The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
Part 6 out of 9
side of a disputed question, while the white man maintained
the other. The contest gradually grew warmer, until it was
quite evident the feelings of the speakers began to be
somewhat enlisted in the debate.
Notwithstanding the increasing warmth of the amicable
contest, the most decorous Christian assembly, not even
excepting those in which its reverend ministers are
collected, might have learned a wholesome lesson of
moderation from the forbearance and courtesy of the
disputants. The words of Uncas were received with the same
deep attention as those which fell from the maturer wisdom
of his father; and so far from manifesting any impatience,
neither spoke in reply, until a few moments of silent
meditation were, seemingly, bestowed in deliberating on what
had already been said.
The language of the Mohicans was accompanied by gestures so
direct and natural that Heyward had but little difficulty in
following the thread of their argument. On the other hand,
the scout was obscure; because from the lingering pride of
color, he rather affected the cold and artificial manner
which characterizes all classes of Anglo-Americans when
unexcited. By the frequency with which the Indians
described the marks of a forest trial, it was evident they
urged a pursuit by land, while the repeated sweep of
Hawkeye's arm toward the Horican denoted that he was for a
passage across its waters.
The latter was to every appearance fast losing ground, and
the point was about to be decided against him, when he arose
to his feet, and shaking off his apathy, he suddenly assumed
the manner of an Indian, and adopted all the arts of native
eloquence. Elevating an arm, he pointed out the track of
the sun, repeating the gesture for every day that was
necessary to accomplish their objects. Then he delineated a
long and painful path, amid rocks and water-courses. The
age and weakness of the slumbering and unconscious Munro
were indicated by signs too palpable to be mistaken. Duncan
perceived that even his own powers were spoken lightly of,
as the scout extended his palm, and mentioned him by the
appellation of the "Open Hand" -- a name his liberality had
purchased of all the friendly tribes. Then came a
representation of the light and graceful movements of a
canoe, set in forcible contrast to the tottering steps of
one enfeebled and tired. He concluded by pointing to the
scalp of the Oneida, and apparently urging the necessity of
their departing speedily, and in a manner that should leave
The Mohicans listened gravely, and with countenances that
reflected the sentiments of the speaker. Conviction
gradually wrought its influence, and toward the close of
Hawkeye's speech, his sentences were accompanied by the
customary exclamation of commendation. In short, Uncas and
his father became converts to his way of thinking,
abandoning their own previously expressed opinions with a
liberality and candor that, had they been the
representatives of some great and civilized people, would
have infallibly worked their political ruin, by destroying
forever their reputation for consistency.
The instant the matter in discussion was decided, the
debate, and everything connected with it, except the result
appeared to be forgotten. Hawkeye, without looking round to
read his triumph in applauding eyes, very composedly
stretched his tall frame before the dying embers, and closed
his own organs in sleep.
Left now in a measure to themselves, the Mohicans, whose
time had been so much devoted to the interests of others,
seized the moment to devote some attention to themselves.
Casting off at once the grave and austere demeanor of an
Indian chief, Chingachgook commenced speaking to his son in
the soft and playful tones of affection. Uncas gladly met
the familiar air of his father; and before the hard
breathing of the scout announced that he slept, a complete
change was effected in the manner of his two associates.
It is impossible to describe the music of their language,
while thus engaged in laughter and endearments, in such a
way as to render it intelligible to those whose ears have
never listened to its melody. The compass of their voices,
particularly that of the youth, was wonderful--extending
from the deepest bass to tones that were even feminine in
softness. The eyes of the father followed the plastic and
ingenious movements of the son with open delight, and he
never failed to smile in reply to the other's contagious but
low laughter. While under the influence of these gentle and
natural feelings, no trace of ferocity was to be seen in the
softened features of the Sagamore. His figured panoply of
death looked more like a disguise assumed in mockery than a
fierce annunciation of a desire to carry destruction in his
After an hour had passed in the indulgence of their better
feelings, Chingachgook abruptly announced his desire to
sleep, by wrapping his head in his blanket and stretching
his form on the naked earth. The merriment of Uncas
instantly ceased; and carefully raking the coals in such a
manner that they should impart their warmth to his father's
feet, the youth sought his own pillow among the ruins of the
Imbibing renewed confidence from the security of these
experienced foresters, Heyward soon imitated their example;
and long before the night had turned, they who lay in the
bosom of the ruined work, seemed to slumber as heavily as
the unconscious multitude whose bones were already beginning
to bleach on the surrounding plain.
"Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes On thee; thou rugged
nurse of savage men!"--Childe Harold
The heavens were still studded with stars, when Hawkeye came
to arouse the sleepers. Casting aside their cloaks Munro
and Heyward were on their feet while the woodsman was still
making his low calls, at the entrance of the rude shelter
where they had passed the night. When they issued from
beneath its concealment, they found the scout awaiting their
appearance nigh by, and the only salutation between them was
the significant gesture for silence, made by their sagacious
"Think over your prayers," he whispered, as they approached
him; "for He to whom you make them, knows all tongues; that
of the heart, as well as those of the mouth. But speak not
a syllable; it is rare for a white voice to pitch itself
properly in the woods, as we have seen by the example of
that miserable devil, the singer. Come," he continued,
turning toward a curtain of the works; "let us get into the
ditch on this side, and be regardful to step on the stones
and fragments of wood as you go."
His companions complied, though to two of them the reasons
of this extraordinary precaution were yet a mystery. When
they were in the low cavity that surrounded the earthen fort
on three sides, they found that passage nearly choked by the
ruins. With care and patience, however, they succeeded in
clambering after the scout, until they reached the sandy
shore of the Horican.
"That's a trail that nothing but a nose can follow," said
the satisfied scout, looking back along their difficult way;
"grass is a treacherous carpet for a flying party to tread
on, but wood and stone take no print from a moccasin. Had
you worn your armed boots, there might, indeed, have been
something to fear; but with the deer-skin suitably prepared,
a man may trust himself, generally, on rocks with safety.
Shove in the canoe nigher to the land, Uncas; this sand will
take a stamp as easily as the butter of the Jarmans on the
Mohawk. Softly, lad, softly; it must not touch the beach,
or the knaves will know by what road we have left the
The young man observed the precaution; and the scout, laying
a board from the ruins to the canoe, made a sign for the two
officers to enter. When this was done, everything was
studiously restored to its former disorder; and then Hawkeye
succeeded in reaching his little birchen vessel, without
leaving behind him any of those marks which he appeared so
much to dread. Heyward was silent until the Indians had
cautiously paddled the canoe some distance from the fort,
and within the broad and dark shadows that fell from the
eastern mountain on the glassy surface of the lake; then he
"What need have we for this stolen and hurried departure?"
"If the blood of an Oneida could stain such a sheet of pure
water as this we float on," returned the scout, "your two
eyes would answer your own question. Have you forgotten the
skulking reptile Uncas slew?"
"By no means. But he was said to be alone, and dead men
give no cause for fear."
"Ay, he was alone in his deviltry! but an Indian whose tribe
counts so many warriors, need seldom fear his blood will run
without the death shriek coming speedily from some of his
"But our presence -- the authority of Colonel Munro -- would
prove sufficient protection against the anger of our allies,
especially in a case where the wretch so well merited his
fate. I trust in Heaven you have not deviated a single foot
from the direct line of our course with so slight a reason!"
"Do you think the bullet of that varlet's rifle would have
turned aside, though his sacred majesty the king had stood
in its path?" returned the stubborn scout. "Why did not the
grand Frencher, he who is captain-general of the Canadas,
bury the tomahawks of the Hurons, if a word from a white can
work so strongly on the natur' of an Indian?"
The reply of Heyward was interrupted by a groan from Munro;
but after he had paused a moment, in deference to the sorrow
of his aged friend he resumed the subject.
"The marquis of Montcalm can only settle that error with his
God," said the young man solemnly.
"Ay, ay, now there is reason in your words, for they are
bottomed on religion and honesty. There is a vast
difference between throwing a regiment of white coats atwixt
the tribes and the prisoners, and coaxing an angry savage to
forget he carries a knife and rifle, with words that must
begin with calling him your son. No, no," continued the
scout, looking back at the dim shore of William Henry, which
was now fast receding, and laughing in his own silent but
heartfelt manner; "I have put a trail of water atween us;
and unless the imps can make friends with the fishes, and
hear who has paddled across their basin this fine morning,
we shall throw the length of the Horican behind us before
they have made up their minds which path to take."
"With foes in front, and foes in our rear, our journey is
like to be one of danger."
"Danger!" repeated Hawkeye, calmly; "no, not absolutely of
danger; for, with vigilant ears and quick eyes, we can
manage to keep a few hours ahead of the knaves; or, if we
must try the rifle, there are three of us who understand its
gifts as well as any you can name on the borders. No, not
of danger; but that we shall have what you may call a brisk
push of it, is probable; and it may happen, a brush, a
scrimmage, or some such divarsion, but always where covers
are good, and ammunition abundant."
It is possible that Heyward's estimate of danger differed in
some degree from that of the scout, for, instead of
replying, he now sat in silence, while the canoe glided over
several miles of water. Just as the day dawned, they
entered the narrows of the lake*, and stole swiftly and
cautiously among their numberless little islands. It was by
this road that Montcalm had retired with his army, and the
adventurers knew not but he had left some of his Indians in
ambush, to protect the rear of his forces, and collect the
stragglers. They, therefore, approached the passage with
the customary silence of their guarded habits.
* The beauties of Lake George are well known to every
American tourist. In the height of the mountains which
surround it, and in artificial accessories, it is inferior
to the finest of the Swiss and Italian lakes, while in
outline and purity of water it is fully their equal; and in
the number and disposition of its isles and islets much
superior to them all together. There are said to be some
hundreds of islands in a sheet of water less than thirty
miles long. The narrows, which connect what may be called,
in truth, two lakes, are crowded with islands to such a
degree as to leave passages between them frequently of only
a few feet in width. The lake itself varies in breadth from
one to three miles.
Chingachgook laid aside his paddle; while Uncas and the
scout urged the light vessel through crooked and intricate
channels, where every foot that they advanced exposed them
to the danger of some sudden rising on their progress. The
eyes of the Sagamore moved warily from islet to islet, and
copse to copse, as the canoe proceeded; and, when a clearer
sheet of water permitted, his keen vision was bent along the
bald rocks and impending forests that frowned upon the
Heyward, who was a doubly interested spectator, as well from
the beauties of the place as from the apprehension natural
to his situation, was just believing that he had permitted
the latter to be excited without sufficient reason, when the
paddle ceased moving, in obedience to a signal from
"Hugh!" exclaimed Uncas, nearly at the moment that the light
tap his father had made on the side of the canoe notified
them of the vicinity of danger.
"What now?" asked the scout; "the lake is as smooth as if
the winds had never blown, and I can see along its sheet for
miles; there is not so much as the black head of a loon
dotting the water."
The Indian gravely raised his paddle, and pointed in the
direction in which his own steady look was riveted.
Duncan's eyes followed the motion. A few rods in their
front lay another of the wooded islets, but it appeared as
calm and peaceful as if its solitude had never been
disturbed by the foot of man.
"I see nothing," he said, "but land and water; and a lovely
scene it is."
"Hist!" interrupted the scout. "Ay, Sagamore, there is
always a reason for what you do. 'Tis but a shade, and yet
it is not natural. You see the mist, major, that is rising
above the island; you can't call it a fog, for it is more
like a streak of thin cloud --"
"It is vapor from the water."
"That a child could tell. But what is the edging of blacker
smoke that hangs along its lower side, and which you may
trace down into the thicket of hazel? 'Tis from a fire; but
one that, in my judgment, has been suffered to burn low."
"Let us, then, push for the place, and relieve our doubts,"
said the impatient Duncan; "the party must be small that can
lie on such a bit of land."
"If you judge of Indian cunning by the rules you find in
books, or by white sagacity, they will lead you astray, if
not to your death," returned Hawkeye, examining the signs of
the place with that acuteness which distinguished him. "If
I may be permitted to speak in this matter, it will be to
say, that we have but two things to choose between: the one
is, to return, and give up all thoughts of following the
"Never!" exclaimed Heyward, in a voice far too loud for
"Well, well," continued Hawkeye, making a hasty sign to
repress his impatience; "I am much of your mind myself;
though I thought it becoming my experience to tell the
whole. We must, then, make a push, and if the Indians or
Frenchers are in the narrows, run the gauntlet through these
toppling mountains. Is there reason in my words, Sagamore?"
The Indian made no other answer than by dropping his paddle
into the water, and urging forward the canoe. As he held
the office of directing its course, his resolution was
sufficiently indicated by the movement. The whole party now
plied their paddles vigorously, and in a very few moments
they had reached a point whence they might command an entire
view of the northern shore of the island, the side that had
hitherto been concealed.
"There they are, by all the truth of signs," whispered the
scout, "two canoes and a smoke. The knaves haven't yet got
their eyes out of the mist, or we should hear the accursed
whoop. Together, friends! we are leaving them, and are
already nearly out of whistle of a bullet."
The well-known crack of a rifle, whose ball came skipping
along the placid surface of the strait, and a shrill yell
from the island, interrupted his speech, and announced that
their passage was discovered. In another instant several
savages were seen rushing into canoes, which were soon
dancing over the water in pursuit. These fearful precursors
of a coming struggle produced no change in the countenances
and movements of his three guides, so far as Duncan could
discover, except that the strokes of their paddles were
longer and more in unison, and caused the little bark to
spring forward like a creature possessing life and volition.
"Hold them there, Sagamore," said Hawkeye, looking coolly
backward over this left shoulder, while he still plied his
paddle; "keep them just there. Them Hurons have never a
piece in their nation that will execute at this distance;
but 'killdeer' has a barrel on which a man may calculate."
The scout having ascertained that the Mohicans were
sufficient of themselves to maintain the requisite distance,
deliberately laid aside his paddle, and raised the fatal
rifle. Three several times he brought the piece to his
shoulder, and when his companions were expecting its report,
he as often lowered it to request the Indians would permit
their enemies to approach a little nigher. At length his
accurate and fastidious eye seemed satisfied, and, throwing
out his left arm on the barrel, he was slowly elevating the
muzzle, when an exclamation from Uncas, who sat in the bow,
once more caused him to suspend the shot.
"What, now, lad?" demanded Hawkeye; "you save a Huron from
the death-shriek by that word; have you reason for what you
Uncas pointed toward a rocky shore a little in their front,
whence another war canoe was darting directly across their
course. It was too obvious now that their situation was
imminently perilous to need the aid of language to confirm
it. The scout laid aside his rifle, and resumed the paddle,
while Chingachgook inclined the bows of the canoe a little
toward the western shore, in order to increase the distance
between them and this new enemy. In the meantime they were
reminded of the presence of those who pressed upon their
rear, by wild and exulting shouts. The stirring scene
awakened even Munro from his apathy.
"Let us make for the rocks on the main," he said, with the
mien of a tired soldier, "and give battle to the savages.
God forbid that I, or those attached to me and mine, should
ever trust again to the faith of any servant of the
"He who wishes to prosper in Indian warfare," returned the
scout, "must not be too proud to learn from the wit of a
native. Lay her more along the land, Sagamore; we are
doubling on the varlets, and perhaps they may try to strike
our trail on the long calculation."
Hawkeye was not mistaken; for when the Hurons found their
course was likely to throw them behind their chase they
rendered it less direct, until, by gradually bearing more
and more obliquely, the two canoes were, ere long, gliding
on parallel lines, within two hundred yards of each other.
It now became entirely a trial of speed. So rapid was the
progress of the light vessels, that the lake curled in their
front, in miniature waves, and their motion became
undulating by its own velocity. It was, perhaps, owing to
this circumstance, in addition to the necessity of keeping
every hand employed at the paddles, that the Hurons had not
immediate recourse to their firearms. The exertions of the
fugitives were too severe to continue long, and the pursuers
had the advantage of numbers. Duncan observed with
uneasiness, that the scout began to look anxiously about
him, as if searching for some further means of assisting
"Edge her a little more from the sun, Sagamore," said the
stubborn woodsman; "I see the knaves are sparing a man to
the rifle. A single broken bone might lose us our scalps.
Edge more from the sun and we will put the island between
The expedient was not without its use. A long, low island
lay at a little distance before them, and, as they closed
with it, the chasing canoe was compelled to take a side
opposite to that on which the pursued passed. The scout and
his companions did not neglect this advantage, but the
instant they were hid from observation by the bushes, they
redoubled efforts that before had seemed prodigious. The
two canoes came round the last low point, like two coursers
at the top of their speed, the fugitives taking the lead.
This change had brought them nigher to each other, however,
while it altered their relative positions.
"You showed knowledge in the shaping of a birchen bark,
Uncas, when you chose this from among the Huron canoes,"
said the scout, smiling, apparently more in satisfaction at
their superiority in the race than from that prospect of
final escape which now began to open a little upon them.
"The imps have put all their strength again at the paddles,
and we are to struggle for our scalps with bits of flattened
wood, instead of clouded barrels and true eyes. A long
stroke, and together, friends."
"They are preparing for a shot," said Heyward; "and as we
are in a line with them, it can scarcely fail."
"Get you, then, into the bottom of the canoe," returned the
scout; "you and the colonel; it will be so much taken from
the size of the mark."
Heyward smiled, as he answered:
"It would be but an ill example for the highest in rank to
dodge, while the warriors were under fire."
"Lord! Lord! That is now a white man's courage!" exclaimed
the scout; "and like to many of his notions, not to be
maintained by reason. Do you think the Sagamore, or Uncas,
or even I, who am a man without a cross, would deliberate
about finding a cover in the scrimmage, when an open body
would do no good? For what have the Frenchers reared up
their Quebec, if fighting is always to be done in the
"All that you say is very true, my friend," replied Heyward;
"still, our customs must prevent us from doing as you wish."
A volley from the Hurons interrupted the discourse, and as
the bullets whistled about them, Duncan saw the head of
Uncas turned, looking back at himself and Munro.
Notwithstanding the nearness of the enemy, and his own great
personal danger, the countenance of the young warrior
expressed no other emotion, as the former was compelled to
think, than amazement at finding men willing to encounter so
useless an exposure. Chingachgook was probably better
acquainted with the notions of white men, for he did not
even cast a glance aside from the riveted look his eye
maintained on the object by which he governed their course.
A ball soon struck the light and polished paddle from the
hands of the chief, and drove it through the air, far in the
advance. A shout arose from the Hurons, who seized the
opportunity to fire another volley. Uncas described an arc
in the water with his own blade, and as the canoe passed
swiftly on, Chingachgook recovered his paddle, and
flourishing it on high, he gave the war-whoop of the
Mohicans, and then lent his strength and skill again to the
The clamorous sounds of "Le Gros Serpent!" "La Longue
Carabine!" "Le Cerf Agile!" burst at once from the canoes
behind, and seemed to give new zeal to the pursuers. The
scout seized "killdeer" in his left hand, and elevating it
about his head, he shook it in triumph at his enemies. The
savages answered the insult with a yell, and immediately
another volley succeeded. The bullets pattered along the
lake, and one even pierced the bark of their little vessel.
No perceptible emotion could be discovered in the Mohicans
during this critical moment, their rigid features expressing
neither hope nor alarm; but the scout again turned his head,
and, laughing in his own silent manner, he said to Heyward:
"The knaves love to hear the sounds of their pieces; but the
eye is not to be found among the Mingoes that can calculate
a true range in a dancing canoe! You see the dumb devils
have taken off a man to charge, and by the smallest
measurement that can be allowed, we move three feet to their
Duncan, who was not altogether as easy under this nice
estimate of distances as his companions, was glad to find,
however, that owing to their superior dexterity, and the
diversion among their enemies, they were very sensibly
obtaining the advantage. The Hurons soon fired again, and a
bullet struck the blade of Hawkeye's paddle without injury.
"That will do," said the scout, examining the slight
indentation with a curious eye; "it would not have cut the
skin of an infant, much less of men, who, like us, have been
blown upon by the heavens in their anger. Now, major, if
you will try to use this piece of flattened wood, I'll let
'killdeer' take a part in the conversation."
Heyward seized the paddle, and applied himself to the work
with an eagerness that supplied the place of skill, while
Hawkeye was engaged in inspecting the priming of his rifle.
The latter then took a swift aim and fired. The Huron in
the bows of the leading canoe had risen with a similar
object, and he now fell backward, suffering his gun to
escape from his hands into the water. In an instant,
however, he recovered his feet, though his gestures were
wild and bewildered. At the same moment his companions
suspended their efforts, and the chasing canoes clustered
together, and became stationary. Chingachgook and Uncas
profited by the interval to regain their wind, though Duncan
continued to work with the most persevering industry. The
father and son now cast calm but inquiring glances at each
other, to learn if either had sustained any injury by the
fire; for both well knew that no cry or exclamation would,
in such a moment of necessity have been permitted to betray
the accident. A few large drops of blood were trickling
down the shoulder of the Sagamore, who, when he perceived
that the eyes of Uncas dwelt too long on the sight, raised
some water in the hollow of his hand, and washing off the
stain, was content to manifest, in this simple manner, the
slightness of the injury.
"Softly, softly, major," said the scout, who by this time
had reloaded his rifle; "we are a little too far already for
a rifle to put forth its beauties, and you see yonder imps
are holding a council. Let them come up within striking
distance -- my eye may well be trusted in such a matter --
and I will trail the varlets the length of the Horican,
guaranteeing that not a shot of theirs shall, at the worst,
more than break the skin, while 'killdeer' shall touch the
life twice in three times."
"We forget our errand," returned the diligent Duncan. "For
God's sake let us profit by this advantage, and increase our
distance from the enemy."
"Give me my children," said Munro, hoarsely; "trifle no
longer with a father's agony, but restore me my babes."
Long and habitual deference to the mandates of his superiors
had taught the scout the virtue of obedience. Throwing a
last and lingering glance at the distant canoes, he laid
aside his rifle, and, relieving the wearied Duncan, resumed
the paddle, which he wielded with sinews that never tired.
His efforts were seconded by those of the Mohicans and a
very few minutes served to place such a sheet of water
between them and their enemies, that Heyward once more
The lake now began to expand, and their route lay along a
wide reach, that was lined, as before, by high and ragged
mountains. But the islands were few, and easily avoided.
The strokes of the paddles grew more measured and regular,
while they who plied them continued their labor, after the
close and deadly chase from which they had just relieved
themselves, with as much coolness as though their speed had
been tried in sport, rather than under such pressing, nay,
almost desperate, circumstances.
Instead of following the western shore, whither their errand
led them, the wary Mohican inclined his course more toward
those hills behind which Montcalm was known to have led his
army into the formidable fortress of Ticonderoga. As the
Hurons, to every appearance, had abandoned the pursuit,
there was no apparent reason for this excess of caution. It
was, however, maintained for hours, until they had reached a
bay, nigh the northern termination of the lake. Here the
canoe was driven upon the beach, and the whole party landed.
Hawkeye and Heyward ascended an adjacent bluff, where the
former, after considering the expanse of water beneath him,
pointed out to the latter a small black object, hovering
under a headland, at the distance of several miles.
"Do you see it?" demanded the scout. "Now, what would you
account that spot, were you left alone to white experience
to find your way through this wilderness?"
"But for its distance and its magnitude, I should suppose it
a bird. Can it be a living object?"
"'Tis a canoe of good birchen bark, and paddled by fierce
and crafty Mingoes. Though Providence has lent to those who
inhabit the woods eyes that would be needless to men in the
settlements, where there are inventions to assist the sight,
yet no human organs can see all the dangers which at this
moment circumvent us. These varlets pretend to be bent
chiefly on their sun-down meal, but the moment it is dark
they will be on our trail, as true as hounds on the scent.
We must throw them off, or our pursuit of Le Renard Subtil
may be given up. These lakes are useful at times,
especially when the game take the water," continued the
scout, gazing about him with a countenance of concern; "but
they give no cover, except it be to the fishes. God knows
what the country would be, if the settlements should ever
spread far from the two rivers. Both hunting and war would
lose their beauty."
"Let us not delay a moment, without some good and obvious
"I little like that smoke, which you may see worming up
along the rock above the canoe," interrupted the abstracted
scout. "My life on it, other eyes than ours see it, and
know its meaning. Well, words will not mend the matter, and
it is time that we were doing."
Hawkeye moved away from the lookout, and descended, musing
profoundly, to the shore. He communicated the result of his
observations to his companions, in Delaware, and a short and
earnest consultation succeeded. When it terminated, the
three instantly set about executing their new resolutions.
The canoe was lifted from the water, and borne on the
shoulders of the party, they proceeded into the wood, making
as broad and obvious a trail as possible. They soon reached
the water-course, which they crossed, and, continuing
onward, until they came to an extensive and naked rock. At
this point, where their footsteps might be expected to be no
longer visible, they retraced their route to the brook,
walking backward, with the utmost care. They now followed
the bed of the little stream to the lake, into which they
immediately launched their canoe again. A low point
concealed them from the headland, and the margin of the lake
was fringed for some distance with dense and overhanging
bushes. Under the cover of these natural advantages, they
toiled their way, with patient industry, until the scout
pronounced that he believed it would be safe once more to
The halt continued until evening rendered objects indistinct
and uncertain to the eye. Then they resumed their route,
and, favored by the darkness, pushed silently and vigorously
toward the western shore. Although the rugged outline of
mountain, to which they were steering, presented no
distinctive marks to the eyes of Duncan, the Mohican entered
the little haven he had selected with the confidence and
accuracy of an experienced pilot.
The boat was again lifted and borne into the woods, where it
was carefully concealed under a pile of brush. The
adventurers assumed their arms and packs, and the scout
announced to Munro and Heyward that he and the Indians were
at last in readiness to proceed.
"If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death."--
Merry Wives of Windsor
The party had landed on the border of a region that is, even
to this day, less known to the inhabitants of the States
than the deserts of Arabia, or the steppes of Tartary. It
was the sterile and rugged district which separates the
tributaries of Champlain from those of the Hudson, the
Mohawk, and the St. Lawrence. Since the period of our tale
the active spirit of the country has surrounded it with a
belt of rich and thriving settlements, though none but the
hunter or the savage is ever known even now to penetrate its
As Hawkeye and the Mohicans had, however, often traversed
the mountains and valleys of this vast wilderness, they did
not hesitate to plunge into its depth, with the freedom of
men accustomed to its privations and difficulties. For many
hours the travelers toiled on their laborious way, guided by
a star, or following the direction of some water-course,
until the scout called a halt, and holding a short
consultation with the Indians, they lighted their fire, and
made the usual preparations to pass the remainder of the
night where they then were.
Imitating the example, and emulating the confidence of their
more experienced associates, Munro and Duncan slept without
fear, if not without uneasiness. The dews were suffered to
exhale, and the sun had dispersed the mists, and was
shedding a strong and clear light in the forest, when the
travelers resumed their journey.
After proceeding a few miles, the progress of Hawkeye, who
led the advance, became more deliberate and watchful. He
often stopped to examine the trees; nor did he cross a
rivulet without attentively considering the quantity, the
velocity, and the color of its waters. Distrusting his own
judgment, his appeals to the opinion of Chingachgook were
frequent and earnest. During one of these conferences
Heyward observed that Uncas stood a patient and silent,
though, as he imagined, an interested listener. He was
strongly tempted to address the young chief, and demand his
opinion of their progress; but the calm and dignified
demeanor of the native induced him to believe, that, like
himself, the other was wholly dependent on the sagacity and
intelligence of the seniors of the party. At last the scout
spoke in English, and at once explained the embarrassment of
"When I found that the home path of the Hurons run north,"
he said, "it did not need the judgment of many long years to
tell that they would follow the valleys, and keep atween the
waters of the Hudson and the Horican, until they might
strike the springs of the Canada streams, which would lead
them into the heart of the country of the Frenchers. Yet
here are we, within a short range of the Scaroons, and not a
sign of a trail have we crossed! Human natur' is weak, and
it is possible we may not have taken the proper scent."
"Heaven protect us from such an error!" exclaimed Duncan.
"Let us retrace our steps, and examine as we go, with keener
eyes. Has Uncas no counsel to offer in such a strait?"
The young Mohican cast a glance at his father, but,
maintaining his quiet and reserved mien, he continued
silent. Chingachgook had caught the look, and motioning
with his hand, he bade him speak. The moment this
permission was accorded, the countenance of Uncas changed
from its grave composure to a gleam of intelligence and joy.
Bounding forward like a deer, he sprang up the side of a
little acclivity, a few rods in advance, and stood,
exultingly, over a spot of fresh earth, that looked as
though it had been recently upturned by the passage of some
heavy animal. The eyes of the whole party followed the
unexpected movement, and read their success in the air of
triumph that the youth assumed.
"'Tis the trail!" exclaimed the scout, advancing to the
spot; "the lad is quick of sight and keen of wit for his
"'Tis extraordinary that he should have withheld his
knowledge so long," muttered Duncan, at his elbow.
"It would have been more wonderful had he spoken without a
bidding. No, no; your young white, who gathers his learning
from books and can measure what he knows by the page, may
conceit that his knowledge, like his legs, outruns that of
his fathers', but, where experience is the master, the
scholar is made to know the value of years, and respects
"See!" said Uncas, pointing north and south, at the evident
marks of the broad trail on either side of him, "the
dark-hair has gone toward the forest."
"Hound never ran on a more beautiful scent," responded the
scout, dashing forward, at once, on the indicated route; "we
are favored, greatly favored, and can follow with high
noses. Ay, here are both your waddling beasts: this Huron
travels like a white general. The fellow is stricken with a
judgment, and is mad! Look sharp for wheels, Sagamore," he
continued, looking back, and laughing in his newly awakened
satisfaction; "we shall soon have the fool journeying in a
coach, and that with three of the best pair of eyes on the
borders in his rear."
The spirits of the scout, and the astonishing success of the
chase, in which a circuitous distance of more than forty
miles had been passed, did not fail to impart a portion of
hope to the whole party. Their advance was rapid; and made
with as much confidence as a traveler would proceed along a
wide highway. If a rock, or a rivulet, or a bit of earth
harder than common, severed the links of the clew they
followed, the true eye of the scout recovered them at a
distance, and seldom rendered the delay of a single moment
necessary. Their progress was much facilitated by the
certainty that Magua had found it necessary to journey
through the valleys; a circumstance which rendered the
general direction of the route sure. Nor had the Huron
entirely neglected the arts uniformly practised by the
natives when retiring in front of an enemy. False trails
and sudden turnings were frequent, wherever a brook or the
formation of the ground rendered them feasible; but his
pursuers were rarely deceived, and never failed to detect
their error, before they had lost either time or distance on
the deceptive track.
By the middle of the afternoon they had passed the Scaroons,
and were following the route of the declining sun. After
descending an eminence to a low bottom, through which a
swift stream glided, they suddenly came to a place where the
party of Le Renard had made a halt. Extinguished brands
were lying around a spring, the offals of a deer were
scattered about the place, and the trees bore evident marks
of having been browsed by the horses. At a little distance,
Heyward discovered, and contemplated with tender emotion,
the small bower under which he was fain to believe that Cora
and Alice had reposed. But while the earth was trodden, and
the footsteps of both men and beasts were so plainly visible
around the place, the trail appeared to have suddenly ended.
It was easy to follow the tracks of the Narragansetts, but
they seemed only to have wandered without guides, or any
other object than the pursuit of food. At length Uncas,
who, with his father, had endeavored to trace the route of
the horses, came upon a sign of their presence that was
quite recent. Before following the clew, he communicated
his success to his companions; and while the latter were
consulting on the circumstance, the youth reappeared,
leading the two fillies, with their saddles broken, and the
housings soiled, as though they had been permitted to run at
will for several days.
"What should this prove?" said Duncan, turning pale, and
glancing his eyes around him, as if he feared the brush and
leaves were about to give up some horrid secret.
"That our march is come to a quick end, and that we are in
an enemy's country," returned the scout. "Had the knave
been pressed, and the gentle ones wanted horses to keep up
with the party, he might have taken their scalps; but
without an enemy at his heels, and with such rugged beasts
as these, he would not hurt a hair of their heads. I know
your thoughts, and shame be it to our color that you have
reason for them; but he who thinks that even a Mingo would
ill-treat a woman, unless it be to tomahawk her, knows
nothing of Indian natur', or the laws of the woods. No, no;
I have heard that the French Indians had come into these
hills to hunt the moose, and we are getting within scent of
their camp. Why should they not? The morning and evening
guns of Ty may be heard any day among these mountains; for
the Frenchers are running a new line atween the provinces of
the king and the Canadas. It is true that the horses are
here, but the Hurons are gone; let us, then, hunt for the
path by which they parted."
Hawkeye and the Mohicans now applied themselves to their
task in good earnest. A circle of a few hundred feet in
circumference was drawn, and each of the party took a
segment for his portion. The examination, however, resulted
in no discovery. The impressions of footsteps were
numerous, but they all appeared like those of men who had
wandered about the spot, without any design to quit it.
Again the scout and his companions made the circuit of the
halting place, each slowly following the other, until they
assembled in the center once more, no wiser than when they
"Such cunning is not without its deviltry," exclaimed
Hawkeye, when he met the disappointed looks of his
"We must get down to it, Sagamore, beginning at the spring,
and going over the ground by inches. The Huron shall never
brag in his tribe that he has a foot which leaves no print."
Setting the example himself, the scout engaged in the
scrutiny with renewed zeal. Not a leaf was left unturned.
The sticks were removed, and the stones lifted; for Indian
cunning was known frequently to adopt these objects as
covers, laboring with the utmost patience and industry, to
conceal each footstep as they proceeded. Still no discovery
was made. At length Uncas, whose activity had enabled him
to achieve his portion of the task the soonest, raked the
earth across the turbid little rill which ran from the
spring, and diverted its course into another channel. So
soon as its narrow bed below the dam was dry, he stooped
over it with keen and curious eyes. A cry of exultation
immediately announced the success of the young warrior. The
whole party crowded to the spot where Uncas pointed out the
impression of a moccasin in the moist alluvion.
"This lad will be an honor to his people," said Hawkeye,
regarding the trail with as much admiration as a naturalist
would expend on the tusk of a mammoth or the rib of a
mastodon; "ay, and a thorn in the sides of the Hurons. Yet
that is not the footstep of an Indian! the weight is too
much on the heel, and the toes are squared, as though one of
the French dancers had been in, pigeon-winging his tribe!
Run back, Uncas, and bring me the size of the singer's foot.
You will find a beautiful print of it just opposite yon
rock, agin the hillside."
While the youth was engaged in this commission, the scout
and Chingachgook were attentively considering the
impressions. The measurements agreed, and the former
unhesitatingly pronounced that the footstep was that of
David, who had once more been made to exchange his shoes for
"I can now read the whole of it, as plainly as if I had seen
the arts of Le Subtil," he added; "the singer being a man
whose gifts lay chiefly in his throat and feet, was made to
go first, and the others have trod in his steps, imitating
"But," cried Duncan, "I see no signs of --"
"The gentle ones," interrupted the scout; "the varlet has
found a way to carry them, until he supposed he had thrown
any followers off the scent. My life on it, we see their
pretty little feet again, before many rods go by."
The whole party now proceeded, following the course of the
rill, keeping anxious eyes on the regular impressions. The
water soon flowed into its bed again, but watching the
ground on either side, the foresters pursued their way
content with knowing that the trail lay beneath. More than
half a mile was passed, before the rill rippled close around
the base of an extensive and dry rock. Here they paused to
make sure that the Hurons had not quitted the water.
It was fortunate they did so. For the quick and active
Uncas soon found the impression of a foot on a bunch of
moss, where it would seem an Indian had inadvertently
trodden. Pursuing the direction given by this discovery, he
entered the neighboring thicket, and struck the trail, as
fresh and obvious as it had been before they reached the
spring. Another shout announced the good fortune of the
youth to his companions, and at once terminated the search.
"Ay, it has been planned with Indian judgment," said the
scout, when the party was assembled around the place, "and
would have blinded white eyes."
"Shall we proceed?" demanded Heyward.
"Softly, softly, we know our path; but it is good to examine
the formation of things. This is my schooling, major; and
if one neglects the book, there is little chance of learning
from the open land of Providence. All is plain but one
thing, which is the manner that the knave contrived to get
the gentle ones along the blind trail. Even a Huron would
be too proud to let their tender feet touch the water."
"Will this assist in explaining the difficulty?" said
Heyward, pointing toward the fragments of a sort of
handbarrow, that had been rudely constructed of boughs, and
bound together with withes, and which now seemed carelessly
cast aside as useless.
"'Tis explained!" cried the delighted Hawkeye. "If them
varlets have passed a minute, they have spent hours in
striving to fabricate a lying end to their trail! Well,
I've known them to waste a day in the same manner to as
little purpose. Here we have three pair of moccasins, and
two of little feet. It is amazing that any mortal beings
can journey on limbs so small! Pass me the thong of
buckskin, Uncas, and let me take the length of this foot.
By the Lord, it is no longer than a child's and yet the
maidens are tall and comely. That Providence is partial in
its gifts, for its own wise reasons, the best and most
contented of us must allow."
"The tender limbs of my daughters are unequal to these
hardships," said Munro, looking at the light footsteps of
his children, with a parent's love; "we shall find their
fainting forms in this desert."
"Of that there is little cause of fear," returned the scout,
slowly shaking his head; "this is a firm and straight,
though a light step, and not over long. See, the heel has
hardly touched the ground; and there the dark-hair has made
a little jump, from root to root. No, no; my knowledge for
it, neither of them was nigh fainting, hereaway. Now, the
singer was beginning to be footsore and leg-weary, as is
plain by his trail. There, you see, he slipped; here he has
traveled wide and tottered; and there again it looks as
though he journeyed on snowshoes. Ay, ay, a man who uses
his throat altogether, can hardly give his legs a proper
From such undeniable testimony did the practised woodsman
arrive at the truth, with nearly as much certainty and
precision as if he had been a witness of all those events
which his ingenuity so easily elucidated. Cheered by these
assurances, and satisfied by a reasoning that was so
obvious, while it was so simple, the party resumed its
course, after making a short halt, to take a hurried repast.
When the meal was ended, the scout cast a glance upward at
the setting sun, and pushed forward with a rapidity which
compelled Heyward and the still vigorous Munro to exert all
their muscles to equal. Their route now lay along the
bottom which has already been mentioned. As the Hurons had
made no further efforts to conceal their footsteps, the
progress of the pursuers was no longer delayed by
uncertainty. Before an hour had elapsed, however, the speed
of Hawkeye sensibly abated, and his head, instead of
maintaining its former direct and forward look, began to
turn suspiciously from side to side, as if he were conscious
of approaching danger. He soon stopped again, and waited
for the whole party to come up.
"I scent the Hurons," he said, speaking to the Mohicans;
"yonder is open sky, through the treetops, and we are
getting too nigh their encampment. Sagamore, you will take
the hillside, to the right; Uncas will bend along the brook
to the left, while I will try the trail. If anything should
happen, the call will be three croaks of a crow. I saw one
of the birds fanning himself in the air, just beyond the
dead oak -- another sign that we are approaching an
The Indians departed their several ways without reply, while
Hawkeye cautiously proceeded with the two gentlemen.
Heyward soon pressed to the side of their guide, eager to
catch an early glimpse of those enemies he had pursued with
so much toil and anxiety. His companion told him to steal
to the edge of the wood, which, as usual, was fringed with a
thicket, and wait his coming, for he wished to examine
certain suspicious signs a little on one side. Duncan
obeyed, and soon found himself in a situation to command a
view which he found as extraordinary as it was novel.
The trees of many acres had been felled, and the glow of a
mild summer's evening had fallen on the clearing, in
beautiful contrast to the gray light of the forest. A short
distance from the place where Duncan stood, the stream had
seemingly expanded into a little lake, covering most of the
low land, from mountain to mountain. The water fell out of
this wide basin, in a cataract so regular and gentle, that
it appeared rather to be the work of human hands than
fashioned by nature. A hundred earthen dwellings stood on
the margin of the lake, and even in its waters, as though
the latter had overflowed its usual banks. Their rounded
roofs, admirably molded for defense against the weather,
denoted more of industry and foresight than the natives were
wont to bestow on their regular habitations, much less on
those they occupied for the temporary purposes of hunting
and war. In short, the whole village or town, whichever it
might be termed, possessed more of method and neatness of
execution, than the white men had been accustomed to believe
belonged, ordinarily, to the Indian habits. It appeared,
however, to be deserted. At least, so thought Duncan for
many minutes; but, at length, he fancied he discovered
several human forms advancing toward him on all fours, and
apparently dragging in the train some heavy, and as he was
quick to apprehend, some formidable engine. Just then a few
dark-looking heads gleamed out of the dwellings, and the
place seemed suddenly alive with beings, which, however,
glided from cover to cover so swiftly, as to allow no
opportunity of examining their humors or pursuits. Alarmed
at these suspicious and inexplicable movements, he was about
to attempt the signal of the crows, when the rustling of
leaves at hand drew his eyes in another direction.
The young man started, and recoiled a few paces
instinctively, when he found himself within a hundred yards
of a stranger Indian. Recovering his recollection on the
instant, instead of sounding an alarm, which might prove
fatal to himself, he remained stationary, an attentive
observer of the other's motions.
An instant of calm observation served to assure Duncan that
he was undiscovered. The native, like himself, seemed
occupied in considering the low dwellings of the village,
and the stolen movements of its inhabitants. It was
impossible to discover the expression of his features
through the grotesque mask of paint under which they were
concealed, though Duncan fancied it was rather melancholy
than savage. His head was shaved, as usual, with the
exception of the crown, from whose tuft three or four faded
feathers from a hawk's wing were loosely dangling. A ragged
calico mantle half encircled his body, while his nether
garment was composed of an ordinary shirt, the sleeves of
which were made to perform the office that is usually
executed by a much more commodious arrangement. His legs
were, however, covered with a pair of good deer-skin
moccasins. Altogether, the appearance of the individual was
forlorn and miserable.
Duncan was still curiously observing the person of his
neighbor when the scout stole silently and cautiously to his
"You see we have reached their settlement or encampment,"
whispered the young man; "and here is one of the savages
himself, in a very embarrassing position for our further
Hawkeye started, and dropped his rifle, when, directed by
the finger of his companion, the stranger came under his
view. Then lowering the dangerous muzzle he stretched
forward his long neck, as if to assist a scrutiny that was
already intensely keen.
"The imp is not a Huron," he said, "nor of any of the Canada
tribes; and yet you see, by his clothes, the knave has been
plundering a white. Ay, Montcalm has raked the woods for
his inroad, and a whooping, murdering set of varlets has he
gathered together. Can you see where he has put his rifle
or his bow?"
"He appears to have no arms; nor does he seem to be
viciously inclined. Unless he communicate the alarm to his
fellows, who, as you see, are dodging about the water, we
have but little to fear from him."
The scout turned to Heyward, and regarded him a moment with
unconcealed amazement. Then opening wide his mouth, he
indulged in unrestrained and heartfelt laughter, though in
that silent and peculiar manner which danger had so long
taught him to practise.
Repeating the words, "Fellows who are dodging about the
water!" he added, "so much for schooling and passing a
boyhood in the settlements! The knave has long legs,
though, and shall not be trusted. Do you keep him under
your rifle while I creep in behind, through the bush, and
take him alive. Fire on no account."
Heyward had already permitted his companion to bury part of
his person in the thicket, when, stretching forth his arm,
he arrested him, in order to ask:
"If I see you in danger, may I not risk a shot?"
Hawkeye regarded him a moment, like one who knew not how to
take the question; then, nodding his head, he answered,
still laughing, though inaudibly:
"Fire a whole platoon, major."
In the next moment he was concealed by the leaves. Duncan
waited several minutes in feverish impatience, before he
caught another glimpse of the scout. Then he reappeared,
creeping along the earth, from which his dress was hardly
distinguishable, directly in the rear of his intended
captive. Having reached within a few yards of the latter,
he arose to his feet, silently and slowly. At that instant,
several loud blows were struck on the water, and Duncan
turned his eyes just in time to perceive that a hundred dark
forms were plunging, in a body, into the troubled little
sheet. Grasping his rifle his looks were again bent on the
Indian near him. Instead of taking the alarm, the
unconscious savage stretched forward his neck, as if he also
watched the movements about the gloomy lake, with a sort of
silly curiosity. In the meantime, the uplifted hand of
Hawkeye was above him. But, without any apparent reason, it
was withdrawn, and its owner indulged in another long,
though still silent, fit of merriment. When the peculiar
and hearty laughter of Hawkeye was ended, instead of
grasping his victim by the throat, he tapped him lightly on
the shoulder, and exclaimed aloud:
"How now, friend! have you a mind to teach the beavers to
"Even so," was the ready answer. "It would seem that the
Being that gave them power to improve His gifts so well,
would not deny them voices to proclaim His praise."
"Bot.--Abibl we all met? Qui.--Pat--pat; and here's
a marvelous convenient place for our rehearsal."--
Midsummer Night's Dream
The reader may better imagine, than we describe the surprise
of Heyward. His lurking Indians were suddenly converted
into four-footed beasts; his lake into a beaver pond; his
cataract into a dam, constructed by those industrious and
ingenious quadrupeds; and a suspected enemy into his tried
friend, David Gamut, the master of psalmody. The presence
of the latter created so many unexpected hopes relative to
the sisters that, without a moment's hesitation, the young
man broke out of his ambush, and sprang forward to join the
two principal actors in the scene.
The merriment of Hawkeye was not easily appeased. Without
ceremony, and with a rough hand, he twirled the supple Gamut
around on his heel, and more than once affirmed that the
Hurons had done themselves great credit in the fashion of
his costume. Then, seizing the hand of the other, he
squeezed it with a grip that brought tears into the eyes of
the placid David, and wished him joy of his new condition.
"You were about opening your throat-practisings among the
beavers, were ye?" he said. "The cunning devils know half
the trade already, for they beat the time with their tails,
as you heard just now; and in good time it was, too, or
'killdeer' might have sounded the first note among them. I
have known greater fools, who could read and write, than an
experienced old beaver; but as for squalling, the animals
are born dumb! What think you of such a song as this?"
David shut his sensitive ears, and even Heyward apprised as
he was of the nature of the cry, looked upward in quest of
the bird, as the cawing of a crow rang in the air about
"See!" continued the laughing scout, as he pointed toward
the remainder of the party, who, in obedience to the signal,
were already approaching; "this is music which has its
natural virtues; it brings two good rifles to my elbow, to
say nothing of the knives and tomahawks. But we see that
you are safe; now tell us what has become of the maidens."
"They are captives to the heathen," said David; "and, though
greatly troubled in spirit, enjoying comfort and safety in
"Both!" demanded the breathless Heyward.
"Even so. Though our wayfaring has been sore and our
sustenance scanty, we have had little other cause for
complaint, except the violence done our feelings, by being
thus led in captivity into a far land."
"Bless ye for these very words!" exclaimed the trembling
Munro; "I shall then receive my babes, spotless and
angel-like, as I lost them!"
"I know not that their delivery is at hand," returned the
doubting David; "the leader of these savages is possessed of
an evil spirit that no power short of Omnipotence can tame.
I have tried him sleeping and waking, but neither sounds nor
language seem to touch his soul."
"Where is the knave?" bluntly interrupted the scout.
"He hunts the moose to-day, with his young men; and
tomorrow, as I hear, they pass further into the forests, and
nigher to the borders of Canada. The elder maiden is
conveyed to a neighboring people, whose lodges are situate
beyond yonder black pinnacle of rock; while the younger is
detained among the women of the Hurons, whose dwellings are
but two short miles hence, on a table-land, where the fire
had done the office of the axe, and prepared the place for
"Alice, my gentle Alice!" murmured Heyward; "she has lost
the consolation of her sister's presence!"
"Even so. But so far as praise and thanksgiving in psalmody
can temper the spirit in affliction, she has not suffered."
"Has she then a heart for music?"
"Of the graver and more solemn character; though it must be
acknowledged that, in spite of all my endeavors, the maiden
weeps oftener than she smiles. At such moments I forbear to
press the holy songs; but there are many sweet and
comfortable periods of satisfactory communication, when the
ears of the savages are astounded with the upliftings of our
"And why are you permitted to go at large, unwatched?"
David composed his features into what he intended should
express an air of modest humility, before he meekly replied:
"Little be the praise to such a worm as I. But, though the
power of psalmody was suspended in the terrible business of
that field of blood through which we have passed, it has
recovered its influence even over the souls of the heathen,
and I am suffered to go and come at will."
The scout laughed, and, tapping his own forehead
significantly, he perhaps explained the singular indulgence
more satisfactorily when he said:
"The Indians never harm a non-composser. But why, when the
path lay open before your eyes, did you not strike back on
your own trail (it is not so blind as that which a squirrel
would make), and bring in the tidings to Edward?"
The scout, remembering only his own sturdy and iron nature,
had probably exacted a task that David, under no
circumstances, could have performed. But, without entirely
losing the meekness of his air, the latter was content to
"Though my soul would rejoice to visit the habitations of
Christendom once more, my feet would rather follow the
tender spirits intrusted to my keeping, even into the
idolatrous province of the Jesuits, than take one step
backward, while they pined in captivity and sorrow."
Though the figurative language of David was not very
intelligible, the sincere and steady expression of his eye,
and the glow of his honest countenance, were not easily
mistaken. Uncas pressed closer to his side, and regarded
the speaker with a look of commendation, while his father
expressed his satisfaction by the ordinary pithy exclamation
of approbation. The scout shook his head as he rejoined:
"The Lord never intended that the man should place all his
endeavors in his throat, to the neglect of other and better
gifts! But he has fallen into the hands of some silly
woman, when he should have been gathering his education
under a blue sky, among the beauties of the forest. Here,
friend; I did intend to kindle a fire with this tooting-whistle
of thine; but, as you value the thing, take it, and blow your
best on it."
Gamut received his pitch-pipe with as strong an expression
of pleasure as he believed compatible with the grave
functions he exercised. After essaying its virtues
repeatedly, in contrast with his own voice, and, satisfying
himself that none of its melody was lost, he made a very
serious demonstration toward achieving a few stanzas of one
of the longest effusions in the little volume so often
Heyward, however, hastily interrupted his pious purpose by
continuing questions concerning the past and present
condition of his fellow captives, and in a manner more
methodical than had been permitted by his feelings in the
opening of their interview. David, though he regarded his
treasure with longing eyes, was constrained to answer,
especially as the venerable father took a part in the
interrogatories, with an interest too imposing to be denied.
Nor did the scout fail to throw in a pertinent inquiry,
whenever a fitting occasion presented. In this manner,
though with frequent interruptions which were filled with
certain threatening sounds from the recovered instrument,
the pursuers were put in possession of such leading
circumstances as were likely to prove useful in
accomplishing their great and engrossing object -- the
recovery of the sisters. The narrative of David was simple,
and the facts but few.
Magua had waited on the mountain until a safe moment to
retire presented itself, when he had descended, and taken
the route along the western side of the Horican in direction
of the Canadas. As the subtle Huron was familiar with the
paths, and well knew there was no immediate danger of
pursuit, their progress had been moderate, and far from
fatiguing. It appeared from the unembellished statement of
David, that his own presence had been rather endured than
desired; though even Magua had not been entirely exempt from
that veneration with which the Indians regard those whom the
Great Spirit had visited in their intellects. At night, the
utmost care had been taken of the captives, both to prevent
injury from the damps of the woods and to guard against an
escape. At the spring, the horses were turned loose, as has
been seen; and, notwithstanding the remoteness and length of
their trail, the artifices already named were resorted to,
in order to cut off every clue to their place of retreat.
On their arrival at the encampment of his people, Magua, in
obedience to a policy seldom departed from, separated his
prisoners. Cora had been sent to a tribe that temporarily
occupied an adjacent valley, though David was far too
ignorant of the customs and history of the natives, to be
able to declare anything satisfactory concerning their name
or character. He only knew that they had not engaged in the
late expedition against William Henry; that, like the Hurons
themselves they were allies of Montcalm; and that they
maintained an amicable, though a watchful intercourse with
the warlike and savage people whom chance had, for a time,
brought in such close and disagreeable contact with
The Mohicans and the scout listened to his interrupted and
imperfect narrative, with an interest that obviously
increased as he proceeded; and it was while attempting to
explain the pursuits of the community in which Cora was
detained, that the latter abruptly demanded:
"Did you see the fashion of their knives? were they of
English or French formation?"
"My thoughts were bent on no such vanities, but rather
mingled in consolation with those of the maidens."
"The time may come when you will not consider the knife of a
savage such a despicable vanity," returned the scout, with a
strong expression of contempt for the other's dullness.
"Had they held their corn feast -- or can you say anything
of the totems of the tribe?"
"Of corn, we had many and plentiful feasts; for the grain,
being in the milk is both sweet to the mouth and comfortable
to the stomach. Of totem, I know not the meaning; but if it
appertaineth in any wise to the art of Indian music, it need
not be inquired after at their hands. They never join their
voices in praise, and it would seem that they are among the
profanest of the idolatrous."
"Therein you belie the natur' of an Indian. Even the Mingo
adores but the true and loving God. 'Tis wicked fabrication
of the whites, and I say it to the shame of my color that
would make the warrior bow down before images of his own
creation. It is true, they endeavor to make truces to the
wicked one -- as who would not with an enemy he cannot
conquer! but they look up for favor and assistance to the
Great and Good Spirit only."
"It may be so," said David; "but I have seen strange and
fantastic images drawn in their paint, of which their
admiration and care savored of spiritual pride; especially
one, and that, too, a foul and loathsome object."
"Was it a sarpent?" quickly demanded the scout.
"Much the same. It was in the likeness of an abject and
"Hugh!" exclaimed both the attentive Mohicans in a breath;
while the scout shook his head with the air of one who had
made an important but by no means a pleasing discovery.
Then the father spoke, in the language of the Delawares, and
with a calmness and dignity that instantly arrested the
attention even of those to whom his words were
unintelligible. His gestures were impressive, and at times
energetic. Once he lifted his arm on high; and, as it
descended, the action threw aside the folds of his light
mantle, a finger resting on his breast, as if he would
enforce his meaning by the attitude. Duncan's eyes followed
the movement, and he perceived that the animal just
mentioned was beautifully, though faintly, worked in blue
tint, on the swarthy breast of the chief. All that he had
ever heard of the violent separation of the vast tribes of
the Delawares rushed across his mind, and he awaited the
proper moment to speak, with a suspense that was rendered
nearly intolerable by his interest in the stake. His wish,
however, was anticipated by the scout who turned from his
red friend, saying:
"We have found that which may be good or evil to us, as
heaven disposes. The Sagamore is of the high blood of the
Delawares, and is the great chief of their Tortoises! That
some of this stock are among the people of whom the singer
tells us, is plain by his words; and, had he but spent half
the breath in prudent questions that he has blown away in
making a trumpet of his throat, we might have known how many
warriors they numbered. It is, altogether, a dangerous path
we move in; for a friend whose face is turned from you often
bears a bloodier mind than the enemy who seeks your scalp."
"Explain," said Duncan.
"'Tis a long and melancholy tradition, and one I little like
to think of; for it is not to be denied that the evil has
been mainly done by men with white skins. But it has ended
in turning the tomahawk of brother against brother, and
brought the Mingo and the Delaware to travel in the same
"You, then, suspect it is a portion of that people among
whom Cora resides?"
The scout nodded his head in assent, though he seemed
anxious to waive the further discussion of a subject that
appeared painful. The impatient Duncan now made several
hasty and desperate propositions to attempt the release of
the sisters. Munro seemed to shake off his apathy, and
listened to the wild schemes of the young man with a
deference that his gray hairs and reverend years should have
denied. But the scout, after suffering the ardor of the
lover to expend itself a little, found means to convince him
of the folly of precipitation, in a manner that would
require their coolest judgment and utmost fortitude.
"It would be well," he added, "to let this man go in again,
as usual, and for him to tarry in the lodges, giving notice
to the gentle ones of our approach, until we call him out,
by signal, to consult. You know the cry of a crow, friend,
from the whistle of the whip-poor-will?"
"'Tis a pleasing bird," returned David, "and has a soft and
melancholy note! though the time is rather quick and ill-measured."
"He speaks of the wish-ton-wish," said the scout; "well,
since you like his whistle, it shall be your signal.
Remember, then, when you hear the whip-poor-will's call
three times repeated, you are to come into the bushes where
the bird might be supposed --"
"Stop," interrupted Heyward; "I will accompany him."
"You!" exclaimed the astonished Hawkeye; "are you tired of
seeing the sun rise and set?"
"David is a living proof that the Hurons can be merciful."
"Ay, but David can use his throat, as no man in his senses
would pervart the gift."
"I too can play the madman, the fool, the hero; in short,
any or everything to rescue her I love. Name your
objections no longer: I am resolved."
Hawkeye regarded the young man a moment in speechless
amazement. But Duncan, who, in deference to the other's
skill and services, had hitherto submitted somewhat
implicitly to his dictation, now assumed the superior, with
a manner that was not easily resisted. He waved his hand,
in sign of his dislike to all remonstrance, and then, in
more tempered language, he continued:
"You have the means of disguise; change me; paint me, too,
if you will; in short, alter me to anything -- a fool."
"It is not for one like me to say that he who is already
formed by so powerful a hand as Providence, stands in need
of a change," muttered the discontented scout. "When you
send your parties abroad in war, you find it prudent, at
least, to arrange the marks and places of encampment, in
order that they who fight on your side may know when and
where to expect a friend."
"Listen," interrupted Duncan; "you have heard from this
faithful follower of the captives, that the Indians are of
two tribes, if not of different nations. With one, whom you
think to be a branch of the Delawares, is she you call the
'dark-hair'; the other, and younger, of the ladies, is
undeniably with our declared enemies, the Hurons. It
becomes my youth and rank to attempt the latter adventure.
While you, therefore, are negotiating with your friends for
the release of one of the sisters, I will effect that of the
other, or die."
The awakened spirit of the young soldier gleamed in his
eyes, and his form became imposing under its influence.
Hawkeye, though too much accustomed to Indian artifices not
to foresee the danger of the experiment, knew not well how
to combat this sudden resolution.
Perhaps there was something in the proposal that suited his
own hardy nature, and that secret love of desperate
adventure, which had increased with his experience, until
hazard and danger had become, in some measure, necessary to
the enjoyment of his existence. Instead of continuing to
oppose the scheme of Duncan, his humor suddenly altered, and
he lent himself to its execution.
"Come," he said, with a good-humored smile; "the buck that
will take to the water must be headed, and not followed.
Chingachgook has as many different paints as the engineer
officer's wife, who takes down natur' on scraps of paper,
making the mountains look like cocks of rusty hay, and
placing the blue sky in reach of your hand. The Sagamore
can use them, too. Seat yourself on the log; and my life on
it, he can soon make a natural fool of you, and that well to
Duncan complied; and the Mohican, who had been an attentive
listener to the discourse, readily undertook the office.
Long practised in all the subtle arts of his race, he drew,
with great dexterity and quickness, the fantastic shadow
that the natives were accustomed to consider as the evidence
of a friendly and jocular disposition. Every line that
could possibly be interpreted into a secret inclination for
war, was carefully avoided; while, on the other hand, he
studied those conceits that might be construed into amity.
In short, he entirely sacrificed every appearance of the
warrior to the masquerade of a buffoon. Such exhibitions
were not uncommon among the Indians, and as Duncan was
already sufficiently disguised in his dress, there certainly
did exist some reason for believing that, with his knowledge
of French, he might pass for a juggler from Ticonderoga,
straggling among the allied and friendly tribes.
When he was thought to be sufficiently painted, the scout
gave him much friendly advice; concerted signals, and
appointed the place where they should meet, in the event of
mutual success. The parting between Munro and his young
friend was more melancholy; still, the former submitted to
the separation with an indifference that his warm and honest
nature would never have permitted in a more healthful state
of mind. The scout led Heyward aside, and acquainted him
with his intention to leave the veteran in some safe
encampment, in charge of Chingachgook, while he and Uncas
pursued their inquires among the people they had reason to
believe were Delawares. Then, renewing his cautions and
advice, he concluded by saying, with a solemnity and warmth
of feeling, with which Duncan was deeply touched:
"And, now, God bless you! You have shown a spirit that I
like; for it is the gift of youth, more especially one of
warm blood and a stout heart. But believe the warning of a
man who has reason to know all he says to be true. You will
have occasion for your best manhood, and for a sharper wit
than what is to be gathered in books, afore you outdo the
cunning or get the better of the courage of a Mingo. God
bless you! if the Hurons master your scalp, rely on the
promise of one who has two stout warriors to back him. They
shall pay for their victory, with a life for every hair it
holds. I say, young gentleman, may Providence bless your
undertaking, which is altogether for good; and, remember,
that to outwit the knaves it is lawful to practise things
that may not be naturally the gift of a white-skin."
Duncan shook his worthy and reluctant associate warmly by
the hand, once more recommended his aged friend to his care,
and returning his good wishes, he motioned to David to
proceed. Hawkeye gazed after the high-spirited and
adventurous young man for several moments, in open
admiration; then, shaking his head doubtingly, he turned,
and led his own division of the party into the concealment
of the forest.
The route taken by Duncan and David lay directly across the
clearing of the beavers, and along the margin of their pond.
When the former found himself alone with one so simple, and
so little qualified to render any assistance in desperate
emergencies, he first began to be sensible of the
difficulties of the task he had undertaken. The fading
light increased the gloominess of the bleak and savage
wilderness that stretched so far on every side of him, and
there was even a fearful character in the stillness of those
little huts, that he knew were so abundantly peopled. It
struck him, as he gazed at the admirable structures and the
wonderful precautions of their sagacious inmates, that even
the brutes of these vast wilds were possessed of an instinct
nearly commensurate with his own reason; and he could not
reflect, without anxiety, on the unequal contest that he had
so rashly courted. Then came the glowing image of Alice;
her distress; her actual danger; and all the peril of his
situation was forgotten. Cheering David, he moved on with
the light and vigorous step of youth and enterprise.
After making nearly a semicircle around the pond, they
diverged from the water-course, and began to ascend to the
level of a slight elevation in that bottom land, over which
they journeyed. Within half an hour they gained the margin
of another opening that bore all the signs of having been
also made by the beavers, and which those sagacious animals
had probably been induced, by some accident, to abandon, for
the more eligible position they now occupied. A very
natural sensation caused Duncan to hesitate a moment,
unwilling to leave the cover of their bushy path, as a man
pauses to collect his energies before he essays any
hazardous experiment, in which he is secretly conscious they
will all be needed. He profited by the halt, to gather such
information as might be obtained from his short and hasty
On the opposite side of the clearing, and near the point
where the brook tumbled over some rocks, from a still higher
level, some fifty or sixty lodges, rudely fabricated of logs
brush, and earth intermingled, were to be discovered. They
were arranged without any order, and seemed to be
constructed with very little attention to neatness or
beauty. Indeed, so very inferior were they in the two
latter particulars to the village Duncan had just seen, that
he began to expect a second surprise, no less astonishing
that the former. This expectation was is no degree
diminished, when, by the doubtful twilight, he beheld twenty
or thirty forms rising alternately from the cover of the
tall, coarse grass, in front of the lodges, and then sinking
again from the sight, as it were to burrow in the earth. By
the sudden and hasty glimpses that he caught of these
figures, they seemed more like dark, glancing specters, or
some other unearthly beings, than creatures fashioned with
the ordinary and vulgar materials of flesh and blood. A
gaunt, naked form was seen, for a single instant, tossing
its arms wildly in the air, and then the spot it had filled
was vacant; the figure appearing suddenly in some other and
distant place, or being succeeded by another, possessing the
same mysterious character. David, observing that his
companion lingered, pursued the direction of his gaze, and
in some measure recalled the recollection of Heyward, by
"There is much fruitful soil uncultivated here," he said;
"and, I may add, without the sinful leaven of self-commendation,
that, since my short sojourn in these heathenish abodes, much
good seed has been scattered by the wayside."
"The tribes are fonder of the chase than of the arts of men
of labor," returned the unconscious Duncan, still gazing at
the objects of his wonder.
"It is rather joy than labor to the spirit, to lift up the
voice in praise; but sadly do these boys abuse their gifts.
Rarely have I found any of their age, on whom nature has so
freely bestowed the elements of psalmody; and surely,
surely, there are none who neglect them more. Three nights
have I now tarried here, and three several times have I
assembled the urchins to join in sacred song; and as often
have they responded to my efforts with whoopings and
howlings that have chilled my soul!"
"Of whom speak you?"
"Of those children of the devil, who waste the precious
moments in yonder idle antics. Ah! the wholesome restraint
of discipline is but little known among this self-abandoned
people. In a country of birches, a rod is never seen, and
it ought not to appear a marvel in my eyes, that the
choicest blessings of Providence are wasted in such cries as
David closed his ears against the juvenile pack, whose yell
just then rang shrilly through the forest; and Duncan,
suffering his lip to curl, as in mockery of his own
superstition, said firmly:
"We will proceed."
Without removing the safeguards form his ears, the master of
song complied, and together they pursued their way toward
what David was sometimes wont to call the "tents of the
"But though the beast of game The privilege of chase may
claim; Though space and law the stag we lend Ere hound we
slip, or bow we bend; Whoever recked, where, how, or when
The prowling fox was trapped or slain?"--Lady of the Lake
It is unusual to find an encampment of the natives, like
those of the more instructed whites, guarded by the presence
of armed men. Well informed of the approach of every
danger, while it is yet at a distance, the Indian generally
rests secure under his knowledge of the signs of the forest,
and the long and difficult paths that separate him from
those he has most reason to dread. But the enemy who, by
any lucky concurrence of accidents, has found means to elude
the vigilance of the scouts, will seldom meet with sentinels
nearer home to sound the alarm. In addition to this general
usage, the tribes friendly to the French knew too well the
weight of the blow that had just been struck, to apprehend
any immediate danger from the hostile nations that were
tributary to the crown of Britain.
When Duncan and David, therefore, found themselves in the
center of the children, who played the antics already
mentioned, it was without the least previous intimation of
their approach. But so soon as they were observed the whole
of the juvenile pack raised, by common consent, a shrill and
warning whoop; and then sank, as it were, by magic, from
before the sight of their visitors. The naked, tawny bodies
of the crouching urchins blended so nicely at that hour,
with the withered herbage, that at first it seemed as if the
earth had, in truth, swallowed up their forms; though when
surprise permitted Duncan to bend his look more curiously
about the spot, he found it everywhere met by dark, quick,
and rolling eyeballs.
Gathering no encouragement from this startling presage of
the nature of the scrutiny he was likely to undergo from the
more mature judgments of the men, there was an instant when
the young soldier would have retreated. It was, however,
too late to appear to hesitate. The cry of the children had
drawn a dozen warriors to the door of the nearest lodge,
where they stood clustered in a dark and savage group,
gravely awaiting the nearer approach of those who had
unexpectedly come among them.
David, in some measure familiarized to the scene, led the
way with a steadiness that no slight obstacle was likely to
disconcert, into this very building. It was the principal
edifice of the village, though roughly constructed of the
bark and branches of trees; being the lodge in which the
tribe held its councils and public meetings during their
temporary residence on the borders of the English province.
Duncan found it difficult to assume the necessary appearance
of unconcern, as he brushed the dark and powerful frames of
the savages who thronged its threshold; but, conscious that
his existence depended on his presence of mind, he trusted
to the discretion of his companion, whose footsteps he
closely followed, endeavoring, as he proceeded, to rally his
thoughts for the occasion. His blood curdled when he found
himself in absolute contact with such fierce and implacable
enemies; but he so far mastered his feelings as to pursue
his way into the center of the lodge, with an exterior that
did not betray the weakness. Imitating the example of the
deliberate Gamut, he drew a bundle of fragrant brush from
beneath a pile that filled the corner of the hut, and seated
himself in silence.
So soon as their visitor had passed, the observant warriors
fell back from the entrance, and arranging themselves about
him, they seemed patiently to await the moment when it might
comport with the dignity of the stranger to speak. By far
the greater number stood leaning, in lazy, lounging
attitudes, against the upright posts that supported the
crazy building, while three or four of the oldest and most
distinguished of the chiefs placed themselves on the earth a
little more in advance.
A flaring torch was burning in the place, and set its red
glare from face to face and figure to figure, as it waved in
the currents of air. Duncan profited by its light to read
the probable character of his reception, in the countenances
of his hosts. But his ingenuity availed him little, against
the cold artifices of the people he had encountered. The
chiefs in front scarce cast a glance at his person, keeping
their eyes on the ground, with an air that might have been
intended for respect, but which it was quite easy to
construe into distrust. The men in the shadow were less
reserved. Duncan soon detected their searching, but stolen,
looks which, in truth, scanned his person and attire inch by
inch; leaving no emotion of the countenance, no gesture, no
line of the paint, nor even the fashion of a garment,
unheeded, and without comment.
At length one whose hair was beginning to be sprinkled with
gray, but whose sinewy limbs and firm tread announced that
he was still equal to the duties of manhood, advanced out of
the gloom of a corner, whither he had probably posted
himself to make his observations unseen, and spoke. He used
the language of the Wyandots, or Hurons; his words were,
consequently, unintelligible to Heyward, though they seemed,
by the gestures that accompanied them, to be uttered more in
courtesy than anger. The latter shook his head, and made a
gesture indicative of his inability to reply.
"Do none of my brothers speak the French or the English?" he
said, in the former language, looking about him from
countenance to countenance, in hopes of finding a nod of
Though more than one had turned, as if to catch the meaning
of his words, they remained unanswered.
"I should be grieved to think," continued Duncan, speaking
slowly, and using the simplest French of which he was the
master, "to believe that none of this wise and brave nation
understand the language that the'Grand Monarque' uses when
he talks to his children. His heart would be heavy did he
believe his red warriors paid him so little respect!"
A long and grave pause succeeded, during which no movement
of a limb, nor any expression of an eye, betrayed the
expression produced by his remark. Duncan, who knew that
silence was a virtue among his hosts, gladly had recourse to
the custom, in order to arrange his ideas. At length the
same warrior who had before addressed him replied, by dryly
demanding, in the language of the Canadas:
"When our Great Father speaks to his people, is it with the
tongue of a Huron?"
"He knows no difference in his children, whether the color
of the skin be red, or black, or white," returned Duncan,
evasively; "though chiefly is he satisfied with the brave
"In what manner will he speak," demanded the wary chief,
"when the runners count to him the scalps which five nights
ago grew on the heads of the Yengeese?"
"They were his enemies," said Duncan, shuddering
involuntarily; "and doubtless, he will say, it is good; my
Hurons are very gallant."
"Our Canada father does not think it. Instead of looking
forward to reward his Indians, his eyes are turned backward.
He sees the dead Yengeese, but no Huron. What can this
"A great chief, like him, has more thoughts than tongues.
He looks to see that no enemies are on his trail."
"The canoe of a dead warrior will not float on the Horican,"
returned the savage, gloomily. "His ears are open to the
Delawares, who are not our friends, and they fill them with
"It cannot be. See; he has bid me, who am a man that knows
the art of healing, to go to his children, the red Hurons of
the great lakes, and ask if any are sick!"
Another silence succeeded this annunciation of the character
Duncan had assumed. Every eye was simultaneously bent on
his person, as if to inquire into the truth or falsehood of
the declaration, with an intelligence and keenness that
caused the subject of their scrutiny to tremble for the
result. He was, however, relieved again by the former
"Do the cunning men of the Canadas paint their skins?" the
Huron coldly continued; "we have heard them boast that their
faces were pale."
"When an Indian chief comes among his white fathers,"
returned Duncan, with great steadiness, "he lays aside his
buffalo robe, to carry the shirt that is offered him. My
brothers have given me paint and I wear it."
A low murmur of applause announced that the compliment of
the tribe was favorably received. The elderly chief made a
gesture of commendation, which was answered by most of his
companions, who each threw forth a hand and uttered a brief
exclamation of pleasure. Duncan began to breathe more
freely, believing that the weight of his examination was
past; and, as he had already prepared a simple and probable
tale to support his pretended occupation, his hopes of
ultimate success grew brighter.
After a silence of a few moments, as if adjusting his
thoughts, in order to make a suitable answer to the
declaration their guests had just given, another warrior
arose, and placed himself in an attitude to speak. While
his lips were yet in the act of parting, a low but fearful
sound arose from the forest, and was immediately succeeded
by a high, shrill yell, that was drawn out, until it equaled
the longest and most plaintive howl of the wolf. The sudden
and terrible interruption caused Duncan to start from his
seat, unconscious of everything but the effect produced by
so frightful a cry. At the same moment, the warriors glided
in a body from the lodge, and the outer air was filled with
loud shouts, that nearly drowned those awful sounds, which
were still ringing beneath the arches of the woods. Unable
to command himself any longer, the youth broke from the
place, and presently stood in the center of a disorderly
throng, that included nearly everything having life, within
the limits of the encampment. Men, women, and children; the
aged, the inform, the active, and the strong, were alike
abroad, some exclaiming aloud, others clapping their hands
with a joy that seemed frantic, and all expressing their
savage pleasure in some unexpected event. Though astounded,
at first, by the uproar, Heyward was soon enabled to find
its solution by the scene that followed.
There yet lingered sufficient light in the heavens to
exhibit those bright openings among the tree-tops, where
different paths left the clearing to enter the depths of the
wilderness. Beneath one of them, a line of warriors issued
from the woods, and advanced slowly toward the dwellings.
One in front bore a short pole, on which, as it afterwards
appeared, were suspended several human scalps. The
startling sounds that Duncan had heard were what the whites
have not inappropriately called the "death-hallo"; and each
repetition of the cry was intended to announce to the tribe
the fate of an enemy. Thus far the knowledge of Heyward
assisted him in the explanation; and as he now knew that the
interruption was caused by the unlooked-for return of a
successful war-party, every disagreeable sensation was
quieted in inward congratulation, for the opportune relief
and insignificance it conferred on himself.
When at the distance of a few hundred feet from the lodges
the newly arrived warriors halted. Their plaintive and
terrific cry, which was intended to represent equally the
wailings of the dead and the triumph to the victors, had
entirely ceased. One of their number now called aloud, in
words that were far from appalling, though not more
intelligible to those for whose ears they were intended,
than their expressive yells. It would be difficult to
convey a suitable idea of the savage ecstasy with which the
news thus imparted was received. The whole encampment, in a
moment, became a scene of the most violent bustle and
commotion. The warriors drew their knives, and flourishing
them, they arranged themselves in two lines, forming a lane
that extended from the war-party to the lodges. The squaws
seized clubs, axes, or whatever weapon of offense first
offered itself to their hands, and rushed eagerly to act
their part in the cruel game that was at hand. Even the
children would not be excluded; but boys, little able to
wield the instruments, tore the tomahawks from the belts of
their fathers, and stole into the ranks, apt imitators of
the savage traits exhibited by their parents.
Large piles of brush lay scattered about the clearing, and a
wary and aged squaw was occupied in firing as many as might
serve to light the coming exhibition. As the flame arose,
its power exceeded that of the parting day, and assisted to
render objects at the same time more distinct and more
hideous. The whole scene formed a striking picture, whose
frame was composed of the dark and tall border of pines.
The warriors just arrived were the most distant figures. A
little in advance stood two men, who were apparently
selected from the rest, as the principal actors in what was
to follow. The light was not strong enough to render their
features distinct, though it was quite evident that they
were governed by very different emotions. While one stood
erect and firm, prepared to meet his fate like a hero, the
other bowed his head, as if palsied by terror or stricken
with shame. The high-spirited Duncan felt a powerful
impulse of admiration and pity toward the former, though no
opportunity could offer to exhibit his generous emotions.
He watched his slightest movement, however, with eager eyes;
and, as he traced the fine outline of his admirably
proportioned and active frame, he endeavored to persuade
himself, that, if the powers of man, seconded by such noble
resolution, could bear one harmless through so severe a
trial, the youthful captive before him might hope for
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