utmost fortitude. Remember that you fly to the arms of your venerable
parent, and how much his happiness, as well as your own, depends on those
exertions".

"Can I do otherwise for a father who has done so much for me"?

"And for me, too", continued the youth, gently pressing the hand he held in
both his own.

The look of innocence and surprise which he received in return convinced
Duncan of the necessity of being more explicit.

"This is neither the place nor the occasion to detain you with selfish
wishes", he added; "but what heart loaded like mine would not wish to cast
its burden? They say misery is the closest of all ties; our common suffering
in your behalf left but little to be explained between your father and
myself".

"And, dearest Cora, Duncan; surely Cora was not forgotten"?

"Not forgotten! no; regretted, as woman was seldom mourned before. Your
venerable father knew no difference between his children; but I--Alice, you
will not be offended when I say, that to me her worth was in a degree
obscured----"

"Then you knew not the merit of my sister", said Alice, withdrawing her
hand; "of you she ever speaks as of one who is her dearest friend".

"I would gladly believe her such", returned Duncan, hastily; "I could wish
her to be even more; but with you, Alice, I have the permission of your
father to aspire to a still nearer and dearer tie".

Alice trembled violently, and there was an instant during which she bent her
face aside, yielding to the emotions common to her sex; but they quickly
passed away, leaving her mistress of her deportment, if not of her
affections.

"Heyward", she said, looking him full in the face with a touching expression
of innocence and dependency, "give me the sacred presence and the holy
sanction of that parent before you urge me further".

"Though more I should not, less I could not say", the youth was about to
answer, when he was interrupted by a light tap on his shoulder. Starting to
his feet, he turned, and, confronting the intruder, his looks fell on the
dark form and malignant visage of Magua. The deep guttural laugh of the
savage sounded, at such a moment, to Duncan, like the hellish taunt of a
demon. Had he pursued the sudden and fierce impulse of the instant, he would
have cast himself on the Huron, and committed their fortunes to the issue of
a deadly struggle. But, without arms of any description, ignorant of what
succor his subtle enemy could command, and charged with the safety of one
who was just then dearer than ever to his heart, he no sooner entertained
than he abandoned the desperate intention.

"What is your purpose"? said Alice, meekly folding her arms on her bosom,
and struggling to conceal an agony of apprehension in behalf of Heyward, in
the usual cold and distant manner with which she received the visits of her
captor.

The exulting Indian had resumed his austere countenance, though he drew
warily back before the menancing glance of the young man's fiery eye. He
regarded both his captives for a moment with a steady look, and then,
stepping aside, he dropped a log of wood across a door different from that
by which Duncan had entered. The latter now comprehended the manner of his
surprise, and, believing himself irretrievably lost, he drew Alice to his
bosom, and stood prepared to meet a fate which he hardly regretted, since it
was to be suffered in such company. But Magua meditated no immediate
violence. His first measures were very evidently taken to secure his new
captive; nor did he even bestow a second glance at the motionless forms in
the center of the cavern, until he had completely cut off every hope of
retreat through the private outlet he had himself used. He was watched in
all his movements by Heyward, who, however, remained firm, still folding the
fragile form of Alice to his heart, at once too proud and too hopeless to
ask favor of an enemy so often foiled. When Magua had effected his object he
approached his prisoners, and said in English:

"The pale faces trap the cunning beavers; but the red-skins know how to take
the Yengeese".

"Huron, do your worst"! exclaimed the excited Heyward, forgetful that a
doube stake was involved in his life; "you and your vengeance are alike
despised".

"Will the white man speak these words at the stake"? asked Magua;
manifesting, at the same time, how little faith he had in the other's
resolution by the sneer that accompanied his words.

"Here; singly to your face, or in the presence of your nation".

"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief"! returned the Indian; "he will go and
bring his young men, to see how bravely a pale face can laugh at tortures".

He turned away while speaking, and was about to leave the place through the
avenue by which Duncan had approached, when a growl caught his ear, and
caused him to hesitate. The figure of the bear appeared in the door, where
it sat, rolling from side to side in its customary restlessness. Magua, like
the father of the sick woman, eyed it keenly for a moment, as if to
ascertain its character. He was far above the more vulgar superstitions of
his tribe, and so soon as he recognized the well-known attire of the
conjurer, he prepared to pass it in cool contempt. But a louder and more
threatening growl caused him again to pause. Then he seemed as if suddenly
resolved to trifle no longer, and moved resolutely forward.

The mimic animal, which had advanced a little, retired slowly in his front,
until it arrived again at the pass, when, rearing on his hinder legs, it
beat the air with its paws, in the manner practised by its brutal prototype.

"Fool"! exclaimed the chief, in Huron, "go play with the children and
squaws; leave men to their wisdom".

He once more endeavored to pass the supposed empiric, scorning even the
parade of threatening to use the knife, or tomahawk, that was pendent from
his belt. Suddenly the beast extended its arms, or rather legs, and inclosed
him in a grasp that might have vied with the far-famed power of the "bear's
hug" itself. Heyward had watched the whole procedure, on the part of
Hawkeye, with breathless interest. At first he relinquished his hold of
Alice; then he caught up a thong of buckskin, which had been used around
some bundle, and when he beheld his enemy with his two arms pinned to his
side by the iron muscles of the scout, he rushed upon him, and effectually
secured them there. Arms, legs, and feet were encircled in twenty folds of
the thong, in less time than we have taken to record the circumstance. When
the formidable Huron was completely pinioned, the scout released his hold,
and Duncan laid his enemy on his back, utterly helpless.

Throughout the whole of this sudden and extraordinary operation, Magua,
though he had struggled violently, until assured he was in the hands of one
whose nerves were far better strung than his own, had not uttered the
slightest exclamation. But when Hawkeye, by way of making a summary
explanation of his conduct, removed the shaggy jaws of the beast, and
exposed his own rugged and earnest countenance to the gaze of the Huron, the
philosophy of the latter was so far mastered as to permit him to utter the
never failing:

"Hugh"!

"Ay, you've found your tongue", said his undisturbed conqueror; "now, in
order that you shall not use it to our ruin, I must make free to stop your
mouth".

As there was no time to be lost, the scout immediately set about effecting
so necessary a precaution; and when he had gagged the Indian, his enemy
might safely have been considered as "hors de combat".

"By what place did the imp enter"? asked the industrious scout, when his
work was ended. "Not a soul has passed my way since you left me".

Duncan pointed out the door by which Magua had come, and which now presented
too many obstacles to a quick retreat.

"Bring on the gentle one, then", continued his friend; "we must make a push
for the woods by the other outlet".

"'Tis impossible"! said Duncan; "fear has overcome her, and she is helpless.
Alice! my sweet, my own Alice, arouse yourself; now is the moment to fly.
'Tis in vain! she hears, but is unable to follow. Go, noble and worthy
friend; save yourself, and leave me to my fate".

"Every trail has its end, and every calamity brings its lesson"! returned
the scout. "There, wrap her in them Indian cloths. Conceal all of her little
form. Nay, that foot has no fellow in the wilderness; it will betray her.
All, every part. Now take her in your arms, and follow. Leave the rest to
me".

Duncan, as may be gathered from the words of his companion, was eagerly
obeying; and, as the other finished speaking, he took the light person of
Alice in his arms, and followed in the footsteps of the scout. They found
the sick woman as they had left her, still alone, and passed swiftly on, by
the natural gallery, to the place of entrance. As they approached the little
door of bark, a murmur of voices without announced that the friends and
relatives of the invalid were gathered about the place, patiently awaiting a
summons to re-enter.

"If I open my lips to speak", Hawkeye whispered, "my English, which is the
genuine tongue of a white-skin, will tell the varlets that an enemy is among
them. You must give 'em your jargon, major; and say that we have shut the
evil spirit in the cave, and are taking the woman to the woods in order to
find strengthening roots. Practise all your cunning, for it is a lawful
undertaking".

The door opened a little, as if one without was listening to the proceedings
within, and compelled the scout to cease his directions. A fierce growl
repelled the eavesdropper, and then the scout boldly threw open the covering
of bark, and left the place, enacting the character of a bear as he
proceeded. Duncan kept close at his heels, and soon found himself in the
center of a cluster of twenty anxious relatives and friends.

The crowd fell back a little, and permitted the father, and one who appeared
to be the husband of the woman, to approach.

"Has my brother driven away the evil spirit"? demanded the former. "What has
he in his arms"?

"Thy child", returned Duncan, gravely; "the disease has gone out of her; it
is shut up in the rocks. I take the woman to a distance, where I will
strengthen her against any further attacks. She will be in the wigwam of the
young man when the sun comes again".

When the father had translated the meaning of the stranger's words into the
Huron language, a suppressed murmur announced the satisfaction with which
this intelligence was received. The chief himself waved his hand for Duncan
to proceed, saying aloud, in a firm voice, and with a lofty manner:

"Go; I am a man, and I will enter the rock and fight the wicked one".

Heyward had gladly obeyed, and was already past the little group, when these
startling words arrested him.

"Is my brother mad"? he exclaimed; "is he cruel? He wil meet the disease,
and it will enter him; or he will drive out the disease, and it will chase
his daughter into the woods. No; let my children wait without, and if the
spirit appears beat him down with clubs. He is cunning, and will bury
himself in the mountain, when he sees how many are ready to fight him".

This singular warning had the desired effect. Instead of entering the
cavern, the father and husband drew their tomahawks, and posted themselves
in readiness to deal their vengeance on the imaginary tormentor of their
sick relative, while the women and children broke branches from the bushes,
or seized fragments of the rock, with a similar intention. At this favorable
moment the counterfeit conjurers disappeared.

Hawkeye, at the same time that he had presumed so far on the nature of the
Indian superstitions, was not ignorant that they were rather tolerated than
relied on by the wisest of the chiefs. He well knew the value of time in the
present emergency. Whatever might be the extent of the self-delusion of his
enemies, and however it had tended to assist his schemes, the slightest
cause of suspicion, acting on the subtle nature of an Indian, would be
likely to prove fatal. Taking the path, therefore, that was most likely to
avoid observation, he rather skirted than entered the village. The warriors
were still to be seen in the distance, by the fading light of the fires,
stalking from lodge to lodge. But the children had abandoned their sports
for their beds of skins, and the quiet of night was already beginning to
prevail over the turbulence and excitement of so busy and important an
evening.

Alice revived under the renovating influence of the open air, and, as her
physical rather than her mental powers had been the subject of weakness, she
stood in no need of any explanation of that which had occurred.

"Now let me make an effort to walk", she said, when they had entered the
forest, blushing, though unseen, that she had not been sooner able to quit
the arms of Duncan; "I am indeed restored".

"Nay, Alice, you are yet too weak".

The maiden struggled gently to release herself, and Heyward was compelled to
part with his precious burden. The representative of the bear had certainly
been an entire stranger to the delicious emotions of the lover while his
arms encircled his mistress; and he was, perhaps, a stranger also to the
nature of that feeling of ingenuous shame that oppressed the trembling
Alice. But when he found himself at a suitable distance from the lodges he
made a halt, and spoke on a subject of which he was thoroughly the master.

"This path will lead you to the brook", he said; "follow its northern bank
until you come to a fall; mount the hill on your right, and you will see the
fires of the other people. There you must go and demand protection; if they
are true Delawares you will be safe. A distant flight with that gentle one,
just now, is impossible. The Hurons would follow up our trail, and master
our scalps before we had got a dozen miles. Go, and Providence be with you".

"And you"! demanded Heyward, in surprise; "surely we part not here"?

"The Hurons hold the pride of the Delawares; the last of the high blood of
the Mohicans is in their power", returned the scout; "I go to see what can
be done in his favor. Had they mastered your scalp, major, a knave should
have fallen for every hair it held, as I promised; but if the young Sagamore
is to be led to the stake, the Indians shall see also how a man without a
cross can die".

Not in the least offended with the decided preference that the sturdy
woodsman gave to one who might, in some degree, be called the child of his
adoption, Duncan still continued to urge such reasons against so desperate
an effort as presented themselves. He was aided by Alice, who mingled her
entreaties with those of Heyward that he would abandon a resolution that
promised so much danger, with so little hope of success. Their eloquence and
ingenuity were expended in vain. The scout heard them attentively, but
impatiently, and finally closed the discussion, by answering, in a tone that
instantly silenced Alice, while it told Heyward how fruitless any further
remonstrances would be.

"I have heard", he said, "that there is a feeling in youth which binds man
to woman closer than the father is tied to the son. It may be so. I have
seldom been where women of my color dwell; but such may be the gifts of
nature in the settlements. You have risked life, and all that is dear to
you, to bring off this gentle one, and I suppose that some such disposition
is at the bottom of it all. As for me, I taught the lad the real character
of a rifle; and well has he paid me for it. I have fou't at his side in many
a bloody scrimmage; and so long as I could hear the crack of his piece in
one ear, and that of the Sagamore in the other, I knew no enemy was on my
back. Winters and summer, nights and days, have we roved the wilderness in
company, eating of the same dish, one sleeping while the other watched; and
afore it shall be said that Uncas was taken to the torment, and I at hand--
There is but a single Ruler of us all, whatever may the color of the skin;
and Him I call to witness, that before the Mohican boy shall perish for the
want of a friend, good faith shall depart the 'arth, and "killdeer" become
as harmless as the tooting we'pon of the singer"!

Duncan released his hold on the arm of the scout, who turned, and steadily
retraced his steps toward the lodges. After pausing a moment to gaze at his
retiring form, the successful and yet sorrowful Heyward and Alice took their
way together toward the distant village of the Delawares.

Chapter 26

"Bot.--Let me play the lion too".--Midsummer Night's Dream

Notwithstanding the high resolution of Hawkeye he fully comprehended all the
difficulties and danger he was about to incur. In his return to the camp,
his acute and practised intellects were intently engaged in devising means
to counteract a watchfulness and suspicion on the part of his enemies, that
he knew were, in no degree, inferior to his own. Nothing but the color of
his skin had saved the lives of Magua and the conjurer, who would have been
the first victims sacrificed to his own security, had not the scout believed
such an act, however congenial it might be to the nature of an Indian,
utterly unworthy of one who boasted a descent from men that knew no cross of
blood. Accordingly, he trusted to the withes and ligaments with which he had
bound his captives, and pursued his way directly toward the center of the
lodges. As he approached the buildings, his steps become more deliberate,
and his vigilant eye suffered no sign, whether friendly or hostile, to
escape him. A neglected hut was a little in advance of the others, and
appeared as if it had been deserted when half completed--most probably on
account of failing in some of the more important requisites; such as wood or
water. A faint light glimmered through its cracks, however, and announced
that, notwithstanding its imperfect structure, it was not without a tenant.
Thither, then, the scout proceeded, like a prudent general, who was about to
feel the advanced positions of his enemy, before he hazarded the main
attack.

Throwing himself into a suitable posture for the beast he represented,
Hawkeye crawled to a little opening, where he might command a view of the
interior. It proved to be the abiding place of David Gamut. Hither the
faithful singing-master had now brought himself, together with all his
sorrows, his apprehensions, and his meek dependence on the protection of
Providence. At the precise moment when his ungainly person came under the
observation of the scout, in the manner just mentioned, the woodsman
himself, though in his assumed character, was the subject of the solitary
being's profounded reflections.

However implicit the faith of David was in the performance of ancient
miracles, he eschewed the belief of any direct supernatural agency in the
management of modern morality. In other words, while he had implicit faith
in the ability of Balaam's ass to speak, he was somewhat skeptical on the
subject of a bear's singing; and yet he had been assured of the latter, on
the testimony of his own exquisite organs. There was something in his air
and manner that betrayed to the scout the utter confusion of the state of
his mind. He was seated on a pile of brush, a few twigs from which
occasionally fed his low fire, with his head leaning on his arm, in a
posture of melancholy musing. The costume of the votary of music had
undergone no other alteration from that so lately described, except that he
had covered his bald head with the triangular beaver, which had not proved
sufficiently alluring to excite the cupidity of any of his captors.

The ingeniousHawkeye, who recalled the hasty manner in which the other had
abandoned his post at the bedside of the sick woman, was not without his
suspicions concerning the subject of so much solemn deliberation. First
making the circuit of the hut, and ascertaining that it stood quite alone,
and that the character of its inmate was likely to protect it from visitors,
he ventured through its low door, into the very presence of Gamut. The
position of the latter brought the fire between them; and when Hawkeye had
seated himself on end, near a minute elapsed, during which the two remained
regarding each other without speaking. The suddenness and the nature of the
surprise had nearly proved too much for--we will not say the philosophy--but
for the pitch and resolution of David. He fumbled for his pitch-pipe, and
arose with a confused intention of attempting a muscial exorcism.

"Dark and mysterious monster"! he exclaimed, while with trembling hands he
disposed of his auxiliary eyes, and sought his never-failing resource in
trouble, the gifted version of the psalms; "I know not your nature nor
intents; but if aught you meditate against the person and rights of one of
the humblest servants of the temple, listen to the inspired language of the
youth of Israel, and repent".

The bear shook his shaggy sides, and then a well-known voice replied:

"Put up the tooting we'pon, and teach your throat modesty. Five words of
plain and comprehendible English are worth just now an hour of squalling".

"What art thou"? demanded David, utterly disqualified to pursue his original
intention, and nearly gasping for breath.

"A man like yourself; and one whose blood is as little tainted by the cross
of a bear, or an Indian, as your own. Have you so soon forgotten from whom
you received the foolish instrument you hold in your hand"?

"Can these things be"? returned David, breathing more freely, as the truth
began to dawn upon him. "I have found many marvels during my sojourn with
the heathen, but surely nothing to excel this".

"Come, come", returned Hawkeye, uncasing his honest countenance, the better
to assure the wavering confidence of his companion; "you may see a skin,
which, if it be not as white as one of the gentle ones, has no tinge of red
to it that the winds of the heaven and the sun have not bestowed. Now let us
to business".

"First tell me of the maiden, and of the youth who so bravely sought her",
interrupted David.

"Ay, they are happily freed from the tomahawks of these varlets. But can you
put me on the scent of Uncas"?

"The young man is in bondage, and much I fear his death is decreed. I
greatly mourn that one so well disposed should die in his ignorance, and I
have sought a goodly hymn----"

"Can you lead me to him"?

"The task will not be difficult", returned David, hesitating; "though I
greatly fear your presence would rather increase than mitigate his unhappy
fortunes".

"No more words, but lead on", returned Hawkeye, concealing his face again,
and setting the example in his own person, by instantly quitting the lodge.

As they proceeded, the scout ascertained that his companion found access to
Uncas, under privilege of his imaginary infirmity, aided by the favor he had
acquired with one of the guards, who, in consequence of speaking a little
English, had been selected by David as the subject of a religious
conversion. How far the Huron comprehended the intentions of his new friend
may well be doubted; but as exclusive attention is as flattering to a savage
as to a more civilized individual, it had produced the effect we have
mentioned. It is unnecessary to repeat the shrewd manner with which the
scout extracted these particulars from the simple David; neither shall we
dwell in this place on the nature of the instruction he delivered, when
completely master of all the necessary facts; as the whole will be
sufficiently explained to the reader in the course of the narrative.

The lodge in which Uncas was confined was in the very center of the village,
and in a situation, perhaps, more difficult than any other to approach, or
leave, without observation. But it was not the policy of Hawkeye to affect
the least concealment. Presuming on his disguise, and his ability to sustain
the character he had assumed, he took the most plain and direct route to the
place. The hour, however, afforded him some little of that protection which
he appeared so much to despise. The boys were already buried in sleep, and
all the women, and most of the warriors, had retired to their lodges for the
night. Four or five of the latter only lingered about the door of the prison
of Uncas, wary by close observers of the manner of their captive.

At the sight of Gamut, accompanied by one in the well-known masquerade of
their most distinguished conjurer, they readily made way for them both.
Still they betrayed no intention to depart. On the other hand, they were
evidently disposed to remain bound to the place by an additional interest in
the mysterious mummeries that they of course expected from such a visit.

From the total inability of the scout to address the Hurons in their own
language, he was compelled to trust the conversation entirely to David.
Notwithstanding the simplicity of the latter, he did ample justice to the
instructions he had received, more than fulfilling the strongest hopes of
his teacher.

"The Delawares are women"! he exclaimed, addressing himself to the savage
who had a slight understanding of the language in which he spoke; "the
Yengeese, my foolish countrymen, have told them to take up the tomahawk, and
strike their fathers in the Canadas, and they have forgotten their sex. Does
my brother wish to hear "Le Cerf Agile" ask for his petticoats, and see him
weep before the Hurons, at the stake"?

The exclamation "Hugh"! delivered in a strong tone of assent, announced the
gratification the savage would receive in witnessing such an exhibition of
weakness in an enemy so long hated and so much feared.

"Then let him step aside, and the cunning man will blow upon the dog. Tell
it to my brothers".

The Huron explained the meaning of David to his fellows, who, in their turn,
listened to the project with that sort of satisfaction that their untamed
spirits might be expected to find in such a refinement in cruelty. They drew
back a little from the entrance and motioned to the supposed conjurer to
enter. But the bear, instead of obeying, maintained the seat it had taken,
and growled:

"The cunning man is afraid that his breath will blow upon his brothers, and
take away their courage too", continued David, improving the hint he
received; "they must stand further off".

The Hurons, who would have deemed such a misfortune the heaviest calamity
that could befall them, fell back in a body, taking a position where they
were out of earshot, though at the same time they could command a view of
the entrance to the lodge. Then, as if satisfied of their safety, the scout
left his position, and slowly entered the place. It was silent and gloomy,
being tenanted solely by the captive, and lighted by the dying embers of a
fire, which had been used for the purposed of cookery.

Uncas occupied a distant corner, in a reclining attitude, being rigidly
bound, both hands and feet, by strong and painful withes. When the frightful
object first presented itself to the young Mohican, he did not deign to
bestow a single glance on the animal. The scout, who had left David at the
door, to ascertain they were not observed, thought it prudent to preserve
his disguise until assured of their privacy. Instead of speaking, therefore,
he exerted himself to enact one of the antics of the animal he represented.
The young Mohican, who at first believed his enemies had sent in a real
beast to torment him, and try his nerves, detected in those performances
that to Heyward had appeared so accurate, certain blemishes, that at once
betrayed the counterfeit. Had Hawkeye been aware of the low estimation in
which the skilful Uncas held his representations, he would probably have
prolonged the entertainment a little in pique. But the scornful expression
of the young man's eye admitted of so many constructions, that the worthy
scout was spared the mortification of such a discovery. As soon, therefore,
as David gave the preconcerted signal, a low hissing sound was heard in the
lodge in place of the fierce growlings of the bear.

Uncas had cast his body back against the wall of the hut and closed his
eyes, as if willing to exclude so contemptible and disagreeable an object
from his sight. But the moment the noise of the serpent was heard, he arose,
and cast his looks on each side of him, bending his head low, and turning it
inquiringly in every direction, until his keen eye rested on the shaggy
monster, where it remained riveted, as though fixed by the power of a charm.
Again the same sounds were repeated, evidently proceeding from the mouth of
the beast. Once more the eyes of the youth roamed over the interior of the
lodge, and returning to the former resting place, he uttered, in a deep,
suppressed voice:

"Hawkeye"!

"Cut his bands", said Hawkeye to David, who just then approached them.

The singer did as he was ordered, and Uncas found his limbs released. At the
same moment the dried skin of the animal rattled, and presently the scout
arose to his feet, in proper person. The Mohican appeared to comprehend the
nature of the attempt his friend had made, intuitively, neither tongue nor
feature betraying another symptom of surprise. When Hawkeye had cast his
shaggy vestment, which was done by simply loosing certain thongs of skin, he
drew a long, glittering kinfe, and put it in the hands of Uncas.

"The red Hurons are without", he said; "let us be ready". At the same time
he laid hisfinger significantly on another similar weapon, both being the
fruits of his prowess among their enemies during the evening.

"We will go", said Uncas.

"Whither"?

"To the Tortoises; they are the children of my grandfathers".

"Ay, lad", said the scout in English--a language he was apt to use when a
little abstracted in mind; "the same blood runs in your veins, I believe;
but time and distance has a little changed its color. What shall we do with
the Mingoes at the door? They count six, and this singer is as good as
nothing".

"The Hurons are boasters", said Uncas, scornfully; "their "totem" is a
moose, and they run like snails. The Delawares are children of the tortoise,
and they outstrip the deer".

"Ay, lad, there is truth in what you say; and I doubt not, on a rush, you
would pass the whole nation; and, in a straight race of two miles, would be
in, and get your breath again, afore a knave of them all was within hearing
of the other village. But the gift of a white man lies more in his arms than
in his legs. As for myself, I can brain a Huron as well as a better man; but
when it comes to a race the knaves would prove too much for me".

Uncas, who had already approached the door, in readiness to lead the way,
now recoiled, and placed himself, once more, in the bottom of the lodge. But
Hawkeye, who was too much occupied with his own thoughts to note the
movement, continued speaking more to himself than to his companion.

"After all", he said, "it is unreasonable to keep one man in bondage to the
gifts of another. So, Uncas, you had better take the lead, while I will put
on the skin again, and trust to cunning for want of speed".

The young Mohican made no reply, but quietly folded his arms, and leaned his
body against one of the upright posts that supported the wall of the hut.

"Well", said the scout looking up at him, "why do you tarry? There will be
time enough for me, as the knaves will give chase to you at first".

"Uncas will stay", was the calm reply.

"For what"?

"To fight with his father's brother, and die with the friend of the
Delawares".

"Ay, lad", returned Hawkeye, squeezing the hand of Uncas between his own
iron fingers; "'twould have been more like a Mingo than a Mohican had you
left me. But I thought I would make the offer, seeing that youth commonly
loves life. Well, what can't be done by main courage, in war, must be done
by circumvention. Put on the skin; I doubt not you can play the bear nearly
as well as myself".

Whatever might have been the private opinion of Uncas of their respective
abilities in this particular, his grave countenance manifested no opinion of
his superiority. He silently and expeditiously encased himself in the
covering of the beast, and then awaited such other movements as his more
aged companion saw fit to dictate.

"Now, friend", said Hawkeye, addressing David, "an exchange of garments will
be a great convenience to you, inasmuch as you are but little accustomed to
the make-shifts of the wilderness. Here, take my hunting shirt and cap, and
give me your blanket and hat. You must trust me with the book and
spectacles, as well as the tooter, too; if we ever meet again, in better
times, you shall have all back again, with many thanks into the bargain".

David parted with the several articles named with a readiness that would
have done great credit to his liberality, had he not certainly profited, in
many particulars, by the exchange. Hawkeye was not long in assuming his
borrowed garments; and when his restless eyes were hid behind the glasses,
and his head was surmounted by the triangular beaver, as their statures were
not dissimilar, he might readily have passed for the singer, by starlight.
As soon as these dispositions were made, the scout turned to David, and gave
him his parting instructions.

"Are you much given to cowardice"? he bluntly asked, by way of obtaining a
suitable understanding of the whole case before he ventured a prescription.

"My pursuits are peaceful, and my temper, I humbly trust, is greatly given
to mercy and love", returned David, a little nettled at so direct an attack
on his manhood; "but there are none who can say that I have ever forgotten
my faith in the Lord, even in the greatest straits".

"Your chiefest danger will be at the moment when the savages find out that
they have been deceived. If you are not then knocked on the head, your being
a non-composser will protect you; and you'll then have a good reason to
expect to die in your bed. If you stay, it must be to sit down here in the
shadow, and take the part of Uncas, until such times as the cunning of the
Indians discover the cheat, when, as I have already said, your times of
trial will come. So choose for yourself--to make a rush or tarry here".

"Even so", said David, firmly; "I will abide in the place of the Delaware.
Bravely and generously has he battled in my behalf, and this, and more, will
I dare in his service".

"You have spoken as a man, and like one who, under wiser schooling, would
have been brought to better things. Hold your head down, and draw in your
legs; their formation might tell the truth too early. Keep silent as long as
may be; and it would be wise, when you do speak, to break out suddenly in
one of your shoutings, which will serve to remind the Indians that you are
not altogether as responsible as men should be. If however, they take your
scalp, as I trust and believe they will not, depend on it, Uncas and I will
not forget the deed, but revenge it as becomes true warriors and trusty
friends".

"Hold"! said David, perceiving that with this assurance they were about to
leave him; "I am an unworthy and humble follower of one who taught not the
damnable principle of revenge. Should I fall, therefore, seek no victims to
my manes, but rather forgive my destroyers; and if you remember them at all,
let it be in prayers for the enlightening of their minds, and for their
eternal welfare".

The scout hesitated, and appeared to muse.

"There is a principle in that", he said, "different from the law of the
woods; and yet it is fair and noble to reflect upon". Then heaving a heavy
sigh, probably among the last he ever drew in pining for a condition he had
so long abandoned, he added: "it is what I would wish to practise myself, as
one without a cross of blood, though it is not always easy to deal with an
Indian as you would with a fellow Christian. God bless you, friend; I do
believe your scent is not greatly wrong, when the matter is duly considered,
and keeping eternity before the eyes, though much depends on the natural
gifts, and the force of temptation".

So saying, the scout returned and shook David cordially by the hand; after
which act of friendship he immediately left the lodge, attended by the new
representative of the beast.

The instant Hawkeye found himself under the observation of the Hurons, he
drew up his tall form in the rigid manner of David, threw out his arm in the
act of keeping time, and commenced what he intended for an imitation of his
psalmody. Happily for the success of this delicate adventure, he had to deal
with ears but little practised in the concord of sweet sounds, or the
miserable effort would infallibly have been detected. It was necessary to
pass within a dangerous proximity of the dark group of the savages, and the
voice of the scout grew louder as they drew nigher. When at the nearest
point the Huron who spoke the English thrust out an arm, and stopped the
supposed singing- master.

"The Delaware dog"! he said, leaning forward, and peering through the dim
light to catch the expression of the other's features; "is he afraid? Will
the Hurons hear his groans"?

A growl, so exceedingly fierce and natural, proceeded from the beast, that
the young Indian released his hold and started aside, as if to assure
himself that it was not a veritable bear, and no counterfeit, that was
rolling before him. Hawkeye, who feared his voice would betray him to his
subtle enemies, gladly profited by the interruption, to break out anew in
such a burst of muscial expression as would, probably, in a more refined
state of society have been termed "a grand crash". Among his actual
auditors, however, it merely gave him an additional claim to that respect
which they never withhold from such as are believed to be the subjects of
mental alienation. The little knot on Indians drew back in a body, and
suffered, as they thought, the conjurer and his inspired assistant to
proceed.

It required no common exercise of fortitude in Uncas and the scout to
continue the dignified and deliberate pace they had assumed in passing the
lodge; especially as they immediately perceived that curiosity had so far
mastered fear, as to induce the watchers to approach the hut, in order to
witness the effect of the incantations. The least injudicious or impatient
movement on the part of David might betray them, and time was absolutely
necessary to insure the safety of the scout. The loud noise the latter
conceived it politic to continue, drew many curious gazers to the doors of
the different huts as thy passed; and once or twice a dark-looking warrior
stepped across their path, led to the act by superstition and watchfulness.
They were not, however, interrupted, the darkness of the hour, and the
boldness of the attempt, proving their principal friends.

The adventurers had got clear of the village, and were now swiftly
approaching the shelter of the woods, when a loud and long cry arose from
the lodge where Uncas had been confined. The Mohican started on his feet,
and shook his shaggy covering, as though the animal he counterfeited was
about to make some desperate effort.

"Hold"! said the scout, grasping his friend by the shoulder, "let them yell
again! 'Twas nothing but wonderment".

He had no occasion to delay, for at the next instant a burst of cries filled
the outer air, and ran along the whole extent of the village. Uncas cast his
skin, and stepped forth in his own beautiful proportions. Hawkeye tapped him
lightly on the shoulder, and glided ahead.

"Now let the devils strike our scent"! said the scout, tearing two rifles,
with all their attendant accouterments, from beneath a bush, and flourishing
"killdeer" as he handed Uncas his weapon; "two, at least, will find it to
their deaths".

Then, throwing their pieces to a low trail, like sportsmen in readiness for
their game, they dashed forward, and were soon buried in the somber darkness
of the forest.

Chapter 27

"Ant.I shall remember:
When Cæsar says Do this, it is performed".--Julius Cæsar

The impatience of the savages who lingered about the prison of Uncas, as has
been seen, had overcome their dread of the conjurer's breath. They stole
cautiously, and with beating hearts, to a crevice, through which the faint
light of the fire was glimmering. For several minutes they mistook the form
of David for that of the prisoner; but the very accident which Hawkeye had
foreseen occurred. Tired of keeping the extremities of his long person so
near together, the singer gradually suffered the lower limbs to extend
themselves, until one of his misshapen feet actually came in contact with
and shoved aside the embers of the fire. At first the Hurons believed the
Delaware had been thus deformed by witchcraft. But when David, unconscious
of being observed, turned his head, and exposed his simple, mild
countenance, in place of the haughty lineaments of their prisoner, it would
have exceeded the credulity of even a native to have doubted any longer.
They rushed together into the lodge, and, laying their hands, with but
little ceremony, on their captive, immediately detected the imposition. They
arose the cry first heard by the fugitives. It was succeeded by the most
frantic and angry demonstrations of vengeance. David, however, firm in his
determination to cover the retreat of his friends, was compelled to believe
that his own final hour had come. Deprived of his book and his pipe, he was
fain to trust to a memory that rarely failed him on such subjects; and
breaking forth in a loud and impassioned strain, he endeavored to smooth his
passage into the other world by singing the opening verse of a funeral
anthem. The Indians were seasonably reminded of his infirmity, and, rushing
into the open air, they aroused the village in the manner described.

A native warrior fights as he sleeps, without the protection of anything
defensive. The sounds of the alarm were, therefore, hardly uttered before
two hundred men were afoot, and ready for the battle or the chase, as either
might be required. The escape was soon known; and the whole tribe crowded,
in a body, around the council-lodge, impatiently awaiting the instruction of
their chiefs. In such a sudden demand on their wisdom, the presence of the
cunning Magua could scarcely fail of being needed. His name was mentioned,
and all looked round in wonder that he did not appear. Messengers were then
despatched to his lodge requiring his presence.

In the meantime, some of the swiftest and most discreet of the young men
were ordered to make the circuit of the clearing, under cover of the woods,
in order to ascertain that their suspected neighbors, the Delawares,
designed no mischief. Women and children ran to and fro; and, in short, the
whole encampment exhibited another scene of wild and savage confusion.
Gradually, however, these symptoms of disorder diminished; and in a few
minutes the oldest and most distinguished chiefs were assembled in the
lodge, in grave consultation.

The clamor of many voices soon announced that a party approached, who might
be expected to communicate some intelligence that would explain the mystery
of the novel surprise. The crowd without gave way, and several warriors
entered the place, bringing with them the hapless conjurer, who had been
left so long by the scout in duress.

Notwithstanding this man was held in very unequal estimation among the
Hurons, some believing implicitly in his power, and others deeming him an
imposter, he was now listened to by all with the deepest attention. When his
brief story was ended, the father of the sick woman stepped forth, and, in a
few pithy expression, related, in his turn, what he knew. These two
narratives gave a proper direction to the subsequent inquiries, which were
now made with the characteristic cunning of savages.

Instead of rushing in a confused and disorderly throng to the cavern, ten of
the wisest and firmest among the chiefs were selected to prosecute the
investigation. As no time was to be lost, the instant the choice was made
the individuals appointed rose in a body and left the place without
speaking. On reaching the entrance, the younger men in advance made way for
their seniors; and the whole proceeded along the low, dark gallery, with the
firmness of warriors ready to devote themselves to the public good, though,
at the same time, secretly doubting the nature of the power with which they
were about to contend.

The outer apartment of the cavern was silent and gloomy. The woman lay in
her usual place and posture, though there were those present who affirmed
they had seen her borne to the woods by the supposed "medicine of the white
men". Such a direct and palpable contradiction of the tale related by the
father caused all eyes to be turned on him. Chafed by the silent imputation,
and inwardly troubled by so unaccountable a circumstance, the chief advanced
to the side of the bed, and, stooping, cast an incredulous look at the
features, as if distrusting their reality. His daughter was dead.

The unerring feeling of nature for a moment prevailed and the old warrior
hid his eyes in sorrow. Then, recovering his self-possession, he faced his
companions, and, pointing toward the corpse, he said, in the language of his
people:

"The wife of my young man has left us! The Great Spirit is angry with his
children".

The mournful intelligence was received in solemn silence. After a short
pause, one of the elder Indians was about to speak, when a dark-looking
object was seen rolling out of an adjoining apartment, into the very center
of the room where they stood. Ignorant of the nature of the beings they had
to deal with, the whole party drew back a little, and, rising on end,
exhibited the distorted but still fierce and sullen features of Magua. The
discovery was succeeded by a general exclamation of amazement.

As soon, however, as the true situation of the chief was understood, several
knives appeared, and his limbs and tongue were quickly released. The Huron
arose, and shook himself like a lion quitting his lair. Not a word escaped
him, though his hand played convulsively with the handle of his knife, while
his lowering eyes scanned the whole party, as if they sought an object
suited to the first burst of his vengeance.

It was happy for Uncas and the scout, and even David, that they were all
beyond the reach of his arm at such a moment; for, assuredly, no refinement
in cruelty would then have deferred their deaths, in opposition to the
promptings of the fierce temper that nearly choked him. Meeting everywhere
faces that he knew as friends, the savage grated his teeth together like
rasps of iron, and swallowed his passion for want of a victim on whom to
vent it. This exhibition of anger was noted by all present; and from an
apprehension of exasperating a temper that was already chafed nearly to
madness, several minutes were suffered to pass before another word was
uttered. When, however, suitable time had elapsed, the oldest of the party
spoke.

"My friend has found an enemy", he said. "Is he nigh that the Hurons might
take revenge"?

"Let the Delaware die"! exclaimed Magua, in a voice of thunder.

Another longer and expressive silence was observed, and was broken, as
before, with due precaution, by the same individual.

"The Mohican is swift of foot, and leaps far", he said; "but my young men
are on his trail".

"Is he gone"? demanded Magua, in tones so deep and gutteral, that they
seemed to proceed from his inmost chest.

"An evil spirit has been among us, and the Delaware has blinded our eyes".

"An evil spirit"! repeated the other, mockingly; "'tis the spirit that has
taken the lives of so many Hurons; the spirit that slew my young men at "the
tumbling river"; that took their scalps at the "healing spring"; and who
has, now, bound the arms of Le Renard Subtil"!

"Of whom does my friend speak"?

"Of the dog who carries the heart and cunning of a Huron under a pale
skin--La Longue Carabine".

The pronunciation of so terrible a name produced the usual effect among his
auditors. But when time was given for reflection, and the warriors
remembered that their formidable and daring enemy had even been in the bosom
of their encampment, working injury, fearful rage took the place of wonder,
and all those fierce passions with which the bosom of Magua had just been
struggling were suddenly transferred to his companions. Some among them
gnashed their teeth in anger, others vented their feelings in yells, and
some, again, beat the air as frantically as if the object of their
resentment were suffering under their blows. But this sudden outbreaking of
temper as quickly subsided in the still and sullen restraint they most
affected in their moments of inaction.

Magua, who had in his turn found leisure for reflection, now changed his
manner, and assumed the air of one who knew how to think and act with a
dignity worthy of so grave a subject.

"Let us go to my people", he said; "they wait for us".

His companions consented in silence, and the whole of the savage party left
the cavern and returned to the council-lodge. When they were seated, all
eyes turned on Magua, who understood, from such an indication, that, by
common consent, they had devolved the duty of relating what had passed on
him. He arose, and told his tale without duplicity or reservation. The whole
deception practised by both Duncan and Hawkeye was, of course, laid naked,
and no room was found, even for the most superstitious of the tribe, any
longer to affix a doubt on the character of the occurrences. It was but too
apparent that they had been insultingly, shamefully, disgracefully deceived.
When he had ended, and resumed his seat, the collected tribe--for his
auditors, in substance, included all the fighting men of the party--sat
regarding each other like men astonished equally at the audacity and the
success of their enemies. The next consideration, however, was the means and
opportunities for revenge.

Additional pursuers were sent on the trail of the fugitives; and then the
chiefs applied themselves, in earnest, to the business of consultation. Many
different expedients were proposed by the elder warriors, in succession, to
all of which Magua was a silent and respectful listener. That subtle savage
had recovered his artifice and self-command, and now proceeded toward his
object with his customary caution and skill. It was only when each one
disposed to speak had uttered his sentiments, that he prepared to advance
his own opinions. They were given with additional weight from the
circumstance that some of the runners had already returned, and reported
that their enemies had been traced so far as to leave no doubt of their
having sought safety in the neighboring camp of their suspected allies, the
Delawares. With the advantage of possessing this important intelligence, the
chief warily laid his plans before his fellows, and, as might have been
anticipated from his eloquence and cunning, they were adopted without a
dissenting voice. They were, briefly, as follows, both in opinions and in
motives.

It has been already stated that, in obedience to a policy rarely departed
from, the sisters were separated so soon as they reached the Huron village.
Magua had early discovered that in retaining the person of Alice, he
possessed the most effectual check on Cora. When they parted, therefore, he
kept the former within reach of his hand, consigning the one he most valued
to the keeping of their allies. The arrangement was understood to be merely
temporary, and was made as much with a view to flatter his neighbors as in
obedience to the invariable rule of Indian policy.

While goaded incessantly by these revengeful impulses that in a savage
seldom slumber, the chief was still attentive to his more permanent personal
interests. The follies and disloyalty committed in his youth were to be
expiated by a long and painful penance, ere he could be restored to the full
enjoyment of the confidence of his ancient people; and without confidence
there could be no authority in an Indian tribe. In this delicate and arduous
situation, the crafty native had neglected no means of increasing his
influence; and one of the happiest of his expedients had been the success
with which he had cultivated the favor of their powerful and dangerous
neighbors. The result of his experiment had answered all the expectations of
his policy; for the Hurons were in no degree exempt from that governing
principle of nature, which induces man to value his gifts precisely in the
degree that they are appreciated by others.

But, while he was making this ostensible sacrifice to general
considerations, Magua never lost sight of his individual motives. The latter
had been frustrated by the unlooked-for events which had placed all his
prisoners beyond his control; and he now found himself reduced to the
necessity of suing for favors to those whom it had so lately been his policy
to oblige.

Several of the chiefs had proposed deep and treacherous schemes to surprise
the Delawares and, by gaining possession of their camp, to recover their
prisoners by the same blow; for all agreed that their honor, their
interests, and the peace and happiness of their dead countrymen, imperiously
required them speedily to immolate some victims to their revenge. But plans
so dangerous to attempt, and of such doubtful issue, Magua found little
difficulty in defeating. He exposed their risk and fallacy with his usual
skill; and it was only after he had removed every impediment, in the shape
of opposing advice, that he ventured to propose his own projects.

He commenced by flattering the self-love of his auditors; a never-failing
method of commanding attention. When he had enumerated the many different
occasions on which the Hurons had exhibited their courage and prowess, in
the punishment of insults, he digressed in a high encomium on the virtue of
wisdom. He painted the quality as forming the great point of difference
between the beaver and other brutes; between the brutes and men; and,
finally, between the Hurons, in particular, and the rest of the human race.
After he had sufficiently extolled the property of discretion, he undertook
to exhibit in what manner its use was applicable to the present situation of
their tribe. On the one hand, he said, was their great pale father, the
governor of the Canadas, who had looked upon his children with a hard eye
since their tomahawks had been so red; on the other, a people as numerous as
themselves, who spoke a different language, possessed different interests,
and loved them not, and who would be glad of any pretense to bring them in
disgrace with the great white chief. Then he spoke of their necessities; of
the gifts they had a right to expect for their past services; of their
distance from their proper hunting-grounds and native villages; and of the
necessity of consulting prudence more, and inclination less, in so critical
circumstances. When he perceived that, while the old men applauded his
moderation, many of the fiercest and most distinguished of the warriors
listened to these politic plans with lowering looks, he cunningly led them
back to the subject which they most loved. He spoke openly of the fruits of
their wisdom, which he boldly pronounced would be a complete and final
triumph over their enemies. He even darkly hinted that their success might
be extended, with proper caution, in such a manner as to include the
destruction of all whom they had reason to hate. In short, he so blended the
warlike with the artful, the obvious with the obscure, as to flatter the
propensities of both parties, and to leave to each subject of hope, while
neither could say it clearly comprehended his intentions.

The orator, or the politician, who can produce such a state of things, is
commonly popular with his contemporaries, however he may be treated by
posterity. All perceived that more was meant than was uttered, and each one
believed that the hidden meaning was precisely such as his own faculties
enabled him to understand, or his own wishes led him to anticipate.

In this happy state of things, it is not surprising that the management of
Magua prevailed. The tribe consented to act with deliberation, and with one
voice they committed the direction of the whole affair to the government of
the chief who had suggested such wise and intelligible expedients.

Magua had now attained one great object of all his cunning and enterprise.
The ground he had lost in the favor of his people was completely regained,
and he found himself even placed at the head of affairs. He was, in truth,
their ruler; and, so long as he could maintain his popularity, no monarch
could be more despotic, especially while the tribe continued in a hostile
country. Throwing off, therefore, the appearance of consultation, he assumed
the grave air of authority necessary to support the dignity of his office.

Runners were despatched for intelligence in different directions; spies were
ordered to approach and feel the encampment of the Delawares; the warriors
were dismissed to their lodges, with an intimation that their services would
soon be needed; and the women and children were ordered to retire, with a
warning that it was their province to be silent. When these several
arrangements were made, Magua passed through the village, stopping here and
there to pay a visit where he thought his presence might be flattering to
the individual. He confirmed his friends in their confidence, fixed the
wavering, and gratified all. Then he sought his own lodge. The wife the
Huron chief had abandoned, when he was chased from among his people, was
dead. Children he had none; and he now occupied a hut, without companion of
any sort. It was, in fact, the dilapidated and solitary structure in which
David had been discovered, and whom he had tolerated in his presence, on
those few occasions when they met, with the contemptuous indifference of a
haughty superiority.

Hither, then, Magua retired, when his labors of policy were ended. While
others slept, however, he neither knew or sought repose. Had there been one
sufficiently curious to have watched the movements of the newly elected
chief, he would have seen him seated in a corner of his lodge, musing on the
subject of his future plans, from the hour of his retirement to the time he
had appointed for the warriors to assemble again. Occasionally the air
breathed through the crevices of the hut, and the low flame that fluttered
about the embers of the fire threw their wavering light on the person of the
sullen recluse. At such moments it would not have been difficult to have
fancied the dusky savage the Prince of Darkness brooding on his own fancied
wrongs, and plotting evil.

Long before the day dawned, however, warrior after warrior entered the
solitary hut of Magua, until they had collected to the number of twenty.
Each bore his rifle, and all the other accouterments of war, though the
paint was uniformly peaceful. The entrance of these fierce-looking beings
was unnoticed: some seating themselves in the shadows of the place, and
others standing like motionless statues, until the whole of the designated
band was collected.

Then Magua arose and gave the signal to proceed, marching himself in
advance. They followed their leader singly, and in that well-known order
which has obtained the distinguishing appellation of "Indian file". Unlike
other men engaged in the spirit- stirring business of war, they stole from
their camp unostentatiously and unobserved resembling a band of gliding
specters, more than warriors seeking the bubble reputation by deeds of
desperate daring.

Instead of taking the path which led directly toward the camp of the
Delawares, Magua led his party for some distance down the windings of the
stream, and along the little artificial lake of the beavers. The day began
to dawn as they entered the clearing which had been formed by those
sagacious and industrious animals. Though Magua, who had resumed his ancient
garb, bore the outline of a fox on the dressed skin which formed his robe,
there was one chief of his party who carried the beaver as his peculiar
symbol, or "totem". There would have been a species of profanity in the
omission, had this man passed so powerful a community of his fancied
kindred, without bestowing some evidence of his regard. Accordingly, he
paused, and spoke in words as kind and friendly as if he were addressing
more intelligent beings. He called the animals his cousins, and reminded
them that his protecting influence was the reason they remained unharmed,
while many avaricious traders were prompting the Indians to take their
lives. He promised a continuance of his favors, and admonished them to be
grateful. After which, he spoke of the expedition in which he was himself
engaged, and intimated, though with sufficient delicacy and circumlocution,
the expediency of bestowing on their relative a portion of that wisdom for
which they were so renowned.1 1 These harangues of the beasts were frequent
among the Indians. They often address their victims in this way, reproaching
them for cowardice or commending their resolution, as they may happen to
exhibit fortitude or the reverse, in suffering.

During the utterance of this extraordinary address, the companions of the
speaker were as grave and as attentive to his language as though they were
all equally impressed with its propriety. Once or twice black objects were
seen rising to the surface of the water, and the Huron expressed pleasure,
conceiving that his words were not bestowed in vain. Just as he ended his
address, the head of a large beaver was thrust from the door of a lodge,
whose earthen walls had been much injured, and which the party had believed,
from its situation, to be uninhabited. Such an extraordinary sign of
confidence was received by the orator as a highly favorable omen; and though
the animal retreated a little precipitately, he was lavish of his thanks and
commendations.

When Magua thought sufficient time had been lost in gratifying the family
affection of the warrior, he again made the signal to proceed. As the
Indians moved away in a body, and with a step that would have been inaudible
to the ears of any common man, the same venerable-looking beaver once more
ventured his head from its cover. Had any of the Hurons turned to look
behind them, they would have seen the animal watching their movements with
an interest and sagacity that might easily have been mistaken for reason.
Indeed, so very distinct and intelligible were the devices of the quadruped,
that even the most experienced observer would have been at a loss to account
for its actions, until the moment when the party entered the forest, when
the whole would have been explained, by seeing the entire animal issue from
the lodge, uncasing, by the act, the grave features of Chingachgook from his
mask of fur.

Chapter 28

"Brief, I pray for you; for you see, 'tis a busy time with me".-- Much Ado
About Nothing

The tribe, or rather half tribe, of Delawares, which has been so often
mentioned, and whose present place of encampment was so nigh the temporary
village of the Hurons, could assemble about an equal number of warriors with
the latter people. Like their neighbors, they had followed Montcalm into the
territories of the English crown, and were making heavy and serious inroads
on the hunting-grounds of the Mohawks; though they had seen fit, with the
mysterious reserve so common among the natives, to withhold their assistance
at the moment when it was most required. The French had accounted for this
unexpected defection on the part of their ally in various ways. It was the
prevalent opinion, however, that they had been influenced by veneration for
the ancient treaty, that had once made them dependent on the Six Nations for
military protection, and now rendered them reluctant to encounter their
former masters. As for the tribe itself, it had been content to announce to
Montcalm, through his emissaries, with Indian brevity, that their hatchets
were dull, and time was necessary to sharpen them. The politic captain of
the Canadas had deemed it wiser to submit to entertain a passive friend,
than by any acts of ill-judged severity to convert him into an open enemy.

On that morning when Magua led his silent party from the settlement of the
beavers into the forests, in the manner described, the sun rose upon the
Delaware encampment as if it had suddenly burst upon a busy people, actively
employed in all the customary avocations of high noon. The women ran from
lodge to lodge, some engaged in preparing their morning's meal, a few
earnestly bent on seeking the comforts necessary to their habits, but more
pausing to exchange hasty and whispered sentences with their friends. The
warriors were lounging in groups, musing more than they conversed and when a
few words were uttered, speaking like men who deeply weighed their opinions.
The instruments of the chase were to be seen in abundance among the lodges;
but none departed. Here and there a warrior was examining his arms, with an
attention that is rarely bestowed on the implements, when no other enemy
than the beasts of the forest is expected to be encountered. And
occasionally, the eyes of a whole group were turned simultaneously toward a
large and silent lodge in the center of the village, as if it contained the
subject of their common thoughts.

During the existence of this scene, a man suddenly appeared at the furthest
extremity of a platform of rock which formed the level of the village. He
was without arms, and his paint tended rather to soften than increase the
natural sternness of his austere countenance. When in full view of the
Delawares he stopped, and made a gesture of amity, by throwing his arm
upward toward heaven, and then letting it fall impressively on his breast.
The inhabitants of the village answered his salute by a low murmur of
welcome, and encouraged him to advance by similar indications of friendship.
Fortified by these assurances, the dark figure left the brow of the natural
rocky terrace, where it had stood a moment, drawn in a strong outline
against the blushing morning sky, and moved with dignity into the very
center of the huts. As he approached, nothing was audible but the rattling
of the light silver ornaments that loaded his arms and neck, and the
tinkling of the little bells that fringed his deerskin moccasins. He made,
as he advanced, many courteous signs of greeting to the men he passed,
neglecting to notice the women, however, like one who deemed their favor, in
the present enterprise, of no importance. When he had reached the group in
which it was evident, by the haughtiness of their common mien, that the
principal chiefs were collected, the stranger paused, and then the Delawares
saw that the active and erect form that stood before them was that of the
well-known Huron chief, Le Renard Subtil.

His reception was grave, silent, and wary. The warriors in front stepped
aside, opening the way to their most approved orator by the action; one who
spoke all those languages that were cultivated among the northern
aborigines.

"The wise Huron is welcome", said the Delaware, in the language of the
Maquas; "he is come to eat his "succotash",1 with his brothers of the
lakes". 1 A dish composed of cracked corn and beans. It is much used also by
the whites. By corn is meant maise.

"He is come", repeated Magua, bending his head with the dignity of an
eastern prince.

The chief extended his arm and taking the other by the wrist, they once more
exchanged friendly salutations. Then the Delaware invited his guest to enter
his own lodge, and share his morning meal. The invitation was accepted; and
the two warriors, attended by three or four of the old men, walked calmly
away, leaving the rest of the tribe devoured by a desire to understand the
reasons of so unusual a visit, and yet not betraying the least impatience by
sign or word.

During the short and frugal repast that followed, the conversation was
extremely circumspect, and related entirely to the events of the hunt, in
which Magua had so lately been engaged. It would have been impossible for
the most finished breeding to wear more of the appearance of considering the
visit as a thing of course, than did his hosts, notwithstanding every
individual present was perfectly aware that it must be connected with some
secret object and that probably of importance to themselves. When the
appetites of the whole were appeased, the squaws removed the trenchers and
gourds, and the two parties began to prepare themselves for a subtle trial
of their wits.

"Is the face of my great Canada father turned again toward his Huron
children"? demanded the orator of the Delawares.

"When was it ever otherwise"? returned Magua. "He calls my people "most
beloved"".

The Delaware gravely bowed his acquiescence to what he knew to be false, and
continued:

"The tomahawks of your young men have been very red".

"It is so; but they are now bright and dull; for the Yengeese are dead, and
the Delawares are our neighbors".

The other acknowledged the pacific compliment by a gesture of the hand, and
remained silent. Then Magua, as if recalled to such a recollection, by the
allusion to the massacre, demanded:

"Does my prisoner give trouble to my brothers"?

"She is welcome".

"The path between the Hurons and the Delawares is short and it is open; let
her be sent to my squaws, if she gives trouble to my brother".

"She is welcome", returned the chief of the latter nation, still more
emphatically.

The baffled Magua continued silent several minutes, apparently indifferent,
however, to the repulse he had received in this his opening effort to regain
possession of Cora.

"Do my young men leave the Delawares room on the mountains for their hunts"?
he at length continued.

"The Lenape are rulers of their own hills", returned the other a little
haughtily.

"It is well. Justice is the master of a red-skin. Why should they brighten
their tomahawks and sharpen their knives against each other? Are not the
pale faces thicker than the swallows in the season of flowers"?

"Good"! exclaimed two or three of his auditors at the same time.

Magua waited a little, to permit his words to soften the feelings of the
Delawares, before he added:

"Have there not been strange moccasins in the woods? Have not my brothers
scented the feet of white men"?

"Let my Canada father come", returned the other, evasively; "his children
are ready to see him".

"When the great chief comes, it is to smoke with the Indians in their
wigwams. The Hurons say, too, he is welcome. But the Yengeese have long
arms, and legs that never tire! My young men dreamed they had seen the trail
of the Yengeese nigh the village of the Delawares"!

"They will not find the Lenape asleep".

"It is well. The warrior whose eye is open can see his enemy", said Magua,
once more shifting his ground, when he found himself unable to penetrate the
caution of his companion. "I have brought gifts to my brother. His nation
would not go on the warpath, because they did not think it well, but their
friends have remembered where they lived".

When he had thus announced his liberal intention, the crafty chief arose,
and gravely spread his presents before the dazzled eyes of his hosts. They
consisted principally of trinkets of little value, plundered from the
slaughtered females of William Henry. In the division of the baubles the
cunning Huron discovered no less art than in their selection. While he
bestowed those of greater value on the two most distinguished warriors, one
of whom was his host, he seasoned his offerings to their inferiors with such
well-timed and apposite compliments, as left them no ground of complaint. In
short, the whole ceremony contained such a happy blending of the profitable
with the flattering, that it was not difficult for the donor immediately to
read the effect of a generosity so aptly mingled with praise, in the eyes of
those he addressed.

This well-judged and politic stroke on the part of Magua was not without
instantaneous results. The Delawares lost their gravity in a much more
cordial expression; and the host, in particular, after contemplating his own
liberal share of the spoil for some moments with peculiar gratification,
repeated with strong emphasis, the words:

"My brother is a wise chief. He is welcome".

"The Hurons love their friends the Delawares", returned Magua. "Why should
they not? they are colored by the same sun, and their just men will hunt in
the same grounds after death. The red-skins should be friends, and look with
open eyes on the white men. Has not my brother scented spies in the woods"?

The Delaware, whose name in English signified "Hard Heart", an appellation
that the French had translated into "le Cœur-dur", forgot that
obduracy of purpose, which had probably obtained him so significant a title.
His countenance grew very sensibly less stern and he now deigned to answer
more directly.

"There have been strange moccasins about my camp. They have been tracked
into my lodges".

"Did my brother beat out the dogs"? asked Magua, without adverting in any
manner to the former equivocation of the chief.

"It would not do. The stranger is always welcome to the children of the
Lenape".

"The stranger, but not the spy".

"Would the Yengeese send their women as spies? Did not the Huron chief say
he took women in the battle"?

"He told no lie. The Yengeese have sent out their scouts. They have been in
my wigwams, but they found there no one to say welcome. Then they fled to
the Delawares--for, say they, the Delawares are our friends; their minds are
turned from their Canada father"!

This insinuation was a home thrust, and one that in a more advanced state of
society would have entitled Magua to the reputation of a skillful
diplomatist. The recent defection of the tribe had, as they well knew
themselves, subjected the Delawares to much reproach among their French
allies; and they were now made to feel that their future actions were to be
regarded with jealousy and distrust. There was no deep insight into causes
and effects necessary to foresee that such a situation of things was likely
to prove highly prejudicial to their future movements. Their distant
villages, their hunting-grounds and hundreds of their women and children,
together with a material part of their physical force, were actually within
the limits of the French territory. Accordingly, this alarming annunciation
was received, as Magua intended, with manifest disapprobation, if not with
alarm.

"Let my father look in my face", said Le Cœur-dur; "he will see no
change. It is true, my young men did not go out on the war-path; they had
dreams for not doing so. But they love and venerate the great white chief".

"Will he think so when he hears that his greatest enemy is fed in the camp
of his children? When he is told a bloody Yengee smokes at your fire? That
the pale face who has slain so many of his friends goes in and out among the
Delawares? Go! my great Canada father is not a fool"!

"Where is the Yengee that the Delawares fear"? returned the other; "who has
slain my young men? who is the mortal enemy of my Great Father"?

"La Longue Carabine"!

The Delaware warriors started at the well-known name, betraying by their
amazement, that they now learned, for the first time, one so famous among
the Indian allies of France was within their power.

"What does my brother mean"? demanded Le Cœur-dur, in a tone that, by
its wonder, far exceeded the usual apathy of his race.

"A Huron never lies"! returned Magua, coldly, leaning his head against the
side of the lodge, and drawing his slight robe across his tawny breast. "Let
the Delawares count their prisoners; they will find one whose skin is
neither red nor pale".

A long and musing pause succeeded. The chief consulted apart with his
companions, and messengers despatched to collect certain others of the most
distinguished men of the tribe.

As warrior after warrior dropped in, they were each made acquainted, in
turn, with the important intelligence that Magua had just communicated. The
air of surprise, and the usual low, deep, guttural exclamation, were common
to them all. The news spread from mouth to mouth, until the whole encampment
became powerfully agitated. The women suspended their labors, to catch such
syllables as unguardedly fell from the lips of the consulting warriors. The
boys deserted their sports, and walking fearlessly among their fathers,
looked up in curious admiration, as they heard the brief exclamations of
wonder they so freely expressed the temerity of their hated foe. In short,
every occupation was abandoned for the time, and all other pursuits seemed
discarded in order that the tribe might freely indulge, after their own
peculiar manner, in an open expression of feeling.

When the excitement had a little abated, the old men disposed themselves
seriously to consider that which it became the honor and safety of their
tribe to perform, under circumstances of so much delicacy and embarrassment.
During all these movements, and in the midst of the general commotion, Magua
had not only maintained his seat, but the very attitude he had originally
taken, against the side of the lodge, where he continued as immovable, and,
apparently, as unconcerned, as if he had no interest in the result. Not a
single indication of the future intentions of his hosts, however, escaped
his vigilant eyes. With his consummate knowledge of the nature of the people
with whom he had to deal, he anticipated every measure on which they
decided; and it might almost be said, that, in many instances, he knew their
intentions, even before they became known to themselves.

The council of the Delawares was short. When it was ended, a general bustle
announced that it was to be immediately succeeded by a solemn and formal
assemblage of the nation. As such meetings were rare, and only called on
occasions of the last importance, the subtle Huron, who still sat apart, a
wily and dark observer of the proceedings, now knew that all his projects
must be brought to their final issue. He, therefore, left the lodge and
walked silently forth to the place, in front of the encampment, whither the
warriors were already beginning to collect.

It might have been half an hour before each individual, including even the
women and children, was in his place. The delay had been created by the
grave preparations that were deemed necessary to so solemn and unusual a
conference. But when the sun was seen climbing above the tops of that
mountain, against whose bosom the Delawares had constructed their
encampment, most were seated; and as his bright rays darted from behind the
outline of trees that fringed the eminence, they fell upon as grave, as
attentive, and as deeply interested a multitude, as was probably ever before
lighted by his morning beams. Its number somewhat exceeded a thousand souls.

In a collection of so serious savages, there is never to be found any
impatient aspirant after premature distinction, standing ready to move his
auditors to some hasty, and, perhaps, injudicious discussion, in order that
his own reputation may be the gainer. An act of so much precipitancy and
presumption would seal the downfall of precocious intellect forever. It
rested solely with the oldest and most experienced of the men to lay the
subject of the conference before the people. Until such a one chose to make
some movement, no deeds in arms, no natural gifts, nor any renown as an
orator, would have justified the slightest interruption. On the present
occasion, the aged warrior whose privilege it was to speak, was silent,
seemingly oppressed with the magnitude of his subject. The delay had already
continued long beyond the usual deliberative pause that always preceded a
conference; but no sign of impatience or surprise escaped even the youngest
boy. Occasionally an eye was raised from the earth, where the looks of most
were riveted, and strayed toward a particular lodge, that was, however, in
no manner distinguished from those around it, except in the peculiar care
that had been taken to protect it against the assaults of the weather.

At length one of those low murmurs, that are so apt to disturb a multitude,
was heard, and the whole nation arose to their feet by a common impulse. At
that instant the door of the lodge in question opened, and three men,
issuing from it, slowly approached the place of consultation. They were all
aged, even beyond that period to which the oldest present had reached; but
one in the center, who leaned on his companions for support, had numbered an
amount of years to which the human race is seldom permitted to attain. His
frame, which had once been tall and erect, like the cedar, was now bending
under the pressure of more than a century. The elastic, light step of an
Indian was gone, and in its place he was compelled to toil his tardy way
over the ground, inch by inch. His dark, wrinkled countenance was in
singular and wild contrast with the long white locks which floated on his
shoulders, in such thickness, as to announce that generations had probably
passed away since they had last been shorn.

The dress of this patriarch--for such, considering his vast age, in
conjunction with his affinity and influence with his people, he might very
properly be termed--was rich and imposing, though strictly after the simple
fashions of the tribe. His robe was of the finest skins, which had been
deprived of their fur, in order to admit of a hieroglyphical representation
of various deeds in arms, done in former ages. His bosom was loaded with
medals, some in massive silver, and one or two even in gold, the gifts of
various Christian potentates during the long period of his life. He also
wore armlets, and cinctures above the ankles, of the latter precious metal.
His head, on the whole of which the hair had been permitted to grow, the
pursuits of war having so long been abandoned, was encircled by a sort of
plated diadem, which, in its turn, bore lesser and more glittering
ornaments, that sparkled amid the glossy hues of three drooping ostrich
feathers, dyed a deep black, in touching contrast to the color of his
snow-white locks. His tomahawk was nearly hid in silver, and the handle of
his knife shone like a horn of solid gold.

So soon as the first hum of emotion and pleasure, which the sudden
appearance of this venerated individual created, had a little subsided, the
name of "Tamenund" was whispered from mouth to mouth. Magua had often heard
the fame of this wise and just Delaware; a reputation that even proceeded so
far as to bestow on him the rare gift of holding secret communion with the
Great Spirit, and which has since transmitted his name, with some slight
alteration, to the white usurpers of his ancient territory, as the imaginary
tutelar saint 1 of a vast empire. The Huron chief, therefore, stepped
eagerly out a little from the throng, to a spot whence he might catch a
nearer glimpse of the features of the man, whose decision was likely to
produce so deep an influence on his own fortunes. 1 The Americans sometimes
called their tutelar saint Tamenay, a corruption of the name of the renowned
chief here introduced. There are many traditions which speak of the
character and power of Tamenund.

The eyes of the old man were closed, as though the organs were wearied with
having so long witnessed the selfish workings of the human passions. The
color of his skin differed from that of most around him, being richer and
darker, the latter having been produced by certain delicate and mazy lines
of complicated and yet beautiful figures, which had been traced over most of
his person by the operation of tattooing. Notwithstanding the position of
the Huron, he passed the observant and silent Magua without notice, and
leaning on his two venerable supporters proceeded to the high place of the
multitude, where he seated himself in the center of his nation, with the
dignity of a monarch and the air of a father.

Nothing could surpass the reverence and affection with which this unexpected
visit from one who belongs rather to another world than to this, was
received by his people. After a suitable and decent pause, the principal
chiefs arose, and, approaching the patriarch, they placed his hands
reverently on their heads, seeming to entreat a blessing. The younger men
were content with touching his robe, or even drawing nigh his person, in
order to breathe in the atmosphere of one so aged, so just, and so valiant.
None but the most distinguished among the youthful warriors even presumed to
far as to perform the latter ceremony, the great mass of the multitude
deeming it a sufficient happiness to look upon a form so deeply venerated,
and so well beloved. When these acts of affection and respect were
performed, the chiefs drew back again to their several places, and silence
reigned in the whole encampment.

After a short delay, a few of the young men, to whom instructions had been
whispered by one of the aged attendants of Tamenund, arose, left the crowd,
and entered the lodge which has already been noted as the object of so much
attention throughout that morning. In a few minutes they reappeared,
escorting the individuals who had caused all these solemn preparations
toward the seat of judgment. The crowd opened in a lane; and when the party
had re-entered, it closed in again, forming a large and dense belt of human
bodies, arranged in an open circle.

Chapter 29

"The assembly seated, rising o'er the rest,
Achilles thus the king of men addressed".--Pope's Illiad

Cora stood foremost among the prisoners, entwining her arms in those of
Alice, in the tenderness of sisterly love. Notwithstanding the fearful and
menacing array of savages on every side of her, no apprehension on her own
account could prevent the nobler- minded maiden from keeping her eyes
fastened on the pale and anxious features of the trembling Alice. Close at
their side stood Heyward, with an interest in both, that, at such a moment
of intense uncertainty, scarcely knew a preponderance in favor of her whom
he most loved. Hawkeye had placed himself a little in the rear, with a
deference to the superior rank of his companions, that no similarity in the
state of their present fortunes could induce him to forget. Uncas was not
there.

When perfect silence was again restored, and after the usual long,
impressive pause, one of the two aged chiefs who sat at the side of the
patriarch arose, and demanded aloud, in very intelligible English:

"Which of my prisoners is La Longue Carabine"?

Neither Duncan nor the scout answered. The former, however, glanced his eyes
around the dark and silent assembly, and recoiled a pace, when they fell on
the malignant visage of Magua. He saw, at once, that this wily savage had
some secret agency in their present arraignment before the nation, and
determined to throw every possible impediment in the way of the execution of
his sinister plans. He had witnessed one instance of the summary punishments
of the Indians, and now dreaded that his companion was to be selected for a
second. In this dilemma, with little or no time for reflection, he suddenly
determined to cloak his invaluable friend, at any or every hazard to
himself. Before he had time, however, to speak, the question was repeated in
a louder voice, and with a clearer utterance.

"Give us arms", the young man haughtily replied, "and place us in yonder
woods. Our deeds shall speak for us"!

"This is the warrior whose name has filled our ears"! returned the chief,
regarding Heyward with that sort of curious interest which seems inseparable
from man, when first beholding one of his fellows to whom merit or accident,
virtue or crime, has given notoriety. "What has brought the white man into
the camp of the Delawares"?

"My necessities. I come for food, shelter, and friends".

"It cannot be. The woods are full of game. The head of a warrior needs no
other shelter than a sky without clouds; and the Delawares are the enemies,
and not the friends of the Yengeese. Go, the mouth has spoken, while the
heart said nothing".

Duncan, a little at a loss in what manner to proceed, remained silent; but
the scout, who had listened attentively to all that passed, now advanced
steadily to the front.

"That I did not answer to the call for La Longue Carabine, was not owing
either to shame or fear", he said, "for neither one nor the other is the
gift of an honest man. But I do not admit the right of the Mingoes to bestow
a name on one whose friends have been mindful of his gifts, in this
particular; especially as their title is a lie, "killdeer" being a grooved
barrel and no carabyne. I am the man, however, that got the name of
Nathaniel from my kin; the compliment of Hawkeye from the Delawares, who
live on their own river; and whom the Iroquois have presumed to style the
"Long Rifle", without any warranty from him who is most concerned in the
matter".

The eyes of all present, which had hitherto been gravely scanning the person
of Duncan, were now turned, on the instant, toward the upright iron frame of
this new pretender to the distinguished appellation. It was in no degree
remarkable that there should be found two who were willing to claim so great
an honor, for imposters, though rare, were not unknown among the natives;
but it was altogether material to the just and severe intentions of the
Delawares, that there should be no mistake in the matter. Some of their old
men consulted together in private, and then, as it would seem, they
determined to interrogate their visitor on the subject.

"My brother has said that a snake crept into my camp", said the chief to
Magua; "which is he"?

The Huron pointed to the scout.

"Will a wise Delaware believe the barking of a wolf"? exclaimed Duncan,
still more confirmed in the evil intentions of his ancient enemy: " a dog
never lies, but when was a wolf known to speak the truth"?

The eyes of Magua flashed fire; but suddenly recollecting the necessity of
maintaining his presence of mind, he turned away in silent disdain, well
assured that the sagacity of the Indians would not fail to extract the real
merits of the point in controversy. He was not deceived; for, after another
short consultation, the wary Delaware turned to him again, and expressed the
determination of the chiefs, though in the most considerate language.

"My brother has been called a liar", he said, "and his friends are angry.
They will show that he has spoken the truth. Give my prisoners guns, and let
them prove which is the man".

Magua affected to consider the expedient, which he well knew proceeded from
distrust of himself, as a compliment, and made a gesture of acquiescence,
well content that his veracity should be supported by so skillful a marksman
as the scout. The weapons were instantly placed in the hands of the friendly
opponents, and they were bid to fire, over the heads of the seated
multitude, at an earthen vessel, which lay, by accident, on a stump, some
fifty yards from the place where they stood.

Heyward smiled to himself at the idea of a competition with the scout,
though he determined to persevere in the deception, until apprised of the
real designs of Magua.

Raising his rifle with the utmost care, and renewing his aim three several
times, he fired. The bullet cut the wood within a few inches of the vessel;
and a general exclamation of satisfaction announced that the shot was
considered a proof of great skill in the use of a weapon. Even Hawkeye
nodded his head, as if he would say, it was better than he expected. But,
instead of manifesting an intention to contend with the successful marksman,
he stood leaning on his rifle for more than a minute, like a man who was
completely buried in thought. From this reverie, he was, however, awakened
by one of the young Indians who had furnished the arms, and who now touched
his shoulder, saying in exceedingly broken English:

"Can the pale face beat it"?

"Yes, Huron"! exclaimed the scout, raising the short rifle in his right
hand, and shaking it at Magua, with as much apparent ease as if it were a
reed; "yes, Huron, I could strike you now, and no power on earth could
prevent the deed! The soaring hawk is not more certain of the dove than I am
this moment of you, did I choose to send a bullet to your heart! Why should
I not? Why!--because the gifts of my color forbid it, and I might draw down
evil on tender and innocent heads. If you know such a being as God, thank
Him, therefore, in your inward soul; for you have reason"!

The flushed countenance, angry eye and swelling figure of the scout,
produced a sensation of secret awe in all that heard him. The Delawares held
their breath in expectation; but Magua himself, even while he distrusted the
forbearance of his enemy, remained immovable and calm, where he stood wedged
in by the crowd, as one who grew to the spot.

"Beat it", repeated the young Delaware at the elbow of the scout.

"Beat what, fool!--what"? exclaimed Hawkeye, still flourishing the weapon
angrily above his head, though his eye no longer sought the person of Magua.

"If the white man is the warrior he pretends", said the aged chief, "let him
strike nigher to the mark".

The scout laughed aloud--a noise that produced the startling effect of an
unnatural sound on Heyward; then dropping the piece, heavily, into his
extended left hand, it was discharged, apparently by the shock, driving the
fragments of the vessel into the air, and scattering them on every side.
Almost at the same instant, the rattling sound of the rifle was heard, as he
suffered it to fall, contemptuously, to the earth.

The first impression of so strange a scene was engrossing admiration. Then a
low, but increasing murmur, ran through the multitude, and finally swelled
into sounds that denoted a lively opposition in the sentiments of the
spectators. While some openly testified their satisfaction at so unexampled
dexterity, by far the larger portion of the tribe were inclined to believe
the success of the shot was the result of accident. Heyward was not slow to
confirm an opinion that was so favorable to his own pretensions.

"It was chance"! he exclaimed; "none can shoot without an aim"!

"Chance"! echoed the excited woodsman, who was now stubbornly bent on
maintaining his identity at every hazard, and on whom the secret hints of
Heyward to acquiesce in the deception were entirely lost. "Does yonder lying
Huron, too, think it chance? Give him another gun, and place us face to
face, without cover or dodge, and let Providence, and our own eyes, decide
the matter atween us! I do not make the offer, to you, major; for our blood
is of a color, and we serve the same master".

"That the Huron is a liar, is very evident", returned Heyward, coolly; "you
have yourself heard him asset you to be La Longue Carabine".

It were impossible to say what violent assertion the stubborn Hawkeye would
have next made, in his headlong wish to vindicate his identity, had not the
aged Delaware once more interposed.

"The hawk which comes from the clouds can return when he will", he said;
"give them the guns".

This time the scout seized the rifle with avidity; nor had Magua, though he
watched the movements of the marksman with jealous eyes, any further cause
for apprehension.

"Now let it be proved, in the face of this tribe of Delawares, which is the
better man", cried the scout, tapping the butt of his piece with that finger
which had pulled so many fatal triggers.

"You see that gourd hanging against yonder tree, major; if you are a
marksman fit for the borders, let me see you break its shell"!

Duncan noted the object, and prepared himself to renew the trial. The gourd
was one of the usual little vessels used by the Indians, and it was
suspended from a dead branch of a small pine, by a thong of deerskin, at the
full distance of a hundred yards. So strangely compounded is the feeling of
self-love, that the young soldier, while he knew the utter worthlessness of
the suffrages of his savage umpires, forgot the sudden motives of the
contest in a wish to excel. It had been seen, already, that his skill was
far from being contemptible, and he now resolved to put forth its nicest
qualities. Had his life depended on the issue, the aim of Duncan could not
have been more deliberate or guarded. He fired; and three or four young
Indians, who sprang forward at the report, announced with a shout, that the
ball was in the tree, a very little on one side of the proper object. The
warriors uttered a common ejaculation of pleasure, and then turned their
eyes, inquiringly, on the movements of his rival.

"It may do for the Royal Americans"! said Hawkeye, laughing once more in his
own silent, heartfelt manner; "but had my gun often turned so much from the
true line, many a marten, whose skin is now in a lady's muff, would still be
in the woods; ay, and many a bloody Mingo, who has departed to his final
account, would be acting his deviltries at this very day, atween the
provinces. I hope the squaw who owns the gourd has more of them in her
wigwam, for this will never hold water again"!

The scout had shook his priming, and cocked his piece, while speaking; and,
as he ended, he threw back a foot, and slowly raised the muzzle from the
earth: the motion was steady, uniform, and in one direction. When on a
perfect level, it remained for a single moment, without tremor or variation,
as though both man and rifle were carved in stone. During that stationary
instant, it poured forth its contents, in a bright, glancing sheet of flame.
Again the young Indians bounded forward; but their hurried search and
disappointed looks announced that no traces of the bullet were to be seen.

"Go"! said the old chief to the scout, in a tone of strong disgust; "thou
art a wolf in the skin of a dog. I will talk to the"Long Rifle" of the
Yengeese".

"Ah! had I that piece which furnished the name you use, I would obligate
myself to cut the thong, and drop the gourd without breaking it"! returned
Hawkeye, perfectly undisturbed by the other's manner. "Fools, if you would
find the bullet of a sharpshooter in these woods, you must look in the
object, and not around it"!

The Indian youths instantly comprehended his meaning--for this time he spoke
in the Delaware tongue--and tearing the gourd from the tree, they held it on
high with an exulting shout, displaying a hole in its bottom, which had been
but by the bullet, after passing through the usual orifice in the center of
its upper side. At this unexpected exhibition, a loud and vehement
expression of pleasure burst from the mouth of every warrior present. It
decided the question, and effectually established Hawkeye in the possession
of his dangerous reputation. Those curious and admiring eyes which had been
turned again on Heyward, were finally directed to the weather-beaten form of
the scout, who immediately became the principal object of attention to the
simple and unsophisticated beings by whom he was surrounded. When the sudden
and noisy commotion had a little subsided, the aged chief resumed his
examination.

"Why did you wish to stop my ears"? he said, addressing Duncan; "are the
Delawares fools that they could not know the young panther from the cat"?

"They will yet find the Huron a singing-bird", said Duncan, endeavoring to
adopt the figurative language of the natives.

"It is good. We will know who can shut the ears of men. Brother", added the
chief turning his eyes on Magua, "the Delawares listen".

Thus singled, and directly called on to declare his object, the Huron arose;
and advancing with great deliberation and dignity into the very center of
the circle, where he stood confronted by the prisoners, he placed himself in
an attitude to speak. Before opening his mouth, however, he bent his eyes
slowly along the whole living boundary of earnest faces, as if to temper his
expressions to the capacities of his audience. On Hawkeye he cast a glance
of respectful enmity; on Duncan, a look of inextinguishable hatred; the
shrinking figure of Alice he scarcely deigned to notice; but when his glance
met the firm, commanding, and yet lovely form of Cora, his eye lingered a
moment, with an expression that it might have been difficult to define.
Then, filled with his own dark intentions, he spoke in the language of the
Canadas, a tongue that he well knew was comprehended by most of his
auditors.

"The Spirit that made men colored them differently", commenced the subtle
Huron. "Some are blacker than the sluggish bear. These He said should be
slaves; and He ordered them to work forever, like the beaver. You may hear
them groan, when the south wind blows, louder than the lowing buffaloes,
along the shores of the great salt lake, where the big canoes come and go
with them in droves. Some He made with faces paler than the ermine of the
forests; and these He ordered to be traders; dogs to their women, and wolves
to their slaves. He gave this people the nature of the pigeon; wings that
never tire; young, more plentiful than the leaves on the trees, and
appetites to devour the earth. He gave them tongues like the false call of
the wildcat; hearts like rabbits; the cunning of the hog (but none of the
fox), and arms longer than the legs of the moose. With his tongue he stops
the ears of the Indians; his heart teaches him to pay warriors to fight his
battles; his cunning tells him how to get together the goods of the earth;
and his arms inclose the land from the shores of the salt-water to the
islands of the great lake. His gluttony makes him sick. God gave him enough,
and yet he wants all. Such are the pale faces.

"Some the Great Spirit made with skins brighter and redder than yonder sun",
continued Magua, pointing impressively upward to the lurid luminary, which
was struggling through the misty atmosphere of the horizon; "and these did
He fashion to His own mind. He gave them this island as He had made it,
covered with trees, and filled with game. The wind made their clearings; the
sun and rain ripened their fruits; and the snows came to tell them to be
thankful. What need had they of roads to journey by! They saw through the
hills! When the beavers worked, they lay in the shade, and looked on. The
winds cooled them in summer; in winter, skins kept them warm. If they fought
among themselves, it was to prove that they were men. They were brave; they
were just; they were happy".

Here the speaker paused, and again looked around him to discover if his
legend had touched the sympathies of his listeners. He met everywhere, with
eyes riveted on his own, heads erect and nostrils expanded, as if each
individual present felt himself able and willing, singly, to redress the
wrongs of his race.

"If the Great Spirit gave different tongues to his red children", he
continued, in a low, still melancholy voice, "it was that all animals might
understand them. Some He placed among the snows, with their cousin, the
bear. Some he placed near the setting sun, on the road to the happy hunting
grounds. Some on the lands around the great fresh waters; but to His
greatest, and most beloved, He gave the sands of the salt lake. Do my
brothers know the name of this favored people"?

"It was the Lenape"! exclaimed twenty eager voices in a breath.

"It was the Lenni Lenape", returned Magua, affecting to bend his head in
reverence to their former greatness. "It was the tribes of the Lenape! The
sun rose from water that was salt, and set in water that was sweet, and
never hid himself from their eyes. But why should I, a Huron of the woods,
tell a wise people their own traditions? Why remind them of their injuries;
their ancient greatness; their deeds; their glory; their happiness; their
losses; their defeats; their misery? Is there not one among them who has
seen it all, and who knows it to be true? I have done. My tongue is still
for my heart is of lead. I listen".

As the voice of the speaker suddenly ceased, every face and all eyes turned,
by a common movement, toward the venerable Tamenund. From the moment that he
took his seat, until the present instant, the lips of the patriarch had not
severed, and scarcely a sign of life had escaped him. He sat bent in
feebleness, and apparently unconscious of the presence he was in, during the
whole of that opening scene, in which the skill of the scout had been so
clearly established. At the nicely graduated sound of Magua's voice,
however, he betrayed some evidence of consciousness, and once or twice he
even raised his head, as if to listen. But when the crafty Huron spoke of
his nation by name, the eyelids of the old man raised themselves, and he
looked out upon the multitude with that sort of dull, unmeaning expression
which might be supposed to belong to the countenance of a specter. Then he
made an effort to rise, and being upheld by his supporters, he gained his
feet, in a posture commanding by its dignity, while he tottered with
weakness.

"Who calls upon the children of the Lenape"? he said, in a deep, guttural
voice, that was rendered awfully audible by the breathless silence of the
multitude; "who speaks of things gone? Does not the egg become a worm--the
worm a fly, and perish? Why tell the Delawares of good that is past? Better
thank the Manitou for that which remains".

"It is a Wyandot", said Magua, stepping nigher to the rude platform on which
the other stood; "a friend of Tamenund".

"A friend"! repeated the sage, on whose brow a dark frown settled, imparting
a portion of that severity which had rendered his eye so terrible in middle
age. "Are the Mingoes rulers of the earth? What brings a Huron in here"?

"Justice. His prisoners are with his brothers, and he comes for his own".

Tamenund turned his head toward one of his supporters, and listened to the
short explanation the man gave.

Then, facing the applicant, he regarded him a moment with deep attention;
after which he said, in a low and reluctant voice:

"Justice is the law of the great Manitou. My children, give the stranger
food. Then, Huron, take thine own and depart".

On the delivery of this solemn judgment, the patriarch seated himself, and
closed his eyes again, as if better pleased with the images of his own
ripened experience than with the visible objects of the world. Against such
a decree there was no Delaware sufficiently hardy to murmur, much less
oppose himself. The words were barely uttered when four or five of the
younger warriors, stepping behind Heyward and the scout, passed thongs so
dexterously and rapidly around their arms, as to hold them both in instant
bondage. The former was too much engrossed with his precious and nearly
insensible burden, to be aware of their intentions before they were
executed; and the latter, who considered even the hostile tribes of the
Delawares a superior race of beings, submitted without resistance. Perhaps,
however, the manner of the scout would not have been so passive, had he
fully comprehended the language in which the preceding dialogue had been
conducted.

Magua cast a look of triumph around the whole assembly before he proceeded
to the execution of his purpose. Perceiving that the men were unable to
offer any resistance, he turned his looks on her he valued most. Cora met
his gaze with an eye so calm and firm, that his resolution wavered. Then,
recollecting his former artifice, he raised Alice from the arms of the
warrior against whom she leaned, and beckoning Heyward to follow, he
motioned for the encircling crowd to open. But Cora, instead of obeying the
impulse he had expected, rushed to the feet of the patriarch, and, raising
her voice, exclaimed aloud:

"Just and venerable Delaware, on thy wisdom and power we lean for mercy! Be
deaf to yonder artful and remorseless monster, who poisons thy ears with
falsehoods to feed his thirst for blood. Thou that hast lived long, and that
hast seen the evil of the world, should know how to temper its calamities to
the miserable".

The eyes of the old man opened heavily, and he once more looked upward at
the multitude. As the piercing tones of the suppliant swelled on his ears,
they moved slowly in the direction of her person, and finally settled there
in a steady gaze. Cora had cast herself to her knees; and, with hands
clenched in each other and pressed upon her bosom, she remained like a
beauteous and breathing model of her sex, looking up in his faded but
majestic countenance, with a species of holy reverence. Gradually the
expression of Tamenund's features changed, and losing their vacancy in
admiration, they lighted with a portion of that intelligence which a century
before had been wont to communicate his youthful fire to the extensive bands
of the Delawares. Rising without assistance, and seemingly without an
effort, he demanded, in a voice that startled its auditors by its firmness:

"What art thou"?

"A woman. One of a hated race, it thou wilt--a Yengee. But one who has never
harmed thee, and who cannot harm thy people, if she would; who asks for
succor".

"Tell me, my children", continued the patriarch, hoarsely, motioning to
those around him, though his eyes still dwelt upon the kneeling form of
Cora, "where have the Delawares camped"?

"In the mountains of the Iroquois, beyond the clear springs of the Horican".

"Many parching summers are come and gone", continued the sage, "since I
drank of the water of my own rivers. The children of Minquon1 are the
justest white men, but they were thirsty and they took it to themselves. Do
they follow us so far"? 1 William Penn was termed Minquon by the Delawares,
and, as he never used violence or injustice in his dealings with them, his
reputation for probity passed into a proverb. The American is justly proud
of the origin of his nation, which is perhaps unequaled in the history of
the world; but the Pennsylvanian and Jerseyman have more reason to value
themselves in their ancestors than the natives of any other state, since no
wrong was done the original owners of the soil.

"We follow none, we covet nothing", answered Cora. "Captives against our
wills, have we been brought amongst you; and we ask but permission to depart
to our own in peace. Art thou not Tamenund--the father, the judge, I had
almost said, the prophet--of this people"?

"I am Tamenund of many days".

"'Tis now some seven years that one of thy people was at the mercy of a
white chief on the borders of this province. He claimed to be of the blood
of the good and just Tamenund. "Go", said the white man, "for thy parent's
sake thou art free" Dost thou remember the name of that English warrior"?

"I remember, that when a laughing boy", returned the patriarch, with the
peculiar recollection of vast age, "I stood upon the sands of the sea shore,
and saw a big canoe, with wings whiter than the swan's, and wider than many
eagles, come from the rising sun".

"Nay, nay; I speak not of a time so very distant, but of favor shown to thy
kindred by one of mine, within the memory of thy youngest warrior".

"Was it when the Yengeese and the Dutchmanne fought for the hunting-grounds
of the Delawares? Then Tamenund was a chief, and first laid aside the bow
for the lightning of the pale faces----"

"Not yet then", interrupted Cora, "by many ages; I speak of a thing of
yesterday. Surely, surely, you forget it not".

"It was but yesterday", rejoined the aged man, with touching pathos, "that
the children of the Lenape were masters of the world. The fishes of the salt
lake, the birds, the beasts, and the Mengee of the woods, owned them for
Sagamores".

Cora bowed her head in disappointment, and, for a bitter moment struggled
with her chagrin. Then, elevating her rich features and beaming eyes, she
continued, in tones scarcely less penetrating than the unearthly voice of
the patriarch himself:

"Tell me, is Tamenund a father"?

The old man looked down upon her from his elevated stand, with a benignant
smile on his wasted countenance, and then casting his eyes slowly over the
whole assemblage, he answered:

"Of a nation".

"For myself I ask nothing. Like thee and thine, venerable chief", she
continued, pressing her hands convulsively on her heart, and suffering her
head to droop until her burning cheeks were nearly concealed in the maze of
dark, glossy tresses that fell in disorder upon her shoulders, "the curse of
my ancestors has fallen heavily on their child. But yonder is one who has
never known the weight of Heaven's displeasure until now. She is the
daughter of an old and failing man, whose days are near their close. She has
many, very many, to love her, and delight in her; and she is too good, much
too precious, to become the victim of that villain".

"I know that the pale faces are a proud and hungry race. I know that they
claim not only to have the earth, but that the meanest of their color is
better than the Sachems of the red man. The dogs and crows of their tribes",
continued the earnest old chieftain, without heeding the wounded spirit of
his listener, whose head was nearly crushed to the earth in shame, as he
proceeded, "would bark and caw before they would take a woman to their
wigwams whose blood was not of the color of snow. But let them not boast
before the face of the Manitou too loud. They entered the land at the
rising, and may yet go off at the setting sun. I have often seen the locusts
strip the leaves from the trees, but the season of blossoms has always come
again".

"It is so", said Cora, drawing a long breath, as if reviving from a trance,
raising her face, and shaking back her shining veil, with a kindling eye,
that contradicted the death-like paleness of her countenance; "but why--it
is not permitted us to inquire. There is yet one of thine own people who has
not been brought before thee; before thou lettest the Huron depart in
triumph, hear him speak".

Observing Tamenund to look about him doubtingly, one of his companions said:

"It is a snake--a red-skin in the pay of the Yengeese. We keep him for the
torture".

"Let him come", returned the sage.

Then Tamenund once more sank into his seat, and a silence so deep prevailed
while the young man prepared to obey his simple mandate, that the leaves,
which fluttered in the draught of the light morning air, were distinctly
heard rustling in the surrounding forest.

Chapter 30

<

dd>"If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice:
I stand for judgment: answer, shall I have it"?--Merchant of Venice

The silence continued unbroken by human sounds for many anxious minutes.
Then the waving multitude opened and shut again, and Uncas stood in the
living circle. All those eyes, which had been curiously studying the
lineaments of the sage, as the source of their own intelligence, turned on
the instant, and were now bent in secret admiration on the erect, agile, and
faultless person of the captive. But neither the presence in which he found
himself, nor the exclusive attention that he attracted, in any manner
disturbed the self-possession of the young Mohican. He cast a deliberate and
observing look on every side of him, meeting the settled expression of
hostility that lowered in the visages of the chiefs with the same calmness
as the curious gaze of the attentive children. But when, last in this
haughty scrutiny, the person of Tamenund came under his glance, his eye
became fixed, as though all other objects were already forgotten. Then,
advancing with a slow and noiseless step up the area, he placed himself
immediately before the footstool of the sage. Here he stood unnoted, though
keenly observant himself, until one of the chiefs apprised the latter of his
presence.

"With what tongue does the prisoner speak to the Manitou"? demanded the
patriarch, without unclosing his eyes.

"Like his fathers", Uncas replied; "with the tongue of a Delaware".

At this sudden and unexpected annunciation, a low, fierce yell ran through
the multitude, that might not inaptly be compared to the growl of the lion,
as his choler is first awakened--a fearful omen of the weight of his future
anger. The effect was equally strong on the sage, though differently
exhibited. He passed a hand before his eyes, as if to exclude the least
evidence of so shameful a spectacle, while he repeated, in his low, guttural
tones, the words he had just heard.

"A Delaware! I have lived to see the tribes of the Lenape driven from their
council-fires, and scattered, like broken herds of deer, among the hills of
the Iroquois! I have seen the hatchets of a strong people sweep woods from
the valleys, that the winds of heaven have spared! The beasts that run on
the mountains, and the birds that fly above the trees, have I seen living in
the wigwams of men; but never before have I found a Delaware so base as to
creep, like a poisonous serpent, into the camps of his nation".

"The singing-birds have opened their bills", returned Uncas, in the softest
notes of his own musical voice; "and Tamenund has heard their song".

The sage started, and bent his head aside, as if to catch the fleeting
sounds of some passing melody.

"Does Tamenund dream"! he exclaimed. "What voice is at his ear! Have the
winters gone backward! Will summer come again to the children of the
Lenape!"

A solemn and respectful silence succeeded this incoherent burst from the
lips of the Delaware prophet. His people readily constructed his
unintelligible language into one of those mysterious conferences he was
believed to hold so frequently with a superior intelligence and they awaited
the issue of the revelation in awe. After a patient pause, however, one of
the aged men, perceiving that the sage had lost the recollection of the
subject before them, ventured to remind him again of the presence of the
prisoner.

"The false Delaware trembles lest he should hear the words of Tamenund", he
said. "'Tis a hound that howls, when the Yengeese show him a trail".

"And ye", returned Uncas, looking sternly around him, "are dogs that whine,
when the Frenchman casts ye the offals of his deer"!

Twenty knives gleamed in the air, and as many warriors sprang to their feet,
at this biting, and perhaps merited retort; but a motion from one of the
chiefs suppressed the outbreaking of their tempers, and restored the
appearance of quiet. The task might probably have been more difficult, had
not a movement made by Tamenund indicated that he was again about to speak.

"Delaware"! resumed the sage, "little art thou worthy of thy name. My people
have not seen a bright sun in many winters; and the warrior who deserts his
tribe when hid in clouds is doubly a traitor. The law of the Manitou is
just. It is so; while the rivers run and the mountains stand, while the
blossoms come and go on the trees, it must be so. He is thine, my children;
deal justly by him".

Not a limb was moved, nor was a breath drawn louder and longer than common,
until the closing syllable of this final decree had passed the lips of
Tamenund. Then a cry of vengeance burst at once, as it might be, from the
united lips of the nation; a frightful augury of their ruthless intentions.
In the midst of these prolonged and savage yells, a chief proclaimed, in a
high voice, that the captive was condemned to endure the dreadful trial of
torture by fire. The circle broke its order, and screams of delight mingled
with the bustle and tumult of preparation. Heyward struggled madly with his
captors; the anxious eye of Hawkeye began to look around him, with an
expression of peculiar earnestness; and Cora again threw herself at the feet
of the patriarch, once more a suppliant for mercy.

Throughout the whole of these trying moments, Uncas had alone preserved his
serenity. He looked on the preparations with a steady eye, and when the
tormentors came to seize him, he met them with a firm and upright attitude.
One among them, if possible more fierce and savage than his fellows, seized
the hunting-shirt of the young warrior, and at a single effort tore it from
his body. Then, with a yell of frantic pleasure, he leaped toward his
unresisting victim and prepared to lead him to the stake. But, at that
moment, when he appeared most a stranger to the feelings of humanity, the
purpose of the savage was arrested as suddenly as if a supernatural agency
had interposed in the behalf of Uncas. The eyeballs of the Delaware seemed
to start from their sockets; his mouth opened and his whole form became
frozen in an attitude of amazement. Raising his hand with a slow and
regulated motion, he pointed with a finger to the bosom of the captive. His
companions crowded about him in wonder and every eye was like his own,
fastened intently on the figure of a small tortoise, beautifully tattooed on
the breast of the prisoner, in a bright blue tint.

For a single instant Uncas enjoyed his triumph, smiling calmly on the scene.
Then motioning the crowd away with a high and haughty sweep of his arm, he
advanced in front of the nation with the air of a king, and spoke in a voice
louder than the murmur of admiration that ran through the multitude.

"Men of the Lenni Lenape"! he said, "my race upholds the earth! Your feeble
tribe stands on my shell! What fire that a Delaware can light would burn the
child of my fathers", he added, pointing proudly to the simple blazonry on
his skin; "the blood that came from such a stock would smother your flames!
My race is the grandfather of nations"!

"Who art thou"? demanded Tamenund, rising at the startling tones he heard,
more than at any meaning conveyed by the language of the prisoner.

"Uncas, the son of Chingachgook", answered the captive modestly, turning
from the nation, and bending his head in reverence to the other's character
and years; "a son of the great Unamis".1 1 Turtle.

"The hour of Tamenund is nigh"! exclaimed the sage; "the day is come, at
last, to the night! I thank the Manitou, that one is here to fill my place
at the council-fire. Uncas, the child of Uncas, is found! Let the eyes of a
dying eagle gaze on the rising sun".

The youth stepped lightly, but proudly on the platform, where he became
visible to the whole agitated and wondering multitude. Tamenund held him
long at the length of his arm and read every turn in the fine lineaments of
his countenance, with the untiring gaze of one who recalled days of
happiness.

"Is Tamenund a boy"? at length the bewildered prophet exclaimed. "Have I
dreamed of so many snows--that my people were scattered like floating
sands--of Yengeese, more plenty than the leaves on the trees! The arrow of
Tamenund would not frighten the fawn; his arm if withered like the branch of
a dead oak; the snail would be swifter in the race; yet is Uncas before him
as they went to battle against the pale faces! Uncas, the panther of his
tribe, the eldest son of the Lenape, the wisest Sagamore of the Mohicans!
Tell me, ye Delawares has Tamenund been a sleeper for a hundred winters"?

The calm and deep silence which succeeded these words sufficiently anounced
the awful reverence with which his people received the communication of the
patriarch. None dared to answer, though all listened in breathless
expectation of what might follow. Uncas, however, looking in his face with
the fondness and veneration of a favored child, presumed on his own high and
acknowledged rank, to reply.

"Four warriors of his race have lived and died", he said, "since the friend
of Tamenund led his people in battle. The blood of the turtle has been in
many chiefs, but all have gone back into the earth from whence they came,
except Chingachgook and his son".

"It is true--it is true", returned the sage, a flash of recollection
destroying all his pleasing fancies, and restoring him at once to a
consciousness of the true history of his nation. "Our wise men have often
said that two warriors of the unchanged race were in the hills of the
Yengeese; why have their seats at the council-fires of the Delawares been so
long empty"?

At these words the young man raised his head, which he had still kept bowed
a little, in reverence; and lifting his voice so as to be heard by the
multitude, as if to explain at once and forever the policy of his family, he
said aloud:

"Once we slept where we could hear the salt lake speak in its anger. Then we
were rulers and Sagamores over the land. But when a pale face was seen on
every brook, we followed the deer back to the river of our nation. The
Delawares were gone. Few warriors of them all stayed to drink of the stream
they loved. Then said my fathers, "Here will we hunt. The waters of the
river go into the salt lake. If we go toward the setting sun, we shall find
streams that run into the great lakes of sweet water; there would a Mohican
die, like fishes of the sea, in the clear springs. When the Manitou is ready
and shall say "Come", we will follow the river to the sea, and take our own
again" Such, Delawares, is the belief of the children of the Turtle. Our
eyes are on the rising and not toward the setting sun. We know whence he
comes, but we know not whither he goes. It is enough".

The men of the Lenape listened to his words with all the respect that
superstition could lend, finding a secret charm even in the figurative
language with which the young Sagamore imparted his ideas. Uncas himself
watched the effect of his brief explanation with intelligent eyes, and
gradually dropped the air of authority he had assumed, as he perceived that
his auditors were content. Then, permitting his looks to wander over the
silent throng that crowded around the elevated seat of Tamenund, he first
perceived Hawkeye in his bonds. Stepping eagerly from his stand, he made way
for himself to the side of his friend; and cutting his thongs with a quick
and angry stroke of his own knife, he motioned to the crowd to divide. The
Indians silently obeyed, and once more they stood ranged in their circle, as
before his appearance among them. Uncas took the scout by the hand, and led
him to the feet of the patriarch.

"Father", he said, "look at this pale face; a just man, and the friend of
the Delawares".

"Is he a son of Minquon"?

"Not so; a warrior known to the Yengeese, and feared by the Maquas".

"What name has he gained by his deeds"?

"We call him Hawkeye", Uncas replied, using the Delaware phrase; "for his
sight never fails. The Mingoes know him better by the death he gives their
warriors; with them he is "The Long Rifle""

"La Longue Carabine"! exclaimed Tamenund, opening his eyes, and regarding
the scout sternly. "My son has not done well to call him friend".

"I call him so who proves himself such", returned the young chief, with
great calmness, but with a steady mien. "If Uncas is welcome among the
Delawares, then is Hawkeye with his friends".

"The pale face has slain my young men; his name is great for the blows he
has struck the Lenape".

"If a Mingo has whispered that much in the ear of the Delaware, he has only
shown that he is a singing-bird", said the scout, who now believed that it
was time to vindicate himself from such offensive charges, and who spoke as
the man he addressed, modifying his Indian figures, however, with his own
peculiar notions. "That I have slain the Maquas I am not the man to deny,
even at their own council-fires; but that, knowingly, my hand has never
harmed a Delaware, is opposed to the reason of my gifts, which is friendly
to them, and all that belongs to their nation".

A low exclamation of applause passed among the warriors who exchanged looks
with each other like men that first began to perceive their error.

"Where is the Huron"? demanded Tamenund. "Has he stopped my ears"?

Magua, whose feelings during that scene in which Uncas had triumphed may be
much better imagined than described, answered to the call by stepping boldly
in front of the patriarch.

"The just Tamenund", he said, "will not keep what a Huron has lent".

"Tell me, son of my brother", returned the sage, avoiding the dark
countenance of Le Subtil, and turning gladly to the more ingenuous features
of Uncas, "has the stranger a conqueror's right over you"?

"He has none. The panther may get into snares set by the women; but he is
strong, and knows how to leap through them".

"La Longue Carabine"?

"Laughs at the Mingoes. Go, Huron, ask your squaws the color of a bear".

"The stranger and white maiden that come into my camp together"?

"Should journey on an open path".

"And the woman that Huron left with my warriors"?

Uncas made no reply.

"And the woman that the Mingo has brought into my camp"? repeated Tamenund,
gravely.

"She is mine", cried Magua, shaking his hand in triumph at Uncas. "Mohican,
you know that she is mine".

"My son is silent", said Tamenund, endeavoring to read the expression of the
face that the youth turned from him in sorrow.

"It is so", was the low answer.

A short and impressive pause succeeded, during which it was very apparent
with what reluctance the multitude admitted the justice of the Mingo's
claim. At length the sage, on whom alone the decision depended, said, in a
firm voice:

"Huron, depart".

"As he came, just Tamenund", demanded the wily Magua, "or with hands filled
with the faith of the Delawares? The wigwam of Le Renard Subtil is empty.
Make him strong with his own".

The aged man mused with himself for a time; and then, bending his head
toward one of his venerable companions, he asked:

"Are my ears open"?

"It is true".

"Is this Mingo a chief"?

"The first in his nation".

"Girl, what wouldst thou? A great warrior takes thee to wife. Go! thy race
will not end".

"Better, a thousand times, it should", exclaimed the horror-struck Cora,
"than meet with such a degradation"!

"Huron, her mind is in the tents of her fathers. An unwilling maiden makes
an unhappy wigwam".

"She speaks with the tongue of her people", returned Magua, regarding his
victim with a look of bitter irony.

"She is of a race of traders, and will bargain for a bright look. Let
Tamenund speak the words".

"Take you the wampum, and our love".

"Nothing hence but what Magua brought hither".

"Then depart with thine own. The Great Manitou forbids that a Delaware
should be unjust".

Magua advanced, and seized his captive strongly by the arm; the Delawares
fell back, in silence; and Cora, as if conscious that remonstrance would be
useless, prepared to submit to her fate without resistance.

"Hold, hold"! cried Duncan, springing forward; "Huron, have mercy! her
ransom shall make thee richer than any of thy people were ever yet known to
be".

"Magua is a red-skin; he wants not the beads of the pale faces".

"Gold, silver, powder, lead--all that a warrior needs shall be in thy
wigwam; all that becomes the greatest chief".

"Le Subtil is very strong", cried Magua, violently shaking the hand which
grasped the unresisting arm of Cora; "he has his revenge"!

"Mighty ruler of Providence"! exclaimed Heyward, clasping his hands together
in agony, "can this be suffered! To you, just Tamenund, I appeal for mercy".

"The words of the Delaware are said", returned the sage, closing his eyes,
and dropping back into his seat, alike wearied with his mental and his
bodily exertion. "Men speak not twice".

"That a chief should not misspend his time in unsaying what has once been
spoken is wise and reasonable", said Hawkeye, motioning to Duncan to be
silent; "but it is also prudent in every warrior to consider well before he
strikes his tomahawk into the head of his prisoner. Huron, I love you not;
nor can I say that any Mingo has ever received much favor at my hands. It is
fair to conclude that, if this war does not soon end, many more of your
warriors will meet me in the woods. Put it to your judgment, then, whether
you would prefer taking such a prisoner as that into your encampment, or one
like myself, who am a man that it would greatly rejoice your nation to see
with naked hands".

"Will "The Long Rifle" give his life for the woman"? demanded Magua,
hesitatingly; for he had already made a motion toward quitting the place
with his victim.

"No, no; I have not said so much as that", returned Hawkeye, drawing back
with suitable discretion, when he noted the eagerness with which Magua
listened to his proposal. "It would be an unequal exchange, to give a
warrior, in the prime of his age and usefulness, for the best woman on the
frontiers. I might consent to go into winter quarters, now--at least six
weeks afore the leaves will turn--on condition you will release the maiden".

Magua shook his head, and made an impatient sign for the crowd to open.

"Well, then", added the scout, with the musing air of a man who had not half
made up his mind; "I will throw "killdeer" into the bargain. Take the word
of an experienced hunter, the piece has not its equal atween the provinces".

Magua still disdained to reply, continuing his efforts to disperse the
crowd.

"Perhaps", added the scout, losing his dissembled coolness exactly in
proportion as the other manifested an indifference to the exchange, "if I
should condition to teach your young men the real virtue of the we'pon, it
would smoothe the little differences in our judgments".

Le Renard fiercely ordered the Delawares, who still lingered in an
impenetrable belt around him, in hopes he would listen to the amicable
proposal, to open his path, threatening, by the glance of his eye, another
appeal to the infallible justice of their "prophet".

"What is ordered must sooner or later arrive", continued Hawkeye, turning
with a sad and humbled look to Uncas. "The varlet knows his advantage and
will keep it! God bless you, boy; you have found friends among your natural
kin, and I hope they will prove as true as some you have met who had no
Indian cross. As for me, sooner or later, I must die; it is, therefore,
fortunate there are but few to make my death-howl. After all, it is likely
the imps would have managed to master my scalp, so a day or two will make no
great difference in the everlasting reckoning of time. God bless you", added
the rugged woodsman, bending his head aside, and then instantly changing its
direction again, with a wistful look toward the youth; "I loved both you and
your father, Uncas, though our skins are not altogether of a color, and our
gifts are somewhat difficult. Tell the Sagamore I never lost sight of him in
my greatest trouble; and, as for you, think of me sometimes when on a lucky
trail, and depend on it, boy, whether there be one heaven or two, there is a
path in the other world by which honest men may come together again. You'll
find the rifle in the place we hid it; take it, and keep it for my sake;
and, harkee, lad, as your natural gifts don't deny you the use of vengeance,
use it a little freely on the Mingoes; it may unburden griefs at my loss,
and ease your mind. Huron, I accept your offer; release the woman. I am your
prisoner"!

A suppressed, but still distinct murmur of approbation ran through the crowd
at this generous proposition; even the fiercest among the Delaware warriors
manifesting pleasure at the manliness of the intended sacrifice. Magua
paused, and for an anxious moment, it might be said, he doubted; then,
casting his eyes on Cora, with an expression in which ferocity and
admiration were strangely mingled, his purpose became fixed forever.

He intimated his contempt of the offer with a backward motion of his head,
and said, in a steady and settled voice:

"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief; he has but one mind. Come", he added,
laying his hand too familiarly on the shoulder of his captive to urge her
onward; "a Huron is no tattler; we will go".

The maiden drew back in lofty womanly reserve, and her dark eye kindled,
while the rich blood shot, like the passing brightness of the sun, into her
very temples, at the indignity.

"I am your prisoner, and, at a fitting time shall be ready to follow, even
to my death. But violence is unnecessary", she coldly said; and immediately
turning to Hawkeye, added: "Generous hunter! from my soul I thank you. Your
offer is vain, neither could it be accepted; but still you may serve me,
even more than in your own noble intention. Look at that drooping humbled
child! Abandon her not until you leave her in the habitations of civilized
men. I will not say", wringing the hard hand of the scout, "that her father
will reward you--for such as you are above the rewards of men--but he will
thank you and bless you. And, believe me, the blessing of a just and aged
man has virtue in the sight of Heaven. Would to God I could hear one word
from his lips at this awful moment"! Her voice became choked, and, for an
instant, she was silent; then, advancing a step nigher to Duncan, who was
supporting her unconscious sister, she continued, in more subdued tones, but
in which feeling and the habits of her sex maintained a fearful struggle: "I
need not tell you to cherish the treasure you will possess. You love her,
Heyward; that would conceal a thousand faults, though she had them. She is
kind, gentle, sweet, good, as mortal may be. There is not a blemish in mind
or person at which the proudest of you all would sicken. She is fair--oh!
how surpassingly fair"! laying her own beautiful, but less brilliant, hand
in melancholy affection on the alabaster forehead of Alice, and parting the
golden hair which clustered about her brows; "and yet her soul is pure and
spotless as her skin! I could say much--more, perhaps, than cooler reason
would approve; but I will spare you and myself--" Her voice became
inaudible, and her face was bent over the form of her sister. After a long
and burning kiss, she arose, and with features of the hue of death, but
without even a tear in her feverish eye, she turned away, and added, to the
savage, with all her former elevation of manner: "Now, sir, if it be your
pleasure, I will follow".

"Ay, go", cried Duncan, placing Alice in the arms of an Indian girl; "go,
Magua, go. these Delawares have their laws, which forbid them to detain you;
but I--I have no such obligation. Go, malignant monster--why do you delay"?

It would be difficult to describe the expression with which Magua listened
to this threat to follow. There was at first a fierce and manifest display
of joy, and then it was instantly subdued in a look of cunning coldness.

"The words are open", he was content with answering, ""The Open Hand" can
come".

"Hold", cried Hawkeye, seizing Duncan by the arm, and detaining him by
violence; "you know not the craft of the imp. He would lead you to an
ambushment, and your death--"

"Huron", interrupted Uncas, who submissive to the stern customs of his
people, had been an attentive and grave listener to all that passed; "Huron,
the justice of the Delawares comes from the Manitou. Look at the sun. He is
now in the upper branches of the hemlock. Your path is short and open. When
he is seen above the trees, there will be men on your trail".

"I hear a crow"! exclaimed Magua, with a taunting laugh. "Go"! he added,
shaking his hand at the crowd, which had slowly opened to admit his passage.
"Where are the petticoats of the Delawares! Let them send their arrows and
their guns to the Wyandots; they shall have venison to eat, and corn to hoe.
Dogs, rabbits, thieves--I spit on you"!

His parting gibes were listened to in a dead, boding silence, and, with
these biting words in his mouth, the triumphant Magua passed unmolested into
the forest, followed by his passive captive, and protected by the inviolable
laws of Indian hospitality.

Chapter 31

"Flue.--Kill the poys and the luggage! 'Tis expressly against the law of
arms; 'tis as arrant a piece of knavery, mark you now, as can be offered in
the 'orld".-- King Henry V

So long as their enemy and his victim continued in sight, the multitude
remained motionless as beings charmed to the place by some power that was
friendly to the Huron; but, the instant he disappeared, it became tossed and
agitated by fierce and powerful passion. Uncas maintained his elevated
stand, keeping his eyes on the form of Cora, until the colors of her dress
were blended with the foliage of the forest; when he descended, and, moving
silently through the throng, he disappeared in that lodge from which he had
so recently issued. A few of the graver and more attentive warriors, who
caught the gleams of anger that shot from the eyes of the young chief in
passing, followed him to the place he had selected for his meditations.
After which, Tamenund and Alice were removed, and the women and children
were ordered to disperse. During the momentous hour that succeeded, the
encampment resembled a hive of troubled bees, who only awaited the
appearance and example of their leader to take some distant and momentous
flight.

A young warrior at length issued from the lodge of Uncas; and, moving
deliberately, with a sort of grave march, toward a dwarf pine that grew in
the crevices of the rocky terrace, he tore the bark from its body, and then
turned whence he came without speaking. He was soon followed by another, who
stripped the sapling of its branches, leaving it a naked and blazed1 trunk.
A third colored the post with stripes of a dark red paint; all which
indications of a hostile design in the leaders of the nation were received
by the men without in a gloomy and ominous silence. Finally, the Mohican
himself reappeared, divested of all his attire, except his girdle and
leggings, and with one-half of his fine features hid under a cloud of
threatening black. 1 A tree which has been partially or entirely stripped of
its bark is said, in the language of the country, to be "blazed". The term
is strictly English, for a horse is said to be blazed when it has a white
mark.

Uncas moved with a slow and dignified tread toward the post, which he
immediately commenced encircling with a measured step, not unlike an ancient
dance, raising his voice, at the same time, in the wild and irregular chant
of his war song. The notes were in the extremes of human sounds; being
sometimes melancholy and exquisitely plaintive, even rivaling the melody of
birds--and then, by sudden and startling transitions, causing the auditors
to tremble by their depth and energy. The words were few and often repeated,
proceeding gradually from a sort of invocation, or hymn, to the Deity, to an
intimation of the warrior's object, and terminating as they commenced with
an acknowledgment of his own dependence on the Great Spirit. If it were
possible to translate the comprehensive and melodious language in which he
spoke, the ode might read something like the following:

"Manitou! Manitou! Manitou!
Thou art great, thou art good, thou art wise:
Manitou! Manitou!
Thou art just.
"In the heavens, in the clouds, oh, I see
Many spots--many dark, many red:
In the heavens, oh, I see
Many clouds.
"In the woods, in the air, oh, I hear
The whoop, the long yell, and the cry:
In the woods, oh, I hear
The loud whoop!
"Manitou! Manitou! Manitou!
I am weak--thou art strong; I am slow;
Manitou! Manitou!
Give me aid".

At the end of what might be called each verse he made a pause, by raising a
note louder and longer than common, that was peculiarly suited to the
sentiment just expressed. The first close was solemn, and intended to convey
the idea of veneration; the second descriptive, bordering on the alarming;
and the third was the well-known and terrific war-whoop, which burst from
the lips of the young warrior, like a combination of all the frightful
sounds of battle. The last was like the first, humble and imploring. Three
times did he repeat this song, and as often did he encircle the post in his
dance.

At the close of the first turn, a grave and highly esteemed chief of the
Lenape followed his example, singing words of his own, however, to music of
a similar character. Warrior after warrior enlisted in the dance, until all
of any renown and authority were numbered in its mazes. The spectacle now
became wildly terrific; the fierce-looking and menacing visages of the
chiefs receiving additional power from the appalling strains in which they
mingled their guttural tones. Just then Uncas struck his tomahawk deep into
the post, and raised his voice in a shout, which might be termed his own
battle cry. The act anounced that he had assumed the chief authority in the
intended expedition.

It was a signal that awakened all the slumbering passions of the nation. A
hundred youths, who had hitherto been restrained by the diffidence of their
years, rushed in a frantic body on the fancied emblem of their enemy, and
severed it asunder, splinter by splinter, until nothing remained of the
trunk but its roots in the earth. During this moment of tumult, the most
ruthless deeds of war were performed on the fragments of the tree, with as
much apparent ferocity as if they were the living victims of their cruelty.
Some were scalped; some received the keen and trembling axe; and others
suffered by thrusts from the fatal knife. In short, the manifestations of
zeal and fierce delight were so great and unequivocal, that the expedition
was declared to be a war of the nation.

The instant Uncas had struck the blow, he moved out of the circle, and cast
his eyes up to the sun, which was just gaining the point, when the truce
with Magua was to end. The fact was soon announced by a significant gesture,
accompanied by a corresponding cry; and the whole of the excited multitude
abandoned their mimic warfare, with shrill yells of pleasure, to prepare for
the more hazardous experiment of the reality.

The whole face of the encampment was instantly changed. The warriors, who
were already armed and painted, became as still as if they were incapable of
any uncommon burst of emotion. On the other hand, the women broke out of the
lodges, with the songs of joy and those of lamentation so strangely mixed
that it might have been difficult to have said which passion preponderated.
None, however, was idle. Some bore their choicest articles, others their
young, and some their aged and infirm, into the forest, which spread itself
like a verdant carpet of bright green against the side of the mountain.
Thither Tamenund also retired, with calm composure, after a short and
touching interview with Uncas; from whom the sage separated with the
reluctance that a parent would quit a long lost and just recovered child. In
the meantime, Duncan saw Alice to a place of safety, and then sought the
scout, with a countenance that denoted how eagerly he also panted for the
approaching contest.

But Hawkeye was too much accustomed to the war song and the enlistments of
the natives, to betray any interest in the passing scene. He merely cast an
occasional look at the number and quality of the warriors, who, from time to
time, signified their readiness to accompany Uncas to the field. In this
particular he was soon satisfied; for, as has been already seen, the power
of the young chief quickly embraced every fighting man in the nation. After
this material point was so satisfactorily decided, he despatched an Indian
boy in quest of "killdeer" and the rifle of Uncas, to the place where they
had deposited their weapons on approaching the camp of the Delawares; a
measure of double policy, inasmuch as it protected the arms from their own
fate, if detained as prisoners, and gave them the advantage of appearing
among the strangers rather as sufferers than as men provided with means of
defense and subsistence. In selecting another to perform the office of
reclaiming his highly prized rifle, the scout had lost sightÊof none of his
habitual caution. He knew that Magua had not come unattended, and he also
knew that Huron spies watched the movements of their new enemies, along the
whole boundary of the woods. It would, therefore, have been fatal to himself
to have attempted the experiment; a warrior would have fared no better; but
the danger of a boy would not be likely to commence until after his object
was discovered. When Heyward joined him, the scout was coolly awaiting the
result of this experiment.

The boy , who had been well instructed, and was sufficiently crafty,
proceeded, with a bosom that was swelling with the pride of such a
confidence, and all the hopes of young ambition, carelessly across the
clearing to the wood, which he entered at a point at some little distance
from the place where the guns were secreted. The instant, however, he was
concealed by the foliage of the bushes, his dusky form was to be seen
gliding, like that of a serpent, toward the desired treasure. He was
successful; and in another moment he appeared flying across the narrow
opening that skirted the base of the terrace on which the village stood,
with the velocity of an arrow, and bearing a prize in each hand. He had
actually gained the crags, and was leaping up their sides with incredible
activity, when a shot from the woods showed how accurate had been the
judgment of the scout. The boy answered it with a feeble but contemptuous
shout; and immediately a second bullet was sent after him from another part
of the cover. At the next instant he appeared on the level above, elevating
his guns in triumph, while he moved with the air of a conqueror toward the
renowned hunter who had honored him by so glorious a commission.

Notwithstanding the lively interest Hawkeye had taken in the fate of his
messenger, he received "killdeer" with a satisfaction that, momentarily,
drove all other recollections from his mind. After examining the piece with
an intelligent eye, and opening and shutting the pan some ten or fifteen
times, and trying sundry other equally important experiments on the lock, he
turned to the boy and demanded with great manifestations of kindness, if he
was hurt. The urchin looked proudly up in his face, but made no reply.

"Ah! I see, lad, the knaves have barked your arm"! added the scout, taking
up the limb of the patient sufferer, across which a deep flesh wound had
been made by one of the bullets; "but a little bruised alder will act like a
charm. In the meantime I will wrap it in a badge of wampum! You have
commenced the business of a warrior early, my brave boy, and are likely to
bear a plenty of honorable scars to your grave. I know many young men that
have taken scalps who cannot show such a mark as this. Go"! having bound up
the arm; "you will be a chief"!

The lad departed, prouder of his flowing blood than the vainest courtier
could be of his blushing ribbon; and stalked among the fellows of his age,
an object of general admiration and envy.

But, in a moment of so many serious and important duties, this single act of
juvenile fortitude did not attract the general notice and commendation it
would have received under milder auspices. It had, however, served to
apprise the Delawares of the position and the intentions of their enemies.
Accordingly a party of adventurers, better suited to the task than the weak
though spirited boy, was ordered to dislodge the skulkers. The duty was soon
performed; for most of the Hurons retired of themselves when they found they
had been discovered. The Delawares followed to a sufficient distance from
their own encampment, and then halted for orders, apprehensive of being led
into an ambush. As both parties secreted themselves, the woods were again as
still and quiet as a mild summer morning and deep solitude could render
them.

The calm but still impatient Uncas now collected his chiefs, and divided his
power. He presented Hawkeye as a warrior, often tried, and always found
deserving of confidence. When he found his friend met with a favorable
reception, he bestowed on him the command of twenty men, like himself,
active, skilful and resolute. He gave the Delawares to understand the rank
of Heyward among the troops of the Yengeese, and then tendered to him a
trust of equal authority. But Duncan declined the charge, professing his
readiness to serve as a volunteer by the side of the scout. After this
disposition, the young Mohican appointed various native chiefs to fill the
different situations of responsibility, and, the time pressing, he gave
forth the word to march. He was cheerfully, but silently obeyed by more than
two hundred men.

Their entrance into the forest was perfectly unmolested; nor did they
encounter any living objects that could either give the alarm, or furnish
the intelligence they needed, until they came upon the lairs of their own
scouts. Here a halt was ordered, and the chiefs were assembled to hold a
"whispering council".

At this meeting divers plans of operation were suggested, though none of a
character to meet the wishes of their ardent leader. Had Uncas followed the
promptings of his own inclinations, he would have led his followers to the
charge without a moment's delay, and put the conflict to the hazard of an
instant issue; but such a course would have been in opposition to all the
received practises and opinions of his countrymen. He was, therefore, fain
to adopt a caution that in the present temper of his mind he execrated, and
to listen to advice at which his fiery spirit chafed, under the vivid
recollection of Cora's danger and Magua's insolence.

After an unsatisfactory conference of many minutes, a solitary individual
was seen advancing from the side of the enemy, with such apparent haste, as
to induce the belief he might be a messenger charged with pacific overtures.
When within a hundred yards, however, of the cover behind which the Delaware
council had assembled, the stranger hesitated, appeared uncertain what
course to take, and finally halted. All eyes were turned now on Uncas, as if
seeking directions how to proceed.

"Hawkeye", said the young chief, in a low voice, "he must never speak to the
Hurons again".

"His time has come", said the laconic scout, thrusting the long barrel of
his rifle through the leaves, and taking his deliberate and fatal aim. But,
instead of pulling the trigger, he lowered the muzzle again, and indulged
himself in a fit of his peculiar mirth. "I took the imp for a Mingo, as I'm
a miserable sinner"! he said; "but when my eye ranged along his ribs for a
place to get the bullet in--would you think it, Uncas--I saw the
musicianer's blower; and so, after all, it is the man they call Gamut, whose
death can profit no one, and whose life, if this tongue can do anything but
sing, may be made serviceable to our own ends. If sounds have not lost their
virtue, I'll soon have a discourse with the honest fellow, and that in a
voice he'll find more agreeable than the speech of "killdeer"".

So saying, Hawkeye laid aside his rifle; and, crawling through the bushes
until within hearing of David, he attempted to repeat the musical effort,
which had conducted himself, with so much safety and eclat, through the
Huron encampment. The exquisite organs of Gamut could not readily be
deceived (and, to say the truth, it would have been difficult for any other
than Hawkeye to produce a similar noise), and, consequently, having once
before heard the sounds, he now knew whence they proceeded. The poor fellow
appeared relieved from a state of great embarrassment; for, pursuing the
direction of the voice--a task that to him was not much less arduous that it
would have been to have gone up in the face of a battery--he soon discovered
the hidden songster.

"I wonder what the Hurons will think of that"! said the scout, laughing, as
he took his companion by the arm, and urged him toward the rear. "If the
knaves lie within earshot, they will say there are two non-compossers
instead of one! But here we are safe", he added, pointing to Uncas and his
associates. "Now give us the history of the Mingo inventions in natural
English, and without any ups and downs of voice".

David gazed about him, at the fierce and wild-looking chiefs, in mute
wonder; but assured by the presence of faces that he knew, he soon rallied
his faculties so far as to make an intelligent reply.

"The heathen are abroad in goodly numbers", said David; "and, I fear, with
evil intent. There has been much howling and ungodly revelry, together with
such sounds as it is profanity to utter, in their habitations within the
past hour, so much so, in truth, that I have fled to the Delawares in search
of peace".

"Your ears might not have profited much by the exchange, had you been
quicker of foot", returned the scout a little dryly. "But let that be as it
may; where are the Hurons"?

"They lie hid in the forest, between this spot and their village in such
force, that prudence would teach you instantly to return".

Uncas cast a glance along the range of trees which concealed his own band
and mentioned the name of:

"Magua"?

"Is among them. He brought in the maiden that had sojourned with the
Delawares; and, leaving her in the cave, has put himself, like a raging
wolf, at the head of his savages. I know not what has troubled his spirit so
greatly"!

"He has left her, you say, in the cave"! interrupted Heyward; "'tis well
that we know its situation! May not something be done for her instant
relief"?

Uncas looked earnestly at the scout, before he asked:

"What says Hawkeye"?

"Give me twenty rifles, and I will turn to the right, along the stream; and,
passing by the huts of the beaver, will join the Sagamore and the colonel.
You shall then hear the whoop from that quarter; with this wind one may
easily send it a mile. Then, Uncas, do you drive in the front; when they
come within range of our pieces, we will give them a blow that, I pledge the
good name of an old frontiersman, shall make their line bend like an ashen
bow. After which, we will carry the village, and take the woman from the
cave; when the affair may be finished with the tribe, according to a white
man's battle, by a blow and a victory; or, in the Indian fashion, with dodge
and cover. There may be no great learning, major, in this plan, but with
courage and patience it can all be done".

"I like it very much", cried Duncan, who saw that the release of Cora was
the primary object in the mind of the scout; "I like it much. Let it be
instantly attempted".

After a short conference, the plan was matured, and rendered more
intelligible to the several parties; the different signals were appointed,
and the chiefs separated, each to his allotted station.

Chapter 32

"But plagues shall spread, and funeral fires increase,
Till the great king, without a ransom paid,
To her own Chrysa send the black-eyed maid".--Pope

During the time Uncas was making this disposition of his forces, the woods
were as still, and, with the exception of those who had met in council,
apparently as much untenanted as when they came fresh from the hands of
their Almighty Creator. The eye could range, in every direction, through the
long and shadowed vistas of the trees; but nowhere was any object to be seen
that did not properly belong to the peaceful and slumbering scenery.

Here and there a bird was heard fluttering among the branches of the
beeches, and occasionally a squirrel dropped a nut, drawing the startled
looks of the party for a moment to the place; but the instant the casual
interruption ceased, the passing air was heard murmuring above their heads,
along that verdant and undulating surface of forest, which spread itself
unbroken, unless by stream or lake, over such a vast region of country.
Across the tract of wilderness which lay between the Delawares and the
village of their enemies, it seemed as if the foot of man had never trodden,
so breathing and deep was the silence in which it lay. But Hawkeye, whose
duty led him foremost in the adventure, knew the character of those with
whom he was about to contend too well to trust the treacherous quiet.

When he saw his little band collected, the scout threw "killdeer" into the
hollow of his arm, and making a silent signal that he would be followed, he
led them many rods toward the rear, into the bed of a little brook which
they had crossed in advancing. Here he halted, and after waiting for the
whole of his grave and attentive warriors to close about him, he spoke in
Delaware, demanding:

"Do any of my young men know whither this run will lead us"?

A Delaware stretched forth a hand, with the two fingers separated, and
indicating the manner in which they were joined at the root, he answered:

"Before the sun could go his own length, the little water will be in the
big". Then he added, pointing in the direction of the place he mentioned,
"the two make enough for the beavers".

"I thought as much", returned the scout, glancing his eye upward at the
opening in the tree-tops, "from the course it takes, and the bearings of the
mountains. Men, we will keep within the cover of its banks till we scent the
Hurons".

His companions gave the usual brief exclamation of assent, but, perceiving
that their leader was about to lead the way in person, one or two made signs
that all was not as it should be. Hawkeye, who comprehended their meaning
glances, turned and perceived that his party had been followed thus far by
the singing-master.

"Do you know, friend", asked the scout, gravely, and perhaps with a little
of the pride of conscious deserving in his manner, "that this is a band of
rangers chosen for the most desperate service, and put under the command of
one who, though another might say it with a better face, will not be apt to
leave them idle. It may not be five, it cannot be thirty minutes, before we
tread on the body of a Huron, living or dead".

"Though not admonished of your intentions in words", returned David, whose
face was a little flushed, and whose ordinarily quiet and unmeaning eyes
glimmered with an expression of unusual fire, "your men have reminded me of
the children of Jacob going out to battle against the Shechemites, for
wickedly aspiring to wedlock with a woman of a race that was favored of the
Lord. Now, I have journeyed far, and sojourned much in good and evil with
the maiden ye seek; and, though not a man of war, with my loins girded and
my sword sharpened, yet would I gladly strike a blow in her behalf".

The scout hesitated, as if weighing the chances of such a strange enlistment
in his mind before he answered:

"You know not the use of any we'pon. You carry no rifle; and believe me,
what the Mingoes take they will freely give again".

"Though not a vaunting and bloodily disposed Goliath", returned David,
drawing a sling from beneath his parti-colored and uncouth attire, "I have
not forgotten the example of the Jewish boy. With this ancient instrument of
war have I practised much in my youth, and peradventure the skill has not
entirely departed from me".

"Ay"! said Hawkeye, considering the deer-skin thong and apron, with a cold
and discouraging eye; "the thing might do its work among arrows, or even
knives; but these Mengwe have been furnished by the Frenchers with a good
grooved barrel a man. However, it seems to be your gift to go unharmed amid
fire; and as you have hitherto been favored--major, you have left your rifle
at a cock; a single shot before the time would be just twenty scalps lost to
no purpose--singer, you can follow; we may find use for you in the
shoutings".

"I thank you, friend", returned David, supplying himself, like his royal
namesake, from among the pebbles of the brook; "though not given to the
desire to kill, had you sent me away my spirit would have been troubled".

"Remember", added the scout, tapping his own head significantly on that spot
where Gamut was yet sore, "we come to fight, and not to musickate. Until the
general whoop is given, nothing speaks but the rifle".

David nodded, as much to signify his acquiescence with the terms; and then
Hawkeye, casting another observant glance over this followers made the
signal to proceed.

Their route lay, for the distance of a mile, along the bed of the
water-course. Though protected from any great danger of observation by the
precipitous banks, and the thick shrubbery which skirted the stream, no
precaution known to an Indian attack was neglected. A warrior rather crawled
than walked on each flank so as to catch occasional glimpses into the
forest; and every few minutes the band came to a halt, and listened for
hostile sounds, with an acuteness of organs that would be scarcely
conceivable to a man in a less natural state. Their march was, however,
unmolested, and they reached the point where the lesser stream was lost in
the greater, without the smallest evidence that their progress had been
noted. Here the scout again halted, to consult the signs of the forest.

"We are likely to have a good day for a fight", he said, in English,
addressing Heyward, and glancing his eyes upward at the clouds, which began
to move in broad sheets across the firmament; "a bright sun and a glittering
barrel are no friends to true sight. Everything is favorable; they have the
wind, which will bring down their noises and their smoke, too, no little
matter in itself; whereas, with us it will be first a shot, and then a clear
view. But here is an end to our cover; the beavers have had the range of
this stream for hundreds of years, and what atween their food and their
dams, there is, as you see, many a girdled stub, but few living trees".

Hawkeye had, in truth, in these few words, given no bad description of the
prospect that now lay in their front. The brook was irregular in its width,
sometimes shooting through narrow fissures in the rocks, and at others
spreading over acres of bottom land, forming little areas that might be
termed ponds. Everywhere along its bands were the moldering relics of dead
trees, in all the stages of decay, from those that groaned on their
tottering trunks to such as had recently been robbed of those rugged coats
that so mysteriously contain their principle of life. A few long, low, and
moss-covered piles were scattered among them, like the memorials of a former
and long-departed generation.

All these minute particulars were noted by the scout, with a gravity and
interest that they probably had never before attracted. He knew that the
Huron encampment lay a short half mile up the brook; and, with the
characteristic anxiety of one who dreaded a hidden danger, he was greatly
troubled at not finding the smallest trace of the presence of his enemy.
Once or twice he felt induced to give the order for a rush, and to attempt
the village by surprise; but his experience quickly admonished him of the
danger of so useless an experiment. Then he listened intently, and with
painful uncertainty, for the sounds of hostility in the quarter where Uncas
was left; but nothing was audible except the sighing of the wind, that began
to sweep over the bosom of the forest in gusts which threatened a tempest.
At length, yielding rather to his unusual impatience than taking counsel
from his knowledge, he determined to bring matters to an issue, by unmasking
his force, and proceeding cautiously, but steadily, up the stream.

The scout had stood, while making his observations, sheltered by a brake,
and his companions still lay in the bed of the ravine, through which the
smaller stream debouched; but on hearing his low, though intelligible,
signal the whole party stole up the bank, like so many dark specters, and
silently arranged themselves around him. Pointing in the direction he wished
to proceed, Hawkeye advanced, the band breaking off in single files, and
following so accurately in his footsteps, as to leave it, if we except
Heyward and David, the trail of but a single man.

The party was, however, scarcely uncovered before a volley from a dozen
rifles was heard in their rear; and a Delaware leaping high in to the air,
like a wounded deer, fell at his whole length, dead.

"Ah, I feared some deviltry like this"! exclaimed the scout, in English,
adding, with the quickness of thought, in his adopted tongue: "To cover,
men, and charge"!

The band dispersed at the word, and before Heyward had well recovered from
his surprise, he found himself standing alone with David. Luckily the Hurons
had already fallen back, and he was safe from their fire. But this state of
things was evidently to be of short continuance; for the scout set the
example of pressing on their retreat, by discharging his rifle, and darting
from tree to tree as his enemy slowly yielded ground.

It would seem that the assault had been made by a very small party of the
Hurons, which, however, continued to increase in numbers, as it retired on
its friends, until the return fire was very nearly, if not quite, equal to
that maintained by the advancing Delawares. Heyward threw himself among the
combatants, and imitating the necessary caution of his companions, he made
quick discharges with his own rifle. The contest now grew warm and
stationary. Few were injured, as both parties kept their bodies as much
protected as possible by the trees; never, indeed, exposing any part of
their persons except in the act of taking aim. But the chances were
gradually growing unfavorable to Hawkeye and his band. The quick-sighted
scout perceived his danger without knowing how to remedy it. He saw it was
more dangerous to retreat than to maintain his ground: while he found his
enemy throwing out men on his flank; which rendered the task of keeping
themselves covered so very difficult to the Delawares, as nearly to silence
their fire. At this embarrassing moment, when they began to think the whole
of the hostile tribe was gradually encircling them, they heard the yell of
combatants and the rattling of arms echoing under the arches of the wood at
the place where Uncas was posted, a bottom which, in a manner, lay beneath
the ground on which Hawkeye and his party were contending.

The effects of this attack were instantaneous, and to the scout and his
friends greatly relieving. It would seem that, while his own surprise had
been anticipated, and had consequently failed, the enemy, in their turn,
having been deceived in its object and in his numbers, had left too small a
force to resist the impetuous onset of the young Mohican. This fact was
doubly apparent, by the rapid manner in which the battle in the forest
rolled upward toward the village, and by an instant falling off in the
number of their assailants, who rushed to assist in maintaining the front,
and, as it now proved to be, the principal point of defense.

Animating his followers by his voice, and his own example, Hawkeye then gave
the word to bear down upon their foes. The charge, in that rude species of
warfare, consisted merely in pushing from cover to cover, nigher to the
enemy; and in this maneuver he was instantly and successfully obeyed. The
Hurons were compelled to withdraw, and the scene of the contest rapidly
changed from the more open ground, on which it had commenced, to a spot
where the assailed found a thicket to rest upon. Here the struggle was
protracted, arduous and seemingly of doubtful issue; the Delawares, though
none of them fell, beginning to bleed freely, in consequence of the
disadvantage at which they were held.

In this crisis, Hawkeye found means to get behind the same tree as that
which served for a cover to Heyward; most of his own combatants being within
call, a little on his right, where they maintained rapid, though fruitless,
discharges on their sheltered enemies.

"You are a young man, major", said the scout, dropping the butt of
"killdeer" to the earth, and leaning on the barrel, a little fatigued with
his previous industry; "and it may be your gift to lead armies, at some
future day, ag'in these imps, the Mingoes. You may here see the philosophy
of an Indian fight. It consists mainly in ready hand, a quick eye and a good
cover. Now, if you had a company of the Royal Americans here, in what manner
would you set them to work in this business"?

"The bayonet would make a road".

"Ay, there is white reason in what you say; but a man must ask himself, in
this wilderness, how many lives he can spare. No--horse1", continued the
scout, shaking his head, like one who mused; "horse, I am ashamed to say
must sooner or later decide these scrimmages. The brutes are better than
men, and to horse must we come at last. Put a shodden hoof on the moccasin
of a red-skin, and, if his rifle be once emptied, he will never stop to load
it again". 1 The American forest admits of the passage of horses, there
being little underbrush, and few tangled brakes. The plan of Hawkeye is the
one which has always proved the most successful in the battles between the
whites and the Indians. Wayne, in his celebrated campaign on the Miami,
received the fire of his enemies in line; and then causing his dragoons to
wheel round his flanks, the Indians were driven from their covers before
they had time to load. One of the most conspicuous of the chiefs who fought
in the battle of Miami assured the writer, that the red men could not fight
the warriors with "long knives and leather stockings"; meaning the dragoons
with their sabers and boots.

"This is a subject that might better be discussed at another time", returned
Heyward; "shall we charge"?

"I see no contradiction to the gifts of any man in passing his breathing
spells in useful reflections", the scout replied. "As to rush, I little
relish such a measure; for a scalp or two must be thrown away in the
attempt. And yet", he added, bending his head aside, to catch the sounds of
the distant combat, "if we are to be of use to Uncas, these knaves in our
front must be got rid of".

Then, turning with a prompt and decided air, he called aloud to his Indians,
in their own language. His words were answered by a shout; and, at a given
signal, each warrior made a swift movement around his particular tree. The
sight of so many dark bodies, glancing before their eyes at the same
instant, drew a hasty and consequently an ineffectual fire from the Hurons.
Without stopping to breathe, the Delawares leaped in long bounds toward the
wood, like so many panthers springing upon their prey. Hawkeye was in front,
brandishing his terrible rifle and animating his followers by his example. A
few of the older and more cunning Hurons, who had not been deceived by the
artifice which had been practiced to draw their fire, now made a close and
deadly discharge of their pieces and justified the apprehensions of the
scout by felling three of his foremost warriors. But the shock was
insufficient to repel the impetus of the charge. The Delawares broke into
the cover with the ferocity of their natures and swept away every trace of
resistance by the fury of the onset.

The combat endured only for an instant, hand to hand, and then the assailed
yielded ground rapidly, until they reached the opposite margin of the
thicket, where they clung to the cover, with the sort of obstinacy that is
so often witnessed in hunted brutes. At this critical moment, when the
success of the struggle was again becoming doubtful, the crack of a rifle
was heard behind the Hurons, and a bullet came whizzing from among some
beaver lodges, which were situated in the clearing, in their rear, and was
followed by the fierce and appalling yell of the war- whoop.

"There speaks the Sagamore"! shouted Hawkeye, answering the cry with his own
stentorian voice; "we have them now in face and back"!

The effect on the Hurons was instantaneous. Discouraged by an assault from a
quarter that left them no opportunity for cover, the warriors uttered a
common yell of disappointment, and breaking off in a body, they spread
themselves across the opening, heedless of every consideration but flight.
Many fell, in making the experiment, under the bullets and the blows of the
pursuing Delawares.

We shall not pause to detail the meeting between the scout and Chingachgook,
or the more touching interview that Duncan held with Munro. A few brief and
hurried words served to explain the state of things to both parties; and
then Hawkeye, pointing out the Sagamore to his band, resigned the chief
authority into the hands of the Mohican chief. Chingachgook assumed the
station to which his birth and experience gave him so distinguished a claim,
with the grave dignity that always gives force to the mandates of a native
warrior. Following the footsteps of the scout, he led the party back through
the thicket, his men scalping the fallen Hurons and secreting the bodies of
their own dead as they proceeded, until they gained a point where the former
was content to make a halt.

The warriors, who had breathed themselves freely in the preceding struggle,
were now posted on a bit of level ground, sprinkled with trees in sufficient
numbers to conceal them. The land fell away rather precipitately in front,
and beneath their eyes stretched, for several miles, a narrow, dark, and
wooded vale. It was through this dense and dark forest that Uncas was still
contending with the main body of the Hurons.

The Mohican and his friends advanced to the brow of the hill, and listened,
with practised ears, to the sounds of the combat. A few birds hovered over
the leafy bosom of the valley, frightened from their secluded nests; and
here and there a light vapory cloud, which seemed already blending with the
atmosphere, arose above the trees, and indicated some spot where the
struggle had been fierce and stationary.

"The fight is coming up the ascent", said Duncan, pointing in the direction
of a new explosion of firearms; "we are too much in the center of their line
to be effective".

"They will incline into the hollow, where the cover is thicker", said the
scout, "and that will leave us well on their flank. Go, Sagamore; you will
hardly be in time to give the whoop, and lead on the young men. I will fight
this scrimmage with warriors of my own color. You know me, Mohican; not a
Huron of them all shall cross the swell, into your rear, without the notice
of "killdeer"".

The Indian chief paused another moment to consider the signs of the contest,
which was now rolling rapidly up the ascent, a certain evidence that the
Delawares triumphed; nor did he actually quit the place until admonished of
the proximity of his friends, as well as enemies, by the bullets of the
former, which began to patter among the dried leaves on the ground, like the
bits of falling hail which precede the bursting of the tempest. Hawkeye and
his three companions withdrew a few paces to a shelter, and awaited the
issue with calmness that nothing but great practise could impart in such a
scene.

It was not long before the reports of the rifles began to lose the echoes of
the woods, and to sound like weapons discharged in the open air. Then a
warrior appeared, here and there, driven to the skirts of the forest, and
rallying as he entered the clearing, as at the place where the final stand
was to be made. These were soon joined by others, until a long line of
swarthy figures was to be seen clinging to the cover with the obstinacy of
desperation. Heyward began to grow impatient, and turned his eyes anxiously
in the direction of Chingachgook. The chief was seated on a rock, with
nothing visible but his calm visage, considering the spectacle with an eye
as deliberate as if he were posted there merely to view the struggle.

"The time has come for the Delaware to strike'! said Duncan.

"Not so, not so", returned the scout; "when he scents his friends, he will
let them know that he is here. See, see; the knaves are getting in that
clump of pines, like bees settling after their flight. By the Lord, a squaw
might put a bullet into the center of such a knot of dark skins"!

At that instant the whoop was given, and a dozen Hurons fell by a discharge
from Chingachgook and his band. The shout that followed was answered by a
single war-cry from the forest, and a yell passed through the air that
sounded as if a thousand throats were united in a common effort. The Hurons
staggered, deserting the center of their line, and Uncas issued from the
forest through the opening they left, at the head of a hundred warriors.

Waving his hands right and left, the young chief pointed out the enemy to
his followers, who separated in pursuit. The war now divided, both wings of
the broken Hurons seeking protection in the woods again, hotly pressed by
the victorious warriors of the Lenape. A minute might have passed, but the
sounds were already receding in different directions, and gradually losing
their distinctness beneath the echoing arches of the woods. One little knot
of Hurons, however, had disdained to seek a cover, and were retiring, like
lions at bay, slowly and sullenly up the acclivity which Chingachgook and
his band had just deserted, to mingle more closely in the fray. Magua was
conspicuous in this party, both by his fierce and savage mien, and by the
air of haughty authority he yet maintained.

In his eagerness to expedite the pursuit, Uncas had left himself nearly
alone; but the moment his eye caught the figure of Le Subtil, every other
consideration was forgotten. Raising his cry of battle, which recalled some
six or seven warriors, and reckless of the disparity of their numbers, he
rushed upon his enemy. Le Renard, who watched the movement, paused to
receive him with secret joy. But at the moment when he thought the rashness
of his impetuous young assailant had left him at his mercy, another shout
was given, and La Longue Carabine was seen rushing to the rescue, attended
by all his white associates. The Huron instantly turned, and commenced a
rapid retreat up the ascent.

There was no time for greetings or congratulations; for Uncas, though
unconscious of the presence of his friends, continued the pursuit with the
velocity of the wind. In vain Hawkeye called to him to respect the covers;
the young Mohican braved the dangerous fire of his enemies, and soon
compelled them to a flight as swift as his own headlong speed. It was
fortunate that the race was of short continuance, and that the white men
were much favored by their position, or the Delaware would soon have
outstripped all his companions, and fallen a victim to his own temerity.
But, ere such a calamity could happen, the pursuers and pursued entered the
Wyandot village, within striking distance of each other.

Excited by the presence of their dwellings, and tired of the chase, the
Hurons now made a stand, and fought around their council-lodge with the fury
of despair. The onset and the issue were like the passage and destruction of
a whirlwind. The tomahawk of Uncas, the blows of Hawkeye, and even the still
nervous arm of Munro were all busy for that passing moment, and the ground
was quickly strewed with their enemies. Still Magua, though daring and much
exposed, escaped from every effort against his life, with that sort of
fabled protection that was made to overlook the fortunes of favored heroes
in the legends of ancient poetry. Raising a yell that spoke volumes of anger
and disappointment, the subtle chief, when he saw his comrades fallen,
darted away from the place, attended by his two only surviving friends,
leaving the Delawares engaged in stripping the dead of the bloody trophies
of their victory.

But Uncas, who had vainly sought him in the mâlée, bounded forward in
pursuit; Hawkeye, Heyward and David still pressing on his footsteps. The
utmost that the scout could effect, was to keep the muzzle of his rifle a
little in advance of his friend, to whom, however, it answered every purpose
of a charmed shield. Once Magua appeared disposed to make another and a
final effort to revenge his losses; but, abandoning his intention as soon as
demonstrated, he leaped into a thicket of bushes, through which he was
followed by his enemies, and suddenly entered the mouth of the cave already
known to the reader. Hawkeye, who had only forborne to fire in tenderness to
Uncas, raised a shout of success, and proclaimed aloud that now they were
certain of their game. The pursuers dashed into the long and narrow
entrance, in time to catch a glimpse of the retreating forms of the Hurons.
Their passage through the natural galleries and subterraneous apartments of
the cavern was preceded by the shrieks and cries of hundreds of women and
children. The place, seen by its dim and uncertain light, appeared like the
shades of the infernal regions, across which unhappy ghosts and savage
demons were flitting in multitudes.

Still Uncas kept his eye on Magua, as if life to him possessed but a single
object. Heyward and the scout still pressed on his rear, actuated, though
possibly in a less degree, by a common feeling. But their way was becoming
intricate, in those dark and gloomy passages, and the glimpses of the
retiring warriors less distinct and frequent; and for a moment the trace was
believed to be lost, when a white robe was seen fluttering in the further
extremity of a passage that seemed to lead up the mountain.

"'Tis Cora"! exclaimed Heyward, in a voice in which horror and delight were
wildly mingled.

"Cora! Cora"! echoed Uncas, bounding forward like a deer.

"'Tis the maiden"! shouted the scout. "Courage, lady; we come! we come"!

The chase was renewed with a diligence rendered tenfold encouraging by this
glimpse of the captive. But the way was rugged, broken, and in spots nearly
impassable. Uncas abandoned his rifle, and leaped forward with headlong
precipitation. Heyward rashly imitated his example, though both were, a
moment afterward, admonished of his madness by hearing the bellowing of a
piece, that the Hurons found time to discharge down the passage in the
rocks, the bullet from which even gave the young Mohican a slight wound.

"We must close"! said the scout, passing his friends by a desperate leap;
"the knaves will pick us all off at this distance; and see, they hold the
maiden so as the shield themselves"!

Though his words were unheeded, or rather unheard, his example was followed
by his companions, who, by incredible exertions, got near enough to the
fugitives to perceive that Cora was borne along between the two warriors
while Magua prescribed the direction and manner of their flight. At this
moment the forms of all four were strongly drawn against an opening in the
sky, and they disappeared. Nearly frantic with disappointment, Uncas and
Heyward increased efforts that already seemed superhuman, and they issued
from the cavern on the side of the mountain, in time to note the route of
the pursued. The course lay up the ascent, and still continued hazardous and
laborious.

Encumbered by his rifle, and, perhaps, not sustained by so deep an interest
in the captive as his companions, the scout suffered the latter to precede
him a little, Uncas, in his turn, taking the lead of Heyward. In this
manner, rocks, precipices and difficulties were surmounted in an incredibly
short space, that at another time, and under other circumstances, would have
been deemed almost insuperable. But the impetuous young man were rewarded by
finding that, encumbered with Cora, the Hurons were losing ground in the
race.

"Stay, dog of the Wyandots"! exclaimed Uncas, shaking his bright tomahawk at
Magua; "a Delaware girl calls stay"!

"I will go no further"! cried Cora, stopping unexpectedly on a ledge of
rock, that overhung a deep precipice, at no great distance from the summit
of the mountain. "Kill me if thou wilt, detestable Huron; I will go no
further".

The supporters of the maiden raised their ready tomahawks with the impious
joy that fiends are thought to take in mischief, but Magua stayed the
uplifted arms. The Huron chief, after casting the weapons he had wrested
from his companions over the rock, drew his knife, and turned to his
captive, with a look in which conflicting passions fiercely contended.

"Woman", he said, "chose; the wigwam or the knife of Le Subtil"!

Cora regarded him not, but dropping on her knees, she raised her eyes and
stretched her arms toward heaven, saying in a meek and yet confiding voice:

"I am thine; do with me as thou seest best"!

"Woman", repeated Magua, hoarsely, and endeavoring in vain to catch a glance
from her serene and beaming eye, "choose"!

But Cora neither heard nor heeded his demand. The form of the Huron trembled
in every fibre, and he raised his arm on high, but dropped it again with a
bewildered air, like one who doubted. Once more he struggled with himself
and lifted the keen weapon again; but just then a piercing cry was heard
above them, and Uncas appeared, leaping frantically, from a fearful height,
upon the ledge. Magua recoiled a step; and one of his assistants, profiting
by the chance, sheathed his own knife in the bosom of Cora.

The Huron sprang like a tiger on his offending and already retreating
country man, but the falling form of Uncas separated the unnatural
combatants. Diverted from his object by this interruption, and maddened by
the murder he had just witnessed, Magua buried his weapon in the back of the
prostrate Delaware, uttering an unearthly shout as he committed the
dastardly deed. But Uncas arose from the blow, as the wounded panther turns
upon his foe, and struck the murderer of Cora to his feet, by an effort in
which the last of his failing strength was expended. Then, with a stern and
steady look, he turned to Le Subtil, and indicated by the expression of his
eye all that he would do had not the power deserted him. The latter seized
the nerveless arm of the unresisting Delaware, and passed his knife into his
bosom three several times, before his victim, still keeping his gaze riveted
on his enemy, with a look of inextinguishable scorn, feel dead at his feet.

"Mercy! mercy! Huron", cried Heyward, from above, in tones nearly choked by
horror; "give mercy, and thou shalt receive from it"!

Whirling the bloody knife up at the imploring youth, the victorious Magua
uttered a cry so fierce, so wild, and yet so joyous, that it conveyed the
sounds of savage triumph to the ears of those who fought in the valley, a
thousand feet below. He was answered by a burst from the lips of the scout,
whose tall person was just then seen moving swiftly toward him, along those
dangerous crags, with steps as bold and reckless as if he possessed the
power to move in air. But when the hunter reached the scene of the ruthless
massacre, the ledge was tenanted only by the dead.

His keen eye took a single look at the victims, and then shot its glances
over the difficulties of the ascent in his front. A form stood at the brow
of the mountain, on the very edge of the giddy height, with uplifted arms,
in an awful attitude of menace. Without stopping to consider his person, the
rifle of Hawkeye was raised; but a rock, which fell on the head of one of
the fugitives below, exposed the indignant and glowing countenance of the
honest Gamut. Then Magua issued from a crevice, and, stepping with calm
indifference over the body of the last of his associates, he leaped a wide
fissure, and ascended the rocks at a point where the arm of David could not
reach him. A single bound would carry him to the brow of the precipice, and
assure his safety. Before taking the leap, however, the Huron paused, and
shaking his hand at the scout, he shouted:

"The pale faces are dogs! the Delawares women! Magua leaves them on the
rocks, for the crows"!

Laughing hoarsely, he made a desperate leap, and fell short of his mark,
though his hands grasped a shrub on the verge of the height. The form of
Hawkeye had crouched like a beast about to take its spring, and his frame
trembled so violently with eagerness that the muzzle of the half-raised
rifle played like a leaf fluttering in the wind. Without exhausting himself
with fruitless efforts, the cunning Magua suffered his body to drop to the
length of his arms, and found a fragment for his feet to rest on. Then,
summoning all his powers, he renewed the attempt, and so far succeeded as to
draw his knees on the edge of the mountain. It was now, when the body of his
enemy was most collected together, that the agitated weapon of the scout was
drawn to his shoulder. The surrounding rocks themselves were not steadier
than the piece became, for the single instant that it poured out its
contents. The arms of the Huron relaxed, and his body fell back a little,
while his knees still kept their position. Turning a relentless look on his
enemy, he shook a hand in grim defiance. But his hold loosened, and his dark
person was seen cutting the air with its head downward, for a fleeting
instant, until it glided past the fringe of shrubbery which clung to the
mountain, in its rapid flight to destruction.

Chapter 33

"They fought, like brave men, long and well,
They piled that ground with Moslem slain,
They conquered--but Bozzaris fell,
Bleeding at every vein.
His few surviving comrades saw
His smile when rang their loud hurrah,
And the red field was won;
Then saw in death his eyelids close
Calmly, as to a night's repose,
Like flowers at set of sun".-- Halleck

The sun found the Lenape, on the succeeding day, a nation of mourners. The
sounds of the battle were over, and they had fed fat their ancient grudge,
and had avenged their recent quarrel with the Mengwe, by the destruction of
a whole community. The black and murky atmosphere that floated around the
spot where the Hurons had encamped, sufficiently announced of itself, the
fate of that wandering tribe; while hundreds of ravens, that struggled above
the summits of the mountains, or swept, in noisy flocks, across the wide
ranges of the woods, furnished a frightful direction to the scene of the
combat. In short, any eye at all practised in the signs of a frontier
warfare might easily have traced all those unerring evidences of the
ruthless results which attend an Indian vengeance.

Still, the sun rose on the Lenape a nation of mourners. No shouts of
success, no songs of triumph, were heard, in rejoicings for their victory.
The latest straggler had returned from his fell employment, only to strip
himself of the terrific emblems of his bloody calling, and to join in the
lamentations of his countrymen, as a stricken people. Pride and exultation
were supplanted by humility, and the fiercest of human passions was already
succeeded by the most profound and unequivocal demonstrations of grief.

The lodges were deserted; but a broad belt of earnest faces encircled a spot
in their vicinity, whither everything possessing life had repaired, and
where all were now collected, in deep and awful silence. Though beings of
every rank and age, of both sexes, and of all pursuits, had united to form
this breathing wall of bodies, they were influenced by a single emotion.
Each eye was riveted on the center of that ring, which contained the objects
of so much and of so common an interest.

Six Delaware girls, with their long, dark, flowing tresses falling loosely
across their bosoms, stood apart, and only gave proof of their existence as
they occasionally strewed sweet-scented herbs and forest flowers on a litter
of fragrant plants that, under a pall of Indian robes, supported all that
now remained of the ardent, high-souled, and generous Cora. Her form was
concealed in many wrappers of the same simple manufacture, and her face was
shut forever from the gaze of men. At her feet was seated the desolate
Munro. His aged head was bowed nearly to the earth, in compelled submission
to the stroke of Providence; but a hidden anguish struggled about his
furrowed brow, that was only partially concealed by the careless locks of
gray that had fallen, neglected, on his temples. Gamut stood at his side,
his meek head bared to the rays of the sun, while his eyes, wandering and
concerned, seemed to be equally divided between that little volume, which
contained so many quaint but holy maxims, and the being in whose behalf his
soul yearned to administer consolation. Heyward was also nigh, supporting
himself against a tree, and endeavoring to keep down those sudden risings of
sorrow that it required his utmost manhood to subdue.

But sad and melancholy as this group may easily be imagined, it was far less
touching than another, that occupied the opposite space of the same area.
Seated, as in life, with his form and limbs arranged in grave and decent
composure, Uncas appeared, arrayed in the most gorgeous ornaments that the
wealth of the tribe could furnish. Rich plumes nodded above his head;
wampum, gorgets, bracelets, and medals, adorned his person in profusion;
though his dull eye and vacant lineaments too strongly contradicted the idle
tale of pride they would convey.

Directly in front of the corpse Chingachgook was placed, without arms, paint
or adornment of any sort, except the bright blue blazonry of his race, that
was indelibly impressed on his naked bosom. During the long period that the
tribe had thus been collected, the Mohican warrior had kept a steady,
anxious look on the cold and senseless countenance of his son. So riveted
and intense had been that gaze, and so changeless his attitude, that a
stranger might not have told the living from the dead, but for the
occasional gleamings of a troubled spirit, that shot athwart the dark visage
of one, and the deathlike calm that had forever settled on the lineaments of
the other. The scout was hard by, leaning in a pensive posture on his own
fatal and avenging weapon; while Tamenund, supported by the elders of his
nation, occupied a high place at hand, whence he might look down on the mute
and sorrowful assemblage of his people.

Just within the inner edge of the circle stood a soldier, in the military
attire of a strange nation; and without it was his warhorse, in the center
of a collection of mounted domestics, seemingly in readiness to undertake
some distant journey. The vestments of the stranger announced him to be one
who held a responsible situation near the person of the captain of the
Canadas; and who, as it would now seem, finding his errand of peace
frustrated by the fierce impetuosity of his allies, was content to become a
silent and sad spectator of the fruits of a contest that he had arrived too
late to anticipate.

The day was drawing to the close of its first quarter, and yet had the
multitude maintained its breathing stillness since its dawn.

No sound louder than a stifled sob had been heard among them, nor had even a
limb been moved throughout that long and painful period, except to perform
the simple and touching offerings that were made, from time to time, in
commemoration of the dead. The patience and forbearance of Indian fortitude
could alone support such an appearance of abstraction, as seemed now to have
turned each dark and motionless figure into stone.

At length, the sage of the Delawares stretched forth an arm, and leaning on
the shoulders of his attendants, he arose with an air as feeble as if
another age had already intervened between the man who had met his nation
the preceding day, and him who now tottered on his elevated stand.

"Men of the Lenape"! he said, in low, hollow tones, that sounded like a
voice charged with some prophetic mission: "the face of the Manitou is
behind a cloud! His eye is turned from you; His ears are shut; His tongue
gives no answer. You see him not; yet His judgments are before you. Let your
hearts be open and your spirits tell no lie. Men of the Lenape! the face of
the Manitou is behind a cloud".

As this simple and yet terrible annunciation stole on the ears of the
multitude, a stillness as deep and awful succeeded as if the venerated
spirit they worshiped had uttered the words without the aid of human organs;
and even the inanimate Uncas appeared a being of life, compared with the
humbled and submissive throng by whom he was surrounded. As the immediate
effect, however, gradually passed away, a low murmur of voices commenced a
sort of chant in honor of the dead. The sounds were those of females, and
were thrillingly soft and wailing. The words were connected by no regular
continuation, but as one ceased another took up the eulogy, or lamentation,
whichever it might be called, and gave vent to her emotions in such language
as was suggested by her feelings and the occasion. At intervals the speaker
was interrupted by general and loud bursts of sorrow, during which the girls
around the bier of Cora plucked the plants and flowers blindly from her
body, as if bewildered with grief. But, in the milder moments of their
plaint, these emblems of purity and sweetness were cast back to their
places, with every sign of tenderness and regret. Though rendered less
connected by many and general interruptions and outbreakings, a translation
of their language would have contained a regular descant, which, in
substance, might have proved to possess a train of consecutive ideas.

A girl, selected for the task by her rank and qualifications, commenced by
modest allusions to the qualities of the deceased warrior, embellishing her
expressions with those oriental images that the Indians have probably
brought with them from the extremes of the other continent, and which form
of themselves a link to connect the ancient histories of the two worlds. She
called him the "panther of his tribe"; and described him as one whose
moccasin left no trail on the dews; whose bound was like the leap of a young
fawn; whose eye was brighter than a star in the dark night; and whose voice,
in battle, was loud as the thunder of the Manitou. She reminded him of the
mother who bore him, and dwelt forcibly on the happiness she must feel in
possessing such a son. She bade him tell her, when they met in the world of
spirits, that the Delaware girls had shed tears above the grave of her
child, and had called her blessed.

Then, they who succeeded, changing their tones to a milder and still more
tender strain, alluded, with the delicacy and sensitiveness of women, to the
stranger maiden, who had left the upper earth at a time so near his own
departure, as to render the will of the Great Spirit too manifest to be
disregarded. They admonished him to be kind to her, and to have
consideration for her ignorance of those arts which were so necessary to the
comfort of a warrior like himself. They dwelled upon her matchless beauty,
and on her noble resolution, without the taint of envy, and as angels may be
thought to delight in a superior excellence; adding, that these endowments
should prove more than equivalent for any little imperfection in her
education.

After which, others again, in due succession, spoke to the maiden herself,
in the low, soft language of tenderness and love. They exhorted her to be of
cheerful mind, and to fear nothing for her future welfare. A hunter would be
her companion, who knew how to provide for her smallest wants; and a warrior
was at her side who was able to protect he against every danger. They
promised that her path should be pleasant, and her burden light. They
cautioned her against unavailing regrets for the friends of her youth, and
the scenes where her father had dwelt; assuring her that the "blessed
hunting grounds of the Lenape", contained vales as pleasant, streams as
pure; and flowers as sweet, as the "heaven of the pale faces". They advised
her to be attentive to the wants of her companion, and never to forget the
distinction which the Manitou had so wisely established between them. Then,
in a wild burst of their chant they sang with united voices the temper of
the Mohican's mind. They pronounced him noble, manly and generous; all that
became a warrior, and all that a maid might love. Clothing their ideas in
the most remote and subtle images, they betrayed, that, in the short period
of their intercourse, they had discovered, with the intuitive perception of
their sex, the truant disposition of his inclinations. The Delaware girls
had found no favor in his eyes! He was of a race that had once been lords on
the shores of the salt lake, and his wishes had led him back to a people who
dwelt about the graves of his fathers. Why should not such a predilection be
encouraged! That she was of a blood purer and richer than the rest of her
nation, any eye might have seen; that she was equal to the dangers and
daring of a life in the woods, her conduct had proved; and now, they added,
the "wise one of the earth" had transplanted her to a place where she would
find congenial spirits, and might be forever happy.

Then, with another transition in voice and subject, allusions were made to
the virgin who wept in the adjacent lodge. They compared her to flakes of
snow; as pure, as white, as brilliant, and as liable to melt in the fierce
heats of summer, or congeal in the frosts of winter. They doubted not that
she was lovely in the eyes of the young chief, whose skin and whose sorrow
seemed so like her own; but though far from expressing such a preference, it
was evident they deemed her less excellent than the maid they mourned. Still
they denied her no need her rare charms might properly claim. Her ringlets
were compared to the exuberant tendrils of the vine, her eye to the blue
vault of heavens, and the most spotless cloud, with its glowing flush of the
sun, was admitted to be less attractive than her bloom.

During these and similar songs nothing was audible but the murmurs of the
music; relieved, as it was, or rather rendered terrible, by those occasional
bursts of grief which might be called its choruses. The Delawares themselves
listened like charmed men; and it was very apparent, by the variations of
their speaking countenances, how deep and true was their sympathy. Even
David was not reluctant to lend his ears to the tones of voices so sweet;
and long ere the chant was ended, his gaze announced that his soul was
enthralled.

The scout, to whom alone, of all the white men, the words were intelligible,
suffered himself to be a little aroused from his meditative posture, and
bent his face aside, to catch their meaning, as the girls proceeded. But
when they spoke of the future prospects of Cora and Uncas, he shook his
head, like one who knew the error of their simple creed, and resuming his
reclining attitude, he maintained it until the ceremony, if that might be
called a ceremony, in which feeling was so deeply imbued, was finished.
Happily for the self-command of both Heyward and Munro, they knew not the
meaning of the wild sounds they heard.

Chingachgook was a solitary exception to the interest manifested by the
native part of the audience. His look never changed throughout the whole of
the scene, nor did a muscle move in his rigid countenance, even at the
wildest or the most pathetic parts of the lamentation. The cold and
senseless remains of his son was all to him, and every other sense but that
of sight seemed frozen, in order that his eyes might take their final gaze
at those lineaments he had so long loved, and which were now about to be
closed forever from his view.

In this stage of the obsequies, a warrior much renowned for deed in arms,
and more especially for services in the recent combat, a man of stern and
grave demeanor, advanced slowly from the crowd, and placed himself nigh the
person of the dead.

"Why hast thou left us, pride of the Wapanachki"? he said, addressing
himself to the dull ears of Uncas, as if the empty clay retained the
faculties of the animated man; "thy time has been like that of the sun when
in the trees; they glory brighter than his light at noonday. Thou art gone,
youthful warrior, but a hundred Wyandots are clearing the briers from thy
path to the world of the spirits. Who that saw thee in battle would believe
that thou couldst die? Who before thee has ever shown Uttawa the way into
the fight? Thy feet were like the wings of eagles; thine arm heavier than
falling branches from the pine; and thy voice like the Manitou when He
speaks in the clouds. The tongue of Uttawa is weak", he added, looking about
him with a melancholy gaze, "and his heart exceeding heavy. Pride of the
Wapanachki, why hast thou left us"?

He was succeeded by others, in due order, until most of the high and gifted
men of the nation had sung or spoken their tribute of praise over the manes
of the deceased chief. When each had ended, another deep and breathing
silence reigned in all the place.

Then a low, deep sound was heard, like the suppressed accompaniment of
distant music, rising just high enough on the air to be audible, and yet so
indistinctly, as to leave its character, and the place whence it proceeded,
alike matters of conjecture. It was, however, succeeded by another and
another strain, each in a higher key, until they grew on the ear, first in
long drawn and often repeated interjections, and finally in words. The lips
of Chingachgook had so far parted, as to announce that it was the monody of
the father. Though not an eye was turned toward him nor the smallest sign of
impatience exhibited, it was apparent, by the manner in which the multitude
elevated their heads to listen, that they drank in the sounds with an
intenseness of attention, that none but Tamenund himself had ever before
commanded. But they listened in vain. The strains rose just so loud as to
become intelligible, and then grew fainter and more trembling, until they
finally sank on the ear, as if borne away by a passing breath of wind. The
lips of the Sagamore closed, and he remained silent in his seat, looking
with his riveted eye and motionless form, like some creature that had been
turned from the Almighty hand with the form but without the spirit of a man.
The Delawares who knew by these symptoms that the mind of their friend was
not prepared for so mighty an effort of fortitude, relaxed in their
attention; and, with an innate delicacy, seemed to bestow all their thoughts
on the obsequies of the stranger maiden.

A signal was given, by one of the elder chiefs, to the women who crowded
that part of the circle near which the body of Cora lay. Obedient to the
sign, the girls raised the bier to the elevation of their heads, and
advanced with slow and regulated steps, chanting, as they proceeded, another
wailing song in praise of the deceased. Gamut, who had been a close observer
of rites he deemed so heathenish, now bent his head over the shoulder of the
unconscious father, whispering:

"They move with the remains of thy child; shall we not follow, and see them
interred with Christian burial"?

Munro started, as if the last trumpet had sounded in his ear, and bestowing
one anxious and hurried glance around him, he arose and followed in the
simple train, with the mien of a soldier, but bearing the full burden of a
parent's suffering. His friends pressed around him with a sorrow that was
too strong to be termed sympathy--even the young Frenchman joining in the
procession, with the air of a man who was sensibly touched at the early and
melancholy fate of one so lovely. But when the last and humblest female of
the tribe had joined in the wild and yet ordered array, the men of the
Lenape contracted their circle, and formed again around the person of Uncas,
as silent, as grave, and as motionless as before.

The place which had been chosen for the grave of Cora was a little knoll,
where a cluster of young and healthful pines had taken root, forming of
themselves a melancholy and appropriate shade over the spot. On reaching it
the girls deposited their burden, and continued for many minutes waiting,
with characteristic patience, and native timidity, for some evidence that
they whose feelings were most concerned were content with the arrangement.
At length the scout, who alone understood their habits, said, in their own
language:

"My daughters have done well; the white men thank them".

Satisfied with this testimony in their favor, the girls proceeded to deposit
the body in a shell, ingeniously, and not inelegantly, fabricated of the
bark of the birch; after which they lowered it into its dark and final
abode. The ceremony of covering the remains, and concealing the marks of the
fresh earth, by leaves and other natural and customary objects, was
conducted with the same simple and silent forms. But when the labors of the
kind beings who had performed these sad and friendly offices were so far
completed, they hesitated, in a way to show that they knew not how much
further they might proceed. It was in this stage of the rites that the scout
again addressed them:

"My young women have done enough", he said: "the spirit of the pale face has
no need of food or raiment, their gifts being according to the heaven of
their color. I see", he added, glancing an eye at David, who was preparing
his book in a manner that indicated an intention to lead the way in sacred
song, "that one who better knows the Christian fashions is about to speak".

The females stood modestly aside, and, from having been the principal actors
in the scene, they now became the meek and attentive observers of that which
followed. During the time David occupied in pouring out the pious feelings
of his spirit in this manner, not a sign of surprise, nor a look of
impatience, escaped them. They listened like those who knew the meaning of
the strange words, and appeared as if they felt the mingled emotions of
sorrow, hope, and resignation, they were intended to convey.

Excited by the scene he had just witnessed, and perhaps influenced by his
own secret emotions, the master of song exceeded his usual efforts. His full
rich voice was not found to suffer by a comparison with the soft tones of
the girls; and his more modulated strains possessed, at least for the ears
of those to whom they were peculiarly addressed, the additional power of
intelligence. He ended the anthem, as he had commenced it, in the midst of a
grave and solemn stillness.

When, however, the closing cadence had fallen on the ears of his auditors,
the secret, timorous glances of the eyes, and the general and yet subdued
movement of the assemblage, betrayed that something was expected from the
father of the deceased. Munro seemed sensible that the time was come for him
to exert what is, perhaps, the greatest effort of which human nature is
capable. He bared his gray locks, and looked around the timid and quiet
throng by which he was encircled, with a firm and collected countenance.
Then, motioning with his hand for the scout to listen, he said:

"Say to these kind and gentle females, that a heart-broken and failing man
returns them his thanks. Tell them, that the Being we all worship, under
different names, will be mindful of their charity; and that the time shall
not be distant when we may assemble around His throne without distinction of
sex, or rank, or color".

The scout listened to the tremulous voice in which the veteran delivered
these words, and shook his head slowly when they were ended, as one who
doubted their efficacy.

"To tell them this", he said, "would be to tell them that the snows come not
in the winter, or that the sun shines fiercest when the trees are stripped
of their leaves".

Then turning to the women, he made such a communication of the other's
gratitude as he deemed most suited to the capacities of his listeners. The
head of Munro had already sunk upon his chest, and he was again fast
relapsing into melancholy, when the young Frenchman before named ventured to
touch him lightly on the elbow. As soon as he had gained the attention of
the mourning old man, he pointed toward a group of young Indians, who
approached with a light but closely covered litter, and then pointed upward
toward the sun.

"I understand you, sir", returned Munro, with a voice of forced firmness; "I
understand you. It is the will of Heaven, and I submit. Cora, my child! if
the prayers of a heart- broken father could avail thee now, how blessed
shouldst thou be! Come, gentlemen", he added, looking about him with an air
of lofty composure, though the anguish that quivered in his faded
countenance was far too powerful to be concealed, "our duty here is ended;
let us depart".

Heyward gladly obeyed a summons that took them from a spot where, each
instant, he felt his self-control was about to desert him. While his
companions were mounting, however, he found time to press the hand of the
scout, and to repeat the terms of an engagement they had made to meet again
within the posts of the British army. Then, gladly throwing himself into the
saddle, he spurred his charger to the side of the litter, whence law and
stifled sobs alone announced the presence of Alice. In this manner, the head
of Munro again drooping on his bosom, with Heyward and David following in
sorrowing silence, and attended by the aid of Montcalm with his guard, all
the white men, with the exception of Hawkeye, passed from before the eyes of
the Delawares, and were buried in the vast forests of that region.

But the tie which, through their common calamity, had united the feelings of
these simple dwellers in the woods with the strangers who had thus
transiently visited them, was not so easily broken. Years passed away before
the traditionary tale of the white maiden, and of the young warrior of the
Mohicans ceased to beguile the long nights and tedious marches, or to
animate their youthful and brave with a desire for vengeance. Neither were
the secondary actors in these momentous incidents forgotten. Through the
medium of the scout, who served for years afterward as a link between them
and civilized life, they learned, in answer to their inquiries, that the
"Gray Head" was speedily gathered to his fathers--borne down, as was
erroneously believed, by his military misfortunes; and that the "Open Hand"
had conveyed his surviving daughter far into the settlements of the pale
faces, where her tears had at last ceased to flow, and had been succeeded by
the bright smiles which were better suited to her joyous nature.

But these were events of a time later than that which concerns our tale.
Deserted by all of his color, Hawkeye returned to the spot where his
sympathies led him, with a force that no ideal bond of union could destroy.
He was just in time to catch a parting look of the features of Uncas, whom
the Delawares were already inclosing in his last vestment of skins. They
paused to permit the longing and lingering gaze of the sturdy woodsman, and
when it was ended, the body was enveloped, never to be unclosed again. Then
came a procession like the other, and the whole nation was collected about
the temporary grave of the chief--temporary, because it was proper that, at
some future day, his bones should rest among those of this own people.

The movement, like the feeling, had been simultaneous and general. The same
grave expression of grief, the same rigid silence, and the same deference to
the principal mourner, were observed around the place of interment as have
been already described. The body was deposited in an attitude of repose,
facing the rising sun, with the implements of war and of the chase at hand,
in readiness for the final journey. An opening was left in the shell, by
which it was protected from the soil, for the spirit to communicate with its
earthly tenement, when necessary; and the whole was concealed from the
instinct, and protected from the ravages of the beasts of prey, with an
ingenuity peculiar to the natives. The manual rites then ceased and all
present reverted to the more spiritual part of the ceremonies.

Chingachgook became once more the object of the common attention. He had not
yet spoken, and something consolatory and instructive was expected from so
renowned a chief on an occasion of such interest. Conscious of the wishes of
the people, the stern and self-restrained warrior raised his face, which had
latterly been buried in his robe, and looked about him with a steady eye.
His firmly compressed and expressive lips then severed, and for the first
time during the long ceremonies his voice was distinctly audible. "Why do my
brothers mourn"? he said, regarding the dark race of dejected warriors by
whom he was environed; "why do my daughters weep? that a young man has gone
to the happy hunting-grounds; that a chief has filled his time with honor?
He was good; he was dutiful; he was brave. Who can deny it? The Manitou had
need of such a warrior, and He has called him away. As for me, the son and
the father of Uncas, I am a blazed pine, in a clearing of the pale faces. My
race has gone from the shores of the salt lake and the hills of the
Delawares. But who can say that the serpent of his tribe has forgotten his
wisdom? I am alone----"

"No, no", cried Hawkeye, who had been gazing with a yearning look at the
rigid features of his friend, with something like his own self-command, but
whose philosophy could endure no longer; "no, Sagamore, not alone. The gifts
of our colors may be different, but God has so placed us as to journey in
the same path. I have no kin, and I may also say, like you, no people. He
was your son, and a red-skin by nature; and it may be that your blood was
nearer--but, if ever I forget the lad who has so often fou't at my side in
war, and slept at my side in peace, may He who made us all, whatever may be
our color or our gifts, forget me! The boy has left us for a time; but,
Sagamore, you are not alone".

Chingachgook grasped the hand that, in the warmth of feeling, the scout had
stretched across the fresh earth, and in an attitude of friendship these two
sturdy and intrepid woodsmen bowed their heads together, while scalding
tears fell to their feet, watering the grave of Uncas like drops of falling
rain.

In the midst of the awful stillness with which such a burst of feeling,
coming as it did, from the two most renowned warriors of that region, was
received, Tamenund lifted his voice to disperse the multitude.

"It is enough", he said. "Go, children of the Lenape, the anger of the
Manitou is not done. Why should Tamenund stay? The pale faces are masters of
the earth, and the time of the red men has not yet come again. My day has
been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis happy and strong; and
yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the
wise race of the Mohicans".