The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
Part 3 out of 9
filled the narrow vault with sounds rendered trebly
thrilling by the feeble and tremulous utterance produced by
his debility. The melody, which no weakness could destroy,
gradually wrought its sweet influence on the senses of those
who heard it. It even prevailed over the miserable travesty
of the song of David which the singer had selected from a
volume of similar effusions, and caused the sense to be
forgotten in the insinuating harmony of the sounds. Alice
unconsciously dried her tears, and bent her melting eyes on
the pallid features of Gamut, with an expression of
chastened delight that she neither affected or wished to
conceal. Cora bestowed an approving smile on the pious
efforts of the namesake of the Jewish prince, and Heyward
soon turned his steady, stern look from the outlet of the
cavern, to fasten it, with a milder character, on the face
of David, or to meet the wandering beams which at moments
strayed from the humid eyes of Alice. The open sympathy of
the listeners stirred the spirit of the votary of music,
whose voice regained its richness and volume, without losing
that touching softness which proved its secret charm.
Exerting his renovated powers to their utmost, he was yet
filling the arches of the cave with long and full tones,
when a yell burst into the air without, that instantly
stilled his pious strains, choking his voice suddenly, as
though his heart had literally bounded into the passage of
"We are lost!" exclaimed Alice, throwing herself into the
arms of Cora.
"Not yet, not yet," returned the agitated but undaunted
Heyward: "the sound came from the center of the island, and
it has been produced by the sight of their dead companions.
We are not yet discovered, and there is still hope."
Faint and almost despairing as was the prospect of escape,
the words of Duncan were not thrown away, for it awakened
the powers of the sisters in such a manner that they awaited
the results in silence. A second yell soon followed the
first, when a rush of voices was heard pouring down the
island, from its upper to its lower extremity, until they
reached the naked rock above the caverns, where, after a
shout of savage triumph, the air continued full of horrible
cries and screams, such as man alone can utter, and he only
when in a state of the fiercest barbarity.
The sounds quickly spread around them in every direction.
Some called to their fellows from the water's edge, and were
answered from the heights above. Cries were heard in the
startling vicinity of the chasm between the two caves, which
mingled with hoarser yells that arose out of the abyss of
the deep ravine. In short, so rapidly had the savage sounds
diffused themselves over the barren rock, that it was not
difficult for the anxious listeners to imagine they could be
heard beneath, as in truth they were above on every side of
In the midst of this tumult, a triumphant yell was raised
within a few yards of the hidden entrance to the cave.
Heyward abandoned every hope, with the belief it was the
signal that they were discovered. Again the impression
passed away, as he heard the voices collect near the spot
where the white man had so reluctantly abandoned his rifle.
Amid the jargon of Indian dialects that he now plainly
heard, it was easy to distinguish not only words, but
sentences, in the patois of the Canadas. A burst of voices
had shouted simultaneously, "La Longue Carabine!" causing
the opposite woods to re-echo with a name which, Heyward
well remembered, had been given by his enemies to a
celebrated hunter and scout of the English camp, and who, he
now learned for the first time, had been his late companion.
"La Longue Carabine! La Longue Carabine!" passed from mouth
to mouth, until the whole band appeared to be collected
around a trophy which would seem to announce the death of
its formidable owner. After a vociferous consultation,
which was, at times, deafened by bursts of savage joy, they
again separated, filling the air with the name of a foe,
whose body, Heywood could collect from their expressions,
they hoped to find concealed in some crevice of the island.
"Now," he whispered to the trembling sisters, "now is the
moment of uncertainty! if our place of retreat escape this
scrutiny, we are still safe! In every event, we are
assured, by what has fallen from our enemies, that our
friends have escaped, and in two short hours we may look for
succor from Webb."
There were now a few minutes of fearful stillness, during
which Heyward well knew that the savages conducted their
search with greater vigilance and method. More than once he
could distinguish their footsteps, as they brushed the
sassafras, causing the faded leaves to rustle, and the
branches to snap. At length, the pile yielded a little, a
corner of a blanket fell, and a faint ray of light gleamed
into the inner part of the cave. Cora folded Alice to her
bosom in agony, and Duncan sprang to his feet. A shout was
at that moment heard, as if issuing from the center of the
rock, announcing that the neighboring cavern had at length
been entered. In a minute, the number and loudness of the
voices indicated that the whole party was collected in and
around that secret place.
As the inner passages to the two caves were so close to each
other, Duncan, believing that escape was no longer possible,
passed David and the sisters, to place himself between the
latter and the first onset of the terrible meeting. Grown
desperate by his situation, he drew nigh the slight barrier
which separated him only by a few feet from his relentless
pursuers, and placing his face to the casual opening, he
even looked out with a sort of desperate indifference, on
Within reach of his arm was the brawny shoulder of a
gigantic Indian, whose deep and authoritative voice appeared
to give directions to the proceedings of his fellows.
Beyond him again, Duncan could look into the vault opposite,
which was filled with savages, upturning and rifling the
humble furniture of the scout. The wound of David had dyed
the leaves of sassafras with a color that the native well
knew as anticipating the season. Over this sign of their
success, they sent up a howl, like an opening from so many
hounds who had recovered a lost trail. After this yell of
victory, they tore up the fragrant bed of the cavern, and
bore the branches into the chasm, scattering the boughs, as
if they suspected them of concealing the person of the man
they had so long hated and feared. One fierce and wild-
looking warrior approached the chief, bearing a load of the
brush, and pointing exultingly to the deep red stains with
which it was sprinkled, uttered his joy in Indian yells,
whose meaning Heyward was only enabled to comprehend by the
frequent repetition of the name "La Longue Carabine!" When
his triumph had ceased, he cast the brush on the slight heap
Duncan had made before the entrance of the second cavern,
and closed the view. His example was followed by others,
who, as they drew the branches from the cave of the scout,
threw them into one pile, adding, unconsciously, to the
security of those they sought. The very slightness of the
defense was its chief merit, for no one thought of
disturbing a mass of brush, which all of them believed, in
that moment of hurry and confusion, had been accidentally
raised by the hands of their own party.
As the blankets yielded before the outward pressure, and the
branches settled in the fissure of the rock by their own
weight, forming a compact body, Duncan once more breathed
freely. With a light step and lighter heart, he returned to
the center of the cave, and took the place he had left,
where he could command a view of the opening next the river.
While he was in the act of making this movement, the
Indians, as if changing their purpose by a common impulse,
broke away from the chasm in a body, and were heard rushing
up the island again, toward the point whence they had
originally descended. Here another wailing cry betrayed
that they were again collected around the bodies of their
Duncan now ventured to look at his companions; for, during
the most critical moments of their danger, he had been
apprehensive that the anxiety of his countenance might
communicate some additional alarm to those who were so
little able to sustain it.
"They are gone, Cora!" he whispered; "Alice, they are
returned whence they came, and we are saved! To Heaven,
that has alone delivered us from the grasp of so merciless
an enemy, be all the praise!"
"Then to Heaven will I return my thanks!" exclaimed the
younger sister, rising from the encircling arm of Cora, and
casting herself with enthusiastic gratitude on the naked rock;
"to that Heaven who has spared the tears of a gray-headed
father; has saved the lives of those I so much love."
Both Heyward and the more temperate Cora witnessed the act
of involuntary emotion with powerful sympathy, the former
secretly believing that piety had never worn a form so
lovely as it had now assumed in the youthful person of
Alice. Her eyes were radiant with the glow of grateful
feelings; the flush of her beauty was again seated on her
cheeks, and her whole soul seemed ready and anxious to pour
out its thanksgivings through the medium of her eloquent
features. But when her lips moved, the words they should
have uttered appeared frozen by some new and sudden chill.
Her bloom gave place to the paleness of death; her soft and
melting eyes grew hard, and seemed contracting with horror;
while those hands, which she had raised, clasped in each
other, toward heaven, dropped in horizontal lines before
her, the fingers pointed forward in convulsed motion.
Heyward turned the instant she gave a direction to his
suspicions, and peering just above the ledge which formed
the threshold of the open outlet of the cavern, he beheld
the malignant, fierce and savage features of Le Renard
In that moment of surprise, the self-possession of Heyward
did not desert him. He observed by the vacant expression of
the Indian's countenance, that his eye, accustomed to the
open air had not yet been able to penetrate the dusky light
which pervaded the depth of the cavern. He had even thought
of retreating beyond a curvature in the natural wall, which
might still conceal him and his companions, when by the
sudden gleam of intelligence that shot across the features
of the savage, he saw it was too late, and that they were
The look of exultation and brutal triumph which announced
this terrible truth was irresistibly irritating. Forgetful
of everything but the impulses of his hot blood, Duncan
leveled his pistol and fired. The report of the weapon made
the cavern bellow like an eruption from a volcano; and when
the smoke it vomited had been driven away before the current
of air which issued from the ravine the place so lately
occupied by the features of his treacherous guide was
vacant. Rushing to the outlet, Heyward caught a glimpse of
his dark figure stealing around a low and narrow ledge,
which soon hid him entirely from sight.
Among the savages a frightful stillness succeeded the
explosion, which had just been heard bursting from the
bowels of the rock. But when Le Renard raised his voice in
a long and intelligible whoop, it was answered by a
spontaneous yell from the mouth of every Indian within
hearing of the sound.
The clamorous noises again rushed down the island; and
before Duncan had time to recover from the shock, his feeble
barrier of brush was scattered to the winds, the cavern was
entered at both its extremities, and he and his companions
were dragged from their shelter and borne into the day,
where they stood surrounded by the whole band of the
"I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn As much as we this
night have overwatched!"--Midsummer Night's Dream
The instant the shock of this sudden misfortune had abated,
Duncan began to make his observations on the appearance and
proceedings of their captors. Contrary to the usages of the
natives in the wantonness of their success they had
respected, not only the persons of the trembling sisters,
but his own. The rich ornaments of his military attire had
indeed been repeatedly handled by different individuals of
the tribes with eyes expressing a savage longing to possess
the baubles; but before the customary violence could be
resorted to, a mandate in the authoritative voice of the
large warrior, already mentioned, stayed the uplifted hand,
and convinced Heyward that they were to be reserved for some
object of particular moment.
While, however, these manifestations of weakness were
exhibited by the young and vain of the party, the more
experienced warriors continued their search throughout both
caverns, with an activity that denoted they were far from
being satisfied with those fruits of their conquest which
had already been brought to light. Unable to discover any
new victim, these diligent workers of vengeance soon
approached their male prisoners, pronouncing the name "La
Longue Carabine," with a fierceness that could not be easily
mistaken. Duncan affected not to comprehend the meaning of
their repeated and violent interrogatories, while his
companion was spared the effort of a similar deception by
his ignorance of French. Wearied at length by their
importunities, and apprehensive of irritating his captors by
too stubborn a silence, the former looked about him in quest
of Magua, who might interpret his answers to questions which
were at each moment becoming more earnest and threatening.
The conduct of this savage had formed a solitary exception
to that of all his fellows. While the others were busily
occupied in seeking to gratify their childish passion for
finery, by plundering even the miserable effects of the
scout, or had been searching with such bloodthirsty
vengeance in their looks for their absent owner, Le Renard
had stood at a little distance from the prisoners, with a
demeanor so quiet and satisfied, as to betray that he had
already effected the grand purpose of his treachery. When
the eyes of Heyward first met those of his recent guide, he
turned them away in horror at the sinister though calm look
he encountered. Conquering his disgust, however, he was
able, with an averted face, to address his successful enemy.
"Le Renard Subtil is too much of a warrior," said the
reluctant Heyward, "to refuse telling an unarmed man what
his conquerors say."
"They ask for the hunter who knows the paths through the
woods," returned Magua, in his broken English, laying his
hand, at the same time, with a ferocious smile, on the
bundle of leaves with which a wound on his own shoulder was
bandaged. "'La Longue Carabine'! His rifle is good, and his
eye never shut; but, like the short gun of the white chief,
it is nothing against the life of Le Subtil."
"Le Renard is too brave to remember the hurts received in
war, or the hands that gave them."
"Was it war, when the tired Indian rested at the sugartree
to taste his corn! who filled the bushes with creeping
enemies! who drew the knife, whose tongue was peace, while
his heart was colored with blood! Did Magua say that the
hatchet was out of the ground, and that his hand had dug it
As Duncan dared not retort upon his accuser by reminding him
of his own premeditated treachery, and disdained to
deprecate his resentment by any words of apology, he
remained silent. Magua seemed also content to rest the
controversy as well as all further communication there, for
he resumed the leaning attitude against the rock from which,
in momentary energy, he had arisen. But the cry of "La
Longue Carabine" was renewed the instant the impatient
savages perceived that the short dialogue was ended.
"You hear," said Magua, with stubborn indifference: "the red
Hurons call for the life of 'The Long Rifle', or they will
have the blood of him that keep him hid!"
"He is gone -- escaped; he is far beyond their reach."
Renard smiled with cold contempt, as he answered:
"When the white man dies, he thinks he is at peace; but the
red men know how to torture even the ghosts of their
enemies. Where is his body? Let the Hurons see his scalp."
"He is not dead, but escaped."
Magua shook his head incredulously.
"Is he a bird, to spread his wings; or is he a fish, to swim
without air! The white chief read in his books, and he
believes the Hurons are fools!"
"Though no fish, 'The Long Rifle' can swim. He floated down
the stream when the powder was all burned, and when the eyes
of the Hurons were behind a cloud."
"And why did the white chief stay?" demanded the still
incredulous Indian. "Is he a stone that goes to the bottom,
or does the scalp burn his head?"
"That I am not stone, your dead comrade, who fell into the
falls, might answer, were the life still in him," said the
provoked young man, using, in his anger, that boastful
language which was most likely to excite the admiration of
an Indian. "The white man thinks none but cowards desert
Magua muttered a few words, inaudibly, between his teeth,
before he continued, aloud:
"Can the Delawares swim, too, as well as crawl in the
bushes? Where is 'Le Gros Serpent'?"
Duncan, who perceived by the use of these Canadian
appellations, that his late companions were much better
known to his enemies than to himself, answered, reluctantly:
"He also is gone down with the water."
"'Le Cerf Agile' is not here?"
"I know not whom you call 'The Nimble Deer'," said Duncan
gladly profiting by any excuse to create delay.
"Uncas," returned Magua, pronouncing the Delaware name with
even greater difficulty than he spoke his English words.
"'Bounding Elk' is what the white man says, when he calls to
the young Mohican."
"Here is some confusion in names between us, Le Renard,"
said Duncan, hoping to provoke a discussion. "Daim is the
French for deer, and cerf for stag; elan is the true term,
when one would speak of an elk."
"Yes," muttered the Indian, in his native tongue; "the pale
faces are prattling women! they have two words for each
thing, while a red-skin will make the sound of his voice
speak to him." Then, changing his language, he continued,
adhering to the imperfect nomenclature of his provincial
instructors. "The deer is swift, but weak; the elk is
swift, but strong; and the son of 'Le Serpent' is 'Le Cerf
Agile.' Has he leaped the river to the woods?"
"If you mean the younger Delaware, he, too, has gone down
with the water."
As there was nothing improbable to an Indian in the manner
of the escape, Magua admitted the truth of what he had
heard, with a readiness that afforded additional evidence
how little he would prize such worthless captives. With his
companions, however, the feeling was manifestly different.
The Hurons had awaited the result of this short dialogue
with characteristic patience, and with a silence that
increased until there was a general stillness in the band.
When Heyward ceased to speak, they turned their eyes, as one
man, on Magua, demanding, in this expressive manner, an
explanation of what had been said. Their interpreter
pointed to the river, and made them acquainted with the
result, as much by the action as by the few words he
uttered. When the fact was generally understood, the
savages raised a frightful yell, which declared the extent
of their disappointment. Some ran furiously to the water's
edge, beating the air with frantic gestures, while others
spat upon the element, to resent the supposed treason it had
committed against their acknowledged rights as conquerors.
A few, and they not the least powerful and terrific of the
band, threw lowering looks, in which the fiercest passion
was only tempered by habitual self-command, at those
captives who still remained in their power, while one or two
even gave vent to their malignant feelings by the most
menacing gestures, against which neither the sex nor the
beauty of the sisters was any protection. The young soldier
made a desperate but fruitless effort to spring to the side
of Alice, when he saw the dark hand of a savage twisted in
the rich tresses which were flowing in volumes over her
shoulders, while a knife was passed around the head from
which they fell, as if to denote the horrid manner in which
it was about to be robbed of its beautiful ornament. But
his hands were bound; and at the first movement he made, he
felt the grasp of the powerful Indian who directed the band,
pressing his shoulder like a vise. Immediately conscious
how unavailing any struggle against such an overwhelming
force must prove, he submitted to his fate, encouraging his
gentle companions by a few low and tender assurances, that
the natives seldom failed to threaten more than they
But while Duncan resorted to these words of consolation to
quiet the apprehensions of the sisters, he was not so weak
as to deceive himself. He well knew that the authority of
an Indian chief was so little conventional, that it was
oftener maintained by physical superiority than by any moral
supremacy he might possess. The danger was, therefore,
magnified exactly in proportion to the number of the savage
spirits by which they were surrounded. The most positive
mandate from him who seemed the acknowledged leader, was
liable to be violated at each moment by any rash hand that
might choose to sacrifice a victim to the manes of some dead
friend or relative. While, therefore, he sustained an
outward appearance of calmness and fortitude, his heart
leaped into his throat, whenever any of their fierce captors
drew nearer than common to the helpless sisters, or fastened
one of their sullen, wandering looks on those fragile forms
which were so little able to resist the slightest assault.
His apprehensions were, however, greatly relieved, when he
saw that the leader had summoned his warriors to himself in
counsel. Their deliberations were short, and it would seem,
by the silence of most of the party, the decision unanimous.
By the frequency with which the few speakers pointed in the
direction of the encampment of Webb, it was apparent they
dreaded the approach of danger from that quarter. This
consideration probably hastened their determination, and
quickened the subsequent movements.
During his short conference, Heyward, finding a respite from
his gravest fears, had leisure to admire the cautious manner
in which the Hurons had made their approaches, even after
hostilities had ceased.
It has already been stated that the upper half of the island
was a naked rock, and destitute of any other defenses than a
few scattered logs of driftwood. They had selected this
point to make their descent, having borne the canoe through
the wood around the cataract for that purpose. Placing
their arms in the little vessel a dozen men clinging to its
sides had trusted themselves to the direction of the canoe,
which was controlled by two of the most skillful warriors,
in attitudes that enabled them to command a view of the
dangerous passage. Favored by this arrangement, they
touched the head of the island at that point which had
proved so fatal to their first adventurers, but with the
advantages of superior numbers, and the possession of
firearms. That such had been the manner of their descent
was rendered quite apparent to Duncan; for they now bore the
light bark from the upper end of the rock, and placed it in
the water, near the mouth of the outer cavern. As soon as
this change was made, the leader made signs to the prisoners
to descend and enter.
As resistance was impossible, and remonstrance useless,
Heyward set the example of submission, by leading the way
into the canoe, where he was soon seated with the sisters
and the still wondering David. Notwithstanding the Hurons
were necessarily ignorant of the little channels among the
eddies and rapids of the stream, they knew the common signs
of such a navigation too well to commit any material
blunder. When the pilot chosen for the task of guiding the
canoe had taken his station, the whole band plunged again
into the river, the vessel glided down the current, and in a
few moments the captives found themselves on the south bank
of the stream, nearly opposite to the point where they had
struck it the preceding evening.
Here was held another short but earnest consultation, during
which the horses, to whose panic their owners ascribed their
heaviest misfortune, were led from the cover of the woods,
and brought to the sheltered spot. The band now divided.
The great chief, so often mentioned, mounting the charger of
Heyward, led the way directly across the river, followed by
most of his people, and disappeared in the woods, leaving
the prisoners in charge of six savages, at whose head was Le
Renard Subtil. Duncan witnessed all their movements with
He had been fond of believing, from the uncommon forbearance
of the savages, that he was reserved as a prisoner to be
delivered to Montcalm. As the thoughts of those who are in
misery seldom slumber, and the invention is never more
lively than when it is stimulated by hope, however feeble
and remote, he had even imagined that the parental feelings
of Munro were to be made instrumental in seducing him from
his duty to the king. For though the French commander bore
a high character for courage and enterprise, he was also
thought to be expert in those political practises which do
not always respect the nicer obligations of morality, and
which so generally disgraced the European diplomacy of that
All those busy and ingenious speculations were now
annihilated by the conduct of his captors. That portion of
the band who had followed the huge warrior took the route
toward the foot of the Horican, and no other expectation was
left for himself and companions, than that they were to be
retained as hopeless captives by their savage conquerors.
Anxious to know the worst, and willing, in such an
emergency, to try the potency of gold he overcame his
reluctance to speak to Magua. Addressing himself to his
former guide, who had now assumed the authority and manner
of one who was to direct the future movements of the party,
he said, in tones as friendly and confiding as he could
"I would speak to Magua, what is fit only for so great a
chief to hear."
The Indian turned his eyes on the young soldier scornfully,
as he answered:
"Speak; trees have no ears."
"But the red Hurons are not deaf; and counsel that is fit
for the great men of a nation would make the young warriors
drunk. If Magua will not listen, the officer of the king
knows how to be silent."
The savage spoke carelessly to his comrades, who were
busied, after their awkward manner, in preparing the horses
for the reception of the sisters, and moved a little to one
side, whither by a cautious gesture he induced Heyward to
"Now, speak," he said; "if the words are such as Magua
"Le Renard Subtil has proved himself worthy of the honorable
name given to him by his Canada fathers," commenced Heyward;
"I see his wisdom, and all that he has done for us, and
shall remember it when the hour to reward him arrives. Yes!
Renard has proved that he is not only a great chief in
council, but one who knows how to deceive his enemies!"
"What has Renard done?" coldly demanded the Indian.
"What! has he not seen that the woods were filled with
outlying parties of the enemies, and that the serpent could
not steal through them without being seen? Then, did he not
lose his path to blind the eyes of the Hurons? Did he not
pretend to go back to his tribe, who had treated him ill,
and driven him from their wigwams like a dog? And when he
saw what he wished to do, did we not aid him, by making a
false face, that the Hurons might think the white man
believed that his friend was his enemy? Is not all this
true? And when Le Subtil had shut the eyes and stopped the
ears of his nation by his wisdom, did they not forget that
they had once done him wrong, and forced him to flee to the
Mohawks? And did they not leave him on the south side of the
river, with their prisoners, while they have gone foolishly
on the north? Does not Renard mean to turn like a fox on his
footsteps, and to carry to the rich and gray-headed
Scotchman his daughters? Yes, Magua, I see it all, and I
have already been thinking how so much wisdom and honesty
should be repaid. First, the chief of William Henry will
give as a great chief should for such a service. The medal*
of Magua will no longer be of tin, but of beaten gold; his
horn will run over with powder; dollars will be as plenty in
his pouch as pebbles on the shore of Horican; and the deer
will lick his hand, for they will know it to be vain to fly
from the rifle he will carry! As for myself, I know not how
to exceed the gratitude of the Scotchman, but I--yes, I
* It has long been a practice with the whites to
conciliate the important men of the Indians by presenting
medals, which are worn in the place of their own rude
ornaments. Those given by the English generally bear the
impression of the reigning king, and those given by the
Americans that of the president.
"What will the young chief, who comes from toward the sun,
give?" demanded the Huron, observing that Heyward hesitated
in his desire to end the enumeration of benefits with that
which might form the climax of an Indian's wishes.
"He will make the fire-water from the islands in the salt
lake flow before the wigwam of Magua, until the heart of the
Indian shall be lighter than the feathers of the humming-bird,
and his breath sweeter than the wild honeysuckle."
Le Renard had listened gravely as Heyward slowly proceeded
in this subtle speech. When the young man mentioned the
artifice he supposed the Indian to have practised on his own
nation, the countenance of the listener was veiled in an
expression of cautious gravity. At the allusion to the
injury which Duncan affected to believe had driven the Huron
from his native tribe, a gleam of such ungovernable ferocity
flashed from the other's eyes, as induced the adventurous
speaker to believe he had struck the proper chord. And by
the time he reached the part where he so artfully blended
the thirst of vengeance with the desire of gain, he had, at
least, obtained a command of the deepest attention of the
savage. The question put by Le Renard had been calm, and
with all the dignity of an Indian; but it was quite
apparent, by the thoughtful expression of the listener's
countenance, that the answer was most cunningly devised.
The Huron mused a few moments, and then laying his hand on
the rude bandages of his wounded shoulder, he said, with
"Do friends make such marks?"
"Would 'La Longue Carbine' cut one so slight on an enemy?"
"Do the Delawares crawl upon those they love like snakes,
twisting themselves to strike?"
"Would 'Le Gros Serpent' have been heard by the ears of one
he wished to be deaf?"
"Does the white chief burn his powder in the faces of his
"Does he ever miss his aim, when seriously bent to kill?"
returned Duncan, smiling with well acted sincerity.
Another long and deliberate pause succeeded these
sententious questions and ready replies. Duncan saw that
the Indian hesitated. In order to complete his victory, he
was in the act of recommencing the enumeration of the
rewards, when Magua made an expressive gesture and said:
"Enough; Le Renard is a wise chief, and what he does will be
seen. Go, and keep the mouth shut. When Magua speaks, it
will be the time to answer."
Heyward, perceiving that the eyes of his companion were
warily fastened on the rest of the band, fell back
immediately, in order to avoid the appearance of any
suspicious confederacy with their leader. Magua approached
the horses, and affected to be well pleased with the
diligence and ingenuity of his comrades. He then signed to
Heyward to assist the sisters into the saddles, for he
seldom deigned to use the English tongue, unless urged by
some motive of more than usual moment.
There was no longer any plausible pretext for delay; and
Duncan was obliged, however reluctantly, to comply. As he
performed this office, he whispered his reviving hopes in
the ears of the trembling females, who, through dread of
encountering the savage countenances of their captors,
seldom raised their eyes from the ground. The mare of David
had been taken with the followers of the large chief; in
consequence, its owner, as well as Duncan, was compelled to
journey on foot. The latter did not, however, so much
regret this circumstance, as it might enable him to retard
the speed of the party; for he still turned his longing
looks in the direction of Fort Edward, in the vain
expectation of catching some sound from that quarter of the
forest, which might denote the approach of succor. When all
were prepared, Magua made the signal to proceed, advancing
in front to lead the party in person. Next followed David,
who was gradually coming to a true sense of his condition,
as the effects of the wound became less and less apparent.
The sisters rode in his rear, with Heyward at their side,
while the Indians flanked the party, and brought up the
close of the march, with a caution that seemed never to
In this manner they proceeded in uninterrupted silence,
except when Heyward addressed some solitary word of comfort
to the females, or David gave vent to the moanings of his
spirit, in piteous exclamations, which he intended should
express the humility of resignation. Their direction lay
toward the south, and in a course nearly opposite to the
road to William Henry. Notwithstanding this apparent
adherence in Magua to the original determination of his
conquerors, Heyward could not believe his tempting bait was
so soon forgotten; and he knew the windings of an Indian's
path too well to suppose that its apparent course led
directly to its object, when artifice was at all necessary.
Mile after mile was, however, passed through the boundless
woods, in this painful manner, without any prospect of a
termination to their journey. Heyward watched the sun, as
he darted his meridian rays through the branches of the
trees, and pined for the moment when the policy of Magua
should change their route to one more favorable to his
hopes. Sometimes he fancied the wary savage, despairing of
passing the army of Montcalm in safety, was holding his way
toward a well-known border settlement, where a distinguished
officer of the crown, and a favored friend of the Six
Nations, held his large possessions, as well as his usual
residence. To be delivered into the hands of Sir William
Johnson was far preferable to being led into the wilds of
Canada; but in order to effect even the former, it would be
necessary to traverse the forest for many weary leagues,
each step of which was carrying him further from the scene
of the war, and, consequently, from the post, not only of
honor, but of duty.
Cora alone remembered the parting injunctions of the scout,
and whenever an opportunity offered, she stretched forth her
arm to bend aside the twigs that met her hands. But the
vigilance of the Indians rendered this act of precaution
both difficult and dangerous. She was often defeated in her
purpose, by encountering their watchful eyes, when it became
necessary to feign an alarm she did not feel, and occupy the
limb by some gesture of feminine apprehension. Once, and
once only, was she completely successful; when she broke
down the bough of a large sumach, and by a sudden thought,
let her glove fall at the same instant. This sign, intended
for those that might follow, was observed by one of her
conductors, who restored the glove, broke the remaining
branches of the bush in such a manner that it appeared to
proceed from the struggling of some beast in its branches,
and then laid his hand on his tomahawk, with a look so
significant, that it put an effectual end to these stolen
memorials of their passage.
As there were horses, to leave the prints of their
footsteps, in both bands of the Indians, this interruption
cut off any probable hopes of assistance being conveyed
through the means of their trail.
Heyward would have ventured a remonstrance had there been
anything encouraging in the gloomy reserve of Magua. But
the savage, during all this time, seldom turned to look at
his followers, and never spoke. With the sun for his only
guide, or aided by such blind marks as are only known to the
sagacity of a native, he held his way along the barrens of
pine, through occasional little fertile vales, across brooks
and rivulets, and over undulating hills, with the accuracy
of instinct, and nearly with the directness of a bird. He
never seemed to hesitate. Whether the path was hardly
distinguishable, whether it disappeared, or whether it lay
beaten and plain before him, made no sensible difference in
his speed or certainty. It seemed as if fatigue could not
affect him. Whenever the eyes of the wearied travelers rose
from the decayed leaves over which they trod, his dark form
was to be seen glancing among the stems of the trees in
front, his head immovably fastened in a forward position,
with the light plume on his crest fluttering in a current of
air, made solely by the swiftness of his own motion.
But all this diligence and speed were not without an object.
After crossing a low vale, through which a gushing brook
meandered, he suddenly ascended a hill, so steep and
difficult of ascent, that the sisters were compelled to
alight in order to follow. When the summit was gained, they
found themselves on a level spot, but thinly covered with
trees, under one of which Magua had thrown his dark form, as
if willing and ready to seek that rest which was so much
needed by the whole party.
"Cursed be my tribe If I forgive him."--Shylock
The Indian had selected for this desirable purpose one of
those steep, pyramidal hills, which bear a strong
resemblance to artificial mounds, and which so frequently
occur in the valleys of America. The one in question was
high and precipitous; its top flattened, as usual; but with
one of its sides more than ordinarily irregular. It
possessed no other apparent advantage for a resting place,
than in its elevation and form, which might render defense
easy, and surprise nearly impossible. As Heyward, however,
no longer expected that rescue which time and distance now
rendered so improbable, he regarded these little
peculiarities with an eye devoid of interest, devoting
himself entirely to the comfort and condolence of his
feebler companions. The Narragansetts were suffered to
browse on the branches of the trees and shrubs that were
thinly scattered over the summit of the hill, while the
remains of their provisions were spread under the shade of a
beech, that stretched its horizontal limbs like a canopy
Notwithstanding the swiftness of their flight, one of the
Indians had found an opportunity to strike a straggling fawn
with an arrow, and had borne the more preferable fragments
of the victim, patiently on his shoulders, to the stopping
place. Without any aid from the science of cookery, he was
immediately employed, in common with his fellows, in gorging
himself with this digestible sustenance. Magua alone sat
apart, without participating in the revolting meal, and
apparently buried in the deepest thought.
This abstinence, so remarkable in an Indian, when he
possessed the means of satisfying hunger, at length
attracted the notice of Heyward. The young man willingly
believed that the Huron deliberated on the most eligible
manner of eluding the vigilance of his associates. With a
view to assist his plans by any suggestion of his own, and
to strengthen the temptation, he left the beech, and
straggled, as if without an object, to the spot where Le
Renard was seated.
"Has not Magua kept the sun in his face long enough to
escape all danger from the Canadians?" he asked, as though
no longer doubtful of the good intelligence established
between them; "and will not the chief of William Henry be
better pleased to see his daughters before another night may
have hardened his heart to their loss, to make him less
liberal in his reward?"
"Do the pale faces love their children less in the morning
than at night?" asked the Indian, coldly.
"By no means," returned Heyward, anxious to recall his
error, if he had made one; "the white man may, and does
often, forget the burial place of his fathers; he sometimes
ceases to remember those he should love, and has promised to
cherish; but the affection of a parent for his child is
never permitted to die."
"And is the heart of the white-headed chief soft, and will
he think of the babes that his squaws have given him? He is
hard on his warriors and his eyes are made of stone?"
"He is severe to the idle and wicked, but to the sober and
deserving he is a leader, both just and humane. I have
known many fond and tender parents, but never have I seen a
man whose heart was softer toward his child. You have seen
the gray-head in front of his warriors, Magua; but I have
seen his eyes swimming in water, when he spoke of those
children who are now in your power!"
Heyward paused, for he knew not how to construe the
remarkable expression that gleamed across the swarthy
features of the attentive Indian. At first it seemed as if
the remembrance of the promised reward grew vivid in his
mind, while he listened to the sources of parental feeling
which were to assure its possession; but, as Duncan
proceeded, the expression of joy became so fiercely
malignant that it was impossible not to apprehend it
proceeded from some passion more sinister than avarice.
"Go," said the Huron, suppressing the alarming exhibition in
an instant, in a death-like calmness of countenance; "go to
the dark-haired daughter, and say, 'Magua waits to speak'
The father will remember what the child promises."
Duncan, who interpreted this speech to express a wish for
some additional pledge that the promised gifts should not be
withheld, slowly and reluctantly repaired to the place where
the sisters were now resting from their fatigue, to
communicate its purport to Cora.
"You understand the nature of an Indian's wishes," he
concluded, as he led her toward the place where she was
expected, "and must be prodigal of your offers of powder and
blankets. Ardent spirits are, however, the most prized by
such as he; nor would it be amiss to add some boon from your
own hand, with that grace you so well know how to practise.
Remember, Cora, that on your presence of mind and ingenuity,
even your life, as well as that of Alice, may in some
"Heyward, and yours!"
"Mine is of little moment; it is already sold to my king,
and is a prize to be seized by any enemy who may possess the
power. I have no father to expect me, and but few friends
to lament a fate which I have courted with the insatiable
longings of youth after distinction. But hush! we approach
the Indian. Magua, the lady with whom you wish to speak, is
The Indian rose slowly from his seat, and stood for near a
minute silent and motionless. He then signed with his hand
for Heyward to retire, saying, coldly:
"When the Huron talks to the women, his tribe shut their
Duncan, still lingering, as if refusing to comply, Cora
said, with a calm smile:
"You hear, Heyward, and delicacy at least should urge you to
retire. Go to Alice, and comfort her with our reviving
She waited until he had departed, and then turning to the
native, with the dignity of her sex in her voice and manner,
she added: "What would Le Renard say to the daughter of
"Listen," said the Indian, laying his hand firmly upon her
arm, as if willing to draw her utmost attention to his
words; a movement that Cora as firmly but quietly repulsed,
by extricating the limb from his grasp: "Magua was born a
chief and a warrior among the red Hurons of the lakes; he
saw the suns of twenty summers make the snows of twenty
winters run off in the streams before he saw a pale face;
and he was happy! Then his Canada fathers came into the
woods, and taught him to drink the fire-water, and he became
a rascal. The Hurons drove him from the graves of his
fathers, as they would chase the hunted buffalo. He ran
down the shores of the lakes, and followed their outlet to
the 'city of cannon' There he hunted and fished, till the
people chased him again through the woods into the arms of
his enemies. The chief, who was born a Huron, was at last a
warrior among the Mohawks!"
"Something like this I had heard before," said Cora,
observing that he paused to suppress those passions which
began to burn with too bright a flame, as he recalled the
recollection of his supposed injuries.
"Was it the fault of Le Renard that his head was not made of
rock? Who gave him the fire-water? who made him a villain?
'Twas the pale faces, the people of your own color."
"And am I answerable that thoughtless and unprincipled men
exist, whose shades of countenance may resemble mine?" Cora
calmly demanded of the excited savage.
"No; Magua is a man, and not a fool; such as you never open
their lips to the burning stream: the Great Spirit has given
"What, then, have I do to, or say, in the matter of your
misfortunes, not to say of your errors?"
"Listen," repeated the Indian, resuming his earnest
attitude; "when his English and French fathers dug up the
hatchet, Le Renard struck the war-post of the Mohawks, and
went out against his own nation. The pale faces have driven
the red-skins from their hunting grounds, and now when they
fight, a white man leads the way. The old chief at Horican,
your father, was the great captain of our war-party. He
said to the Mohawks do this, and do that, and he was minded.
He made a law, that if an Indian swallowed the fire-water,
and came into the cloth wigwams of his warriors, it should
not be forgotten. Magua foolishly opened his mouth, and the
hot liquor led him into the cabin of Munro. What did the
gray-head? let his daughter say."
"He forgot not his words, and did justice, by punishing the
offender," said the undaunted daughter.
"Justice!" repeated the Indian, casting an oblique glance of
the most ferocious expression at her unyielding countenance;
"is it justice to make evil and then punish for it? Magua
was not himself; it was the fire-water that spoke and acted
for him! but Munro did believe it. The Huron chief was tied
up before all the pale-faced warriors, and whipped like a
Cora remained silent, for she knew not how to palliate this
imprudent severity on the part of her father in a manner to
suit the comprehension of an Indian.
"See!" continued Magua, tearing aside the slight calico that
very imperfectly concealed his painted breast; "here are
scars given by knives and bullets--of these a warrior may
boast before his nation; but the gray-head has left marks on
the back of the Huron chief that he must hide like a squaw,
under this painted cloth of the whites."
"I had thought," resumed Cora, "that an Indian warrior was
patient, and that his spirit felt not and knew not the pain
his body suffered."
"When the Chippewas tied Magua to the stake, and cut this
gash," said the other, laying his finger on a deep scar,
"the Huron laughed in their faces, and told them, Women
struck so light! His spirit was then in the clouds! But
when he felt the blows of Munro, his spirit lay under the
birch. The spirit of a Huron is never drunk; it remembers
"But it may be appeased. If my father has done you this
injustice, show him how an Indian can forgive an injury, and
take back his daughters. You have heard from Major Heyward
Magua shook his head, forbidding the repetition of offers he
so much despised.
"What would you have?" continued Cora, after a most painful
pause, while the conviction forced itself on her mind that
the too sanguine and generous Duncan had been cruelly
deceived by the cunning of the savage.
"What a Huron loves -- good for good; bad for bad!"
"You would, then, revenge the injury inflicted by Munro on
his helpless daughters. Would it not be more like a man to
go before his face, and take the satisfaction of a warrior?"
"The arms of the pale faces are long, and their knives
sharp!" returned the savage, with a malignant laugh: "why
should Le Renard go among the muskets of his warriors, when
he holds the spirit of the gray-head in his hand?"
"Name your intention, Magua," said Cora, struggling with
herself to speak with steady calmness. "Is it to lead us
prisoners to the woods, or do you contemplate even some
greater evil? Is there no reward, no means of palliating the
injury, and of softening your heart? At least, release my
gentle sister, and pour out all your malice on me. Purchase
wealth by her safety and satisfy your revenge with a single
victim. The loss of both his daughters might bring the aged
man to his grave, and where would then be the satisfaction
of Le Renard?"
"Listen," said the Indian again. "The light eyes can go
back to the Horican, and tell the old chief what has been
done, if the dark-haired woman will swear by the Great
Spirit of her fathers to tell no lie."
"What must I promise?" demanded Cora, still maintaining a
secret ascendancy over the fierce native by the collected
and feminine dignity of her presence.
"When Magua left his people his wife was given to another
chief; he has now made friends with the Hurons, and will go
back to the graves of his tribe, on the shores of the great
lake. Let the daughter of the English chief follow, and
live in his wigwam forever."
However revolting a proposal of such a character might prove
to Cora, she retained, notwithstanding her powerful disgust,
sufficient self-command to reply, without betraying the
"And what pleasure would Magua find in sharing his cabin
with a wife he did not love; one who would be of a nation
and color different from his own? It would be better to take
the gold of Munro, and buy the heart of some Huron maid with
The Indian made no reply for near a minute, but bent his
fierce looks on the countenance of Cora, in such wavering
glances, that her eyes sank with shame, under an impression
that for the first time they had encountered an expression
that no chaste female might endure. While she was shrinking
within herself, in dread of having her ears wounded by some
proposal still more shocking than the last, the voice of
Magua answered, in its tones of deepest malignancy:
"When the blows scorched the back of the Huron, he would
know where to find a woman to feel the smart. The daughter
of Munro would draw his water, hoe his corn, and cook his
venison. The body of the gray-head would sleep among his
cannon, but his heart would lie within reach of the knife of
"Monster! well dost thou deserve thy treacherous name,"
cried Cora, in an ungovernable burst of filial indignation.
"None but a fiend could meditate such a vengeance. But thou
overratest thy power! You shall find it is, in truth, the
heart of Munro you hold, and that it will defy your utmost
The Indian answered this bold defiance by a ghastly smile,
that showed an unaltered purpose, while he motioned her
away, as if to close the conference forever. Cora, already
regretting her precipitation, was obliged to comply, for
Magua instantly left the spot, and approached his gluttonous
comrades. Heyward flew to the side of the agitated female,
and demanded the result of a dialogue that he had watched at
a distance with so much interest. But, unwilling to alarm
the fears of Alice, she evaded a direct reply, betraying
only by her anxious looks fastened on the slightest
movements of her captors. To the reiterated and earnest
questions of her sister concerning their probable
destination, she made no other answer than by pointing
toward the dark group, with an agitation she could not
control, and murmuring as she folded Alice to her bosom.
"There, there; read our fortunes in their faces; we shall
see; we shall see!"
The action, and the choked utterance of Cora, spoke more
impressively than any words, and quickly drew the attention
of her companions on that spot where her own was riveted
with an intenseness that nothing but the importance of the
stake could create.
When Magua reached the cluster of lolling savages, who,
gorged with their disgusting meal, lay stretched on the
earth in brutal indulgence, he commenced speaking with the
dignity of an Indian chief. The first syllables he uttered
had the effect to cause his listeners to raise themselves in
attitudes of respectful attention. As the Huron used his
native language, the prisoners, notwithstanding the caution
of the natives had kept them within the swing of their
tomahawks, could only conjecture the substance of his
harangue from the nature of those significant gestures with
which an Indian always illustrates his eloquence.
At first, the language, as well as the action of Magua,
appeared calm and deliberative. When he had succeeded in
sufficiently awakening the attention of his comrades,
Heyward fancied, by his pointing so frequently toward the
direction of the great lakes, that he spoke of the land of
their fathers, and of their distant tribe. Frequent
indications of applause escaped the listeners, who, as they
uttered the expressive "Hugh!" looked at each other in
commendation of the speaker. Le Renard was too skillful to
neglect his advantage. He now spoke of the long and painful
route by which they had left those spacious grounds and
happy villages, to come and battle against the enemies of
their Canadian fathers. He enumerated the warriors of the
party; their several merits; their frequent services to the
nation; their wounds, and the number of the scalps they had
taken. Whenever he alluded to any present (and the subtle
Indian neglected none), the dark countenance of the
flattered individual gleamed with exultation, nor did he
even hesitate to assert the truth of the words, by gestures
of applause and confirmation. Then the voice of the speaker
fell, and lost the loud, animated tones of triumph with
which he had enumerated their deeds of success and victory.
He described the cataract of Glenn's; the impregnable
position of its rocky island, with its caverns and its
numerous rapids and whirlpools; he named the name of "La
Longue Carabine," and paused until the forest beneath them
had sent up the last echo of a loud and long yell, with
which the hated appellation was received. He pointed toward
the youthful military captive, and described the death of a
favorite warrior, who had been precipitated into the deep
ravine by his hand. He not only mentioned the fate of him
who, hanging between heaven and earth, had presented such a
spectacle of horror to the whole band, but he acted anew the
terrors of his situation, his resolution and his death, on
the branches of a sapling; and, finally, he rapidly
recounted the manner in which each of their friends had
fallen, never failing to touch upon their courage, and their
most acknowledged virtues. When this recital of events was
ended, his voice once more changed, and became plaintive and
even musical, in its low guttural sounds. He now spoke of
the wives and children of the slain; their destitution;
their misery, both physical and moral; their distance; and,
at last, of their unavenged wrongs. Then suddenly lifting
his voice to a pitch of terrific energy, he concluded by
"Are the Hurons dogs to bear this? Who shall say to the wife
of Menowgua that the fishes have his scalp, and that his
nation have not taken revenge! Who will dare meet the
mother of Wassawattimie, that scornful woman, with his hands
clean! What shall be said to the old men when they ask us
for scalps, and we have not a hair from a white head to give
them! The women will point their fingers at us. There is a
dark spot on the names of the Hurons, and it must be hid in
blood!" His voice was no longer audible in the burst of
rage which now broke into the air, as if the wood, instead
of containing so small a band, was filled with the nation.
During the foregoing address the progress of the speaker was
too plainly read by those most interested in his success
through the medium of the countenances of the men he
addressed. They had answered his melancholy and mourning by
sympathy and sorrow; his assertions, by gestures of
confirmation; and his boasting, with the exultation of
savages. When he spoke of courage, their looks were firm
and responsive; when he alluded to their injuries, their
eyes kindled with fury; when he mentioned the taunts of the
women, they dropped their heads in shame; but when he
pointed out their means of vengeance, he struck a chord
which never failed to thrill in the breast of an Indian.
With the first intimation that it was within their reach,
the whole band sprang upon their feet as one man; giving
utterance to their rage in the most frantic cries, they
rushed upon their prisoners in a body with drawn knives and
uplifted tomahawks. Heyward threw himself between the
sisters and the foremost, whom he grappled with a desperate
strength that for a moment checked his violence. This
unexpected resistance gave Magua time to interpose, and with
rapid enunciation and animated gesture, he drew the
attention of the band again to himself. In that language he
knew so well how to assume, he diverted his comrades from
their instant purpose, and invited them to prolong the
misery of their victims. His proposal was received with
acclamations, and executed with the swiftness of thought.
Two powerful warriors cast themselves on Heyward, while
another was occupied in securing the less active singing-master.
Neither of the captives, however, submitted without a
desperate, though fruitless, struggle. Even David hurled
his assailant to the earth; nor was Heyward secured until
the victory over his companion enabled the Indians to direct
their united force to that object. He was then bound and
fastened to the body of the sapling, on whose branches Magua
had acted the pantomime of the falling Huron. When the
young soldier regained his recollection, he had the painful
certainty before his eyes that a common fate was intended
for the whole party. On his right was Cora in a durance
similar to his own, pale and agitated, but with an eye whose
steady look still read the proceedings of their enemies. On
his left, the withes which bound her to a pine, performed
that office for Alice which her trembling limbs refused, and
alone kept her fragile form from sinking. Her hands were
clasped before her in prayer, but instead of looking upward
toward that power which alone could rescue them, her
unconscious looks wandered to the countenance of Duncan with
infantile dependency. David had contended, and the novelty
of the circumstance held him silent, in deliberation on the
propriety of the unusual occurrence.
The vengeance of the Hurons had now taken a new direction,
and they prepared to execute it with that barbarous
ingenuity with which they were familiarized by the practise
of centuries. Some sought knots, to raise the blazing pile;
one was riving the splinters of pine, in order to pierce the
flesh of their captives with the burning fragments; and
others bent the tops of two saplings to the earth, in order
to suspend Heyward by the arms between the recoiling
branches. But the vengeance of Magua sought a deeper and
more malignant enjoyment.
While the less refined monsters of the band prepared, before
the eyes of those who were to suffer, these well-known and
vulgar means of torture, he approached Cora, and pointed
out, with the most malign expression of countenance, the
speedy fate that awaited her:
"Ha!" he added, "what says the daughter of Munro? Her head
is too good to find a pillow in the wigwam of Le Renard;
will she like it better when it rolls about this hill a
plaything for the wolves? Her bosom cannot nurse the
children of a Huron; she will see it spit upon by Indians!"
"What means the monster!" demanded the astonished Heyward.
"Nothing!" was the firm reply. "He is a savage, a barbarous
and ignorant savage, and knows not what he does. Let us
find leisure, with our dying breath, to ask for him
penitence and pardon."
"Pardon!" echoed the fierce Huron, mistaking in his anger,
the meaning of her words; "the memory of an Indian is no
longer than the arm of the pale faces; his mercy shorter
than their justice! Say; shall I send the yellow hair to
her father, and will you follow Magua to the great lakes, to
carry his water, and feed him with corn?"
Cora beckoned him away, with an emotion of disgust she could
"Leave me," she said, with a solemnity that for a moment
checked the barbarity of the Indian; "you mingle bitterness
in my prayers; you stand between me and my God!"
The slight impression produced on the savage was, however,
soon forgotten, and he continued pointing, with taunting
irony, toward Alice.
"Look! the child weeps! She is too young to die! Send her
to Munro, to comb his gray hairs, and keep life in the heart
of the old man."
Cora could not resist the desire to look upon her youthful
sister, in whose eyes she met an imploring glance, that
betrayed the longings of nature.
"What says he, dearest Cora?" asked the trembling voice of
Alice. "Did he speak of sending me to our father?"
For many moments the elder sister looked upon the younger,
with a countenance that wavered with powerful and contending
emotions. At length she spoke, though her tones had lost
their rich and calm fullness, in an expression of tenderness
that seemed maternal.
"Alice," she said, "the Huron offers us both life, nay, more
than both; he offers to restore Duncan, our invaluable
Duncan, as well as you, to our friends -- to our father --
to our heart-stricken, childless father, if I will bow down
this rebellious, stubborn pride of mine, and consent --"
Her voice became choked, and clasping her hands, she looked
upward, as if seeking, in her agony, intelligence from a
wisdom that was infinite.
"Say on," cried Alice; "to what, dearest Cora? Oh! that the
proffer were made to me! to save you, to cheer our aged
father, to restore Duncan, how cheerfully could I die!"
"Die!" repeated Cora, with a calmer and firmer voice, "that
were easy! Perhaps the alternative may not be less so. He
would have me," she continued, her accents sinking under a
deep consciousness of the degradation of the proposal,
"follow him to the wilderness; go to the habitations of the
Hurons; to remain there; in short, to become his wife!
Speak, then, Alice; child of my affections! sister of my
love! And you, too, Major Heyward, aid my weak reason with
your counsel. Is life to be purchased by such a sacrifice?
Will you, Alice, receive it at my hands at such a price?
And you, Duncan, guide me; control me between you; for I am
"Would I!" echoed the indignant and astonished youth.
"Cora! Cora! you jest with our misery! Name not the horrid
alternative again; the thought itself is worse than a
"That such would be your answer, I well knew!" exclaimed
Cora, her cheeks flushing, and her dark eyes once more
sparkling with the lingering emotions of a woman. "What
says my Alice? for her will I submit without another
Although both Heyward and Cora listened with painful
suspense and the deepest attention, no sounds were heard in
reply. It appeared as if the delicate and sensitive form of
Alice would shrink into itself, as she listened to this
proposal. Her arms had fallen lengthwise before her, the
fingers moving in slight convulsions; her head dropped upon
her bosom, and her whole person seemed suspended against the
tree, looking like some beautiful emblem of the wounded
delicacy of her sex, devoid of animation and yet keenly
conscious. In a few moments, however, her head began to
move slowly, in a sign of deep, unconquerable
"No, no, no; better that we die as we have lived, together!"
"Then die!" shouted Magua, hurling his tomahawk with
violence at the unresisting speaker, and gnashing his teeth
with a rage that could no longer be bridled at this sudden
exhibition of firmness in the one he believed the weakest of
the party. The axe cleaved the air in front of Heyward, and
cutting some of the flowing ringlets of Alice, quivered in
the tree above her head. The sight maddened Duncan to
desperation. Collecting all his energies in one effort he
snapped the twigs which bound him and rushed upon another
savage, who was preparing, with loud yells and a more
deliberate aim, to repeat the blow. They encountered,
grappled, and fell to the earth together. The naked body of
his antagonist afforded Heyward no means of holding his
adversary, who glided from his grasp, and rose again with
one knee on his chest, pressing him down with the weight of
a giant. Duncan already saw the knife gleaming in the air,
when a whistling sound swept past him, and was rather
accompanied than followed by the sharp crack of a rifle. He
felt his breast relieved from the load it had endured; he
saw the savage expression of his adversary's countenance
change to a look of vacant wildness, when the Indian fell
dead on the faded leaves by his side.
"Clo.--I am gone, sire, And anon, sire, I'll be with you
The Hurons stood aghast at this sudden visitation of death
on one of their band. But as they regarded the fatal
accuracy of an aim which had dared to immolate an enemy at
so much hazard to a friend, the name of "La Longue Carabine"
burst simultaneously from every lip, and was succeeded by a
wild and a sort of plaintive howl. The cry was answered by
a loud shout from a little thicket, where the incautious
party had piled their arms; and at the next moment, Hawkeye,
too eager to load the rifle he had regained, was seen
advancing upon them, brandishing the clubbed weapon, and
cutting the air with wide and powerful sweeps. Bold and
rapid as was the progress of the scout, it was exceeded by
that of a light and vigorous form which, bounding past him,
leaped, with incredible activity and daring, into the very
center of the Hurons, where it stood, whirling a tomahawk,
and flourishing a glittering knife, with fearful menaces, in
front of Cora. Quicker than the thoughts could follow those
unexpected and audacious movements, an image, armed in the
emblematic panoply of death, glided before their eyes, and
assumed a threatening attitude at the other's side. The
savage tormentors recoiled before these warlike intruders,
and uttered, as they appeared in such quick succession, the
often repeated and peculiar exclamations of surprise,
followed by the well-known and dreaded appellations of:
"Le Cerf Agile! Le Gros Serpent!"
But the wary and vigilant leader of the Hurons was not so
easily disconcerted. Casting his keen eyes around the
little plain, he comprehended the nature of the assault at a
glance, and encouraging his followers by his voice as well
as by his example, he unsheathed his long and dangerous
knife, and rushed with a loud whoop upon the expected
Chingachgook. It was the signal for a general combat.
Neither party had firearms, and the contest was to be
decided in the deadliest manner, hand to hand, with weapons
of offense, and none of defense.
Uncas answered the whoop, and leaping on an enemy, with a
single, well-directed blow of his tomahawk, cleft him to the
brain. Heyward tore the weapon of Magua from the sapling,
and rushed eagerly toward the fray. As the combatants were
now equal in number, each singled an opponent from the
adverse band. The rush and blows passed with the fury of a
whirlwind, and the swiftness of lightning. Hawkeye soon got
another enemy within reach of his arm, and with one sweep of
his formidable weapon he beat down the slight and
inartificial defenses of his antagonist, crushing him to the
earth with the blow. Heyward ventured to hurl the tomahawk
he had seized, too ardent to await the moment of closing.
It struck the Indian he had selected on the forehead, and
checked for an instant his onward rush. Encouraged by this
slight advantage, the impetuous young man continued his
onset, and sprang upon his enemy with naked hands. A single
instant was enough to assure him of the rashness of the
measure, for he immediately found himself fully engaged,
with all his activity and courage, in endeavoring to ward
the desperate thrusts made with the knife of the Huron.
Unable longer to foil an enemy so alert and vigilant, he
threw his arms about him, and succeeded in pinning the limbs
of the other to his side, with an iron grasp, but one that
was far too exhausting to himself to continue long. In this
extremity he heard a voice near him, shouting:
"Extarminate the varlets! no quarter to an accursed Mingo!"
At the next moment, the breech of Hawkeye's rifle fell on
the naked head of his adversary, whose muscles appeared to
wither under the shock, as he sank from the arms of Duncan,
flexible and motionless.
When Uncas had brained his first antagonist, he turned, like
a hungry lion, to seek another. The fifth and only Huron
disengaged at the first onset had paused a moment, and then
seeing that all around him were employed in the deadly
strife, he had sought, with hellish vengeance, to complete
the baffled work of revenge. Raising a shout of triumph, he
sprang toward the defenseless Cora, sending his keen axe as
the dreadful precursor of his approach. The tomahawk grazed
her shoulder, and cutting the withes which bound her to the
tree, left the maiden at liberty to fly. She eluded the
grasp of the savage, and reckless of her own safety, threw
herself on the bosom of Alice, striving with convulsed and
ill-directed fingers, to tear asunder the twigs which
confined the person of her sister. Any other than a monster
would have relented at such an act of generous devotion to
the best and purest affection; but the breast of the Huron
was a stranger to sympathy. Seizing Cora by the rich
tresses which fell in confusion about her form, he tore her
from her frantic hold, and bowed her down with brutal
violence to her knees. The savage drew the flowing curls
through his hand, and raising them on high with an
outstretched arm, he passed the knife around the exquisitely
molded head of his victim, with a taunting and exulting
laugh. But he purchased this moment of fierce gratification
with the loss of the fatal opportunity. It was just then
the sight caught the eye of Uncas. Bounding from his
footsteps he appeared for an instant darting through the air
and descending in a ball he fell on the chest of his enemy,
driving him many yards from the spot, headlong and
prostrate. The violence of the exertion cast the young
Mohican at his side. They arose together, fought, and bled,
each in his turn. But the conflict was soon decided; the
tomahawk of Heyward and the rifle of Hawkeye descended on
the skull of the Huron, at the same moment that the knife of
Uncas reached his heart.
The battle was now entirely terminated with the exception of
the protracted struggle between "Le Renard Subtil" and "Le
Gros Serpent." Well did these barbarous warriors prove that
they deserved those significant names which had been
bestowed for deeds in former wars. When they engaged, some
little time was lost in eluding the quick and vigorous
thrusts which had been aimed at their lives. Suddenly
darting on each other, they closed, and came to the earth,
twisted together like twining serpents, in pliant and subtle
folds. At the moment when the victors found themselves
unoccupied, the spot where these experienced and desperate
combatants lay could only be distinguished by a cloud of
dust and leaves, which moved from the center of the little
plain toward its boundary, as if raised by the passage of a
whirlwind. Urged by the different motives of filial
affection, friendship and gratitude, Heyward and his
companions rushed with one accord to the place, encircling
the little canopy of dust which hung above the warriors. In
vain did Uncas dart around the cloud, with a wish to strike
his knife into the heart of his father's foe; the
threatening rifle of Hawkeye was raised and suspended in
vain, while Duncan endeavored to seize the limbs of the
Huron with hands that appeared to have lost their power.
Covered as they were with dust and blood, the swift
evolutions of the combatants seemed to incorporate their
bodies into one. The death-like looking figure of the
Mohican, and the dark form of the Huron, gleamed before
their eyes in such quick and confused succession, that the
friends of the former knew not where to plant the succoring
blow. It is true there were short and fleeting moments,
when the fiery eyes of Magua were seen glittering, like the
fabled organs of the basilisk through the dusty wreath by
which he was enveloped, and he read by those short and
deadly glances the fate of the combat in the presence of his
enemies; ere, however, any hostile hand could descend on his
devoted head, its place was filled by the scowling visage of
Chingachgook. In this manner the scene of the combat was
removed from the center of the little plain to its verge.
The Mohican now found an opportunity to make a powerful
thrust with his knife; Magua suddenly relinquished his
grasp, and fell backward without motion, and seemingly
without life. His adversary leaped on his feet, making the
arches of the forest ring with the sounds of triumph.
"Well done for the Delawares! victory to the Mohicans!"
cried Hawkeye, once more elevating the butt of the long and
fatal rifle; "a finishing blow from a man without a cross
will never tell against his honor, nor rob him of his right
to the scalp."
But at the very moment when the dangerous weapon was in the
act of descending, the subtle Huron rolled swiftly from
beneath the danger, over the edge of the precipice, and
falling on his feet, was seen leaping, with a single bound,
into the center of a thicket of low bushes, which clung
along its sides. The Delawares, who had believed their
enemy dead, uttered their exclamation of surprise, and were
following with speed and clamor, like hounds in open view of
the deer, when a shrill and peculiar cry from the scout
instantly changed their purpose, and recalled them to the
summit of the hill.
"'Twas like himself!" cried the inveterate forester, whose
prejudices contributed so largely to veil his natural sense
of justice in all matters which concerned the Mingoes; "a
lying and deceitful varlet as he is. An honest Delaware
now, being fairly vanquished, would have lain still, and
been knocked on the head, but these knavish Maquas cling to
life like so many cats-o'-the-mountain. Let him go -- let
him go; 'tis but one man, and he without rifle or bow, many
a long mile from his French commerades; and like a rattler
that lost his fangs, he can do no further mischief, until
such time as he, and we too, may leave the prints of our
moccasins over a long reach of sandy plain. See, Uncas," he
added, in Delaware, "your father is flaying the scalps
already. It may be well to go round and feel the vagabonds
that are left, or we may have another of them loping through
the woods, and screeching like a jay that has been winged."
So saying the honest but implacable scout made the circuit
of the dead, into whose senseless bosoms he thrust his long
knife, with as much coolness as though they had been so many
brute carcasses. He had, however, been anticipated by the
elder Mohican, who had already torn the emblems of victory
from the unresisting heads of the slain.
But Uncas, denying his habits, we had almost said his
nature, flew with instinctive delicacy, accompanied by
Heyward, to the assistance of the females, and quickly
releasing Alice, placed her in the arms of Cora. We shall
not attempt to describe the gratitude to the Almighty
Disposer of Events which glowed in the bosoms of the
sisters, who were thus unexpectedly restored to life and to
each other. Their thanksgivings were deep and silent; the
offerings of their gentle spirits burning brightest and
purest on the secret altars of their hearts; and their
renovated and more earthly feelings exhibiting themselves in
long and fervent though speechless caresses. As Alice rose
from her knees, where she had sunk by the side of Cora, she
threw herself on the bosom of the latter, and sobbed aloud
the name of their aged father, while her soft, dove-like
eyes, sparkled with the rays of hope.
"We are saved! we are saved!" she murmured; "to return to
the arms of our dear, dear father, and his heart will not be
broken with grief. And you, too, Cora, my sister, my more
than sister, my mother; you, too, are spared. And Duncan,"
she added, looking round upon the youth with a smile of
ineffable innocence, "even our own brave and noble Duncan
has escaped without a hurt."
To these ardent and nearly innocent words Cora made no other
answer than by straining the youthful speaker to her heart,
as she bent over her in melting tenderness. The manhood of
Heyward felt no shame in dropping tears over this spectacle of
affectionate rapture; and Uncas stood, fresh and blood-stained
from the combat, a calm, and, apparently, an unmoved
looker-on, it is true, but with eyes that had already lost
their fierceness, and were beaming with a sympathy that
elevated him far above the intelligence, and advanced him
probably centuries before, the practises of his nation.
During this display of emotions so natural in their
situation, Hawkeye, whose vigilant distrust had satisfied
itself that the Hurons, who disfigured the heavenly scene,
no longer possessed the power to interrupt its harmony,
approached David, and liberated him from the bonds he had,
until that moment, endured with the most exemplary patience.
"There," exclaimed the scout, casting the last withe behind
him, "you are once more master of your own limbs, though you
seem not to use them with much greater judgment than that in
which they were first fashioned. If advice from one who is
not older than yourself, but who, having lived most of his
time in the wilderness, may be said to have experience
beyond his years, will give no offense, you are welcome to
my thoughts; and these are, to part with the little tooting
instrument in your jacket to the first fool you meet with,
and buy some we'pon with the money, if it be only the barrel
of a horseman's pistol. By industry and care, you might
thus come to some prefarment; for by this time, I should
think, your eyes would plainly tell you that a carrion crow
is a better bird than a mocking-thresher. The one will, at
least, remove foul sights from before the face of man, while
the other is only good to brew disturbances in the woods, by
cheating the ears of all that hear them."
"Arms and the clarion for the battle, but the song of
thanksgiving to the victory!" answered the liberated David.
"Friend," he added, thrusting forth his lean, delicate hand
toward Hawkeye, in kindness, while his eyes twinkled and
grew moist, "I thank thee that the hairs of my head still
grow where they were first rooted by Providence; for, though
those of other men may be more glossy and curling, I have
ever found mine own well suited to the brain they shelter.
That I did not join myself to the battle, was less owing to
disinclination, than to the bonds of the heathen. Valiant
and skillful hast thou proved thyself in the conflict, and I
hereby thank thee, before proceeding to discharge other and
more important duties, because thou hast proved thyself well
worthy of a Christian's praise."
"The thing is but a trifle, and what you may often see if
you tarry long among us," returned the scout, a good deal
softened toward the man of song, by this unequivocal
expression of gratitude. "I have got back my old companion,
'killdeer'," he added, striking his hand on the breech of
his rifle; "and that in itself is a victory. These Iroquois
are cunning, but they outwitted themselves when they placed
their firearms out of reach; and had Uncas or his father
been gifted with only their common Indian patience, we
should have come in upon the knaves with three bullets
instead of one, and that would have made a finish of the
whole pack; yon loping varlet, as well as his commerades.
But 'twas all fore-ordered, and for the best."
"Thou sayest well," returned David, "and hast caught the
true spirit of Christianity. He that is to be saved will be
saved, and he that is predestined to be damned will be
damned. This is the doctrine of truth, and most consoling
and refreshing it is to the true believer."
The scout, who by this time was seated, examining into the
state of his rifle with a species of parental assiduity, now
looked up at the other in a displeasure that he did not
affect to conceal, roughly interrupting further speech.
"Doctrine or no doctrine," said the sturdy woodsman, "'tis
the belief of knaves, and the curse of an honest man. I can
credit that yonder Huron was to fall by my hand, for with my
own eyes I have seen it; but nothing short of being a
witness will cause me to think he has met with any reward,
or that Chingachgook there will be condemned at the final
"You have no warranty for such an audacious doctrine, nor
any covenant to support it," cried David who was deeply
tinctured with the subtle distinctions which, in his time,
and more especially in his province, had been drawn around
the beautiful simplicity of revelation, by endeavoring to
penetrate the awful mystery of the divine nature, supplying
faith by self-sufficiency, and by consequence, involving
those who reasoned from such human dogmas in absurdities and
doubt; "your temple is reared on the sands, and the first
tempest will wash away its foundation. I demand your
authorities for such an uncharitable assertion (like other
advocates of a system, David was not always accurate in his
use of terms). Name chapter and verse; in which of the holy
books do you find language to support you?"
"Book!" repeated Hawkeye, with singular and ill-concealed
disdain; "do you take me for a whimpering boy at the
apronstring of one of your old gals; and this good rifle on
my knee for the feather of a goose's wing, my ox's horn for
a bottle of ink, and my leathern pouch for a cross-barred
handkercher to carry my dinner? Book! what have such as I,
who am a warrior of the wilderness, though a man without a
cross, to do with books? I never read but in one, and the
words that are written there are too simple and too plain to
need much schooling; though I may boast that of forty long
and hard-working years."
"What call you the volume?" said David, misconceiving the
"'Tis open before your eyes," returned the scout; "and he
who owns it is not a niggard of its use. I have heard it
said that there are men who read in books to convince
themselves there is a God. I know not but man may so deform
his works in the settlement, as to leave that which is so
clear in the wilderness a matter of doubt among traders and
priests. If any such there be, and he will follow me from
sun to sun, through the windings of the forest, he shall see
enough to teach him that he is a fool, and that the greatest
of his folly lies in striving to rise to the level of One he
can never equal, be it in goodness, or be it in power."
The instant David discovered that he battled with a
disputant who imbibed his faith from the lights of nature,
eschewing all subtleties of doctrine, he willingly abandoned
a controversy from which he believed neither profit nor
credit was to be derived. While the scout was speaking, he
had also seated himself, and producing the ready little
volume and the iron-rimmed spectacles, he prepared to
discharge a duty, which nothing but the unexpected assault
he had received in his orthodoxy could have so long
suspended. He was, in truth, a minstrel of the western
continent -- of a much later day, certainly, than those
gifted bards, who formerly sang the profane renown of baron
and prince, but after the spirit of his own age and country;
and he was now prepared to exercise the cunning of his
craft, in celebration of, or rather in thanksgiving for, the
recent victory. He waited patiently for Hawkeye to cease,
then lifting his eyes, together with his voice, he said,
"I invite you, friends, to join in praise for this signal
deliverance from the hands of barbarians and infidels, to the
comfortable and solemn tones of the tune called 'Northampton'."
He next named the page and verse where the rhymes selected
were to be found, and applied the pitch-pipe to his lips,
with the decent gravity that he had been wont to use in the
temple. This time he was, however, without any
accompaniment, for the sisters were just then pouring out
those tender effusions of affection which have been already
alluded to. Nothing deterred by the smallness of his
audience, which, in truth, consisted only of the
discontented scout, he raised his voice, commencing and
ending the sacred song without accident or interruption of
Hawkeye listened while he coolly adjusted his flint and
reloaded his rifle; but the sounds, wanting the extraneous
assistance of scene and sympathy, failed to awaken his
slumbering emotions. Never minstrel, or by whatever more
suitable name David should be known, drew upon his talents
in the presence of more insensible auditors; though
considering the singleness and sincerity of his motive, it
is probable that no bard of profane song ever uttered notes
that ascended so near to that throne where all homage and
praise is due. The scout shook his head, and muttering some
unintelligible words, among which "throat" and "Iroquois"
were alone audible, he walked away, to collect and to
examine into the state of the captured arsenal of the
Hurons. In this office he was now joined by Chingachgook,
who found his own, as well as the rifle of his son, among
the arms. Even Heyward and David were furnished with
weapons; nor was ammunition wanting to render them all
When the foresters had made their selection, and distributed
their prizes, the scout announced that the hour had arrived
when it was necessary to move. By this time the song of
Gamut had ceased, and the sisters had learned to still the
exhibition of their emotions. Aided by Duncan and the
younger Mohican, the two latter descended the precipitous
sides of that hill which they had so lately ascended under
so very different auspices, and whose summit had so nearly
proved the scene of their massacre. At the foot they found
the Narragansetts browsing the herbage of the bushes, and
having mounted, they followed the movements of a guide, who,
in the most deadly straits, had so often proved himself
their friend. The journey was, however, short. Hawkeye,
leaving the blind path that the Hurons had followed, turned
short to his right, and entering the thicket, he crossed a
babbling brook, and halted in a narrow dell, under the shade
of a few water elms. Their distance from the base of the
fatal hill was but a few rods, and the steeds had been
serviceable only in crossing the shallow stream.
The scout and the Indians appeared to be familiar with the
sequestered place where they now were; for, leaning their
rifle against the trees, they commenced throwing aside the
dried leaves, and opening the blue clay, out of which a
clear and sparkling spring of bright, glancing water,
quickly bubbled. The white man then looked about him, as
though seeking for some object, which was not to be found as
readily as he expected.
"Them careless imps, the Mohawks, with their Tuscarora and
Onondaga brethren, have been here slaking their thirst," he
muttered, "and the vagabonds have thrown away the gourd!
This is the way with benefits, when they are bestowed on
such disremembering hounds! Here has the Lord laid his
hand, in the midst of the howling wilderness, for their
good, and raised a fountain of water from the bowels of the
'arth, that might laugh at the richest shop of apothecary's
ware in all the colonies; and see! the knaves have trodden
in the clay, and deformed the cleanliness of the place, as
though they were brute beasts, instead of human men."
Uncas silently extended toward him the desired gourd, which
the spleen of Hawkeye had hitherto prevented him from
observing on a branch of an elm. Filling it with water, he
retired a short distance, to a place where the ground was
more firm and dry; here he coolly seated himself, and after
taking a long, and, apparently, a grateful draught, he
commenced a very strict examination of the fragments of food
left by the Hurons, which had hung in a wallet on his arm.
"Thank you, lad!" he continued, returning the empty gourd to
Uncas; "now we will see how these rampaging Hurons lived,
when outlying in ambushments. Look at this! The varlets
know the better pieces of the deer; and one would think they
might carve and roast a saddle, equal to the best cook in
the land! But everything is raw, for the Iroquois are
thorough savages. Uncas, take my steel and kindle a fire; a
mouthful of a tender broil will give natur' a helping hand,
after so long a trail."
Heyward, perceiving that their guides now set about their
repast in sober earnest, assisted the ladies to alight, and
placed himself at their side, not unwilling to enjoy a few
moments of grateful rest, after the bloody scene he had just
gone through. While the culinary process was in hand,
curiosity induced him to inquire into the circumstances
which had led to their timely and unexpected rescue:
"How is it that we see you so soon, my generous friend," he
asked, "and without aid from the garrison of Edward?"
"Had we gone to the bend in the river, we might have been in
time to rake the leaves over your bodies, but too late to
have saved your scalps," coolly answered the scout. "No,
no; instead of throwing away strength and opportunity by
crossing to the fort, we lay by, under the bank of the
Hudson, waiting to watch the movements of the Hurons."
"You were, then, witnesses of all that passed?"
"Not of all; for Indian sight is too keen to be easily
cheated, and we kept close. A difficult matter it was, too,
to keep this Mohican boy snug in the ambushment. Ah! Uncas,
Uncas, your behavior was more like that of a curious woman
than of a warrior on his scent."
Uncas permitted his eyes to turn for an instant on the
sturdy countenance of the speaker, but he neither spoke nor
gave any indication of repentance. On the contrary, Heyward
thought the manner of the young Mohican was disdainful, if
not a little fierce, and that he suppressed passions that
were ready to explode, as much in compliment to the
listeners, as from the deference he usually paid to his
"You saw our capture?" Heyward next demanded.
"We heard it," was the significant answer. "An Indian yell
is plain language to men who have passed their days in the
woods. But when you landed, we were driven to crawl like
sarpents, beneath the leaves; and then we lost sight of you
entirely, until we placed eyes on you again trussed to the
trees, and ready bound for an Indian massacre."
"Our rescue was the deed of Providence. It was nearly a
miracle that you did not mistake the path, for the Hurons
divided, and each band had its horses."
"Ay! there we were thrown off the scent, and might, indeed,
have lost the trail, had it not been for Uncas; we took the
path, however, that led into the wilderness; for we judged,
and judged rightly, that the savages would hold that course
with their prisoners. But when we had followed it for many
miles, without finding a single twig broken, as I had
advised, my mind misgave me; especially as all the footsteps
had the prints of moccasins."
"Our captors had the precaution to see us shod like
themselves," said Duncan, raising a foot, and exhibiting the
buckskin he wore.
"Aye, 'twas judgmatical and like themselves; though we were
too expart to be thrown from a trail by so common an
"To what, then, are we indebted for our safety?"
"To what, as a white man who has no taint of Indian blood, I
should be ashamed to own; to the judgment of the young
Mohican, in matters which I should know better than he, but
which I can now hardly believe to be true, though my own
eyes tell me it is so."
"'Tis extraordinary! will you not name the reason?"
"Uncas was bold enough to say, that the beasts ridden by the
gentle ones," continued Hawkeye, glancing his eyes, not
without curious interest, on the fillies of the ladies,
"planted the legs of one side on the ground at the same
time, which is contrary to the movements of all trotting
four-footed animals of my knowledge, except the bear. And
yet here are horses that always journey in this manner, as
my own eyes have seen, and as their trail has shown for
twenty long miles."
"'Tis the merit of the animal! They come from the shores of
Narrangansett Bay, in the small province of Providence
Plantations, and are celebrated for their hardihood, and the
ease of this peculiar movement; though other horses are not
unfrequently trained to the same."
"It may be--it may be," said Hawkeye, who had listened
with singular attention to this explanation; "though I am a
man who has the full blood of the whites, my judgment in
deer and beaver is greater than in beasts of burden. Major
Effingham has many noble chargers, but I have never seen one
travel after such a sidling gait."
"True; for he would value the animals for very different
properties. Still is this a breed highly esteemed and, as
you witness, much honored with the burdens it is often
destined to bear."
The Mohicans had suspended their operations about the
glimmering fire to listen; and, when Duncan had done, they
looked at each other significantly, the father uttering the
never-failing exclamation of surprise. The scout ruminated,
like a man digesting his newly-acquired knowledge, and once
more stole a glance at the horses.
"I dare to say there are even stranger sights to be seen in
the settlements!" he said, at length. "Natur' is sadly abused
by man, when he once gets the mastery. But, go sidling or
go straight, Uncas had seen the movement, and their trail
led us on to the broken bush. The outer branch, near the
prints of one of the horses, was bent upward, as a lady
breaks a flower from its stem, but all the rest were ragged
and broken down, as if the strong hand of a man had been
tearing them! So I concluded that the cunning varments had
seen the twig bent, and had torn the rest, to make us
believe a buck had been feeling the boughs with his
"I do believe your sagacity did not deceive you; for some
such thing occurred!"
"That was easy to see," added the scout, in no degree
conscious of having exhibited any extraordinary sagacity;
"and a very different matter it was from a waddling horse!
It then struck me the Mingoes would push for this spring,
for the knaves well know the vartue of its waters!"
"Is it, then, so famous?" demanded Heyward, examining, with
a more curious eye, the secluded dell, with its bubbling
fountain, surrounded, as it was, by earth of a deep, dingy
"Few red-skins, who travel south and east of the great lakes
but have heard of its qualities. Will you taste for
Heyward took the gourd, and after swallowing a little of the
water, threw it aside with grimaces of discontent. The
scout laughed in his silent but heartfelt manner, and shook
his head with vast satisfaction.
"Ah! you want the flavor that one gets by habit; the time
was when I liked it as little as yourself; but I have come
to my taste, and I now crave it, as a deer does the licks*.
Your high-spiced wines are not better liked than a red-skin
relishes this water; especially when his natur' is ailing.
But Uncas has made his fire, and it is time we think of
eating, for our journey is long, and all before us."
* Many of the animals of the American forests resort
to those spots where salt springs are found. These are
called "licks" or "salt licks," in the language of the
country, from the circumstance that the quadruped is often
obliged to lick the earth, in order to obtain the saline
particles. These licks are great places of resort with the
hunters, who waylay their game near the paths that lead to
Interrupting the dialogue by this abrupt transition, the
scout had instant recourse to the fragments of food which
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