The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
Part 8 out of 9
form of David for that of the prisoner; but the very
accident which Hawkeye had foreseen occurred. Tired of
keeping the extremities of his long person so near together,
the singer gradually suffered the lower limbs to extend
themselves, until one of his misshapen feet actually came in
contact with and shoved aside the embers of the fire. At
first the Hurons believed the Delaware had been thus
deformed by witchcraft. But when David, unconscious of
being observed, turned his head, and exposed his simple,
mild countenance, in place of the haughty lineaments of
their prisoner, it would have exceeded the credulity of even
a native to have doubted any longer. They rushed together
into the lodge, and, laying their hands, with but little
ceremony, on their captive, immediately detected the
imposition. Then arose the cry first heard by the
fugitives. It was succeeded by the most frantic and angry
demonstrations of vengeance. David, however, firm in his
determination to cover the retreat of his friends, was
compelled to believe that his own final hour had come.
Deprived of his book and his pipe, he was fain to trust to a
memory that rarely failed him on such subjects; and breaking
forth in a loud and impassioned strain, he endeavored to
smooth his passage into the other world by singing the
opening verse of a funeral anthem. The Indians were
seasonably reminded of his infirmity, and, rushing into the
open air, they aroused the village in the manner described.
A native warrior fights as he sleeps, without the protection
of anything defensive. The sounds of the alarm were,
therefore, hardly uttered before two hundred men were afoot,
and ready for the battle or the chase, as either might be
required. The escape was soon known; and the whole tribe
crowded, in a body, around the council-lodge, impatiently
awaiting the instruction of their chiefs. In such a sudden
demand on their wisdom, the presence of the cunning Magua
could scarcely fail of being needed. His name was
mentioned, and all looked round in wonder that he did not
appear. Messengers were then despatched to his lodge
requiring his presence.
In the meantime, some of the swiftest and most discreet of
the young men were ordered to make the circuit of the
clearing, under cover of the woods, in order to ascertain
that their suspected neighbors, the Delawares, designed no
mischief. Women and children ran to and fro; and, in short,
the whole encampment exhibited another scene of wild and
savage confusion. Gradually, however, these symptoms of
disorder diminished; and in a few minutes the oldest and
most distinguished chiefs were assembled in the lodge, in
The clamor of many voices soon announced that a party
approached, who might be expected to communicate some
intelligence that would explain the mystery of the novel
surprise. The crowd without gave way, and several warriors
entered the place, bringing with them the hapless conjurer,
who had been left so long by the scout in duress.
Notwithstanding this man was held in very unequal estimation
among the Hurons, some believing implicitly in his power,
and others deeming him an impostor, he was now listened to
by all with the deepest attention. When his brief story was
ended, the father of the sick woman stepped forth, and, in a
few pithy expression, related, in his turn, what he knew.
These two narratives gave a proper direction to the
subsequent inquiries, which were now made with the
characteristic cunning of savages.
Instead of rushing in a confused and disorderly throng to
the cavern, ten of the wisest and firmest among the chiefs
were selected to prosecute the investigation. As no time
was to be lost, the instant the choice was made the
individuals appointed rose in a body and left the place
without speaking. On reaching the entrance, the younger men
in advance made way for their seniors; and the whole
proceeded along the low, dark gallery, with the firmness of
warriors ready to devote themselves to the public good,
though, at the same time, secretly doubting the nature of
the power with which they were about to contend.
The outer apartment of the cavern was silent and gloomy.
The woman lay in her usual place and posture, though there
were those present who affirmed they had seen her borne to
the woods by the supposed "medicine of the white men." Such
a direct and palpable contradiction of the tale related by
the father caused all eyes to be turned on him. Chafed by
the silent imputation, and inwardly troubled by so
unaccountable a circumstance, the chief advanced to the side
of the bed, and, stooping, cast an incredulous look at the
features, as if distrusting their reality. His daughter was
The unerring feeling of nature for a moment prevailed and
the old warrior hid his eyes in sorrow. Then, recovering
his self-possession, he faced his companions, and, pointing
toward the corpse, he said, in the language of his people:
"The wife of my young man has left us! The Great Spirit is
angry with his children."
The mournful intelligence was received in solemn silence.
After a short pause, one of the elder Indians was about to
speak, when a dark-looking object was seen rolling out of an
adjoining apartment, into the very center of the room where
they stood. Ignorant of the nature of the beings they had
to deal with, the whole party drew back a little, and,
rising on end, exhibited the distorted but still fierce and
sullen features of Magua. The discovery was succeeded by a
general exclamation of amazement.
As soon, however, as the true situation of the chief was
understood, several knives appeared, and his limbs and
tongue were quickly released. The Huron arose, and shook
himself like a lion quitting his lair. Not a word escaped
him, though his hand played convulsively with the handle of
his knife, while his lowering eyes scanned the whole party,
as if they sought an object suited to the first burst of his
It was happy for Uncas and the scout, and even David, that
they were all beyond the reach of his arm at such a moment;
for, assuredly, no refinement in cruelty would then have
deferred their deaths, in opposition to the promptings of
the fierce temper that nearly choked him. Meeting
everywhere faces that he knew as friends, the savage grated
his teeth together like rasps of iron, and swallowed his
passion for want of a victim on whom to vent it. This
exhibition of anger was noted by all present; and from an
apprehension of exasperating a temper that was already
chafed nearly to madness, several minutes were suffered to
pass before another word was uttered. When, however,
suitable time had elapsed, the oldest of the party spoke.
"My friend has found an enemy," he said. "Is he nigh that
the Hurons might take revenge?"
"Let the Delaware die!" exclaimed Magua, in a voice of
Another longer and expressive silence was observed, and was
broken, as before, with due precaution, by the same
"The Mohican is swift of foot, and leaps far," he said; "but
my young men are on his trail."
"Is he gone?" demanded Magua, in tones so deep and guttural,
that they seemed to proceed from his inmost chest.
"An evil spirit has been among us, and the Delaware has
blinded our eyes."
"An evil spirit!" repeated the other, mockingly; "'tis the
spirit that has taken the lives of so many Hurons; the
spirit that slew my young men at 'the tumbling river'; that
took their scalps at the 'healing spring'; and who has, now,
bound the arms of Le Renard Subtil!"
"Of whom does my friend speak?"
"Of the dog who carries the heart and cunning of a Huron
under a pale skin -- La Longue Carabine."
The pronunciation of so terrible a name produced the usual
effect among his auditors. But when time was given for
reflection, and the warriors remembered that their
formidable and daring enemy had even been in the bosom of
their encampment, working injury, fearful rage took the
place of wonder, and all those fierce passions with which
the bosom of Magua had just been struggling were suddenly
transferred to his companions. Some among them gnashed
their teeth in anger, others vented their feelings in yells,
and some, again, beat the air as frantically as if the
object of their resentment were suffering under their blows.
But this sudden outbreaking of temper as quickly subsided in
the still and sullen restraint they most affected in their
moments of inaction.
Magua, who had in his turn found leisure for reflection, now
changed his manner, and assumed the air of one who knew how
to think and act with a dignity worthy of so grave a
"Let us go to my people," he said; "they wait for us."
His companions consented in silence, and the whole of the
savage party left the cavern and returned to the council-lodge.
When they were seated, all eyes turned on Magua, who
understood, from such an indication, that, by common
consent, they had devolved the duty of relating what had
passed on him. He arose, and told his tale without
duplicity or reservation. The whole deception practised by
both Duncan and Hawkeye was, of course, laid naked, and no
room was found, even for the most superstitious of the
tribe, any longer to affix a doubt on the character of the
occurrences. It was but too apparent that they had been
insultingly, shamefully, disgracefully deceived. When he
had ended, and resumed his seat, the collected tribe -- for
his auditors, in substance, included all the fighting men of
the party -- sat regarding each other like men astonished
equally at the audacity and the success of their enemies.
The next consideration, however, was the means and
opportunities for revenge.
Additional pursuers were sent on the trail of the fugitives;
and then the chiefs applied themselves, in earnest, to the
business of consultation. Many different expedients were
proposed by the elder warriors, in succession, to all of
which Magua was a silent and respectful listener. That
subtle savage had recovered his artifice and self-command,
and now proceeded toward his object with his customary
caution and skill. It was only when each one disposed to
speak had uttered his sentiments, that he prepared to
advance his own opinions. They were given with additional
weight from the circumstance that some of the runners had
already returned, and reported that their enemies had been
traced so far as to leave no doubt of their having sought
safety in the neighboring camp of their suspected allies,
the Delawares. With the advantage of possessing this
important intelligence, the chief warily laid his plans
before his fellows, and, as might have been anticipated from
his eloquence and cunning, they were adopted without a
dissenting voice. They were, briefly, as follows, both in
opinions and in motives.
It has been already stated that, in obedience to a policy
rarely departed from, the sisters were separated so soon as
they reached the Huron village. Magua had early discovered
that in retaining the person of Alice, he possessed the most
effectual check on Cora. When they parted, therefore, he
kept the former within reach of his hand, consigning the one
he most valued to the keeping of their allies. The
arrangement was understood to be merely temporary, and was
made as much with a view to flatter his neighbors as in
obedience to the invariable rule of Indian policy.
While goaded incessantly by these revengeful impulses that
in a savage seldom slumber, the chief was still attentive to
his more permanent personal interests. The follies and
disloyalty committed in his youth were to be expiated by a
long and painful penance, ere he could be restored to the
full enjoyment of the confidence of his ancient people; and
without confidence there could be no authority in an Indian
tribe. In this delicate and arduous situation, the crafty
native had neglected no means of increasing his influence;
and one of the happiest of his expedients had been the
success with which he had cultivated the favor of their
powerful and dangerous neighbors. The result of his
experiment had answered all the expectations of his policy;
for the Hurons were in no degree exempt from that governing
principle of nature, which induces man to value his gifts
precisely in the degree that they are appreciated by others.
But, while he was making this ostensible sacrifice to
general considerations, Magua never lost sight of his
individual motives. The latter had been frustrated by the
unlooked-for events which had placed all his prisoners
beyond his control; and he now found himself reduced to the
necessity of suing for favors to those whom it had so lately
been his policy to oblige.
Several of the chiefs had proposed deep and treacherous
schemes to surprise the Delawares and, by gaining possession
of their camp, to recover their prisoners by the same blow;
for all agreed that their honor, their interests, and the
peace and happiness of their dead countrymen, imperiously
required them speedily to immolate some victims to their
revenge. But plans so dangerous to attempt, and of such
doubtful issue, Magua found little difficulty in defeating.
He exposed their risk and fallacy with his usual skill; and
it was only after he had removed every impediment, in the
shape of opposing advice, that he ventured to propose his
He commenced by flattering the self-love of his auditors; a
never-failing method of commanding attention. When he had
enumerated the many different occasions on which the Hurons
had exhibited their courage and prowess, in the punishment
of insults, he digressed in a high encomium on the virtue of
wisdom. He painted the quality as forming the great point
of difference between the beaver and other brutes; between
the brutes and men; and, finally, between the Hurons, in
particular, and the rest of the human race. After he had
sufficiently extolled the property of discretion, he
undertook to exhibit in what manner its use was applicable
to the present situation of their tribe. On the one hand,
he said, was their great pale father, the governor of the
Canadas, who had looked upon his children with a hard eye
since their tomahawks had been so red; on the other, a
people as numerous as themselves, who spoke a different
language, possessed different interests, and loved them not,
and who would be glad of any pretense to bring them in
disgrace with the great white chief. Then he spoke of their
necessities; of the gifts they had a right to expect for
their past services; of their distance from their proper
hunting-grounds and native villages; and of the necessity of
consulting prudence more, and inclination less, in so
critical circumstances. When he perceived that, while the
old men applauded his moderation, many of the fiercest and
most distinguished of the warriors listened to these politic
plans with lowering looks, he cunningly led them back to the
subject which they most loved. He spoke openly of the
fruits of their wisdom, which he boldly pronounced would be
a complete and final triumph over their enemies. He even
darkly hinted that their success might be extended, with
proper caution, in such a manner as to include the
destruction of all whom they had reason to hate. In short,
he so blended the warlike with the artful, the obvious with
the obscure, as to flatter the propensities of both parties,
and to leave to each subject of hope, while neither could
say it clearly comprehended his intentions.
The orator, or the politician, who can produce such a state
of things, is commonly popular with his contemporaries,
however he may be treated by posterity. All perceived that
more was meant than was uttered, and each one believed that
the hidden meaning was precisely such as his own faculties
enabled him to understand, or his own wishes led him to
In this happy state of things, it is not surprising that the
management of Magua prevailed. The tribe consented to act
with deliberation, and with one voice they committed the
direction of the whole affair to the government of the chief
who had suggested such wise and intelligible expedients.
Magua had now attained one great object of all his cunning
and enterprise. The ground he had lost in the favor of his
people was completely regained, and he found himself even
placed at the head of affairs. He was, in truth, their
ruler; and, so long as he could maintain his popularity, no
monarch could be more despotic, especially while the tribe
continued in a hostile country. Throwing off, therefore,
the appearance of consultation, he assumed the grave air of
authority necessary to support the dignity of his office.
Runners were despatched for intelligence in different
directions; spies were ordered to approach and feel the
encampment of the Delawares; the warriors were dismissed to
their lodges, with an intimation that their services would
soon be needed; and the women and children were ordered to
retire, with a warning that it was their province to be
silent. When these several arrangements were made, Magua
passed through the village, stopping here and there to pay a
visit where he thought his presence might be flattering to
the individual. He confirmed his friends in their
confidence, fixed the wavering, and gratified all. Then he
sought his own lodge. The wife the Huron chief had
abandoned, when he was chased from among his people, was
dead. Children he had none; and he now occupied a hut,
without companion of any sort. It was, in fact, the
dilapidated and solitary structure in which David had been
discovered, and whom he had tolerated in his presence, on
those few occasions when they met, with the contemptuous
indifference of a haughty superiority.
Hither, then, Magua retired, when his labors of policy were
ended. While others slept, however, he neither knew or
sought repose. Had there been one sufficiently curious to
have watched the movements of the newly elected chief, he
would have seen him seated in a corner of his lodge, musing
on the subject of his future plans, from the hour of his
retirement to the time he had appointed for the warriors to
assemble again. Occasionally the air breathed through the
crevices of the hut, and the low flame that fluttered about
the embers of the fire threw their wavering light on the
person of the sullen recluse. At such moments it would not
have been difficult to have fancied the dusky savage the
Prince of Darkness brooding on his own fancied wrongs, and
Long before the day dawned, however, warrior after warrior
entered the solitary hut of Magua, until they had collected
to the number of twenty. Each bore his rifle, and all the
other accouterments of war, though the paint was uniformly
peaceful. The entrance of these fierce-looking beings was
unnoticed: some seating themselves in the shadows of the
place, and others standing like motionless statues, until
the whole of the designated band was collected.
Then Magua arose and gave the signal to proceed, marching
himself in advance. They followed their leader singly, and
in that well-known order which has obtained the
distinguishing appellation of "Indian file." Unlike other
men engaged in the spirit-stirring business of war, they
stole from their camp unostentatiously and unobserved
resembling a band of gliding specters, more than warriors
seeking the bubble reputation by deeds of desperate daring.
Instead of taking the path which led directly toward the
camp of the Delawares, Magua led his party for some distance
down the windings of the stream, and along the little
artificial lake of the beavers. The day began to dawn as
they entered the clearing which had been formed by those
sagacious and industrious animals. Though Magua, who had
resumed his ancient garb, bore the outline of a fox on the
dressed skin which formed his robe, there was one chief of
his party who carried the beaver as his peculiar symbol, or
"totem." There would have been a species of profanity in
the omission, had this man passed so powerful a community of
his fancied kindred, without bestowing some evidence of his
regard. Accordingly, he paused, and spoke in words as kind
and friendly as if he were addressing more intelligent
beings. He called the animals his cousins, and reminded
them that his protecting influence was the reason they
remained unharmed, while many avaricious traders were
prompting the Indians to take their lives. He promised a
continuance of his favors, and admonished them to be
grateful. After which, he spoke of the expedition in which
he was himself engaged, and intimated, though with
sufficient delicacy and circumlocution, the expediency of
bestowing on their relative a portion of that wisdom for
which they were so renowned.*
* These harangues of the beasts were frequent among
the Indians. They often address their victims in this way,
reproaching them for cowardice or commending their
resolution, as they may happen to exhibit fortitude or the
reverse, in suffering.
During the utterance of this extraordinary address, the
companions of the speaker were as grave and as attentive to
his language as though they were all equally impressed with
its propriety. Once or twice black objects were seen rising
to the surface of the water, and the Huron expressed
pleasure, conceiving that his words were not bestowed in
vain. Just as he ended his address, the head of a large
beaver was thrust from the door of a lodge, whose earthen
walls had been much injured, and which the party had
believed, from its situation, to be uninhabited. Such an
extraordinary sign of confidence was received by the orator
as a highly favorable omen; and though the animal retreated
a little precipitately, he was lavish of his thanks and
When Magua thought sufficient time had been lost in
gratifying the family affection of the warrior, he again
made the signal to proceed. As the Indians moved away in a
body, and with a step that would have been inaudible to the
ears of any common man, the same venerable-looking beaver
once more ventured his head from its cover. Had any of the
Hurons turned to look behind them, they would have seen the
animal watching their movements with an interest and
sagacity that might easily have been mistaken for reason.
Indeed, so very distinct and intelligible were the devices
of the quadruped, that even the most experienced observer
would have been at a loss to account for its actions, until
the moment when the party entered the forest, when the whole
would have been explained, by seeing the entire animal issue
from the lodge, uncasing, by the act, the grave features of
Chingachgook from his mask of fur.
"Brief, I pray for you; for you see, 'tis a busy time with
me."--Much Ado About Nothing
The tribe, or rather half tribe, of Delawares, which has
been so often mentioned, and whose present place of
encampment was so nigh the temporary village of the Hurons,
could assemble about an equal number of warriors with the
latter people. Like their neighbors, they had followed
Montcalm into the territories of the English crown, and were
making heavy and serious inroads on the hunting-grounds of
the Mohawks; though they had seen fit, with the mysterious
reserve so common among the natives, to withhold their
assistance at the moment when it was most required. The
French had accounted for this unexpected defection on the
part of their ally in various ways. It was the prevalent
opinion, however, that they had been influenced by
veneration for the ancient treaty, that had once made them
dependent on the Six Nations for military protection, and
now rendered them reluctant to encounter their former
masters. As for the tribe itself, it had been content to
announce to Montcalm, through his emissaries, with Indian
brevity, that their hatchets were dull, and time was
necessary to sharpen them. The politic captain of the
Canadas had deemed it wiser to submit to entertain a passive
friend, than by any acts of ill-judged severity to convert
him into an open enemy.
On that morning when Magua led his silent party from the
settlement of the beavers into the forests, in the manner
described, the sun rose upon the Delaware encampment as if
it had suddenly burst upon a busy people, actively employed
in all the customary avocations of high noon. The women ran
from lodge to lodge, some engaged in preparing their
morning's meal, a few earnestly bent on seeking the comforts
necessary to their habits, but more pausing to exchange
hasty and whispered sentences with their friends. The
warriors were lounging in groups, musing more than they
conversed and when a few words were uttered, speaking like
men who deeply weighed their opinions. The instruments of
the chase were to be seen in abundance among the lodges; but
none departed. Here and there a warrior was examining his
arms, with an attention that is rarely bestowed on the
implements, when no other enemy than the beasts of the
forest is expected to be encountered. And occasionally, the
eyes of a whole group were turned simultaneously toward a
large and silent lodge in the center of the village, as if
it contained the subject of their common thoughts.
During the existence of this scene, a man suddenly appeared
at the furthest extremity of a platform of rock which formed
the level of the village. He was without arms, and his
paint tended rather to soften than increase the natural
sternness of his austere countenance. When in full view of
the Delawares he stopped, and made a gesture of amity, by
throwing his arm upward toward heaven, and then letting it
fall impressively on his breast. The inhabitants of the
village answered his salute by a low murmur of welcome, and
encouraged him to advance by similar indications of
friendship. Fortified by these assurances, the dark figure
left the brow of the natural rocky terrace, where it had
stood a moment, drawn in a strong outline against the
blushing morning sky, and moved with dignity into the very
center of the huts. As he approached, nothing was audible
but the rattling of the light silver ornaments that loaded
his arms and neck, and the tinkling of the little bells that
fringed his deerskin moccasins. He made, as he advanced,
many courteous signs of greeting to the men he passed,
neglecting to notice the women, however, like one who deemed
their favor, in the present enterprise, of no importance.
When he had reached the group in which it was evident, by
the haughtiness of their common mien, that the principal
chiefs were collected, the stranger paused, and then the
Delawares saw that the active and erect form that stood
before them was that of the well-known Huron chief, Le
His reception was grave, silent, and wary. The warriors in
front stepped aside, opening the way to their most approved
orator by the action; one who spoke all those languages that
were cultivated among the northern aborigines.
"The wise Huron is welcome," said the Delaware, in the
language of the Maquas; "he is come to eat his 'succotash'*,
with his brothers of the lakes."
* A dish composed of cracked corn and beans. It is
much used also by the whites. By corn is meant maise.
"He is come," repeated Magua, bending his head with the
dignity of an eastern prince.
The chief extended his arm and taking the other by the
wrist, they once more exchanged friendly salutations. Then
the Delaware invited his guest to enter his own lodge, and
share his morning meal. The invitation was accepted; and
the two warriors, attended by three or four of the old men,
walked calmly away, leaving the rest of the tribe devoured
by a desire to understand the reasons of so unusual a visit,
and yet not betraying the least impatience by sign or word.
During the short and frugal repast that followed, the
conversation was extremely circumspect, and related entirely
to the events of the hunt, in which Magua had so lately been
engaged. It would have been impossible for the most
finished breeding to wear more of the appearance of
considering the visit as a thing of course, than did his
hosts, notwithstanding every individual present was
perfectly aware that it must be connected with some secret
object and that probably of importance to themselves. When
the appetites of the whole were appeased, the squaws removed
the trenchers and gourds, and the two parties began to
prepare themselves for a subtle trial of their wits.
"Is the face of my great Canada father turned again toward
his Huron children?" demanded the orator of the Delawares.
"When was it ever otherwise?" returned Magua. "He calls my
people 'most beloved'."
The Delaware gravely bowed his acquiescence to what he knew
to be false, and continued:
"The tomahawks of your young men have been very red."
"It is so; but they are now bright and dull; for the
Yengeese are dead, and the Delawares are our neighbors."
The other acknowledged the pacific compliment by a gesture
of the hand, and remained silent. Then Magua, as if
recalled to such a recollection, by the allusion to the
"Does my prisoner give trouble to my brothers?"
"She is welcome."
"The path between the Hurons and the Delawares is short and
it is open; let her be sent to my squaws, if she gives
trouble to my brother."
"She is welcome," returned the chief of the latter nation,
still more emphatically.
The baffled Magua continued silent several minutes,
apparently indifferent, however, to the repulse he had
received in this his opening effort to regain possession of
"Do my young men leave the Delawares room on the mountains
for their hunts?" he at length continued.
"The Lenape are rulers of their own hills," returned the
other a little haughtily.
"It is well. Justice is the master of a red-skin. Why
should they brighten their tomahawks and sharpen their
knives against each other? Are not the pale faces thicker
than the swallows in the season of flowers?"
"Good!" exclaimed two or three of his auditors at the same
Magua waited a little, to permit his words to soften the
feelings of the Delawares, before he added:
"Have there not been strange moccasins in the woods? Have
not my brothers scented the feet of white men?"
"Let my Canada father come," returned the other, evasively;
"his children are ready to see him."
"When the great chief comes, it is to smoke with the Indians
in their wigwams. The Hurons say, too, he is welcome. But
the Yengeese have long arms, and legs that never tire! My
young men dreamed they had seen the trail of the Yengeese
nigh the village of the Delawares!"
"They will not find the Lenape asleep."
"It is well. The warrior whose eye is open can see his
enemy," said Magua, once more shifting his ground, when he
found himself unable to penetrate the caution of his
companion. "I have brought gifts to my brother. His nation
would not go on the warpath, because they did not think it
well, but their friends have remembered where they lived."
When he had thus announced his liberal intention, the crafty
chief arose, and gravely spread his presents before the
dazzled eyes of his hosts. They consisted principally of
trinkets of little value, plundered from the slaughtered
females of William Henry. In the division of the baubles
the cunning Huron discovered no less art than in their
selection. While he bestowed those of greater value on the
two most distinguished warriors, one of whom was his host,
he seasoned his offerings to their inferiors with such well-timed
and apposite compliments, as left them no ground of complaint.
In short, the whole ceremony contained such a happy blending of
the profitable with the flattering, that it was not difficult for
the donor immediately to read the effect of a generosity so aptly
mingled with praise, in the eyes of those he addressed.
This well-judged and politic stroke on the part of Magua was
not without instantaneous results. The Delawares lost their
gravity in a much more cordial expression; and the host, in
particular, after contemplating his own liberal share of the
spoil for some moments with peculiar gratification, repeated
with strong emphasis, the words:
"My brother is a wise chief. He is welcome."
"The Hurons love their friends the Delawares," returned
Magua. "Why should they not? they are colored by the same
sun, and their just men will hunt in the same grounds after
death. The red-skins should be friends, and look with open
eyes on the white men. Has not my brother scented spies in
The Delaware, whose name in English signified "Hard Heart,"
an appellation that the French had translated into "le Coeur-
dur," forgot that obduracy of purpose, which had probably
obtained him so significant a title. His countenance grew
very sensibly less stern and he now deigned to answer more
"There have been strange moccasins about my camp. They have
been tracked into my lodges."
"Did my brother beat out the dogs?" asked Magua, without
adverting in any manner to the former equivocation of the
"It would not do. The stranger is always welcome to the
children of the Lenape."
"The stranger, but not the spy."
"Would the Yengeese send their women as spies? Did not the
Huron chief say he took women in the battle?"
"He told no lie. The Yengeese have sent out their scouts.
They have been in my wigwams, but they found there no one to
say welcome. Then they fled to the Delawares -- for, say
they, the Delawares are our friends; their minds are turned
from their Canada father!"
This insinuation was a home thrust, and one that in a more
advanced state of society would have entitled Magua to the
reputation of a skillful diplomatist. The recent defection
of the tribe had, as they well knew themselves, subjected
the Delawares to much reproach among their French allies;
and they were now made to feel that their future actions
were to be regarded with jealousy and distrust. There was
no deep insight into causes and effects necessary to foresee
that such a situation of things was likely to prove highly
prejudicial to their future movements. Their distant
villages, their hunting-grounds and hundreds of their women
and children, together with a material part of their
physical force, were actually within the limits of the
French territory. Accordingly, this alarming annunciation
was received, as Magua intended, with manifest
disapprobation, if not with alarm.
"Let my father look in my face," said Le Coeur-dur; "he will
see no change. It is true, my young men did not go out on
the war-path; they had dreams for not doing so. But they
love and venerate the great white chief."
"Will he think so when he hears that his greatest enemy is
fed in the camp of his children? When he is told a bloody
Yengee smokes at your fire? That the pale face who has
slain so many of his friends goes in and out among the
Delawares? Go! my great Canada father is not a fool!"
"Where is the Yengee that the Delawares fear?" returned the
other; "who has slain my young men? Who is the mortal enemy
of my Great Father?"
"La Longue Carabine!"
The Delaware warriors started at the well-known name,
betraying by their amazement, that they now learned, for the
first time, one so famous among the Indian allies of France
was within their power.
"What does my brother mean?" demanded Le Coeur-dur, in a
tone that, by its wonder, far exceeded the usual apathy of
"A Huron never lies!" returned Magua, coldly, leaning his
head against the side of the lodge, and drawing his slight
robe across his tawny breast. "Let the Delawares count
their prisoners; they will find one whose skin is neither
red nor pale."
A long and musing pause succeeded. The chief consulted
apart with his companions, and messengers despatched to
collect certain others of the most distinguished men of the
As warrior after warrior dropped in, they were each made
acquainted, in turn, with the important intelligence that
Magua had just communicated. The air of surprise, and the
usual low, deep, guttural exclamation, were common to them
all. The news spread from mouth to mouth, until the whole
encampment became powerfully agitated. The women suspended
their labors, to catch such syllables as unguardedly fell
from the lips of the consulting warriors. The boys deserted
their sports, and walking fearlessly among their fathers,
looked up in curious admiration, as they heard the brief
exclamations of wonder they so freely expressed the temerity
of their hated foe. In short, every occupation was
abandoned for the time, and all other pursuits seemed
discarded in order that the tribe might freely indulge,
after their own peculiar manner, in an open expression of
When the excitement had a little abated, the old men
disposed themselves seriously to consider that which it
became the honor and safety of their tribe to perform, under
circumstances of so much delicacy and embarrassment. During
all these movements, and in the midst of the general
commotion, Magua had not only maintained his seat, but the
very attitude he had originally taken, against the side of
the lodge, where he continued as immovable, and, apparently,
as unconcerned, as if he had no interest in the result. Not
a single indication of the future intentions of his hosts,
however, escaped his vigilant eyes. With his consummate
knowledge of the nature of the people with whom he had to
deal, he anticipated every measure on which they decided;
and it might almost be said, that, in many instances, he
knew their intentions, even before they became known to
The council of the Delawares was short. When it was ended,
a general bustle announced that it was to be immediately
succeeded by a solemn and formal assemblage of the nation.
As such meetings were rare, and only called on occasions of
the last importance, the subtle Huron, who still sat apart,
a wily and dark observer of the proceedings, now knew that
all his projects must be brought to their final issue. He,
therefore, left the lodge and walked silently forth to the
place, in front of the encampment, whither the warriors were
already beginning to collect.
It might have been half an hour before each individual,
including even the women and children, was in his place.
The delay had been created by the grave preparations that
were deemed necessary to so solemn and unusual a conference.
But when the sun was seen climbing above the tops of that
mountain, against whose bosom the Delawares had constructed
their encampment, most were seated; and as his bright rays
darted from behind the outline of trees that fringed the
eminence, they fell upon as grave, as attentive, and as
deeply interested a multitude, as was probably ever before
lighted by his morning beams. Its number somewhat exceeded
a thousand souls.
In a collection of so serious savages, there is never to be
found any impatient aspirant after premature distinction,
standing ready to move his auditors to some hasty, and,
perhaps, injudicious discussion, in order that his own
reputation may be the gainer. An act of so much
precipitancy and presumption would seal the downfall of
precocious intellect forever. It rested solely with the
oldest and most experienced of the men to lay the subject of
the conference before the people. Until such a one chose to
make some movement, no deeds in arms, no natural gifts, nor
any renown as an orator, would have justified the slightest
interruption. On the present occasion, the aged warrior
whose privilege it was to speak, was silent, seemingly
oppressed with the magnitude of his subject. The delay had
already continued long beyond the usual deliberative pause
that always preceded a conference; but no sign of impatience
or surprise escaped even the youngest boy. Occasionally an
eye was raised from the earth, where the looks of most were
riveted, and strayed toward a particular lodge, that was,
however, in no manner distinguished from those around it,
except in the peculiar care that had been taken to protect
it against the assaults of the weather.
At length one of those low murmurs, that are so apt to
disturb a multitude, was heard, and the whole nation arose
to their feet by a common impulse. At that instant the door
of the lodge in question opened, and three men, issuing from
it, slowly approached the place of consultation. They were
all aged, even beyond that period to which the oldest
present had reached; but one in the center, who leaned on
his companions for support, had numbered an amount of years
to which the human race is seldom permitted to attain. His
frame, which had once been tall and erect, like the cedar,
was now bending under the pressure of more than a century.
The elastic, light step of an Indian was gone, and in its
place he was compelled to toil his tardy way over the
ground, inch by inch. His dark, wrinkled countenance was in
singular and wild contrast with the long white locks which
floated on his shoulders, in such thickness, as to announce
that generations had probably passed away since they had
last been shorn.
The dress of this patriarch -- for such, considering his
vast age, in conjunction with his affinity and influence
with his people, he might very properly be termed -- was
rich and imposing, though strictly after the simple fashions
of the tribe. His robe was of the finest skins, which had
been deprived of their fur, in order to admit of a
hieroglyphical representation of various deeds in arms, done
in former ages. His bosom was loaded with medals, some in
massive silver, and one or two even in gold, the gifts of
various Christian potentates during the long period of his
life. He also wore armlets, and cinctures above the ankles,
of the latter precious metal. His head, on the whole of
which the hair had been permitted to grow, the pursuits of
war having so long been abandoned, was encircled by a sort
of plated diadem, which, in its turn, bore lesser and more
glittering ornaments, that sparkled amid the glossy hues of
three drooping ostrich feathers, dyed a deep black, in
touching contrast to the color of his snow-white locks. His
tomahawk was nearly hid in silver, and the handle of his
knife shone like a horn of solid gold.
So soon as the first hum of emotion and pleasure, which the
sudden appearance of this venerated individual created, had
a little subsided, the name of "Tamenund" was whispered from
mouth to mouth. Magua had often heard the fame of this wise
and just Delaware; a reputation that even proceeded so far
as to bestow on him the rare gift of holding secret
communion with the Great Spirit, and which has since
transmitted his name, with some slight alteration, to the
white usurpers of his ancient territory, as the imaginary
tutelar saint* of a vast empire. The Huron chief,
therefore, stepped eagerly out a little from the throng, to
a spot whence he might catch a nearer glimpse of the
features of the man, whose decision was likely to produce so
deep an influence on his own fortunes.
* The Americans sometimes called their tutelar saint
Tamenay, a corruption of the name of the renowned chief here
introduced. There are many traditions which speak of the
character and power of Tamenund.
The eyes of the old man were closed, as though the organs
were wearied with having so long witnessed the selfish
workings of the human passions. The color of his skin
differed from that of most around him, being richer and
darker, the latter having been produced by certain delicate
and mazy lines of complicated and yet beautiful figures,
which had been traced over most of his person by the
operation of tattooing. Notwithstanding the position of the
Huron, he passed the observant and silent Magua without
notice, and leaning on his two venerable supporters
proceeded to the high place of the multitude, where he
seated himself in the center of his nation, with the dignity
of a monarch and the air of a father.
Nothing could surpass the reverence and affection with which
this unexpected visit from one who belongs rather to another
world than to this, was received by his people. After a
suitable and decent pause, the principal chiefs arose, and,
approaching the patriarch, they placed his hands reverently
on their heads, seeming to entreat a blessing. The younger
men were content with touching his robe, or even drawing
nigh his person, in order to breathe in the atmosphere of
one so aged, so just, and so valiant. None but the most
distinguished among the youthful warriors even presumed so
far as to perform the latter ceremony, the great mass of the
multitude deeming it a sufficient happiness to look upon a
form so deeply venerated, and so well beloved. When these
acts of affection and respect were performed, the chiefs
drew back again to their several places, and silence reigned
in the whole encampment.
After a short delay, a few of the young men, to whom
instructions had been whispered by one of the aged
attendants of Tamenund, arose, left the crowd, and entered
the lodge which has already been noted as the object of so
much attention throughout that morning. In a few minutes
they reappeared, escorting the individuals who had caused
all these solemn preparations toward the seat of judgment.
The crowd opened in a lane; and when the party had re-entered,
it closed in again, forming a large and dense belt of human
bodies, arranged in an open circle.
"The assembly seated, rising o'er the rest, Achilles thus
the king of men addressed."--Pope's Illiad
Cora stood foremost among the prisoners, entwining her arms
in those of Alice, in the tenderness of sisterly love.
Notwithstanding the fearful and menacing array of savages on
every side of her, no apprehension on her own account could
prevent the nobler-minded maiden from keeping her eyes
fastened on the pale and anxious features of the trembling
Alice. Close at their side stood Heyward, with an interest
in both, that, at such a moment of intense uncertainty,
scarcely knew a preponderance in favor of her whom he most
loved. Hawkeye had placed himself a little in the rear,
with a deference to the superior rank of his companions,
that no similarity in the state of their present fortunes
could induce him to forget. Uncas was not there.
When perfect silence was again restored, and after the usual
long, impressive pause, one of the two aged chiefs who sat
at the side of the patriarch arose, and demanded aloud, in
very intelligible English:
"Which of my prisoners is La Longue Carabine?"
Neither Duncan nor the scout answered. The former, however,
glanced his eyes around the dark and silent assembly, and
recoiled a pace, when they fell on the malignant visage of
Magua. He saw, at once, that this wily savage had some
secret agency in their present arraignment before the
nation, and determined to throw every possible impediment in
the way of the execution of his sinister plans. He had
witnessed one instance of the summary punishments of the
Indians, and now dreaded that his companion was to be
selected for a second. In this dilemma, with little or no
time for reflection, he suddenly determined to cloak his
invaluable friend, at any or every hazard to himself.
Before he had time, however, to speak, the question was
repeated in a louder voice, and with a clearer utterance.
"Give us arms," the young man haughtily replied, "and place
us in yonder woods. Our deeds shall speak for us!"
"This is the warrior whose name has filled our ears!"
returned the chief, regarding Heyward with that sort of
curious interest which seems inseparable from man, when
first beholding one of his fellows to whom merit or
accident, virtue or crime, has given notoriety. "What has
brought the white man into the camp of the Delawares?"
"My necessities. I come for food, shelter, and friends."
"It cannot be. The woods are full of game. The head of a
warrior needs no other shelter than a sky without clouds;
and the Delawares are the enemies, and not the friends of
the Yengeese. Go, the mouth has spoken, while the heart
Duncan, a little at a loss in what manner to proceed,
remained silent; but the scout, who had listened attentively
to all that passed, now advanced steadily to the front.
"That I did not answer to the call for La Longue Carabine,
was not owing either to shame or fear," he said, "for
neither one nor the other is the gift of an honest man. But
I do not admit the right of the Mingoes to bestow a name on
one whose friends have been mindful of his gifts, in this
particular; especially as their title is a lie, 'killdeer'
being a grooved barrel and no carabyne. I am the man,
however, that got the name of Nathaniel from my kin; the
compliment of Hawkeye from the Delawares, who live on their
own river; and whom the Iroquois have presumed to style the
'Long Rifle', without any warranty from him who is most
concerned in the matter."
The eyes of all present, which had hitherto been gravely
scanning the person of Duncan, were now turned, on the
instant, toward the upright iron frame of this new pretender
to the distinguished appellation. It was in no degree
remarkable that there should be found two who were willing
to claim so great an honor, for impostors, though rare, were
not unknown among the natives; but it was altogether
material to the just and severe intentions of the Delawares,
that there should be no mistake in the matter. Some of
their old men consulted together in private, and then, as it
would seem, they determined to interrogate their visitor on
"My brother has said that a snake crept into my camp," said
the chief to Magua; "which is he?"
The Huron pointed to the scout.
"Will a wise Delaware believe the barking of a wolf?"
exclaimed Duncan, still more confirmed in the evil
intentions of his ancient enemy: " a dog never lies, but
when was a wolf known to speak the truth?"
The eyes of Magua flashed fire; but suddenly recollecting
the necessity of maintaining his presence of mind, he turned
away in silent disdain, well assured that the sagacity of
the Indians would not fail to extract the real merits of the
point in controversy. He was not deceived; for, after
another short consultation, the wary Delaware turned to him
again, and expressed the determination of the chiefs, though
in the most considerate language.
"My brother has been called a liar," he said, "and his
friends are angry. They will show that he has spoken the
truth. Give my prisoners guns, and let them prove which is
Magua affected to consider the expedient, which he well knew
proceeded from distrust of himself, as a compliment, and
made a gesture of acquiescence, well content that his
veracity should be supported by so skillful a marksman as
the scout. The weapons were instantly placed in the hands
of the friendly opponents, and they were bid to fire, over
the heads of the seated multitude, at an earthen vessel,
which lay, by accident, on a stump, some fifty yards from
the place where they stood.
Heyward smiled to himself at the idea of a competition with
the scout, though he determined to persevere in the
deception, until apprised of the real designs of Magua.
Raising his rifle with the utmost care, and renewing his aim
three several times, he fired. The bullet cut the wood
within a few inches of the vessel; and a general exclamation
of satisfaction announced that the shot was considered a
proof of great skill in the use of a weapon. Even Hawkeye
nodded his head, as if he would say, it was better than he
expected. But, instead of manifesting an intention to
contend with the successful marksman, he stood leaning on
his rifle for more than a minute, like a man who was
completely buried in thought. From this reverie, he was,
however, awakened by one of the young Indians who had
furnished the arms, and who now touched his shoulder, saying
in exceedingly broken English:
"Can the pale face beat it?"
"Yes, Huron!" exclaimed the scout, raising the short rifle
in his right hand, and shaking it at Magua, with as much
apparent ease as if it were a reed; "yes, Huron, I could
strike you now, and no power on earth could prevent the
deed! The soaring hawk is not more certain of the dove than
I am this moment of you, did I choose to send a bullet to
your heart! Why should I not? Why! -- because the gifts of
my color forbid it, and I might draw down evil on tender and
innocent heads. If you know such a being as God, thank Him,
therefore, in your inward soul; for you have reason!"
The flushed countenance, angry eye and swelling figure of
the scout, produced a sensation of secret awe in all that
heard him. The Delawares held their breath in expectation;
but Magua himself, even while he distrusted the forbearance
of his enemy, remained immovable and calm, where he stood
wedged in by the crowd, as one who grew to the spot.
"Beat it," repeated the young Delaware at the elbow of the
"Beat what, fool! -- what?" exclaimed Hawkeye, still
flourishing the weapon angrily above his head, though his
eye no longer sought the person of Magua.
"If the white man is the warrior he pretends," said the aged
chief, "let him strike nigher to the mark."
The scout laughed aloud -- a noise that produced the
startling effect of an unnatural sound on Heyward; then
dropping the piece, heavily, into his extended left hand, it
was discharged, apparently by the shock, driving the
fragments of the vessel into the air, and scattering them on
every side. Almost at the same instant, the rattling sound
of the rifle was heard, as he suffered it to fall,
contemptuously, to the earth.
The first impression of so strange a scene was engrossing
admiration. Then a low, but increasing murmur, ran through
the multitude, and finally swelled into sounds that denoted
a lively opposition in the sentiments of the spectators.
While some openly testified their satisfaction at so
unexampled dexterity, by far the larger portion of the tribe
were inclined to believe the success of the shot was the
result of accident. Heyward was not slow to confirm an
opinion that was so favorable to his own pretensions.
"It was chance!" he exclaimed; "none can shoot without an
"Chance!" echoed the excited woodsman, who was now
stubbornly bent on maintaining his identity at every hazard,
and on whom the secret hints of Heyward to acquiesce in the
deception were entirely lost. "Does yonder lying Huron,
too, think it chance? Give him another gun, and place us
face to face, without cover or dodge, and let Providence,
and our own eyes, decide the matter atween us! I do not
make the offer, to you, major; for our blood is of a color,
and we serve the same master."
"That the Huron is a liar, is very evident," returned
Heyward, coolly; "you have yourself heard him asset you to
be La Longue Carabine."
It were impossible to say what violent assertion the
stubborn Hawkeye would have next made, in his headlong wish
to vindicate his identity, had not the aged Delaware once
"The hawk which comes from the clouds can return when he
will," he said; "give them the guns."
This time the scout seized the rifle with avidity; nor had
Magua, though he watched the movements of the marksman with
jealous eyes, any further cause for apprehension.
"Now let it be proved, in the face of this tribe of
Delawares, which is the better man," cried the scout,
tapping the butt of his piece with that finger which had
pulled so many fatal triggers.
"You see that gourd hanging against yonder tree, major; if
you are a marksman fit for the borders, let me see you break
Duncan noted the object, and prepared himself to renew the
trial. The gourd was one of the usual little vessels used
by the Indians, and it was suspended from a dead branch of a
small pine, by a thong of deerskin, at the full distance of
a hundred yards. So strangely compounded is the feeling of
self-love, that the young soldier, while he knew the utter
worthlessness of the suffrages of his savage umpires, forgot
the sudden motives of the contest in a wish to excel. It
had been seen, already, that his skill was far from being
contemptible, and he now resolved to put forth its nicest
qualities. Had his life depended on the issue, the aim of
Duncan could not have been more deliberate or guarded. He
fired; and three or four young Indians, who sprang forward
at the report, announced with a shout, that the ball was in
the tree, a very little on one side of the proper object.
The warriors uttered a common ejaculation of pleasure, and
then turned their eyes, inquiringly, on the movements of his
"It may do for the Royal Americans!" said Hawkeye, laughing
once more in his own silent, heartfelt manner; "but had my
gun often turned so much from the true line, many a marten,
whose skin is now in a lady's muff, would still be in the
woods; ay, and many a bloody Mingo, who has departed to his
final account, would be acting his deviltries at this very
day, atween the provinces. I hope the squaw who owns the
gourd has more of them in her wigwam, for this will never
hold water again!"
The scout had shook his priming, and cocked his piece, while
speaking; and, as he ended, he threw back a foot, and slowly
raised the muzzle from the earth: the motion was steady,
uniform, and in one direction. When on a perfect level, it
remained for a single moment, without tremor or variation,
as though both man and rifle were carved in stone. During
that stationary instant, it poured forth its contents, in a
bright, glancing sheet of flame. Again the young Indians
bounded forward; but their hurried search and disappointed
looks announced that no traces of the bullet were to be
"Go!" said the old chief to the scout, in a tone of strong
disgust; "thou art a wolf in the skin of a dog. I will talk
to the 'Long Rifle' of the Yengeese."
"Ah! had I that piece which furnished the name you use, I
would obligate myself to cut the thong, and drop the gourd
without breaking it!" returned Hawkeye, perfectly
undisturbed by the other's manner. "Fools, if you would
find the bullet of a sharpshooter in these woods, you must
look in the object, and not around it!"
The Indian youths instantly comprehended his meaning -- for
this time he spoke in the Delaware tongue -- and tearing the
gourd from the tree, they held it on high with an exulting
shout, displaying a hole in its bottom, which had been cut
by the bullet, after passing through the usual orifice in
the center of its upper side. At this unexpected
exhibition, a loud and vehement expression of pleasure burst
from the mouth of every warrior present. It decided the
question, and effectually established Hawkeye in the
possession of his dangerous reputation. Those curious and
admiring eyes which had been turned again on Heyward, were
finally directed to the weather-beaten form of the scout,
who immediately became the principal object of attention to
the simple and unsophisticated beings by whom he was
surrounded. When the sudden and noisy commotion had a
little subsided, the aged chief resumed his examination.
"Why did you wish to stop my ears?" he said, addressing
Duncan; "are the Delawares fools that they could not know
the young panther from the cat?"
"They will yet find the Huron a singing-bird," said Duncan,
endeavoring to adopt the figurative language of the natives.
"It is good. We will know who can shut the ears of men.
Brother," added the chief turning his eyes on Magua, "the
Thus singled, and directly called on to declare his object,
the Huron arose; and advancing with great deliberation and
dignity into the very center of the circle, where he stood
confronted by the prisoners, he placed himself in an
attitude to speak. Before opening his mouth, however, he
bent his eyes slowly along the whole living boundary of
earnest faces, as if to temper his expressions to the
capacities of his audience. On Hawkeye he cast a glance of
respectful enmity; on Duncan, a look of inextinguishable
hatred; the shrinking figure of Alice he scarcely deigned to
notice; but when his glance met the firm, commanding, and
yet lovely form of Cora, his eye lingered a moment, with an
expression that it might have been difficult to define.
Then, filled with his own dark intentions, he spoke in the
language of the Canadas, a tongue that he well knew was
comprehended by most of his auditors.
"The Spirit that made men colored them differently,"
commenced the subtle Huron. "Some are blacker than the
sluggish bear. These He said should be slaves; and He
ordered them to work forever, like the beaver. You may hear
them groan, when the south wind blows, louder than the
lowing buffaloes, along the shores of the great salt lake,
where the big canoes come and go with them in droves. Some
He made with faces paler than the ermine of the forests; and
these He ordered to be traders; dogs to their women, and
wolves to their slaves. He gave this people the nature of
the pigeon; wings that never tire; young, more plentiful
than the leaves on the trees, and appetites to devour the
earth. He gave them tongues like the false call of the
wildcat; hearts like rabbits; the cunning of the hog (but
none of the fox), and arms longer than the legs of the
moose. With his tongue he stops the ears of the Indians;
his heart teaches him to pay warriors to fight his battles;
his cunning tells him how to get together the goods of the
earth; and his arms inclose the land from the shores of the
salt-water to the islands of the great lake. His gluttony
makes him sick. God gave him enough, and yet he wants all.
Such are the pale faces.
"Some the Great Spirit made with skins brighter and redder
than yonder sun," continued Magua, pointing impressively
upward to the lurid luminary, which was struggling through
the misty atmosphere of the horizon; "and these did He
fashion to His own mind. He gave them this island as He had
made it, covered with trees, and filled with game. The wind
made their clearings; the sun and rain ripened their fruits;
and the snows came to tell them to be thankful. What need
had they of roads to journey by! They saw through the
hills! When the beavers worked, they lay in the shade, and
looked on. The winds cooled them in summer; in winter,
skins kept them warm. If they fought among themselves, it
was to prove that they were men. They were brave; they were
just; they were happy."
Here the speaker paused, and again looked around him to
discover if his legend had touched the sympathies of his
listeners. He met everywhere, with eyes riveted on his own,
heads erect and nostrils expanded, as if each individual
present felt himself able and willing, singly, to redress
the wrongs of his race.
"If the Great Spirit gave different tongues to his red
children," he continued, in a low, still melancholy voice,
"it was that all animals might understand them. Some He
placed among the snows, with their cousin, the bear. Some
he placed near the setting sun, on the road to the happy
hunting grounds. Some on the lands around the great fresh
waters; but to His greatest, and most beloved, He gave the
sands of the salt lake. Do my brothers know the name of
this favored people?"
"It was the Lenape!" exclaimed twenty eager voices in a
"It was the Lenni Lenape," returned Magua, affecting to bend
his head in reverence to their former greatness. "It was
the tribes of the Lenape! The sun rose from water that was
salt, and set in water that was sweet, and never hid himself
from their eyes. But why should I, a Huron of the woods,
tell a wise people their own traditions? Why remind them of
their injuries; their ancient greatness; their deeds; their
glory; their happiness; their losses; their defeats; their
misery? Is there not one among them who has seen it all,
and who knows it to be true? I have done. My tongue is
still for my heart is of lead. I listen."
As the voice of the speaker suddenly ceased, every face and
all eyes turned, by a common movement, toward the venerable
Tamenund. From the moment that he took his seat, until the
present instant, the lips of the patriarch had not severed,
and scarcely a sign of life had escaped him. He sat bent in
feebleness, and apparently unconscious of the presence he
was in, during the whole of that opening scene, in which the
skill of the scout had been so clearly established. At the
nicely graduated sound of Magua's voice, however, he
betrayed some evidence of consciousness, and once or twice
he even raised his head, as if to listen. But when the
crafty Huron spoke of his nation by name, the eyelids of the
old man raised themselves, and he looked out upon the
multitude with that sort of dull, unmeaning expression which
might be supposed to belong to the countenance of a specter.
Then he made an effort to rise, and being upheld by his
supporters, he gained his feet, in a posture commanding by
its dignity, while he tottered with weakness.
"Who calls upon the children of the Lenape?" he said, in a
deep, guttural voice, that was rendered awfully audible by
the breathless silence of the multitude; "who speaks of
things gone? Does not the egg become a worm -- the worm a
fly, and perish? Why tell the Delawares of good that is
past? Better thank the Manitou for that which remains."
"It is a Wyandot," said Magua, stepping nigher to the rude
platform on which the other stood; "a friend of Tamenund."
"A friend!" repeated the sage, on whose brow a dark frown
settled, imparting a portion of that severity which had
rendered his eye so terrible in middle age. "Are the
Mingoes rulers of the earth? What brings a Huron in here?"
"Justice. His prisoners are with his brothers, and he comes
for his own."
Tamenund turned his head toward one of his supporters, and
listened to the short explanation the man gave.
Then, facing the applicant, he regarded him a moment with
deep attention; after which he said, in a low and reluctant
"Justice is the law of the great Manitou. My children, give
the stranger food. Then, Huron, take thine own and depart."
On the delivery of this solemn judgment, the patriarch
seated himself, and closed his eyes again, as if better
pleased with the images of his own ripened experience than
with the visible objects of the world. Against such a
decree there was no Delaware sufficiently hardy to murmur,
much less oppose himself. The words were barely uttered
when four or five of the younger warriors, stepping behind
Heyward and the scout, passed thongs so dexterously and
rapidly around their arms, as to hold them both in instant
bondage. The former was too much engrossed with his
precious and nearly insensible burden, to be aware of their
intentions before they were executed; and the latter, who
considered even the hostile tribes of the Delawares a
superior race of beings, submitted without resistance.
Perhaps, however, the manner of the scout would not have
been so passive, had he fully comprehended the language in
which the preceding dialogue had been conducted.
Magua cast a look of triumph around the whole assembly
before he proceeded to the execution of his purpose.
Perceiving that the men were unable to offer any resistance,
he turned his looks on her he valued most. Cora met his
gaze with an eye so calm and firm, that his resolution
wavered. Then, recollecting his former artifice, he raised
Alice from the arms of the warrior against whom she leaned,
and beckoning Heyward to follow, he motioned for the
encircling crowd to open. But Cora, instead of obeying the
impulse he had expected, rushed to the feet of the
patriarch, and, raising her voice, exclaimed aloud:
"Just and venerable Delaware, on thy wisdom and power we
lean for mercy! Be deaf to yonder artful and remorseless
monster, who poisons thy ears with falsehoods to feed his
thirst for blood. Thou that hast lived long, and that hast
seen the evil of the world, should know how to temper its
calamities to the miserable."
The eyes of the old man opened heavily, and he once more
looked upward at the multitude. As the piercing tones of
the suppliant swelled on his ears, they moved slowly in the
direction of her person, and finally settled there in a
steady gaze. Cora had cast herself to her knees; and, with
hands clenched in each other and pressed upon her bosom, she
remained like a beauteous and breathing model of her sex,
looking up in his faded but majestic countenance, with a
species of holy reverence. Gradually the expression of
Tamenund's features changed, and losing their vacancy in
admiration, they lighted with a portion of that intelligence
which a century before had been wont to communicate his
youthful fire to the extensive bands of the Delawares.
Rising without assistance, and seemingly without an effort,
he demanded, in a voice that startled its auditors by its
"What art thou?"
"A woman. One of a hated race, if thou wilt -- a Yengee.
But one who has never harmed thee, and who cannot harm thy
people, if she would; who asks for succor."
"Tell me, my children," continued the patriarch, hoarsely,
motioning to those around him, though his eyes still dwelt
upon the kneeling form of Cora, "where have the Delawares
"In the mountains of the Iroquois, beyond the clear springs
of the Horican."
"Many parching summers are come and gone," continued the
sage, "since I drank of the water of my own rivers. The
children of Minquon* are the justest white men, but they
were thirsty and they took it to themselves. Do they follow
us so far?"
* William Penn was termed Minquon by the Delawares,
and, as he never used violence or injustice in his dealings
with them, his reputation for probity passed into a proverb.
The American is justly proud of the origin of his nation,
which is perhaps unequaled in the history of the world; but
the Pennsylvanian and Jerseyman have more reason to value
themselves in their ancestors than the natives of any other
state, since no wrong was done the original owners of the
"We follow none, we covet nothing," answered Cora.
"Captives against our wills, have we been brought amongst
you; and we ask but permission to depart to our own in
peace. Art thou not Tamenund -- the father, the judge, I
had almost said, the prophet -- of this people?"
"I am Tamenund of many days."
"'Tis now some seven years that one of thy people was at the
mercy of a white chief on the borders of this province. He
claimed to be of the blood of the good and just Tamenund.
'Go', said the white man, 'for thy parent's sake thou art
free.' Dost thou remember the name of that English warrior?"
"I remember, that when a laughing boy," returned the
patriarch, with the peculiar recollection of vast age, "I
stood upon the sands of the sea shore, and saw a big canoe,
with wings whiter than the swan's, and wider than many
eagles, come from the rising sun."
"Nay, nay; I speak not of a time so very distant, but of
favor shown to thy kindred by one of mine, within the memory
of thy youngest warrior."
"Was it when the Yengeese and the Dutchmanne fought for the
hunting-grounds of the Delawares? Then Tamenund was a
chief, and first laid aside the bow for the lightning of the
pale faces --"
"Not yet then," interrupted Cora, "by many ages; I speak of
a thing of yesterday. Surely, surely, you forget it not."
"It was but yesterday," rejoined the aged man, with touching
pathos, "that the children of the Lenape were masters of the
world. The fishes of the salt lake, the birds, the beasts,
and the Mengee of the woods, owned them for Sagamores."
Cora bowed her head in disappointment, and, for a bitter
moment struggled with her chagrin. Then, elevating her rich
features and beaming eyes, she continued, in tones scarcely
less penetrating than the unearthly voice of the patriarch
"Tell me, is Tamenund a father?"
The old man looked down upon her from his elevated stand,
with a benignant smile on his wasted countenance, and then
casting his eyes slowly over the whole assemblage, he
"Of a nation."
"For myself I ask nothing. Like thee and thine, venerable
chief," she continued, pressing her hands convulsively on
her heart, and suffering her head to droop until her burning
cheeks were nearly concealed in the maze of dark, glossy
tresses that fell in disorder upon her shoulders, "the curse
of my ancestors has fallen heavily on their child. But
yonder is one who has never known the weight of Heaven's
displeasure until now. She is the daughter of an old and
failing man, whose days are near their close. She has many,
very many, to love her, and delight in her; and she is too
good, much too precious, to become the victim of that
"I know that the pale faces are a proud and hungry race. I
know that they claim not only to have the earth, but that
the meanest of their color is better than the Sachems of the
red man. The dogs and crows of their tribes," continued the
earnest old chieftain, without heeding the wounded spirit of
his listener, whose head was nearly crushed to the earth in
shame, as he proceeded, "would bark and caw before they
would take a woman to their wigwams whose blood was not of
the color of snow. But let them not boast before the face
of the Manitou too loud. They entered the land at the
rising, and may yet go off at the setting sun. I have often
seen the locusts strip the leaves from the trees, but the
season of blossoms has always come again."
"It is so," said Cora, drawing a long breath, as if reviving
from a trance, raising her face, and shaking back her
shining veil, with a kindling eye, that contradicted the
death-like paleness of her countenance; "but why -- it is
not permitted us to inquire. There is yet one of thine own
people who has not been brought before thee; before thou
lettest the Huron depart in triumph, hear him speak."
Observing Tamenund to look about him doubtingly, one of his
"It is a snake -- a red-skin in the pay of the Yengeese. We
keep him for the torture."
"Let him come," returned the sage.
Then Tamenund once more sank into his seat, and a silence so
deep prevailed while the young man prepared to obey his
simple mandate, that the leaves, which fluttered in the
draught of the light morning air, were distinctly heard
rustling in the surrounding forest.
"If you deny me, fie upon your law! There is no force in
the decrees of Venice: I stand for judgment: answer, shall I
have it?"--Merchant of Venice
The silence continued unbroken by human sounds for many
anxious minutes. Then the waving multitude opened and shut
again, and Uncas stood in the living circle. All those
eyes, which had been curiously studying the lineaments of
the sage, as the source of their own intelligence, turned on
the instant, and were now bent in secret admiration on the
erect, agile, and faultless person of the captive. But
neither the presence in which he found himself, nor the
exclusive attention that he attracted, in any manner
disturbed the self-possession of the young Mohican. He cast
a deliberate and observing look on every side of him,
meeting the settled expression of hostility that lowered in
the visages of the chiefs with the same calmness as the
curious gaze of the attentive children. But when, last in
this haughty scrutiny, the person of Tamenund came under his
glance, his eye became fixed, as though all other objects
were already forgotten. Then, advancing with a slow and
noiseless step up the area, he placed himself immediately
before the footstool of the sage. Here he stood unnoted,
though keenly observant himself, until one of the chiefs
apprised the latter of his presence.
"With what tongue does the prisoner speak to the Manitou?"
demanded the patriarch, without unclosing his eyes.
"Like his fathers," Uncas replied; "with the tongue of a
At this sudden and unexpected annunciation, a low, fierce
yell ran through the multitude, that might not inaptly be
compared to the growl of the lion, as his choler is first
awakened -- a fearful omen of the weight of his future
anger. The effect was equally strong on the sage, though
differently exhibited. He passed a hand before his eyes, as
if to exclude the least evidence of so shameful a spectacle,
while he repeated, in his low, guttural tones, the words he
had just heard.
"A Delaware! I have lived to see the tribes of the Lenape
driven from their council-fires, and scattered, like broken
herds of deer, among the hills of the Iroquois! I have seen
the hatchets of a strong people sweep woods from the
valleys, that the winds of heaven have spared! The beasts
that run on the mountains, and the birds that fly above the
trees, have I seen living in the wigwams of men; but never
before have I found a Delaware so base as to creep, like a
poisonous serpent, into the camps of his nation."
"The singing-birds have opened their bills," returned Uncas,
in the softest notes of his own musical voice; "and Tamenund
has heard their song."
The sage started, and bent his head aside, as if to catch
the fleeting sounds of some passing melody.
"Does Tamenund dream!" he exclaimed. "What voice is at his
ear! Have the winters gone backward! Will summer come
again to the children of the Lenape!"
A solemn and respectful silence succeeded this incoherent
burst from the lips of the Delaware prophet. His people
readily constructed his unintelligible language into one of
those mysterious conferences he was believed to hold so
frequently with a superior intelligence and they awaited the
issue of the revelation in awe. After a patient pause,
however, one of the aged men, perceiving that the sage had
lost the recollection of the subject before them, ventured
to remind him again of the presence of the prisoner.
"The false Delaware trembles lest he should hear the words
of Tamenund," he said. "'Tis a hound that howls, when the
Yengeese show him a trail."
"And ye," returned Uncas, looking sternly around him, "are
dogs that whine, when the Frenchman casts ye the offals of
Twenty knives gleamed in the air, and as many warriors
sprang to their feet, at this biting, and perhaps merited
retort; but a motion from one of the chiefs suppressed the
outbreaking of their tempers, and restored the appearance of
quiet. The task might probably have been more difficult,
had not a movement made by Tamenund indicated that he was
again about to speak.
"Delaware!" resumed the sage, "little art thou worthy of thy
name. My people have not seen a bright sun in many winters;
and the warrior who deserts his tribe when hid in clouds is
doubly a traitor. The law of the Manitou is just. It is
so; while the rivers run and the mountains stand, while the
blossoms come and go on the trees, it must be so. He is
thine, my children; deal justly by him."
Not a limb was moved, nor was a breath drawn louder and
longer than common, until the closing syllable of this final
decree had passed the lips of Tamenund. Then a cry of
vengeance burst at once, as it might be, from the united
lips of the nation; a frightful augury of their ruthless
intentions. In the midst of these prolonged and savage
yells, a chief proclaimed, in a high voice, that the captive
was condemned to endure the dreadful trial of torture by
fire. The circle broke its order, and screams of delight
mingled with the bustle and tumult of preparation. Heyward
struggled madly with his captors; the anxious eye of Hawkeye
began to look around him, with an expression of peculiar
earnestness; and Cora again threw herself at the feet of the
patriarch, once more a suppliant for mercy.
Throughout the whole of these trying moments, Uncas had
alone preserved his serenity. He looked on the preparations
with a steady eye, and when the tormentors came to seize
him, he met them with a firm and upright attitude. One
among them, if possible more fierce and savage than his
fellows, seized the hunting-shirt of the young warrior, and
at a single effort tore it from his body. Then, with a yell
of frantic pleasure, he leaped toward his unresisting victim
and prepared to lead him to the stake. But, at that moment,
when he appeared most a stranger to the feelings of
humanity, the purpose of the savage was arrested as suddenly
as if a supernatural agency had interposed in the behalf of
Uncas. The eyeballs of the Delaware seemed to start from
their sockets; his mouth opened and his whole form became
frozen in an attitude of amazement. Raising his hand with a
slow and regulated motion, he pointed with a finger to the
bosom of the captive. His companions crowded about him in
wonder and every eye was like his own, fastened intently on
the figure of a small tortoise, beautifully tattooed on the
breast of the prisoner, in a bright blue tint.
For a single instant Uncas enjoyed his triumph, smiling
calmly on the scene. Then motioning the crowd away with a
high and haughty sweep of his arm, he advanced in front of
the nation with the air of a king, and spoke in a voice
louder than the murmur of admiration that ran through the
"Men of the Lenni Lenape!" he said, "my race upholds the
earth! Your feeble tribe stands on my shell! What fire
that a Delaware can light would burn the child of my
fathers," he added, pointing proudly to the simple blazonry
on his skin; "the blood that came from such a stock would
smother your flames! My race is the grandfather of
"Who art thou?" demanded Tamenund, rising at the startling
tones he heard, more than at any meaning conveyed by the
language of the prisoner.
"Uncas, the son of Chingachgook," answered the captive
modestly, turning from the nation, and bending his head in
reverence to the other's character and years; "a son of the
"The hour of Tamenund is nigh!" exclaimed the sage; "the day
is come, at last, to the night! I thank the Manitou, that
one is here to fill my place at the council-fire. Uncas,
the child of Uncas, is found! Let the eyes of a dying eagle
gaze on the rising sun."
The youth stepped lightly, but proudly on the platform,
where he became visible to the whole agitated and wondering
multitude. Tamenund held him long at the length of his arm
and read every turn in the fine lineaments of his
countenance, with the untiring gaze of one who recalled days
"Is Tamenund a boy?" at length the bewildered prophet
exclaimed. "Have I dreamed of so many snows -- that my
people were scattered like floating sands -- of Yengeese,
more plenty than the leaves on the trees! The arrow of
Tamenund would not frighten the fawn; his arm is withered
like the branch of a dead oak; the snail would be swifter in
the race; yet is Uncas before him as they went to battle
against the pale faces! Uncas, the panther of his tribe,
the eldest son of the Lenape, the wisest Sagamore of the
Mohicans! Tell me, ye Delawares, has Tamenund been a sleeper
for a hundred winters?"
The calm and deep silence which succeeded these words
sufficiently announced the awful reverence with which his
people received the communication of the patriarch. None
dared to answer, though all listened in breathless
expectation of what might follow. Uncas, however, looking
in his face with the fondness and veneration of a favored
child, presumed on his own high and acknowledged rank, to
"Four warriors of his race have lived and died," he said,
"since the friend of Tamenund led his people in battle. The
blood of the turtle has been in many chiefs, but all have
gone back into the earth from whence they came, except
Chingachgook and his son."
"It is true -- it is true," returned the sage, a flash of
recollection destroying all his pleasing fancies, and
restoring him at once to a consciousness of the true history
of his nation. "Our wise men have often said that two
warriors of the unchanged race were in the hills of the
Yengeese; why have their seats at the council-fires of the
Delawares been so long empty?"
At these words the young man raised his head, which he had
still kept bowed a little, in reverence; and lifting his
voice so as to be heard by the multitude, as if to explain
at once and forever the policy of his family, he said aloud:
"Once we slept where we could hear the salt lake speak in
its anger. Then we were rulers and Sagamores over the land.
But when a pale face was seen on every brook, we followed
the deer back to the river of our nation. The Delawares
were gone. Few warriors of them all stayed to drink of the
stream they loved. Then said my fathers, 'Here will we
hunt. The waters of the river go into the salt lake. If we
go toward the setting sun, we shall find streams that run
into the great lakes of sweet water; there would a Mohican
die, like fishes of the sea, in the clear springs. When the
Manitou is ready and shall say "Come," we will follow the
river to the sea, and take our own again. Such, Delawares,
is the belief of the children of the Turtle. Our eyes are
on the rising and not toward the setting sun. We know
whence he comes, but we know not whither he goes. It is
The men of the Lenape listened to his words with all the
respect that superstition could lend, finding a secret charm
even in the figurative language with which the young
Sagamore imparted his ideas. Uncas himself watched the
effect of his brief explanation with intelligent eyes, and
gradually dropped the air of authority he had assumed, as he
perceived that his auditors were content. Then, permitting
his looks to wander over the silent throng that crowded
around the elevated seat of Tamenund, he first perceived
Hawkeye in his bonds. Stepping eagerly from his stand, he
made way for himself to the side of his friend; and cutting
his thongs with a quick and angry stroke of his own knife,
he motioned to the crowd to divide. The Indians silently
obeyed, and once more they stood ranged in their circle, as
before his appearance among them. Uncas took the scout by
the hand, and led him to the feet of the patriarch.
"Father," he said, "look at this pale face; a just man, and
the friend of the Delawares."
"Is he a son of Minquon?"
"Not so; a warrior known to the Yengeese, and feared by the
"What name has he gained by his deeds?"
"We call him Hawkeye," Uncas replied, using the Delaware
phrase; "for his sight never fails. The Mingoes know him
better by the death he gives their warriors; with them he is
'The Long Rifle'."
"La Longue Carabine!" exclaimed Tamenund, opening his eyes,
and regarding the scout sternly. "My son has not done well
to call him friend."
"I call him so who proves himself such," returned the young
chief, with great calmness, but with a steady mien. "If
Uncas is welcome among the Delawares, then is Hawkeye with
"The pale face has slain my young men; his name is great for
the blows he has struck the Lenape."
"If a Mingo has whispered that much in the ear of the
Delaware, he has only shown that he is a singing-bird," said
the scout, who now believed that it was time to vindicate
himself from such offensive charges, and who spoke as the
man he addressed, modifying his Indian figures, however,
with his own peculiar notions. "That I have slain the Maquas
I am not the man to deny, even at their own council-fires;
but that, knowingly, my hand has never harmed a Delaware, is
opposed to the reason of my gifts, which is friendly to them,
and all that belongs to their nation."
A low exclamation of applause passed among the warriors who
exchanged looks with each other like men that first began to
perceive their error.
"Where is the Huron?" demanded Tamenund. "Has he stopped my
Magua, whose feelings during that scene in which Uncas had
triumphed may be much better imagined than described,
answered to the call by stepping boldly in front of the
"The just Tamenund," he said, "will not keep what a Huron
"Tell me, son of my brother," returned the sage, avoiding
the dark countenance of Le Subtil, and turning gladly to the
more ingenuous features of Uncas, "has the stranger a
conqueror's right over you?"
"He has none. The panther may get into snares set by the
women; but he is strong, and knows how to leap through
"La Longue Carabine?"
"Laughs at the Mingoes. Go, Huron, ask your squaws the
color of a bear."
"The stranger and white maiden that come into my camp
"Should journey on an open path."
"And the woman that Huron left with my warriors?"
Uncas made no reply.
"And the woman that the Mingo has brought into my camp?"
repeated Tamenund, gravely.
"She is mine," cried Magua, shaking his hand in triumph at
Uncas. "Mohican, you know that she is mine."
"My son is silent," said Tamenund, endeavoring to read the
expression of the face that the youth turned from him in
"It is so," was the low answer.
A short and impressive pause succeeded, during which it was
very apparent with what reluctance the multitude admitted
the justice of the Mingo's claim. At length the sage, on
whom alone the decision depended, said, in a firm voice:
"As he came, just Tamenund," demanded the wily Magua, "or
with hands filled with the faith of the Delawares? The
wigwam of Le Renard Subtil is empty. Make him strong with
The aged man mused with himself for a time; and then,
bending his head toward one of his venerable companions, he
"Are my ears open?"
"It is true."
"Is this Mingo a chief?"
"The first in his nation."
"Girl, what wouldst thou? A great warrior takes thee to
wife. Go! thy race will not end."
"Better, a thousand times, it should," exclaimed the
horror-struck Cora, "than meet with such a degradation!"
"Huron, her mind is in the tents of her fathers. An
unwilling maiden makes an unhappy wigwam."
"She speaks with the tongue of her people," returned Magua,
regarding his victim with a look of bitter irony.
"She is of a race of traders, and will bargain for a bright
look. Let Tamenund speak the words."
"Take you the wampum, and our love."
"Nothing hence but what Magua brought hither."
"Then depart with thine own. The Great Manitou forbids that
a Delaware should be unjust."
Magua advanced, and seized his captive strongly by the arm;
the Delawares fell back, in silence; and Cora, as if
conscious that remonstrance would be useless, prepared to
submit to her fate without resistance.
"Hold, hold!" cried Duncan, springing forward; "Huron, have
mercy! her ransom shall make thee richer than any of thy
people were ever yet known to be."
"Magua is a red-skin; he wants not the beads of the pale
"Gold, silver, powder, lead -- all that a warrior needs
shall be in thy wigwam; all that becomes the greatest
"Le Subtil is very strong," cried Magua, violently shaking
the hand which grasped the unresisting arm of Cora; "he has
"Mighty ruler of Providence!" exclaimed Heyward, clasping
his hands together in agony, "can this be suffered! To you,
just Tamenund, I appeal for mercy."
"The words of the Delaware are said," returned the sage,
closing his eyes, and dropping back into his seat, alike
wearied with his mental and his bodily exertion. "Men speak
"That a chief should not misspend his time in unsaying what
has once been spoken is wise and reasonable," said Hawkeye,
motioning to Duncan to be silent; "but it is also prudent in
every warrior to consider well before he strikes his
tomahawk into the head of his prisoner. Huron, I love you
not; nor can I say that any Mingo has ever received much
favor at my hands. It is fair to conclude that, if this war
does not soon end, many more of your warriors will meet me
in the woods. Put it to your judgment, then, whether you
would prefer taking such a prisoner as that into your
encampment, or one like myself, who am a man that it would
greatly rejoice your nation to see with naked hands."
"Will 'The Long Rifle' give his life for the woman?"
demanded Magua, hesitatingly; for he had already made a
motion toward quitting the place with his victim.
"No, no; I have not said so much as that," returned Hawkeye,
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