The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
Part 2 out of 9
"I will do my utmost to see both these conditions
"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?"
"That colt, at least, must die," muttered the scout,
grasping at the mane of the nimble beast, which easily
eluded his hand; "Uncas, your arrows!"
"Hold!" exclaimed the proprietor of the condemned animal,
aloud, without regard to the whispering tones used by the
others; "spare the foal of Miriam! it is the comely
offspring of a faithful dam, and would willingly injure
"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
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
"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
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 peril.
The horses had been secured to some scattering shrubs that
grew in the fissures of the rocks, where, standing in the
water, they were left to pass the night. The scout directed
Heyward and his disconsolate fellow travelers to seat
themselves in the forward end of the canoe, and took
possession of the other himself, as erect and steady as if
he floated in a vessel of much firmer materials. The
Indians warily retraced their steps toward the place they
had left, when the scout, placing his pole against a rock,
by a powerful shove, sent his frail bark directly into the
turbulent stream. For many minutes the struggle between the
light bubble in which they floated and the swift current was
severe and doubtful. Forbidden to stir even a hand, and
almost afraid to breath, lest they should expose the frail
fabric to the fury of the stream, the passengers watched the
glancing waters in feverish suspense. Twenty times they
thought the whirling eddies were sweeping them to
destruction, when the masterhand of their pilot would bring
the bows of the canoe to stem the rapid. A long, a
vigorous, and, as it appeared to the females, a desperate
effort, closed the struggle. Just as Alice veiled her eyes
in horror, under the impression that they were about to be
swept within the vortex at the foot of the cataract, the
canoe floated, stationary, at the side of a flat rock, that
lay on a level with the water.
"Where are we, and what is next to be done!" demanded
Heyward, perceiving that the exertions of the scout had
"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 York."
* 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
Heyward, perceiving that the stubborn adherence of the scout
to the cause of his friends the Delawares, or Mohicans, for
they were branches of the same numerous people, was likely
to prolong a useless discussion, changed the subject.
"Treaty or no treaty, I know full well that your two
companions are brave and cautious warriors! have they heard
or seen anything of our enemies!"
"An Indian is a mortal to be felt afore he is seen,"
returned the scout, ascending the rock, and throwing the
deer carelessly down. "I trust to other signs than such as
come in at the eye, when I am outlying on the trail of the
"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 place.
At the further extremity of a narrow, deep cavern in the
rock, whose length appeared much extended by the perspective
and the nature of the light by which it was seen, was seated
the scout, holding a blazing knot of pine. The strong glare
of the fire fell full upon his sturdy, weather-beaten
countenance and forest attire, lending an air of romantic
wildness to the aspect of an individual, who, seen by the
sober light of day, would have exhibited the peculiarities
of a man remarkable for the strangeness of his dress, the
iron-like inflexibility of his frame, and the singular
compound of quick, vigilant sagacity, and of exquisite
simplicity, that by turns usurped the possession of his
muscular features. At a little distance in advance stood
Uncas, his whole person thrown powerfully into view. The
travelers anxiously regarded the upright, flexible figure of
the young Mohican, graceful and unrestrained in the
attitudes and movements of nature. Though his person was
more than usually screened by a green and fringed hunting-
shirt, like that of the white man, there was no concealment
to his dark, glancing, fearless eye, alike terrible and
calm; the bold outline of his high, haughty features, pure
in their native red; or to the dignified elevation of his
receding forehead, together with all the finest proportions
of a noble head, bared to the generous scalping tuft. It
was the first opportunity possessed by Duncan and his
companions to view the marked lineaments of either of their
Indian attendants, and each individual of the party felt
relieved from a burden of doubt, as the proud and
determined, though wild expression of the features of the
young warrior forced itself on their notice. They felt it
might be a being partially benighted in the vale of
ignorance, but it could not be one who would willingly
devote his rich natural gifts to the purposes of wanton
treachery. The ingenuous Alice gazed at his free air and
proud carriage, as she would have looked upon some precious
relic of the Grecian chisel, to which life had been imparted
by the intervention of a miracle; while Heyward, though
accustomed to see the perfection of form which abounds among
the uncorrupted natives, openly expressed his admiration at
such an unblemished specimen of the noblest proportions of
"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 thunder.
"Are we quite safe in this cavern?" demanded Heyward. "Is
there no danger of surprise? A single armed man, at its
entrance, would hold us at his mercy."
A spectral-looking figure stalked from out of the darkness
behind the scout, and seizing a blazing brand, held it
toward the further extremity of their place of retreat.
Alice uttered a faint shriek, and even Cora rose to her
feet, as this appalling object moved into the light; but a
single word from Heyward calmed them, with the assurance it
was only their attendant, Chingachgook, who, lifting another
blanket, discovered that the cavern had two outlets. Then,
holding the brand, he crossed a deep, narrow chasm in the
rocks which ran at right angles with the passage they were
in, but which, unlike that, was open to the heavens, and
entered another cave, answering to the description of the
first, in every essential particular.
"Such old foxes as Chingachgook and myself are not often
caught in a barrow with one hole," said Hawkeye, laughing;
"you can easily see the cunning of the place--the rock is
black limestone, which everybody knows is soft; it makes no
uncomfortable pillow, where brush and pine wood is scarce;
well, the fall was once a few yards below us, and I dare to
say was, in its time, as regular and as handsome a sheet of
water as any along the Hudson. But old age is a great
injury to good looks, as these sweet young ladies have yet
to l'arn! The place is sadly changed! These rocks are full
of cracks, and in some places they are softer than at
othersome, and the water has worked out deep hollows for
itself, until it has fallen back, ay, some hundred feet,
breaking here and wearing there, until the falls have
neither shape nor consistency."
"In what part of them are we?" asked Heyward.
"Why, we are nigh the spot that Providence first placed them
at, but where, it seems, they were too rebellious to stay.
The rock proved softer on each side of us, and so they left
the center of the river bare and dry, first working out
these two little holes for us to hide in."
"We are then on an island!"
"Ay! there are the falls on two sides of us, and the river
above and below. If you had daylight, it would be worth the
trouble to step up on the height of this rock, and look at
the perversity of the water. It falls by no rule at all;
sometimes it leaps, sometimes it tumbles; there it skips;
here it shoots; in one place 'tis white as snow, and in
another 'tis green as grass; hereabouts, it pitches into
deep hollows, that rumble and crush the 'arth; and
thereaways, it ripples and sings like a brook, fashioning
whirlpools and gullies in the old stone, as if 'twas no
harder than trodden clay. The whole design of the river
seems disconcerted. First it runs smoothly, as if meaning
to go down the descent as things were ordered; then it
angles about and faces the shores; nor are there places
wanting where it looks backward, as if unwilling to leave
the wilderness, to mingle with the salt. Ay, lady, the fine
cobweb-looking cloth you wear at your throat is coarse, and
like a fishnet, to little spots I can show you, where the
river fabricates all sorts of images, as if having broke
loose from order, it would try its hand at everything. And
yet what does it amount to! After the water has been
suffered so to have its will, for a time, like a headstrong
man, it is gathered together by the hand that made it, and a
few rods below you may see it all, flowing on steadily
toward the sea, as was foreordained from the first
foundation of the 'arth!"
While his auditors received a cheering assurance of the
security of their place of concealment from this untutored
description of Glenn's,* they were much inclined to judge
differently from Hawkeye, of its wild beauties. But they
were not in a situation to suffer their thoughts to dwell on
the charms of natural objects; and, as the scout had not
found it necessary to cease his culinary labors while he
spoke, unless to point out, with a broken fork, the
direction of some particularly obnoxious point in the
rebellious stream, they now suffered their attention to be
drawn to the necessary though more vulgar consideration of
* 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
"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
"Perhaps you understand the compass, and lay down the
watercourses and mountains of the wilderness on paper, in
order that they who follow may find places by their given
"I practice no such employment."
"You have a pair of legs that might make a long path seem
short! you journey sometimes, I fancy, with tidings for the
"Never; I follow no other than my own high vocation, which
is instruction in sacred 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
"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
"What is it?" repeated Hewyard aloud.
Neither Hawkeye nor the Indians made any reply. They
listened, as if expecting the sound would be repeated, with
a manner that expressed their own astonishment. At length
they spoke together, earnestly, in the Delaware language,
when Uncas, passing by the inner and most concealed
aperture, cautiously left the cavern. When he had gone, the
scout first spoke in English.
"What it is, or what it is not, none here can tell, though
two of us have ranged the woods for more than thirty years.
I did believe there was no cry that Indian or beast could
make, that my ears had not heard; but this has proved that I
was only a vain and conceited mortal."
"Was it not, then, the shout the warriors make when they
wish to intimidate their enemies?" asked Cora who stood
drawing her veil about her person, with a calmness to which
her agitated sister was a stranger.
"No, no; this was bad, and shocking, and had a sort of
unhuman sound; but when you once hear the war-whoop, you
will never mistake it for anything else. Well, Uncas!"
speaking in Delaware to the young chief as he re-entered,
"what see you? do our lights shine through the blankets?"
The answer was short, and apparently decided, being given in
the same tongue.
"There is nothing to be seen without," continued Hawkeye,
shaking his head in discontent; "and our hiding-place is
still in darkness. Pass into the other cave, you that need
it, and seek for sleep; we must be afoot long before the
sun, and make the most of our time to get to Edward, while
the Mingoes are taking their morning nap."
Cora set the example of compliance, with a steadiness that
taught the more timid Alice the necessity of obedience.
Before leaving the place, however, she whispered a request
to Duncan, that he would follow. Uncas raised the blanket
for their passage, and as the sisters turned to thank him
for this act of attention, they saw the scout seated again
before the dying embers, with his face resting on his hands,
in a manner which showed how deeply he brooded on the
unaccountable interruption which had broken up their evening
Heyward took with him a blazing knot, which threw a dim
light through the narrow vista of their new apartment.
Placing it in a favorable position, he joined the females,
who now found themselves alone with him for the first time
since they had left the friendly ramparts of Fort Edward.
"Leave us not, Duncan," said Alice: "we cannot sleep in such
a place as this, with that horrid cry still ringing in our
"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
"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
"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
"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
"They do not sleep, On yonder cliffs, a grizzly band, I see
them sit." Gray
"'Twould be neglecting a warning that is given for our good
to lie hid any longer," said Hawkeye "when such sounds are
raised in the forest. These gentle ones may keep close, but
the Mohicans and I will watch upon the rock, where I suppose
a major of the Sixtieth would wish to keep us company."
"Is, then, our danger so pressing?" asked Cora.
"He who makes strange sounds, and gives them out for man's
information, alone knows our danger. I should think myself
wicked, unto rebellion against His will, was I to burrow
with such warnings in the air! Even the weak soul who
passes his days in singing is stirred by the cry, and, as he
says, is 'ready to go forth to the battle' If 'twere only a
battle, it would be a thing understood by us all, and easily
managed; but I have heard that when such shrieks are atween
heaven and 'arth, it betokens another sort of warfare!"
"If all our reasons for fear, my friend, are confined to
such as proceed from supernatural causes, we have but little
occasion to be alarmed," continued the undisturbed Cora,
"are you certain that our enemies have not invented some new
and ingenious method to strike us with terror, that their
conquest may become more easy?"
"Lady," returned the scout, solemnly, "I have listened to
all the sounds of the woods for thirty years, as a man will
listen whose life and death depend on the quickness of his
ears. There is no whine of the panther, no whistle of the
catbird, nor any invention of the devilish Mingoes, that can
cheat me! I have heard the forest moan like mortal men in
their affliction; often, and again, have I listened to the
wind playing its music in the branches of the girdled trees;
and I have heard the lightning cracking in the air like the
snapping of blazing brush as it spitted forth sparks and
forked flames; but never have I thought that I heard more
than the pleasure of him who sported with the things of his
hand. But neither the Mohicans, nor I, who am a white man
without a cross, can explain the cry just heard. We,
therefore, believe it a sign given for our good."
"It is extraordinary!" said Heyward, taking his pistols from
the place where he had laid them on entering; "be it a sign
of peace or a signal of war, it must be looked 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
"Listen!" interrupted Alice.
The caution was unnecessary. Once more the same sound arose,
as if from the bed of the river, and having broken out of
the narrow bounds of the cliffs, was heard undulating
through the forest, in distant and dying cadences.
"Can any here give a name to such a cry?" demanded Hawkeye,
when the last echo was lost in the woods; "if so, let him
speak; for myself, I judge it not to belong to '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
"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
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
"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
"You believe, then, the attack will be renewed?" asked
"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
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
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
As Hawkeye ceased speaking, four human heads could be seen
peering above a few logs of drift-wood that had lodged on
these naked rocks, and which had probably suggested the idea
of the practicability of the hazardous undertaking. At the
next moment, a fifth form was seen floating over the green
edge of the fall, a little from the line of the island. The
savage struggled powerfully to gain the point of safety,
and, favored by the glancing water, he was already
stretching forth an arm to meet the grasp of his companions,
when he shot away again with the shirling current, appeared
to rise into the air, with uplifted arms and starting
eyeballs, and fell, with a sudden plunge, into that deep and
yawning abyss over which he hovered. A single, wild,
despairing shriek rose from the cavern, and all was hushed
again as the grave.
The first generous impulse of Duncan was to rush to the
rescue of the hapless wretch; but he felt himself bound to
the spot by the iron grasp of the immovable scout.
"Would ye bring certain death upon us, by telling the
Mingoes where we lie?" demanded Hawkeye, sternly; "'Tis a
charge of powder saved, and ammunition is as precious now as
breath to a worried deer! Freshen the priming of your
pistols--the midst of the falls is apt to dampen the
brimstone--and stand firm for a close struggle, while I
fire on their rush."
He placed a finger in his mouth, and drew a long, shrill
whistle, which was answered from the rocks that were guarded
by the Mohicans. Duncan caught glimpses of heads above the
scattered drift-wood, as this signal rose on the air, but
they disappeared again as suddenly as they had glanced upon
his sight. A low, rustling sound next drew his attention
behind him, and turning his head, he beheld Uncas within a
few feet, creeping to his side. Hawkeye spoke to him in
Delaware, when the young chief took his position with
singular caution and undisturbed coolness. To Heyward this
was a moment of feverish and impatient suspense; though the
scout saw fit to select it as a fit occasion to read a
lecture to his more youthful associates on the art of using
firearms with discretion.
"Of all we'pons," he commenced, "the long barreled,
true-grooved, soft-metaled rifle is the most dangerous in
skillful hands, though it wants a strong arm, a quick eye,
and great judgment in charging, to put forth all its
beauties. The gunsmiths can have but little insight into
their trade when they make their fowling-pieces and short
He was interrupted by the low but expressive "hugh" of
"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
"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
A steady, though deliberate return was made from the rifle
of Chingachgook, who had maintained his post throughout the
fray with unmoved resolution. When the triumphant shout of
Uncas was borne to his ears, the gratified father raised his
voice in a single responsive cry, after which his busy piece
alone proved that he still guarded his pass with unwearied
diligence. In this manner many minutes flew by with the
swiftness of thought; the rifles of the assailants speaking,
at times, in rattling volleys, and at others in occasional,
scattering shots. Though the rock, the trees, and the
shrubs, were cut and torn in a hundred places around the
besieged, their cover was so close, and so rigidly
maintained, that, as yet, David had been the only sufferer
in their little band.
"Let them burn their powder," said the deliberate scout,
while bullet after bullet whizzed by the place where he
securely lay; "there will be a fine gathering of lead when
it is over, and I fancy the imps will tire of the sport
afore these old stones cry out for mercy! Uncas, boy, you
waste the kernels by overcharging; and a kicking rifle never
carries a true bullet. I told you to take that loping
miscreant under the line of white point; now, if your bullet
went a hair's breadth it went two inches above it. The life
lies low in a Mingo, and humanity teaches us to make a quick
end to the sarpents."
A quiet smile lighted the haughty features of the young
Mohican, betraying his knowledge of the English language as
well as of the other's meaning; but he suffered it to pass
away without vindication of reply.
"I cannot permit you to accuse Uncas of want of judgment or
of skill," said Duncan; "he saved my life in the coolest and
readiest manner, and he has made a friend who never will
require to be reminded of the debt he owes."
Uncas partly raised his body, and offered his hand to the
grasp of Heyward. During this act of friendship, the two
young men exchanged looks of intelligence which caused
Duncan to forget the character and condition of his wild
associate. In the meanwhile, Hawkeye, who looked on this
burst of youthful feeling with a cool but kind regard made
the following reply:
"Life is an obligation which friends often owe each other in
the wilderness. I dare say I may have served Uncas some
such turn myself before now; and I very well remember that
he has stood between me and death five different times;
three times from the Mingoes, once in crossing Horican, and
"That bullet was better aimed than common!" exclaimed
Duncan, involuntarily shrinking from a shot which struck the
rock at his side with a smart rebound.
Hawkeye laid his hand on the shapeless metal, and shook his
head, as he examined it, saying, "Falling lead is never
flattened, had it come from the clouds this might have
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
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
"'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
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
"Well may you laugh, ye children of the devil!" said the
scout, seating himself on a projection of the rock, and
suffering his gun to fall neglected at his feet, "for the
three quickest and truest rifles in these woods are no
better than so many stalks of mullein, or the last year's
horns of a buck!"
"What is to be done?" demanded Duncan, losing the first
feeling of disappointment in a more manly desire for
exertion; "what will become of us?"
Hawkeye made no other reply than by passing his finger
around the crown of his head, in a manner so significant,
that none who witnessed the action could mistake its
"Surely, surely, our case is not so desperate!" exclaimed
the youth; "the Hurons are not here; we may make good the
caverns, we may oppose their landing."
"With what?" coolly demanded the scout. "The arrows of
Uncas, or such tears as women shed! No, no; you are young,
and rich, and have friends, and at such an age I know it is
hard to die! But," glancing his eyes at the Mohicans, "let
us remember we are men without a cross, and let us teach
these natives of the forest that white blood can run as
freely as red, when the appointed hour is come."
Duncan turned quickly in the direction indicated by the
other's eyes, and read a confirmation of his worst
apprehensions in the conduct of the Indians. Chingachgook,
placing himself in a dignified posture on another fragment
of the rock, had already laid aside his knife and tomahawk,
and was in the act of taking the eagle's plume from his
head, and smoothing the solitary tuft of hair in readiness
to perform its last and revolting office. His countenance
was composed, though thoughtful, while his dark, gleaming
eyes were gradually losing the fierceness of the combat in
an expression better suited to the change he expected
momentarily to undergo.
"Our case is not, cannot be so hopeless!" said Duncan; "even
at this very moment succor may be at hand. I see no
enemies! They have sickened of a struggle in which they
risk so much with so little prospect of gain!"
"It may be a minute, or it may be an hour, afore the wily
sarpents steal upon us, and it is quite in natur' for them
to be lying within hearing at this very moment," said
Hawkeye; "but come they will, and in such a fashion as will
leave us nothing to hope! Chingachgook"--he spoke in
Delaware--"my brother, we have fought our last battle
together, and the Maquas will triumph in the death of the
sage man of the Mohicans, and of the pale face, whose eyes
can make night as day, and level the clouds to the mists of
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
These sudden and apparently successful experiments had all
taken place in a few minutes of that time which had now
become so precious. After a last look at Uncas, Cora
turne,d and with a quivering lip, addressed herself to
"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
"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
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
"There are evils worse than death," said Duncan, speaking
hoarsely, and as if fretful at her importunity, "but which
the presence of one who would die in your behalf may avert."
Cora ceased her entreaties; and veiling her face in her
shawl, drew the nearly insensible Alice after her into the
deepest recess of the inner cavern.
"Be gay securely; Dispel, my fair, with smiles, the tim'rous
clouds, That hang on thy clear brow."--Death of Agrippina
The sudden and almost magical change, from the stirring
incidents of the combat to the stillness that now reigned
around him, acted on the heated imagination of Heyward like
some exciting dream. While all the images and events he had
witnessed remained deeply impressed on his memory, he felt a
difficulty in persuading him of their truth. Still ignorant
of the fate of those who had trusted to the aid of the swift
current, he at first listened intently to any signal or
sounds of alarm, which might announce the good or evil
fortune of their hazardous undertaking. His attention was,
however, bestowed in vain; for with the disappearance of
Uncas, every sign of the adventurers had been lost, leaving
him in total uncertainty of their fate.
In a moment of such painful doubt, Duncan did not hesitate
to look around him, without consulting that protection from
the rocks which just before had been so necessary to his
safety. Every effort, however, to detect the least evidence
of the approach of their hidden enemies was as fruitless as
the inquiry after his late companions. The wooded banks of
the river seemed again deserted by everything possessing
animal 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 Providence."
"I remember to have united with two comely maidens, in
lifting up our voices in praise and thanksgiving," returned
the bewildered singing-master; "since which time I have been
visited by a heavy judgment for my sins. I have been mocked
with the likeness of sleep, while sounds of discord have
rent my ears, such as might manifest the fullness of time,
and that nature had forgotten her 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
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
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