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A Narrative of 1757
by James Fenimore Cooper
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
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.
     "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
     * 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.* 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 with 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.
     * 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 exhibited,
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 curiosity 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
It is impossible to say what unlooked-for remark this short and silent
communication, between two such singular men, might 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
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.
     "Sola, sola, wo ha, ho, sola!"
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
"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
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
"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* 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.
     * 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
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
"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 abide 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 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 journeyed 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 postpone 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 believed 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.
     "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 accouterments 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 tuft* 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.
     * 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*, 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
hunting-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**, 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
     * 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.
     ** 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*, 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!"
     * 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
creature', 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
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
     "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 we 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 skulks 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 creature; 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 moment 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*,
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.
     * 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
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
"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
                 ..."In such a night
     Did This be 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
"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 soliloquy, 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 serpents, 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
"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, hesitated not a moment, 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 were 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 contemplation of the wild charms that
night had assisted to lend the place to a painful sense of their real
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 master-hand 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* of his tribe be in Canada, or be in
     * 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
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
"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.
     "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
At the further extremity of a narrow, deep cavern in the rock, whose
length appeared much extended by the perspective and the nature of the
light by which it was seen, was seated the scout, holding a blazing
knot of pine. The strong glare of the fire fell full upon his sturdy,
weather-beaten countenance and forest attire, lending an air of romantic
wildness to the aspect of an individual, who, seen by the sober light of
day, would have exhibited the peculiarities of a man remarkable for the
strangeness of his dress, the iron-like inflexibility of his frame,
and the singular compound of quick, vigilant sagacity, and of exquisite
simplicity, that by turns usurped the possession of his muscular
features. At a little distance in advance stood Uncas, his whole person
thrown powerfully into view. The travelers anxiously regarded the
upright, flexible figure of the young Mohican, graceful and unrestrained
in the attitudes and movements of nature. Though his person was more
than usually screened by a green and fringed hunting-shirt, like that of
the white man, there was no concealment to his dark, glancing, fearless
eye, alike terrible and calm; the bold outline of his high, haughty
features, pure in their native red; or to the dignified elevation of his
receding forehead, together with all the finest proportions of a noble
head, bared to the generous scalping tuft. It was the first opportunity
possessed by Duncan and his companions to view the marked lineaments of
either of their Indian attendants, and each individual of the party felt
relieved from a burden of doubt, as the proud and determined, though
wild expression of the features of the young warrior forced itself on
their notice. They felt it might be a being partially benighted in the
vale of ignorance, but it could not be one who would willingly devote
his rich natural gifts to the purposes of wanton treachery. The
ingenuous Alice gazed at his free air and proud carriage, as she would
have looked upon some precious relic of the Grecian chisel, to which
life had been imparted by the intervention of a miracle; while Heyward,
though accustomed to see the perfection of form which abounds among
the uncorrupted natives, openly expressed his admiration at such an
unblemished specimen of the noblest proportions of man.
"I could sleep in peace," whispered Alice, in reply, "with such a
fearless and generous-looking youth for my sentinel. Surely, Duncan,
those cruel murders, those terrific scenes of torture, of which we read
and hear so much, are never acted in the presence of such as he!"
"This certainly is a rare and brilliant instance of those natural
qualities in which these peculiar people are said to excel," he
answered. "I agree with you, Alice, in thinking that such a front and
eye were formed rather to intimidate than to deceive; but let us not
practice a deception upon ourselves, by expecting any other exhibition
of what we esteem virtue than according to the fashion of the savage.
As bright examples of great qualities are but too uncommon among
Christians, so are they singular and solitary with the Indians; though,
for the honor of our common nature, neither are incapable of producing
them. Let us then hope that this Mohican may not disappoint our wishes,
but prove what his looks assert him to be, a brave and constant friend."
"Now Major Heyward speaks as Major Heyward should," said Cora; "who that
looks at this creature of nature, remembers the shade of his skin?"
A short and apparently an embarrassed silence succeeded this remark,
which was interrupted by the scout calling to them, aloud, to enter.
"This fire begins to show too bright a flame," he continued, as they
complied, "and might light the Mingoes to our undoing. Uncas, drop the
blanket, and show the knaves its dark side. This is not such a supper
as a major of the Royal Americans has a right to expect, but I've
known stout detachments of the corps glad to eat their venison raw, and
without a relish, too*. 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!"
     * 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
"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 remarkable little cataract, as given by the
     scout, is sufficiently correct, though the application of
     the water to uses of civilized life has materially injured
     its beauties. The rocky island and the two caverns are known
     to every traveler, since the former sustains the pier of a
     bridge, which is now thrown across the river, immediately
     above the fall. In explanation of the taste of Hawkeye, it
     should be remembered that men always prize that most which
     is least enjoyed. Thus, in a new country, the woods and
     other objects, which in an old country would be maintained
     at great cost, are got rid of, simply with a view of
     "improving" as it is 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
natur', and is silent, and strikes his enemies when they least expect
him. What may be your calling?"
"I am an unworthy instructor in the art of psalmody."
"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
"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
"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
"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.
     "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
"Is, then, our danger so pressing?" asked Cora.
"He who makes strange sounds, and gives them out for man's information,
alone knows our danger. I should think myself wicked, unto rebellion
against His will, was I to burrow with such warnings in the air! Even
the weak soul who passes his days in singing is stirred by the cry,
and, as he says, is 'ready to go forth to the battle' If 'twere only a
battle, it would be a thing understood by us all, and easily managed;
but I have heard that when such shrieks are atween heaven and 'arth, it
betokens another sort of warfare!"
"If all our reasons for fear, my friend, are confined to such as proceed
from supernatural causes, we have but little occasion to be alarmed,"
continued the undisturbed Cora, "are you certain that our enemies have
not invented some new and ingenious method to strike us with terror,
that their conquest may become more easy?"
"Lady," returned the scout, solemnly, "I have listened to all the sounds
of the woods for thirty years, as a man will listen whose life and death
depend on the quickness of his ears. There is no whine of the panther,
no whistle of the catbird, nor any invention of the devilish Mingoes,
that can cheat me! I have heard the forest moan like mortal men in their
affliction; often, and again, have I listened to the wind playing
its music in the branches of the girdled trees; and I have heard the
lightning cracking in the air like the snapping of blazing brush as it
spitted forth sparks and forked flames; but never have I thought that I
heard more than the pleasure of him who sported with the things of his
hand. But neither the Mohicans, nor I, who am a white man without a
cross, can explain the cry just heard. We, therefore, believe it a sign
given for our good."
"It is extraordinary!" said Heyward, taking his pistols from the place
where he had laid them on entering; "be it a sign of peace or a signal
of war, it must be looked 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. Once more the same sound arose, as if from
the bed of the river, and having broken out of the narrow bounds of the
cliffs, was heard undulating through the forest, in distant and dying
"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 abandoning their prey in sudden terror. Uncas, with
instinctive quickness, receded, and the three foresters held another of
their low, earnest conferences.
"We have been like hunters who have lost the points of the heavens, and
from whom the sun has been hid for days," said Hawkeye, turning away
from his companions; "now we begin again to know the signs of our
course, and the paths are cleared from briers! Seat yourselves in the
shade which the moon throws from yonder beech--'tis thicker than that
of the pines--and let us wait for that which the Lord may choose to
send next. Let all your conversation be in whispers; though it would be
better, and, perhaps, in the end, wiser, if each one held discourse with
his own thoughts, for a time."
The manner of the scout was seriously impressive, though no longer
distinguished by any signs of unmanly apprehension. It was evident that
his momentary weakness had vanished with the explanation of a mystery
which his own experience had not served to fathom; and though he now
felt all the realities of their actual condition, that he was prepared
to meet them with the energy of his hardy nature. This feeling seemed
also common to the natives, who placed themselves in positions which
commanded a full view of both shores, while their own persons were
effectually concealed from observation. In such circumstances, common
prudence dictated that Heyward and his companions should imitate a
caution that proceeded from so intelligent a source. The young man drew
a pile of the sassafras from the cave, and placing it in the chasm which
separated the two caverns, it was occupied by the sisters, who were
thus protected by the rocks from any missiles, while their anxiety
was relieved by the assurance that no danger could approach without
a warning. Heyward himself was posted at hand, so near that he might
communicate with his companions without raising his voice to a dangerous
elevation; while David, in imitation of the woodsmen, bestowed his
person in such a manner among the fissures of the rocks, that his
ungainly limbs were no longer offensive to the eye.
In this manner hours passed without further 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 thoroughly awake, and he immediately lifted the
shawl from the sleeping females. The motion caused Cora to raise her
hand as if to repulse him, while Alice murmured, in her soft, gentle
voice, "No, no, dear father, we were not deserted; Duncan was with us!"
"Yes, sweet innocence," whispered the youth; "Duncan is here, and while
life continues or danger remains, he will never quit thee. 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 before
the sudden tumult.
Duncan seized the favorable moment to spring to the body of Gamut,
which he bore within the shelter of the narrow chasm that protected the
sisters. In another minute the whole party was collected in this spot of
comparative 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 still lay within
the protection of the little chasm between the two caves.
"I tell you, Uncas," said the former, as Heyward joined them, "you are
wasteful of your powder, and the kick of the rifle disconcerts your aim!
Little powder, light lead, and a long arm, seldom fail of bringing the
death screech from a Mingo! At least, such has been my experience with
the creatur's. Come, friends: let us to our covers, for no man can tell
when or where a Maqua* will strike his blow."
     * 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
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
"Of all we'pons," he commenced, "the long barreled, true-grooved,
soft-metaled rifle is the most dangerous in skillful hands, though it
wants a strong arm, a quick eye, and great judgment in charging, to put
forth all its beauties. The gunsmiths can have but little insight into
their trade when they make their fowling-pieces and short horsemen's--"
He was interrupted by the low but expressive "hugh" of Uncas.
"I see them, boy, I see them!" continued Hawkeye; "they are gathering
for the rush, or they would keep their dingy backs below the logs. Well,
let them," he added, examining his flint; "the leading man certainly
comes on to his death, though it should be Montcalm himself!"
At that moment the woods were filled with another burst of cries, and at
the signal four savages sprang from the cover of the driftwood. Heyward
felt a burning desire to rush forward to meet them, so intense was the
delirious anxiety of the moment; but he was restrained by the deliberate
examples of the scout and Uncas.
When their foes, who had leaped over the black rocks that divided them,
with long bounds, uttering the wildest yells, were within a few rods,
the rifle of Hawkeye slowly rose among the shrubs, and poured out its
fatal contents. The foremost Indian bounded like a stricken deer, and
fell headlong among the clefts of the island.
"Now, Uncas!" cried the scout, drawing his long knife, while his quick
eyes began to flash with ardor, "take the last of the screeching imps;
of the other two we are 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.
     "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
"I cannot permit you to accuse Uncas of want of judgment or of skill,"
said Duncan; "he saved my life in the coolest and readiest manner, and
he has made a friend who never will require to be reminded of the debt
he owes."
Uncas partly raised his body, and offered his hand to the grasp of
Heyward. During this act of friendship, the two young men exchanged
looks of intelligence which caused Duncan to forget the character and
condition of his wild associate. In the meanwhile, Hawkeye, who looked
on this burst of youthful feeling with a cool but kind regard made the
following reply:
"Life is an obligation which friends often owe each other in the
wilderness. I dare say I may have served Uncas some such turn myself
before now; and I very well remember that he has stood between me
and death five different times; three times from the Mingoes, once in
crossing Horican, and--"
"That bullet was better aimed than common!" exclaimed Duncan,
involuntarily shrinking from a shot which struck the rock at his side
with a smart rebound.
Hawkeye laid his hand on the shapeless metal, and shook his head, as he
examined it, saying, "Falling lead is never flattened, had it come from
the clouds this might have happened."
But the rifle of Uncas was deliberately raised toward the heavens,
directing the eyes of his companions to a point, where the mystery was
immediately explained. A ragged oak grew on the right bank of the river,
nearly opposite to their position, which, seeking the freedom of the
open space, had inclined so far forward that its upper branches overhung
that arm of the stream which flowed nearest to its own shore. Among the
topmost leaves, which scantily concealed the gnarled and stunted limbs,
a savage was nestled, partly concealed by the trunk of the tree, and
partly exposed, as though looking down upon them to ascertain the effect
produced by his treacherous aim.
"These devils will scale heaven to circumvent us to our ruin," said
Hawkeye; "keep him in play, boy, until I can bring 'killdeer' to bear,
when we will try his metal on each side of the tree at once."
Uncas delayed his fire until the scout uttered the word.
The rifles flashed, the leaves and bark of the oak flew into the air,
and were scattered by the wind, but the Indian answered their assault by
a taunting laugh, sending down upon them another bullet in return, that
struck the cap of Hawkeye from his head. Once more the savage yells
burst out of the woods, and the leaden hail whistled above the heads of
the besieged, as if to confine them to a place where they might become
easy victims to the enterprise of the warrior who had mounted the tree.
"This must be looked to," said the scout, glancing about him with
an anxious eye. "Uncas, call up your father; we have need of all our
we'pons to bring the cunning varmint from his roost."
The signal was instantly given; and, before Hawkeye had reloaded his
rifle, they were joined by Chingachgook. When his son pointed out to the
experienced warrior the situation of their dangerous enemy, the
usual exclamatory "hugh" burst from his lips; after which, no further
expression of surprise or alarm was suffered to escape him. Hawkeye and
the Mohicans conversed earnestly together in Delaware for a few moments,
when each quietly took his post, in order to execute the plan they had
speedily devised.
The warrior in the oak had maintained a quick, though ineffectual fire,
from the moment of his discovery. But his aim was interrupted by the
vigilance of his enemies, whose rifles instantaneously bore on any
part of his person that was left exposed. Still his bullets fell in the
center of the crouching party. The clothes of Heyward, which rendered
him peculiarly conspicuous, were repeatedly cut, and once blood was
drawn from a slight wound in his arm.
At length, emboldened by the long and patient watchfulness of his
enemies, the Huron attempted a better and more fatal aim. The quick eyes
of the Mohicans caught the dark line of his lower limbs incautiously
exposed through the thin foliage, a few inches from the trunk of the
tree. Their rifles made a common report, when, sinking on his wounded
limb, part of the body of the savage came into view. Swift as thought,
Hawkeye seized the advantage, and discharged his fatal weapon into the
top of the oak. The leaves were unusually agitated; the dangerous rifle
fell from its commanding elevation, and after a few moments of vain
struggling, the form of the savage was seen swinging in the wind,
while he still grasped a ragged and naked branch of the tree with hands
clenched in desperation.
"Give him, in pity, give him the contents of another rifle," cried
Duncan, turning away his eyes in horror from the spectacle of a fellow
creature in such awful 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 exclaimed, dropping the useless
piece in bitter disappointment; "the miscreant has struck the rapid; and
had we powder, it could hardly send the lead swifter than he now goes!"
The adventurous Huron raised his head above the shelter of the canoe,
and, while it glided swiftly down the stream, he waved his hand, and
gave forth the shout, which was the known signal of success. His cry was
answered by a yell and a laugh from the woods, as tauntingly exulting
as if fifty demons were uttering their blasphemies at the fall of some
Christian 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
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
"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
"It may be a minute, or it may be an hour, afore the wily sarpents steal
upon us, and it is quite in natur' for them to be lying within hearing
at this very moment," said Hawkeye; "but come they will, and in such
a fashion as will leave us nothing to hope! Chingachgook"--he spoke in
Delaware--"my brother, we have fought our last battle together, and the
Maquas will triumph in the death of the sage man of the Mohicans, and of
the pale face, whose eyes can make night as day, and level the clouds to
the mists of the springs!"
"Let the Mingo women go weep over the slain!" returned the Indian,
with characteristic pride and unmoved firmness; "the Great Snake of the
Mohicans has coiled himself in their wigwams, and has poisoned their
triumph with the wailings of children, whose fathers have not returned!
Eleven warriors lie hid from the graves of their tribes since the snows
have melted, and none will tell where to find them when the tongue of
Chingachgook shall be silent! Let them draw the sharpest knife, and
whirl the swiftest tomahawk, for their bitterest enemy is in their
hands. Uncas, topmost branch of a noble trunk, call on the cowards to
hasten, or their hearts will soften, and they will change to women!"
"They look among the fishes for their dead!" returned the low, soft
voice of the youthful chieftain; "the Hurons float with the slimy eels!
They drop from the oaks like fruit that is ready to be eaten! and the
Delawares 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 turned 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
     "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 from his high and ragged perch, and
soared, in wide sweeps, above his prey; while a jay, whose noisy voice
had been stilled by the hoarser cries of the savages, ventured again
to open his discordant throat, as though once more in undisturbed
possession of his wild 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
"I remember to have united with two comely maidens, in lifting up
our voices in praise and thanksgiving," returned the bewildered
singing-master; "since which time I have been visited by a heavy
judgment for my sins. I have been mocked with the likeness of sleep,
while sounds of discord have rent my ears, such as might manifest the
fullness of time, and that nature had forgotten her 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
David alone formed an exception to these varying emotions. A gleam of
light from the opening crossed his wan countenance, and fell upon
the pages of the little volume, whose leaves he was again occupied in
turning, as if searching for some song more fitted to their condition
than any that had yet met their eye. He was, most probably, acting all
this time under a confused recollection of the promised consolation of
Duncan. At length, it would seem, his patient industry found its reward;
for, without explanation or apology, he pronounced aloud the words "Isle
of Wight," drew a long, sweet sound from his pitch-pipe, and then ran
through the preliminary modulations of the air whose name he had just
mentioned, with the sweeter tones of his own musical voice.
"May not this prove dangerous?" asked Cora, glancing her dark eye at
Major Heyward.
"Poor fellow! his voice is too feeble to be heard above the din of the
falls," was the answer; "beside, the cavern will prove his friend. Let
him indulge his passions since it may be done without hazard."
"Isle of Wight!" repeated David, looking about him with that dignity
with which he had long been wont to silence the whispering echoes of his
school; "'tis a brave tune, and set to solemn words! let it be sung with
meet respect!"
After allowing a moment of stillness to enforce his discipline, the
voice of the singer was heard, in low, murmuring syllables, gradually
stealing on the ear, until it filled the narrow vault with sounds
rendered trebly thrilling by the feeble and tremulous utterance produced
by his debility. The melody, which no weakness could destroy, gradually
wrought its sweet influence on the senses of those who heard it. It even
prevailed over the miserable travesty of the song of David which the
singer had selected from a volume of similar effusions, and caused the
sense to be forgotten in the insinuating harmony of the sounds. Alice
unconsciously dried her tears, and bent her melting eyes on the pallid
features of Gamut, with an expression of chastened delight that she
neither affected or wished to conceal. Cora bestowed an approving smile
on the pious efforts of the namesake of the Jewish prince, and Heyward
soon turned his steady, stern look from the outlet of the cavern, to
fasten it, with a milder character, on the face of David, or to meet the
wandering beams which at moments strayed from the humid eyes of Alice.
The open sympathy of the listeners stirred the spirit of the votary of
music, whose voice regained its richness and volume, without losing that
touching softness which proved its secret charm. Exerting his renovated
powers to their utmost, he was yet filling the arches of the cave
with long and full tones, when a yell burst into the air without, that
instantly stilled his pious strains, choking his voice suddenly, as
though his heart had literally bounded into the passage of his throat.
"We are lost!" exclaimed Alice, throwing herself into the arms of Cora.
"Not yet, not yet," returned the agitated but undaunted Heyward: "the
sound came from the center of the island, and it has been produced by
the sight of their dead 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
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 opposite woods to re-echo with a name which, Heyward well
remembered, had been given by his enemies to a celebrated hunter and
scout of the English camp, and who, he now learned for the first time,
had been his late companion.
"La Longue Carabine! La Longue Carabine!" passed from mouth to mouth,
until the whole band appeared to be collected around a trophy which
would seem to announce the death of its formidable 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
As the inner passages to the two caves were so close to each other,
Duncan, believing that escape was no longer possible, passed David and
the sisters, to place himself between the latter and the first onset of
the terrible meeting. Grown desperate by his situation, he drew nigh
the slight barrier which separated him only by a few feet from his
relentless pursuers, and placing his face to the casual opening, he even
looked out with a sort of desperate indifference, on their movements.
Within reach of his arm was the brawny shoulder of a gigantic Indian,
whose deep and authoritative voice appeared to give directions to the
proceedings of his 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, toward
heaven, dropped in horizontal lines before her, the fingers pointed
forward in convulsed motion. Heyward turned the instant she gave a
direction to his suspicions, and peering just above the ledge which
formed the threshold of the open outlet of the cavern, he beheld the
malignant, fierce and savage features of Le Renard Subtil.
In that moment of surprise, the self-possession of Heyward did not
desert him. He observed by the vacant expression of the Indian's
countenance, that his eye, accustomed to the open air had not yet
been able to penetrate the dusky light which pervaded the depth of the
cavern. He had even thought of retreating beyond a curvature in the
natural wall, which might still conceal him and his companions, when by
the sudden gleam of intelligence that shot across the features of the
savage, he saw it was too late, and that they were betrayed.
The look of exultation and brutal triumph which announced this terrible
truth was irresistibly irritating. Forgetful of everything but the
impulses of his hot blood, Duncan leveled his pistol and fired. The
report of the weapon made the cavern bellow like an eruption from a
volcano; and when the smoke it vomited had been driven away before the
current of air which issued from the ravine the place so lately occupied
by the features of his treacherous guide was vacant. Rushing to the
outlet, Heyward caught a glimpse of his dark figure stealing around a
low and narrow ledge, which soon hid him entirely from sight.
Among the savages a frightful stillness succeeded the explosion, which
had just been heard bursting from the bowels of the rock. But when
Le Renard raised his voice in a long and intelligible whoop, it was
answered by a spontaneous yell from the mouth of every Indian within
hearing of the 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
     "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
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
"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
"Though no fish, 'The Long Rifle' can swim. He floated down the stream
when the powder was all burned, and when the eyes of the Hurons were
behind a cloud."
"And why did the white chief stay?" demanded the still incredulous
Indian. "Is he a stone that goes to the bottom, or does the scalp burn
his head?"
"That I am not stone, your dead comrade, who fell into the falls, might
answer, were the life still in him," said the provoked young man, using,
in his anger, that boastful language which was most likely to excite the
admiration of an Indian. "The white man thinks none but cowards desert
their women."
Magua muttered a few words, inaudibly, between his teeth, before he
continued, aloud:
"Can the Delawares swim, too, as well as crawl in the bushes? Where is
'Le Gros Serpent'?"
Duncan, who perceived by the use of these Canadian appellations, that
his late companions were much better known to his enemies than to
himself, answered, reluctantly: "He also is gone down with the water."
"'Le Cerf Agile' is not here?"
"I know not whom you call 'The Nimble Deer'," said Duncan gladly
profiting by any excuse to create delay.
"Uncas," returned Magua, pronouncing the Delaware name with even greater
difficulty than he spoke his English words. "'Bounding Elk' is what the
white man says, when he calls to the young Mohican."
"Here is some confusion in names between us, Le Renard," said Duncan,
hoping to provoke a discussion. "Daim is the French for deer, and cerf
for stag; elan is the true term, when one would speak of an elk."
"Yes," muttered the Indian, in his native tongue; "the pale faces are
prattling women! they have two words for each thing, while a red-skin
will make the sound of his voice speak to him." Then, changing his
language, he continued, adhering to the imperfect nomenclature of his
provincial instructors. "The deer is swift, but weak; the elk is swift,
but strong; and the son of 'Le Serpent' is 'Le Cerf Agile.' Has he
leaped the river to the woods?"
"If you mean the younger Delaware, he, too, has gone down with the
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
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
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 destitute of any other defenses than a few scattered logs of
driftwood. They had selected this point to make their descent, having
borne the canoe through the wood around the cataract for that purpose.
Placing their arms in the little vessel a dozen men clinging to its
sides had trusted themselves to the direction of the canoe, which was
controlled by two of the most skillful warriors, in attitudes that
enabled them to command a view of the dangerous passage. Favored by this
arrangement, they touched the head of the island at that point which had
proved so fatal to their first adventurers, but with the advantages of
superior numbers, and the possession of firearms. That such had been the
manner of their descent was rendered quite apparent to Duncan; for they
now bore the light bark from the upper end of the rock, and placed it
in the water, near the mouth of the outer cavern. As soon as this change
was made, the leader made signs to the prisoners to descend and 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
"Speak; trees have no ears."
"But the red Hurons are not deaf; and counsel that is fit for the great
men of a nation would make the young warriors drunk. If Magua will not
listen, the officer of the king knows how to be silent."
The savage spoke carelessly to his comrades, who were busied, after
their awkward manner, in preparing the horses for the reception of the
sisters, and moved a little to one side, whither by a cautious gesture
he induced Heyward to follow.
"Now, speak," he said; "if the words are such as Magua should hear."
"Le Renard Subtil has proved himself worthy of the honorable name given
to him by his Canada fathers," commenced Heyward; "I see his wisdom,
and all that he has done for us, and shall remember it when the hour to
reward him arrives. Yes! Renard has proved that he is not only a great
chief in council, but one who knows how to deceive his enemies!"
"What has Renard done?" coldly demanded the Indian.
"What! has he not seen that the woods were filled with outlying parties
of the enemies, and that the serpent could not steal through them
without being seen? Then, did he not lose his path to blind the eyes of
the Hurons? Did he not pretend to go back to his tribe, who had treated
him ill, and driven him from their wigwams like a dog? And when he saw
what he wished to do, did we not aid him, by making a false face, that
the Hurons might think the white man believed that his friend was his
enemy? Is not all this true? And when Le Subtil had shut the eyes and
stopped the ears of his nation by his wisdom, did they not forget that
they had once done him wrong, and forced him to flee to the Mohawks?
And did they not leave him on the south side of the river, with their
prisoners, while they have gone foolishly on the north? Does not Renard
mean to turn like a fox on his footsteps, and to carry to the rich and
gray-headed Scotchman his daughters? Yes, Magua, I see it all, and I
have already been thinking how so much wisdom and honesty should be
repaid. First, the chief of William Henry will give as a great chief
should for such a service. The medal* of Magua will no longer be of tin,
but of beaten gold; his horn will run over with powder; dollars will be
as plenty in his pouch as pebbles on the shore of Horican; and the deer
will lick his hand, for they will know it to be vain to fly from
the rifle he will carry! As for myself, I know not how to exceed the
gratitude of the Scotchman, but I--yes, I will--"
     * 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
"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
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 seemed never to
In this manner they proceeded in uninterrupted silence, except when
Heyward addressed some solitary word of comfort to the females, or David
gave vent to the moanings of his spirit, in piteous exclamations, which
he intended should express the humility of resignation. Their direction
lay toward the south, and in a course nearly opposite to the road to
William Henry. Notwithstanding this apparent adherence in Magua to the
original determination of his conquerors, Heyward could not believe
his tempting bait was so soon forgotten; and he knew the windings of an
Indian's path too well to suppose that its apparent course led directly
to its object, when artifice was at all necessary. Mile after mile was,
however, passed through the boundless woods, in this painful manner,
without any prospect of a termination to their journey. Heyward watched
the sun, as he darted his meridian rays through the branches of the
trees, and pined for the moment when the policy of Magua should change
their route to one more favorable to his hopes. Sometimes he fancied the
wary savage, despairing of passing the army of Montcalm in safety,
was holding his way toward a well-known border settlement, where a
distinguished officer of the crown, and a favored friend of the Six
Nations, held his large possessions, as well as his usual 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
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.
     "Cursed be my tribe If I forgive him."
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 ordinarily 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 nature 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
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, Cora 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 have heard from Major Heyward--"
Magua shook his head, forbidding the repetition of offers he so much
"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
ascendancy 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 vengeance. 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 reiterated 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
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
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 warriors 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 enunciation 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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
     "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