Infomotions, Inc.The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 / Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851



Author: Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851
Title: The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): heyward; magua; uncas; hawkeye; duncan; scout; cora; huron; hurons; munro; alice; delawares; indian; rifle
Contributor(s): Chambers, William, 1800-1883 [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 151,066 words (average) Grade range: 12-15 (college) Readability score: 54 (average)
Identifier: etext940
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Title: The Last of the Mohicans

Author: James Fenimore Cooper

Release Date: February 5, 2006 [EBook #940]

Language: English

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Produced by John Horner and David Widger





THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS

A Narrative of 1757

by James Fenimore Cooper




INTRODUCTION

It is believed that the scene of this tale, and most of the information
necessary to understand its allusions, are rendered sufficiently obvious
to the reader in the text itself, or in the accompanying notes. Still
there is so much obscurity in the Indian traditions, and so much
confusion in the Indian names, as to render some explanation useful.

Few men exhibit greater diversity, or, if we may so express it, greater
antithesis of character, than the native warrior of North America.
In war, he is daring, boastful, cunning, ruthless, self-denying,
and self-devoted; in peace, just, generous, hospitable, revengeful,
superstitious, modest, and commonly chaste. These are qualities, it
is true, which do not distinguish all alike; but they are so far the
predominating traits of these remarkable people as to be characteristic.

It is generally believed that the Aborigines of the American continent
have an Asiatic origin. There are many physical as well as moral facts
which corroborate this opinion, and some few that would seem to weigh
against it.

The color of the Indian, the writer believes, is peculiar to himself,
and while his cheek-bones have a very striking indication of a Tartar
origin, his eyes have not. Climate may have had great influence on
the former, but it is difficult to see how it can have produced the
substantial difference which exists in the latter. The imagery of the
Indian, both in his poetry and in his oratory, is oriental; chastened,
and perhaps improved, by the limited range of his practical knowledge.
He draws his metaphors from the clouds, the seasons, the birds, the
beasts, and the vegetable world. In this, perhaps, he does no more than
any other energetic and imaginative race would do, being compelled to
set bounds to fancy by experience; but the North American Indian clothes
his ideas in a dress which is different from that of the African, and
is oriental in itself. His language has the richness and sententious
fullness of the Chinese. He will express a phrase in a word, and he will
qualify the meaning of an entire sentence by a syllable; he will even
convey different significations by the simplest inflections of the
voice.

Philologists have said that there are but two or three languages,
properly speaking, among all the numerous tribes which formerly occupied
the country that now composes the United States. They ascribe the known
difficulty one people have to understand another to corruptions and
dialects. The writer remembers to have been present at an interview
between two chiefs of the Great Prairies west of the Mississippi, and
when an interpreter was in attendance who spoke both their languages.
The warriors appeared to be on the most friendly terms, and seemingly
conversed much together; yet, according to the account of the
interpreter, each was absolutely ignorant of what the other said.
They were of hostile tribes, brought together by the influence of the
American government; and it is worthy of remark, that a common policy
led them both to adopt the same subject. They mutually exhorted each
other to be of use in the event of the chances of war throwing either of
the parties into the hands of his enemies. Whatever may be the truth,
as respects the root and the genius of the Indian tongues, it is quite
certain they are now so distinct in their words as to possess most of
the disadvantages of strange languages; hence much of the embarrassment
that has arisen in learning their histories, and most of the uncertainty
which exists in their traditions.

Like nations of higher pretensions, the American Indian gives a very
different account of his own tribe or race from that which is given by
other people. He is much addicted to overestimating his own perfections,
and to undervaluing those of his rival or his enemy; a trait which may
possibly be thought corroborative of the Mosaic account of the creation.

The whites have assisted greatly in rendering the traditions of the
Aborigines more obscure by their own manner of corrupting names. Thus,
the term used in the title of this book has undergone the changes of
Mahicanni, Mohicans, and Mohegans; the latter being the word commonly
used by the whites. When it is remembered that the Dutch (who first
settled New York), the English, and the French, all gave appellations
to the tribes that dwelt within the country which is the scene of this
story, and that the Indians not only gave different names to their
enemies, but frequently to themselves, the cause of the confusion will
be understood.

In these pages, Lenni-Lenape, Lenope, Delawares, Wapanachki, and
Mohicans, all mean the same people, or tribes of the same stock. The
Mengwe, the Maquas, the Mingoes, and the Iroquois, though not all
strictly the same, are identified frequently by the speakers, being
politically confederated and opposed to those just named. Mingo was a
term of peculiar reproach, as were Mengwe and Maqua in a less degree.

The Mohicans were the possessors of the country first occupied by the
Europeans in this portion of the continent. They were, consequently,
the first dispossessed; and the seemingly inevitable fate of all these
people, who disappear before the advances, or it might be termed the
inroads, of civilization, as the verdure of their native forests falls
before the nipping frosts, is represented as having already befallen
them. There is sufficient historical truth in the picture to justify the
use that has been made of it.

In point of fact, the country which is the scene of the following tale
has undergone as little change, since the historical events alluded to
had place, as almost any other district of equal extent within the whole
limits of the United States. There are fashionable and well-attended
watering-places at and near the spring where Hawkeye halted to drink,
and roads traverse the forests where he and his friends were compelled
to journey without even a path. Glen's has a large village; and while
William Henry, and even a fortress of later date, are only to be traced
as ruins, there is another village on the shores of the Horican. But,
beyond this, the enterprise and energy of a people who have done so much
in other places have done little here. The whole of that wilderness,
in which the latter incidents of the legend occurred, is nearly a
wilderness still, though the red man has entirely deserted this part of
the state. Of all the tribes named in these pages, there exist only a
few half-civilized beings of the Oneidas, on the reservations of their
people in New York. The rest have disappeared, either from the regions
in which their fathers dwelt, or altogether from the earth.

There is one point on which we would wish to say a word before closing
this preface. Hawkeye calls the Lac du Saint Sacrement, the "Horican."
As we believe this to be an appropriation of the name that has its
origin with ourselves, the time has arrived, perhaps, when the fact
should be frankly admitted. While writing this book, fully a quarter of
a century since, it occurred to us that the French name of this lake
was too complicated, the American too commonplace, and the Indian too
unpronounceable, for either to be used familiarly in a work of fiction.
Looking over an ancient map, it was ascertained that a tribe of Indians,
called "Les Horicans" by the French, existed in the neighborhood of this
beautiful sheet of water. As every word uttered by Natty Bumppo was
not to be received as rigid truth, we took the liberty of putting the
"Horican" into his mouth, as the substitute for "Lake George." The name
has appeared to find favor, and all things considered, it may possibly
be quite as well to let it stand, instead of going back to the House of
Hanover for the appellation of our finest sheet of water. We relieve our
conscience by the confession, at all events leaving it to exercise its
authority as it may see fit.




CHAPTER 1

     "Mine ear is open, and my heart prepared:
     The worst is wordly loss thou canst unfold:--
     Say, is my kingdom lost?"--Shakespeare

It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that
the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before
the adverse hosts could meet. A wide and apparently an impervious
boundary of forests severed the possessions of the hostile provinces
of France and England. The hardy colonist, and the trained European who
fought at his side, frequently expended months in struggling against
the rapids of the streams, or in effecting the rugged passes of the
mountains, in quest of an opportunity to exhibit their courage in a more
martial conflict. But, emulating the patience and self-denial of the
practiced native warriors, they learned to overcome every difficulty;
and it would seem that, in time, there was no recess of the woods so
dark, nor any secret place so lovely, that it might claim exemption
from the inroads of those who had pledged their blood to satiate their
vengeance, or to uphold the cold and selfish policy of the distant
monarchs of Europe.

Perhaps no district throughout the wide extent of the intermediate
frontiers can furnish a livelier picture of the cruelty and fierceness
of the savage warfare of those periods than the country which lies
between the head waters of the Hudson and the adjacent lakes.

The facilities which nature had there offered to the march of the
combatants were too obvious to be neglected. The lengthened sheet of
the Champlain stretched from the frontiers of Canada, deep within the
borders of the neighboring province of New York, forming a natural
passage across half the distance that the French were compelled to
master in order to strike their enemies. Near its southern termination,
it received the contributions of another lake, whose waters were so
limpid as to have been exclusively selected by the Jesuit missionaries
to perform the typical purification of baptism, and to obtain for it
the title of lake "du Saint Sacrement." The less zealous English thought
they conferred a sufficient honor on its unsullied fountains, when they
bestowed the name of their reigning prince, the second of the house of
Hanover. The two united to rob the untutored possessors of its wooded
scenery of their native right to perpetuate its original appellation of
"Horican."*

     * As each nation of the Indians had its language or its
     dialect, they usually gave different names to the same
     places, though nearly all of their appellations were
     descriptive of the object. Thus a literal translation of the
     name of this beautiful sheet of water, used by the tribe
     that dwelt on its banks, would be "The Tail of the Lake."
     Lake George, as it is vulgarly, and now, indeed, legally,
     called, forms a sort of tail to Lake Champlain, when viewed
     on the map. Hence, the name.

Winding its way among countless islands, and imbedded in mountains, the
"holy lake" extended a dozen leagues still further to the south. With
the high plain that there interposed itself to the further passage of
the water, commenced a portage of as many miles, which conducted the
adventurer to the banks of the Hudson, at a point where, with the usual
obstructions of the rapids, or rifts, as they were then termed in the
language of the country, the river became navigable to the tide.

While, in the pursuit of their daring plans of annoyance, the restless
enterprise of the French even attempted the distant and difficult
gorges of the Alleghany, it may easily be imagined that their proverbial
acuteness would not overlook the natural advantages of the district we
have just described. It became, emphatically, the bloody arena, in which
most of the battles for the mastery of the colonies were contested.
Forts were erected at the different points that commanded the facilities
of the route, and were taken and retaken, razed and rebuilt, as victory
alighted on the hostile banners. While the husbandman shrank back from
the dangerous passes, within the safer boundaries of the more ancient
settlements, armies larger than those that had often disposed of the
scepters of the mother countries, were seen to bury themselves in these
forests, whence they rarely returned but in skeleton bands, that were
haggard with care or dejected by defeat. Though the arts of peace were
unknown to this fatal region, its forests were alive with men; its
shades and glens rang with the sounds of martial music, and the echoes
of its mountains threw back the laugh, or repeated the wanton cry,
of many a gallant and reckless youth, as he hurried by them, in the
noontide of his spirits, to slumber in a long night of forgetfulness.

It was in this scene of strife and bloodshed that the incidents we
shall attempt to relate occurred, during the third year of the war
which England and France last waged for the possession of a country that
neither was destined to retain.

The imbecility of her military leaders abroad, and the fatal want of
energy in her councils at home, had lowered the character of Great
Britain from the proud elevation on which it had been placed by the
talents and enterprise of her former warriors and statesmen. No longer
dreaded by her enemies, her servants were fast losing the confidence
of self-respect. In this mortifying abasement, the colonists, though
innocent of her imbecility, and too humble to be the agents of her
blunders, were but the natural participators. They had recently seen a
chosen army from that country, which, reverencing as a mother, they
had blindly believed invincible--an army led by a chief who had been
selected from a crowd of trained warriors, for his rare military
endowments, disgracefully routed by a handful of French and Indians, and
only saved from annihilation by the coolness and spirit of a Virginian
boy, whose riper fame has since diffused itself, with the steady
influence of moral truth, to the uttermost confines of Christendom.* A
wide frontier had been laid naked by this unexpected disaster, and more
substantial evils were preceded by a thousand fanciful and imaginary
dangers. The alarmed colonists believed that the yells of the savages
mingled with every fitful gust of wind that issued from the interminable
forests of the west. The terrific character of their merciless enemies
increased immeasurably the natural horrors of warfare. Numberless recent
massacres were still vivid in their recollections; nor was there any
ear in the provinces so deaf as not to have drunk in with avidity the
narrative of some fearful tale of midnight murder, in which the natives
of the forests were the principal and barbarous actors. As the credulous
and excited traveler related the hazardous chances of the wilderness,
the blood of the timid curdled with terror, and mothers cast anxious
glances even at those children which slumbered within the security of
the largest towns. In short, the magnifying influence of fear began to
set at naught the calculations of reason, and to render those who should
have remembered their manhood, the slaves of the basest passions. Even
the most confident and the stoutest hearts began to think the issue
of the contest was becoming doubtful; and that abject class was hourly
increasing in numbers, who thought they foresaw all the possessions of
the English crown in America subdued by their Christian foes, or laid
waste by the inroads of their relentless allies.

     * Washington, who, after uselessly admonishing the European
     general of the danger into which he was heedlessly running,
     saved the remnants of the British army, on this occasion, by
     his decision and courage. The reputation earned by
     Washington in this battle was the principal cause of his
     being selected to command the American armies at a later
     day. It is a circumstance worthy of observation, that while
     all America rang with his well-merited reputation, his name
     does not occur in any European account of the battle; at
     least the author has searched for it without success. In
     this manner does the mother country absorb even the fame,
     under that system of rule.

When, therefore, intelligence was received at the fort which covered the
southern termination of the portage between the Hudson and the lakes,
that Montcalm had been seen moving up the Champlain, with an army
"numerous as the leaves on the trees," its truth was admitted with more
of the craven reluctance of fear than with the stern joy that a warrior
should feel, in finding an enemy within reach of his blow. The news had
been brought, toward the decline of a day in midsummer, by an Indian
runner, who also bore an urgent request from Munro, the commander of
a work on the shore of the "holy lake," for a speedy and powerful
reinforcement. It has already been mentioned that the distance between
these two posts was less than five leagues. The rude path, which
originally formed their line of communication, had been widened for the
passage of wagons; so that the distance which had been traveled by the
son of the forest in two hours, might easily be effected by a detachment
of troops, with their necessary baggage, between the rising and setting
of a summer sun. The loyal servants of the British crown had given to
one of these forest-fastnesses the name of William Henry, and to the
other that of Fort Edward, calling each after a favorite prince of the
reigning family. The veteran Scotchman just named held the first, with
a regiment of regulars and a few provincials; a force really by far
too small to make head against the formidable power that Montcalm was
leading to the foot of his earthen mounds. At the latter, however,
lay General Webb, who commanded the armies of the king in the northern
provinces, with a body of more than five thousand men. By uniting the
several detachments of his command, this officer might have arrayed
nearly double that number of combatants against the enterprising
Frenchman, who had ventured so far from his reinforcements, with an army
but little superior in numbers.

But under the influence of their degraded fortunes, both officers and
men appeared better disposed to await the approach of their formidable
antagonists, within their works, than to resist the progress of their
march, by emulating the successful example of the French at Fort du
Quesne, and striking a blow on their advance.

After the first surprise of the intelligence had a little abated, a
rumor was spread through the entrenched camp, which stretched along the
margin of the Hudson, forming a chain of outworks to the body of the
fort itself, that a chosen detachment of fifteen hundred men was to
depart, with the dawn, for William Henry, the post at the northern
extremity of the portage. That which at first was only rumor,
soon became certainty, as orders passed from the quarters of the
commander-in-chief to the several corps he had selected for this
service, to prepare for their speedy departure. All doubts as to the
intention of Webb now vanished, and an hour or two of hurried footsteps
and anxious faces succeeded. The novice in the military art flew from
point to point, retarding his own preparations by the excess of his
violent and somewhat distempered zeal; while the more practiced veteran
made his arrangements with a deliberation that scorned every appearance
of haste; though his sober lineaments and anxious eye sufficiently
betrayed that he had no very strong professional relish for the, as yet,
untried and dreaded warfare of the wilderness. At length the sun set in
a flood of glory, behind the distant western hills, and as darkness drew
its veil around the secluded spot the sounds of preparation diminished;
the last light finally disappeared from the log cabin of some officer;
the trees cast their deeper shadows over the mounds and the rippling
stream, and a silence soon pervaded the camp, as deep as that which
reigned in the vast forest by which it was environed.

According to the orders of the preceding night, the heavy sleep of the
army was broken by the rolling of the warning drums, whose rattling
echoes were heard issuing, on the damp morning air, out of every vista
of the woods, just as day began to draw the shaggy outlines of some tall
pines of the vicinity, on the opening brightness of a soft and cloudless
eastern sky. In an instant the whole camp was in motion; the meanest
soldier arousing from his lair to witness the departure of his comrades,
and to share in the excitement and incidents of the hour. The simple
array of the chosen band was soon completed. While the regular and
trained hirelings of the king marched with haughtiness to the right of
the line, the less pretending colonists took their humbler position
on its left, with a docility that long practice had rendered easy.
The scouts departed; strong guards preceded and followed the lumbering
vehicles that bore the baggage; and before the gray light of the morning
was mellowed by the rays of the sun, the main body of the combatants
wheeled into column, and left the encampment with a show of high
military bearing, that served to drown the slumbering apprehensions of
many a novice, who was now about to make his first essay in arms. While
in view of their admiring comrades, the same proud front and ordered
array was observed, until the notes of their fifes growing fainter in
distance, the forest at length appeared to swallow up the living mass
which had slowly entered its bosom.

The deepest sounds of the retiring and invisible column had ceased to
be borne on the breeze to the listeners, and the latest straggler had
already disappeared in pursuit; but there still remained the signs
of another departure, before a log cabin of unusual size and
accommodations, in front of which those sentinels paced their rounds,
who were known to guard the person of the English general. At this spot
were gathered some half dozen horses, caparisoned in a manner which
showed that two, at least, were destined to bear the persons of females,
of a rank that it was not usual to meet so far in the wilds of the
country. A third wore trappings and arms of an officer of the staff;
while the rest, from the plainness of the housings, and the traveling
mails with which they were encumbered, were evidently fitted for the
reception of as many menials, who were, seemingly, already waiting
the pleasure of those they served. At a respectful distance from this
unusual show, were gathered divers groups of curious idlers; some
admiring the blood and bone of the high-mettled military charger,
and others gazing at the preparations, with the dull wonder of vulgar
curiosity. There was one man, however, who, by his countenance and
actions, formed a marked exception to those who composed the latter
class of spectators, being neither idle, nor seemingly very ignorant.

The person of this individual was to the last degree ungainly, without
being in any particular manner deformed. He had all the bones and joints
of other men, without any of their proportions. Erect, his stature
surpassed that of his fellows; though seated, he appeared reduced within
the ordinary limits of the race. The same contrariety in his members
seemed to exist throughout the whole man. His head was large; his
shoulders narrow; his arms long and dangling; while his hands were
small, if not delicate. His legs and thighs were thin, nearly to
emaciation, but of extraordinary length; and his knees would have
been considered tremendous, had they not been outdone by the broader
foundations on which this false superstructure of blended human orders
was so profanely reared. The ill-assorted and injudicious attire of the
individual only served to render his awkwardness more conspicuous. A
sky-blue coat, with short and broad skirts and low cape, exposed a long,
thin neck, and longer and thinner legs, to the worst animadversions
of the evil-disposed. His nether garment was a yellow nankeen, closely
fitted to the shape, and tied at his bunches of knees by large knots of
white ribbon, a good deal sullied by use. Clouded cotton stockings, and
shoes, on one of the latter of which was a plated spur, completed the
costume of the lower extremity of this figure, no curve or angle of
which was concealed, but, on the other hand, studiously exhibited,
through the vanity or simplicity of its owner.

From beneath the flap of an enormous pocket of a soiled vest of embossed
silk, heavily ornamented with tarnished silver lace, projected an
instrument, which, from being seen in such martial company, might have
been easily mistaken for some mischievous and unknown implement of war.
Small as it was, this uncommon engine had excited the curiosity of most
of the Europeans in the camp, though several of the provincials
were seen to handle it, not only without fear, but with the utmost
familiarity. A large, civil cocked hat, like those worn by clergymen
within the last thirty years, surmounted the whole, furnishing dignity
to a good-natured and somewhat vacant countenance, that apparently
needed such artificial aid, to support the gravity of some high and
extraordinary trust.

While the common herd stood aloof, in deference to the quarters of Webb,
the figure we have described stalked into the center of the domestics,
freely expressing his censures or commendations on the merits of the
horses, as by chance they displeased or satisfied his judgment.

"This beast, I rather conclude, friend, is not of home raising, but is
from foreign lands, or perhaps from the little island itself over the
blue water?" he said, in a voice as remarkable for the softness and
sweetness of its tones, as was his person for its rare proportions; "I
may speak of these things, and be no braggart; for I have been down at
both havens; that which is situate at the mouth of Thames, and is named
after the capital of Old England, and that which is called 'Haven', with
the addition of the word 'New'; and have seen the scows and brigantines
collecting their droves, like the gathering to the ark, being outward
bound to the Island of Jamaica, for the purpose of barter and traffic
in four-footed animals; but never before have I beheld a beast which
verified the true scripture war-horse like this: 'He paweth in the
valley, and rejoiceth in his strength; he goeth on to meet the armed
men. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle
afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting' It would seem
that the stock of the horse of Israel had descended to our own time;
would it not, friend?"

Receiving no reply to this extraordinary appeal, which in truth, as it
was delivered with the vigor of full and sonorous tones, merited some
sort of notice, he who had thus sung forth the language of the holy
book turned to the silent figure to whom he had unwittingly addressed
himself, and found a new and more powerful subject of admiration in the
object that encountered his gaze. His eyes fell on the still, upright,
and rigid form of the "Indian runner," who had borne to the camp the
unwelcome tidings of the preceding evening. Although in a state of
perfect repose, and apparently disregarding, with characteristic
stoicism, the excitement and bustle around him, there was a sullen
fierceness mingled with the quiet of the savage, that was likely to
arrest the attention of much more experienced eyes than those which now
scanned him, in unconcealed amazement. The native bore both the tomahawk
and knife of his tribe; and yet his appearance was not altogether that
of a warrior. On the contrary, there was an air of neglect about his
person, like that which might have proceeded from great and recent
exertion, which he had not yet found leisure to repair. The colors
of the war-paint had blended in dark confusion about his fierce
countenance, and rendered his swarthy lineaments still more savage
and repulsive than if art had attempted an effect which had been thus
produced by chance. His eye, alone, which glistened like a fiery star
amid lowering clouds, was to be seen in its state of native wildness.
For a single instant his searching and yet wary glance met the wondering
look of the other, and then changing its direction, partly in cunning,
and partly in disdain, it remained fixed, as if penetrating the distant
air.

It is impossible to say what unlooked-for remark this short and silent
communication, between two such singular men, might have elicited from
the white man, had not his active curiosity been again drawn to other
objects. A general movement among the domestics, and a low sound of
gentle voices, announced the approach of those whose presence alone
was wanted to enable the cavalcade to move. The simple admirer of the
war-horse instantly fell back to a low, gaunt, switch-tailed mare, that
was unconsciously gleaning the faded herbage of the camp nigh by; where,
leaning with one elbow on the blanket that concealed an apology for a
saddle, he became a spectator of the departure, while a foal was quietly
making its morning repast, on the opposite side of the same animal.

A young man, in the dress of an officer, conducted to their steeds two
females, who, as it was apparent by their dresses, were prepared to
encounter the fatigues of a journey in the woods. One, and she was
the more juvenile in her appearance, though both were young, permitted
glimpses of her dazzling complexion, fair golden hair, and bright blue
eyes, to be caught, as she artlessly suffered the morning air to blow
aside the green veil which descended low from her beaver.

The flush which still lingered above the pines in the western sky was
not more bright nor delicate than the bloom on her cheek; nor was the
opening day more cheering than the animated smile which she bestowed on
the youth, as he assisted her into the saddle. The other, who appeared
to share equally in the attention of the young officer, concealed her
charms from the gaze of the soldiery with a care that seemed better
fitted to the experience of four or five additional years. It could be
seen, however, that her person, though molded with the same exquisite
proportions, of which none of the graces were lost by the traveling
dress she wore, was rather fuller and more mature than that of her
companion.

No sooner were these females seated, than their attendant sprang lightly
into the saddle of the war-horse, when the whole three bowed to Webb,
who in courtesy, awaited their parting on the threshold of his cabin and
turning their horses' heads, they proceeded at a slow amble, followed
by their train, toward the northern entrance of the encampment. As they
traversed that short distance, not a voice was heard among them; but
a slight exclamation proceeded from the younger of the females, as the
Indian runner glided by her, unexpectedly, and led the way along the
military road in her front. Though this sudden and startling movement
of the Indian produced no sound from the other, in the surprise her veil
also was allowed to open its folds, and betrayed an indescribable look
of pity, admiration, and horror, as her dark eye followed the easy
motions of the savage. The tresses of this lady were shining and black,
like the plumage of the raven. Her complexion was not brown, but it
rather appeared charged with the color of the rich blood, that seemed
ready to burst its bounds. And yet there was neither coarseness nor
want of shadowing in a countenance that was exquisitely regular, and
dignified and surpassingly beautiful. She smiled, as if in pity at her
own momentary forgetfulness, discovering by the act a row of teeth that
would have shamed the purest ivory; when, replacing the veil, she bowed
her face, and rode in silence, like one whose thoughts were abstracted
from the scene around her.




CHAPTER 2

     "Sola, sola, wo ha, ho, sola!"
     --Shakespeare

While one of the lovely beings we have so cursorily presented to the
reader was thus lost in thought, the other quickly recovered from the
alarm which induced the exclamation, and, laughing at her own weakness,
she inquired of the youth who rode by her side:

"Are such specters frequent in the woods, Heyward, or is this sight an
especial entertainment ordered on our behalf? If the latter, gratitude
must close our mouths; but if the former, both Cora and I shall have
need to draw largely on that stock of hereditary courage which we boast,
even before we are made to encounter the redoubtable Montcalm."

"Yon Indian is a 'runner' of the army; and, after the fashion of his
people, he may be accounted a hero," returned the officer. "He has
volunteered to guide us to the lake, by a path but little known,
sooner than if we followed the tardy movements of the column; and, by
consequence, more agreeably."

"I like him not," said the lady, shuddering, partly in assumed, yet more
in real terror. "You know him, Duncan, or you would not trust yourself
so freely to his keeping?"

"Say, rather, Alice, that I would not trust you. I do know him, or he
would not have my confidence, and least of all at this moment. He
is said to be a Canadian too; and yet he served with our friends the
Mohawks, who, as you know, are one of the six allied nations. He was
brought among us, as I have heard, by some strange accident in which
your father was interested, and in which the savage was rigidly dealt
by; but I forget the idle tale, it is enough, that he is now our
friend."

"If he has been my father's enemy, I like him still less!" exclaimed the
now really anxious girl. "Will you not speak to him, Major Heyward, that
I may hear his tones? Foolish though it may be, you have often heard me
avow my faith in the tones of the human voice!"

"It would be in vain; and answered, most probably, by an ejaculation.
Though he may understand it, he affects, like most of his people, to be
ignorant of the English; and least of all will he condescend to speak
it, now that the war demands the utmost exercise of his dignity. But
he stops; the private path by which we are to journey is, doubtless, at
hand."

The conjecture of Major Heyward was true. When they reached the spot
where the Indian stood, pointing into the thicket that fringed the
military road; a narrow and blind path, which might, with some little
inconvenience, receive one person at a time, became visible.

"Here, then, lies our way," said the young man, in a low voice.
"Manifest no distrust, or you may invite the danger you appear to
apprehend."

"Cora, what think you?" asked the reluctant fair one. "If we journey
with the troops, though we may find their presence irksome, shall we not
feel better assurance of our safety?"

"Being little accustomed to the practices of the savages, Alice, you
mistake the place of real danger," said Heyward. "If enemies have
reached the portage at all, a thing by no means probable, as our scouts
are abroad, they will surely be found skirting the column, where scalps
abound the most. The route of the detachment is known, while ours,
having been determined within the hour, must still be secret."

"Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and
that his skin is dark?" coldly asked Cora.

Alice hesitated no longer; but giving her Narrangansett* a smart cut
of the whip, she was the first to dash aside the slight branches of the
bushes, and to follow the runner along the dark and tangled pathway.
The young man regarded the last speaker in open admiration, and even
permitted her fairer, though certainly not more beautiful companion, to
proceed unattended, while he sedulously opened the way himself for
the passage of her who has been called Cora. It would seem that the
domestics had been previously instructed; for, instead of penetrating
the thicket, they followed the route of the column; a measure which
Heyward stated had been dictated by the sagacity of their guide, in
order to diminish the marks of their trail, if, haply, the Canadian
savages should be lurking so far in advance of their army. For many
minutes the intricacy of the route admitted of no further dialogue;
after which they emerged from the broad border of underbrush which
grew along the line of the highway, and entered under the high but dark
arches of the forest. Here their progress was less interrupted; and the
instant the guide perceived that the females could command their steeds,
he moved on, at a pace between a trot and a walk, and at a rate which
kept the sure-footed and peculiar animals they rode at a fast yet easy
amble. The youth had turned to speak to the dark-eyed Cora, when the
distant sound of horses hoofs, clattering over the roots of the broken
way in his rear, caused him to check his charger; and, as his companions
drew their reins at the same instant, the whole party came to a halt, in
order to obtain an explanation of the unlooked-for interruption.

     * In the state of Rhode Island there is a bay called
     Narragansett, so named after a powerful tribe of Indians,
     which formerly dwelt on its banks. Accident, or one of those
     unaccountable freaks which nature sometimes plays in the
     animal world, gave rise to a breed of horses which were once
     well known in America, and distinguished by their habit of
     pacing. Horses of this race were, and are still, in much
     request as saddle horses, on account of their hardiness and
     the ease of their movements. As they were also sure of foot,
     the Narragansetts were greatly sought for by females who
     were obliged to travel over the roots and holes in the "new
     countries."

In a few moments a colt was seen gliding, like a fallow deer, among the
straight trunks of the pines; and, in another instant, the person of the
ungainly man, described in the preceding chapter, came into view, with
as much rapidity as he could excite his meager beast to endure without
coming to an open rupture. Until now this personage had escaped the
observation of the travelers. If he possessed the power to arrest any
wandering eye when exhibiting the glories of his altitude on foot, his
equestrian graces were still more likely to attract attention.

Notwithstanding a constant application of his one armed heel to the
flanks of the mare, the most confirmed gait that he could establish
was a Canterbury gallop with the hind legs, in which those more forward
assisted for doubtful moments, though generally content to maintain a
loping trot. Perhaps the rapidity of the changes from one of these paces
to the other created an optical illusion, which might thus magnify the
powers of the beast; for it is certain that Heyward, who possessed
a true eye for the merits of a horse, was unable, with his utmost
ingenuity, to decide by what sort of movement his pursuer worked his
sinuous way on his footsteps with such persevering hardihood.

The industry and movements of the rider were not less remarkable than
those of the ridden. At each change in the evolutions of the latter,
the former raised his tall person in the stirrups; producing, in this
manner, by the undue elongation of his legs, such sudden growths and
diminishings of the stature, as baffled every conjecture that might
be made as to his dimensions. If to this be added the fact that, in
consequence of the ex parte application of the spur, one side of the
mare appeared to journey faster than the other; and that the aggrieved
flank was resolutely indicated by unremitted flourishes of a bushy tail,
we finish the picture of both horse and man.

The frown which had gathered around the handsome, open, and manly brow
of Heyward, gradually relaxed, and his lips curled into a slight smile,
as he regarded the stranger. Alice made no very powerful effort to
control her merriment; and even the dark, thoughtful eye of Cora lighted
with a humor that it would seem, the habit, rather than the nature, of
its mistress repressed.

"Seek you any here?" demanded Heyward, when the other had arrived
sufficiently nigh to abate his speed; "I trust you are no messenger of
evil tidings?"

"Even so," replied the stranger, making diligent use of his triangular
castor, to produce a circulation in the close air of the woods, and
leaving his hearers in doubt to which of the young man's questions he
responded; when, however, he had cooled his face, and recovered his
breath, he continued, "I hear you are riding to William Henry; as I
am journeying thitherward myself, I concluded good company would seem
consistent to the wishes of both parties."

"You appear to possess the privilege of a casting vote," returned
Heyward; "we are three, while you have consulted no one but yourself."

"Even so. The first point to be obtained is to know one's own mind. Once
sure of that, and where women are concerned it is not easy, the next is,
to act up to the decision. I have endeavored to do both, and here I am."

"If you journey to the lake, you have mistaken your route," said
Heyward, haughtily; "the highway thither is at least half a mile behind
you."

"Even so," returned the stranger, nothing daunted by this cold
reception; "I have tarried at 'Edward' a week, and I should be dumb not
to have inquired the road I was to journey; and if dumb there would be
an end to my calling." After simpering in a small way, like one whose
modesty prohibited a more open expression of his admiration of
a witticism that was perfectly unintelligible to his hearers, he
continued, "It is not prudent for any one of my profession to be too
familiar with those he has to instruct; for which reason I follow not
the line of the army; besides which, I conclude that a gentleman of
your character has the best judgment in matters of wayfaring; I have,
therefore, decided to join company, in order that the ride may be made
agreeable, and partake of social communion."

"A most arbitrary, if not a hasty decision!" exclaimed Heyward,
undecided whether to give vent to his growing anger, or to laugh in the
other's face. "But you speak of instruction, and of a profession; are
you an adjunct to the provincial corps, as a master of the noble science
of defense and offense; or, perhaps, you are one who draws lines and
angles, under the pretense of expounding the mathematics?"

The stranger regarded his interrogator a moment in wonder; and then,
losing every mark of self-satisfaction in an expression of solemn
humility, he answered:

"Of offense, I hope there is none, to either party: of defense, I make
none--by God's good mercy, having committed no palpable sin since last
entreating his pardoning grace. I understand not your allusions about
lines and angles; and I leave expounding to those who have been called
and set apart for that holy office. I lay claim to no higher gift than a
small insight into the glorious art of petitioning and thanksgiving, as
practiced in psalmody."

"The man is, most manifestly, a disciple of Apollo," cried the amused
Alice, "and I take him under my own especial protection. Nay, throw
aside that frown, Heyward, and in pity to my longing ears, suffer him to
journey in our train. Besides," she added, in a low and hurried voice,
casting a glance at the distant Cora, who slowly followed the footsteps
of their silent, but sullen guide, "it may be a friend added to our
strength, in time of need."

"Think you, Alice, that I would trust those I love by this secret path,
did I imagine such need could happen?"

"Nay, nay, I think not of it now; but this strange man amuses me; and if
he 'hath music in his soul', let us not churlishly reject his company."
She pointed persuasively along the path with her riding whip, while
their eyes met in a look which the young man lingered a moment to
prolong; then, yielding to her gentle influence, he clapped his spurs
into his charger, and in a few bounds was again at the side of Cora.

"I am glad to encounter thee, friend," continued the maiden, waving her
hand to the stranger to proceed, as she urged her Narragansett to renew
its amble. "Partial relatives have almost persuaded me that I am not
entirely worthless in a duet myself; and we may enliven our wayfaring
by indulging in our favorite pursuit. It might be of signal advantage to
one, ignorant as I, to hear the opinions and experience of a master in
the art."

"It is refreshing both to the spirits and to the body to indulge
in psalmody, in befitting seasons," returned the master of song,
unhesitatingly complying with her intimation to follow; "and nothing
would relieve the mind more than such a consoling communion. But four
parts are altogether necessary to the perfection of melody. You have all
the manifestations of a soft and rich treble; I can, by especial aid,
carry a full tenor to the highest letter; but we lack counter and bass!
Yon officer of the king, who hesitated to admit me to his company, might
fill the latter, if one may judge from the intonations of his voice in
common dialogue."

"Judge not too rashly from hasty and deceptive appearances," said the
lady, smiling; "though Major Heyward can assume such deep notes on
occasion, believe me, his natural tones are better fitted for a mellow
tenor than the bass you heard."

"Is he, then, much practiced in the art of psalmody?" demanded her
simple companion.

Alice felt disposed to laugh, though she succeeded in suppressing her
merriment, ere she answered:

"I apprehend that he is rather addicted to profane song. The chances
of a soldier's life are but little fitted for the encouragement of more
sober inclinations."

"Man's voice is given to him, like his other talents, to be used, and
not to be abused. None can say they have ever known me to neglect my
gifts! I am thankful that, though my boyhood may be said to have been
set apart, like the youth of the royal David, for the purposes of music,
no syllable of rude verse has ever profaned my lips."

"You have, then, limited your efforts to sacred song?"

"Even so. As the psalms of David exceed all other language, so does the
psalmody that has been fitted to them by the divines and sages of the
land, surpass all vain poetry. Happily, I may say that I utter nothing
but the thoughts and the wishes of the King of Israel himself; for
though the times may call for some slight changes, yet does this version
which we use in the colonies of New England so much exceed all other
versions, that, by its richness, its exactness, and its spiritual
simplicity, it approacheth, as near as may be, to the great work of the
inspired writer. I never abide in any place, sleeping or waking, without
an example of this gifted work. 'Tis the six-and-twentieth edition,
promulgated at Boston, Anno Domini 1744; and is entitled, 'The Psalms,
Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testaments; faithfully
translated into English Metre, for the Use, Edification, and Comfort of
the Saints, in Public and Private, especially in New England'."

During this eulogium on the rare production of his native poets, the
stranger had drawn the book from his pocket, and fitting a pair of
iron-rimmed spectacles to his nose, opened the volume with a care and
veneration suited to its sacred purposes. Then, without circumlocution
or apology, first pronounced the word "Standish," and placing the
unknown engine, already described, to his mouth, from which he drew a
high, shrill sound, that was followed by an octave below, from his own
voice, he commenced singing the following words, in full, sweet, and
melodious tones, that set the music, the poetry, and even the uneasy
motion of his ill-trained beast at defiance; "How good it is, O see, And
how it pleaseth well, Together e'en in unity, For brethren so to dwell.
It's like the choice ointment, From the head to the beard did go; Down
Aaron's head, that downward went His garment's skirts unto."

The delivery of these skillful rhymes was accompanied, on the part
of the stranger, by a regular rise and fall of his right hand, which
terminated at the descent, by suffering the fingers to dwell a moment on
the leaves of the little volume; and on the ascent, by such a flourish
of the member as none but the initiated may ever hope to imitate.
It would seem long practice had rendered this manual accompaniment
necessary; for it did not cease until the preposition which the poet had
selected for the close of his verse had been duly delivered like a word
of two syllables.

Such an innovation on the silence and retirement of the forest could not
fail to enlist the ears of those who journeyed at so short a distance in
advance. The Indian muttered a few words in broken English to Heyward,
who, in his turn, spoke to the stranger; at once interrupting, and, for
the time, closing his musical efforts.

"Though we are not in danger, common prudence would teach us to journey
through this wilderness in as quiet a manner as possible. You will then,
pardon me, Alice, should I diminish your enjoyments, by requesting this
gentleman to postpone his chant until a safer opportunity."

"You will diminish them, indeed," returned the arch girl; "for never did
I hear a more unworthy conjunction of execution and language than that
to which I have been listening; and I was far gone in a learned inquiry
into the causes of such an unfitness between sound and sense, when you
broke the charm of my musings by that bass of yours, Duncan!"

"I know not what you call my bass," said Heyward, piqued at her remark,
"but I know that your safety, and that of Cora, is far dearer to me than
could be any orchestra of Handel's music." He paused and turned his head
quickly toward a thicket, and then bent his eyes suspiciously on their
guide, who continued his steady pace, in undisturbed gravity. The young
man smiled to himself, for he believed he had mistaken some shining
berry of the woods for the glistening eyeballs of a prowling savage, and
he rode forward, continuing the conversation which had been interrupted
by the passing thought.

Major Heyward was mistaken only in suffering his youthful and generous
pride to suppress his active watchfulness. The cavalcade had not long
passed, before the branches of the bushes that formed the thicket were
cautiously moved asunder, and a human visage, as fiercely wild as savage
art and unbridled passions could make it, peered out on the retiring
footsteps of the travelers. A gleam of exultation shot across the
darkly-painted lineaments of the inhabitant of the forest, as he traced
the route of his intended victims, who rode unconsciously onward, the
light and graceful forms of the females waving among the trees, in the
curvatures of their path, followed at each bend by the manly figure of
Heyward, until, finally, the shapeless person of the singing master
was concealed behind the numberless trunks of trees, that rose, in dark
lines, in the intermediate space.




CHAPTER 3

     "Before these fields were shorn and till'd,
     Full to the brim our rivers flow'd;
     The melody of waters fill'd
     The fresh and boundless wood;
     And torrents dash'd, and rivulets play'd,
     And fountains spouted in the shade."--Bryant

Leaving the unsuspecting Heyward and his confiding companions to
penetrate still deeper into a forest that contained such treacherous
inmates, we must use an author's privilege, and shift the scene a few
miles to the westward of the place where we have last seen them.

On that day, two men were lingering on the banks of a small but rapid
stream, within an hour's journey of the encampment of Webb, like those
who awaited the appearance of an absent person, or the approach of some
expected event. The vast canopy of woods spread itself to the margin of
the river, overhanging the water, and shadowing its dark current with a
deeper hue. The rays of the sun were beginning to grow less fierce, and
the intense heat of the day was lessened, as the cooler vapors of the
springs and fountains rose above their leafy beds, and rested in
the atmosphere. Still that breathing silence, which marks the drowsy
sultriness of an American landscape in July, pervaded the secluded spot,
interrupted only by the low voices of the men, the occasional and lazy
tap of a woodpecker, the discordant cry of some gaudy jay, or a swelling
on the ear, from the dull roar of a distant waterfall. These feeble and
broken sounds were, however, too familiar to the foresters to draw their
attention from the more interesting matter of their dialogue. While
one of these loiterers showed the red skin and wild accouterments of a
native of the woods, the other exhibited, through the mask of his
rude and nearly savage equipments, the brighter, though sun-burned and
long-faced complexion of one who might claim descent from a European
parentage. The former was seated on the end of a mossy log, in a posture
that permitted him to heighten the effect of his earnest language, by
the calm but expressive gestures of an Indian engaged in debate. His
body, which was nearly naked, presented a terrific emblem of death,
drawn in intermingled colors of white and black. His closely-shaved
head, on which no other hair than the well-known and chivalrous
scalping tuft* was preserved, was without ornament of any kind, with
the exception of a solitary eagle's plume, that crossed his crown,
and depended over the left shoulder. A tomahawk and scalping knife, of
English manufacture, were in his girdle; while a short military rifle,
of that sort with which the policy of the whites armed their savage
allies, lay carelessly across his bare and sinewy knee. The expanded
chest, full formed limbs, and grave countenance of this warrior, would
denote that he had reached the vigor of his days, though no symptoms of
decay appeared to have yet weakened his manhood.

     * The North American warrior caused the hair to be plucked
     from his whole body; a small tuft was left on the crown of
     his head, in order that his enemy might avail himself of it,
     in wrenching off the scalp in the event of his fall. The
     scalp was the only admissible trophy of victory. Thus, it
     was deemed more important to obtain the scalp than to kill
     the man. Some tribes lay great stress on the honor of
     striking a dead body. These practices have nearly
     disappeared among the Indians of the Atlantic states.

The frame of the white man, judging by such parts as were not concealed
by his clothes, was like that of one who had known hardships and
exertion from his earliest youth. His person, though muscular, was
rather attenuated than full; but every nerve and muscle appeared strung
and indurated by unremitted exposure and toil. He wore a hunting shirt
of forest-green, fringed with faded yellow*, and a summer cap of skins
which had been shorn of their fur. He also bore a knife in a girdle of
wampum, like that which confined the scanty garments of the Indian, but
no tomahawk. His moccasins were ornamented after the gay fashion of the
natives, while the only part of his under dress which appeared below the
hunting-frock was a pair of buckskin leggings, that laced at the sides,
and which were gartered above the knees, with the sinews of a deer. A
pouch and horn completed his personal accouterments, though a rifle of
great length**, which the theory of the more ingenious whites had
taught them was the most dangerous of all firearms, leaned against a
neighboring sapling. The eye of the hunter, or scout, whichever he might
be, was small, quick, keen, and restless, roving while he spoke, on
every side of him, as if in quest of game, or distrusting the sudden
approach of some lurking enemy. Notwithstanding the symptoms of habitual
suspicion, his countenance was not only without guile, but at the moment
at which he is introduced, it was charged with an expression of sturdy
honesty.

     * The hunting-shirt is a picturesque smock-frock, being
     shorter, and ornamented with fringes and tassels. The colors
     are intended to imitate the hues of the wood, with a view to
     concealment. Many corps of American riflemen have been thus
     attired, and the dress is one of the most striking of modern
     times. The hunting-shirt is frequently white.

     ** The rifle of the army is short; that of the hunter is
     always long.

"Even your traditions make the case in my favor, Chingachgook," he said,
speaking in the tongue which was known to all the natives who formerly
inhabited the country between the Hudson and the Potomac, and of
which we shall give a free translation for the benefit of the reader;
endeavoring, at the same time, to preserve some of the peculiarities,
both of the individual and of the language. "Your fathers came from the
setting sun, crossed the big river*, fought the people of the country,
and took the land; and mine came from the red sky of the morning, over
the salt lake, and did their work much after the fashion that had been
set them by yours; then let God judge the matter between us, and friends
spare their words!"

     * The Mississippi. The scout alludes to a tradition which is
     very popular among the tribes of the Atlantic states.
     Evidence of their Asiatic origin is deduced from the
     circumstances, though great uncertainty hangs over the whole
     history of the Indians.

"My fathers fought with the naked red man!" returned the Indian,
sternly, in the same language. "Is there no difference, Hawkeye, between
the stone-headed arrow of the warrior, and the leaden bullet with which
you kill?"

"There is reason in an Indian, though nature has made him with a red
skin!" said the white man, shaking his head like one on whom such an
appeal to his justice was not thrown away. For a moment he appeared to
be conscious of having the worst of the argument, then, rallying again,
he answered the objection of his antagonist in the best manner his
limited information would allow:

"I am no scholar, and I care not who knows it; but, judging from what
I have seen, at deer chases and squirrel hunts, of the sparks below,
I should think a rifle in the hands of their grandfathers was not so
dangerous as a hickory bow and a good flint-head might be, if drawn with
Indian judgment, and sent by an Indian eye."

"You have the story told by your fathers," returned the other, coldly
waving his hand. "What say your old men? Do they tell the young warriors
that the pale faces met the red men, painted for war and armed with the
stone hatchet and wooden gun?"

"I am not a prejudiced man, nor one who vaunts himself on his natural
privileges, though the worst enemy I have on earth, and he is an
Iroquois, daren't deny that I am genuine white," the scout replied,
surveying, with secret satisfaction, the faded color of his bony and
sinewy hand, "and I am willing to own that my people have many ways, of
which, as an honest man, I can't approve. It is one of their customs to
write in books what they have done and seen, instead of telling them
in their villages, where the lie can be given to the face of a cowardly
boaster, and the brave soldier can call on his comrades to witness for
the truth of his words. In consequence of this bad fashion, a man, who
is too conscientious to misspend his days among the women, in learning
the names of black marks, may never hear of the deeds of his fathers,
nor feel a pride in striving to outdo them. For myself, I conclude the
Bumppos could shoot, for I have a natural turn with a rifle, which
must have been handed down from generation to generation, as, our holy
commandments tell us, all good and evil gifts are bestowed; though I
should be loath to answer for other people in such a matter. But every
story has its two sides; so I ask you, Chingachgook, what passed,
according to the traditions of the red men, when our fathers first met?"

A silence of a minute succeeded, during which the Indian sat mute; then,
full of the dignity of his office, he commenced his brief tale, with a
solemnity that served to heighten its appearance of truth.

"Listen, Hawkeye, and your ear shall drink no lie. 'Tis what my fathers
have said, and what the Mohicans have done." He hesitated a single
instant, and bending a cautious glance toward his companion, he
continued, in a manner that was divided between interrogation and
assertion. "Does not this stream at our feet run toward the summer,
until its waters grow salt, and the current flows upward?"

"It can't be denied that your traditions tell you true in both these
matters," said the white man; "for I have been there, and have seen
them, though why water, which is so sweet in the shade, should become
bitter in the sun, is an alteration for which I have never been able to
account."

"And the current!" demanded the Indian, who expected his reply with that
sort of interest that a man feels in the confirmation of testimony, at
which he marvels even while he respects it; "the fathers of Chingachgook
have not lied!"

"The holy Bible is not more true, and that is the truest thing in
nature. They call this up-stream current the tide, which is a thing soon
explained, and clear enough. Six hours the waters run in, and six hours
they run out, and the reason is this: when there is higher water in the
sea than in the river, they run in until the river gets to be highest,
and then it runs out again."

"The waters in the woods, and on the great lakes, run downward
until they lie like my hand," said the Indian, stretching the limb
horizontally before him, "and then they run no more."

"No honest man will deny it," said the scout, a little nettled at the
implied distrust of his explanation of the mystery of the tides; "and I
grant that it is true on the small scale, and where the land is level.
But everything depends on what scale you look at things. Now, on the
small scale, the 'arth is level; but on the large scale it is round. In
this manner, pools and ponds, and even the great fresh-water lakes, may
be stagnant, as you and I both know they are, having seen them; but when
you come to spread water over a great tract, like the sea, where the
earth is round, how in reason can the water be quiet? You might as well
expect the river to lie still on the brink of those black rocks a mile
above us, though your own ears tell you that it is tumbling over them at
this very moment."

If unsatisfied by the philosophy of his companion, the Indian was far
too dignified to betray his unbelief. He listened like one who was
convinced, and resumed his narrative in his former solemn manner.

"We came from the place where the sun is hid at night, over great plains
where the buffaloes live, until we reached the big river. There we
fought the Alligewi, till the ground was red with their blood. From the
banks of the big river to the shores of the salt lake, there was none to
meet us. The Maquas followed at a distance. We said the country should
be ours from the place where the water runs up no longer on this stream,
to a river twenty sun's journey toward the summer. We drove the Maquas
into the woods with the bears. They only tasted salt at the licks; they
drew no fish from the great lake; we threw them the bones."

"All this I have heard and believe," said the white man, observing that
the Indian paused; "but it was long before the English came into the
country."

"A pine grew then where this chestnut now stands. The first pale faces
who came among us spoke no English. They came in a large canoe, when
my fathers had buried the tomahawk with the red men around them. Then,
Hawkeye," he continued, betraying his deep emotion, only by permitting
his voice to fall to those low, guttural tones, which render his
language, as spoken at times, so very musical; "then, Hawkeye, we were
one people, and we were happy. The salt lake gave us its fish, the wood
its deer, and the air its birds. We took wives who bore us children; we
worshipped the Great Spirit; and we kept the Maquas beyond the sound of
our songs of triumph."

"Know you anything of your own family at that time?" demanded the white.
"But you are just a man, for an Indian; and as I suppose you hold their
gifts, your fathers must have been brave warriors, and wise men at the
council-fire."

"My tribe is the grandfather of nations, but I am an unmixed man. The
blood of chiefs is in my veins, where it must stay forever. The Dutch
landed, and gave my people the fire-water; they drank until the heavens
and the earth seemed to meet, and they foolishly thought they had found
the Great Spirit. Then they parted with their land. Foot by foot,
they were driven back from the shores, until I, that am a chief and a
Sagamore, have never seen the sun shine but through the trees, and have
never visited the graves of my fathers."

"Graves bring solemn feelings over the mind," returned the scout, a good
deal touched at the calm suffering of his companion; "and they often aid
a man in his good intentions; though, for myself, I expect to leave my
own bones unburied, to bleach in the woods, or to be torn asunder by the
wolves. But where are to be found those of your race who came to their
kin in the Delaware country, so many summers since?"

"Where are the blossoms of those summers!--fallen, one by one; so all
of my family departed, each in his turn, to the land of spirits. I am on
the hilltop and must go down into the valley; and when Uncas follows in
my footsteps there will no longer be any of the blood of the Sagamores,
for my boy is the last of the Mohicans."

"Uncas is here," said another voice, in the same soft, guttural tones,
near his elbow; "who speaks to Uncas?"

The white man loosened his knife in his leathern sheath, and made
an involuntary movement of the hand toward his rifle, at this sudden
interruption; but the Indian sat composed, and without turning his head
at the unexpected sounds.

At the next instant, a youthful warrior passed between them, with a
noiseless step, and seated himself on the bank of the rapid stream. No
exclamation of surprise escaped the father, nor was any question asked,
or reply given, for several minutes; each appearing to await the moment
when he might speak, without betraying womanish curiosity or childish
impatience. The white man seemed to take counsel from their customs,
and, relinquishing his grasp of the rifle, he also remained silent and
reserved. At length Chingachgook turned his eyes slowly toward his son,
and demanded:

"Do the Maquas dare to leave the print of their moccasins in these
woods?"

"I have been on their trail," replied the young Indian, "and know that
they number as many as the fingers of my two hands; but they lie hid
like cowards."

"The thieves are outlying for scalps and plunder," said the white man,
whom we shall call Hawkeye, after the manner of his companions. "That
busy Frenchman, Montcalm, will send his spies into our very camp, but he
will know what road we travel!"

"'Tis enough," returned the father, glancing his eye toward the setting
sun; "they shall be driven like deer from their bushes. Hawkeye, let us
eat to-night, and show the Maquas that we are men to-morrow."

"I am as ready to do the one as the other; but to fight the Iroquois
'tis necessary to find the skulkers; and to eat, 'tis necessary to get
the game--talk of the devil and he will come; there is a pair of the
biggest antlers I have seen this season, moving the bushes below the
hill! Now, Uncas," he continued, in a half whisper, and laughing with a
kind of inward sound, like one who had learned to be watchful, "I will
bet my charger three times full of powder, against a foot of wampum,
that I take him atwixt the eyes, and nearer to the right than to the
left."

"It cannot be!" said the young Indian, springing to his feet with
youthful eagerness; "all but the tips of his horns are hid!"

"He's a boy!" said the white man, shaking his head while he spoke, and
addressing the father. "Does he think when a hunter sees a part of the
creature', he can't tell where the rest of him should be!"

Adjusting his rifle, he was about to make an exhibition of that skill
on which he so much valued himself, when the warrior struck up the piece
with his hand, saying:

"Hawkeye! will you fight the Maquas?"

"These Indians know the nature of the woods, as it might be by
instinct!" returned the scout, dropping his rifle, and turning away like
a man who was convinced of his error. "I must leave the buck to your
arrow, Uncas, or we may kill a deer for them thieves, the Iroquois, to
eat."

The instant the father seconded this intimation by an expressive gesture
of the hand, Uncas threw himself on the ground, and approached the
animal with wary movements. When within a few yards of the cover, he
fitted an arrow to his bow with the utmost care, while the antlers
moved, as if their owner snuffed an enemy in the tainted air. In another
moment the twang of the cord was heard, a white streak was seen glancing
into the bushes, and the wounded buck plunged from the cover, to the
very feet of his hidden enemy. Avoiding the horns of the infuriated
animal, Uncas darted to his side, and passed his knife across the
throat, when bounding to the edge of the river it fell, dyeing the
waters with its blood.

"'Twas done with Indian skill," said the scout laughing inwardly, but
with vast satisfaction; "and 'twas a pretty sight to behold! Though an
arrow is a near shot, and needs a knife to finish the work."

"Hugh!" ejaculated his companion, turning quickly, like a hound who
scented game.

"By the Lord, there is a drove of them!" exclaimed the scout, whose eyes
began to glisten with the ardor of his usual occupation; "if they come
within range of a bullet I will drop one, though the whole Six Nations
should be lurking within sound! What do you hear, Chingachgook? for to
my ears the woods are dumb."

"There is but one deer, and he is dead," said the Indian, bending his
body till his ear nearly touched the earth. "I hear the sounds of feet!"

"Perhaps the wolves have driven the buck to shelter, and are following
on his trail."

"No. The horses of white men are coming!" returned the other, raising
himself with dignity, and resuming his seat on the log with his former
composure. "Hawkeye, they are your brothers; speak to them."

"That I will, and in English that the king needn't be ashamed to
answer," returned the hunter, speaking in the language of which he
boasted; "but I see nothing, nor do I hear the sounds of man or beast;
'tis strange that an Indian should understand white sounds better than a
man who, his very enemies will own, has no cross in his blood, although
he may have lived with the red skins long enough to be suspected! Ha!
there goes something like the cracking of a dry stick, too--now I hear
the bushes move--yes, yes, there is a trampling that I mistook for
the falls--and--but here they come themselves; God keep them from the
Iroquois!"




CHAPTER 4

     "Well go thy way: thou shalt not from this grove
     Till I torment thee for this injury."--Midsummer Night's Dream.

The words were still in the mouth of the scout, when the leader of the
party, whose approaching footsteps had caught the vigilant ear of the
Indian, came openly into view. A beaten path, such as those made by the
periodical passage of the deer, wound through a little glen at no great
distance, and struck the river at the point where the white man and his
red companions had posted themselves. Along this track the travelers,
who had produced a surprise so unusual in the depths of the forest,
advanced slowly toward the hunter, who was in front of his associates,
in readiness to receive them.

"Who comes?" demanded the scout, throwing his rifle carelessly across
his left arm, and keeping the forefinger of his right hand on the
trigger, though he avoided all appearance of menace in the act. "Who
comes hither, among the beasts and dangers of the wilderness?"

"Believers in religion, and friends to the law and to the king,"
returned he who rode foremost. "Men who have journeyed since the rising
sun, in the shades of this forest, without nourishment, and are sadly
tired of their wayfaring."

"You are, then, lost," interrupted the hunter, "and have found how
helpless 'tis not to know whether to take the right hand or the left?"

"Even so; sucking babes are not more dependent on those who guide them
than we who are of larger growth, and who may now be said to possess the
stature without the knowledge of men. Know you the distance to a post of
the crown called William Henry?"

"Hoot!" shouted the scout, who did not spare his open laughter, though
instantly checking the dangerous sounds he indulged his merriment at
less risk of being overheard by any lurking enemies. "You are as much
off the scent as a hound would be, with Horican atwixt him and the deer!
William Henry, man! if you are friends to the king and have business
with the army, your way would be to follow the river down to Edward, and
lay the matter before Webb, who tarries there, instead of pushing into
the defiles, and driving this saucy Frenchman back across Champlain,
into his den again."

Before the stranger could make any reply to this unexpected proposition,
another horseman dashed the bushes aside, and leaped his charger into
the pathway, in front of his companion.

"What, then, may be our distance from Fort Edward?" demanded a new
speaker; "the place you advise us to seek we left this morning, and our
destination is the head of the lake."

"Then you must have lost your eyesight afore losing your way, for the
road across the portage is cut to a good two rods, and is as grand a
path, I calculate, as any that runs into London, or even before the
palace of the king himself."

"We will not dispute concerning the excellence of the passage," returned
Heyward, smiling; for, as the reader has anticipated, it was he. "It is
enough, for the present, that we trusted to an Indian guide to take
us by a nearer, though blinder path, and that we are deceived in his
knowledge. In plain words, we know not where we are."

"An Indian lost in the woods!" said the scout, shaking his head
doubtingly; "When the sun is scorching the tree tops, and the water
courses are full; when the moss on every beech he sees will tell him in
what quarter the north star will shine at night. The woods are full
of deer-paths which run to the streams and licks, places well known to
everybody; nor have the geese done their flight to the Canada waters
altogether! 'Tis strange that an Indian should be lost atwixt Horican
and the bend in the river! Is he a Mohawk?"

"Not by birth, though adopted in that tribe; I think his birthplace was
farther north, and he is one of those you call a Huron."

"Hugh!" exclaimed the two companions of the scout, who had continued
until this part of the dialogue, seated immovable, and apparently
indifferent to what passed, but who now sprang to their feet with an
activity and interest that had evidently got the better of their reserve
by surprise.

"A Huron!" repeated the sturdy scout, once more shaking his head in
open distrust; "they are a thievish race, nor do I care by whom they are
adopted; you can never make anything of them but skulls and vagabonds.
Since you trusted yourself to the care of one of that nation, I only
wonder that you have not fallen in with more."

"Of that there is little danger, since William Henry is so many miles
in our front. You forget that I have told you our guide is now a Mohawk,
and that he serves with our forces as a friend."

"And I tell you that he who is born a Mingo will die a Mingo," returned
the other positively. "A Mohawk! No, give me a Delaware or a Mohican
for honesty; and when they will fight, which they won't all do, having
suffered their cunning enemies, the Maquas, to make them women--but
when they will fight at all, look to a Delaware, or a Mohican, for a
warrior!"

"Enough of this," said Heyward, impatiently; "I wish not to inquire into
the character of a man that I know, and to whom you must be a stranger.
You have not yet answered my question; what is our distance from the
main army at Edward?"

"It seems that may depend on who is your guide. One would think such
a horse as that might get over a good deal of ground atwixt sun-up and
sun-down."

"I wish no contention of idle words with you, friend," said Heyward,
curbing his dissatisfied manner, and speaking in a more gentle voice;
"if you will tell me the distance to Fort Edward, and conduct me
thither, your labor shall not go without its reward."

"And in so doing, how know I that I don't guide an enemy and a spy of
Montcalm, to the works of the army? It is not every man who can speak
the English tongue that is an honest subject."

"If you serve with the troops, of whom I judge you to be a scout, you
should know of such a regiment of the king as the Sixtieth."

"The Sixtieth! you can tell me little of the Royal Americans that
I don't know, though I do wear a hunting-shirt instead of a scarlet
jacket."

"Well, then, among other things, you may know the name of its major?"

"Its major!" interrupted the hunter, elevating his body like one who was
proud of his trust. "If there is a man in the country who knows Major
Effingham, he stands before you."

"It is a corps which has many majors; the gentleman you name is the
senior, but I speak of the junior of them all; he who commands the
companies in garrison at William Henry."

"Yes, yes, I have heard that a young gentleman of vast riches, from one
of the provinces far south, has got the place. He is over young, too,
to hold such rank, and to be put above men whose heads are beginning to
bleach; and yet they say he is a soldier in his knowledge, and a gallant
gentleman!"

"Whatever he may be, or however he may be qualified for his rank, he now
speaks to you and, of course, can be no enemy to dread."

The scout regarded Heyward in surprise, and then lifting his cap, he
answered, in a tone less confident than before--though still expressing
doubt.

"I have heard a party was to leave the encampment this morning for the
lake shore?"

"You have heard the truth; but I preferred a nearer route, trusting to
the knowledge of the Indian I mentioned."

"And he deceived you, and then deserted?"

"Neither, as I believe; certainly not the latter, for he is to be found
in the rear."

"I should like to look at the creature; if it is a true Iroquois I
can tell him by his knavish look, and by his paint," said the scout;
stepping past the charger of Heyward, and entering the path behind the
mare of the singing master, whose foal had taken advantage of the halt
to exact the maternal contribution. After shoving aside the bushes,
and proceeding a few paces, he encountered the females, who awaited
the result of the conference with anxiety, and not entirely without
apprehension. Behind these, the runner leaned against a tree, where he
stood the close examination of the scout with an air unmoved, though
with a look so dark and savage, that it might in itself excite fear.
Satisfied with his scrutiny, the hunter soon left him. As he repassed
the females, he paused a moment to gaze upon their beauty, answering to
the smile and nod of Alice with a look of open pleasure. Thence he went
to the side of the motherly animal, and spending a minute in a fruitless
inquiry into the character of her rider, he shook his head and returned
to Heyward.

"A Mingo is a Mingo, and God having made him so, neither the Mohawks nor
any other tribe can alter him," he said, when he had regained his former
position. "If we were alone, and you would leave that noble horse at the
mercy of the wolves to-night, I could show you the way to Edward myself,
within an hour, for it lies only about an hour's journey hence; but with
such ladies in your company 'tis impossible!"

"And why? They are fatigued, but they are quite equal to a ride of a few
more miles."

"'Tis a natural impossibility!" repeated the scout; "I wouldn't walk
a mile in these woods after night gets into them, in company with that
runner, for the best rifle in the colonies. They are full of outlying
Iroquois, and your mongrel Mohawk knows where to find them too well to
be my companion."

"Think you so?" said Heyward, leaning forward in the saddle, and
dropping his voice nearly to a whisper; "I confess I have not been
without my own suspicions, though I have endeavored to conceal them,
and affected a confidence I have not always felt, on account of my
companions. It was because I suspected him that I would follow no
longer; making him, as you see, follow me."

"I knew he was one of the cheats as soon as I laid eyes on him!"
returned the scout, placing a finger on his nose, in sign of caution.

"The thief is leaning against the foot of the sugar sapling, that you
can see over them bushes; his right leg is in a line with the bark of
the tree, and," tapping his rifle, "I can take him from where I stand,
between the angle and the knee, with a single shot, putting an end
to his tramping through the woods, for at least a month to come. If I
should go back to him, the cunning varmint would suspect something, and
be dodging through the trees like a frightened deer."

"It will not do. He may be innocent, and I dislike the act. Though, if I
felt confident of his treachery--"

"'Tis a safe thing to calculate on the knavery of an Iroquois," said the
scout, throwing his rifle forward, by a sort of instinctive movement.

"Hold!" interrupted Heyward, "it will not do--we must think of some
other scheme--and yet, I have much reason to believe the rascal has
deceived me."

The hunter, who had already abandoned his intention of maiming the
runner, mused a moment, and then made a gesture, which instantly brought
his two red companions to his side. They spoke together earnestly in the
Delaware language, though in an undertone; and by the gestures of
the white man, which were frequently directed towards the top of the
sapling, it was evident he pointed out the situation of their hidden
enemy. His companions were not long in comprehending his wishes, and
laying aside their firearms, they parted, taking opposite sides of
the path, and burying themselves in the thicket, with such cautious
movements, that their steps were inaudible.

"Now, go you back," said the hunter, speaking again to Heyward, "and
hold the imp in talk; these Mohicans here will take him without breaking
his paint."

"Nay," said Heyward, proudly, "I will seize him myself."

"Hist! what could you do, mounted, against an Indian in the bushes!"

"I will dismount."

"And, think you, when he saw one of your feet out of the stirrup, he
would wait for the other to be free? Whoever comes into the woods to
deal with the natives, must use Indian fashions, if he would wish to
prosper in his undertakings. Go, then; talk openly to the miscreant, and
seem to believe him the truest friend you have on 'arth."

Heyward prepared to comply, though with strong disgust at the nature of
the office he was compelled to execute. Each moment, however, pressed
upon him a conviction of the critical situation in which he had suffered
his invaluable trust to be involved through his own confidence. The sun
had already disappeared, and the woods, suddenly deprived of his light*,
were assuming a dusky hue, which keenly reminded him that the hour the
savage usually chose for his most barbarous and remorseless acts
of vengeance or hostility, was speedily drawing near. Stimulated by
apprehension, he left the scout, who immediately entered into a loud
conversation with the stranger that had so unceremoniously enlisted
himself in the party of travelers that morning. In passing his gentler
companions Heyward uttered a few words of encouragement, and was
pleased to find that, though fatigued with the exercise of the day, they
appeared to entertain no suspicion that their present embarrassment was
other than the result of accident. Giving them reason to believe he
was merely employed in a consultation concerning the future route,
he spurred his charger, and drew the reins again when the animal had
carried him within a few yards of the place where the sullen runner
still stood, leaning against the tree.

     * The scene of this tale was in the 42d degree of latitude,
     where the twilight is never of long continuation.

"You may see, Magua," he said, endeavoring to assume an air of freedom
and confidence, "that the night is closing around us, and yet we are no
nearer to William Henry than when we left the encampment of Webb with
the rising sun.

"You have missed the way, nor have I been more fortunate. But, happily,
we have fallen in with a hunter, he whom you hear talking to the singer,
that is acquainted with the deerpaths and by-ways of the woods, and
who promises to lead us to a place where we may rest securely till the
morning."

The Indian riveted his glowing eyes on Heyward as he asked, in his
imperfect English, "Is he alone?"

"Alone!" hesitatingly answered Heyward, to whom deception was too new to
be assumed without embarrassment. "Oh! not alone, surely, Magua, for you
know that we are with him."

"Then Le Renard Subtil will go," returned the runner, coolly raising
his little wallet from the place where it had lain at his feet; "and the
pale faces will see none but their own color."

"Go! Whom call you Le Renard?"

"'Tis the name his Canada fathers have given to Magua," returned the
runner, with an air that manifested his pride at the distinction. "Night
is the same as day to Le Subtil, when Munro waits for him."

"And what account will Le Renard give the chief of William Henry
concerning his daughters? Will he dare to tell the hot-blooded Scotsman
that his children are left without a guide, though Magua promised to be
one?"

"Though the gray head has a loud voice, and a long arm, Le Renard will
not hear him, nor feel him, in the woods."

"But what will the Mohawks say? They will make him petticoats, and bid
him stay in the wigwam with the women, for he is no longer to be trusted
with the business of a man."

"Le Subtil knows the path to the great lakes, and he can find the bones
of his fathers," was the answer of the unmoved runner.

"Enough, Magua," said Heyward; "are we not friends? Why should there be
bitter words between us? Munro has promised you a gift for your services
when performed, and I shall be your debtor for another. Rest your weary
limbs, then, and open your wallet to eat. We have a few moments to
spare; let us not waste them in talk like wrangling women. When the
ladies are refreshed we will proceed."

"The pale faces make themselves dogs to their women," muttered the
Indian, in his native language, "and when they want to eat, their
warriors must lay aside the tomahawk to feed their laziness."

"What say you, Renard?"

"Le Subtil says it is good."

The Indian then fastened his eyes keenly on the open countenance of
Heyward, but meeting his glance, he turned them quickly away, and
seating himself deliberately on the ground, he drew forth the remnant of
some former repast, and began to eat, though not without first bending
his looks slowly and cautiously around him.

"This is well," continued Heyward; "and Le Renard will have strength and
sight to find the path in the morning"; he paused, for sounds like the
snapping of a dried stick, and the rustling of leaves, rose from the
adjacent bushes, but recollecting himself instantly, he continued, "we
must be moving before the sun is seen, or Montcalm may lie in our path,
and shut us out from the fortress."

The hand of Magua dropped from his mouth to his side, and though
his eyes were fastened on the ground, his head was turned aside, his
nostrils expanded, and his ears seemed even to stand more erect than
usual, giving to him the appearance of a statue that was made to
represent intense attention.

Heyward, who watched his movements with a vigilant eye, carelessly
extricated one of his feet from the stirrup, while he passed a hand
toward the bear-skin covering of his holsters.

Every effort to detect the point most regarded by the runner was
completely frustrated by the tremulous glances of his organs, which
seemed not to rest a single instant on any particular object, and which,
at the same time, could be hardly said to move. While he hesitated how
to proceed, Le Subtil cautiously raised himself to his feet, though with
a motion so slow and guarded, that not the slightest noise was produced
by the change. Heyward felt it had now become incumbent on him to act.
Throwing his leg over the saddle, he dismounted, with a determination to
advance and seize his treacherous companion, trusting the result to his
own manhood. In order, however, to prevent unnecessary alarm, he still
preserved an air of calmness and friendship.

"Le Renard Subtil does not eat," he said, using the appellation he had
found most flattering to the vanity of the Indian. "His corn is not
well parched, and it seems dry. Let me examine; perhaps something may be
found among my own provisions that will help his appetite."

Magua held out the wallet to the proffer of the other. He even suffered
their hands to meet, without betraying the least emotion, or varying his
riveted attitude of attention. But when he felt the fingers of Heyward
moving gently along his own naked arm, he struck up the limb of the
young man, and, uttering a piercing cry, he darted beneath it, and
plunged, at a single bound, into the opposite thicket. At the next
instant the form of Chingachgook appeared from the bushes, looking like
a specter in its paint, and glided across the path in swift pursuit.
Next followed the shout of Uncas, when the woods were lighted by a
sudden flash, that was accompanied by the sharp report of the hunter's
rifle.




CHAPTER 5

                 ..."In such a night
     Did This be fearfully o'ertrip the dew;
     And saw the lion's shadow ere himself."--Merchant of Venice

The suddenness of the flight of his guide, and the wild cries of the
pursuers, caused Heyward to remain fixed, for a few moments, in inactive
surprise. Then recollecting the importance of securing the fugitive, he
dashed aside the surrounding bushes, and pressed eagerly forward to lend
his aid in the chase. Before he had, however, proceeded a hundred yards,
he met the three foresters already returning from their unsuccessful
pursuit.

"Why so soon disheartened!" he exclaimed; "the scoundrel must be
concealed behind some of these trees, and may yet be secured. We are not
safe while he goes at large."

"Would you set a cloud to chase the wind?" returned the disappointed
scout; "I heard the imp brushing over the dry leaves, like a black
snake, and blinking a glimpse of him, just over ag'in yon big pine, I
pulled as it might be on the scent; but 'twouldn't do! and yet for a
reasoning aim, if anybody but myself had touched the trigger, I should
call it a quick sight; and I may be accounted to have experience in
these matters, and one who ought to know. Look at this sumach; its
leaves are red, though everybody knows the fruit is in the yellow
blossom in the month of July!"

"'Tis the blood of Le Subtil! he is hurt, and may yet fall!"

"No, no," returned the scout, in decided disapprobation of this opinion,
"I rubbed the bark off a limb, perhaps, but the creature leaped the
longer for it. A rifle bullet acts on a running animal, when it barks
him, much the same as one of your spurs on a horse; that is, it quickens
motion, and puts life into the flesh, instead of taking it away. But
when it cuts the ragged hole, after a bound or two, there is, commonly,
a stagnation of further leaping, be it Indian or be it deer!"

"We are four able bodies, to one wounded man!"

"Is life grievous to you?" interrupted the scout. "Yonder red devil
would draw you within swing of the tomahawks of his comrades, before you
were heated in the chase. It was an unthoughtful act in a man who has so
often slept with the war-whoop ringing in the air, to let off his piece
within sound of an ambushment! But then it was a natural temptation!
'twas very natural! Come, friends, let us move our station, and in such
fashion, too, as will throw the cunning of a Mingo on a wrong scent, or
our scalps will be drying in the wind in front of Montcalm's marquee,
ag'in this hour to-morrow."

This appalling declaration, which the scout uttered with the cool
assurance of a man who fully comprehended, while he did not fear to face
the danger, served to remind Heyward of the importance of the charge
with which he himself had been intrusted. Glancing his eyes around, with
a vain effort to pierce the gloom that was thickening beneath the
leafy arches of the forest, he felt as if, cut off from human aid,
his unresisting companions would soon lie at the entire mercy of those
barbarous enemies, who, like beasts of prey, only waited till the
gathering darkness might render their blows more fatally certain. His
awakened imagination, deluded by the deceptive light, converted each
waving bush, or the fragment of some fallen tree, into human forms, and
twenty times he fancied he could distinguish the horrid visages of
his lurking foes, peering from their hiding places, in never ceasing
watchfulness of the movements of his party. Looking upward, he found
that the thin fleecy clouds, which evening had painted on the blue
sky, were already losing their faintest tints of rose-color, while the
imbedded stream, which glided past the spot where he stood, was to be
traced only by the dark boundary of its wooded banks.

"What is to be done!" he said, feeling the utter helplessness of doubt
in such a pressing strait; "desert me not, for God's sake! remain to
defend those I escort, and freely name your own reward!"

His companions, who conversed apart in the language of their tribe,
heeded not this sudden and earnest appeal. Though their dialogue was
maintained in low and cautious sounds, but little above a whisper,
Heyward, who now approached, could easily distinguish the earnest tones
of the younger warrior from the more deliberate speeches of his seniors.
It was evident that they debated on the propriety of some measure, that
nearly concerned the welfare of the travelers. Yielding to his powerful
interest in the subject, and impatient of a delay that seemed fraught
with so much additional danger, Heyward drew still nigher to the dusky
group, with an intention of making his offers of compensation more
definite, when the white man, motioning with his hand, as if he conceded
the disputed point, turned away, saying in a sort of soliloquy, and in
the English tongue:

"Uncas is right! it would not be the act of men to leave such harmless
things to their fate, even though it breaks up the harboring place
forever. If you would save these tender blossoms from the fangs of
the worst of serpents, gentleman, you have neither time to lose nor
resolution to throw away!"

"How can such a wish be doubted! Have I not already offered--"

"Offer your prayers to Him who can give us wisdom to circumvent the
cunning of the devils who fill these woods," calmly interrupted the
scout, "but spare your offers of money, which neither you may live to
realize, nor I to profit by. These Mohicans and I will do what man's
thoughts can invent, to keep such flowers, which, though so sweet, were
never made for the wilderness, from harm, and that without hope of
any other recompense but such as God always gives to upright dealings.
First, you must promise two things, both in your own name and for your
friends, or without serving you we shall only injure ourselves!"

"Name them."

"The one is, to be still as these sleeping woods, let what will happen
and the other is, to keep the place where we shall take you, forever a
secret from all mortal men."

"I will do my utmost to see both these conditions fulfilled."

"Then follow, for we are losing moments that are as precious as the
heart's blood to a stricken deer!"

Heyward could distinguish the impatient gesture of the scout, through
the increasing shadows of the evening, and he moved in his footsteps,
swiftly, toward the place where he had left the remainder of the
party. When they rejoined the expecting and anxious females, he briefly
acquainted them with the conditions of their new guide, and with the
necessity that existed for their hushing every apprehension in instant
and serious exertions. Although his alarming communication was not
received without much secret terror by the listeners, his earnest and
impressive manner, aided perhaps by the nature of the danger, succeeded
in bracing their nerves to undergo some unlooked-for and unusual trial.
Silently, and without a moment's delay, they permitted him to assist
them from their saddles, and when they descended quickly to the water's
edge, where the scout had collected the rest of the party, more by the
agency of expressive gestures than by any use of words.

"What to do with these dumb creatures!" muttered the white man, on whom
the sole control of their future movements appeared to devolve; "it
would be time lost to cut their throats, and cast them into the river;
and to leave them here would be to tell the Mingoes that they have not
far to seek to find their owners!"

"Then give them their bridles, and let them range the woods," Heyward
ventured to suggest.

"No; it would be better to mislead the imps, and make them believe they
must equal a horse's speed to run down their chase. Ay, ay, that will
blind their fireballs of eyes! Chingach--Hist! what stirs the bush?"

"The colt."

"That colt, at least, must die," muttered the scout, grasping at the
mane of the nimble beast, which easily eluded his hand; "Uncas, your
arrows!"

"Hold!" exclaimed the proprietor of the condemned animal, aloud, without
regard to the whispering tones used by the others; "spare the foal
of Miriam! it is the comely offspring of a faithful dam, and would
willingly injure naught."

"When men struggle for the single life God has given them," said the
scout, sternly, "even their own kind seem no more than the beasts of the
wood. If you speak again, I shall leave you to the mercy of the Maquas!
Draw to your arrow's head, Uncas; we have no time for second blows."

The low, muttering sounds of his threatening voice were still audible,
when the wounded foal, first rearing on its hinder legs, plunged forward
to its knees. It was met by Chingachgook, whose knife passed across its
throat quicker than thought, and then precipitating the motions of the
struggling victim, he dashed into the river, down whose stream it glided
away, gasping audibly for breath with its ebbing life. This deed of
apparent cruelty, but of real necessity, fell upon the spirits of the
travelers like a terrific warning of the peril in which they stood,
heightened as it was by the calm though steady resolution of the actors
in the scene. The sisters shuddered and clung closer to each other,
while Heyward instinctively laid his hand on one of the pistols he had
just drawn from their holsters, as he placed himself between his charge
and those dense shadows that seemed to draw an impenetrable veil before
the bosom of the forest.

The Indians, however, hesitated not a moment, but taking the bridles,
they led the frightened and reluctant horses into the bed of the river.

At a short distance from the shore they turned, and were soon concealed
by the projection of the bank, under the brow of which they moved, in
a direction opposite to the course of the waters. In the meantime, the
scout drew a canoe of bark from its place of concealment beneath some
low bushes, whose branches were waving with the eddies of the current,
into which he silently motioned for the females to enter. They complied
without hesitation, though many a fearful and anxious glance was thrown
behind them, toward the thickening gloom, which now lay like a dark
barrier along the margin of the stream.

So soon as Cora and Alice were seated, the scout, without regarding the
element, directed Heyward to support one side of the frail vessel,
and posting himself at the other, they bore it up against the stream,
followed by the dejected owner of the dead foal. In this manner they
proceeded, for many rods, in a silence that was only interrupted by the
rippling of the water, as its eddies played around them, or the low dash
made by their own cautious footsteps. Heyward yielded the guidance of
the canoe implicitly to the scout, who approached or receded from the
shore, to avoid the fragments of rocks, or deeper parts of the river,
with a readiness that showed his knowledge of the route they held.
Occasionally he would stop; and in the midst of a breathing stillness,
that the dull but increasing roar of the waterfall only served to render
more impressive, he would listen with painful intenseness, to catch any
sounds that might arise from the slumbering forest. When assured that
all was still, and unable to detect, even by the aid of his practiced
senses, any sign of his approaching foes, he would deliberately resume
his slow and guarded progress. At length they reached a point in the
river where the roving eye of Heyward became riveted on a cluster of
black objects, collected at a spot where the high bank threw a deeper
shadow than usual on the dark waters. Hesitating to advance, he pointed
out the place to the attention of his companion.

"Ay," returned the composed scout, "the Indians have hid the beasts with
the judgment of natives! Water leaves no trail, and an owl's eyes would
be blinded by the darkness of such a hole."

The whole party was soon reunited, and another consultation was held
between the scout and his new comrades, during which, they, whose fates
depended on the faith and ingenuity of these unknown foresters, had a
little leisure to observe their situation more minutely.

The river was confined between high and cragged rocks, one of which
impended above the spot where the canoe rested. As these, again, were
surmounted by tall trees, which appeared to totter on the brows of the
precipice, it gave the stream the appearance of running through a deep
and narrow dell. All beneath the fantastic limbs and ragged tree tops,
which were, here and there, dimly painted against the starry zenith,
lay alike in shadowed obscurity. Behind them, the curvature of the banks
soon bounded the view by the same dark and wooded outline; but in front,
and apparently at no great distance, the water seemed piled against
the heavens, whence it tumbled into caverns, out of which issued those
sullen sounds that had loaded the evening atmosphere. It seemed, in
truth, to be a spot devoted to seclusion, and the sisters imbibed a
soothing impression of security, as they gazed upon its romantic though
not unappalling beauties. A general movement among their conductors,
however, soon recalled them from a contemplation of the wild charms that
night had assisted to lend the place to a painful sense of their real
peril.

The horses had been secured to some scattering shrubs that grew in the
fissures of the rocks, where, standing in the water, they were left to
pass the night. The scout directed Heyward and his disconsolate fellow
travelers to seat themselves in the forward end of the canoe, and took
possession of the other himself, as erect and steady as if he floated
in a vessel of much firmer materials. The Indians warily retraced their
steps toward the place they had left, when the scout, placing his pole
against a rock, by a powerful shove, sent his frail bark directly into
the turbulent stream. For many minutes the struggle between the light
bubble in which they floated and the swift current was severe and
doubtful. Forbidden to stir even a hand, and almost afraid to breath,
lest they should expose the frail fabric to the fury of the stream,
the passengers watched the glancing waters in feverish suspense.
Twenty times they thought the whirling eddies were sweeping them to
destruction, when the master-hand of their pilot would bring the bows of
the canoe to stem the rapid. A long, a vigorous, and, as it appeared
to the females, a desperate effort, closed the struggle. Just as Alice
veiled her eyes in horror, under the impression that they were about
to be swept within the vortex at the foot of the cataract, the canoe
floated, stationary, at the side of a flat rock, that lay on a level
with the water.

"Where are we, and what is next to be done!" demanded Heyward,
perceiving that the exertions of the scout had ceased.

"You are at the foot of Glenn's," returned the other, speaking aloud,
without fear of consequences within the roar of the cataract; "and the
next thing is to make a steady landing, lest the canoe upset, and you
should go down again the hard road we have traveled faster than you came
up; 'tis a hard rift to stem, when the river is a little swelled; and
five is an unnatural number to keep dry, in a hurry-skurry, with a
little birchen bark and gum. There, go you all on the rock, and I will
bring up the Mohicans with the venison. A man had better sleep without
his scalp, than famish in the midst of plenty."

His passengers gladly complied with these directions. As the last foot
touched the rock, the canoe whirled from its station, when the tall form
of the scout was seen, for an instant, gliding above the waters, before
it disappeared in the impenetrable darkness that rested on the bed of
the river. Left by their guide, the travelers remained a few minutes in
helpless ignorance, afraid even to move along the broken rocks, lest a
false step should precipitate them down some one of the many deep and
roaring caverns, into which the water seemed to tumble, on every side
of them. Their suspense, however, was soon relieved; for, aided by the
skill of the natives, the canoe shot back into the eddy, and floated
again at the side of the low rock, before they thought the scout had
even time to rejoin his companions.

"We are now fortified, garrisoned, and provisioned," cried Heyward
cheerfully, "and may set Montcalm and his allies at defiance. How, now,
my vigilant sentinel, can see anything of those you call the Iroquois,
on the main land!"

"I call them Iroquois, because to me every native, who speaks a foreign
tongue, is accounted an enemy, though he may pretend to serve the king!
If Webb wants faith and honesty in an Indian, let him bring out the
tribes of the Delawares, and send these greedy and lying Mohawks and
Oneidas, with their six nations of varlets, where in nature they belong,
among the French!"

"We should then exchange a warlike for a useless friend! I have heard
that the Delawares have laid aside the hatchet, and are content to be
called women!"

"Aye, shame on the Hollanders and Iroquois, who circumvented them by
their deviltries, into such a treaty! But I have known them for twenty
years, and I call him liar that says cowardly blood runs in the veins
of a Delaware. You have driven their tribes from the seashore, and would
now believe what their enemies say, that you may sleep at night upon an
easy pillow. No, no; to me, every Indian who speaks a foreign tongue
is an Iroquois, whether the castle* of his tribe be in Canada, or be in
York."

     * The principal villages of the Indians are still called
     "castles" by the whites of New York. "Oneida castle" is no
     more than a scattered hamlet; but the name is in general
     use.

Heyward, perceiving that the stubborn adherence of the scout to the
cause of his friends the Delawares, or Mohicans, for they were branches
of the same numerous people, was likely to prolong a useless discussion,
changed the subject.

"Treaty or no treaty, I know full well that your two companions are
brave and cautious warriors! have they heard or seen anything of our
enemies!"

"An Indian is a mortal to be felt afore he is seen," returned the scout,
ascending the rock, and throwing the deer carelessly down. "I trust to
other signs than such as come in at the eye, when I am outlying on the
trail of the Mingoes."

"Do your ears tell you that they have traced our retreat?"

"I should be sorry to think they had, though this is a spot that stout
courage might hold for a smart scrimmage. I will not deny, however,
but the horses cowered when I passed them, as though they scented the
wolves; and a wolf is a beast that is apt to hover about an Indian
ambushment, craving the offals of the deer the savages kill."

"You forget the buck at your feet! or, may we not owe their visit to the
dead colt? Ha! what noise is that?"

"Poor Miriam!" murmured the stranger; "thy foal was foreordained to
become a prey to ravenous beasts!" Then, suddenly lifting up his voice,
amid the eternal din of the waters, he sang aloud: "First born of Egypt,
smite did he, Of mankind, and of beast also: O, Egypt! wonders sent
'midst thee, On Pharaoh and his servants too!"

"The death of the colt sits heavy on the heart of its owner," said the
scout; "but it's a good sign to see a man account upon his dumb friends.
He has the religion of the matter, in believing what is to happen will
happen; and with such a consolation, it won't be long afore he submits
to the rationality of killing a four-footed beast to save the lives of
human men. It may be as you say," he continued, reverting to the purport
of Heyward's last remark; "and the greater the reason why we should cut
our steaks, and let the carcass drive down the stream, or we shall have
the pack howling along the cliffs, begrudging every mouthful we swallow.
Besides, though the Delaware tongue is the same as a book to the
Iroquois, the cunning varlets are quick enough at understanding the
reason of a wolf's howl."

The scout, while making his remarks, was busied in collecting certain
necessary implements; as he concluded, he moved silently by the group
of travelers, accompanied by the Mohicans, who seemed to comprehend his
intentions with instinctive readiness, when the whole three
disappeared in succession, seeming to vanish against the dark face of
a perpendicular rock that rose to the height of a few yards, within as
many feet of the water's edge.




CHAPTER 6

     "Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide;
     He wales a portion with judicious care;
     And 'Let us worship God', he says, with solemn air."--Burns

Heyward and his female companions witnessed this mysterious movement
with secret uneasiness; for, though the conduct of the white man had
hitherto been above reproach, his rude equipments, blunt address,
and strong antipathies, together with the character of his silent
associates, were all causes for exciting distrust in minds that had been
so recently alarmed by Indian treachery.

The stranger alone disregarded the passing incidents. He seated
himself on a projection of the rocks, whence he gave no other signs
of consciousness than by the struggles of his spirit, as manifested in
frequent and heavy sighs. Smothered voices were next heard, as though
men called to each other in the bowels of the earth, when a sudden light
flashed upon those without, and laid bare the much-prized secret of the
place.

At the further extremity of a narrow, deep cavern in the rock, whose
length appeared much extended by the perspective and the nature of the
light by which it was seen, was seated the scout, holding a blazing
knot of pine. The strong glare of the fire fell full upon his sturdy,
weather-beaten countenance and forest attire, lending an air of romantic
wildness to the aspect of an individual, who, seen by the sober light of
day, would have exhibited the peculiarities of a man remarkable for the
strangeness of his dress, the iron-like inflexibility of his frame,
and the singular compound of quick, vigilant sagacity, and of exquisite
simplicity, that by turns usurped the possession of his muscular
features. At a little distance in advance stood Uncas, his whole person
thrown powerfully into view. The travelers anxiously regarded the
upright, flexible figure of the young Mohican, graceful and unrestrained
in the attitudes and movements of nature. Though his person was more
than usually screened by a green and fringed hunting-shirt, like that of
the white man, there was no concealment to his dark, glancing, fearless
eye, alike terrible and calm; the bold outline of his high, haughty
features, pure in their native red; or to the dignified elevation of his
receding forehead, together with all the finest proportions of a noble
head, bared to the generous scalping tuft. It was the first opportunity
possessed by Duncan and his companions to view the marked lineaments of
either of their Indian attendants, and each individual of the party felt
relieved from a burden of doubt, as the proud and determined, though
wild expression of the features of the young warrior forced itself on
their notice. They felt it might be a being partially benighted in the
vale of ignorance, but it could not be one who would willingly devote
his rich natural gifts to the purposes of wanton treachery. The
ingenuous Alice gazed at his free air and proud carriage, as she would
have looked upon some precious relic of the Grecian chisel, to which
life had been imparted by the intervention of a miracle; while Heyward,
though accustomed to see the perfection of form which abounds among
the uncorrupted natives, openly expressed his admiration at such an
unblemished specimen of the noblest proportions of man.

"I could sleep in peace," whispered Alice, in reply, "with such a
fearless and generous-looking youth for my sentinel. Surely, Duncan,
those cruel murders, those terrific scenes of torture, of which we read
and hear so much, are never acted in the presence of such as he!"

"This certainly is a rare and brilliant instance of those natural
qualities in which these peculiar people are said to excel," he
answered. "I agree with you, Alice, in thinking that such a front and
eye were formed rather to intimidate than to deceive; but let us not
practice a deception upon ourselves, by expecting any other exhibition
of what we esteem virtue than according to the fashion of the savage.
As bright examples of great qualities are but too uncommon among
Christians, so are they singular and solitary with the Indians; though,
for the honor of our common nature, neither are incapable of producing
them. Let us then hope that this Mohican may not disappoint our wishes,
but prove what his looks assert him to be, a brave and constant friend."

"Now Major Heyward speaks as Major Heyward should," said Cora; "who that
looks at this creature of nature, remembers the shade of his skin?"

A short and apparently an embarrassed silence succeeded this remark,
which was interrupted by the scout calling to them, aloud, to enter.

"This fire begins to show too bright a flame," he continued, as they
complied, "and might light the Mingoes to our undoing. Uncas, drop the
blanket, and show the knaves its dark side. This is not such a supper
as a major of the Royal Americans has a right to expect, but I've
known stout detachments of the corps glad to eat their venison raw, and
without a relish, too*. Here, you see, we have plenty of salt, and can
make a quick broil. There's fresh sassafras boughs for the ladies to sit
on, which may not be as proud as their my-hog-guinea chairs, but which
sends up a sweeter flavor, than the skin of any hog can do, be it of
Guinea, or be it of any other land. Come, friend, don't be mournful for
the colt; 'twas an innocent thing, and had not seen much hardship. Its
death will save the creature many a sore back and weary foot!"

     * In vulgar parlance the condiments of a repast are called
     by the American "a relish," substituting the thing for its
     effect. These provincial terms are frequently put in the
     mouths of the speakers, according to their several
     conditions in life. Most of them are of local use, and
     others quite peculiar to the particular class of men to
     which the character belongs. In the present instance, the
     scout uses the word with immediate reference to the "salt,"
     with which his own party was so fortunate as to be provided.

Uncas did as the other had directed, and when the voice of Hawkeye
ceased, the roar of the cataract sounded like the rumbling of distant
thunder.

"Are we quite safe in this cavern?" demanded Heyward. "Is there no
danger of surprise? A single armed man, at its entrance, would hold us
at his mercy."

A spectral-looking figure stalked from out of the darkness behind the
scout, and seizing a blazing brand, held it toward the further extremity
of their place of retreat. Alice uttered a faint shriek, and even Cora
rose to her feet, as this appalling object moved into the light; but
a single word from Heyward calmed them, with the assurance it was only
their attendant, Chingachgook, who, lifting another blanket, discovered
that the cavern had two outlets. Then, holding the brand, he crossed
a deep, narrow chasm in the rocks which ran at right angles with the
passage they were in, but which, unlike that, was open to the heavens,
and entered another cave, answering to the description of the first, in
every essential particular.

"Such old foxes as Chingachgook and myself are not often caught in a
barrow with one hole," said Hawkeye, laughing; "you can easily see the
cunning of the place--the rock is black limestone, which everybody knows
is soft; it makes no uncomfortable pillow, where brush and pine wood is
scarce; well, the fall was once a few yards below us, and I dare to say
was, in its time, as regular and as handsome a sheet of water as any
along the Hudson. But old age is a great injury to good looks, as these
sweet young ladies have yet to l'arn! The place is sadly changed! These
rocks are full of cracks, and in some places they are softer than at
othersome, and the water has worked out deep hollows for itself, until
it has fallen back, ay, some hundred feet, breaking here and wearing
there, until the falls have neither shape nor consistency."

"In what part of them are we?" asked Heyward.

"Why, we are nigh the spot that Providence first placed them at, but
where, it seems, they were too rebellious to stay. The rock proved
softer on each side of us, and so they left the center of the river bare
and dry, first working out these two little holes for us to hide in."

"We are then on an island!"

"Ay! there are the falls on two sides of us, and the river above and
below. If you had daylight, it would be worth the trouble to step up
on the height of this rock, and look at the perversity of the water. It
falls by no rule at all; sometimes it leaps, sometimes it tumbles;
there it skips; here it shoots; in one place 'tis white as snow, and in
another 'tis green as grass; hereabouts, it pitches into deep hollows,
that rumble and crush the 'arth; and thereaways, it ripples and sings
like a brook, fashioning whirlpools and gullies in the old stone, as if
'twas no harder than trodden clay. The whole design of the river seems
disconcerted. First it runs smoothly, as if meaning to go down the
descent as things were ordered; then it angles about and faces the
shores; nor are there places wanting where it looks backward, as if
unwilling to leave the wilderness, to mingle with the salt. Ay, lady,
the fine cobweb-looking cloth you wear at your throat is coarse,
and like a fishnet, to little spots I can show you, where the river
fabricates all sorts of images, as if having broke loose from order, it
would try its hand at everything. And yet what does it amount to! After
the water has been suffered so to have its will, for a time, like a
headstrong man, it is gathered together by the hand that made it, and a
few rods below you may see it all, flowing on steadily toward the sea,
as was foreordained from the first foundation of the 'arth!"

While his auditors received a cheering assurance of the security of
their place of concealment from this untutored description of Glenn's,*
they were much inclined to judge differently from Hawkeye, of its wild
beauties. But they were not in a situation to suffer their thoughts to
dwell on the charms of natural objects; and, as the scout had not found
it necessary to cease his culinary labors while he spoke, unless to
point out, with a broken fork, the direction of some particularly
obnoxious point in the rebellious stream, they now suffered their
attention to be drawn to the necessary though more vulgar consideration
of their supper.

     * Glenn's Falls are on the Hudson, some forty or fifty miles
     above the head of tide, or that place where the river
     becomes navigable for sloops. The description of this
     picturesque and remarkable little cataract, as given by the
     scout, is sufficiently correct, though the application of
     the water to uses of civilized life has materially injured
     its beauties. The rocky island and the two caverns are known
     to every traveler, since the former sustains the pier of a
     bridge, which is now thrown across the river, immediately
     above the fall. In explanation of the taste of Hawkeye, it
     should be remembered that men always prize that most which
     is least enjoyed. Thus, in a new country, the woods and
     other objects, which in an old country would be maintained
     at great cost, are got rid of, simply with a view of
     "improving" as it is called.

The repast, which was greatly aided by the addition of a few delicacies
that Heyward had the precaution to bring with him when they left their
horses, was exceedingly refreshing to the weary party. Uncas acted as
attendant to the females, performing all the little offices within his
power, with a mixture of dignity and anxious grace, that served to amuse
Heyward, who well knew that it was an utter innovation on the
Indian customs, which forbid their warriors to descend to any menial
employment, especially in favor of their women. As the rights of
hospitality were, however, considered sacred among them, this little
departure from the dignity of manhood excited no audible comment. Had
there been one there sufficiently disengaged to become a close observer,
he might have fancied that the services of the young chief were not
entirely impartial. That while he tendered to Alice the gourd of sweet
water, and the venison in a trencher, neatly carved from the knot of the
pepperidge, with sufficient courtesy, in performing the same offices
to her sister, his dark eye lingered on her rich, speaking countenance.
Once or twice he was compelled to speak, to command her attention
of those he served. In such cases he made use of English, broken and
imperfect, but sufficiently intelligible, and which he rendered so mild
and musical, by his deep, guttural voice, that it never failed to cause
both ladies to look up in admiration and astonishment. In the course
of these civilities, a few sentences were exchanged, that served to
establish the appearance of an amicable intercourse between the parties.

In the meanwhile, the gravity of Chingcachgook remained immovable. He
had seated himself more within the circle of light, where the frequent,
uneasy glances of his guests were better enabled to separate the natural
expression of his face from the artificial terrors of the war paint.
They found a strong resemblance between father and son, with the
difference that might be expected from age and hardships. The fierceness
of his countenance now seemed to slumber, and in its place was to be
seen the quiet, vacant composure which distinguishes an Indian warrior,
when his faculties are not required for any of the greater purposes
of his existence. It was, however, easy to be seen, by the occasional
gleams that shot across his swarthy visage, that it was only necessary
to arouse his passions, in order to give full effect to the terrific
device which he had adopted to intimidate his enemies. On the other
hand, the quick, roving eye of the scout seldom rested. He ate and
drank with an appetite that no sense of danger could disturb, but his
vigilance seemed never to desert him. Twenty times the gourd or the
venison was suspended before his lips, while his head was turned aside,
as though he listened to some distant and distrusted sounds--a movement
that never failed to recall his guests from regarding the novelties
of their situation, to a recollection of the alarming reasons that had
driven them to seek it. As these frequent pauses were never followed by
any remark, the momentary uneasiness they created quickly passed away,
and for a time was forgotten.

"Come, friend," said Hawkeye, drawing out a keg from beneath a cover of
leaves, toward the close of the repast, and addressing the stranger
who sat at his elbow, doing great justice to his culinary skill, "try
a little spruce; 'twill wash away all thoughts of the colt, and quicken
the life in your bosom. I drink to our better friendship, hoping that
a little horse-flesh may leave no heart-burnings atween us. How do you
name yourself?"

"Gamut--David Gamut," returned the singing master, preparing to wash
down his sorrows in a powerful draught of the woodsman's high-flavored
and well-laced compound.

"A very good name, and, I dare say, handed down from honest forefathers.
I'm an admirator of names, though the Christian fashions fall far below
savage customs in this particular. The biggest coward I ever knew as
called Lyon; and his wife, Patience, would scold you out of hearing
in less time than a hunted deer would run a rod. With an Indian 'tis a
matter of conscience; what he calls himself, he generally is--not that
Chingachgook, which signifies Big Sarpent, is really a snake, big or
little; but that he understands the windings and turnings of human
natur', and is silent, and strikes his enemies when they least expect
him. What may be your calling?"

"I am an unworthy instructor in the art of psalmody."

"Anan!"

"I teach singing to the youths of the Connecticut levy."

"You might be better employed. The young hounds go laughing and singing
too much already through the woods, when they ought not to breathe
louder than a fox in his cover. Can you use the smoothbore, or handle
the rifle?"

"Praised be God, I have never had occasion to meddle with murderous
implements!"

"Perhaps you understand the compass, and lay down the watercourses and
mountains of the wilderness on paper, in order that they who follow may
find places by their given names?"

"I practice no such employment."

"You have a pair of legs that might make a long path seem short! you
journey sometimes, I fancy, with tidings for the general."

"Never; I follow no other than my own high vocation, which is
instruction in sacred music!"

"'Tis a strange calling!" muttered Hawkeye, with an inward laugh, "to
go through life, like a catbird, mocking all the ups and downs that may
happen to come out of other men's throats. Well, friend, I suppose it
is your gift, and mustn't be denied any more than if 'twas shooting, or
some other better inclination. Let us hear what you can do in that way;
'twill be a friendly manner of saying good-night, for 'tis time that
these ladies should be getting strength for a hard and a long push, in
the pride of the morning, afore the Maquas are stirring."

"With joyful pleasure do I consent", said David, adjusting his
iron-rimmed spectacles, and producing his beloved little volume,
which he immediately tendered to Alice. "What can be more fitting
and consolatory, than to offer up evening praise, after a day of such
exceeding jeopardy!"

Alice smiled; but, regarding Heyward, she blushed and hesitated.

"Indulge yourself," he whispered; "ought not the suggestion of the
worthy namesake of the Psalmist to have its weight at such a moment?"

Encouraged by his opinion, Alice did what her pious inclinations, and
her keen relish for gentle sounds, had before so strongly urged. The
book was open at a hymn not ill adapted to their situation, and in which
the poet, no longer goaded by his desire to excel the inspired King
of Israel, had discovered some chastened and respectable powers. Cora
betrayed a disposition to support her sister, and the sacred song
proceeded, after the indispensable preliminaries of the pitchpipe, and
the tune had been duly attended to by the methodical David.

The air was solemn and slow. At times it rose to the fullest compass of
the rich voices of the females, who hung over their little book in holy
excitement, and again it sank so low, that the rushing of the waters ran
through their melody, like a hollow accompaniment. The natural taste and
true ear of David governed and modified the sounds to suit the confined
cavern, every crevice and cranny of which was filled with the thrilling
notes of their flexible voices. The Indians riveted their eyes on the
rocks, and listened with an attention that seemed to turn them into
stone. But the scout, who had placed his chin in his hand, with an
expression of cold indifference, gradually suffered his rigid features
to relax, until, as verse succeeded verse, he felt his iron nature
subdued, while his recollection was carried back to boyhood, when his
ears had been accustomed to listen to similar sounds of praise, in the
settlements of the colony. His roving eyes began to moisten, and before
the hymn was ended scalding tears rolled out of fountains that had long
seemed dry, and followed each other down those cheeks, that had oftener
felt the storms of heaven than any testimonials of weakness. The singers
were dwelling on one of those low, dying chords, which the ear devours
with such greedy rapture, as if conscious that it is about to lose them,
when a cry, that seemed neither human nor earthly, rose in the outward
air, penetrating not only the recesses of the cavern, but to the inmost
hearts of all who heard it. It was followed by a stillness apparently
as deep as if the waters had been checked in their furious progress, at
such a horrid and unusual interruption.

"What is it?" murmured Alice, after a few moments of terrible suspense.

"What is it?" repeated Hewyard aloud.

Neither Hawkeye nor the Indians made any reply. They listened, as if
expecting the sound would be repeated, with a manner that expressed
their own astonishment. At length they spoke together, earnestly, in the
Delaware language, when Uncas, passing by the inner and most concealed
aperture, cautiously left the cavern. When he had gone, the scout first
spoke in English.

"What it is, or what it is not, none here can tell, though two of us
have ranged the woods for more than thirty years. I did believe there
was no cry that Indian or beast could make, that my ears had not heard;
but this has proved that I was only a vain and conceited mortal."

"Was it not, then, the shout the warriors make when they wish to
intimidate their enemies?" asked Cora who stood drawing her veil about
her person, with a calmness to which her agitated sister was a stranger.

"No, no; this was bad, and shocking, and had a sort of unhuman sound;
but when you once hear the war-whoop, you will never mistake it for
anything else. Well, Uncas!" speaking in Delaware to the young chief as
he re-entered, "what see you? do our lights shine through the blankets?"

The answer was short, and apparently decided, being given in the same
tongue.

"There is nothing to be seen without," continued Hawkeye, shaking his
head in discontent; "and our hiding-place is still in darkness. Pass
into the other cave, you that need it, and seek for sleep; we must
be afoot long before the sun, and make the most of our time to get to
Edward, while the Mingoes are taking their morning nap."

Cora set the example of compliance, with a steadiness that taught the
more timid Alice the necessity of obedience. Before leaving the place,
however, she whispered a request to Duncan, that he would follow. Uncas
raised the blanket for their passage, and as the sisters turned to thank
him for this act of attention, they saw the scout seated again before
the dying embers, with his face resting on his hands, in a manner which
showed how deeply he brooded on the unaccountable interruption which had
broken up their evening devotions.

Heyward took with him a blazing knot, which threw a dim light through
the narrow vista of their new apartment. Placing it in a favorable
position, he joined the females, who now found themselves alone with
him for the first time since they had left the friendly ramparts of Fort
Edward.

"Leave us not, Duncan," said Alice: "we cannot sleep in such a place as
this, with that horrid cry still ringing in our ears."

"First let us examine into the security of your fortress," he answered,
"and then we will speak of rest."

He approached the further end of the cavern, to an outlet, which, like
the others, was concealed by blankets; and removing the thick screen,
breathed the fresh and reviving air from the cataract. One arm of the
river flowed through a deep, narrow ravine, which its current had
worn in the soft rock, directly beneath his feet, forming an effectual
defense, as he believed, against any danger from that quarter; the
water, a few rods above them, plunging, glancing, and sweeping along in
its most violent and broken manner.

"Nature has made an impenetrable barrier on this side," he continued,
pointing down the perpendicular declivity into the dark current before
he dropped the blanket; "and as you know that good men and true are on
guard in front I see no reason why the advice of our honest host should
be disregarded. I am certain Cora will join me in saying that sleep is
necessary to you both."

"Cora may submit to the justice of your opinion though she cannot put it
in practice," returned the elder sister, who had placed herself by the
side of Alice, on a couch of sassafras; "there would be other causes to
chase away sleep, though we had been spared the shock of this mysterious
noise. Ask yourself, Heyward, can daughters forget the anxiety a father
must endure, whose children lodge he knows not where or how, in such a
wilderness, and in the midst of so many perils?"

"He is a soldier, and knows how to estimate the chances of the woods."

"He is a father, and cannot deny his nature."

"How kind has he ever been to all my follies, how tender and indulgent
to all my wishes!" sobbed Alice. "We have been selfish, sister, in
urging our visit at such hazard."

"I may have been rash in pressing his consent in a moment of much
embarrassment, but I would have proved to him, that however others might
neglect him in his strait his children at least were faithful."

"When he heard of your arrival at Edward," said Heyward, kindly, "there
was a powerful struggle in his bosom between fear and love; though
the latter, heightened, if possible, by so long a separation, quickly
prevailed. 'It is the spirit of my noble-minded Cora that leads them,
Duncan', he said, 'and I will not balk it. Would to God, that he who
holds the honor of our royal master in his guardianship, would show but
half her firmness!'"

"And did he not speak of me, Heyward?" demanded Alice, with jealous
affection; "surely, he forgot not altogether his little Elsie?"

"That were impossible," returned the young man; "he called you by a
thousand endearing epithets, that I may not presume to use, but to the
justice of which, I can warmly testify. Once, indeed, he said--"

Duncan ceased speaking; for while his eyes were riveted on those of
Alice, who had turned toward him with the eagerness of filial affection,
to catch his words, the same strong, horrid cry, as before, filled the
air, and rendered him mute. A long, breathless silence succeeded, during
which each looked at the others in fearful expectation of hearing the
sound repeated. At length, the blanket was slowly raised, and the scout
stood in the aperture with a countenance whose firmness evidently
began to give way before a mystery that seemed to threaten some danger,
against which all his cunning and experience might prove of no avail.




CHAPTER 7

     "They do not sleep,
     On yonder cliffs, a grizzly band,
     I see them sit."--Gray

"'Twould be neglecting a warning that is given for our good to lie hid
any longer," said Hawkeye "when such sounds are raised in the forest.
These gentle ones may keep close, but the Mohicans and I will watch upon
the rock, where I suppose a major of the Sixtieth would wish to keep us
company."

"Is, then, our danger so pressing?" asked Cora.

"He who makes strange sounds, and gives them out for man's information,
alone knows our danger. I should think myself wicked, unto rebellion
against His will, was I to burrow with such warnings in the air! Even
the weak soul who passes his days in singing is stirred by the cry,
and, as he says, is 'ready to go forth to the battle' If 'twere only a
battle, it would be a thing understood by us all, and easily managed;
but I have heard that when such shrieks are atween heaven and 'arth, it
betokens another sort of warfare!"

"If all our reasons for fear, my friend, are confined to such as proceed
from supernatural causes, we have but little occasion to be alarmed,"
continued the undisturbed Cora, "are you certain that our enemies have
not invented some new and ingenious method to strike us with terror,
that their conquest may become more easy?"

"Lady," returned the scout, solemnly, "I have listened to all the sounds
of the woods for thirty years, as a man will listen whose life and death
depend on the quickness of his ears. There is no whine of the panther,
no whistle of the catbird, nor any invention of the devilish Mingoes,
that can cheat me! I have heard the forest moan like mortal men in their
affliction; often, and again, have I listened to the wind playing
its music in the branches of the girdled trees; and I have heard the
lightning cracking in the air like the snapping of blazing brush as it
spitted forth sparks and forked flames; but never have I thought that I
heard more than the pleasure of him who sported with the things of his
hand. But neither the Mohicans, nor I, who am a white man without a
cross, can explain the cry just heard. We, therefore, believe it a sign
given for our good."

"It is extraordinary!" said Heyward, taking his pistols from the place
where he had laid them on entering; "be it a sign of peace or a signal
of war, it must be looked to. Lead the way, my friend; I follow."

On issuing from their place of confinement, the whole party instantly
experienced a grateful renovation of spirits, by exchanging the pent
air of the hiding-place for the cool and invigorating atmosphere which
played around the whirlpools and pitches of the cataract. A heavy
evening breeze swept along the surface of the river, and seemed to drive
the roar of the falls into the recesses of their own cavern, whence it
issued heavily and constant, like thunder rumbling beyond the distant
hills. The moon had risen, and its light was already glancing here and
there on the waters above them; but the extremity of the rock where they
stood still lay in shadow. With the exception of the sounds produced
by the rushing waters, and an occasional breathing of the air, as it
murmured past them in fitful currents, the scene was as still as night
and solitude could make it. In vain were the eyes of each individual
bent along the opposite shores, in quest of some signs of life, that
might explain the nature of the interruption they had heard. Their
anxious and eager looks were baffled by the deceptive light, or rested
only on naked rocks, and straight and immovable trees.

"Here is nothing to be seen but the gloom and quiet of a lovely
evening," whispered Duncan; "how much should we prize such a scene, and
all this breathing solitude, at any other moment, Cora! Fancy yourselves
in security, and what now, perhaps, increases your terror, may be made
conducive to enjoyment--"

"Listen!" interrupted Alice.

The caution was unnecessary. Once more the same sound arose, as if from
the bed of the river, and having broken out of the narrow bounds of the
cliffs, was heard undulating through the forest, in distant and dying
cadences.

"Can any here give a name to such a cry?" demanded Hawkeye, when the
last echo was lost in the woods; "if so, let him speak; for myself, I
judge it not to belong to 'arth!"

"Here, then, is one who can undeceive you," said Duncan; "I know the
sound full well, for often have I heard it on the field of battle, and
in situations which are frequent in a soldier's life. 'Tis the horrid
shriek that a horse will give in his agony; oftener drawn from him in
pain, though sometimes in terror. My charger is either a prey to the
beasts of the forest, or he sees his danger, without the power to avoid
it. The sound might deceive me in the cavern, but in the open air I know
it too well to be wrong."

The scout and his companions listened to this simple explanation with
the interest of men who imbibe new ideas, at the same time that they get
rid of old ones, which had proved disagreeable inmates. The two latter
uttered their usual expressive exclamation, "hugh!" as the truth first
glanced upon their minds, while the former, after a short, musing pause,
took upon himself to reply.

"I cannot deny your words," he said, "for I am little skilled in horses,
though born where they abound. The wolves must be hovering above their
heads on the bank, and the timorsome creatures are calling on man
for help, in the best manner they are able. Uncas"--he spoke in
Delaware--"Uncas, drop down in the canoe, and whirl a brand among the
pack; or fear may do what the wolves can't get at to perform, and leave
us without horses in the morning, when we shall have so much need to
journey swiftly!"

The young native had already descended to the water to comply, when a
long howl was raised on the edge of the river, and was borne swiftly
off into the depths of the forest, as though the beasts, of their
own accord, were abandoning their prey in sudden terror. Uncas, with
instinctive quickness, receded, and the three foresters held another of
their low, earnest conferences.

"We have been like hunters who have lost the points of the heavens, and
from whom the sun has been hid for days," said Hawkeye, turning away
from his companions; "now we begin again to know the signs of our
course, and the paths are cleared from briers! Seat yourselves in the
shade which the moon throws from yonder beech--'tis thicker than that
of the pines--and let us wait for that which the Lord may choose to
send next. Let all your conversation be in whispers; though it would be
better, and, perhaps, in the end, wiser, if each one held discourse with
his own thoughts, for a time."

The manner of the scout was seriously impressive, though no longer
distinguished by any signs of unmanly apprehension. It was evident that
his momentary weakness had vanished with the explanation of a mystery
which his own experience had not served to fathom; and though he now
felt all the realities of their actual condition, that he was prepared
to meet them with the energy of his hardy nature. This feeling seemed
also common to the natives, who placed themselves in positions which
commanded a full view of both shores, while their own persons were
effectually concealed from observation. In such circumstances, common
prudence dictated that Heyward and his companions should imitate a
caution that proceeded from so intelligent a source. The young man drew
a pile of the sassafras from the cave, and placing it in the chasm which
separated the two caverns, it was occupied by the sisters, who were
thus protected by the rocks from any missiles, while their anxiety
was relieved by the assurance that no danger could approach without
a warning. Heyward himself was posted at hand, so near that he might
communicate with his companions without raising his voice to a dangerous
elevation; while David, in imitation of the woodsmen, bestowed his
person in such a manner among the fissures of the rocks, that his
ungainly limbs were no longer offensive to the eye.

In this manner hours passed without further interruption. The moon
reached the zenith, and shed its mild light perpendicularly on the
lovely sight of the sisters slumbering peacefully in each other's arms.
Duncan cast the wide shawl of Cora before a spectacle he so much loved
to contemplate, and then suffered his own head to seek a pillow on the
rock. David began to utter sounds that would have shocked his delicate
organs in more wakeful moments; in short, all but Hawkeye and the
Mohicans lost every idea of consciousness, in uncontrollable drowsiness.
But the watchfulness of these vigilant protectors neither tired nor
slumbered. Immovable as that rock, of which each appeared to form a
part, they lay, with their eyes roving, without intermission, along the
dark margin of trees, that bounded the adjacent shores of the narrow
stream. Not a sound escaped them; the most subtle examination could
not have told they breathed. It was evident that this excess of caution
proceeded from an experience that no subtlety on the part of their
enemies could deceive. It was, however, continued without any apparent
consequences, until the moon had set, and a pale streak above the
treetops, at the bend of the river a little below, announced the
approach of day.

Then, for the first time, Hawkeye was seen to stir. He crawled along the
rock and shook Duncan from his heavy slumbers.

"Now is the time to journey," he whispered; "awake the gentle ones, and
be ready to get into the canoe when I bring it to the landing-place."

"Have you had a quiet night?" said Heyward; "for myself, I believe sleep
has got the better of my vigilance."

"All is yet still as midnight. Be silent, but be quick."

By this time Duncan was thoroughly awake, and he immediately lifted the
shawl from the sleeping females. The motion caused Cora to raise her
hand as if to repulse him, while Alice murmured, in her soft, gentle
voice, "No, no, dear father, we were not deserted; Duncan was with us!"

"Yes, sweet innocence," whispered the youth; "Duncan is here, and while
life continues or danger remains, he will never quit thee. Cora! Alice!
awake! The hour has come to move!"

A loud shriek from the younger of the sisters, and the form of the other
standing upright before him, in bewildered horror, was the unexpected
answer he received.

While the words were still on the lips of Heyward, there had arisen such
a tumult of yells and cries as served to drive the swift currents of his
own blood back from its bounding course into the fountains of his heart.
It seemed, for near a minute, as if the demons of hell had possessed
themselves of the air about them, and were venting their savage humors
in barbarous sounds. The cries came from no particular direction, though
it was evident they filled the woods, and, as the appalled listeners
easily imagined, the caverns of the falls, the rocks, the bed of the
river, and the upper air. David raised his tall person in the midst of
the infernal din, with a hand on either ear, exclaiming:

"Whence comes this discord! Has hell broke loose, that man should utter
sounds like these!"

The bright flashes and the quick reports of a dozen rifles, from the
opposite banks of the stream, followed this incautious exposure of his
person, and left the unfortunate singing master senseless on that rock
where he had been so long slumbering. The Mohicans boldly sent back the
intimidating yell of their enemies, who raised a shout of savage triumph
at the fall of Gamut. The flash of rifles was then quick and close
between them, but either party was too well skilled to leave even a limb
exposed to the hostile aim. Duncan listened with intense anxiety for the
strokes of the paddle, believing that flight was now their only refuge.
The river glanced by with its ordinary velocity, but the canoe was
nowhere to be seen on its dark waters. He had just fancied they were
cruelly deserted by their scout, as a stream of flame issued from the
rock beneath them, and a fierce yell, blended with a shriek of agony,
announced that the messenger of death sent from the fatal weapon of
Hawkeye, had found a victim. At this slight repulse the assailants
instantly withdrew, and gradually the place became as still as before
the sudden tumult.

Duncan seized the favorable moment to spring to the body of Gamut,
which he bore within the shelter of the narrow chasm that protected the
sisters. In another minute the whole party was collected in this spot of
comparative safety.

"The poor fellow has saved his scalp," said Hawkeye, coolly passing his
hand over the head of David; "but he is a proof that a man may be born
with too long a tongue! 'Twas downright madness to show six feet of
flesh and blood, on a naked rock, to the raging savages. I only wonder
he has escaped with life."

"Is he not dead?" demanded Cora, in a voice whose husky tones showed how
powerfully natural horror struggled with her assumed firmness. "Can we
do aught to assist the wretched man?"

"No, no! the life is in his heart yet, and after he has slept awhile he
will come to himself, and be a wiser man for it, till the hour of his
real time shall come," returned Hawkeye, casting another oblique glance
at the insensible body, while he filled his charger with admirable
nicety. "Carry him in, Uncas, and lay him on the sassafras. The longer
his nap lasts the better it will be for him, as I doubt whether he can
find a proper cover for such a shape on these rocks; and singing won't
do any good with the Iroquois."

"You believe, then, the attack will be renewed?" asked Heyward.

"Do I expect a hungry wolf will satisfy his craving with a mouthful!
They have lost a man, and 'tis their fashion, when they meet a loss,
and fail in the surprise, to fall back; but we shall have them on again,
with new expedients to circumvent us, and master our scalps. Our main
hope," he continued, raising his rugged countenance, across which a
shade of anxiety just then passed like a darkening cloud, "will be to
keep the rock until Munro can send a party to our help! God send it may
be soon and under a leader that knows the Indian customs!"

"You hear our probable fortunes, Cora," said Duncan, "and you know we
have everything to hope from the anxiety and experience of your father.
Come, then, with Alice, into this cavern, where you, at least, will be
safe from the murderous rifles of our enemies, and where you may bestow
a care suited to your gentle natures on our unfortunate comrade."

The sisters followed him into the outer cave, where David was beginning,
by his sighs, to give symptoms of returning consciousness, and then
commending the wounded man to their attention, he immediately prepared
to leave them.

"Duncan!" said the tremulous voice of Cora, when he had reached the
mouth of the cavern. He turned and beheld the speaker, whose color had
changed to a deadly paleness, and whose lips quivered, gazing after him,
with an expression of interest which immediately recalled him to her
side. "Remember, Duncan, how necessary your safety is to our own--how
you bear a father's sacred trust--how much depends on your discretion
and care--in short," she added, while the telltale blood stole over her
features, crimsoning her very temples, "how very deservedly dear you are
to all of the name of Munro."

"If anything could add to my own base love of life," said Heyward,
suffering his unconscious eyes to wander to the youthful form of
the silent Alice, "it would be so kind an assurance. As major of the
Sixtieth, our honest host will tell you I must take my share of the
fray; but our task will be easy; it is merely to keep these blood-hounds
at bay for a few hours."

Without waiting for a reply, he tore himself from the presence of the
sisters, and joined the scout and his companions, who still lay within
the protection of the little chasm between the two caves.

"I tell you, Uncas," said the former, as Heyward joined them, "you are
wasteful of your powder, and the kick of the rifle disconcerts your aim!
Little powder, light lead, and a long arm, seldom fail of bringing the
death screech from a Mingo! At least, such has been my experience with
the creatur's. Come, friends: let us to our covers, for no man can tell
when or where a Maqua* will strike his blow."

     * Mingo was the Delaware term of the Five Nations. Maquas
     was the name given them by the Dutch. The French, from their
     first intercourse with them, called them Iroquois.

The Indians silently repaired to their appointed stations, which were
fissures in the rocks, whence they could command the approaches to the
foot of the falls. In the center of the little island, a few short and
stunted pines had found root, forming a thicket, into which Hawkeye
darted with the swiftness of a deer, followed by the active Duncan. Here
they secured themselves, as well as circumstances would permit, among
the shrubs and fragments of stone that were scattered about the place.
Above them was a bare, rounded rock, on each side of which the water
played its gambols, and plunged into the abysses beneath, in the manner
already described. As the day had now dawned, the opposite shores no
longer presented a confused outline, but they were able to look into the
woods, and distinguish objects beneath a canopy of gloomy pines.

A long and anxious watch succeeded, but without any further evidences
of a renewed attack; and Duncan began to hope that their fire had
proved more fatal than was supposed, and that their enemies had been
effectually repulsed. When he ventured to utter this impression to his
companions, it was met by Hawkeye with an incredulous shake of the head.

"You know not the nature of a Maqua, if you think he is so easily
beaten back without a scalp!" he answered. "If there was one of the imps
yelling this morning, there were forty! and they know our number and
quality too well to give up the chase so soon. Hist! look into the water
above, just where it breaks over the rocks. I am no mortal, if the risky
devils haven't swam down upon the very pitch, and, as bad luck would
have it, they have hit the head of the island. Hist! man, keep close! or
the hair will be off your crown in the turning of a knife!"

Heyward lifted his head from the cover, and beheld what he justly
considered a prodigy of rashness and skill. The river had worn away the
edge of the soft rock in such a manner as to render its first pitch
less abrupt and perpendicular than is usual at waterfalls. With no other
guide than the ripple of the stream where it met the head of the island,
a party of their insatiable foes had ventured into the current, and
swam down upon this point, knowing the ready access it would give, if
successful, to their intended victims.

As Hawkeye ceased speaking, four human heads could be seen peering above
a few logs of drift-wood that had lodged on these naked rocks, and which
had probably suggested the idea of the practicability of the hazardous
undertaking. At the next moment, a fifth form was seen floating over the
green edge of the fall, a little from the line of the island. The savage
struggled powerfully to gain the point of safety, and, favored by the
glancing water, he was already stretching forth an arm to meet the grasp
of his companions, when he shot away again with the shirling current,
appeared to rise into the air, with uplifted arms and starting eyeballs,
and fell, with a sudden plunge, into that deep and yawning abyss over
which he hovered. A single, wild, despairing shriek rose from the
cavern, and all was hushed again as the grave.

The first generous impulse of Duncan was to rush to the rescue of the
hapless wretch; but he felt himself bound to the spot by the iron grasp
of the immovable scout.

"Would ye bring certain death upon us, by telling the Mingoes where we
lie?" demanded Hawkeye, sternly; "'Tis a charge of powder saved, and
ammunition is as precious now as breath to a worried deer! Freshen the
priming of your pistols--the midst of the falls is apt to dampen the
brimstone--and stand firm for a close struggle, while I fire on their
rush."

He placed a finger in his mouth, and drew a long, shrill whistle, which
was answered from the rocks that were guarded by the Mohicans. Duncan
caught glimpses of heads above the scattered drift-wood, as this signal
rose on the air, but they disappeared again as suddenly as they had
glanced upon his sight. A low, rustling sound next drew his attention
behind him, and turning his head, he beheld Uncas within a few feet,
creeping to his side. Hawkeye spoke to him in Delaware, when the young
chief took his position with singular caution and undisturbed coolness.
To Heyward this was a moment of feverish and impatient suspense; though
the scout saw fit to select it as a fit occasion to read a lecture
to his more youthful associates on the art of using firearms with
discretion.

"Of all we'pons," he commenced, "the long barreled, true-grooved,
soft-metaled rifle is the most dangerous in skillful hands, though it
wants a strong arm, a quick eye, and great judgment in charging, to put
forth all its beauties. The gunsmiths can have but little insight into
their trade when they make their fowling-pieces and short horsemen's--"

He was interrupted by the low but expressive "hugh" of Uncas.

"I see them, boy, I see them!" continued Hawkeye; "they are gathering
for the rush, or they would keep their dingy backs below the logs. Well,
let them," he added, examining his flint; "the leading man certainly
comes on to his death, though it should be Montcalm himself!"

At that moment the woods were filled with another burst of cries, and at
the signal four savages sprang from the cover of the driftwood. Heyward
felt a burning desire to rush forward to meet them, so intense was the
delirious anxiety of the moment; but he was restrained by the deliberate
examples of the scout and Uncas.

When their foes, who had leaped over the black rocks that divided them,
with long bounds, uttering the wildest yells, were within a few rods,
the rifle of Hawkeye slowly rose among the shrubs, and poured out its
fatal contents. The foremost Indian bounded like a stricken deer, and
fell headlong among the clefts of the island.

"Now, Uncas!" cried the scout, drawing his long knife, while his quick
eyes began to flash with ardor, "take the last of the screeching imps;
of the other two we are sartain!"

He was obeyed; and but two enemies remained to be overcome. Heyward had
given one of his pistols to Hawkeye, and together they rushed down a
little declivity toward their foes; they discharged their weapons at the
same instant, and equally without success.

"I know'd it! and I said it!" muttered the scout, whirling the despised
little implement over the falls with bitter disdain. "Come on, ye bloody
minded hell-hounds! ye meet a man without a cross!"

The words were barely uttered, when he encountered a savage of gigantic
stature, of the fiercest mien. At the same moment, Duncan found himself
engaged with the other, in a similar contest of hand to hand. With ready
skill, Hawkeye and his antagonist each grasped that uplifted arm of
the other which held the dangerous knife. For near a minute they stood
looking one another in the eye, and gradually exerting the power of
their muscles for the mastery.

At length, the toughened sinews of the white man prevailed over the less
practiced limbs of the native. The arm of the latter slowly gave way
before the increasing force of the scout, who, suddenly wresting his
armed hand from the grasp of the foe, drove the sharp weapon through his
naked bosom to the heart. In the meantime, Heyward had been pressed in
a more deadly struggle. His slight sword was snapped in the first
encounter. As he was destitute of any other means of defense, his
safety now depended entirely on bodily strength and resolution. Though
deficient in neither of these qualities, he had met an enemy every way
his equal. Happily, he soon succeeded in disarming his adversary, whose
knife fell on the rock at their feet; and from this moment it became a
fierce struggle who should cast the other over the dizzy height into a
neighboring cavern of the falls. Every successive struggle brought them
nearer to the verge, where Duncan perceived the final and conquering
effort must be made. Each of the combatants threw all his energies into
that effort, and the result was, that both tottered on the brink of the
precipice. Heyward felt the grasp of the other at his throat, and
saw the grim smile the savage gave, under the revengeful hope that he
hurried his enemy to a fate similar to his own, as he felt his body
slowly yielding to a resistless power, and the young man experienced the
passing agony of such a moment in all its horrors. At that instant of
extreme danger, a dark hand and glancing knife appeared before him; the
Indian released his hold, as the blood flowed freely from around the
severed tendons of the wrist; and while Duncan was drawn backward by the
saving hand of Uncas, his charmed eyes still were riveted on the
fierce and disappointed countenance of his foe, who fell sullenly and
disappointed down the irrecoverable precipice.

"To cover! to cover!" cried Hawkeye, who just then had despatched the
enemy; "to cover, for your lives! the work is but half ended!"

The young Mohican gave a shout of triumph, and followed by Duncan, he
glided up the acclivity they had descended to the combat, and sought the
friendly shelter of the rocks and shrubs.




CHAPTER 8

     "They linger yet,
     Avengers of their native land."--Gray

The warning call of the scout was not uttered without occasion. During
the occurrence of the deadly encounter just related, the roar of the
falls was unbroken by any human sound whatever. It would seem that
interest in the result had kept the natives on the opposite shores in
breathless suspense, while the quick evolutions and swift changes in
the positions of the combatants effectually prevented a fire that might
prove dangerous alike to friend and enemy. But the moment the struggle
was decided, a yell arose as fierce and savage as wild and revengeful
passions could throw into the air. It was followed by the swift flashes
of the rifles, which sent their leaden messengers across the rock in
volleys, as though the assailants would pour out their impotent fury on
the insensible scene of the fatal contest.

A steady, though deliberate return was made from the rifle of
Chingachgook, who had maintained his post throughout the fray with
unmoved resolution. When the triumphant shout of Uncas was borne to his
ears, the gratified father raised his voice in a single responsive cry,
after which his busy piece alone proved that he still guarded his pass
with unwearied diligence. In this manner many minutes flew by with the
swiftness of thought; the rifles of the assailants speaking, at times,
in rattling volleys, and at others in occasional, scattering shots.
Though the rock, the trees, and the shrubs, were cut and torn in a
hundred places around the besieged, their cover was so close, and so
rigidly maintained, that, as yet, David had been the only sufferer in
their little band.

"Let them burn their powder," said the deliberate scout, while bullet
after bullet whizzed by the place where he securely lay; "there will be
a fine gathering of lead when it is over, and I fancy the imps will tire
of the sport afore these old stones cry out for mercy! Uncas, boy, you
waste the kernels by overcharging; and a kicking rifle never carries a
true bullet. I told you to take that loping miscreant under the line
of white point; now, if your bullet went a hair's breadth it went two
inches above it. The life lies low in a Mingo, and humanity teaches us
to make a quick end to the sarpents."

A quiet smile lighted the haughty features of the young Mohican,
betraying his knowledge of the English language as well as of the
other's meaning; but he suffered it to pass away without vindication of
reply.

"I cannot permit you to accuse Uncas of want of judgment or of skill,"
said Duncan; "he saved my life in the coolest and readiest manner, and
he has made a friend who never will require to be reminded of the debt
he owes."

Uncas partly raised his body, and offered his hand to the grasp of
Heyward. During this act of friendship, the two young men exchanged
looks of intelligence which caused Duncan to forget the character and
condition of his wild associate. In the meanwhile, Hawkeye, who looked
on this burst of youthful feeling with a cool but kind regard made the
following reply:

"Life is an obligation which friends often owe each other in the
wilderness. I dare say I may have served Uncas some such turn myself
before now; and I very well remember that he has stood between me
and death five different times; three times from the Mingoes, once in
crossing Horican, and--"

"That bullet was better aimed than common!" exclaimed Duncan,
involuntarily shrinking from a shot which struck the rock at his side
with a smart rebound.

Hawkeye laid his hand on the shapeless metal, and shook his head, as he
examined it, saying, "Falling lead is never flattened, had it come from
the clouds this might have happened."

But the rifle of Uncas was deliberately raised toward the heavens,
directing the eyes of his companions to a point, where the mystery was
immediately explained. A ragged oak grew on the right bank of the river,
nearly opposite to their position, which, seeking the freedom of the
open space, had inclined so far forward that its upper branches overhung
that arm of the stream which flowed nearest to its own shore. Among the
topmost leaves, which scantily concealed the gnarled and stunted limbs,
a savage was nestled, partly concealed by the trunk of the tree, and
partly exposed, as though looking down upon them to ascertain the effect
produced by his treacherous aim.

"These devils will scale heaven to circumvent us to our ruin," said
Hawkeye; "keep him in play, boy, until I can bring 'killdeer' to bear,
when we will try his metal on each side of the tree at once."

Uncas delayed his fire until the scout uttered the word.

The rifles flashed, the leaves and bark of the oak flew into the air,
and were scattered by the wind, but the Indian answered their assault by
a taunting laugh, sending down upon them another bullet in return, that
struck the cap of Hawkeye from his head. Once more the savage yells
burst out of the woods, and the leaden hail whistled above the heads of
the besieged, as if to confine them to a place where they might become
easy victims to the enterprise of the warrior who had mounted the tree.

"This must be looked to," said the scout, glancing about him with
an anxious eye. "Uncas, call up your father; we have need of all our
we'pons to bring the cunning varmint from his roost."

The signal was instantly given; and, before Hawkeye had reloaded his
rifle, they were joined by Chingachgook. When his son pointed out to the
experienced warrior the situation of their dangerous enemy, the
usual exclamatory "hugh" burst from his lips; after which, no further
expression of surprise or alarm was suffered to escape him. Hawkeye and
the Mohicans conversed earnestly together in Delaware for a few moments,
when each quietly took his post, in order to execute the plan they had
speedily devised.

The warrior in the oak had maintained a quick, though ineffectual fire,
from the moment of his discovery. But his aim was interrupted by the
vigilance of his enemies, whose rifles instantaneously bore on any
part of his person that was left exposed. Still his bullets fell in the
center of the crouching party. The clothes of Heyward, which rendered
him peculiarly conspicuous, were repeatedly cut, and once blood was
drawn from a slight wound in his arm.

At length, emboldened by the long and patient watchfulness of his
enemies, the Huron attempted a better and more fatal aim. The quick eyes
of the Mohicans caught the dark line of his lower limbs incautiously
exposed through the thin foliage, a few inches from the trunk of the
tree. Their rifles made a common report, when, sinking on his wounded
limb, part of the body of the savage came into view. Swift as thought,
Hawkeye seized the advantage, and discharged his fatal weapon into the
top of the oak. The leaves were unusually agitated; the dangerous rifle
fell from its commanding elevation, and after a few moments of vain
struggling, the form of the savage was seen swinging in the wind,
while he still grasped a ragged and naked branch of the tree with hands
clenched in desperation.

"Give him, in pity, give him the contents of another rifle," cried
Duncan, turning away his eyes in horror from the spectacle of a fellow
creature in such awful jeopardy.

"Not a karnel!" exclaimed the obdurate Hawkeye; "his death is certain,
and we have no powder to spare, for Indian fights sometimes last for
days; 'tis their scalps or ours! and God, who made us, has put into our
natures the craving to keep the skin on the head."

Against this stern and unyielding morality, supported as it was by such
visible policy, there was no appeal. From that moment the yells in the
forest once more ceased, the fire was suffered to decline, and all
eyes, those of friends as well as enemies, became fixed on the hopeless
condition of the wretch who was dangling between heaven and earth.
The body yielded to the currents of air, and though no murmur or groan
escaped the victim, there were instants when he grimly faced his foes,
and the anguish of cold despair might be traced, through the intervening
distance, in possession of his swarthy lineaments. Three several times
the scout raised his piece in mercy, and as often, prudence getting the
better of his intention, it was again silently lowered. At length one
hand of the Huron lost its hold, and dropped exhausted to his side. A
desperate and fruitless struggle to recover the branch succeeded, and
then the savage was seen for a fleeting instant, grasping wildly at
the empty air. The lightning is not quicker than was the flame from the
rifle of Hawkeye; the limbs of the victim trembled and contracted, the
head fell to the bosom, and the body parted the foaming waters like
lead, when the element closed above it, in its ceaseless velocity, and
every vestige of the unhappy Huron was lost forever.

No shout of triumph succeeded this important advantage, but even the
Mohicans gazed at each other in silent horror. A single yell burst
from the woods, and all was again still. Hawkeye, who alone appeared to
reason on the occasion, shook his head at his own momentary weakness,
even uttering his self-disapprobation aloud.

"'Twas the last charge in my horn and the last bullet in my pouch, and
'twas the act of a boy!" he said; "what mattered it whether he struck
the rock living or dead! feeling would soon be over. Uncas, lad, go down
to the canoe, and bring up the big horn; it is all the powder we have
left, and we shall need it to the last grain, or I am ignorant of the
Mingo nature."

The young Mohican complied, leaving the scout turning over the
useless contents of his pouch, and shaking the empty horn with renewed
discontent. From this unsatisfactory examination, however, he was soon
called by a loud and piercing exclamation from Uncas, that sounded,
even to the unpracticed ears of Duncan, as the signal of some new and
unexpected calamity. Every thought filled with apprehension for the
previous treasure he had concealed in the cavern, the young man started
to his feet, totally regardless of the hazard he incurred by such an
exposure. As if actuated by a common impulse, his movement was imitated
by his companions, and, together they rushed down the pass to the
friendly chasm, with a rapidity that rendered the scattering fire of
their enemies perfectly harmless. The unwonted cry had brought the
sisters, together with the wounded David, from their place of refuge;
and the whole party, at a single glance, was made acquainted with the
nature of the disaster that had disturbed even the practiced stoicism of
their youthful Indian protector.

At a short distance from the rock, their little bark was to be seen
floating across the eddy, toward the swift current of the river, in a
manner which proved that its course was directed by some hidden agent.
The instant this unwelcome sight caught the eye of the scout, his rifle
was leveled as by instinct, but the barrel gave no answer to the bright
sparks of the flint.

"'Tis too late, 'tis too late!" Hawkeye exclaimed, dropping the useless
piece in bitter disappointment; "the miscreant has struck the rapid; and
had we powder, it could hardly send the lead swifter than he now goes!"

The adventurous Huron raised his head above the shelter of the canoe,
and, while it glided swiftly down the stream, he waved his hand, and
gave forth the shout, which was the known signal of success. His cry was
answered by a yell and a laugh from the woods, as tauntingly exulting
as if fifty demons were uttering their blasphemies at the fall of some
Christian soul.

"Well may you laugh, ye children of the devil!" said the scout, seating
himself on a projection of the rock, and suffering his gun to fall
neglected at his feet, "for the three quickest and truest rifles in
these woods are no better than so many stalks of mullein, or the last
year's horns of a buck!"

"What is to be done?" demanded Duncan, losing the first feeling of
disappointment in a more manly desire for exertion; "what will become of
us?"

Hawkeye made no other reply than by passing his finger around the crown
of his head, in a manner so significant, that none who witnessed the
action could mistake its meaning.

"Surely, surely, our case is not so desperate!" exclaimed the youth;
"the Hurons are not here; we may make good the caverns, we may oppose
their landing."

"With what?" coolly demanded the scout. "The arrows of Uncas, or such
tears as women shed! No, no; you are young, and rich, and have friends,
and at such an age I know it is hard to die! But," glancing his eyes at
the Mohicans, "let us remember we are men without a cross, and let us
teach these natives of the forest that white blood can run as freely as
red, when the appointed hour is come."

Duncan turned quickly in the direction indicated by the other's eyes,
and read a confirmation of his worst apprehensions in the conduct of the
Indians. Chingachgook, placing himself in a dignified posture on another
fragment of the rock, had already laid aside his knife and tomahawk, and
was in the act of taking the eagle's plume from his head, and smoothing
the solitary tuft of hair in readiness to perform its last and revolting
office. His countenance was composed, though thoughtful, while his dark,
gleaming eyes were gradually losing the fierceness of the combat in
an expression better suited to the change he expected momentarily to
undergo.

"Our case is not, cannot be so hopeless!" said Duncan; "even at this
very moment succor may be at hand. I see no enemies! They have sickened
of a struggle in which they risk so much with so little prospect of
gain!"

"It may be a minute, or it may be an hour, afore the wily sarpents steal
upon us, and it is quite in natur' for them to be lying within hearing
at this very moment," said Hawkeye; "but come they will, and in such
a fashion as will leave us nothing to hope! Chingachgook"--he spoke in
Delaware--"my brother, we have fought our last battle together, and the
Maquas will triumph in the death of the sage man of the Mohicans, and of
the pale face, whose eyes can make night as day, and level the clouds to
the mists of the springs!"

"Let the Mingo women go weep over the slain!" returned the Indian,
with characteristic pride and unmoved firmness; "the Great Snake of the
Mohicans has coiled himself in their wigwams, and has poisoned their
triumph with the wailings of children, whose fathers have not returned!
Eleven warriors lie hid from the graves of their tribes since the snows
have melted, and none will tell where to find them when the tongue of
Chingachgook shall be silent! Let them draw the sharpest knife, and
whirl the swiftest tomahawk, for their bitterest enemy is in their
hands. Uncas, topmost branch of a noble trunk, call on the cowards to
hasten, or their hearts will soften, and they will change to women!"

"They look among the fishes for their dead!" returned the low, soft
voice of the youthful chieftain; "the Hurons float with the slimy eels!
They drop from the oaks like fruit that is ready to be eaten! and the
Delawares laugh!"

"Ay, ay," muttered the scout, who had listened to this peculiar burst
of the natives with deep attention; "they have warmed their Indian
feelings, and they'll soon provoke the Maquas to give them a speedy end.
As for me, who am of the whole blood of the whites, it is befitting that
I should die as becomes my color, with no words of scoffing in my mouth,
and without bitterness at the heart!"

"Why die at all!" said Cora, advancing from the place where natural
horror had, until this moment, held her riveted to the rock; "the path
is open on every side; fly, then, to the woods, and call on God for
succor. Go, brave men, we owe you too much already; let us no longer
involve you in our hapless fortunes!"

"You but little know the craft of the Iroquois, lady, if you judge they
have left the path open to the woods!" returned Hawkeye, who, however,
immediately added in his simplicity, "the down stream current, it is
certain, might soon sweep us beyond the reach of their rifles or the
sound of their voices."

"Then try the river. Why linger to add to the number of the victims of
our merciless enemies?"

"Why," repeated the scout, looking about him proudly; "because it is
better for a man to die at peace with himself than to live haunted by an
evil conscience! What answer could we give Munro, when he asked us where
and how we left his children?"

"Go to him, and say that you left them with a message to hasten to
their aid," returned Cora, advancing nigher to the scout in her generous
ardor; "that the Hurons bear them into the northern wilds, but that
by vigilance and speed they may yet be rescued; and if, after all, it
should please heaven that his assistance come too late, bear to him,"
she continued, her voice gradually lowering, until it seemed nearly
choked, "the love, the blessings, the final prayers of his daughters,
and bid him not mourn their early fate, but to look forward with humble
confidence to the Christian's goal to meet his children." The hard,
weather-beaten features of the scout began to work, and when she had
ended, he dropped his chin to his hand, like a man musing profoundly on
the nature of the proposal.

"There is reason in her words!" at length broke from his compressed
and trembling lips; "ay, and they bear the spirit of Christianity; what
might be right and proper in a red-skin, may be sinful in a man who
has not even a cross in blood to plead for his ignorance. Chingachgook!
Uncas! hear you the talk of the dark-eyed woman?"

He now spoke in Delaware to his companions, and his address, though calm
and deliberate, seemed very decided. The elder Mohican heard with deep
gravity, and appeared to ponder on his words, as though he felt the
importance of their import. After a moment of hesitation, he waved his
hand in assent, and uttered the English word "Good!" with the peculiar
emphasis of his people. Then, replacing his knife and tomahawk in his
girdle, the warrior moved silently to the edge of the rock which was
most concealed from the banks of the river. Here he paused a moment,
pointed significantly to the woods below, and saying a few words in his
own language, as if indicating his intended route, he dropped into the
water, and sank from before the eyes of the witnesses of his movements.

The scout delayed his departure to speak to the generous girl, whose
breathing became lighter as she saw the success of her remonstrance.

"Wisdom is sometimes given to the young, as well as to the old," he
said; "and what you have spoken is wise, not to call it by a better
word. If you are led into the woods, that is such of you as may be
spared for awhile, break the twigs on the bushes as you pass, and make
the marks of your trail as broad as you can, when, if mortal eyes can
see them, depend on having a friend who will follow to the ends of the
'arth afore he desarts you."

He gave Cora an affectionate shake of the hand, lifted his rifle,
and after regarding it a moment with melancholy solicitude, laid it
carefully aside, and descended to the place where Chingachgook had just
disappeared. For an instant he hung suspended by the rock, and looking
about him, with a countenance of peculiar care, he added bitterly, "Had
the powder held out, this disgrace could never have befallen!" then,
loosening his hold, the water closed above his head, and he also became
lost to view.

All eyes now were turned on Uncas, who stood leaning against the ragged
rock, in immovable composure. After waiting a short time, Cora pointed
down the river, and said:

"Your friends have not been seen, and are now, most probably, in safety.
Is it not time for you to follow?"

"Uncas will stay," the young Mohican calmly answered in English.

"To increase the horror of our capture, and to diminish the chances of
our release! Go, generous young man," Cora continued, lowering her
eyes under the gaze of the Mohican, and perhaps, with an intuitive
consciousness of her power; "go to my father, as I have said, and be the
most confidential of my messengers. Tell him to trust you with the means
to buy the freedom of his daughters. Go! 'tis my wish, 'tis my prayer,
that you will go!"

The settled, calm look of the young chief changed to an expression of
gloom, but he no longer hesitated. With a noiseless step he crossed the
rock, and dropped into the troubled stream. Hardly a breath was drawn by
those he left behind, until they caught a glimpse of his head emerging
for air, far down the current, when he again sank, and was seen no more.

These sudden and apparently successful experiments had all taken place
in a few minutes of that time which had now become so precious. After
a last look at Uncas, Cora turned and with a quivering lip, addressed
herself to Heyward:

"I have heard of your boasted skill in the water, too, Duncan," she
said; "follow, then, the wise example set you by these simple and
faithful beings."

"Is such the faith that Cora Munro would exact from her protector?" said
the young man, smiling mournfully, but with bitterness.

"This is not a time for idle subtleties and false opinions," she
answered; "but a moment when every duty should be equally considered. To
us you can be of no further service here, but your precious life may be
saved for other and nearer friends."

He made no reply, though his eye fell wistfully on the beautiful form of
Alice, who was clinging to his arm with the dependency of an infant.

"Consider," continued Cora, after a pause, during which she seemed
to struggle with a pang even more acute than any that her fears had
excited, "that the worst to us can be but death; a tribute that all must
pay at the good time of God's appointment."

"There are evils worse than death," said Duncan, speaking hoarsely, and
as if fretful at her importunity, "but which the presence of one who
would die in your behalf may avert."

Cora ceased her entreaties; and veiling her face in her shawl, drew the
nearly insensible Alice after her into the deepest recess of the inner
cavern.




CHAPTER 9

     "Be gay securely;
     Dispel, my fair, with smiles, the tim'rous clouds,
     That hang on thy clear brow."--Death of Agrippina

The sudden and almost magical change, from the stirring incidents of the
combat to the stillness that now reigned around him, acted on the heated
imagination of Heyward like some exciting dream. While all the images
and events he had witnessed remained deeply impressed on his memory, he
felt a difficulty in persuading him of their truth. Still ignorant of
the fate of those who had trusted to the aid of the swift current, he
at first listened intently to any signal or sounds of alarm, which might
announce the good or evil fortune of their hazardous undertaking. His
attention was, however, bestowed in vain; for with the disappearance of
Uncas, every sign of the adventurers had been lost, leaving him in total
uncertainty of their fate.

In a moment of such painful doubt, Duncan did not hesitate to look
around him, without consulting that protection from the rocks which just
before had been so necessary to his safety. Every effort, however, to
detect the least evidence of the approach of their hidden enemies was as
fruitless as the inquiry after his late companions. The wooded banks of
the river seemed again deserted by everything possessing animal life.
The uproar which had so lately echoed through the vaults of the forest
was gone, leaving the rush of the waters to swell and sink on the
currents of the air, in the unmingled sweetness of nature. A fish-hawk,
which, secure on the topmost branches of a dead pine, had been a distant
spectator of the fray, now swooped from his high and ragged perch, and
soared, in wide sweeps, above his prey; while a jay, whose noisy voice
had been stilled by the hoarser cries of the savages, ventured again
to open his discordant throat, as though once more in undisturbed
possession of his wild domains. Duncan caught from these natural
accompaniments of the solitary scene a glimmering of hope; and he began
to rally his faculties to renewed exertions, with something like a
reviving confidence of success.

"The Hurons are not to be seen," he said, addressing David, who had
by no means recovered from the effects of the stunning blow he had
received; "let us conceal ourselves in the cavern, and trust the rest to
Providence."

"I remember to have united with two comely maidens, in lifting up
our voices in praise and thanksgiving," returned the bewildered
singing-master; "since which time I have been visited by a heavy
judgment for my sins. I have been mocked with the likeness of sleep,
while sounds of discord have rent my ears, such as might manifest the
fullness of time, and that nature had forgotten her harmony."

"Poor fellow! thine own period was, in truth, near its accomplishment!
But arouse, and come with me; I will lead you where all other sounds but
those of your own psalmody shall be excluded."

"There is melody in the fall of the cataract, and the rushing of many
waters is sweet to the senses!" said David, pressing his hand confusedly
on his brow. "Is not the air yet filled with shrieks and cries, as
though the departed spirits of the damned--"

"Not now, not now," interrupted the impatient Heyward, "they have
ceased, and they who raised them, I trust in God, they are gone, too!
everything but the water is still and at peace; in, then, where you may
create those sounds you love so well to hear."

David smiled sadly, though not without a momentary gleam of pleasure, at
this allusion to his beloved vocation. He no longer hesitated to be led
to a spot which promised such unalloyed gratification to his wearied
senses; and leaning on the arm of his companion, he entered the narrow
mouth of the cave. Duncan seized a pile of the sassafras, which he
drew before the passage, studiously concealing every appearance of an
aperture. Within this fragile barrier he arranged the blankets abandoned
by the foresters, darkening the inner extremity of the cavern, while its
outer received a chastened light from the narrow ravine, through which
one arm of the river rushed to form the junction with its sister branch
a few rods below.

"I like not the principle of the natives, which teaches them to submit
without a struggle, in emergencies that appear desperate," he said,
while busied in this employment; "our own maxim, which says, 'while
life remains there is hope', is more consoling, and better suited to
a soldier's temperament. To you, Cora, I will urge no words of idle
encouragement; your own fortitude and undisturbed reason will teach
you all that may become your sex; but cannot we dry the tears of that
trembling weeper on your bosom?"

"I am calmer, Duncan," said Alice, raising herself from the arms of her
sister, and forcing an appearance of composure through her tears; "much
calmer, now. Surely, in this hidden spot we are safe, we are secret,
free from injury; we will hope everything from those generous men who
have risked so much already in our behalf."

"Now does our gentle Alice speak like a daughter of Munro!" said
Heyward, pausing to press her hand as he passed toward the outer
entrance of the cavern. "With two such examples of courage before him, a
man would be ashamed to prove other than a hero." He then seated himself
in the center of the cavern, grasping his remaining pistol with a hand
convulsively clenched, while his contracted and frowning eye announced
the sullen desperation of his purpose. "The Hurons, if they come, may
not gain our position so easily as they think," he slowly muttered; and
propping his head back against the rock, he seemed to await the result
in patience, though his gaze was unceasingly bent on the open avenue to
their place of retreat.

With the last sound of his voice, a deep, a long, and almost breathless
silence succeeded. The fresh air of the morning had penetrated the
recess, and its influence was gradually felt on the spirits of its
inmates. As minute after minute passed by, leaving them in undisturbed
security, the insinuating feeling of hope was gradually gaining
possession of every bosom, though each one felt reluctant to give
utterance to expectations that the next moment might so fearfully
destroy.

David alone formed an exception to these varying emotions. A gleam of
light from the opening crossed his wan countenance, and fell upon
the pages of the little volume, whose leaves he was again occupied in
turning, as if searching for some song more fitted to their condition
than any that had yet met their eye. He was, most probably, acting all
this time under a confused recollection of the promised consolation of
Duncan. At length, it would seem, his patient industry found its reward;
for, without explanation or apology, he pronounced aloud the words "Isle
of Wight," drew a long, sweet sound from his pitch-pipe, and then ran
through the preliminary modulations of the air whose name he had just
mentioned, with the sweeter tones of his own musical voice.

"May not this prove dangerous?" asked Cora, glancing her dark eye at
Major Heyward.

"Poor fellow! his voice is too feeble to be heard above the din of the
falls," was the answer; "beside, the cavern will prove his friend. Let
him indulge his passions since it may be done without hazard."

"Isle of Wight!" repeated David, looking about him with that dignity
with which he had long been wont to silence the whispering echoes of his
school; "'tis a brave tune, and set to solemn words! let it be sung with
meet respect!"

After allowing a moment of stillness to enforce his discipline, the
voice of the singer was heard, in low, murmuring syllables, gradually
stealing on the ear, until it filled the narrow vault with sounds
rendered trebly thrilling by the feeble and tremulous utterance produced
by his debility. The melody, which no weakness could destroy, gradually
wrought its sweet influence on the senses of those who heard it. It even
prevailed over the miserable travesty of the song of David which the
singer had selected from a volume of similar effusions, and caused the
sense to be forgotten in the insinuating harmony of the sounds. Alice
unconsciously dried her tears, and bent her melting eyes on the pallid
features of Gamut, with an expression of chastened delight that she
neither affected or wished to conceal. Cora bestowed an approving smile
on the pious efforts of the namesake of the Jewish prince, and Heyward
soon turned his steady, stern look from the outlet of the cavern, to
fasten it, with a milder character, on the face of David, or to meet the
wandering beams which at moments strayed from the humid eyes of Alice.
The open sympathy of the listeners stirred the spirit of the votary of
music, whose voice regained its richness and volume, without losing that
touching softness which proved its secret charm. Exerting his renovated
powers to their utmost, he was yet filling the arches of the cave
with long and full tones, when a yell burst into the air without, that
instantly stilled his pious strains, choking his voice suddenly, as
though his heart had literally bounded into the passage of his throat.

"We are lost!" exclaimed Alice, throwing herself into the arms of Cora.

"Not yet, not yet," returned the agitated but undaunted Heyward: "the
sound came from the center of the island, and it has been produced by
the sight of their dead companions. We are not yet discovered, and there
is still hope."

Faint and almost despairing as was the prospect of escape, the words of
Duncan were not thrown away, for it awakened the powers of the sisters
in such a manner that they awaited the results in silence. A second yell
soon followed the first, when a rush of voices was heard pouring down
the island, from its upper to its lower extremity, until they reached
the naked rock above the caverns, where, after a shout of savage
triumph, the air continued full of horrible cries and screams, such
as man alone can utter, and he only when in a state of the fiercest
barbarity.

The sounds quickly spread around them in every direction. Some called to
their fellows from the water's edge, and were answered from the heights
above. Cries were heard in the startling vicinity of the chasm between
the two caves, which mingled with hoarser yells that arose out of the
abyss of the deep ravine. In short, so rapidly had the savage sounds
diffused themselves over the barren rock, that it was not difficult
for the anxious listeners to imagine they could be heard beneath, as in
truth they were above on every side of them.

In the midst of this tumult, a triumphant yell was raised within a few
yards of the hidden entrance to the cave. Heyward abandoned every hope,
with the belief it was the signal that they were discovered. Again the
impression passed away, as he heard the voices collect near the spot
where the white man had so reluctantly abandoned his rifle. Amid the
jargon of Indian dialects that he now plainly heard, it was easy to
distinguish not only words, but sentences, in the patois of the Canadas.
A burst of voices had shouted simultaneously, "La Longue Carabine!"
causing the opposite woods to re-echo with a name which, Heyward well
remembered, had been given by his enemies to a celebrated hunter and
scout of the English camp, and who, he now learned for the first time,
had been his late companion.

"La Longue Carabine! La Longue Carabine!" passed from mouth to mouth,
until the whole band appeared to be collected around a trophy which
would seem to announce the death of its formidable owner. After a
vociferous consultation, which was, at times, deafened by bursts of
savage joy, they again separated, filling the air with the name of a
foe, whose body, Heywood could collect from their expressions, they
hoped to find concealed in some crevice of the island.

"Now," he whispered to the trembling sisters, "now is the moment of
uncertainty! if our place of retreat escape this scrutiny, we are
still safe! In every event, we are assured, by what has fallen from our
enemies, that our friends have escaped, and in two short hours we may
look for succor from Webb."

There were now a few minutes of fearful stillness, during which Heyward
well knew that the savages conducted their search with greater vigilance
and method. More than once he could distinguish their footsteps, as
they brushed the sassafras, causing the faded leaves to rustle, and the
branches to snap. At length, the pile yielded a little, a corner of a
blanket fell, and a faint ray of light gleamed into the inner part of
the cave. Cora folded Alice to her bosom in agony, and Duncan sprang
to his feet. A shout was at that moment heard, as if issuing from the
center of the rock, announcing that the neighboring cavern had at
length been entered. In a minute, the number and loudness of the voices
indicated that the whole party was collected in and around that secret
place.

As the inner passages to the two caves were so close to each other,
Duncan, believing that escape was no longer possible, passed David and
the sisters, to place himself between the latter and the first onset of
the terrible meeting. Grown desperate by his situation, he drew nigh
the slight barrier which separated him only by a few feet from his
relentless pursuers, and placing his face to the casual opening, he even
looked out with a sort of desperate indifference, on their movements.

Within reach of his arm was the brawny shoulder of a gigantic Indian,
whose deep and authoritative voice appeared to give directions to the
proceedings of his fellows. Beyond him again, Duncan could look into the
vault opposite, which was filled with savages, upturning and rifling the
humble furniture of the scout. The wound of David had dyed the leaves
of sassafras with a color that the native well knew as anticipating the
season. Over this sign of their success, they sent up a howl, like an
opening from so many hounds who had recovered a lost trail. After this
yell of victory, they tore up the fragrant bed of the cavern, and bore
the branches into the chasm, scattering the boughs, as if they suspected
them of concealing the person of the man they had so long hated and
feared. One fierce and wild-looking warrior approached the chief,
bearing a load of the brush, and pointing exultingly to the deep red
stains with which it was sprinkled, uttered his joy in Indian yells,
whose meaning Heyward was only enabled to comprehend by the frequent
repetition of the name "La Longue Carabine!" When his triumph had
ceased, he cast the brush on the slight heap Duncan had made before
the entrance of the second cavern, and closed the view. His example was
followed by others, who, as they drew the branches from the cave of the
scout, threw them into one pile, adding, unconsciously, to the security
of those they sought. The very slightness of the defense was its chief
merit, for no one thought of disturbing a mass of brush, which all
of them believed, in that moment of hurry and confusion, had been
accidentally raised by the hands of their own party.

As the blankets yielded before the outward pressure, and the branches
settled in the fissure of the rock by their own weight, forming a
compact body, Duncan once more breathed freely. With a light step and
lighter heart, he returned to the center of the cave, and took the
place he had left, where he could command a view of the opening next the
river. While he was in the act of making this movement, the Indians, as
if changing their purpose by a common impulse, broke away from the chasm
in a body, and were heard rushing up the island again, toward the point
whence they had originally descended. Here another wailing cry betrayed
that they were again collected around the bodies of their dead comrades.

Duncan now ventured to look at his companions; for, during the most
critical moments of their danger, he had been apprehensive that the
anxiety of his countenance might communicate some additional alarm to
those who were so little able to sustain it.

"They are gone, Cora!" he whispered; "Alice, they are returned whence
they came, and we are saved! To Heaven, that has alone delivered us from
the grasp of so merciless an enemy, be all the praise!"

"Then to Heaven will I return my thanks!" exclaimed the younger sister,
rising from the encircling arm of Cora, and casting herself with
enthusiastic gratitude on the naked rock; "to that Heaven who has spared
the tears of a gray-headed father; has saved the lives of those I so
much love."

Both Heyward and the more temperate Cora witnessed the act of
involuntary emotion with powerful sympathy, the former secretly
believing that piety had never worn a form so lovely as it had now
assumed in the youthful person of Alice. Her eyes were radiant with the
glow of grateful feelings; the flush of her beauty was again seated on
her cheeks, and her whole soul seemed ready and anxious to pour out its
thanksgivings through the medium of her eloquent features. But when her
lips moved, the words they should have uttered appeared frozen by some
new and sudden chill. Her bloom gave place to the paleness of death;
her soft and melting eyes grew hard, and seemed contracting with horror;
while those hands, which she had raised, clasped in each other, toward
heaven, dropped in horizontal lines before her, the fingers pointed
forward in convulsed motion. Heyward turned the instant she gave a
direction to his suspicions, and peering just above the ledge which
formed the threshold of the open outlet of the cavern, he beheld the
malignant, fierce and savage features of Le Renard Subtil.

In that moment of surprise, the self-possession of Heyward did not
desert him. He observed by the vacant expression of the Indian's
countenance, that his eye, accustomed to the open air had not yet
been able to penetrate the dusky light which pervaded the depth of the
cavern. He had even thought of retreating beyond a curvature in the
natural wall, which might still conceal him and his companions, when by
the sudden gleam of intelligence that shot across the features of the
savage, he saw it was too late, and that they were betrayed.

The look of exultation and brutal triumph which announced this terrible
truth was irresistibly irritating. Forgetful of everything but the
impulses of his hot blood, Duncan leveled his pistol and fired. The
report of the weapon made the cavern bellow like an eruption from a
volcano; and when the smoke it vomited had been driven away before the
current of air which issued from the ravine the place so lately occupied
by the features of his treacherous guide was vacant. Rushing to the
outlet, Heyward caught a glimpse of his dark figure stealing around a
low and narrow ledge, which soon hid him entirely from sight.

Among the savages a frightful stillness succeeded the explosion, which
had just been heard bursting from the bowels of the rock. But when
Le Renard raised his voice in a long and intelligible whoop, it was
answered by a spontaneous yell from the mouth of every Indian within
hearing of the sound.

The clamorous noises again rushed down the island; and before Duncan
had time to recover from the shock, his feeble barrier of brush was
scattered to the winds, the cavern was entered at both its extremities,
and he and his companions were dragged from their shelter and borne into
the day, where they stood surrounded by the whole band of the triumphant
Hurons.




CHAPTER 10

     "I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn
     As much as we this night have overwatched!"
     --Midsummer Night's Dream

The instant the shock of this sudden misfortune had abated, Duncan began
to make his observations on the appearance and proceedings of their
captors. Contrary to the usages of the natives in the wantonness of
their success they had respected, not only the persons of the trembling
sisters, but his own. The rich ornaments of his military attire had
indeed been repeatedly handled by different individuals of the tribes
with eyes expressing a savage longing to possess the baubles; but
before the customary violence could be resorted to, a mandate in the
authoritative voice of the large warrior, already mentioned, stayed the
uplifted hand, and convinced Heyward that they were to be reserved for
some object of particular moment.

While, however, these manifestations of weakness were exhibited by the
young and vain of the party, the more experienced warriors continued
their search throughout both caverns, with an activity that denoted they
were far from being satisfied with those fruits of their conquest which
had already been brought to light. Unable to discover any new victim,
these diligent workers of vengeance soon approached their male
prisoners, pronouncing the name "La Longue Carabine," with a fierceness
that could not be easily mistaken. Duncan affected not to comprehend
the meaning of their repeated and violent interrogatories, while his
companion was spared the effort of a similar deception by his ignorance
of French. Wearied at length by their importunities, and apprehensive
of irritating his captors by too stubborn a silence, the former
looked about him in quest of Magua, who might interpret his answers
to questions which were at each moment becoming more earnest and
threatening.

The conduct of this savage had formed a solitary exception to that of
all his fellows. While the others were busily occupied in seeking
to gratify their childish passion for finery, by plundering even
the miserable effects of the scout, or had been searching with such
bloodthirsty vengeance in their looks for their absent owner, Le Renard
had stood at a little distance from the prisoners, with a demeanor so
quiet and satisfied, as to betray that he had already effected the grand
purpose of his treachery. When the eyes of Heyward first met those of
his recent guide, he turned them away in horror at the sinister though
calm look he encountered. Conquering his disgust, however, he was able,
with an averted face, to address his successful enemy.

"Le Renard Subtil is too much of a warrior," said the reluctant Heyward,
"to refuse telling an unarmed man what his conquerors say."

"They ask for the hunter who knows the paths through the woods,"
returned Magua, in his broken English, laying his hand, at the same
time, with a ferocious smile, on the bundle of leaves with which a wound
on his own shoulder was bandaged. "'La Longue Carabine'! His rifle
is good, and his eye never shut; but, like the short gun of the white
chief, it is nothing against the life of Le Subtil."

"Le Renard is too brave to remember the hurts received in war, or the
hands that gave them."

"Was it war, when the tired Indian rested at the sugartree to taste his
corn! who filled the bushes with creeping enemies! who drew the knife,
whose tongue was peace, while his heart was colored with blood! Did
Magua say that the hatchet was out of the ground, and that his hand had
dug it up?"

As Duncan dared not retort upon his accuser by reminding him of his own
premeditated treachery, and disdained to deprecate his resentment by any
words of apology, he remained silent. Magua seemed also content to
rest the controversy as well as all further communication there, for he
resumed the leaning attitude against the rock from which, in momentary
energy, he had arisen. But the cry of "La Longue Carabine" was renewed
the instant the impatient savages perceived that the short dialogue was
ended.

"You hear," said Magua, with stubborn indifference: "the red Hurons call
for the life of 'The Long Rifle', or they will have the blood of him
that keep him hid!"

"He is gone--escaped; he is far beyond their reach."

Renard smiled with cold contempt, as he answered:

"When the white man dies, he thinks he is at peace; but the red men know
how to torture even the ghosts of their enemies. Where is his body? Let
the Hurons see his scalp."

"He is not dead, but escaped."

Magua shook his head incredulously.

"Is he a bird, to spread his wings; or is he a fish, to swim without
air! The white chief read in his books, and he believes the Hurons are
fools!"

"Though no fish, 'The Long Rifle' can swim. He floated down the stream
when the powder was all burned, and when the eyes of the Hurons were
behind a cloud."

"And why did the white chief stay?" demanded the still incredulous
Indian. "Is he a stone that goes to the bottom, or does the scalp burn
his head?"

"That I am not stone, your dead comrade, who fell into the falls, might
answer, were the life still in him," said the provoked young man, using,
in his anger, that boastful language which was most likely to excite the
admiration of an Indian. "The white man thinks none but cowards desert
their women."

Magua muttered a few words, inaudibly, between his teeth, before he
continued, aloud:

"Can the Delawares swim, too, as well as crawl in the bushes? Where is
'Le Gros Serpent'?"

Duncan, who perceived by the use of these Canadian appellations, that
his late companions were much better known to his enemies than to
himself, answered, reluctantly: "He also is gone down with the water."

"'Le Cerf Agile' is not here?"

"I know not whom you call 'The Nimble Deer'," said Duncan gladly
profiting by any excuse to create delay.

"Uncas," returned Magua, pronouncing the Delaware name with even greater
difficulty than he spoke his English words. "'Bounding Elk' is what the
white man says, when he calls to the young Mohican."

"Here is some confusion in names between us, Le Renard," said Duncan,
hoping to provoke a discussion. "Daim is the French for deer, and cerf
for stag; elan is the true term, when one would speak of an elk."

"Yes," muttered the Indian, in his native tongue; "the pale faces are
prattling women! they have two words for each thing, while a red-skin
will make the sound of his voice speak to him." Then, changing his
language, he continued, adhering to the imperfect nomenclature of his
provincial instructors. "The deer is swift, but weak; the elk is swift,
but strong; and the son of 'Le Serpent' is 'Le Cerf Agile.' Has he
leaped the river to the woods?"

"If you mean the younger Delaware, he, too, has gone down with the
water."

As there was nothing improbable to an Indian in the manner of the
escape, Magua admitted the truth of what he had heard, with a readiness
that afforded additional evidence how little he would prize such
worthless captives. With his companions, however, the feeling was
manifestly different.

The Hurons had awaited the result of this short dialogue with
characteristic patience, and with a silence that increased until there
was a general stillness in the band. When Heyward ceased to speak, they
turned their eyes, as one man, on Magua, demanding, in this expressive
manner, an explanation of what had been said. Their interpreter pointed
to the river, and made them acquainted with the result, as much by
the action as by the few words he uttered. When the fact was generally
understood, the savages raised a frightful yell, which declared the
extent of their disappointment. Some ran furiously to the water's
edge, beating the air with frantic gestures, while others spat upon the
element, to resent the supposed treason it had committed against
their acknowledged rights as conquerors. A few, and they not the least
powerful and terrific of the band, threw lowering looks, in which the
fiercest passion was only tempered by habitual self-command, at those
captives who still remained in their power, while one or two even gave
vent to their malignant feelings by the most menacing gestures, against
which neither the sex nor the beauty of the sisters was any protection.
The young soldier made a desperate but fruitless effort to spring to the
side of Alice, when he saw the dark hand of a savage twisted in the rich
tresses which were flowing in volumes over her shoulders, while a knife
was passed around the head from which they fell, as if to denote the
horrid manner in which it was about to be robbed of its beautiful
ornament. But his hands were bound; and at the first movement he made,
he felt the grasp of the powerful Indian who directed the band, pressing
his shoulder like a vise. Immediately conscious how unavailing any
struggle against such an overwhelming force must prove, he submitted
to his fate, encouraging his gentle companions by a few low and tender
assurances, that the natives seldom failed to threaten more than they
performed.

But while Duncan resorted to these words of consolation to quiet the
apprehensions of the sisters, he was not so weak as to deceive himself.
He well knew that the authority of an Indian chief was so little
conventional, that it was oftener maintained by physical superiority
than by any moral supremacy he might possess. The danger was, therefore,
magnified exactly in proportion to the number of the savage spirits
by which they were surrounded. The most positive mandate from him who
seemed the acknowledged leader, was liable to be violated at each moment
by any rash hand that might choose to sacrifice a victim to the manes of
some dead friend or relative. While, therefore, he sustained an outward
appearance of calmness and fortitude, his heart leaped into his throat,
whenever any of their fierce captors drew nearer than common to the
helpless sisters, or fastened one of their sullen, wandering looks on
those fragile forms which were so little able to resist the slightest
assault.

His apprehensions were, however, greatly relieved, when he saw that
the leader had summoned his warriors to himself in counsel. Their
deliberations were short, and it would seem, by the silence of most of
the party, the decision unanimous. By the frequency with which the few
speakers pointed in the direction of the encampment of Webb, it was
apparent they dreaded the approach of danger from that quarter. This
consideration probably hastened their determination, and quickened the
subsequent movements.

During his short conference, Heyward, finding a respite from his gravest
fears, had leisure to admire the cautious manner in which the Hurons had
made their approaches, even after hostilities had ceased.

It has already been stated that the upper half of the island was a naked
rock, and destitute of any other defenses than a few scattered logs of
driftwood. They had selected this point to make their descent, having
borne the canoe through the wood around the cataract for that purpose.
Placing their arms in the little vessel a dozen men clinging to its
sides had trusted themselves to the direction of the canoe, which was
controlled by two of the most skillful warriors, in attitudes that
enabled them to command a view of the dangerous passage. Favored by this
arrangement, they touched the head of the island at that point which had
proved so fatal to their first adventurers, but with the advantages of
superior numbers, and the possession of firearms. That such had been the
manner of their descent was rendered quite apparent to Duncan; for they
now bore the light bark from the upper end of the rock, and placed it
in the water, near the mouth of the outer cavern. As soon as this change
was made, the leader made signs to the prisoners to descend and enter.

As resistance was impossible, and remonstrance useless, Heyward set the
example of submission, by leading the way into the canoe, where he
was soon seated with the sisters and the still wondering David.
Notwithstanding the Hurons were necessarily ignorant of the little
channels among the eddies and rapids of the stream, they knew the common
signs of such a navigation too well to commit any material blunder.
When the pilot chosen for the task of guiding the canoe had taken his
station, the whole band plunged again into the river, the vessel glided
down the current, and in a few moments the captives found themselves on
the south bank of the stream, nearly opposite to the point where they
had struck it the preceding evening.

Here was held another short but earnest consultation, during which the
horses, to whose panic their owners ascribed their heaviest misfortune,
were led from the cover of the woods, and brought to the sheltered spot.
The band now divided. The great chief, so often mentioned, mounting the
charger of Heyward, led the way directly across the river, followed by
most of his people, and disappeared in the woods, leaving the prisoners
in charge of six savages, at whose head was Le Renard Subtil. Duncan
witnessed all their movements with renewed uneasiness.

He had been fond of believing, from the uncommon forbearance of the
savages, that he was reserved as a prisoner to be delivered to Montcalm.
As the thoughts of those who are in misery seldom slumber, and the
invention is never more lively than when it is stimulated by hope,
however feeble and remote, he had even imagined that the parental
feelings of Munro were to be made instrumental in seducing him from his
duty to the king. For though the French commander bore a high character
for courage and enterprise, he was also thought to be expert in those
political practises which do not always respect the nicer obligations
of morality, and which so generally disgraced the European diplomacy of
that period.

All those busy and ingenious speculations were now annihilated by the
conduct of his captors. That portion of the band who had followed the
huge warrior took the route toward the foot of the Horican, and no other
expectation was left for himself and companions, than that they were to
be retained as hopeless captives by their savage conquerors. Anxious to
know the worst, and willing, in such an emergency, to try the potency of
gold he overcame his reluctance to speak to Magua. Addressing himself
to his former guide, who had now assumed the authority and manner of one
who was to direct the future movements of the party, he said, in tones
as friendly and confiding as he could assume:

"I would speak to Magua, what is fit only for so great a chief to hear."

The Indian turned his eyes on the young soldier scornfully, as he
answered:

"Speak; trees have no ears."

"But the red Hurons are not deaf; and counsel that is fit for the great
men of a nation would make the young warriors drunk. If Magua will not
listen, the officer of the king knows how to be silent."

The savage spoke carelessly to his comrades, who were busied, after
their awkward manner, in preparing the horses for the reception of the
sisters, and moved a little to one side, whither by a cautious gesture
he induced Heyward to follow.

"Now, speak," he said; "if the words are such as Magua should hear."

"Le Renard Subtil has proved himself worthy of the honorable name given
to him by his Canada fathers," commenced Heyward; "I see his wisdom,
and all that he has done for us, and shall remember it when the hour to
reward him arrives. Yes! Renard has proved that he is not only a great
chief in council, but one who knows how to deceive his enemies!"

"What has Renard done?" coldly demanded the Indian.

"What! has he not seen that the woods were filled with outlying parties
of the enemies, and that the serpent could not steal through them
without being seen? Then, did he not lose his path to blind the eyes of
the Hurons? Did he not pretend to go back to his tribe, who had treated
him ill, and driven him from their wigwams like a dog? And when he saw
what he wished to do, did we not aid him, by making a false face, that
the Hurons might think the white man believed that his friend was his
enemy? Is not all this true? And when Le Subtil had shut the eyes and
stopped the ears of his nation by his wisdom, did they not forget that
they had once done him wrong, and forced him to flee to the Mohawks?
And did they not leave him on the south side of the river, with their
prisoners, while they have gone foolishly on the north? Does not Renard
mean to turn like a fox on his footsteps, and to carry to the rich and
gray-headed Scotchman his daughters? Yes, Magua, I see it all, and I
have already been thinking how so much wisdom and honesty should be
repaid. First, the chief of William Henry will give as a great chief
should for such a service. The medal* of Magua will no longer be of tin,
but of beaten gold; his horn will run over with powder; dollars will be
as plenty in his pouch as pebbles on the shore of Horican; and the deer
will lick his hand, for they will know it to be vain to fly from
the rifle he will carry! As for myself, I know not how to exceed the
gratitude of the Scotchman, but I--yes, I will--"

     * It has long been a practice with the whites to conciliate
     the important men of the Indians by presenting medals, which
     are worn in the place of their own rude ornaments. Those
     given by the English generally bear the impression of the
     reigning king, and those given by the Americans that of the
     president.

"What will the young chief, who comes from toward the sun, give?"
demanded the Huron, observing that Heyward hesitated in his desire to
end the enumeration of benefits with that which might form the climax of
an Indian's wishes.

"He will make the fire-water from the islands in the salt lake flow
before the wigwam of Magua, until the heart of the Indian shall be
lighter than the feathers of the humming-bird, and his breath sweeter
than the wild honeysuckle."

Le Renard had listened gravely as Heyward slowly proceeded in this
subtle speech. When the young man mentioned the artifice he supposed
the Indian to have practised on his own nation, the countenance of
the listener was veiled in an expression of cautious gravity. At the
allusion to the injury which Duncan affected to believe had driven
the Huron from his native tribe, a gleam of such ungovernable ferocity
flashed from the other's eyes, as induced the adventurous speaker to
believe he had struck the proper chord. And by the time he reached
the part where he so artfully blended the thirst of vengeance with the
desire of gain, he had, at least, obtained a command of the deepest
attention of the savage. The question put by Le Renard had been calm,
and with all the dignity of an Indian; but it was quite apparent, by the
thoughtful expression of the listener's countenance, that the answer was
most cunningly devised. The Huron mused a few moments, and then laying
his hand on the rude bandages of his wounded shoulder, he said, with
some energy:

"Do friends make such marks?"

"Would 'La Longue Carbine' cut one so slight on an enemy?"

"Do the Delawares crawl upon those they love like snakes, twisting
themselves to strike?"

"Would 'Le Gros Serpent' have been heard by the ears of one he wished to
be deaf?"

"Does the white chief burn his powder in the faces of his brothers?"

"Does he ever miss his aim, when seriously bent to kill?" returned
Duncan, smiling with well acted sincerity.

Another long and deliberate pause succeeded these sententious questions
and ready replies. Duncan saw that the Indian hesitated. In order to
complete his victory, he was in the act of recommencing the enumeration
of the rewards, when Magua made an expressive gesture and said:

"Enough; Le Renard is a wise chief, and what he does will be seen.
Go, and keep the mouth shut. When Magua speaks, it will be the time to
answer."

Heyward, perceiving that the eyes of his companion were warily fastened
on the rest of the band, fell back immediately, in order to avoid
the appearance of any suspicious confederacy with their leader.
Magua approached the horses, and affected to be well pleased with the
diligence and ingenuity of his comrades. He then signed to Heyward to
assist the sisters into the saddles, for he seldom deigned to use the
English tongue, unless urged by some motive of more than usual moment.

There was no longer any plausible pretext for delay; and Duncan was
obliged, however reluctantly, to comply. As he performed this office, he
whispered his reviving hopes in the ears of the trembling females, who,
through dread of encountering the savage countenances of their captors,
seldom raised their eyes from the ground. The mare of David had been
taken with the followers of the large chief; in consequence, its owner,
as well as Duncan, was compelled to journey on foot. The latter did not,
however, so much regret this circumstance, as it might enable him to
retard the speed of the party; for he still turned his longing looks in
the direction of Fort Edward, in the vain expectation of catching some
sound from that quarter of the forest, which might denote the approach
of succor. When all were prepared, Magua made the signal to proceed,
advancing in front to lead the party in person. Next followed David, who
was gradually coming to a true sense of his condition, as the effects of
the wound became less and less apparent. The sisters rode in his rear,
with Heyward at their side, while the Indians flanked the party, and
brought up the close of the march, with a caution that seemed never to
tire.

In this manner they proceeded in uninterrupted silence, except when
Heyward addressed some solitary word of comfort to the females, or David
gave vent to the moanings of his spirit, in piteous exclamations, which
he intended should express the humility of resignation. Their direction
lay toward the south, and in a course nearly opposite to the road to
William Henry. Notwithstanding this apparent adherence in Magua to the
original determination of his conquerors, Heyward could not believe
his tempting bait was so soon forgotten; and he knew the windings of an
Indian's path too well to suppose that its apparent course led directly
to its object, when artifice was at all necessary. Mile after mile was,
however, passed through the boundless woods, in this painful manner,
without any prospect of a termination to their journey. Heyward watched
the sun, as he darted his meridian rays through the branches of the
trees, and pined for the moment when the policy of Magua should change
their route to one more favorable to his hopes. Sometimes he fancied the
wary savage, despairing of passing the army of Montcalm in safety,
was holding his way toward a well-known border settlement, where a
distinguished officer of the crown, and a favored friend of the Six
Nations, held his large possessions, as well as his usual residence. To
be delivered into the hands of Sir William Johnson was far preferable
to being led into the wilds of Canada; but in order to effect even the
former, it would be necessary to traverse the forest for many weary
leagues, each step of which was carrying him further from the scene of
the war, and, consequently, from the post, not only of honor, but of
duty.

Cora alone remembered the parting injunctions of the scout, and whenever
an opportunity offered, she stretched forth her arm to bend aside the
twigs that met her hands. But the vigilance of the Indians rendered this
act of precaution both difficult and dangerous. She was often defeated
in her purpose, by encountering their watchful eyes, when it became
necessary to feign an alarm she did not feel, and occupy the limb by
some gesture of feminine apprehension. Once, and once only, was she
completely successful; when she broke down the bough of a large sumach,
and by a sudden thought, let her glove fall at the same instant. This
sign, intended for those that might follow, was observed by one of her
conductors, who restored the glove, broke the remaining branches of the
bush in such a manner that it appeared to proceed from the struggling of
some beast in its branches, and then laid his hand on his tomahawk,
with a look so significant, that it put an effectual end to these stolen
memorials of their passage.

As there were horses, to leave the prints of their footsteps, in both
bands of the Indians, this interruption cut off any probable hopes of
assistance being conveyed through the means of their trail.

Heyward would have ventured a remonstrance had there been anything
encouraging in the gloomy reserve of Magua. But the savage, during all
this time, seldom turned to look at his followers, and never spoke. With
the sun for his only guide, or aided by such blind marks as are only
known to the sagacity of a native, he held his way along the barrens
of pine, through occasional little fertile vales, across brooks and
rivulets, and over undulating hills, with the accuracy of instinct,
and nearly with the directness of a bird. He never seemed to hesitate.
Whether the path was hardly distinguishable, whether it disappeared, or
whether it lay beaten and plain before him, made no sensible difference
in his speed or certainty. It seemed as if fatigue could not affect him.
Whenever the eyes of the wearied travelers rose from the decayed leaves
over which they trod, his dark form was to be seen glancing among the
stems of the trees in front, his head immovably fastened in a forward
position, with the light plume on his crest fluttering in a current of
air, made solely by the swiftness of his own motion.

But all this diligence and speed were not without an object. After
crossing a low vale, through which a gushing brook meandered, he
suddenly ascended a hill, so steep and difficult of ascent, that the
sisters were compelled to alight in order to follow. When the summit was
gained, they found themselves on a level spot, but thinly covered with
trees, under one of which Magua had thrown his dark form, as if willing
and ready to seek that rest which was so much needed by the whole party.




CHAPTER 11

     "Cursed be my tribe If I forgive him."
     --Shylock

The Indian had selected for this desirable purpose one of those steep,
pyramidal hills, which bear a strong resemblance to artificial mounds,
and which so frequently occur in the valleys of America. The one in
question was high and precipitous; its top flattened, as usual; but with
one of its sides more than ordinarily irregular. It possessed no other
apparent advantage for a resting place, than in its elevation and form,
which might render defense easy, and surprise nearly impossible. As
Heyward, however, no longer expected that rescue which time and distance
now rendered so improbable, he regarded these little peculiarities with
an eye devoid of interest, devoting himself entirely to the comfort and
condolence of his feebler companions. The Narragansetts were suffered
to browse on the branches of the trees and shrubs that were thinly
scattered over the summit of the hill, while the remains of their
provisions were spread under the shade of a beech, that stretched its
horizontal limbs like a canopy above them.

Notwithstanding the swiftness of their flight, one of the Indians had
found an opportunity to strike a straggling fawn with an arrow, and
had borne the more preferable fragments of the victim, patiently on his
shoulders, to the stopping place. Without any aid from the science of
cookery, he was immediately employed, in common with his fellows, in
gorging himself with this digestible sustenance. Magua alone sat apart,
without participating in the revolting meal, and apparently buried in
the deepest thought.

This abstinence, so remarkable in an Indian, when he possessed the means
of satisfying hunger, at length attracted the notice of Heyward. The
young man willingly believed that the Huron deliberated on the most
eligible manner of eluding the vigilance of his associates. With a view
to assist his plans by any suggestion of his own, and to strengthen the
temptation, he left the beech, and straggled, as if without an object,
to the spot where Le Renard was seated.

"Has not Magua kept the sun in his face long enough to escape all danger
from the Canadians?" he asked, as though no longer doubtful of the
good intelligence established between them; "and will not the chief
of William Henry be better pleased to see his daughters before another
night may have hardened his heart to their loss, to make him less
liberal in his reward?"

"Do the pale faces love their children less in the morning than at
night?" asked the Indian, coldly.

"By no means," returned Heyward, anxious to recall his error, if he had
made one; "the white man may, and does often, forget the burial place of
his fathers; he sometimes ceases to remember those he should love, and
has promised to cherish; but the affection of a parent for his child is
never permitted to die."

"And is the heart of the white-headed chief soft, and will he think of
the babes that his squaws have given him? He is hard on his warriors and
his eyes are made of stone?"

"He is severe to the idle and wicked, but to the sober and deserving
he is a leader, both just and humane. I have known many fond and tender
parents, but never have I seen a man whose heart was softer toward his
child. You have seen the gray-head in front of his warriors, Magua; but
I have seen his eyes swimming in water, when he spoke of those children
who are now in your power!"

Heyward paused, for he knew not how to construe the remarkable
expression that gleamed across the swarthy features of the attentive
Indian. At first it seemed as if the remembrance of the promised reward
grew vivid in his mind, while he listened to the sources of parental
feeling which were to assure its possession; but, as Duncan proceeded,
the expression of joy became so fiercely malignant that it was
impossible not to apprehend it proceeded from some passion more sinister
than avarice.

"Go," said the Huron, suppressing the alarming exhibition in an
instant, in a death-like calmness of countenance; "go to the dark-haired
daughter, and say, 'Magua waits to speak' The father will remember what
the child promises."

Duncan, who interpreted this speech to express a wish for some
additional pledge that the promised gifts should not be withheld, slowly
and reluctantly repaired to the place where the sisters were now resting
from their fatigue, to communicate its purport to Cora.

"You understand the nature of an Indian's wishes," he concluded, as he
led her toward the place where she was expected, "and must be prodigal
of your offers of powder and blankets. Ardent spirits are, however, the
most prized by such as he; nor would it be amiss to add some boon
from your own hand, with that grace you so well know how to practise.
Remember, Cora, that on your presence of mind and ingenuity, even your
life, as well as that of Alice, may in some measure depend."

"Heyward, and yours!"

"Mine is of little moment; it is already sold to my king, and is a prize
to be seized by any enemy who may possess the power. I have no father
to expect me, and but few friends to lament a fate which I have courted
with the insatiable longings of youth after distinction. But hush! we
approach the Indian. Magua, the lady with whom you wish to speak, is
here."

The Indian rose slowly from his seat, and stood for near a minute silent
and motionless. He then signed with his hand for Heyward to retire,
saying, coldly:

"When the Huron talks to the women, his tribe shut their ears."

Duncan, still lingering, as if refusing to comply, Cora said, with a
calm smile:

"You hear, Heyward, and delicacy at least should urge you to retire. Go
to Alice, and comfort her with our reviving prospects."

She waited until he had departed, and then turning to the native, with
the dignity of her sex in her voice and manner, she added: "What would
Le Renard say to the daughter of Munro?"

"Listen," said the Indian, laying his hand firmly upon her arm, as if
willing to draw her utmost attention to his words; a movement that Cora
as firmly but quietly repulsed, by extricating the limb from his grasp:
"Magua was born a chief and a warrior among the red Hurons of the lakes;
he saw the suns of twenty summers make the snows of twenty winters run
off in the streams before he saw a pale face; and he was happy! Then
his Canada fathers came into the woods, and taught him to drink the
fire-water, and he became a rascal. The Hurons drove him from the graves
of his fathers, as they would chase the hunted buffalo. He ran down the
shores of the lakes, and followed their outlet to the 'city of cannon'
There he hunted and fished, till the people chased him again through the
woods into the arms of his enemies. The chief, who was born a Huron, was
at last a warrior among the Mohawks!"

"Something like this I had heard before," said Cora, observing that he
paused to suppress those passions which began to burn with too bright a
flame, as he recalled the recollection of his supposed injuries.

"Was it the fault of Le Renard that his head was not made of rock? Who
gave him the fire-water? who made him a villain? 'Twas the pale faces,
the people of your own color."

"And am I answerable that thoughtless and unprincipled men exist, whose
shades of countenance may resemble mine?" Cora calmly demanded of the
excited savage.

"No; Magua is a man, and not a fool; such as you never open their lips
to the burning stream: the Great Spirit has given you wisdom!"

"What, then, have I do to, or say, in the matter of your misfortunes,
not to say of your errors?"

"Listen," repeated the Indian, resuming his earnest attitude; "when
his English and French fathers dug up the hatchet, Le Renard struck the
war-post of the Mohawks, and went out against his own nation. The pale
faces have driven the red-skins from their hunting grounds, and now when
they fight, a white man leads the way. The old chief at Horican, your
father, was the great captain of our war-party. He said to the Mohawks
do this, and do that, and he was minded. He made a law, that if an
Indian swallowed the fire-water, and came into the cloth wigwams of his
warriors, it should not be forgotten. Magua foolishly opened his
mouth, and the hot liquor led him into the cabin of Munro. What did the
gray-head? let his daughter say."

"He forgot not his words, and did justice, by punishing the offender,"
said the undaunted daughter.

"Justice!" repeated the Indian, casting an oblique glance of the most
ferocious expression at her unyielding countenance; "is it justice to
make evil and then punish for it? Magua was not himself; it was the
fire-water that spoke and acted for him! but Munro did believe it. The
Huron chief was tied up before all the pale-faced warriors, and whipped
like a dog."

Cora remained silent, for she knew not how to palliate this imprudent
severity on the part of her father in a manner to suit the comprehension
of an Indian.

"See!" continued Magua, tearing aside the slight calico that very
imperfectly concealed his painted breast; "here are scars given by
knives and bullets--of these a warrior may boast before his nation; but
the gray-head has left marks on the back of the Huron chief that he must
hide like a squaw, under this painted cloth of the whites."

"I had thought," resumed Cora, "that an Indian warrior was patient, and
that his spirit felt not and knew not the pain his body suffered."

"When the Chippewas tied Magua to the stake, and cut this gash," said
the other, laying his finger on a deep scar, "the Huron laughed in their
faces, and told them, Women struck so light! His spirit was then in the
clouds! But when he felt the blows of Munro, his spirit lay under the
birch. The spirit of a Huron is never drunk; it remembers forever!"

"But it may be appeased. If my father has done you this injustice, show
him how an Indian can forgive an injury, and take back his daughters.
You have heard from Major Heyward--"

Magua shook his head, forbidding the repetition of offers he so much
despised.

"What would you have?" continued Cora, after a most painful pause,
while the conviction forced itself on her mind that the too sanguine and
generous Duncan had been cruelly deceived by the cunning of the savage.

"What a Huron loves--good for good; bad for bad!"

"You would, then, revenge the injury inflicted by Munro on his helpless
daughters. Would it not be more like a man to go before his face, and
take the satisfaction of a warrior?"

"The arms of the pale faces are long, and their knives sharp!" returned
the savage, with a malignant laugh: "why should Le Renard go among the
muskets of his warriors, when he holds the spirit of the gray-head in
his hand?"

"Name your intention, Magua," said Cora, struggling with herself to
speak with steady calmness. "Is it to lead us prisoners to the woods, or
do you contemplate even some greater evil? Is there no reward, no means
of palliating the injury, and of softening your heart? At least, release
my gentle sister, and pour out all your malice on me. Purchase wealth
by her safety and satisfy your revenge with a single victim. The loss
of both his daughters might bring the aged man to his grave, and where
would then be the satisfaction of Le Renard?"

"Listen," said the Indian again. "The light eyes can go back to the
Horican, and tell the old chief what has been done, if the dark-haired
woman will swear by the Great Spirit of her fathers to tell no lie."

"What must I promise?" demanded Cora, still maintaining a secret
ascendancy over the fierce native by the collected and feminine dignity
of her presence.

"When Magua left his people his wife was given to another chief; he has
now made friends with the Hurons, and will go back to the graves of his
tribe, on the shores of the great lake. Let the daughter of the English
chief follow, and live in his wigwam forever."

However revolting a proposal of such a character might prove to
Cora, she retained, notwithstanding her powerful disgust, sufficient
self-command to reply, without betraying the weakness.

"And what pleasure would Magua find in sharing his cabin with a wife he
did not love; one who would be of a nation and color different from his
own? It would be better to take the gold of Munro, and buy the heart of
some Huron maid with his gifts."

The Indian made no reply for near a minute, but bent his fierce looks
on the countenance of Cora, in such wavering glances, that her eyes
sank with shame, under an impression that for the first time they had
encountered an expression that no chaste female might endure. While she
was shrinking within herself, in dread of having her ears wounded by
some proposal still more shocking than the last, the voice of Magua
answered, in its tones of deepest malignancy:

"When the blows scorched the back of the Huron, he would know where to
find a woman to feel the smart. The daughter of Munro would draw his
water, hoe his corn, and cook his venison. The body of the gray-head
would sleep among his cannon, but his heart would lie within reach of
the knife of Le Subtil."

"Monster! well dost thou deserve thy treacherous name," cried Cora, in
an ungovernable burst of filial indignation. "None but a fiend could
meditate such a vengeance. But thou overratest thy power! You shall find
it is, in truth, the heart of Munro you hold, and that it will defy your
utmost malice!"

The Indian answered this bold defiance by a ghastly smile, that showed
an unaltered purpose, while he motioned her away, as if to close the
conference forever. Cora, already regretting her precipitation, was
obliged to comply, for Magua instantly left the spot, and approached his
gluttonous comrades. Heyward flew to the side of the agitated female,
and demanded the result of a dialogue that he had watched at a distance
with so much interest. But, unwilling to alarm the fears of Alice, she
evaded a direct reply, betraying only by her anxious looks fastened on
the slightest movements of her captors. To the reiterated and earnest
questions of her sister concerning their probable destination, she
made no other answer than by pointing toward the dark group, with an
agitation she could not control, and murmuring as she folded Alice to
her bosom.

"There, there; read our fortunes in their faces; we shall see; we shall
see!"

The action, and the choked utterance of Cora, spoke more impressively
than any words, and quickly drew the attention of her companions on that
spot where her own was riveted with an intenseness that nothing but the
importance of the stake could create.

When Magua reached the cluster of lolling savages, who, gorged with
their disgusting meal, lay stretched on the earth in brutal indulgence,
he commenced speaking with the dignity of an Indian chief. The first
syllables he uttered had the effect to cause his listeners to raise
themselves in attitudes of respectful attention. As the Huron used
his native language, the prisoners, notwithstanding the caution of the
natives had kept them within the swing of their tomahawks, could only
conjecture the substance of his harangue from the nature of those
significant gestures with which an Indian always illustrates his
eloquence.

At first, the language, as well as the action of Magua, appeared calm
and deliberative. When he had succeeded in sufficiently awakening
the attention of his comrades, Heyward fancied, by his pointing so
frequently toward the direction of the great lakes, that he spoke of the
land of their fathers, and of their distant tribe. Frequent indications
of applause escaped the listeners, who, as they uttered the expressive
"Hugh!" looked at each other in commendation of the speaker. Le Renard
was too skillful to neglect his advantage. He now spoke of the long and
painful route by which they had left those spacious grounds and happy
villages, to come and battle against the enemies of their Canadian
fathers. He enumerated the warriors of the party; their several merits;
their frequent services to the nation; their wounds, and the number of
the scalps they had taken. Whenever he alluded to any present (and the
subtle Indian neglected none), the dark countenance of the flattered
individual gleamed with exultation, nor did he even hesitate to assert
the truth of the words, by gestures of applause and confirmation. Then
the voice of the speaker fell, and lost the loud, animated tones of
triumph with which he had enumerated their deeds of success and victory.
He described the cataract of Glenn's; the impregnable position of its
rocky island, with its caverns and its numerous rapids and whirlpools;
he named the name of "La Longue Carabine," and paused until the forest
beneath them had sent up the last echo of a loud and long yell, with
which the hated appellation was received. He pointed toward the youthful
military captive, and described the death of a favorite warrior, who
had been precipitated into the deep ravine by his hand. He not only
mentioned the fate of him who, hanging between heaven and earth, had
presented such a spectacle of horror to the whole band, but he acted
anew the terrors of his situation, his resolution and his death, on the
branches of a sapling; and, finally, he rapidly recounted the manner
in which each of their friends had fallen, never failing to touch upon
their courage, and their most acknowledged virtues. When this recital of
events was ended, his voice once more changed, and became plaintive and
even musical, in its low guttural sounds. He now spoke of the wives and
children of the slain; their destitution; their misery, both physical
and moral; their distance; and, at last, of their unavenged wrongs. Then
suddenly lifting his voice to a pitch of terrific energy, he concluded
by demanding:

"Are the Hurons dogs to bear this? Who shall say to the wife of Menowgua
that the fishes have his scalp, and that his nation have not taken
revenge! Who will dare meet the mother of Wassawattimie, that scornful
woman, with his hands clean! What shall be said to the old men when
they ask us for scalps, and we have not a hair from a white head to give
them! The women will point their fingers at us. There is a dark spot on
the names of the Hurons, and it must be hid in blood!" His voice was no
longer audible in the burst of rage which now broke into the air, as
if the wood, instead of containing so small a band, was filled with the
nation. During the foregoing address the progress of the speaker was too
plainly read by those most interested in his success through the medium
of the countenances of the men he addressed. They had answered his
melancholy and mourning by sympathy and sorrow; his assertions, by
gestures of confirmation; and his boasting, with the exultation of
savages. When he spoke of courage, their looks were firm and responsive;
when he alluded to their injuries, their eyes kindled with fury; when
he mentioned the taunts of the women, they dropped their heads in shame;
but when he pointed out their means of vengeance, he struck a chord
which never failed to thrill in the breast of an Indian. With the first
intimation that it was within their reach, the whole band sprang upon
their feet as one man; giving utterance to their rage in the most
frantic cries, they rushed upon their prisoners in a body with drawn
knives and uplifted tomahawks. Heyward threw himself between the sisters
and the foremost, whom he grappled with a desperate strength that for a
moment checked his violence. This unexpected resistance gave Magua time
to interpose, and with rapid enunciation and animated gesture, he drew
the attention of the band again to himself. In that language he knew so
well how to assume, he diverted his comrades from their instant purpose,
and invited them to prolong the misery of their victims. His proposal
was received with acclamations, and executed with the swiftness of
thought.

Two powerful warriors cast themselves on Heyward, while another was
occupied in securing the less active singing-master. Neither of the
captives, however, submitted without a desperate, though fruitless,
struggle. Even David hurled his assailant to the earth; nor was Heyward
secured until the victory over his companion enabled the Indians to
direct their united force to that object. He was then bound and fastened
to the body of the sapling, on whose branches Magua had acted the
pantomime of the falling Huron. When the young soldier regained his
recollection, he had the painful certainty before his eyes that a
common fate was intended for the whole party. On his right was Cora in
a durance similar to his own, pale and agitated, but with an eye whose
steady look still read the proceedings of their enemies. On his left,
the withes which bound her to a pine, performed that office for Alice
which her trembling limbs refused, and alone kept her fragile form from
sinking. Her hands were clasped before her in prayer, but instead of
looking upward toward that power which alone could rescue them, her
unconscious looks wandered to the countenance of Duncan with infantile
dependency. David had contended, and the novelty of the circumstance
held him silent, in deliberation on the propriety of the unusual
occurrence.

The vengeance of the Hurons had now taken a new direction, and they
prepared to execute it with that barbarous ingenuity with which they
were familiarized by the practise of centuries. Some sought knots, to
raise the blazing pile; one was riving the splinters of pine, in order
to pierce the flesh of their captives with the burning fragments; and
others bent the tops of two saplings to the earth, in order to suspend
Heyward by the arms between the recoiling branches. But the vengeance of
Magua sought a deeper and more malignant enjoyment.

While the less refined monsters of the band prepared, before the eyes of
those who were to suffer, these well-known and vulgar means of torture,
he approached Cora, and pointed out, with the most malign expression of
countenance, the speedy fate that awaited her:

"Ha!" he added, "what says the daughter of Munro? Her head is too good
to find a pillow in the wigwam of Le Renard; will she like it better
when it rolls about this hill a plaything for the wolves? Her bosom
cannot nurse the children of a Huron; she will see it spit upon by
Indians!"

"What means the monster!" demanded the astonished Heyward.

"Nothing!" was the firm reply. "He is a savage, a barbarous and ignorant
savage, and knows not what he does. Let us find leisure, with our dying
breath, to ask for him penitence and pardon."

"Pardon!" echoed the fierce Huron, mistaking in his anger, the meaning
of her words; "the memory of an Indian is no longer than the arm of the
pale faces; his mercy shorter than their justice! Say; shall I send the
yellow hair to her father, and will you follow Magua to the great lakes,
to carry his water, and feed him with corn?"

Cora beckoned him away, with an emotion of disgust she could not
control.

"Leave me," she said, with a solemnity that for a moment checked the
barbarity of the Indian; "you mingle bitterness in my prayers; you stand
between me and my God!"

The slight impression produced on the savage was, however, soon
forgotten, and he continued pointing, with taunting irony, toward Alice.

"Look! the child weeps! She is too young to die! Send her to Munro, to
comb his gray hairs, and keep life in the heart of the old man."

Cora could not resist the desire to look upon her youthful sister, in
whose eyes she met an imploring glance, that betrayed the longings of
nature.

"What says he, dearest Cora?" asked the trembling voice of Alice. "Did
he speak of sending me to our father?"

For many moments the elder sister looked upon the younger, with a
countenance that wavered with powerful and contending emotions.
At length she spoke, though her tones had lost their rich and calm
fullness, in an expression of tenderness that seemed maternal.

"Alice," she said, "the Huron offers us both life, nay, more than both;
he offers to restore Duncan, our invaluable Duncan, as well as you, to
our friends--to our father--to our heart-stricken, childless father, if
I will bow down this rebellious, stubborn pride of mine, and consent--"

Her voice became choked, and clasping her hands, she looked upward, as
if seeking, in her agony, intelligence from a wisdom that was infinite.

"Say on," cried Alice; "to what, dearest Cora? Oh! that the proffer were
made to me! to save you, to cheer our aged father, to restore Duncan,
how cheerfully could I die!"

"Die!" repeated Cora, with a calmer and firmer voice, "that were easy!
Perhaps the alternative may not be less so. He would have me," she
continued, her accents sinking under a deep consciousness of the
degradation of the proposal, "follow him to the wilderness; go to the
habitations of the Hurons; to remain there; in short, to become his
wife! Speak, then, Alice; child of my affections! sister of my love! And
you, too, Major Heyward, aid my weak reason with your counsel. Is life
to be purchased by such a sacrifice? Will you, Alice, receive it at my
hands at such a price? And you, Duncan, guide me; control me between
you; for I am wholly yours!"

"Would I!" echoed the indignant and astonished youth. "Cora! Cora! you
jest with our misery! Name not the horrid alternative again; the thought
itself is worse than a thousand deaths."

"That such would be your answer, I well knew!" exclaimed Cora, her
cheeks flushing, and her dark eyes once more sparkling with the
lingering emotions of a woman. "What says my Alice? for her will I
submit without another murmur."

Although both Heyward and Cora listened with painful suspense and the
deepest attention, no sounds were heard in reply. It appeared as if the
delicate and sensitive form of Alice would shrink into itself, as she
listened to this proposal. Her arms had fallen lengthwise before her,
the fingers moving in slight convulsions; her head dropped upon her
bosom, and her whole person seemed suspended against the tree, looking
like some beautiful emblem of the wounded delicacy of her sex, devoid of
animation and yet keenly conscious. In a few moments, however, her head
began to move slowly, in a sign of deep, unconquerable disapprobation.

"No, no, no; better that we die as we have lived, together!"

"Then die!" shouted Magua, hurling his tomahawk with violence at the
unresisting speaker, and gnashing his teeth with a rage that could no
longer be bridled at this sudden exhibition of firmness in the one he
believed the weakest of the party. The axe cleaved the air in front of
Heyward, and cutting some of the flowing ringlets of Alice, quivered
in the tree above her head. The sight maddened Duncan to desperation.
Collecting all his energies in one effort he snapped the twigs which
bound him and rushed upon another savage, who was preparing, with loud
yells and a more deliberate aim, to repeat the blow. They encountered,
grappled, and fell to the earth together. The naked body of his
antagonist afforded Heyward no means of holding his adversary, who
glided from his grasp, and rose again with one knee on his chest,
pressing him down with the weight of a giant. Duncan already saw the
knife gleaming in the air, when a whistling sound swept past him, and
was rather accompanied than followed by the sharp crack of a rifle. He
felt his breast relieved from the load it had endured; he saw the savage
expression of his adversary's countenance change to a look of vacant
wildness, when the Indian fell dead on the faded leaves by his side.




CHAPTER 12

     "Clo.--I am gone, sire,
            And anon, sire, I'll be with you again."
     --Twelfth Night

The Hurons stood aghast at this sudden visitation of death on one of
their band. But as they regarded the fatal accuracy of an aim which had
dared to immolate an enemy at so much hazard to a friend, the name
of "La Longue Carabine" burst simultaneously from every lip, and was
succeeded by a wild and a sort of plaintive howl. The cry was answered
by a loud shout from a little thicket, where the incautious party had
piled their arms; and at the next moment, Hawkeye, too eager to load
the rifle he had regained, was seen advancing upon them, brandishing the
clubbed weapon, and cutting the air with wide and powerful sweeps. Bold
and rapid as was the progress of the scout, it was exceeded by that of
a light and vigorous form which, bounding past him, leaped, with
incredible activity and daring, into the very center of the Hurons,
where it stood, whirling a tomahawk, and flourishing a glittering knife,
with fearful menaces, in front of Cora. Quicker than the thoughts could
follow those unexpected and audacious movements, an image, armed in the
emblematic panoply of death, glided before their eyes, and assumed a
threatening attitude at the other's side. The savage tormentors recoiled
before these warlike intruders, and uttered, as they appeared in such
quick succession, the often repeated and peculiar exclamations of
surprise, followed by the well-known and dreaded appellations of:

"Le Cerf Agile! Le Gros Serpent!"

But the wary and vigilant leader of the Hurons was not so easily
disconcerted. Casting his keen eyes around the little plain, he
comprehended the nature of the assault at a glance, and encouraging his
followers by his voice as well as by his example, he unsheathed his
long and dangerous knife, and rushed with a loud whoop upon the expected
Chingachgook. It was the signal for a general combat. Neither party had
firearms, and the contest was to be decided in the deadliest manner,
hand to hand, with weapons of offense, and none of defense.

Uncas answered the whoop, and leaping on an enemy, with a single,
well-directed blow of his tomahawk, cleft him to the brain. Heyward
tore the weapon of Magua from the sapling, and rushed eagerly toward
the fray. As the combatants were now equal in number, each singled an
opponent from the adverse band. The rush and blows passed with the fury
of a whirlwind, and the swiftness of lightning. Hawkeye soon got another
enemy within reach of his arm, and with one sweep of his formidable
weapon he beat down the slight and inartificial defenses of his
antagonist, crushing him to the earth with the blow. Heyward ventured
to hurl the tomahawk he had seized, too ardent to await the moment
of closing. It struck the Indian he had selected on the forehead,
and checked for an instant his onward rush. Encouraged by this slight
advantage, the impetuous young man continued his onset, and sprang upon
his enemy with naked hands. A single instant was enough to assure him
of the rashness of the measure, for he immediately found himself fully
engaged, with all his activity and courage, in endeavoring to ward the
desperate thrusts made with the knife of the Huron. Unable longer to
foil an enemy so alert and vigilant, he threw his arms about him, and
succeeded in pinning the limbs of the other to his side, with an iron
grasp, but one that was far too exhausting to himself to continue long.
In this extremity he heard a voice near him, shouting:

"Extarminate the varlets! no quarter to an accursed Mingo!"

At the next moment, the breech of Hawkeye's rifle fell on the naked head
of his adversary, whose muscles appeared to wither under the shock, as
he sank from the arms of Duncan, flexible and motionless.

When Uncas had brained his first antagonist, he turned, like a hungry
lion, to seek another. The fifth and only Huron disengaged at the first
onset had paused a moment, and then seeing that all around him were
employed in the deadly strife, he had sought, with hellish vengeance,
to complete the baffled work of revenge. Raising a shout of triumph, he
sprang toward the defenseless Cora, sending his keen axe as the dreadful
precursor of his approach. The tomahawk grazed her shoulder, and cutting
the withes which bound her to the tree, left the maiden at liberty to
fly. She eluded the grasp of the savage, and reckless of her own
safety, threw herself on the bosom of Alice, striving with convulsed
and ill-directed fingers, to tear asunder the twigs which confined the
person of her sister. Any other than a monster would have relented at
such an act of generous devotion to the best and purest affection; but
the breast of the Huron was a stranger to sympathy. Seizing Cora by the
rich tresses which fell in confusion about her form, he tore her from
her frantic hold, and bowed her down with brutal violence to her knees.
The savage drew the flowing curls through his hand, and raising them
on high with an outstretched arm, he passed the knife around the
exquisitely molded head of his victim, with a taunting and exulting
laugh. But he purchased this moment of fierce gratification with the
loss of the fatal opportunity. It was just then the sight caught the eye
of Uncas. Bounding from his footsteps he appeared for an instant darting
through the air and descending in a ball he fell on the chest of his
enemy, driving him many yards from the spot, headlong and prostrate. The
violence of the exertion cast the young Mohican at his side. They arose
together, fought, and bled, each in his turn. But the conflict was soon
decided; the tomahawk of Heyward and the rifle of Hawkeye descended
on the skull of the Huron, at the same moment that the knife of Uncas
reached his heart.

The battle was now entirely terminated with the exception of the
protracted struggle between "Le Renard Subtil" and "Le Gros Serpent."
Well did these barbarous warriors prove that they deserved those
significant names which had been bestowed for deeds in former wars.
When they engaged, some little time was lost in eluding the quick and
vigorous thrusts which had been aimed at their lives. Suddenly darting
on each other, they closed, and came to the earth, twisted together like
twining serpents, in pliant and subtle folds. At the moment when the
victors found themselves unoccupied, the spot where these experienced
and desperate combatants lay could only be distinguished by a cloud of
dust and leaves, which moved from the center of the little plain toward
its boundary, as if raised by the passage of a whirlwind. Urged by the
different motives of filial affection, friendship and gratitude, Heyward
and his companions rushed with one accord to the place, encircling the
little canopy of dust which hung above the warriors. In vain did Uncas
dart around the cloud, with a wish to strike his knife into the heart
of his father's foe; the threatening rifle of Hawkeye was raised and
suspended in vain, while Duncan endeavored to seize the limbs of the
Huron with hands that appeared to have lost their power. Covered as they
were with dust and blood, the swift evolutions of the combatants seemed
to incorporate their bodies into one. The death-like looking figure of
the Mohican, and the dark form of the Huron, gleamed before their eyes
in such quick and confused succession, that the friends of the former
knew not where to plant the succoring blow. It is true there were short
and fleeting moments, when the fiery eyes of Magua were seen glittering,
like the fabled organs of the basilisk through the dusty wreath by which
he was enveloped, and he read by those short and deadly glances the fate
of the combat in the presence of his enemies; ere, however, any hostile
hand could descend on his devoted head, its place was filled by the
scowling visage of Chingachgook. In this manner the scene of the combat
was removed from the center of the little plain to its verge. The
Mohican now found an opportunity to make a powerful thrust with his
knife; Magua suddenly relinquished his grasp, and fell backward without
motion, and seemingly without life. His adversary leaped on his feet,
making the arches of the forest ring with the sounds of triumph.

"Well done for the Delawares! victory to the Mohicans!" cried Hawkeye,
once more elevating the butt of the long and fatal rifle; "a finishing
blow from a man without a cross will never tell against his honor, nor
rob him of his right to the scalp."

But at the very moment when the dangerous weapon was in the act of
descending, the subtle Huron rolled swiftly from beneath the danger,
over the edge of the precipice, and falling on his feet, was seen
leaping, with a single bound, into the center of a thicket of low
bushes, which clung along its sides. The Delawares, who had believed
their enemy dead, uttered their exclamation of surprise, and were
following with speed and clamor, like hounds in open view of the deer,
when a shrill and peculiar cry from the scout instantly changed their
purpose, and recalled them to the summit of the hill.

"'Twas like himself!" cried the inveterate forester, whose prejudices
contributed so largely to veil his natural sense of justice in all
matters which concerned the Mingoes; "a lying and deceitful varlet as
he is. An honest Delaware now, being fairly vanquished, would have lain
still, and been knocked on the head, but these knavish Maquas cling to
life like so many cats-o'-the-mountain. Let him go--let him go; 'tis but
one man, and he without rifle or bow, many a long mile from his French
commerades; and like a rattler that lost his fangs, he can do no further
mischief, until such time as he, and we too, may leave the prints of our
moccasins over a long reach of sandy plain. See, Uncas," he added, in
Delaware, "your father is flaying the scalps already. It may be well to
go round and feel the vagabonds that are left, or we may have another of
them loping through the woods, and screeching like a jay that has been
winged."

So saying the honest but implacable scout made the circuit of the dead,
into whose senseless bosoms he thrust his long knife, with as much
coolness as though they had been so many brute carcasses. He had,
however, been anticipated by the elder Mohican, who had already torn the
emblems of victory from the unresisting heads of the slain.

But Uncas, denying his habits, we had almost said his nature, flew with
instinctive delicacy, accompanied by Heyward, to the assistance of the
females, and quickly releasing Alice, placed her in the arms of Cora. We
shall not attempt to describe the gratitude to the Almighty Disposer
of Events which glowed in the bosoms of the sisters, who were thus
unexpectedly restored to life and to each other. Their thanksgivings
were deep and silent; the offerings of their gentle spirits burning
brightest and purest on the secret altars of their hearts; and their
renovated and more earthly feelings exhibiting themselves in long and
fervent though speechless caresses. As Alice rose from her knees, where
she had sunk by the side of Cora, she threw herself on the bosom of the
latter, and sobbed aloud the name of their aged father, while her soft,
dove-like eyes, sparkled with the rays of hope.

"We are saved! we are saved!" she murmured; "to return to the arms of
our dear, dear father, and his heart will not be broken with grief. And
you, too, Cora, my sister, my more than sister, my mother; you, too,
are spared. And Duncan," she added, looking round upon the youth with a
smile of ineffable innocence, "even our own brave and noble Duncan has
escaped without a hurt."

To these ardent and nearly innocent words Cora made no other answer than
by straining the youthful speaker to her heart, as she bent over her
in melting tenderness. The manhood of Heyward felt no shame in dropping
tears over this spectacle of affectionate rapture; and Uncas stood,
fresh and blood-stained from the combat, a calm, and, apparently, an
unmoved looker-on, it is true, but with eyes that had already lost their
fierceness, and were beaming with a sympathy that elevated him far
above the intelligence, and advanced him probably centuries before, the
practises of his nation.

During this display of emotions so natural in their situation, Hawkeye,
whose vigilant distrust had satisfied itself that the Hurons, who
disfigured the heavenly scene, no longer possessed the power to
interrupt its harmony, approached David, and liberated him from the
bonds he had, until that moment, endured with the most exemplary
patience.

"There," exclaimed the scout, casting the last withe behind him, "you
are once more master of your own limbs, though you seem not to use them
with much greater judgment than that in which they were first fashioned.
If advice from one who is not older than yourself, but who, having
lived most of his time in the wilderness, may be said to have experience
beyond his years, will give no offense, you are welcome to my thoughts;
and these are, to part with the little tooting instrument in your jacket
to the first fool you meet with, and buy some we'pon with the money, if
it be only the barrel of a horseman's pistol. By industry and care, you
might thus come to some prefarment; for by this time, I should think,
your eyes would plainly tell you that a carrion crow is a better bird
than a mocking-thresher. The one will, at least, remove foul sights
from before the face of man, while the other is only good to brew
disturbances in the woods, by cheating the ears of all that hear them."

"Arms and the clarion for the battle, but the song of thanksgiving
to the victory!" answered the liberated David. "Friend," he added,
thrusting forth his lean, delicate hand toward Hawkeye, in kindness,
while his eyes twinkled and grew moist, "I thank thee that the hairs
of my head still grow where they were first rooted by Providence; for,
though those of other men may be more glossy and curling, I have ever
found mine own well suited to the brain they shelter. That I did not
join myself to the battle, was less owing to disinclination, than to the
bonds of the heathen. Valiant and skillful hast thou proved thyself in
the conflict, and I hereby thank thee, before proceeding to discharge
other and more important duties, because thou hast proved thyself well
worthy of a Christian's praise."

"The thing is but a trifle, and what you may often see if you tarry long
among us," returned the scout, a good deal softened toward the man of
song, by this unequivocal expression of gratitude. "I have got back my
old companion, 'killdeer'," he added, striking his hand on the breech of
his rifle; "and that in itself is a victory. These Iroquois are cunning,
but they outwitted themselves when they placed their firearms out of
reach; and had Uncas or his father been gifted with only their common
Indian patience, we should have come in upon the knaves with three
bullets instead of one, and that would have made a finish of the whole
pack; yon loping varlet, as well as his commerades. But 'twas all
fore-ordered, and for the best."

"Thou sayest well," returned David, "and hast caught the true spirit
of Christianity. He that is to be saved will be saved, and he that is
predestined to be damned will be damned. This is the doctrine of truth,
and most consoling and refreshing it is to the true believer."

The scout, who by this time was seated, examining into the state of his
rifle with a species of parental assiduity, now looked up at the other
in a displeasure that he did not affect to conceal, roughly interrupting
further speech.

"Doctrine or no doctrine," said the sturdy woodsman, "'tis the belief of
knaves, and the curse of an honest man. I can credit that yonder Huron
was to fall by my hand, for with my own eyes I have seen it; but nothing
short of being a witness will cause me to think he has met with any
reward, or that Chingachgook there will be condemned at the final day."

"You have no warranty for such an audacious doctrine, nor any covenant
to support it," cried David who was deeply tinctured with the subtle
distinctions which, in his time, and more especially in his province,
had been drawn around the beautiful simplicity of revelation, by
endeavoring to penetrate the awful mystery of the divine nature,
supplying faith by self-sufficiency, and by consequence, involving those
who reasoned from such human dogmas in absurdities and doubt; "your
temple is reared on the sands, and the first tempest will wash away its
foundation. I demand your authorities for such an uncharitable assertion
(like other advocates of a system, David was not always accurate in his
use of terms). Name chapter and verse; in which of the holy books do you
find language to support you?"

"Book!" repeated Hawkeye, with singular and ill-concealed disdain; "do
you take me for a whimpering boy at the apronstring of one of your old
gals; and this good rifle on my knee for the feather of a goose's
wing, my ox's horn for a bottle of ink, and my leathern pouch for a
cross-barred handkercher to carry my dinner? Book! what have such as I,
who am a warrior of the wilderness, though a man without a cross, to
do with books? I never read but in one, and the words that are written
there are too simple and too plain to need much schooling; though I may
boast that of forty long and hard-working years."

"What call you the volume?" said David, misconceiving the other's
meaning.

"'Tis open before your eyes," returned the scout; "and he who owns it
is not a niggard of its use. I have heard it said that there are men who
read in books to convince themselves there is a God. I know not but man
may so deform his works in the settlement, as to leave that which is so
clear in the wilderness a matter of doubt among traders and priests. If
any such there be, and he will follow me from sun to sun, through the
windings of the forest, he shall see enough to teach him that he is a
fool, and that the greatest of his folly lies in striving to rise to the
level of One he can never equal, be it in goodness, or be it in power."

The instant David discovered that he battled with a disputant who
imbibed his faith from the lights of nature, eschewing all subtleties
of doctrine, he willingly abandoned a controversy from which he believed
neither profit nor credit was to be derived. While the scout was
speaking, he had also seated himself, and producing the ready little
volume and the iron-rimmed spectacles, he prepared to discharge a
duty, which nothing but the unexpected assault he had received in his
orthodoxy could have so long suspended. He was, in truth, a minstrel of
the western continent--of a much later day, certainly, than those gifted
bards, who formerly sang the profane renown of baron and prince, but
after the spirit of his own age and country; and he was now prepared
to exercise the cunning of his craft, in celebration of, or rather in
thanksgiving for, the recent victory. He waited patiently for Hawkeye to
cease, then lifting his eyes, together with his voice, he said, aloud:

"I invite you, friends, to join in praise for this signal deliverance
from the hands of barbarians and infidels, to the comfortable and solemn
tones of the tune called 'Northampton'."

He next named the page and verse where the rhymes selected were to be
found, and applied the pitch-pipe to his lips, with the decent gravity
that he had been wont to use in the temple. This time he was, however,
without any accompaniment, for the sisters were just then pouring out
those tender effusions of affection which have been already alluded
to. Nothing deterred by the smallness of his audience, which, in
truth, consisted only of the discontented scout, he raised his voice,
commencing and ending the sacred song without accident or interruption
of any kind.

Hawkeye listened while he coolly adjusted his flint and reloaded his
rifle; but the sounds, wanting the extraneous assistance of scene and
sympathy, failed to awaken his slumbering emotions. Never minstrel,
or by whatever more suitable name David should be known, drew upon his
talents in the presence of more insensible auditors; though considering
the singleness and sincerity of his motive, it is probable that no bard
of profane song ever uttered notes that ascended so near to that throne
where all homage and praise is due. The scout shook his head, and
muttering some unintelligible words, among which "throat" and "Iroquois"
were alone audible, he walked away, to collect and to examine into the
state of the captured arsenal of the Hurons. In this office he was now
joined by Chingachgook, who found his own, as well as the rifle of his
son, among the arms. Even Heyward and David were furnished with weapons;
nor was ammunition wanting to render them all effectual.

When the foresters had made their selection, and distributed their
prizes, the scout announced that the hour had arrived when it was
necessary to move. By this time the song of Gamut had ceased, and the
sisters had learned to still the exhibition of their emotions. Aided by
Duncan and the younger Mohican, the two latter descended the precipitous
sides of that hill which they had so lately ascended under so very
different auspices, and whose summit had so nearly proved the scene of
their massacre. At the foot they found the Narragansetts browsing the
herbage of the bushes, and having mounted, they followed the movements
of a guide, who, in the most deadly straits, had so often proved himself
their friend. The journey was, however, short. Hawkeye, leaving the
blind path that the Hurons had followed, turned short to his right,
and entering the thicket, he crossed a babbling brook, and halted in a
narrow dell, under the shade of a few water elms. Their distance from
the base of the fatal hill was but a few rods, and the steeds had been
serviceable only in crossing the shallow stream.

The scout and the Indians appeared to be familiar with the sequestered
place where they now were; for, leaning their rifle against the trees,
they commenced throwing aside the dried leaves, and opening the blue
clay, out of which a clear and sparkling spring of bright, glancing
water, quickly bubbled. The white man then looked about him, as though
seeking for some object, which was not to be found as readily as he
expected.

"Them careless imps, the Mohawks, with their Tuscarora and Onondaga
brethren, have been here slaking their thirst," he muttered, "and the
vagabonds have thrown away the gourd! This is the way with benefits,
when they are bestowed on such disremembering hounds! Here has the Lord
laid his hand, in the midst of the howling wilderness, for their good,
and raised a fountain of water from the bowels of the 'arth, that might
laugh at the richest shop of apothecary's ware in all the colonies; and
see! the knaves have trodden in the clay, and deformed the cleanliness
of the place, as though they were brute beasts, instead of human men."

Uncas silently extended toward him the desired gourd, which the spleen
of Hawkeye had hitherto prevented him from observing on a branch of
an elm. Filling it with water, he retired a short distance, to a place
where the ground was more firm and dry; here he coolly seated himself,
and after taking a long, and, apparently, a grateful draught, he
commenced a very strict examination of the fragments of food left by the
Hurons, which had hung in a wallet on his arm.

"Thank you, lad!" he continued, returning the empty gourd to Uncas;
"now we will see how these rampaging Hurons lived, when outlying in
ambushments. Look at this! The varlets know the better pieces of the
deer; and one would think they might carve and roast a saddle, equal to
the best cook in the land! But everything is raw, for the Iroquois are
thorough savages. Uncas, take my steel and kindle a fire; a mouthful of
a tender broil will give natur' a helping hand, after so long a trail."

Heyward, perceiving that their guides now set about their repast in
sober earnest, assisted the ladies to alight, and placed himself at
their side, not unwilling to enjoy a few moments of grateful rest, after
the bloody scene he had just gone through. While the culinary process
was in hand, curiosity induced him to inquire into the circumstances
which had led to their timely and unexpected rescue:

"How is it that we see you so soon, my generous friend," he asked, "and
without aid from the garrison of Edward?"

"Had we gone to the bend in the river, we might have been in time
to rake the leaves over your bodies, but too late to have saved your
scalps," coolly answered the scout. "No, no; instead of throwing away
strength and opportunity by crossing to the fort, we lay by, under the
bank of the Hudson, waiting to watch the movements of the Hurons."

"You were, then, witnesses of all that passed?"

"Not of all; for Indian sight is too keen to be easily cheated, and we
kept close. A difficult matter it was, too, to keep this Mohican boy
snug in the ambushment. Ah! Uncas, Uncas, your behavior was more like
that of a curious woman than of a warrior on his scent."

Uncas permitted his eyes to turn for an instant on the sturdy
countenance of the speaker, but he neither spoke nor gave any indication
of repentance. On the contrary, Heyward thought the manner of the young
Mohican was disdainful, if not a little fierce, and that he suppressed
passions that were ready to explode, as much in compliment to the
listeners, as from the deference he usually paid to his white associate.

"You saw our capture?" Heyward next demanded.

"We heard it," was the significant answer. "An Indian yell is plain
language to men who have passed their days in the woods. But when you
landed, we were driven to crawl like sarpents, beneath the leaves; and
then we lost sight of you entirely, until we placed eyes on you again
trussed to the trees, and ready bound for an Indian massacre."

"Our rescue was the deed of Providence. It was nearly a miracle that you
did not mistake the path, for the Hurons divided, and each band had its
horses."

"Ay! there we were thrown off the scent, and might, indeed, have lost
the trail, had it not been for Uncas; we took the path, however, that
led into the wilderness; for we judged, and judged rightly, that the
savages would hold that course with their prisoners. But when we had
followed it for many miles, without finding a single twig broken, as I
had advised, my mind misgave me; especially as all the footsteps had the
prints of moccasins."

"Our captors had the precaution to see us shod like themselves," said
Duncan, raising a foot, and exhibiting the buckskin he wore.

"Aye, 'twas judgmatical and like themselves; though we were too expart
to be thrown from a trail by so common an invention."

"To what, then, are we indebted for our safety?"

"To what, as a white man who has no taint of Indian blood, I should be
ashamed to own; to the judgment of the young Mohican, in matters which
I should know better than he, but which I can now hardly believe to be
true, though my own eyes tell me it is so."

"'Tis extraordinary! will you not name the reason?"

"Uncas was bold enough to say, that the beasts ridden by the gentle
ones," continued Hawkeye, glancing his eyes, not without curious
interest, on the fillies of the ladies, "planted the legs of one side on
the ground at the same time, which is contrary to the movements of all
trotting four-footed animals of my knowledge, except the bear. And yet
here are horses that always journey in this manner, as my own eyes have
seen, and as their trail has shown for twenty long miles."

"'Tis the merit of the animal! They come from the shores of
Narrangansett Bay, in the small province of Providence Plantations,
and are celebrated for their hardihood, and the ease of this peculiar
movement; though other horses are not unfrequently trained to the same."

"It may be--it may be," said Hawkeye, who had listened with singular
attention to this explanation; "though I am a man who has the full blood
of the whites, my judgment in deer and beaver is greater than in beasts
of burden. Major Effingham has many noble chargers, but I have never
seen one travel after such a sidling gait."

"True; for he would value the animals for very different properties.
Still is this a breed highly esteemed and, as you witness, much honored
with the burdens it is often destined to bear."

The Mohicans had suspended their operations about the glimmering fire
to listen; and, when Duncan had done, they looked at each other
significantly, the father uttering the never-failing exclamation of
surprise. The scout ruminated, like a man digesting his newly-acquired
knowledge, and once more stole a glance at the horses.

"I dare to say there are even stranger sights to be seen in the
settlements!" he said, at length. "Natur' is sadly abused by man, when
he once gets the mastery. But, go sidling or go straight, Uncas had seen
the movement, and their trail led us on to the broken bush. The outer
branch, near the prints of one of the horses, was bent upward, as a lady
breaks a flower from its stem, but all the rest were ragged and broken
down, as if the strong hand of a man had been tearing them! So I
concluded that the cunning varments had seen the twig bent, and had torn
the rest, to make us believe a buck had been feeling the boughs with his
antlers."

"I do believe your sagacity did not deceive you; for some such thing
occurred!"

"That was easy to see," added the scout, in no degree conscious of
having exhibited any extraordinary sagacity; "and a very different
matter it was from a waddling horse! It then struck me the Mingoes
would push for this spring, for the knaves well know the vartue of its
waters!"

"Is it, then, so famous?" demanded Heyward, examining, with a more
curious eye, the secluded dell, with its bubbling fountain, surrounded,
as it was, by earth of a deep, dingy brown.

"Few red-skins, who travel south and east of the great lakes but have
heard of its qualities. Will you taste for yourself?"

Heyward took the gourd, and after swallowing a little of the water,
threw it aside with grimaces of discontent. The scout laughed in his
silent but heartfelt manner, and shook his head with vast satisfaction.

"Ah! you want the flavor that one gets by habit; the time was when I
liked it as little as yourself; but I have come to my taste, and I now
crave it, as a deer does the licks*. Your high-spiced wines are not
better liked than a red-skin relishes this water; especially when his
natur' is ailing. But Uncas has made his fire, and it is time we think
of eating, for our journey is long, and all before us."

     * Many of the animals of the American forests resort to
     those spots where salt springs are found. These are called
     "licks" or "salt licks," in the language of the country,
     from the circumstance that the quadruped is often obliged to
     lick the earth, in order to obtain the saline particles.
     These licks are great places of resort with the hunters, who
     waylay their game near the paths that lead to them.

Interrupting the dialogue by this abrupt transition, the scout had
instant recourse to the fragments of food which had escaped the voracity
of the Hurons. A very summary process completed the simple cookery, when
he and the Mohicans commenced their humble meal, with the silence and
characteristic diligence of men who ate in order to enable themselves to
endure great and unremitting toil.

When this necessary, and, happily, grateful duty had been performed,
each of the foresters stooped and took a long and parting draught at
that solitary and silent spring*, around which and its sister fountains,
within fifty years, the wealth, beauty and talents of a hemisphere were
to assemble in throngs, in pursuit of health and pleasure. Then Hawkeye
announced his determination to proceed. The sisters resumed their
saddles; Duncan and David grapsed their rifles, and followed on
footsteps; the scout leading the advance, and the Mohicans bringing up
the rear. The whole party moved swiftly through the narrow path, toward
the north, leaving the healing waters to mingle unheeded with the
adjacent brooks and the bodies of the dead to fester on the neighboring
mount, without the rites of sepulture; a fate but too common to the
warriors of the woods to excite either commiseration or comment.

     * The scene of the foregoing incidents is on the spot where
     the village of Ballston now stands; one of the two principal
     watering places of America.




CHAPTER 13

     "I'll seek a readier path."
     --Parnell

The route taken by Hawkeye lay across those sandy plains, relived by
occasional valleys and swells of land, which had been traversed by their
party on the morning of the same day, with the baffled Magua for their
guide. The sun had now fallen low toward the distant mountains; and
as their journey lay through the interminable forest, the heat was no
longer oppressive. Their progress, in consequence, was proportionate;
and long before the twilight gathered about them, they had made good
many toilsome miles on their return.

The hunter, like the savage whose place he filled, seemed to select
among the blind signs of their wild route, with a species of instinct,
seldom abating his speed, and never pausing to deliberate. A rapid and
oblique glance at the moss on the trees, with an occasional upward gaze
toward the setting sun, or a steady but passing look at the direction of
the numerous water courses, through which he waded, were sufficient
to determine his path, and remove his greatest difficulties. In the
meantime, the forest began to change its hues, losing that lively green
which had embellished its arches, in the graver light which is the usual
precursor of the close of day.

While the eyes of the sisters were endeavoring to catch glimpses through
the trees, of the flood of golden glory which formed a glittering halo
around the sun, tinging here and there with ruby streaks, or bordering
with narrow edgings of shining yellow, a mass of clouds that lay piled
at no great distance above the western hills, Hawkeye turned suddenly
and pointing upward toward the gorgeous heavens, he spoke:

"Yonder is the signal given to man to seek his food and natural rest,"
he said; "better and wiser would it be, if he could understand the signs
of nature, and take a lesson from the fowls of the air and the beasts of
the field! Our night, however, will soon be over, for with the moon
we must be up and moving again. I remember to have fou't the Maquas,
hereaways, in the first war in which I ever drew blood from man; and we
threw up a work of blocks, to keep the ravenous varmints from handling
our scalps. If my marks do not fail me, we shall find the place a few
rods further to our left."

Without waiting for an assent, or, indeed, for any reply, the sturdy
hunter moved boldly into a dense thicket of young chestnuts, shoving
aside the branches of the exuberant shoots which nearly covered the
ground, like a man who expected, at each step, to discover some object
he had formerly known. The recollection of the scout did not deceive
him. After penetrating through the brush, matted as it was with briars,
for a few hundred feet, he entered an open space, that surrounded a low,
green hillock, which was crowned by the decayed blockhouse in question.
This rude and neglected building was one of those deserted works, which,
having been thrown up on an emergency, had been abandoned with the
disappearance of danger, and was now quietly crumbling in the solitude
of the forest, neglected and nearly forgotten, like the circumstances
which had caused it to be reared. Such memorials of the passage and
struggles of man are yet frequent throughout the broad barrier of
wilderness which once separated the hostile provinces, and form a
species of ruins that are intimately associated with the recollections
of colonial history, and which are in appropriate keeping with the
gloomy character of the surrounding scenery. The roof of bark had long
since fallen, and mingled with the soil, but the huge logs of pine,
which had been hastily thrown together, still preserved their relative
positions, though one angle of the work had given way under the
pressure, and threatened a speedy downfall to the remainder of the
rustic edifice. While Heyward and his companions hesitated to approach
a building so decayed, Hawkeye and the Indians entered within the low
walls, not only without fear, but with obvious interest. While the
former surveyed the ruins, both internally and externally, with the
curiosity of one whose recollections were reviving at each moment,
Chingachgook related to his son, in the language of the Delawares, and
with the pride of a conqueror, the brief history of the skirmish which
had been fought, in his youth, in that secluded spot. A strain of
melancholy, however, blended with his triumph, rendering his voice, as
usual, soft and musical.

In the meantime, the sisters gladly dismounted, and prepared to enjoy
their halt in the coolness of the evening, and in a security which they
believed nothing but the beasts of the forest could invade.

"Would not our resting-place have been more retired, my worthy friend,"
demanded the more vigilant Duncan, perceiving that the scout had already
finished his short survey, "had we chosen a spot less known, and one
more rarely visited than this?"

"Few live who know the blockhouse was ever raised," was the slow and
musing answer; "'tis not often that books are made, and narratives
written of such a scrimmage as was here fou't atween the Mohicans and
the Mohawks, in a war of their own waging. I was then a younker, and
went out with the Delawares, because I know'd they were a scandalized
and wronged race. Forty days and forty nights did the imps crave our
blood around this pile of logs, which I designed and partly reared,
being, as you'll remember, no Indian myself, but a man without a cross.
The Delawares lent themselves to the work, and we made it good, ten to
twenty, until our numbers were nearly equal, and then we sallied out
upon the hounds, and not a man of them ever got back to tell the fate
of his party. Yes, yes; I was then young, and new to the sight of blood;
and not relishing the thought that creatures who had spirits like myself
should lay on the naked ground, to be torn asunder by beasts, or to
bleach in the rains, I buried the dead with my own hands, under that
very little hillock where you have placed yourselves; and no bad seat
does it make neither, though it be raised by the bones of mortal men."

Heyward and the sisters arose, on the instant, from the grassy
sepulcher; nor could the two latter, notwithstanding the terrific scenes
they had so recently passed through, entirely suppress an emotion of
natural horror, when they found themselves in such familiar contact with
the grave of the dead Mohawks. The gray light, the gloomy little area
of dark grass, surrounded by its border of brush, beyond which the pines
rose, in breathing silence, apparently into the very clouds, and the
deathlike stillness of the vast forest, were all in unison to deepen
such a sensation. "They are gone, and they are harmless," continued
Hawkeye, waving his hand, with a melancholy smile at their manifest
alarm; "they'll never shout the war-whoop nor strike a blow with the
tomahawk again! And of all those who aided in placing them where they
lie, Chingachgook and I only are living! The brothers and family of the
Mohican formed our war party; and you see before you all that are now
left of his race."

The eyes of the listeners involuntarily sought the forms of the Indians,
with a compassionate interest in their desolate fortune. Their dark
persons were still to be seen within the shadows of the blockhouse,
the son listening to the relation of his father with that sort of
intenseness which would be created by a narrative that redounded so much
to the honor of those whose names he had long revered for their courage
and savage virtues.

"I had thought the Delawares a pacific people," said Duncan, "and that
they never waged war in person; trusting the defense of their hands to
those very Mohawks that you slew!"

"'Tis true in part," returned the scout, "and yet, at the bottom, 'tis
a wicked lie. Such a treaty was made in ages gone by, through the
deviltries of the Dutchers, who wished to disarm the natives that had
the best right to the country, where they had settled themselves. The
Mohicans, though a part of the same nation, having to deal with the
English, never entered into the silly bargain, but kept to their
manhood; as in truth did the Delawares, when their eyes were open to
their folly. You see before you a chief of the great Mohican Sagamores!
Once his family could chase their deer over tracts of country wider than
that which belongs to the Albany Patteroon, without crossing brook or
hill that was not their own; but what is left of their descendant? He
may find his six feet of earth when God chooses, and keep it in peace,
perhaps, if he has a friend who will take the pains to sink his head so
low that the plowshares cannot reach it!"

"Enough!" said Heyward, apprehensive that the subject might lead to
a discussion that would interrupt the harmony so necessary to the
preservation of his fair companions; "we have journeyed far, and few
among us are blessed with forms like that of yours, which seems to know
neither fatigue nor weakness."

"The sinews and bones of a man carry me through it all," said the
hunter, surveying his muscular limbs with a simplicity that betrayed
the honest pleasure the compliment afforded him; "there are larger and
heavier men to be found in the settlements, but you might travel many
days in a city before you could meet one able to walk fifty miles
without stopping to take breath, or who has kept the hounds within
hearing during a chase of hours. However, as flesh and blood are not
always the same, it is quite reasonable to suppose that the gentle ones
are willing to rest, after all they have seen and done this day. Uncas,
clear out the spring, while your father and I make a cover for their
tender heads of these chestnut shoots, and a bed of grass and leaves."

The dialogue ceased, while the hunter and his companions busied
themselves in preparations for the comfort and protection of those they
guided. A spring, which many long years before had induced the natives
to select the place for their temporary fortification, was soon cleared
of leaves, and a fountain of crystal gushed from the bed, diffusing
its waters over the verdant hillock. A corner of the building was then
roofed in such a manner as to exclude the heavy dew of the climate,
and piles of sweet shrubs and dried leaves were laid beneath it for the
sisters to repose on.

While the diligent woodsmen were employed in this manner, Cora and
Alice partook of that refreshment which duty required much more than
inclination prompted them to accept. They then retired within the
walls, and first offering up their thanksgivings for past mercies, and
petitioning for a continuance of the Divine favor throughout the coming
night, they laid their tender forms on the fragrant couch, and in spite
of recollections and forebodings, soon sank into those slumbers which
nature so imperiously demanded, and which were sweetened by hopes
for the morrow. Duncan had prepared himself to pass the night in
watchfulness near them, just without the ruin, but the scout, perceiving
his intention, pointed toward Chingachgook, as he coolly disposed his
own person on the grass, and said:

"The eyes of a white man are too heavy and too blind for such a watch as
this! The Mohican will be our sentinel, therefore let us sleep."

"I proved myself a sluggard on my post during the past night," said
Heyward, "and have less need of repose than you, who did more credit
to the character of a soldier. Let all the party seek their rest, then,
while I hold the guard."

"If we lay among the white tents of the Sixtieth, and in front of an
enemy like the French, I could not ask for a better watchman," returned
the scout; "but in the darkness and among the signs of the wilderness
your judgment would be like the folly of a child, and your vigilance
thrown away. Do then, like Uncas and myself, sleep, and sleep in
safety."

Heyward perceived, in truth, that the younger Indian had thrown his form
on the side of the hillock while they were talking, like one who sought
to make the most of the time allotted to rest, and that his example had
been followed by David, whose voice literally "clove to his jaws," with
the fever of his wound, heightened, as it was, by their toilsome march.
Unwilling to prolong a useless discussion, the young man affected to
comply, by posting his back against the logs of the blockhouse, in a
half recumbent posture, though resolutely determined, in his own mind,
not to close an eye until he had delivered his precious charge into the
arms of Munro himself. Hawkeye, believing he had prevailed, soon fell
asleep, and a silence as deep as the solitude in which they had found
it, pervaded the retired spot.

For many minutes Duncan succeeded in keeping his senses on the alert,
and alive to every moaning sound that arose from the forest. His vision
became more acute as the shades of evening settled on the place; and
even after the stars were glimmering above his head, he was able to
distinguish the recumbent forms of his companions, as they lay stretched
on the grass, and to note the person of Chingachgook, who sat upright
and motionless as one of the trees which formed the dark barrier on
every side. He still heard the gentle breathings of the sisters, who lay
within a few feet of him, and not a leaf was ruffled by the passing
air of which his ear did not detect the whispering sound. At length,
however, the mournful notes of a whip-poor-will became blended with the
moanings of an owl; his heavy eyes occasionally sought the bright rays
of the stars, and he then fancied he saw them through the fallen lids.
At instants of momentary wakefulness he mistook a bush for his associate
sentinel; his head next sank upon his shoulder, which, in its turn,
sought the support of the ground; and, finally, his whole person became
relaxed and pliant, and the young man sank into a deep sleep, dreaming
that he was a knight of ancient chivalry, holding his midnight vigils
before the tent of a recaptured princess, whose favor he did not despair
of gaining, by such a proof of devotion and watchfulness.

How long the tired Duncan lay in this insensible state he never
knew himself, but his slumbering visions had been long lost in total
forgetfulness, when he was awakened by a light tap on the shoulder.
Aroused by this signal, slight as it was, he sprang upon his feet with
a confused recollection of the self-imposed duty he had assumed with the
commencement of the night.

"Who comes?" he demanded, feeling for his sword, at the place where it
was usually suspended. "Speak! friend or enemy?"

"Friend," replied the low voice of Chingachgook; who, pointing upward
at the luminary which was shedding its mild light through the opening
in the trees, directly in their bivouac, immediately added, in his rude
English: "Moon comes and white man's fort far--far off; time to move,
when sleep shuts both eyes of the Frenchman!"

"You say true! Call up your friends, and bridle the horses while I
prepare my own companions for the march!"

"We are awake, Duncan," said the soft, silvery tones of Alice within the
building, "and ready to travel very fast after so refreshing a sleep;
but you have watched through the tedious night in our behalf, after
having endured so much fatigue the livelong day!"

"Say, rather, I would have watched, but my treacherous eyes betrayed me;
twice have I proved myself unfit for the trust I bear."

"Nay, Duncan, deny it not," interrupted the smiling Alice, issuing
from the shadows of the building into the light of the moon, in all the
loveliness of her freshened beauty; "I know you to be a heedless one,
when self is the object of your care, and but too vigilant in favor of
others. Can we not tarry here a little longer while you find the rest
you need? Cheerfully, most cheerfully, will Cora and I keep the vigils,
while you and all these brave men endeavor to snatch a little sleep!"

"If shame could cure me of my drowsiness, I should never close an eye
again," said the uneasy youth, gazing at the ingenuous countenance
of Alice, where, however, in its sweet solicitude, he read nothing to
confirm his half-awakened suspicion. "It is but too true, that after
leading you into danger by my heedlessness, I have not even the merit of
guarding your pillows as should become a soldier."

"No one but Duncan himself should accuse Duncan of such a weakness. Go,
then, and sleep; believe me, neither of us, weak girls as we are, will
betray our watch."

The young man was relieved from the awkwardness of making any further
protestations of his own demerits, by an exclamation from Chingachgook,
and the attitude of riveted attention assumed by his son.

"The Mohicans hear an enemy!" whispered Hawkeye, who, by this time, in
common with the whole party, was awake and stirring. "They scent danger
in the wind!"

"God forbid!" exclaimed Heyward. "Surely we have had enough of
bloodshed!"

While he spoke, however, the young soldier seized his rifle, and
advancing toward the front, prepared to atone for his venial remissness,
by freely exposing his life in defense of those he attended.

"'Tis some creature of the forest prowling around us in quest of food,"
he said, in a whisper, as soon as the low, and apparently distant
sounds, which had startled the Mohicans, reached his own ears.

"Hist!" returned the attentive scout; "'tis man; even I can now tell
his tread, poor as my senses are when compared to an Indian's! That
Scampering Huron has fallen in with one of Montcalm's outlying parties,
and they have struck upon our trail. I shouldn't like, myself, to spill
more human blood in this spot," he added, looking around with anxiety in
his features, at the dim objects by which he was surrounded; "but what
must be, must! Lead the horses into the blockhouse, Uncas; and, friends,
do you follow to the same shelter. Poor and old as it is, it offers a
cover, and has rung with the crack of a rifle afore to-night!"

He was instantly obeyed, the Mohicans leading the Narrangansetts
within the ruin, whither the whole party repaired with the most guarded
silence.

The sound of approaching footsteps were now too distinctly audible to
leave any doubts as to the nature of the interruption. They were soon
mingled with voices calling to each other in an Indian dialect, which
the hunter, in a whisper, affirmed to Heyward was the language of the
Hurons. When the party reached the point where the horses had entered
the thicket which surrounded the blockhouse, they were evidently at
fault, having lost those marks which, until that moment, had directed
their pursuit.

It would seem by the voices that twenty men were soon collected at that
one spot, mingling their different opinions and advice in noisy clamor.

"The knaves know our weakness," whispered Hawkeye, who stood by the side
of Heyward, in deep shade, looking through an opening in the logs, "or
they wouldn't indulge their idleness in such a squaw's march. Listen to
the reptiles! each man among them seems to have two tongues, and but a
single leg."

Duncan, brave as he was in the combat, could not, in such a moment of
painful suspense, make any reply to the cool and characteristic remark
of the scout. He only grasped his rifle more firmly, and fastened his
eyes upon the narrow opening, through which he gazed upon the moonlight
view with increasing anxiety. The deeper tones of one who spoke as
having authority were next heard, amid a silence that denoted the
respect with which his orders, or rather advice, was received. After
which, by the rustling of leaves, and crackling of dried twigs, it
was apparent the savages were separating in pursuit of the lost trail.
Fortunately for the pursued, the light of the moon, while it shed a
flood of mild luster upon the little area around the ruin, was not
sufficiently strong to penetrate the deep arches of the forest, where
the objects still lay in deceptive shadow. The search proved fruitless;
for so short and sudden had been the passage from the faint path the
travelers had journeyed into the thicket, that every trace of their
footsteps was lost in the obscurity of the woods.

It was not long, however, before the restless savages were heard beating
the brush, and gradually approaching the inner edge of that dense border
of young chestnuts which encircled the little area.

"They are coming," muttered Heyward, endeavoring to thrust his rifle
through the chink in the logs; "let us fire on their approach."

"Keep everything in the shade," returned the scout; "the snapping of
a flint, or even the smell of a single karnel of the brimstone, would
bring the hungry varlets upon us in a body. Should it please God that we
must give battle for the scalps, trust to the experience of men who
know the ways of the savages, and who are not often backward when the
war-whoop is howled."

Duncan cast his eyes behind him, and saw that the trembling sisters were
cowering in the far corner of the building, while the Mohicans stood in
the shadow, like two upright posts, ready, and apparently willing, to
strike when the blow should be needed. Curbing his impatience, he again
looked out upon the area, and awaited the result in silence. At that
instant the thicket opened, and a tall and armed Huron advanced a few
paces into the open space. As he gazed upon the silent blockhouse, the
moon fell upon his swarthy countenance, and betrayed its surprise and
curiosity. He made the exclamation which usually accompanies the former
emotion in an Indian, and, calling in a low voice, soon drew a companion
to his side.

These children of the woods stood together for several moments pointing
at the crumbling edifice, and conversing in the unintelligible language
of their tribe. They then approached, though with slow and cautious
steps, pausing every instant to look at the building, like startled deer
whose curiosity struggled powerfully with their awakened apprehensions
for the mastery. The foot of one of them suddenly rested on the mound,
and he stopped to examine its nature. At this moment, Heyward observed
that the scout loosened his knife in its sheath, and lowered the muzzle
of his rifle. Imitating these movements, the young man prepared himself
for the struggle which now seemed inevitable.

The savages were so near, that the least motion in one of the horses, or
even a breath louder than common, would have betrayed the fugitives. But
in discovering the character of the mound, the attention of the Hurons
appeared directed to a different object. They spoke together, and
the sounds of their voices were low and solemn, as if influenced by a
reverence that was deeply blended with awe. Then they drew warily back,
keeping their eyes riveted on the ruin, as if they expected to see
the apparitions of the dead issue from its silent walls, until, having
reached the boundary of the area, they moved slowly into the thicket and
disappeared.

Hawkeye dropped the breech of his rifle to the earth, and drawing a
long, free breath, exclaimed, in an audible whisper:

"Ay! they respect the dead, and it has this time saved their own lives,
and, it may be, the lives of better men too."

Heyward lent his attention for a single moment to his companion, but
without replying, he again turned toward those who just then interested
him more. He heard the two Hurons leave the bushes, and it was soon
plain that all the pursuers were gathered about them, in deep attention
to their report. After a few minutes of earnest and solemn dialogue,
altogether different from the noisy clamor with which they had first
collected about the spot, the sounds grew fainter and more distant, and
finally were lost in the depths of the forest.

Hawkeye waited until a signal from the listening Chingachgook assured
him that every sound from the retiring party was completely swallowed by
the distance, when he motioned to Heyward to lead forth the horses, and
to assist the sisters into their saddles. The instant this was done
they issued through the broken gateway, and stealing out by a direction
opposite to the one by which they entered, they quitted the spot, the
sisters casting furtive glances at the silent, grave and crumbling ruin,
as they left the soft light of the moon, to bury themselves in the gloom
of the woods.




CHAPTER 14

     "Guard.--Qui est la?
     Puc.   --Paisans, pauvres gens de France."
     --King Henry VI

During the rapid movement from the blockhouse, and until the party was
deeply buried in the forest, each individual was too much interested in
the escape to hazard a word even in whispers. The scout resumed his
post in advance, though his steps, after he had thrown a safe distance
between himself and his enemies, were more deliberate than in their
previous march, in consequence of his utter ignorance of the localities
of the surrounding woods. More than once he halted to consult with his
confederates, the Mohicans, pointing upward at the moon, and examining
the barks of the trees with care. In these brief pauses, Heyward and the
sisters listened, with senses rendered doubly acute by the danger, to
detect any symptoms which might announce the proximity of their foes.
At such moments, it seemed as if a vast range of country lay buried in
eternal sleep; not the least sound arising from the forest, unless it
was the distant and scarcely audible rippling of a water-course. Birds,
beasts, and man, appeared to slumber alike, if, indeed, any of the
latter were to be found in that wide tract of wilderness. But the sounds
of the rivulet, feeble and murmuring as they were, relieved the guides
at once from no trifling embarrassment, and toward it they immediately
held their way.

When the banks of the little stream were gained, Hawkeye made another
halt; and taking the moccasins from his feet, he invited Heyward and
Gamut to follow his example. He then entered the water, and for near an
hour they traveled in the bed of the brook, leaving no trail. The
moon had already sunk into an immense pile of black clouds, which lay
impending above the western horizon, when they issued from the low and
devious water-course to rise again to the light and level of the sandy
but wooded plain. Here the scout seemed to be once more at home, for he
held on this way with the certainty and diligence of a man who moved in
the security of his own knowledge. The path soon became more uneven, and
the travelers could plainly perceive that the mountains drew nigher to
them on each hand, and that they were, in truth, about entering one of
their gorges. Suddenly, Hawkeye made a pause, and, waiting until he
was joined by the whole party, he spoke, though in tones so low and
cautious, that they added to the solemnity of his words, in the quiet
and darkness of the place.

"It is easy to know the pathways, and to find the licks and
water-courses of the wilderness," he said; "but who that saw this spot
could venture to say, that a mighty army was at rest among yonder silent
trees and barren mountains?"

"We are, then, at no great distance from William Henry?" said Heyward,
advancing nigher to the scout.

"It is yet a long and weary path, and when and where to strike it is
now our greatest difficulty. See," he said, pointing through the trees
toward a spot where a little basin of water reflected the stars from its
placid bosom, "here is the 'bloody pond'; and I am on ground that I have
not only often traveled, but over which I have fou't the enemy, from the
rising to the setting sun."

"Ha! that sheet of dull and dreary water, then, is the sepulcher of the
brave men who fell in the contest. I have heard it named, but never have
I stood on its banks before."

"Three battles did we make with the Dutch-Frenchman* in a day,"
continued Hawkeye, pursuing the train of his own thoughts, rather than
replying to the remark of Duncan. "He met us hard by, in our outward
march to ambush his advance, and scattered us, like driven deer, through
the defile, to the shores of Horican. Then we rallied behind our fallen
trees, and made head against him, under Sir William--who was made Sir
William for that very deed; and well did we pay him for the disgrace
of the morning! Hundreds of Frenchmen saw the sun that day for the last
time; and even their leader, Dieskau himself, fell into our hands, so
cut and torn with the lead, that he has gone back to his own country,
unfit for further acts in war."

     * Baron Dieskau, a German, in the service of France. A few
     years previously to the period of the tale, this officer was
     defeated by Sir William Johnson, of Johnstown, New York, on
     the shores of Lake George.

"'Twas a noble repulse!" exclaimed Heyward, in the heat of his youthful
ardor; "the fame of it reached us early, in our southern army."

"Ay! but it did not end there. I was sent by Major Effingham, at Sir
William's own bidding, to outflank the French, and carry the tidings
of their disaster across the portage, to the fort on the Hudson. Just
hereaway, where you see the trees rise into a mountain swell, I met a
party coming down to our aid, and I led them where the enemy were taking
their meal, little dreaming that they had not finished the bloody work
of the day."

"And you surprised them?"

"If death can be a surprise to men who are thinking only of the cravings
of their appetites. We gave them but little breathing time, for they had
borne hard upon us in the fight of the morning, and there were few in
our party who had not lost friend or relative by their hands."

"When all was over, the dead, and some say the dying, were cast into
that little pond. These eyes have seen its waters colored with blood, as
natural water never yet flowed from the bowels of the 'arth."

"It was a convenient, and, I trust, will prove a peaceful grave for a
soldier. You have then seen much service on this frontier?"

"Ay!" said the scout, erecting his tall person with an air of military
pride; "there are not many echoes among these hills that haven't rung
with the crack of my rifle, nor is there the space of a square mile
atwixt Horican and the river, that 'killdeer' hasn't dropped a living
body on, be it an enemy or be it a brute beast. As for the grave there
being as quiet as you mention, it is another matter. There are them
in the camp who say and think, man, to lie still, should not be buried
while the breath is in the body; and certain it is that in the hurry of
that evening, the doctors had but little time to say who was living and
who was dead. Hist! see you nothing walking on the shore of the pond?"

"'Tis not probable that any are as houseless as ourselves in this dreary
forest."

"Such as he may care but little for house or shelter, and night dew can
never wet a body that passes its days in the water," returned the scout,
grasping the shoulder of Heyward with such convulsive strength as to
make the young soldier painfully sensible how much superstitious terror
had got the mastery of a man usually so dauntless.

"By heaven, there is a human form, and it approaches! Stand to your
arms, my friends; for we know not whom we encounter."

"Qui vive?" demanded a stern, quick voice, which sounded like a
challenge from another world, issuing out of that solitary and solemn
place.

"What says it?" whispered the scout; "it speaks neither Indian nor
English."

"Qui vive?" repeated the same voice, which was quickly followed by the
rattling of arms, and a menacing attitude.

"France!" cried Heyward, advancing from the shadow of the trees to the
shore of the pond, within a few yards of the sentinel.

"D'ou venez-vous--ou allez-vous, d'aussi bonne heure?" demanded the
grenadier, in the language and with the accent of a man from old France.

"Je viens de la decouverte, et je vais me coucher."

"Etes-vous officier du roi?"

"Sans doute, mon camarade; me prends-tu pour un provincial! Je suis
capitaine de chasseurs (Heyward well knew that the other was of a
regiment in the line); j'ai ici, avec moi, les filles du commandant
de la fortification. Aha! tu en as entendu parler! je les ai fait
prisonnieres pres de l'autre fort, et je les conduis au general."

"Ma foi! mesdames; j'en suis fache pour vous," exclaimed the young
soldier, touching his cap with grace; "mais--fortune de guerre! vous
trouverez notre general un brave homme, et bien poli avec les dames."

"C'est le caractere des gens de guerre," said Cora, with admirable
self-possession. "Adieu, mon ami; je vous souhaiterais un devoir plus
agreable a remplir."

The soldier made a low and humble acknowledgment for her civility; and
Heyward adding a "Bonne nuit, mon camarade," they moved deliberately
forward, leaving the sentinel pacing the banks of the silent pond,
little suspecting an enemy of so much effrontery, and humming to himself
those words which were recalled to his mind by the sight of women, and,
perhaps, by recollections of his own distant and beautiful France: "Vive
le vin, vive l'amour," etc., etc.

"'Tis well you understood the knave!" whispered the scout, when they had
gained a little distance from the place, and letting his rifle fall into
the hollow of his arm again; "I soon saw that he was one of them uneasy
Frenchers; and well for him it was that his speech was friendly and his
wishes kind, or a place might have been found for his bones among those
of his countrymen."

He was interrupted by a long and heavy groan which arose from the little
basin, as though, in truth, the spirits of the departed lingered about
their watery sepulcher.

"Surely it was of flesh," continued the scout; "no spirit could handle
its arms so steadily."

"It was of flesh; but whether the poor fellow still belongs to this
world may well be doubted," said Heyward, glancing his eyes around him,
and missing Chingachgook from their little band. Another groan more
faint than the former was succeeded by a heavy and sullen plunge into
the water, and all was still again as if the borders of the dreary pool
had never been awakened from the silence of creation. While they yet
hesitated in uncertainty, the form of the Indian was seen gliding out of
the thicket. As the chief rejoined them, with one hand he attached the
reeking scalp of the unfortunate young Frenchman to his girdle, and with
the other he replaced the knife and tomahawk that had drunk his blood.
He then took his wonted station, with the air of a man who believed he
had done a deed of merit.

The scout dropped one end of his rifle to the earth, and leaning his
hands on the other, he stood musing in profound silence. Then, shaking
his head in a mournful manner, he muttered:

"'Twould have been a cruel and an unhuman act for a white-skin; but 'tis
the gift and natur' of an Indian, and I suppose it should not be denied.
I could wish, though, it had befallen an accursed Mingo, rather than
that gay young boy from the old countries."

"Enough!" said Heyward, apprehensive the unconscious sisters might
comprehend the nature of the detention, and conquering his disgust by a
train of reflections very much like that of the hunter; "'tis done; and
though better it were left undone, cannot be amended. You see, we are,
too obviously within the sentinels of the enemy; what course do you
propose to follow?"

"Yes," said Hawkeye, rousing himself again; "'tis as you say, too late
to harbor further thoughts about it. Ay, the French have gathered around
the fort in good earnest and we have a delicate needle to thread in
passing them."

"And but little time to do it in," added Heyward, glancing his eyes
upwards, toward the bank of vapor that concealed the setting moon.

"And little time to do it in!" repeated the scout. "The thing may be
done in two fashions, by the help of Providence, without which it may
not be done at all."

"Name them quickly for time presses."

"One would be to dismount the gentle ones, and let their beasts range
the plain, by sending the Mohicans in front, we might then cut a lane
through their sentries, and enter the fort over the dead bodies."

"It will not do--it will not do!" interrupted the generous Heyward;
"a soldier might force his way in this manner, but never with such a
convoy."

"'Twould be, indeed, a bloody path for such tender feet to wade in,"
returned the equally reluctant scout; "but I thought it befitting my
manhood to name it. We must, then, turn in our trail and get without the
line of their lookouts, when we will bend short to the west, and enter
the mountains; where I can hide you, so that all the devil's hounds in
Montcalm's pay would be thrown off the scent for months to come."

"Let it be done, and that instantly."

Further words were unnecessary; for Hawkeye, merely uttering the mandate
to "follow," moved along the route by which they had just entered their
present critical and even dangerous situation. Their progress, like
their late dialogue, was guarded, and without noise; for none knew at
what moment a passing patrol, or a crouching picket of the enemy, might
rise upon their path. As they held their silent way along the margin
of the pond, again Heyward and the scout stole furtive glances at its
appalling dreariness. They looked in vain for the form they had so
recently seen stalking along in silent shores, while a low and regular
wash of the little waves, by announcing that the waters were not yet
subsided, furnished a frightful memorial of the deed of blood they had
just witnessed. Like all that passing and gloomy scene, the low basin,
however, quickly melted in the darkness, and became blended with the
mass of black objects in the rear of the travelers.

Hawkeye soon deviated from the line of their retreat, and striking off
towards the mountains which form the western boundary of the narrow
plain, he led his followers, with swift steps, deep within the shadows
that were cast from their high and broken summits. The route was now
painful; lying over ground ragged with rocks, and intersected with
ravines, and their progress proportionately slow. Bleak and black
hills lay on every side of them, compensating in some degree for the
additional toil of the march by the sense of security they imparted. At
length the party began slowly to rise a steep and rugged ascent, by a
path that curiously wound among rocks and trees, avoiding the one and
supported by the other, in a manner that showed it had been devised by
men long practised in the arts of the wilderness. As they gradually rose
from the level of the valleys, the thick darkness which usually precedes
the approach of day began to disperse, and objects were seen in the
plain and palpable colors with which they had been gifted by nature.
When they issued from the stunted woods which clung to the barren sides
of the mountain, upon a flat and mossy rock that formed its summit, they
met the morning, as it came blushing above the green pines of a hill
that lay on the opposite side of the valley of the Horican.

The scout now told the sisters to dismount; and taking the bridles from
the mouths, and the saddles off the backs of the jaded beasts, he turned
them loose, to glean a scanty subsistence among the shrubs and meager
herbage of that elevated region.

"Go," he said, "and seek your food where natur' gives it to you; and
beware that you become not food to ravenous wolves yourselves, among
these hills."

"Have we no further need of them?" demanded Heyward.

"See, and judge with your own eyes," said the scout, advancing toward
the eastern brow of the mountain, whither he beckoned for the whole
party to follow; "if it was as easy to look into the heart of man as
it is to spy out the nakedness of Montcalm's camp from this spot,
hypocrites would grow scarce, and the cunning of a Mingo might prove a
losing game, compared to the honesty of a Delaware."

When the travelers reached the verge of the precipices they saw, at
a glance, the truth of the scout's declaration, and the admirable
foresight with which he had led them to their commanding station.

The mountain on which they stood, elevated perhaps a thousand feet in
the air, was a high cone that rose a little in advance of that range
which stretches for miles along the western shores of the lake, until
meeting its sisters miles beyond the water, it ran off toward the
Canadas, in confused and broken masses of rock, thinly sprinkled with
evergreens. Immediately at the feet of the party, the southern shore
of the Horican swept in a broad semicircle from mountain to mountain,
marking a wide strand, that soon rose into an uneven and somewhat
elevated plain. To the north stretched the limpid, and, as it appeared
from that dizzy height, the narrow sheet of the "holy lake," indented
with numberless bays, embellished by fantastic headlands, and dotted
with countless islands. At the distance of a few leagues, the bed of the
water became lost among mountains, or was wrapped in the masses of vapor
that came slowly rolling along their bosom, before a light morning air.
But a narrow opening between the crests of the hills pointed out the
passage by which they found their way still further north, to spread
their pure and ample sheets again, before pouring out their tribute
into the distant Champlain. To the south stretched the defile, or rather
broken plain, so often mentioned. For several miles in this direction,
the mountains appeared reluctant to yield their dominion, but within
reach of the eye they diverged, and finally melted into the level and
sandy lands, across which we have accompanied our adventurers in their
double journey. Along both ranges of hills, which bounded the opposite
sides of the lake and valley, clouds of light vapor were rising in
spiral wreaths from the uninhabited woods, looking like the smoke of
hidden cottages; or rolled lazily down the declivities, to mingle with
the fogs of the lower land. A single, solitary, snow-white cloud floated
above the valley, and marked the spot beneath which lay the silent pool
of the "bloody pond."

Directly on the shore of the lake, and nearer to its western than to its
eastern margin, lay the extensive earthen ramparts and low buildings
of William Henry. Two of the sweeping bastions appeared to rest on
the water which washed their bases, while a deep ditch and extensive
morasses guarded its other sides and angles. The land had been cleared
of wood for a reasonable distance around the work, but every other part
of the scene lay in the green livery of nature, except where the limpid
water mellowed the view, or the bold rocks thrust their black and naked
heads above the undulating outline of the mountain ranges. In its front
might be seen the scattered sentinels, who held a weary watch against
their numerous foes; and within the walls themselves, the travelers
looked down upon men still drowsy with a night of vigilance. Toward the
southeast, but in immediate contact with the fort, was an entrenched
camp, posted on a rocky eminence, that would have been far more eligible
for the work itself, in which Hawkeye pointed out the presence of
those auxiliary regiments that had so recently left the Hudson in their
company. From the woods, a little further to the south, rose numerous
dark and lurid smokes, that were easily to be distinguished from the
purer exhalations of the springs, and which the scout also showed to
Heyward, as evidences that the enemy lay in force in that direction.

But the spectacle which most concerned the young soldier was on the
western bank of the lake, though quite near to its southern termination.
On a strip of land, which appeared from his stand too narrow to contain
such an army, but which, in truth, extended many hundreds of yards from
the shores of the Horican to the base of the mountain, were to be seen
the white tents and military engines of an encampment of ten thousand
men. Batteries were already thrown up in their front, and even while the
spectators above them were looking down, with such different emotions,
on a scene which lay like a map beneath their feet, the roar of
artillery rose from the valley, and passed off in thundering echoes
along the eastern hills.

"Morning is just touching them below," said the deliberate and musing
scout, "and the watchers have a mind to wake up the sleepers by the
sound of cannon. We are a few hours too late! Montcalm has already
filled the woods with his accursed Iroquois."

"The place is, indeed, invested," returned Duncan; "but is there no
expedient by which we may enter? capture in the works would be far
preferable to falling again into the hands of roving Indians."

"See!" exclaimed the scout, unconsciously directing the attention of
Cora to the quarters of her own father, "how that shot has made the
stones fly from the side of the commandant's house! Ay! these Frenchers
will pull it to pieces faster than it was put together, solid and thick
though it be!"

"Heyward, I sicken at the sight of danger that I cannot share," said
the undaunted but anxious daughter. "Let us go to Montcalm, and demand
admission: he dare not deny a child the boon."

"You would scarce find the tent of the Frenchman with the hair on your
head"; said the blunt scout. "If I had but one of the thousand boats
which lie empty along that shore, it might be done! Ha! here will soon
be an end of the firing, for yonder comes a fog that will turn day to
night, and make an Indian arrow more dangerous than a molded cannon.
Now, if you are equal to the work, and will follow, I will make a push;
for I long to get down into that camp, if it be only to scatter some
Mingo dogs that I see lurking in the skirts of yonder thicket of birch."

"We are equal," said Cora, firmly; "on such an errand we will follow to
any danger."

The scout turned to her with a smile of honest and cordial approbation,
as he answered:

"I would I had a thousand men, of brawny limbs and quick eyes, that
feared death as little as you! I'd send them jabbering Frenchers back
into their den again, afore the week was ended, howling like so many
fettered hounds or hungry wolves. But, sir," he added, turning from her
to the rest of the party, "the fog comes rolling down so fast, we shall
have but just the time to meet it on the plain, and use it as a cover.
Remember, if any accident should befall me, to keep the air blowing on
your left cheeks--or, rather, follow the Mohicans; they'd scent their
way, be it in day or be it at night."

He then waved his hand for them to follow, and threw himself down the
steep declivity, with free, but careful footsteps. Heyward assisted
the sisters to descend, and in a few minutes they were all far down a
mountain whose sides they had climbed with so much toil and pain.

The direction taken by Hawkeye soon brought the travelers to the level
of the plain, nearly opposite to a sally-port in the western curtain of
the fort, which lay itself at the distance of about half a mile from
the point where he halted to allow Duncan to come up with his charge.
In their eagerness, and favored by the nature of the ground, they had
anticipated the fog, which was rolling heavily down the lake, and it
became necessary to pause, until the mists had wrapped the camp of the
enemy in their fleecy mantle. The Mohicans profited by the delay, to
steal out of the woods, and to make a survey of surrounding objects.
They were followed at a little distance by the scout, with a view to
profit early by their report, and to obtain some faint knowledge for
himself of the more immediate localities.

In a very few moments he returned, his face reddened with vexation,
while he muttered his disappointment in words of no very gentle import.

"Here has the cunning Frenchman been posting a picket directly in our
path," he said; "red-skins and whites; and we shall be as likely to fall
into their midst as to pass them in the fog!"

"Cannot we make a circuit to avoid the danger," asked Heyward, "and come
into our path again when it is passed?"

"Who that once bends from the line of his march in a fog can tell when
or how to find it again! The mists of Horican are not like the curls
from a peace-pipe, or the smoke which settles above a mosquito fire."

He was yet speaking, when a crashing sound was heard, and a cannon-ball
entered the thicket, striking the body of a sapling, and rebounding to
the earth, its force being much expended by previous resistance.
The Indians followed instantly like busy attendants on the terrible
messenger, and Uncas commenced speaking earnestly and with much action,
in the Delaware tongue.

"It may be so, lad," muttered the scout, when he had ended; "for
desperate fevers are not to be treated like a toothache. Come, then, the
fog is shutting in."

"Stop!" cried Heyward; "first explain your expectations."

"'Tis soon done, and a small hope it is; but it is better than nothing.
This shot that you see," added the scout, kicking the harmless iron with
his foot, "has plowed the 'arth in its road from the fort, and we shall
hunt for the furrow it has made, when all other signs may fail. No more
words, but follow, or the fog may leave us in the middle of our path, a
mark for both armies to shoot at."

Heyward perceiving that, in fact, a crisis had arrived, when acts were
more required than words, placed himself between the sisters, and drew
them swiftly forward, keeping the dim figure of their leader in his eye.
It was soon apparent that Hawkeye had not magnified the power of the
fog, for before they had proceeded twenty yards, it was difficult for
the different individuals of the party to distinguish each other in the
vapor.

They had made their little circuit to the left, and were already
inclining again toward the right, having, as Heyward thought, got over
nearly half the distance to the friendly works, when his ears were
saluted with the fierce summons, apparently within twenty feet of them,
of:

"Qui va la?"

"Push on!" whispered the scout, once more bending to the left.

"Push on!" repeated Heyward; when the summons was renewed by a dozen
voices, each of which seemed charged with menace.

"C'est moi," cried Duncan, dragging rather than leading those he
supported swiftly onward.

"Bete!--qui?--moi!"

"Ami de la France."

"Tu m'as plus l'air d'un ennemi de la France; arrete ou pardieu je te
ferai ami du diable. Non! feu, camarades, feu!"

The order was instantly obeyed, and the fog was stirred by the explosion
of fifty muskets. Happily, the aim was bad, and the bullets cut the
air in a direction a little different from that taken by the fugitives;
though still so nigh them, that to the unpractised ears of David and the
two females, it appeared as if they whistled within a few inches of the
organs. The outcry was renewed, and the order, not only to fire again,
but to pursue, was too plainly audible. When Heyward briefly explained
the meaning of the words they heard, Hawkeye halted and spoke with quick
decision and great firmness.

"Let us deliver our fire," he said; "they will believe it a sortie, and
give way, or they will wait for reinforcements."

The scheme was well conceived, but failed in its effects. The instant
the French heard the pieces, it seemed as if the plain was alive with
men, muskets rattling along its whole extent, from the shores of the
lake to the furthest boundary of the woods.

"We shall draw their entire army upon us, and bring on a general
assault," said Duncan: "lead on, my friend, for your own life and ours."

The scout seemed willing to comply; but, in the hurry of the moment, and
in the change of position, he had lost the direction. In vain he turned
either cheek toward the light air; they felt equally cool. In this
dilemma, Uncas lighted on the furrow of the cannon ball, where it had
cut the ground in three adjacent ant-hills.

"Give me the range!" said Hawkeye, bending to catch a glimpse of the
direction, and then instantly moving onward.

Cries, oaths, voices calling to each other, and the reports of muskets,
were now quick and incessant, and, apparently, on every side of them.
Suddenly a strong glare of light flashed across the scene, the fog
rolled upward in thick wreaths, and several cannons belched across the
plain, and the roar was thrown heavily back from the bellowing echoes of
the mountain.

"'Tis from the fort!" exclaimed Hawkeye, turning short on his tracks;
"and we, like stricken fools, were rushing to the woods, under the very
knives of the Maquas."

The instant their mistake was rectified, the whole party retraced the
error with the utmost diligence. Duncan willingly relinquished the
support of Cora to the arm of Uncas and Cora as readily accepted the
welcome assistance. Men, hot and angry in pursuit, were evidently on
their footsteps, and each instant threatened their capture, if not their
destruction.

"Point de quartier aux coquins!" cried an eager pursuer, who seemed to
direct the operations of the enemy.

"Stand firm, and be ready, my gallant Sixtieths!" suddenly exclaimed
a voice above them; "wait to see the enemy, fire low and sweep the
glacis."

"Father! father!" exclaimed a piercing cry from out the mist: "it is I!
Alice! thy own Elsie! Spare, oh! save your daughters!"

"Hold!" shouted the former speaker, in the awful tones of parental
agony, the sound reaching even to the woods, and rolling back in solemn
echo. "'Tis she! God has restored me to my children! Throw open the
sally-port; to the field, Sixtieths, to the field; pull not a trigger,
lest ye kill my lambs! Drive off these dogs of France with your steel."

Duncan heard the grating of the rusty hinges, and darting to the spot,
directed by the sound, he met a long line of dark red warriors, passing
swiftly toward the glacis. He knew them for his own battalion of the
Royal Americans, and flying to their head, soon swept every trace of his
pursuers from before the works.

For an instant, Cora and Alice had stood trembling and bewildered by
this unexpected desertion; but before either had leisure for speech, or
even thought, an officer of gigantic frame, whose locks were bleached
with years and service, but whose air of military grandeur had been
rather softened than destroyed by time, rushed out of the body of mist,
and folded them to his bosom, while large scalding tears rolled down his
pale and wrinkled cheeks, and he exclaimed, in the peculiar accent of
Scotland:

"For this I thank thee, Lord! Let danger come as it will, thy servant is
now prepared!"




CHAPTER 15

     "Then go we in, to know his embassy;
     Which I could, with ready guess, declare,
     Before the Frenchmen speak a word of it."
     --King Henry V

A few succeeding days were passed amid the privations, the uproar,
and the dangers of the siege, which was vigorously pressed by a
power, against whose approaches Munro possessed no competent means of
resistance. It appeared as if Webb, with his army, which lay slumbering
on the banks of the Hudson, had utterly forgotten the strait to which
his countrymen were reduced. Montcalm had filled the woods of the
portage with his savages, every yell and whoop from whom rang through
the British encampment, chilling the hearts of men who were already but
too much disposed to magnify the danger.

Not so, however, with the besieged. Animated by the words, and
stimulated by the examples of their leaders, they had found their
courage, and maintained their ancient reputation, with a zeal that did
justice to the stern character of their commander. As if satisfied with
the toil of marching through the wilderness to encounter his enemy, the
French general, though of approved skill, had neglected to seize the
adjacent mountains; whence the besieged might have been exterminated
with impunity, and which, in the more modern warfare of the country,
would not have been neglected for a single hour. This sort of contempt
for eminences, or rather dread of the labor of ascending them, might
have been termed the besetting weakness of the warfare of the period. It
originated in the simplicity of the Indian contests, in which, from the
nature of the combats, and the density of the forests, fortresses were
rare, and artillery next to useless. The carelessness engendered by
these usages descended even to the war of the Revolution and lost the
States the important fortress of Ticonderoga opening a way for the army
of Burgoyne into what was then the bosom of the country. We look back at
this ignorance, or infatuation, whichever it may be called, with wonder,
knowing that the neglect of an eminence, whose difficulties, like those
of Mount Defiance, have been so greatly exaggerated, would, at the
present time, prove fatal to the reputation of the engineer who had
planned the works at their base, or to that of the general whose lot it
was to defend them.

The tourist, the valetudinarian, or the amateur of the beauties of
nature, who, in the train of his four-in-hand, now rolls through the
scenes we have attempted to describe, in quest of information, health,
or pleasure, or floats steadily toward his object on those artificial
waters which have sprung up under the administration of a statesman* who
has dared to stake his political character on the hazardous issue, is
not to suppose that his ancestors traversed those hills, or struggled
with the same currents with equal facility. The transportation of a
single heavy gun was often considered equal to a victory gained; if
happily, the difficulties of the passage had not so far separated it
from its necessary concomitant, the ammunition, as to render it no more
than a useless tube of unwieldy iron.

     * Evidently the late De Witt Clinton, who died governor of
     New York in 1828.

The evils of this state of things pressed heavily on the fortunes of the
resolute Scotsman who now defended William Henry. Though his adversary
neglected the hills, he had planted his batteries with judgment on the
plain, and caused them to be served with vigor and skill. Against
this assault, the besieged could only oppose the imperfect and hasty
preparations of a fortress in the wilderness.

It was in the afternoon of the fifth day of the siege, and the fourth of
his own service in it, that Major Heyward profited by a parley that
had just been beaten, by repairing to the ramparts of one of the water
bastions, to breathe the cool air from the lake, and to take a survey
of the progress of the siege. He was alone, if the solitary sentinel who
paced the mound be excepted; for the artillerists had hastened also to
profit by the temporary suspension of their arduous duties. The evening
was delightfully calm, and the light air from the limpid water fresh and
soothing. It seemed as if, with the termination of the roar of artillery
and the plunging of shot, nature had also seized the moment to assume
her mildest and most captivating form. The sun poured down his parting
glory on the scene, without the oppression of those fierce rays that
belong to the climate and the season. The mountains looked green,
and fresh, and lovely, tempered with the milder light, or softened in
shadow, as thin vapors floated between them and the sun. The numerous
islands rested on the bosom of the Horican, some low and sunken, as if
embedded in the waters, and others appearing to hover about the element,
in little hillocks of green velvet; among which the fishermen of the
beleaguering army peacefully rowed their skiffs, or floated at rest on
the glassy mirror in quiet pursuit of their employment.

The scene was at once animated and still. All that pertained to nature
was sweet, or simply grand; while those parts which depended on the
temper and movements of man were lively and playful.

Two little spotless flags were abroad, the one on a salient angle of the
fort, and the other on the advanced battery of the besiegers; emblems of
the truth which existed, not only to the acts, but it would seem, also,
to the enmity of the combatants.

Behind these again swung, heavily opening and closing in silken folds,
the rival standards of England and France.

A hundred gay and thoughtless young Frenchmen were drawing a net to the
pebbly beach, within dangerous proximity to the sullen but silent cannon
of the fort, while the eastern mountain was sending back the loud shouts
and gay merriment that attended their sport. Some were rushing eagerly
to enjoy the aquatic games of the lake, and others were already toiling
their way up the neighboring hills, with the restless curiosity of their
nation. To all these sports and pursuits, those of the enemy who watched
the besieged, and the besieged themselves, were, however, merely the
idle though sympathizing spectators. Here and there a picket had,
indeed, raised a song, or mingled in a dance, which had drawn the
dusky savages around them, from their lairs in the forest. In short,
everything wore rather the appearance of a day of pleasure, than of
an hour stolen from the dangers and toil of a bloody and vindictive
warfare.

Duncan had stood in a musing attitude, contemplating this scene a few
minutes, when his eyes were directed to the glacis in front of the
sally-port already mentioned, by the sounds of approaching footsteps. He
walked to an angle of the bastion, and beheld the scout advancing,
under the custody of a French officer, to the body of the fort. The
countenance of Hawkeye was haggard and careworn, and his air dejected,
as though he felt the deepest degradation at having fallen into the
power of his enemies. He was without his favorite weapon, and his arms
were even bound behind him with thongs, made of the skin of a deer. The
arrival of flags to cover the messengers of summons, had occurred so
often of late, that when Heyward first threw his careless glance on this
group, he expected to see another of the officers of the enemy, charged
with a similar office but the instant he recognized the tall person and
still sturdy though downcast features of his friend, the woodsman, he
started with surprise, and turned to descend from the bastion into the
bosom of the work.

The sounds of other voices, however, caught his attention, and for a
moment caused him to forget his purpose. At the inner angle of the mound
he met the sisters, walking along the parapet, in search, like himself,
of air and relief from confinement. They had not met from that painful
moment when he deserted them on the plain, only to assure their safety.
He had parted from them worn with care, and jaded with fatigue; he now
saw them refreshed and blooming, though timid and anxious. Under such an
inducement it will cause no surprise that the young man lost sight for
a time, of other objects in order to address them. He was, however,
anticipated by the voice of the ingenuous and youthful Alice.

"Ah! thou tyrant! thou recreant knight! he who abandons his damsels
in the very lists," she cried; "here have we been days, nay, ages,
expecting you at our feet, imploring mercy and forgetfulness of your
craven backsliding, or I should rather say, backrunning--for verily you
fled in the manner that no stricken deer, as our worthy friend the scout
would say, could equal!"

"You know that Alice means our thanks and our blessings," added the
graver and more thoughtful Cora. "In truth, we have a little wonder why
you should so rigidly absent yourself from a place where the gratitude
of the daughters might receive the support of a parent's thanks."

"Your father himself could tell you, that, though absent from your
presence, I have not been altogether forgetful of your safety," returned
the young man; "the mastery of yonder village of huts," pointing to the
neighboring entrenched camp, "has been keenly disputed; and he who holds
it is sure to be possessed of this fort, and that which it contains. My
days and nights have all been passed there since we separated, because
I thought that duty called me thither. But," he added, with an air of
chagrin, which he endeavored, though unsuccessfully, to conceal, "had
I been aware that what I then believed a soldier's conduct could be so
construed, shame would have been added to the list of reasons."

"Heyward! Duncan!" exclaimed Alice, bending forward to read his
half-averted countenance, until a lock of her golden hair rested on her
flushed cheek, and nearly concealed the tear that had started to her
eye; "did I think this idle tongue of mine had pained you, I would
silence it forever. Cora can say, if Cora would, how justly we have
prized your services, and how deep--I had almost said, how fervent--is
our gratitude."

"And will Cora attest the truth of this?" cried Duncan, suffering the
cloud to be chased from his countenance by a smile of open pleasure.
"What says our graver sister? Will she find an excuse for the neglect of
the knight in the duty of a soldier?"

Cora made no immediate answer, but turned her face toward the water, as
if looking on the sheet of the Horican. When she did bend her dark eyes
on the young man, they were yet filled with an expression of anguish
that at once drove every thought but that of kind solicitude from his
mind.

"You are not well, dearest Miss Munro!" he exclaimed; "we have trifled
while you are in suffering!"

"'Tis nothing," she answered, refusing his support with feminine
reserve. "That I cannot see the sunny side of the picture of life, like
this artless but ardent enthusiast," she added, laying her hand lightly,
but affectionately, on the arm of her sister, "is the penalty of
experience, and, perhaps, the misfortune of my nature. See," she
continued, as if determined to shake off infirmity, in a sense of duty;
"look around you, Major Heyward, and tell me what a prospect is this for
the daughter of a soldier whose greatest happiness is his honor and his
military renown."

"Neither ought nor shall be tarnished by circumstances over which he has
had no control," Duncan warmly replied. "But your words recall me to my
own duty. I go now to your gallant father, to hear his determination
in matters of the last moment to the defense. God bless you in every
fortune, noble--Cora--I may and must call you." She frankly gave him her
hand, though her lip quivered, and her cheeks gradually became of ashly
paleness. "In every fortune, I know you will be an ornament and honor
to your sex. Alice, adieu"--his voice changed from admiration to
tenderness--"adieu, Alice; we shall soon meet again; as conquerors, I
trust, and amid rejoicings!"

Without waiting for an answer from either, the young man threw himself
down the grassy steps of the bastion, and moving rapidly across the
parade, he was quickly in the presence of their father. Munro was pacing
his narrow apartment with a disturbed air and gigantic strides as Duncan
entered.

"You have anticipated my wishes, Major Heyward," he said; "I was about
to request this favor."

"I am sorry to see, sir, that the messenger I so warmly recommended has
returned in custody of the French! I hope there is no reason to distrust
his fidelity?"

"The fidelity of 'The Long Rifle' is well known to me," returned Munro,
"and is above suspicion; though his usual good fortune seems, at last,
to have failed. Montcalm has got him, and with the accursed politeness
of his nation, he has sent him in with a doleful tale, of 'knowing how
I valued the fellow, he could not think of retaining him.' A Jesuitical
way that, Major Duncan Heyward, of telling a man of his misfortunes!"

"But the general and his succor?"

"Did ye look to the south as ye entered, and could ye not see them?"
said the old soldier, laughing bitterly.

"Hoot! hoot! you're an impatient boy, sir, and cannot give the gentlemen
leisure for their march!"

"They are coming, then? The scout has said as much?"

"When? and by what path? for the dunce has omitted to tell me this.
There is a letter, it would seem, too; and that is the only agreeable
part of the matter. For the customary attentions of your Marquis of
Montcalm--I warrant me, Duncan, that he of Lothian would buy a dozen
such marquisates--but if the news of the letter were bad, the gentility
of this French monsieur would certainly compel him to let us know it."

"He keeps the letter, then, while he releases the messenger?"

"Ay, that does he, and all for the sake of what you call your
'bonhommie' I would venture, if the truth was known, the fellow's
grandfather taught the noble science of dancing."

"But what says the scout? he has eyes and ears, and a tongue. What
verbal report does he make?"

"Oh! sir, he is not wanting in natural organs, and he is free to tell
all that he has seen and heard. The whole amount is this; there is a
fort of his majesty's on the banks of the Hudson, called Edward, in
honor of his gracious highness of York, you'll know; and it is well
filled with armed men, as such a work should be."

"But was there no movement, no signs of any intention to advance to our
relief?"

"There were the morning and evening parades; and when one of the
provincial loons--you'll know, Duncan, you're half a Scotsman
yourself--when one of them dropped his powder over his porretch, if it
touched the coals, it just burned!" Then, suddenly changing his bitter,
ironical manner, to one more grave and thoughtful, he continued: "and
yet there might, and must be, something in that letter which it would be
well to know!"

"Our decision should be speedy," said Duncan, gladly availing himself
of this change of humor, to press the more important objects of their
interview; "I cannot conceal from you, sir, that the camp will not be
much longer tenable; and I am sorry to add, that things appear no better
in the fort; more than half the guns are bursted."

"And how should it be otherwise? Some were fished from the bottom of
the lake; some have been rusting in woods since the discovery of
the country; and some were never guns at all--mere privateersmen's
playthings! Do you think, sir, you can have Woolwich Warren in the midst
of a wilderness, three thousand miles from Great Britain?"

"The walls are crumbling about our ears, and provisions begin to fail
us," continued Heyward, without regarding the new burst of indignation;
"even the men show signs of discontent and alarm."

"Major Heyward," said Munro, turning to his youthful associate with
the dignity of his years and superior rank; "I should have served his
majesty for half a century, and earned these gray hairs in vain, were
I ignorant of all you say, and of the pressing nature of our
circumstances; still, there is everything due to the honor of the king's
arms, and something to ourselves. While there is hope of succor, this
fortress will I defend, though it be to be done with pebbles gathered
on the lake shore. It is a sight of the letter, therefore, that we want,
that we may know the intentions of the man the earl of Loudon has left
among us as his substitute."

"And can I be of service in the matter?"

"Sir, you can; the marquis of Montcalm has, in addition to his other
civilities, invited me to a personal interview between the works and his
own camp; in order, as he says, to impart some additional information.
Now, I think it would not be wise to show any undue solicitude to meet
him, and I would employ you, an officer of rank, as my substitute; for
it would but ill comport with the honor of Scotland to let it be said
one of her gentlemen was outdone in civility by a native of any other
country on earth."

Without assuming the supererogatory task of entering into a discussion
of the comparative merits of national courtesy, Duncan cheerfully
assented to supply the place of the veteran in the approaching
interview. A long and confidential communication now succeeded, during
which the young man received some additional insight into his duty,
from the experience and native acuteness of his commander, and then the
former took his leave.

As Duncan could only act as the representative of the commandant of the
fort, the ceremonies which should have accompanied a meeting between the
heads of the adverse forces were, of course, dispensed with. The truce
still existed, and with a roll and beat of the drum, and covered by a
little white flag, Duncan left the sally-port, within ten minutes after
his instructions were ended. He was received by the French officer in
advance with the usual formalities, and immediately accompanied to a
distant marquee of the renowned soldier who led the forces of France.

The general of the enemy received the youthful messenger, surrounded by
his principal officers, and by a swarthy band of the native chiefs,
who had followed him to the field, with the warriors of their several
tribes. Heyward paused short, when, in glancing his eyes rapidly over
the dark group of the latter, he beheld the malignant countenance of
Magua, regarding him with the calm but sullen attention which marked the
expression of that subtle savage. A slight exclamation of surprise even
burst from the lips of the young man, but instantly, recollecting
his errand, and the presence in which he stood, he suppressed every
appearance of emotion, and turned to the hostile leader, who had already
advanced a step to receive him.

The marquis of Montcalm was, at the period of which we write, in the
flower of his age, and, it may be added, in the zenith of his fortunes.
But even in that enviable situation, he was affable, and distinguished
as much for his attention to the forms of courtesy, as for that
chivalrous courage which, only two short years afterward, induced him
to throw away his life on the plains of Abraham. Duncan, in turning his
eyes from the malign expression of Magua, suffered them to rest with
pleasure on the smiling and polished features, and the noble military
air, of the French general.

"Monsieur," said the latter, "j'ai beaucoup de plaisir a--bah!--ou est
cet interprete?"

"Je crois, monsieur, qu'il ne sear pas necessaire," Heyward modestly
replied; "je parle un peu francais."

"Ah! j'en suis bien aise," said Montcalm, taking Duncan familiarly by
the arm, and leading him deep into the marquee, a little out of earshot;
"je deteste ces fripons-la; on ne sait jamais sur quel pie on est avec
eux. Eh, bien! monsieur," he continued still speaking in French; "though
I should have been proud of receiving your commandant, I am very happy
that he has seen proper to employ an officer so distinguished, and who,
I am sure, is so amiable, as yourself."

Duncan bowed low, pleased with the compliment, in spite of a most heroic
determination to suffer no artifice to allure him into forgetfulness of
the interest of his prince; and Montcalm, after a pause of a moment, as
if to collect his thoughts, proceeded:

"Your commandant is a brave man, and well qualified to repel my
assault. Mais, monsieur, is it not time to begin to take more counsel
of humanity, and less of your courage? The one as strongly characterizes
the hero as the other."

"We consider the qualities as inseparable," returned Duncan, smiling;
"but while we find in the vigor of your excellency every motive to
stimulate the one, we can, as yet, see no particular call for the
exercise of the other."

Montcalm, in his turn, slightly bowed, but it was with the air of a
man too practised to remember the language of flattery. After musing a
moment, he added:

"It is possible my glasses have deceived me, and that your works resist
our cannon better than I had supposed. You know our force?"

"Our accounts vary," said Duncan, carelessly; "the highest, however, has
not exceeded twenty thousand men."

The Frenchman bit his lip, and fastened his eyes keenly on the other as
if to read his thoughts; then, with a readiness peculiar to himself, he
continued, as if assenting to the truth of an enumeration which quite
doubled his army:

"It is a poor compliment to the vigilance of us soldiers, monsieur,
that, do what we will, we never can conceal our numbers. If it were
to be done at all, one would believe it might succeed in these woods.
Though you think it too soon to listen to the calls of humanity," he
added, smiling archly, "I may be permitted to believe that gallantry
is not forgotten by one so young as yourself. The daughters of the
commandant, I learn, have passed into the fort since it was invested?"

"It is true, monsieur; but, so far from weakening our efforts, they
set us an example of courage in their own fortitude. Were nothing
but resolution necessary to repel so accomplished a soldier as M. de
Montcalm, I would gladly trust the defense of William Henry to the elder
of those ladies."

"We have a wise ordinance in our Salique laws, which says, 'The crown
of France shall never degrade the lance to the distaff'," said Montcalm,
dryly, and with a little hauteur; but instantly adding, with his former
frank and easy air: "as all the nobler qualities are hereditary, I can
easily credit you; though, as I said before, courage has its limits, and
humanity must not be forgotten. I trust, monsieur, you come authorized
to treat for the surrender of the place?"

"Has your excellency found our defense so feeble as to believe the
measure necessary?"

"I should be sorry to have the defense protracted in such a manner as to
irritate my red friends there," continued Montcalm, glancing his eyes
at the group of grave and attentive Indians, without attending to the
other's questions; "I find it difficult, even now, to limit them to the
usages of war."

Heyward was silent; for a painful recollection of the dangers he had so
recently escaped came over his mind, and recalled the images of those
defenseless beings who had shared in all his sufferings.

"Ces messieurs-la," said Montcalm, following up the advantage which he
conceived he had gained, "are most formidable when baffled; and it is
unnecessary to tell you with what difficulty they are restrained in
their anger. Eh bien, monsieur! shall we speak of the terms?"

"I fear your excellency has been deceived as to the strength of William
Henry, and the resources of its garrison!"

"I have not sat down before Quebec, but an earthen work, that is
defended by twenty-three hundred gallant men," was the laconic reply.

"Our mounds are earthen, certainly--nor are they seated on the rocks of
Cape Diamond; but they stand on that shore which proved so destructive
to Dieskau and his army. There is also a powerful force within a few
hours' march of us, which we account upon as a part of our means."

"Some six or eight thousand men," returned Montcalm, with much apparent
indifference, "whom their leader wisely judges to be safer in their
works than in the field."

It was now Heyward's turn to bite his lip with vexation as the other so
coolly alluded to a force which the young man knew to be overrated. Both
mused a little while in silence, when Montcalm renewed the conversation,
in a way that showed he believed the visit of his guest was solely to
propose terms of capitulation. On the other hand, Heyward began to
throw sundry inducements in the way of the French general, to betray the
discoveries he had made through the intercepted letter. The artifice
of neither, however, succeeded; and after a protracted and fruitless
interview, Duncan took his leave, favorably impressed with an opinion of
the courtesy and talents of the enemy's captain, but as ignorant of what
he came to learn as when he arrived. Montcalm followed him as far as the
entrance of the marquee, renewing his invitations to the commandant of
the fort to give him an immediate meeting in the open ground between the
two armies.

There they separated, and Duncan returned to the advanced post of the
French, accompanied as before; whence he instantly proceeded to the
fort, and to the quarters of his own commander.




CHAPTER 16

     "EDG.--Before you fight the battle ope this letter."
     --Lear

Major Heyward found Munro attended only by his daughters. Alice sat upon
his knee, parting the gray hairs on the forehead of the old man with
her delicate fingers; and whenever he affected to frown on her trifling,
appeasing his assumed anger by pressing her ruby lips fondly on his
wrinkled brow. Cora was seated nigh them, a calm and amused looker-on;
regarding the wayward movements of her more youthful sister with that
species of maternal fondness which characterized her love for Alice. Not
only the dangers through which they had passed, but those which still
impended above them, appeared to be momentarily forgotten, in the
soothing indulgence of such a family meeting. It seemed as if they had
profited by the short truce, to devote an instant to the purest and best
affection; the daughters forgetting their fears, and the veteran his
cares, in the security of the moment. Of this scene, Duncan, who, in
his eagerness to report his arrival, had entered unannounced, stood
many moments an unobserved and a delighted spectator. But the quick and
dancing eyes of Alice soon caught a glimpse of his figure reflected
from a glass, and she sprang blushing from her father's knee, exclaiming
aloud:

"Major Heyward!"

"What of the lad?" demanded her father; "I have sent him to crack a
little with the Frenchman. Ha, sir, you are young, and you're nimble!
Away with you, ye baggage; as if there were not troubles enough for a
soldier, without having his camp filled with such prattling hussies as
yourself!"

Alice laughingly followed her sister, who instantly led the way from an
apartment where she perceived their presence was no longer desirable.
Munro, instead of demanding the result of the young man's mission, paced
the room for a few moments, with his hands behind his back, and his
head inclined toward the floor, like a man lost in thought. At length he
raised his eyes, glistening with a father's fondness, and exclaimed:

"They are a pair of excellent girls, Heyward, and such as any one may
boast of."

"You are not now to learn my opinion of your daughters, Colonel Munro."

"True, lad, true," interrupted the impatient old man; "you were about
opening your mind more fully on that matter the day you got in, but I
did not think it becoming in an old soldier to be talking of nuptial
blessings and wedding jokes when the enemies of his king were likely
to be unbidden guests at the feast. But I was wrong, Duncan, boy, I was
wrong there; and I am now ready to hear what you have to say."

"Notwithstanding the pleasure your assurance gives me, dear sir, I have
just now, a message from Montcalm--"

"Let the Frenchman and all his host go to the devil, sir!" exclaimed the
hasty veteran. "He is not yet master of William Henry, nor shall he
ever be, provided Webb proves himself the man he should. No, sir, thank
Heaven we are not yet in such a strait that it can be said Munro is too
much pressed to discharge the little domestic duties of his own family.
Your mother was the only child of my bosom friend, Duncan; and I'll just
give you a hearing, though all the knights of St. Louis were in a body
at the sally-port, with the French saint at their head, crying to speak
a word under favor. A pretty degree of knighthood, sir, is that which
can be bought with sugar hogsheads! and then your twopenny marquisates.
The thistle is the order for dignity and antiquity; the veritable
'nemo me impune lacessit' of chivalry. Ye had ancestors in that degree,
Duncan, and they were an ornament to the nobles of Scotland."

Heyward, who perceived that his superior took a malicious pleasure in
exhibiting his contempt for the message of the French general, was
fain to humor a spleen that he knew would be short-lived; he therefore,
replied with as much indifference as he could assume on such a subject:

"My request, as you know, sir, went so far as to presume to the honor of
being your son."

"Ay, boy, you found words to make yourself very plainly comprehended.
But, let me ask ye, sir, have you been as intelligible to the girl?"

"On my honor, no," exclaimed Duncan, warmly; "there would have been an
abuse of a confided trust, had I taken advantage of my situation for
such a purpose."

"Your notions are those of a gentleman, Major Heyward, and well enough
in their place. But Cora Munro is a maiden too discreet, and of a mind
too elevated and improved, to need the guardianship even of a father."

"Cora!"

"Ay--Cora! we are talking of your pretensions to Miss Munro, are we not,
sir?"

"I--I--I was not conscious of having mentioned her name," said Duncan,
stammering.

"And to marry whom, then, did you wish my consent, Major Heyward?"
demanded the old soldier, erecting himself in the dignity of offended
feeling.

"You have another, and not less lovely child."

"Alice!" exclaimed the father, in an astonishment equal to that with
which Duncan had just repeated the name of her sister.

"Such was the direction of my wishes, sir."

The young man awaited in silence the result of the extraordinary
effect produced by a communication, which, as it now appeared, was so
unexpected. For several minutes Munro paced the chamber with long
and rapid strides, his rigid features working convulsively, and every
faculty seemingly absorbed in the musings of his own mind. At length, he
paused directly in front of Heyward, and riveting his eyes upon those of
the other, he said, with a lip that quivered violently:

"Duncan Heyward, I have loved you for the sake of him whose blood is
in your veins; I have loved you for your own good qualities; and I have
loved you, because I thought you would contribute to the happiness of my
child. But all this love would turn to hatred, were I assured that what
I so much apprehend is true."

"God forbid that any act or thought of mine should lead to such a
change!" exclaimed the young man, whose eye never quailed under the
penetrating look it encountered. Without adverting to the impossibility
of the other's comprehending those feelings which were hid in his
own bosom, Munro suffered himself to be appeased by the unaltered
countenance he met, and with a voice sensibly softened, he continued:

"You would be my son, Duncan, and you're ignorant of the history of the
man you wish to call your father. Sit ye down, young man, and I will
open to you the wounds of a seared heart, in as few words as may be
suitable."

By this time, the message of Montcalm was as much forgotten by him who
bore it as by the man for whose ears it was intended. Each drew a chair,
and while the veteran communed a few moments with his own thoughts,
apparently in sadness, the youth suppressed his impatience in a look and
attitude of respectful attention. At length, the former spoke:

"You'll know, already, Major Heyward, that my family was both ancient
and honorable," commenced the Scotsman; "though it might not altogether
be endowed with that amount of wealth that should correspond with its
degree. I was, maybe, such an one as yourself when I plighted my faith
to Alice Graham, the only child of a neighboring laird of some estate.
But the connection was disagreeable to her father, on more accounts than
my poverty. I did, therefore, what an honest man should--restored the
maiden her troth, and departed the country in the service of my king.
I had seen many regions, and had shed much blood in different lands,
before duty called me to the islands of the West Indies. There it was
my lot to form a connection with one who in time became my wife, and the
mother of Cora. She was the daughter of a gentleman of those isles, by
a lady whose misfortune it was, if you will," said the old man, proudly,
"to be descended, remotely, from that unfortunate class who are so
basely enslaved to administer to the wants of a luxurious people. Ay,
sir, that is a curse, entailed on Scotland by her unnatural union with a
foreign and trading people. But could I find a man among them who would
dare to reflect on my child, he should feel the weight of a father's
anger! Ha! Major Heyward, you are yourself born at the south, where
these unfortunate beings are considered of a race inferior to your own."

"'Tis most unfortunately true, sir," said Duncan, unable any longer to
prevent his eyes from sinking to the floor in embarrassment.

"And you cast it on my child as a reproach! You scorn to mingle the
blood of the Heywards with one so degraded--lovely and virtuous though
she be?" fiercely demanded the jealous parent.

"Heaven protect me from a prejudice so unworthy of my reason!" returned
Duncan, at the same time conscious of such a feeling, and that as deeply
rooted as if it had been ingrafted in his nature. "The sweetness, the
beauty, the witchery of your younger daughter, Colonel Munro, might
explain my motives without imputing to me this injustice."

"Ye are right, sir," returned the old man, again changing his tones to
those of gentleness, or rather softness; "the girl is the image of what
her mother was at her years, and before she had become acquainted
with grief. When death deprived me of my wife I returned to Scotland,
enriched by the marriage; and, would you think it, Duncan! the suffering
angel had remained in the heartless state of celibacy twenty long years,
and that for the sake of a man who could forget her! She did more,
sir; she overlooked my want of faith, and, all difficulties being now
removed, she took me for her husband."

"And became the mother of Alice?" exclaimed Duncan, with an eagerness
that might have proved dangerous at a moment when the thoughts of Munro
were less occupied that at present.

"She did, indeed," said the old man, "and dearly did she pay for the
blessing she bestowed. But she is a saint in heaven, sir; and it ill
becomes one whose foot rests on the grave to mourn a lot so blessed. I
had her but a single year, though; a short term of happiness for one who
had seen her youth fade in hopeless pining."

There was something so commanding in the distress of the old man, that
Heyward did not dare to venture a syllable of consolation. Munro sat
utterly unconscious of the other's presence, his features exposed and
working with the anguish of his regrets, while heavy tears fell from
his eyes, and rolled unheeded from his cheeks to the floor. At length
he moved, and as if suddenly recovering his recollection; when he arose,
and taking a single turn across the room, he approached his companion
with an air of military grandeur, and demanded:

"Have you not, Major Heyward, some communication that I should hear from
the marquis de Montcalm?"

Duncan started in his turn, and immediately commenced in an embarrassed
voice, the half-forgotten message. It is unnecessary to dwell upon the
evasive though polite manner with which the French general had
eluded every attempt of Heyward to worm from him the purport of the
communication he had proposed making, or on the decided, though still
polished message, by which he now gave his enemy to understand, that,
unless he chose to receive it in person, he should not receive it at
all. As Munro listened to the detail of Duncan, the excited feelings of
the father gradually gave way before the obligations of his station,
and when the other was done, he saw before him nothing but the veteran,
swelling with the wounded feelings of a soldier.

"You have said enough, Major Heyward," exclaimed the angry old man;
"enough to make a volume of commentary on French civility. Here has
this gentleman invited me to a conference, and when I send him a capable
substitute, for ye're all that, Duncan, though your years are but few,
he answers me with a riddle."

"He may have thought less favorably of the substitute, my dear sir; and
you will remember that the invitation, which he now repeats, was to the
commandant of the works, and not to his second."

"Well, sir, is not a substitute clothed with all the power and dignity
of him who grants the commission? He wishes to confer with Munro! Faith,
sir, I have much inclination to indulge the man, if it should only be to
let him behold the firm countenance we maintain in spite of his numbers
and his summons. There might be not bad policy in such a stroke, young
man."

Duncan, who believed it of the last importance that they should speedily
come to the contents of the letter borne by the scout, gladly encouraged
this idea.

"Without doubt, he could gather no confidence by witnessing our
indifference," he said.

"You never said truer word. I could wish, sir, that he would visit the
works in open day, and in the form of a storming party; that is the
least failing method of proving the countenance of an enemy, and would
be far preferable to the battering system he has chosen. The beauty and
manliness of warfare has been much deformed, Major Heyward, by the arts
of your Monsieur Vauban. Our ancestors were far above such scientific
cowardice!"

"It may be very true, sir; but we are now obliged to repel art by art.
What is your pleasure in the matter of the interview?"

"I will meet the Frenchman, and that without fear or delay; promptly,
sir, as becomes a servant of my royal master. Go, Major Heyward, and
give them a flourish of the music; and send out a messenger to let them
know who is coming. We will follow with a small guard, for such respect
is due to one who holds the honor of his king in keeping; and hark'ee,
Duncan," he added, in a half whisper, though they were alone, "it may be
prudent to have some aid at hand, in case there should be treachery at
the bottom of it all."

The young man availed himself of this order to quit the apartment; and,
as the day was fast coming to a close, he hastened without delay, to
make the necessary arrangements. A very few minutes only were necessary
to parade a few files, and to dispatch an orderly with a flag to
announce the approach of the commandant of the fort. When Duncan had
done both these, he led the guard to the sally-port, near which he
found his superior ready, waiting his appearance. As soon as the usual
ceremonials of a military departure were observed, the veteran and his
more youthful companion left the fortress, attended by the escort.

They had proceeded only a hundred yards from the works, when the little
array which attended the French general to the conference was seen
issuing from the hollow way which formed the bed of a brook that ran
between the batteries of the besiegers and the fort. From the moment
that Munro left his own works to appear in front of his enemy's, his
air had been grand, and his step and countenance highly military. The
instant he caught a glimpse of the white plume that waved in the hat
of Montcalm, his eye lighted, and age no longer appeared to possess any
influence over his vast and still muscular person.

"Speak to the boys to be watchful, sir," he said, in an undertone, to
Duncan; "and to look well to their flints and steel, for one is never
safe with a servant of these Louis's; at the same time, we shall show
them the front of men in deep security. Ye'll understand me, Major
Heyward!"

He was interrupted by the clamor of a drum from the approaching
Frenchmen, which was immediately answered, when each party pushed an
orderly in advance, bearing a white flag, and the wary Scotsman halted
with his guard close at his back. As soon as this slight salutation
had passed, Montcalm moved toward them with a quick but graceful step,
baring his head to the veteran, and dropping his spotless plume nearly
to the earth in courtesy. If the air of Munro was more commanding and
manly, it wanted both the ease and insinuating polish of that of the
Frenchman. Neither spoke for a few moments, each regarding the other
with curious and interested eyes. Then, as became his superior rank and
the nature of the interview, Montcalm broke the silence. After uttering
the usual words of greeting, he turned to Duncan, and continued, with a
smile of recognition, speaking always in French:

"I am rejoiced, monsieur, that you have given us the pleasure of your
company on this occasion. There will be no necessity to employ an
ordinary interpreter; for, in your hands, I feel the same security as if
I spoke your language myself."

Duncan acknowledged the compliment, when Montcalm, turning to his guard,
which in imitation of that of their enemies, pressed close upon him,
continued:

"En arriere, mes enfants--il fait chaud---retirez-vous un peu."

Before Major Heyward would imitate this proof of confidence, he glanced
his eyes around the plain, and beheld with uneasiness the numerous dusky
groups of savages, who looked out from the margin of the surrounding
woods, curious spectators of the interview.

"Monsieur de Montcalm will readily acknowledge the difference in our
situation," he said, with some embarrassment, pointing at the same
time toward those dangerous foes, who were to be seen in almost every
direction. "Were we to dismiss our guard, we should stand here at the
mercy of our enemies."

"Monsieur, you have the plighted faith of 'un gentilhomme Francais',
for your safety," returned Montcalm, laying his hand impressively on his
heart; "it should suffice."

"It shall. Fall back," Duncan added to the officer who led the escort;
"fall back, sir, beyond hearing, and wait for orders."

Munro witnessed this movement with manifest uneasiness; nor did he fail
to demand an instant explanation.

"Is it not our interest, sir, to betray distrust?" retorted Duncan.
"Monsieur de Montcalm pledges his word for our safety, and I have
ordered the men to withdraw a little, in order to prove how much we
depend on his assurance."

"It may be all right, sir, but I have no overweening reliance on the
faith of these marquesses, or marquis, as they call themselves. Their
patents of nobility are too common to be certain that they bear the seal
of true honor."

"You forget, dear sir, that we confer with an officer, distinguished
alike in Europe and America for his deeds. From a soldier of his
reputation we can have nothing to apprehend."

The old man made a gesture of resignation, though his rigid features
still betrayed his obstinate adherence to a distrust, which he derived
from a sort of hereditary contempt of his enemy, rather than from any
present signs which might warrant so uncharitable a feeling. Montcalm
waited patiently until this little dialogue in demi-voice was ended,
when he drew nigher, and opened the subject of their conference.

"I have solicited this interview from your superior, monsieur," he said,
"because I believe he will allow himself to be persuaded that he has
already done everything which is necessary for the honor of his prince,
and will now listen to the admonitions of humanity. I will forever bear
testimony that his resistance has been gallant, and was continued as
long as there was hope."

When this opening was translated to Munro, he answered with dignity, but
with sufficient courtesy:

"However I may prize such testimony from Monsieur Montcalm, it will be
more valuable when it shall be better merited."

The French general smiled, as Duncan gave him the purport of this reply,
and observed:

"What is now so freely accorded to approved courage, may be refused to
useless obstinacy. Monsieur would wish to see my camp, and witness for
himself our numbers, and the impossibility of his resisting them with
success?"

"I know that the king of France is well served," returned the unmoved
Scotsman, as soon as Duncan ended his translation; "but my own royal
master has as many and as faithful troops."

"Though not at hand, fortunately for us," said Montcalm, without
waiting, in his ardor, for the interpreter. "There is a destiny in war,
to which a brave man knows how to submit with the same courage that he
faces his foes."

"Had I been conscious that Monsieur Montcalm was master of the English,
I should have spared myself the trouble of so awkward a translation,"
said the vexed Duncan, dryly; remembering instantly his recent by-play
with Munro.

"Your pardon, monsieur," rejoined the Frenchman, suffering a slight
color to appear on his dark cheek. "There is a vast difference between
understanding and speaking a foreign tongue; you will, therefore, please
to assist me still." Then, after a short pause, he added: "These hills
afford us every opportunity of reconnoitering your works, messieurs, and
I am possibly as well acquainted with their weak condition as you can be
yourselves."

"Ask the French general if his glasses can reach to the Hudson," said
Munro, proudly; "and if he knows when and where to expect the army of
Webb."

"Let General Webb be his own interpreter," returned the politic
Montcalm, suddenly extending an open letter toward Munro as he spoke;
"you will there learn, monsieur, that his movements are not likely to
prove embarrassing to my army."

The veteran seized the offered paper, without waiting for Duncan to
translate the speech, and with an eagerness that betrayed how important
he deemed its contents. As his eye passed hastily over the words, his
countenance changed from its look of military pride to one of deep
chagrin; his lip began to quiver; and suffering the paper to fall from
his hand, his head dropped upon his chest, like that of a man whose
hopes were withered at a single blow. Duncan caught the letter from the
ground, and without apology for the liberty he took, he read at a glance
its cruel purport. Their common superior, so far from encouraging them
to resist, advised a speedy surrender, urging in the plainest language,
as a reason, the utter impossibility of his sending a single man to
their rescue.

"Here is no deception!" exclaimed Duncan, examining the billet both
inside and out; "this is the signature of Webb, and must be the captured
letter."

"The man has betrayed me!" Munro at length bitterly exclaimed; "he has
brought dishonor to the door of one where disgrace was never before
known to dwell, and shame has he heaped heavily on my gray hairs."

"Say not so," cried Duncan; "we are yet masters of the fort, and of our
honor. Let us, then, sell our lives at such a rate as shall make our
enemies believe the purchase too dear."

"Boy, I thank thee," exclaimed the old man, rousing himself from his
stupor; "you have, for once, reminded Munro of his duty. We will go
back, and dig our graves behind those ramparts."

"Messieurs," said Montcalm, advancing toward them a step, in generous
interest, "you little know Louis de St. Veran if you believe him capable
of profiting by this letter to humble brave men, or to build up a
dishonest reputation for himself. Listen to my terms before you leave
me."

"What says the Frenchman?" demanded the veteran, sternly; "does he make
a merit of having captured a scout, with a note from headquarters? Sir,
he had better raise this siege, to go and sit down before Edward if he
wishes to frighten his enemy with words."

Duncan explained the other's meaning.

"Monsieur de Montcalm, we will hear you," the veteran added, more
calmly, as Duncan ended.

"To retain the fort is now impossible," said his liberal enemy; "it is
necessary to the interests of my master that it should be destroyed; but
as for yourselves and your brave comrades, there is no privilege dear to
a soldier that shall be denied."

"Our colors?" demanded Heyward.

"Carry them to England, and show them to your king."

"Our arms?"

"Keep them; none can use them better."

"Our march; the surrender of the place?"

"Shall all be done in a way most honorable to yourselves."

Duncan now turned to explain these proposals to his commander, who heard
him with amazement, and a sensibility that was deeply touched by so
unusual and unexpected generosity.

"Go you, Duncan," he said; "go with this marquess, as, indeed, marquess
he should be; go to his marquee and arrange it all. I have lived to
see two things in my old age that never did I expect to behold. An
Englishman afraid to support a friend, and a Frenchman too honest to
profit by his advantage."

So saying, the veteran again dropped his head to his chest, and returned
slowly toward the fort, exhibiting, by the dejection of his air, to the
anxious garrison, a harbinger of evil tidings.

From the shock of this unexpected blow the haughty feelings of Munro
never recovered; but from that moment there commenced a change in his
determined character, which accompanied him to a speedy grave. Duncan
remained to settle the terms of the capitulation. He was seen
to re-enter the works during the first watches of the night, and
immediately after a private conference with the commandant, to
leave them again. It was then openly announced that hostilities must
cease--Munro having signed a treaty by which the place was to be yielded
to the enemy, with the morning; the garrison to retain their arms,
the colors and their baggage, and, consequently, according to military
opinion, their honor.




CHAPTER 17

     "Weave we the woof.
     The thread is spun.
     The web is wove.
     The work is done."--Gray

The hostile armies, which lay in the wilds of the Horican, passed the
night of the ninth of August, 1757, much in the manner they would, had
they encountered on the fairest field of Europe. While the conquered
were still, sullen, and dejected, the victors triumphed. But there
are limits alike to grief and joy; and long before the watches of the
morning came the stillness of those boundless woods was only broken by a
gay call from some exulting young Frenchman of the advanced pickets, or
a menacing challenge from the fort, which sternly forbade the approach
of any hostile footsteps before the stipulated moment. Even these
occasional threatening sounds ceased to be heard in that dull hour which
precedes the day, at which period a listener might have sought in vain
any evidence of the presence of those armed powers that then slumbered
on the shores of the "holy lake."

It was during these moments of deep silence that the canvas which
concealed the entrance to a spacious marquee in the French encampment
was shoved aside, and a man issued from beneath the drapery into the
open air. He was enveloped in a cloak that might have been intended as
a protection from the chilling damps of the woods, but which served
equally well as a mantle to conceal his person. He was permitted to pass
the grenadier, who watched over the slumbers of the French commander,
without interruption, the man making the usual salute which betokens
military deference, as the other passed swiftly through the little
city of tents, in the direction of William Henry. Whenever this unknown
individual encountered one of the numberless sentinels who crossed his
path, his answer was prompt, and, as it appeared, satisfactory; for he
was uniformly allowed to proceed without further interrogation.

With the exception of such repeated but brief interruptions, he
had moved silently from the center of the camp to its most advanced
outposts, when he drew nigh the soldier who held his watch nearest to
the works of the enemy. As he approached he was received with the usual
challenge:

"Qui vive?"

"France," was the reply.

"Le mot d'ordre?"

"La victorie," said the other, drawing so nigh as to be heard in a loud
whisper.

"C'est bien," returned the sentinel, throwing his musket from the charge
to his shoulder; "vous promenez bien matin, monsieur!"

"Il est necessaire d'etre vigilant, mon enfant," the other observed,
dropping a fold of his cloak, and looking the soldier close in the
face as he passed him, still continuing his way toward the British
fortification. The man started; his arms rattled heavily as he threw
them forward in the lowest and most respectful salute; and when he had
again recovered his piece, he turned to walk his post, muttering between
his teeth:

"Il faut etre vigilant, en verite! je crois que nous avons la, un
caporal qui ne dort jamais!"

The officer proceeded, without affecting to hear the words which escaped
the sentinel in his surprise; nor did he again pause until he had
reached the low strand, and in a somewhat dangerous vicinity to the
western water bastion of the fort. The light of an obscure moon was just
sufficient to render objects, though dim, perceptible in their outlines.
He, therefore, took the precaution to place himself against the trunk of
a tree, where he leaned for many minutes, and seemed to contemplate the
dark and silent mounds of the English works in profound attention. His
gaze at the ramparts was not that of a curious or idle spectator;
but his looks wandered from point to point, denoting his knowledge of
military usages, and betraying that his search was not unaccompanied
by distrust. At length he appeared satisfied; and having cast his eyes
impatiently upward toward the summit of the eastern mountain, as if
anticipating the approach of the morning, he was in the act of turning
on his footsteps, when a light sound on the nearest angle of the bastion
caught his ear, and induced him to remain.

Just then a figure was seen to approach the edge of the rampart, where
it stood, apparently contemplating in its turn the distant tents of the
French encampment. Its head was then turned toward the east, as though
equally anxious for the appearance of light, when the form leaned
against the mound, and seemed to gaze upon the glassy expanse of the
waters, which, like a submarine firmament, glittered with its thousand
mimic stars. The melancholy air, the hour, together with the vast frame
of the man who thus leaned, musing, against the English ramparts,
left no doubt as to his person in the mind of the observant spectator.
Delicacy, no less than prudence, now urged him to retire; and he had
moved cautiously round the body of the tree for that purpose, when
another sound drew his attention, and once more arrested his footsteps.
It was a low and almost inaudible movement of the water, and was
succeeded by a grating of pebbles one against the other. In a moment
he saw a dark form rise, as it were, out of the lake, and steal without
further noise to the land, within a few feet of the place where he
himself stood. A rifle next slowly rose between his eyes and the watery
mirror; but before it could be discharged his own hand was on the lock.

"Hugh!" exclaimed the savage, whose treacherous aim was so singularly
and so unexpectedly interrupted.

Without making any reply, the French officer laid his hand on the
shoulder of the Indian, and led him in profound silence to a distance
from the spot, where their subsequent dialogue might have proved
dangerous, and where it seemed that one of them, at least, sought a
victim. Then throwing open his cloak, so as to expose his uniform and
the cross of St. Louis which was suspended at his breast, Montcalm
sternly demanded:

"What means this? Does not my son know that the hatchet is buried
between the English and his Canadian Father?"

"What can the Hurons do?" returned the savage, speaking also, though
imperfectly, in the French language.

"Not a warrior has a scalp, and the pale faces make friends!"

"Ha, Le Renard Subtil! Methinks this is an excess of zeal for a friend
who was so late an enemy! How many suns have set since Le Renard struck
the war-post of the English?"

"Where is that sun?" demanded the sullen savage. "Behind the hill; and
it is dark and cold. But when he comes again, it will be bright and
warm. Le Subtil is the sun of his tribe. There have been clouds, and
many mountains between him and his nation; but now he shines and it is a
clear sky!"

"That Le Renard has power with his people, I well know," said Montcalm;
"for yesterday he hunted for their scalps, and to-day they hear him at
the council-fire."

"Magua is a great chief."

"Let him prove it, by teaching his nation how to conduct themselves
toward our new friends."

"Why did the chief of the Canadas bring his young men into the woods,
and fire his cannon at the earthen house?" demanded the subtle Indian.

"To subdue it. My master owns the land, and your father was ordered to
drive off these English squatters. They have consented to go, and now he
calls them enemies no longer."

"'Tis well. Magua took the hatchet to color it with blood. It is now
bright; when it is red, it shall be buried."

"But Magua is pledged not to sully the lilies of France. The enemies of
the great king across the salt lake are his enemies; his friends, the
friends of the Hurons."

"Friends!" repeated the Indian in scorn. "Let his father give Magua a
hand."

Montcalm, who felt that his influence over the warlike tribes he had
gathered was to be maintained by concession rather than by power,
complied reluctantly with the other's request. The savage placed the
fingers of the French commander on a deep scar in his bosom, and then
exultingly demanded:

"Does my father know that?"

"What warrior does not? 'Tis where a leaden bullet has cut."

"And this?" continued the Indian, who had turned his naked back to the
other, his body being without its usual calico mantle.

"This!--my son has been sadly injured here; who has done this?"

"Magua slept hard in the English wigwams, and the sticks have left their
mark," returned the savage, with a hollow laugh, which did not conceal
the fierce temper that nearly choked him. Then, recollecting himself,
with sudden and native dignity, he added: "Go; teach your young men it
is peace. Le Renard Subtil knows how to speak to a Huron warrior."

Without deigning to bestow further words, or to wait for any answer,
the savage cast his rifle into the hollow of his arm, and moved silently
through the encampment toward the woods where his own tribe was known to
lie. Every few yards as he proceeded he was challenged by the sentinels;
but he stalked sullenly onward, utterly disregarding the summons of the
soldiers, who only spared his life because they knew the air and tread
no less than the obstinate daring of an Indian.

Montcalm lingered long and melancholy on the strand where he had
been left by his companion, brooding deeply on the temper which his
ungovernable ally had just discovered. Already had his fair fame been
tarnished by one horrid scene, and in circumstances fearfully resembling
those under which he now found himself. As he mused he became keenly
sensible of the deep responsibility they assume who disregard the means
to attain the end, and of all the danger of setting in motion an engine
which it exceeds human power to control. Then shaking off a train of
reflections that he accounted a weakness in such a moment of triumph,
he retraced his steps toward his tent, giving the order as he passed to
make the signal that should arouse the army from its slumbers.

The first tap of the French drums was echoed from the bosom of the fort,
and presently the valley was filled with the strains of martial music,
rising long, thrilling and lively above the rattling accompaniment. The
horns of the victors sounded merry and cheerful flourishes, until the
last laggard of the camp was at his post; but the instant the British
fifes had blown their shrill signal, they became mute. In the meantime
the day had dawned, and when the line of the French army was ready to
receive its general, the rays of a brilliant sun were glancing along the
glittering array. Then that success, which was already so well known,
was officially announced; the favored band who were selected to guard
the gates of the fort were detailed, and defiled before their chief; the
signal of their approach was given, and all the usual preparations for
a change of masters were ordered and executed directly under the guns of
the contested works.

A very different scene presented itself within the lines of the
Anglo-American army. As soon as the warning signal was given, it
exhibited all the signs of a hurried and forced departure. The sullen
soldiers shouldered their empty tubes and fell into their places,
like men whose blood had been heated by the past contest, and who only
desired the opportunity to revenge an indignity which was still wounding
to their pride, concealed as it was under the observances of military
etiquette.

Women and children ran from place to place, some bearing the scanty
remnants of their baggage, and others searching in the ranks for those
countenances they looked up to for protection.

Munro appeared among his silent troops firm but dejected. It was evident
that the unexpected blow had struck deep into his heart, though he
struggled to sustain his misfortune with the port of a man.

Duncan was touched at the quiet and impressive exhibition of his grief.
He had discharged his own duty, and he now pressed to the side of the
old man, to know in what particular he might serve him.

"My daughters," was the brief but expressive reply.

"Good heavens! are not arrangements already made for their convenience?"

"To-day I am only a soldier, Major Heyward," said the veteran. "All that
you see here, claim alike to be my children."

Duncan had heard enough. Without losing one of those moments which had
now become so precious, he flew toward the quarters of Munro, in quest
of the sisters. He found them on the threshold of the low edifice,
already prepared to depart, and surrounded by a clamorous and weeping
assemblage of their own sex, that had gathered about the place, with a
sort of instinctive consciousness that it was the point most likely to
be protected. Though the cheeks of Cora were pale and her countenance
anxious, she had lost none of her firmness; but the eyes of Alice were
inflamed, and betrayed how long and bitterly she had wept. They both,
however, received the young man with undisguised pleasure; the former,
for a novelty, being the first to speak.

"The fort is lost," she said, with a melancholy smile; "though our good
name, I trust, remains."

"'Tis brighter than ever. But, dearest Miss Munro, it is time to think
less of others, and to make some provision for yourself. Military
usage--pride--that pride on which you so much value yourself, demands
that your father and I should for a little while continue with the
troops. Then where to seek a proper protector for you against the
confusion and chances of such a scene?"

"None is necessary," returned Cora; "who will dare to injure or insult
the daughter of such a father, at a time like this?"

"I would not leave you alone," continued the youth, looking about him
in a hurried manner, "for the command of the best regiment in the pay of
the king. Remember, our Alice is not gifted with all your firmness, and
God only knows the terror she might endure."

"You may be right," Cora replied, smiling again, but far more sadly than
before. "Listen! chance has already sent us a friend when he is most
needed."

Duncan did listen, and on the instant comprehended her meaning. The low
and serious sounds of the sacred music, so well known to the eastern
provinces, caught his ear, and instantly drew him to an apartment in
an adjacent building, which had already been deserted by its customary
tenants. There he found David, pouring out his pious feelings through
the only medium in which he ever indulged. Duncan waited, until, by the
cessation of the movement of the hand, he believed the strain was ended,
when, by touching his shoulder, he drew the attention of the other to
himself, and in a few words explained his wishes.

"Even so," replied the single-minded disciple of the King of Israel,
when the young man had ended; "I have found much that is comely and
melodious in the maidens, and it is fitting that we who have consorted
in so much peril, should abide together in peace. I will attend them,
when I have completed my morning praise, to which nothing is now wanting
but the doxology. Wilt thou bear a part, friend? The meter is common,
and the tune 'Southwell'."

Then, extending the little volume, and giving the pitch of the air anew
with considerate attention, David recommenced and finished his strains,
with a fixedness of manner that it was not easy to interrupt. Heyward
was fain to wait until the verse was ended; when, seeing David relieving
himself from the spectacles, and replacing the book, he continued.

"It will be your duty to see that none dare to approach the ladies with
any rude intention, or to offer insult or taunt at the misfortune of
their brave father. In this task you will be seconded by the domestics
of their household."

"Even so."

"It is possible that the Indians and stragglers of the enemy may
intrude, in which case you will remind them of the terms of the
capitulation, and threaten to report their conduct to Montcalm. A word
will suffice."

"If not, I have that here which shall," returned David, exhibiting
his book, with an air in which meekness and confidence were singularly
blended. Here are words which, uttered, or rather thundered, with proper
emphasis, and in measured time, shall quiet the most unruly temper:

"'Why rage the heathen furiously'?"

"Enough," said Heyward, interrupting the burst of his musical
invocation; "we understand each other; it is time that we should now
assume our respective duties."

Gamut cheerfully assented, and together they sought the females. Cora
received her new and somewhat extraordinary protector courteously, at
least; and even the pallid features of Alice lighted again with some of
their native archness as she thanked Heyward for his care. Duncan
took occasion to assure them he had done the best that circumstances
permitted, and, as he believed, quite enough for the security of
their feelings; of danger there was none. He then spoke gladly of his
intention to rejoin them the moment he had led the advance a few miles
toward the Hudson, and immediately took his leave.

By this time the signal for departure had been given, and the head of
the English column was in motion. The sisters started at the sound, and
glancing their eyes around, they saw the white uniforms of the French
grenadiers, who had already taken possession of the gates of the fort.
At that moment an enormous cloud seemed to pass suddenly above their
heads, and, looking upward, they discovered that they stood beneath the
wide folds of the standard of France.

"Let us go," said Cora; "this is no longer a fit place for the children
of an English officer."

Alice clung to the arm of her sister, and together they left the parade,
accompanied by the moving throng that surrounded them.

As they passed the gates, the French officers, who had learned their
rank, bowed often and low, forbearing, however, to intrude those
attentions which they saw, with peculiar tact, might not be agreeable.
As every vehicle and each beast of burden was occupied by the sick and
wounded, Cora had decided to endure the fatigues of a foot march, rather
than interfere with their comforts. Indeed, many a maimed and feeble
soldier was compelled to drag his exhausted limbs in the rear of the
columns, for the want of the necessary means of conveyance in that
wilderness. The whole, however, was in motion; the weak and wounded,
groaning and in suffering; their comrades silent and sullen; and the
women and children in terror, they knew not of what.

As the confused and timid throng left the protecting mounds of the fort,
and issued on the open plain, the whole scene was at once presented to
their eyes. At a little distance on the right, and somewhat in the
rear, the French army stood to their arms, Montcalm having collected his
parties, so soon as his guards had possession of the works. They were
attentive but silent observers of the proceedings of the vanquished,
failing in none of the stipulated military honors, and offering no taunt
or insult, in their success, to their less fortunate foes. Living masses
of the English, to the amount, in the whole, of near three thousand,
were moving slowly across the plain, toward the common center, and
gradually approached each other, as they converged to the point of their
march, a vista cut through the lofty trees, where the road to the Hudson
entered the forest. Along the sweeping borders of the woods hung a dark
cloud of savages, eyeing the passage of their enemies, and hovering at
a distance, like vultures who were only kept from swooping on their prey
by the presence and restraint of a superior army. A few had straggled
among the conquered columns, where they stalked in sullen discontent;
attentive, though, as yet, passive observers of the moving multitude.

The advance, with Heyward at its head, had already reached the defile,
and was slowly disappearing, when the attention of Cora was drawn to
a collection of stragglers by the sounds of contention. A truant
provincial was paying the forfeit of his disobedience, by being
plundered of those very effects which had caused him to desert his place
in the ranks. The man was of powerful frame, and too avaricious to
part with his goods without a struggle. Individuals from either party
interfered; the one side to prevent and the other to aid in the robbery.
Voices grew loud and angry, and a hundred savages appeared, as it were,
by magic, where a dozen only had been seen a minute before. It was
then that Cora saw the form of Magua gliding among his countrymen, and
speaking with his fatal and artful eloquence. The mass of women and
children stopped, and hovered together like alarmed and fluttering
birds. But the cupidity of the Indian was soon gratified, and the
different bodies again moved slowly onward.

The savages now fell back, and seemed content to let their enemies
advance without further molestation. But, as the female crowd approached
them, the gaudy colors of a shawl attracted the eyes of a wild and
untutored Huron. He advanced to seize it without the least hesitation.
The woman, more in terror than through love of the ornament, wrapped her
child in the coveted article, and folded both more closely to her bosom.
Cora was in the act of speaking, with an intent to advise the woman to
abandon the trifle, when the savage relinquished his hold of the shawl,
and tore the screaming infant from her arms. Abandoning everything
to the greedy grasp of those around her, the mother darted, with
distraction in her mien, to reclaim her child. The Indian smiled grimly,
and extended one hand, in sign of a willingness to exchange, while, with
the other, he flourished the babe over his head, holding it by the feet
as if to enhance the value of the ransom.

"Here--here--there--all--any--everything!" exclaimed the breathless
woman, tearing the lighter articles of dress from her person with
ill-directed and trembling fingers; "take all, but give me my babe!"

The savage spurned the worthless rags, and perceiving that the shawl
had already become a prize to another, his bantering but sullen smile
changing to a gleam of ferocity, he dashed the head of the infant
against a rock, and cast its quivering remains to her very feet. For an
instant the mother stood, like a statue of despair, looking wildly down
at the unseemly object, which had so lately nestled in her bosom and
smiled in her face; and then she raised her eyes and countenance toward
heaven, as if calling on God to curse the perpetrator of the foul
deed. She was spared the sin of such a prayer for, maddened at his
disappointment, and excited at the sight of blood, the Huron mercifully
drove his tomahawk into her own brain. The mother sank under the blow,
and fell, grasping at her child, in death, with the same engrossing love
that had caused her to cherish it when living.

At that dangerous moment, Magua placed his hands to his mouth, and
raised the fatal and appalling whoop. The scattered Indians started at
the well-known cry, as coursers bound at the signal to quit the goal;
and directly there arose such a yell along the plain, and through the
arches of the wood, as seldom burst from human lips before. They who
heard it listened with a curdling horror at the heart, little inferior
to that dread which may be expected to attend the blasts of the final
summons.

More than two thousand raving savages broke from the forest at the
signal, and threw themselves across the fatal plain with instinctive
alacrity. We shall not dwell on the revolting horrors that succeeded.
Death was everywhere, and in his most terrific and disgusting aspects.
Resistance only served to inflame the murderers, who inflicted their
furious blows long after their victims were beyond the power of their
resentment. The flow of blood might be likened to the outbreaking of
a torrent; and as the natives became heated and maddened by the sight,
many among them even kneeled to the earth, and drank freely, exultingly,
hellishly, of the crimson tide.

The trained bodies of the troops threw themselves quickly into solid
masses, endeavoring to awe their assailants by the imposing appearance
of a military front. The experiment in some measure succeeded, though
far too many suffered their unloaded muskets to be torn from their
hands, in the vain hope of appeasing the savages.

In such a scene none had leisure to note the fleeting moments. It might
have been ten minutes (it seemed an age) that the sisters had stood
riveted to one spot, horror-stricken and nearly helpless. When the first
blow was struck, their screaming companions had pressed upon them in
a body, rendering flight impossible; and now that fear or death had
scattered most, if not all, from around them, they saw no avenue open,
but such as conducted to the tomahawks of their foes. On every side
arose shrieks, groans, exhortations and curses. At this moment, Alice
caught a glimpse of the vast form of her father, moving rapidly across
the plain, in the direction of the French army. He was, in truth,
proceeding to Montcalm, fearless of every danger, to claim the tardy
escort for which he had before conditioned. Fifty glittering axes
and barbed spears were offered unheeded at his life, but the savages
respected his rank and calmness, even in their fury. The dangerous
weapons were brushed aside by the still nervous arm of the veteran, or
fell of themselves, after menacing an act that it would seem no one had
courage to perform. Fortunately, the vindictive Magua was searching for
his victim in the very band the veteran had just quitted.

"Father--father--we are here!" shrieked Alice, as he passed, at no great
distance, without appearing to heed them. "Come to us, father, or we
die!"

The cry was repeated, and in terms and tones that might have melted
a heart of stone, but it was unanswered. Once, indeed, the old man
appeared to catch the sound, for he paused and listened; but Alice had
dropped senseless on the earth, and Cora had sunk at her side, hovering
in untiring tenderness over her lifeless form. Munro shook his head in
disappointment, and proceeded, bent on the high duty of his station.

"Lady," said Gamut, who, helpless and useless as he was, had not yet
dreamed of deserting his trust, "it is the jubilee of the devils, and
this is not a meet place for Christians to tarry in. Let us up and fly."

"Go," said Cora, still gazing at her unconscious sister; "save thyself.
To me thou canst not be of further use."

David comprehended the unyielding character of her resolution, by the
simple but expressive gesture that accompanied her words. He gazed for a
moment at the dusky forms that were acting their hellish rites on every
side of him, and his tall person grew more erect while his chest heaved,
and every feature swelled, and seemed to speak with the power of the
feelings by which he was governed.

"If the Jewish boy might tame the great spirit of Saul by the sound of
his harp, and the words of sacred song, it may not be amiss," he said,
"to try the potency of music here."

Then raising his voice to its highest tone, he poured out a strain so
powerful as to be heard even amid the din of that bloody field. More
than one savage rushed toward them, thinking to rifle the unprotected
sisters of their attire, and bear away their scalps; but when they found
this strange and unmoved figure riveted to his post, they paused to
listen. Astonishment soon changed to admiration, and they passed on to
other and less courageous victims, openly expressing their satisfaction
at the firmness with which the white warrior sang his death song.
Encouraged and deluded by his success, David exerted all his powers to
extend what he believed so holy an influence. The unwonted sounds caught
the ears of a distant savage, who flew raging from group to group, like
one who, scorning to touch the vulgar herd, hunted for some victim more
worthy of his renown. It was Magua, who uttered a yell of pleasure when
he beheld his ancient prisoners again at his mercy.

"Come," he said, laying his soiled hands on the dress of Cora, "the
wigwam of the Huron is still open. Is it not better than this place?"

"Away!" cried Cora, veiling her eyes from his revolting aspect.

The Indian laughed tauntingly, as he held up his reeking hand, and
answered: "It is red, but it comes from white veins!"

"Monster! there is blood, oceans of blood, upon thy soul; thy spirit has
moved this scene."

"Magua is a great chief!" returned the exulting savage, "will the
dark-hair go to his tribe?"

"Never! strike if thou wilt, and complete thy revenge." He hesitated a
moment, and then catching the light and senseless form of Alice in his
arms, the subtle Indian moved swiftly across the plain toward the woods.

"Hold!" shrieked Cora, following wildly on his footsteps; "release the
child! wretch! what is't you do?"

But Magua was deaf to her voice; or, rather, he knew his power, and was
determined to maintain it.

"Stay--lady--stay," called Gamut, after the unconscious Cora. "The
holy charm is beginning to be felt, and soon shalt thou see this horrid
tumult stilled."

Perceiving that, in his turn, he was unheeded, the faithful David
followed the distracted sister, raising his voice again in sacred song,
and sweeping the air to the measure, with his long arm, in diligent
accompaniment. In this manner they traversed the plain, through the
flying, the wounded and the dead. The fierce Huron was, at any time,
sufficient for himself and the victim that he bore; though Cora would
have fallen more than once under the blows of her savage enemies,
but for the extraordinary being who stalked in her rear, and who now
appeared to the astonished natives gifted with the protecting spirit of
madness.

Magua, who knew how to avoid the more pressing dangers, and also to
elude pursuit, entered the woods through a low ravine, where he quickly
found the Narragansetts, which the travelers had abandoned so shortly
before, awaiting his appearance, in custody of a savage as fierce and
malign in his expression as himself. Laying Alice on one of the horses,
he made a sign to Cora to mount the other.

Notwithstanding the horror excited by the presence of her captor, there
was a present relief in escaping from the bloody scene enacting on the
plain, to which Cora could not be altogether insensible. She took her
seat, and held forth her arms for her sister, with an air of entreaty
and love that even the Huron could not deny. Placing Alice, then, on the
same animal with Cora, he seized the bridle, and commenced his route
by plunging deeper into the forest. David, perceiving that he was left
alone, utterly disregarded as a subject too worthless even to destroy,
threw his long limb across the saddle of the beast they had deserted,
and made such progress in the pursuit as the difficulties of the path
permitted.

They soon began to ascend; but as the motion had a tendency to revive
the dormant faculties of her sister, the attention of Cora was too much
divided between the tenderest solicitude in her behalf, and in listening
to the cries which were still too audible on the plain, to note the
direction in which they journeyed. When, however, they gained the
flattened surface of the mountain-top, and approached the eastern
precipice, she recognized the spot to which she had once before been led
under the more friendly auspices of the scout. Here Magua suffered them
to dismount; and notwithstanding their own captivity, the curiosity
which seems inseparable from horror, induced them to gaze at the
sickening sight below.

The cruel work was still unchecked. On every side the captured were
flying before their relentless persecutors, while the armed columns
of the Christian king stood fast in an apathy which has never been
explained, and which has left an immovable blot on the otherwise fair
escutcheon of their leader. Nor was the sword of death stayed until
cupidity got the mastery of revenge. Then, indeed, the shrieks of the
wounded, and the yells of their murderers grew less frequent, until,
finally, the cries of horror were lost to their ear, or were drowned in
the loud, long and piercing whoops of the triumphant savages.




CHAPTER 18

     "Why, anything;
     An honorable murderer, if you will;
     For naught I did in hate, but all in honor."
     --Othello

The bloody and inhuman scene rather incidentally mentioned than
described in the preceding chapter, is conspicuous in the pages of
colonial history by the merited title of "The Massacre of William
Henry." It so far deepened the stain which a previous and very similar
event had left upon the reputation of the French commander that it was
not entirely erased by his early and glorious death. It is now becoming
obscured by time; and thousands, who know that Montcalm died like a hero
on the plains of Abraham, have yet to learn how much he was deficient in
that moral courage without which no man can be truly great. Pages might
yet be written to prove, from this illustrious example, the defects of
human excellence; to show how easy it is for generous sentiments, high
courtesy, and chivalrous courage to lose their influence beneath the
chilling blight of selfishness, and to exhibit to the world a man who
was great in all the minor attributes of character, but who was found
wanting when it became necessary to prove how much principle is superior
to policy. But the task would exceed our prerogatives; and, as history,
like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of
imaginary brightness, it is probable that Louis de Saint Veran will be
viewed by posterity only as the gallant defender of his country, while
his cruel apathy on the shores of the Oswego and of the Horican will be
forgotten. Deeply regretting this weakness on the part of a sister muse,
we shall at once retire from her sacred precincts, within the proper
limits of our own humble vocation.

The third day from the capture of the fort was drawing to a close, but
the business of the narrative must still detain the reader on the shores
of the "holy lake." When last seen, the environs of the works were
filled with violence and uproar. They were now possessed by stillness
and death. The blood-stained conquerors had departed; and their camp,
which had so lately rung with the merry rejoicings of a victorious army,
lay a silent and deserted city of huts. The fortress was a smoldering
ruin; charred rafters, fragments of exploded artillery, and rent
mason-work covering its earthen mounds in confused disorder.

A frightful change had also occurred in the season. The sun had hid
its warmth behind an impenetrable mass of vapor, and hundreds of human
forms, which had blackened beneath the fierce heats of August, were
stiffening in their deformity before the blasts of a premature November.
The curling and spotless mists, which had been seen sailing above the
hills toward the north, were now returning in an interminable dusky
sheet, that was urged along by the fury of a tempest. The crowded mirror
of the Horican was gone; and, in its place, the green and angry waters
lashed the shores, as if indignantly casting back its impurities to
the polluted strand. Still the clear fountain retained a portion of its
charmed influence, but it reflected only the somber gloom that fell
from the impending heavens. That humid and congenial atmosphere which
commonly adorned the view, veiling its harshness, and softening its
asperities, had disappeared, the northern air poured across the waste of
water so harsh and unmingled, that nothing was left to be conjectured by
the eye, or fashioned by the fancy.

The fiercer element had cropped the verdure of the plain, which looked
as though it were scathed by the consuming lightning. But, here and
there, a dark green tuft rose in the midst of the desolation; the
earliest fruits of a soil that had been fattened with human blood.
The whole landscape, which, seen by a favoring light, and in a genial
temperature, had been found so lovely, appeared now like some pictured
allegory of life, in which objects were arrayed in their harshest but
truest colors, and without the relief of any shadowing.

The solitary and arid blades of grass arose from the passing gusts
fearfully perceptible; the bold and rocky mountains were too distinct in
their barrenness, and the eye even sought relief, in vain, by attempting
to pierce the illimitable void of heaven, which was shut to its gaze by
the dusky sheet of ragged and driving vapor.

The wind blew unequally; sometimes sweeping heavily along the ground,
seeming to whisper its moanings in the cold ears of the dead, then
rising in a shrill and mournful whistling, it entered the forest with
a rush that filled the air with the leaves and branches it scattered in
its path. Amid the unnatural shower, a few hungry ravens struggled with
the gale; but no sooner was the green ocean of woods which stretched
beneath them, passed, than they gladly stopped, at random, to their
hideous banquet.

In short, it was a scene of wildness and desolation; and it appeared as
if all who had profanely entered it had been stricken, at a blow, by
the relentless arm of death. But the prohibition had ceased; and for the
first time since the perpetrators of those foul deeds which had assisted
to disfigure the scene were gone, living human beings had now presumed
to approach the place.

About an hour before the setting of the sun, on the day already
mentioned, the forms of five men might have been seen issuing from the
narrow vista of trees, where the path to the Hudson entered the forest,
and advancing in the direction of the ruined works. At first their
progress was slow and guarded, as though they entered with reluctance
amid the horrors of the post, or dreaded the renewal of its frightful
incidents. A light figure preceded the rest of the party, with
the caution and activity of a native; ascending every hillock to
reconnoiter, and indicating by gestures, to his companions, the route he
deemed it most prudent to pursue. Nor were those in the rear wanting in
every caution and foresight known to forest warfare. One among them, he
also was an Indian, moved a little on one flank, and watched the margin
of the woods, with eyes long accustomed to read the smallest sign
of danger. The remaining three were white, though clad in vestments
adapted, both in quality and color, to their present hazardous
pursuit--that of hanging on the skirts of a retiring army in the
wilderness.

The effects produced by the appalling sights that constantly arose in
their path to the lake shore, were as different as the characters of the
respective individuals who composed the party. The youth in front
threw serious but furtive glances at the mangled victims, as he stepped
lightly across the plain, afraid to exhibit his feelings, and yet too
inexperienced to quell entirely their sudden and powerful influence. His
red associate, however, was superior to such a weakness. He passed the
groups of dead with a steadiness of purpose, and an eye so calm, that
nothing but long and inveterate practise could enable him to maintain.
The sensations produced in the minds of even the white men were
different, though uniformly sorrowful. One, whose gray locks and
furrowed lineaments, blending with a martial air and tread, betrayed, in
spite of the disguise of a woodsman's dress, a man long experienced in
scenes of war, was not ashamed to groan aloud, whenever a spectacle of
more than usual horror came under his view. The young man at his elbow
shuddered, but seemed to suppress his feelings in tenderness to his
companion. Of them all, the straggler who brought up the rear appeared
alone to betray his real thoughts, without fear of observation or dread
of consequences. He gazed at the most appalling sight with eyes and
muscles that knew not how to waver, but with execrations so bitter and
deep as to denote how much he denounced the crime of his enemies.

The reader will perceive at once, in these respective characters, the
Mohicans, and their white friend, the scout; together with Munro and
Heyward. It was, in truth, the father in quest of his children, attended
by the youth who felt so deep a stake in their happiness, and those
brave and trusty foresters, who had already proved their skill and
fidelity through the trying scenes related.

When Uncas, who moved in front, had reached the center of the plain, he
raised a cry that drew his companions in a body to the spot. The young
warrior had halted over a group of females who lay in a cluster, a
confused mass of dead. Notwithstanding the revolting horror of
the exhibition, Munro and Heyward flew toward the festering heap,
endeavoring, with a love that no unseemliness could extinguish, to
discover whether any vestiges of those they sought were to be seen among
the tattered and many-colored garments. The father and the lover
found instant relief in the search; though each was condemned again
to experience the misery of an uncertainty that was hardly less
insupportable than the most revolting truth. They were standing, silent
and thoughtful, around the melancholy pile, when the scout approached.
Eyeing the sad spectacle with an angry countenance, the sturdy woodsman,
for the first time since his entering the plain, spoke intelligibly and
aloud:

"I have been on many a shocking field, and have followed a trail of
blood for weary miles," he said, "but never have I found the hand of the
devil so plain as it is here to be seen! Revenge is an Indian feeling,
and all who know me know that there is no cross in my veins; but this
much will I say--here, in the face of heaven, and with the power of the
Lord so manifest in this howling wilderness--that should these Frenchers
ever trust themselves again within the range of a ragged bullet, there
is one rifle which shall play its part so long as flint will fire or
powder burn! I leave the tomahawk and knife to such as have a natural
gift to use them. What say you, Chingachgook," he added, in Delaware;
"shall the Hurons boast of this to their women when the deep snows
come?"

A gleam of resentment flashed across the dark lineaments of the Mohican
chief; he loosened his knife in his sheath; and then turning calmly from
the sight, his countenance settled into a repose as deep as if he knew
the instigation of passion.

"Montcalm! Montcalm!" continued the deeply resentful and less
self-restrained scout; "they say a time must come when all the deeds
done in the flesh will be seen at a single look; and that by eyes
cleared from mortal infirmities. Woe betide the wretch who is born to
behold this plain, with the judgment hanging about his soul! Ha--as I
am a man of white blood, yonder lies a red-skin, without the hair of
his head where nature rooted it! Look to him, Delaware; it may be one of
your missing people; and he should have burial like a stout warrior.
I see it in your eye, Sagamore; a Huron pays for this, afore the fall
winds have blown away the scent of the blood!"

Chingachgook approached the mutilated form, and, turning it over, he
found the distinguishing marks of one of those six allied tribes, or
nations, as they were called, who, while they fought in the English
ranks, were so deadly hostile to his own people. Spurning the loathsome
object with his foot, he turned from it with the same indifference he
would have quitted a brute carcass. The scout comprehended the action,
and very deliberately pursued his own way, continuing, however, his
denunciations against the French commander in the same resentful strain.

"Nothing but vast wisdom and unlimited power should dare to sweep off
men in multitudes," he added; "for it is only the one that can know the
necessity of the judgment; and what is there, short of the other, that
can replace the creatures of the Lord? I hold it a sin to kill the
second buck afore the first is eaten, unless a march in front, or
an ambushment, be contemplated. It is a different matter with a few
warriors in open and rugged fight, for 'tis their gift to die with the
rifle or the tomahawk in hand; according as their natures may happen to
be, white or red. Uncas, come this way, lad, and let the ravens settle
upon the Mingo. I know, from often seeing it, that they have a craving
for the flesh of an Oneida; and it is as well to let the bird follow the
gift of its natural appetite."

"Hugh!" exclaimed the young Mohican, rising on the extremities of his
feet, and gazing intently in his front, frightening the ravens to some
other prey by the sound and the action.

"What is it, boy?" whispered the scout, lowering his tall form into a
crouching attitude, like a panther about to take his leap; "God send it
be a tardy Frencher, skulking for plunder. I do believe 'killdeer' would
take an uncommon range today!"

Uncas, without making any reply, bounded away from the spot, and in the
next instant he was seen tearing from a bush, and waving in triumph, a
fragment of the green riding-veil of Cora. The movement, the exhibition,
and the cry which again burst from the lips of the young Mohican,
instantly drew the whole party about him.

"My child!" said Munro, speaking quickly and wildly; "give me my child!"

"Uncas will try," was the short and touching answer.

The simple but meaning assurance was lost on the father, who seized
the piece of gauze, and crushed it in his hand, while his eyes roamed
fearfully among the bushes, as if he equally dreaded and hoped for the
secrets they might reveal.

"Here are no dead," said Heyward; "the storm seems not to have passed
this way."

"That's manifest; and clearer than the heavens above our heads,"
returned the undisturbed scout; "but either she, or they that have
robbed her, have passed the bush; for I remember the rag she wore to
hide a face that all did love to look upon. Uncas, you are right; the
dark-hair has been here, and she has fled like a frightened fawn, to the
wood; none who could fly would remain to be murdered. Let us search
for the marks she left; for, to Indian eyes, I sometimes think a
humming-bird leaves his trail in the air."

The young Mohican darted away at the suggestion, and the scout had
hardly done speaking, before the former raised a cry of success from the
margin of the forest. On reaching the spot, the anxious party perceived
another portion of the veil fluttering on the lower branch of a beech.

"Softly, softly," said the scout, extending his long rifle in front of
the eager Heyward; "we now know our work, but the beauty of the trail
must not be deformed. A step too soon may give us hours of trouble. We
have them, though; that much is beyond denial."

"Bless ye, bless ye, worthy man!" exclaimed Munro; "whither then, have
they fled, and where are my babes?"

"The path they have taken depends on many chances. If they have gone
alone, they are quite as likely to move in a circle as straight, and
they may be within a dozen miles of us; but if the Hurons, or any of the
French Indians, have laid hands on them, 'tis probably they are now
near the borders of the Canadas. But what matters that?" continued the
deliberate scout, observing the powerful anxiety and disappointment
the listeners exhibited; "here are the Mohicans and I on one end of
the trail, and, rely on it, we find the other, though they should be a
hundred leagues asunder! Gently, gently, Uncas, you are as impatient
as a man in the settlements; you forget that light feet leave but faint
marks!"

"Hugh!" exclaimed Chingachgook, who had been occupied in examining an
opening that had been evidently made through the low underbrush which
skirted the forest; and who now stood erect, as he pointed downward, in
the attitude and with the air of a man who beheld a disgusting serpent.

"Here is the palpable impression of the footstep of a man," cried
Heyward, bending over the indicated spot; "he has trod in the margin of
this pool, and the mark cannot be mistaken. They are captives."

"Better so than left to starve in the wilderness," returned the scout;
"and they will leave a wider trail. I would wager fifty beaver skins
against as many flints, that the Mohicans and I enter their wigwams
within the month! Stoop to it, Uncas, and try what you can make of the
moccasin; for moccasin it plainly is, and no shoe."

The young Mohican bent over the track, and removing the scattered leaves
from around the place, he examined it with much of that sort of scrutiny
that a money dealer, in these days of pecuniary doubts, would bestow on
a suspected due-bill. At length he arose from his knees, satisfied with
the result of the examination.

"Well, boy," demanded the attentive scout; "what does it say? Can you
make anything of the tell-tale?"

"Le Renard Subtil!"

"Ha! that rampaging devil again! there will never be an end of his
loping till 'killdeer' has said a friendly word to him."

Heyward reluctantly admitted the truth of this intelligence, and now
expressed rather his hopes than his doubts by saying:

"One moccasin is so much like another, it is probable there is some
mistake."

"One moccasin like another! you may as well say that one foot is like
another; though we all know that some are long, and others short; some
broad and others narrow; some with high, and some with low insteps; some
intoed, and some out. One moccasin is no more like another than one book
is like another: though they who can read in one are seldom able to tell
the marks of the other. Which is all ordered for the best, giving to
every man his natural advantages. Let me get down to it, Uncas; neither
book nor moccasin is the worse for having two opinions, instead of one."
The scout stooped to the task, and instantly added:

"You are right, boy; here is the patch we saw so often in the other
chase. And the fellow will drink when he can get an opportunity; your
drinking Indian always learns to walk with a wider toe than the natural
savage, it being the gift of a drunkard to straddle, whether of white or
red skin. 'Tis just the length and breadth, too! look at it, Sagamore;
you measured the prints more than once, when we hunted the varmints from
Glenn's to the health springs."

Chingachgook complied; and after finishing his short examination, he
arose, and with a quiet demeanor, he merely pronounced the word:

"Magua!"

"Ay, 'tis a settled thing; here, then, have passed the dark-hair and
Magua."

"And not Alice?" demanded Heyward.

"Of her we have not yet seen the signs," returned the scout, looking
closely around at the trees, the bushes and the ground. "What have
we there? Uncas, bring hither the thing you see dangling from yonder
thorn-bush."

When the Indian had complied, the scout received the prize, and holding
it on high, he laughed in his silent but heartfelt manner.

"'Tis the tooting we'pon of the singer! now we shall have a trail a
priest might travel," he said. "Uncas, look for the marks of a shoe that
is long enough to uphold six feet two of tottering human flesh. I begin
to have some hopes of the fellow, since he has given up squalling to
follow some better trade."

"At least he has been faithful to his trust," said Heyward. "And Cora
and Alice are not without a friend."

"Yes," said Hawkeye, dropping his rifle, and leaning on it with an air
of visible contempt, "he will do their singing. Can he slay a buck for
their dinner; journey by the moss on the beeches, or cut the throat of
a Huron? If not, the first catbird* he meets is the cleverer of the two.
Well, boy, any signs of such a foundation?"

     * The powers of the American mocking-bird are generally
     known. But the true mocking-bird is not found so far north
     as the state of New York, where it has, however, two
     substitutes of inferior excellence, the catbird, so often
     named by the scout, and the bird vulgarly called ground-
     thresher. Either of these last two birds is superior to the
     nightingale or the lark, though, in general, the American
     birds are less musical than those of Europe.

"Here is something like the footstep of one who has worn a shoe; can it
be that of our friend?"

"Touch the leaves lightly or you'll disconsart the formation. That! that
is the print of a foot, but 'tis the dark-hair's; and small it is, too,
for one of such a noble height and grand appearance. The singer would
cover it with his heel."

"Where! let me look on the footsteps of my child," said Munro, shoving
the bushes aside, and bending fondly over the nearly obliterated
impression. Though the tread which had left the mark had been light and
rapid, it was still plainly visible. The aged soldier examined it with
eyes that grew dim as he gazed; nor did he rise from this stooping
posture until Heyward saw that he had watered the trace of his
daughter's passage with a scalding tear. Willing to divert a distress
which threatened each moment to break through the restraint of
appearances, by giving the veteran something to do, the young man said
to the scout:

"As we now possess these infallible signs, let us commence our march. A
moment, at such a time, will appear an age to the captives."

"It is not the swiftest leaping deer that gives the longest chase,"
returned Hawkeye, without moving his eyes from the different marks that
had come under his view; "we know that the rampaging Huron has passed,
and the dark-hair, and the singer, but where is she of the yellow locks
and blue eyes? Though little, and far from being as bold as her sister,
she is fair to the view, and pleasant in discourse. Has she no friend,
that none care for her?"

"God forbid she should ever want hundreds! Are we not now in her
pursuit? For one, I will never cease the search till she be found."

"In that case we may have to journey by different paths; for here she
has not passed, light and little as her footsteps would be."

Heyward drew back, all his ardor to proceed seeming to vanish on the
instant. Without attending to this sudden change in the other's humor,
the scout after musing a moment continued:

"There is no woman in this wilderness could leave such a print as that,
but the dark-hair or her sister. We know that the first has been here,
but where are the signs of the other? Let us push deeper on the trail,
and if nothing offers, we must go back to the plain and strike another
scent. Move on, Uncas, and keep your eyes on the dried leaves. I will
watch the bushes, while your father shall run with a low nose to the
ground. Move on, friends; the sun is getting behind the hills."

"Is there nothing that I can do?" demanded the anxious Heyward.

"You?" repeated the scout, who, with his red friends, was already
advancing in the order he had prescribed; "yes, you can keep in our rear
and be careful not to cross the trail."

Before they had proceeded many rods, the Indians stopped, and appeared
to gaze at some signs on the earth with more than their usual keenness.
Both father and son spoke quick and loud, now looking at the object
of their mutual admiration, and now regarding each other with the most
unequivocal pleasure.

"They have found the little foot!" exclaimed the scout, moving forward,
without attending further to his own portion of the duty. "What have
we here? An ambushment has been planted in the spot! No, by the truest
rifle on the frontiers, here have been them one-sided horses again! Now
the whole secret is out, and all is plain as the north star at midnight.
Yes, here they have mounted. There the beasts have been bound to a
sapling, in waiting; and yonder runs the broad path away to the north,
in full sweep for the Canadas."

"But still there are no signs of Alice, of the younger Miss Munro," said
Duncan.

"Unless the shining bauble Uncas has just lifted from the ground should
prove one. Pass it this way, lad, that we may look at it."

Heyward instantly knew it for a trinket that Alice was fond of wearing,
and which he recollected, with the tenacious memory of a lover, to have
seen, on the fatal morning of the massacre, dangling from the fair neck
of his mistress. He seized the highly prized jewel; and as he proclaimed
the fact, it vanished from the eyes of the wondering scout, who in vain
looked for it on the ground, long after it was warmly pressed against
the beating heart of Duncan.

"Pshaw!" said the disappointed Hawkeye, ceasing to rake the leaves with
the breech of his rifle; "'tis a certain sign of age, when the sight
begins to weaken. Such a glittering gewgaw, and not to be seen! Well,
well, I can squint along a clouded barrel yet, and that is enough to
settle all disputes between me and the Mingoes. I should like to find
the thing, too, if it were only to carry it to the right owner, and that
would be bringing the two ends of what I call a long trail together,
for by this time the broad St. Lawrence, or perhaps, the Great Lakes
themselves, are between us."

"So much the more reason why we should not delay our march," returned
Heyward; "let us proceed."

"Young blood and hot blood, they say, are much the same thing. We are
not about to start on a squirrel hunt, or to drive a deer into the
Horican, but to outlie for days and nights, and to stretch across
a wilderness where the feet of men seldom go, and where no bookish
knowledge would carry you through harmless. An Indian never starts on
such an expedition without smoking over his council-fire; and, though
a man of white blood, I honor their customs in this particular, seeing
that they are deliberate and wise. We will, therefore, go back, and
light our fire to-night in the ruins of the old fort, and in the morning
we shall be fresh, and ready to undertake our work like men, and not
like babbling women or eager boys."

Heyward saw, by the manner of the scout, that altercation would be
useless. Munro had again sunk into that sort of apathy which had beset
him since his late overwhelming misfortunes, and from which he was
apparently to be roused only by some new and powerful excitement. Making
a merit of necessity, the young man took the veteran by the arm, and
followed in the footsteps of the Indians and the scout, who had already
begun to retrace the path which conducted them to the plain.




CHAPTER 19

     "Salar.--Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take
     his flesh; what's that good for?
     Shy.--To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it
     will feed my revenge."
     --Merchant of Venice

The shades of evening had come to increase the dreariness of the place,
when the party entered the ruins of William Henry. The scout and his
companions immediately made their preparations to pass the night there;
but with an earnestness and sobriety of demeanor that betrayed how
much the unusual horrors they had just witnessed worked on even their
practised feelings. A few fragments of rafters were reared against a
blackened wall; and when Uncas had covered them slightly with brush,
the temporary accommodations were deemed sufficient. The young Indian
pointed toward his rude hut when his labor was ended; and Heyward, who
understood the meaning of the silent gestures, gently urged Munro to
enter. Leaving the bereaved old man alone with his sorrows, Duncan
immediately returned into the open air, too much excited himself to seek
the repose he had recommended to his veteran friend.

While Hawkeye and the Indians lighted their fire and took their
evening's repast, a frugal meal of dried bear's meat, the young man paid
a visit to that curtain of the dilapidated fort which looked out on the
sheet of the Horican. The wind had fallen, and the waves were already
rolling on the sandy beach beneath him, in a more regular and tempered
succession. The clouds, as if tired of their furious chase, were
breaking asunder; the heavier volumes, gathering in black masses about
the horizon, while the lighter scud still hurried above the water, or
eddied among the tops of the mountains, like broken flights of birds,
hovering around their roosts. Here and there, a red and fiery star
struggled through the drifting vapor, furnishing a lurid gleam of
brightness to the dull aspect of the heavens. Within the bosom of the
encircling hills, an impenetrable darkness had already settled; and
the plain lay like a vast and deserted charnel-house, without omen or
whisper to disturb the slumbers of its numerous and hapless tenants.

Of this scene, so chillingly in accordance with the past, Duncan stood
for many minutes a rapt observer. His eyes wandered from the bosom of
the mound, where the foresters were seated around their glimmering fire,
to the fainter light which still lingered in the skies, and then rested
long and anxiously on the embodied gloom, which lay like a dreary
void on that side of him where the dead reposed. He soon fancied that
inexplicable sounds arose from the place, though so indistinct and
stolen, as to render not only their nature but even their existence
uncertain. Ashamed of his apprehensions, the young man turned toward the
water, and strove to divert his attention to the mimic stars that dimly
glimmered on its moving surface. Still, his too-conscious ears performed
their ungrateful duty, as if to warn him of some lurking danger. At
length, a swift trampling seemed, quite audibly, to rush athwart the
darkness. Unable any longer to quiet his uneasiness, Duncan spoke in a
low voice to the scout, requesting him to ascend the mound to the place
where he stood. Hawkeye threw his rifle across an arm and complied, but
with an air so unmoved and calm, as to prove how much he counted on the
security of their position.

"Listen!" said Duncan, when the other placed himself deliberately at his
elbow; "there are suppressed noises on the plain which may show Montcalm
has not yet entirely deserted his conquest."

"Then ears are better than eyes," said the undisturbed scout, who,
having just deposited a portion of a bear between his grinders, spoke
thick and slow, like one whose mouth was doubly occupied. "I myself saw
him caged in Ty, with all his host; for your Frenchers, when they
have done a clever thing, like to get back, and have a dance, or a
merry-making, with the women over their success."

"I know not. An Indian seldom sleeps in war, and plunder may keep a
Huron here after his tribe has departed. It would be well to extinguish
the fire, and have a watch--listen! you hear the noise I mean!"

"An Indian more rarely lurks about the graves. Though ready to slay, and
not over regardful of the means, he is commonly content with the scalp,
unless when blood is hot, and temper up; but after spirit is once fairly
gone, he forgets his enmity, and is willing to let the dead find their
natural rest. Speaking of spirits, major, are you of opinion that the
heaven of a red-skin and of us whites will be of one and the same?"

"No doubt--no doubt. I thought I heard it again! or was it the rustling
of the leaves in the top of the beech?"

"For my own part," continued Hawkeye, turning his face for a moment
in the direction indicated by Heyward, but with a vacant and careless
manner, "I believe that paradise is ordained for happiness; and that
men will be indulged in it according to their dispositions and gifts.
I, therefore, judge that a red-skin is not far from the truth when
he believes he is to find them glorious hunting grounds of which his
traditions tell; nor, for that matter, do I think it would be any
disparagement to a man without a cross to pass his time--"

"You hear it again?" interrupted Duncan.

"Ay, ay; when food is scarce, and when food is plenty, a wolf grows
bold," said the unmoved scout. "There would be picking, too, among the
skins of the devils, if there was light and time for the sport. But,
concerning the life that is to come, major; I have heard preachers say,
in the settlements, that heaven was a place of rest. Now, men's minds
differ as to their ideas of enjoyment. For myself, and I say it with
reverence to the ordering of Providence, it would be no great indulgence
to be kept shut up in those mansions of which they preach, having a
natural longing for motion and the chase."

Duncan, who was now made to understand the nature of the noise he had
heard, answered, with more attention to the subject which the humor of
the scout had chosen for discussion, by saying:

"It is difficult to account for the feelings that may attend the last
great change."

"It would be a change, indeed, for a man who has passed his days in
the open air," returned the single-minded scout; "and who has so often
broken his fast on the head waters of the Hudson, to sleep within sound
of the roaring Mohawk. But it is a comfort to know we serve a merciful
Master, though we do it each after his fashion, and with great tracts of
wilderness atween us--what goes there?"

"Is it not the rushing of the wolves you have mentioned?"

Hawkeye slowly shook his head, and beckoned for Duncan to follow him
to a spot to which the glare from the fire did not extend. When he
had taken this precaution, the scout placed himself in an attitude of
intense attention and listened long and keenly for a repetition of the
low sound that had so unexpectedly startled him. His vigilance, however,
seemed exercised in vain; for after a fruitless pause, he whispered to
Duncan:

"We must give a call to Uncas. The boy has Indian senses, and he may
hear what is hid from us; for, being a white-skin, I will not deny my
nature."

The young Mohican, who was conversing in a low voice with his father,
started as he heard the moaning of an owl, and, springing on his feet,
he looked toward the black mounds, as if seeking the place whence the
sounds proceeded. The scout repeated the call, and in a few moments,
Duncan saw the figure of Uncas stealing cautiously along the rampart, to
the spot where they stood.

Hawkeye explained his wishes in a very few words, which were spoken in
the Delaware tongue. So soon as Uncas was in possession of the reason
why he was summoned, he threw himself flat on the turf; where, to the
eyes of Duncan, he appeared to lie quiet and motionless. Surprised at
the immovable attitude of the young warrior, and curious to observe
the manner in which he employed his faculties to obtain the desired
information, Heyward advanced a few steps, and bent over the dark object
on which he had kept his eye riveted. Then it was he discovered that the
form of Uncas vanished, and that he beheld only the dark outline of an
inequality in the embankment.

"What has become of the Mohican?" he demanded of the scout, stepping
back in amazement; "it was here that I saw him fall, and could have
sworn that here he yet remained."

"Hist! speak lower; for we know not what ears are open, and the Mingoes
are a quick-witted breed. As for Uncas, he is out on the plain, and the
Maquas, if any such are about us, will find their equal."

"You think that Montcalm has not called off all his Indians? Let us give
the alarm to our companions, that we may stand to our arms. Here are
five of us, who are not unused to meet an enemy."

"Not a word to either, as you value your life. Look at the Sagamore, how
like a grand Indian chief he sits by the fire. If there are any skulkers
out in the darkness, they will never discover, by his countenance, that
we suspect danger at hand."

"But they may discover him, and it will prove his death. His person can
be too plainly seen by the light of that fire, and he will become the
first and most certain victim."

"It is undeniable that now you speak the truth," returned the scout,
betraying more anxiety than was usual; "yet what can be done? A single
suspicious look might bring on an attack before we are ready to receive
it. He knows, by the call I gave to Uncas, that we have struck a scent;
I will tell him that we are on the trail of the Mingoes; his Indian
nature will teach him how to act."

The scout applied his fingers to his mouth, and raised a low hissing
sound, that caused Duncan at first to start aside, believing that he
heard a serpent. The head of Chingachgook was resting on a hand, as he
sat musing by himself but the moment he had heard the warning of the
animal whose name he bore, he arose to an upright position, and his dark
eyes glanced swiftly and keenly on every side of him. With his sudden
and, perhaps, involuntary movement, every appearance of surprise or
alarm ended. His rifle lay untouched, and apparently unnoticed, within
reach of his hand. The tomahawk that he had loosened in his belt for the
sake of ease, was even suffered to fall from its usual situation to the
ground, and his form seemed to sink, like that of a man whose nerves
and sinews were suffered to relax for the purpose of rest. Cunningly
resuming his former position, though with a change of hands, as if the
movement had been made merely to relieve the limb, the native awaited
the result with a calmness and fortitude that none but an Indian warrior
would have known how to exercise.

But Heyward saw that while to a less instructed eye the Mohican chief
appeared to slumber, his nostrils were expanded, his head was turned a
little to one side, as if to assist the organs of hearing, and that his
quick and rapid glances ran incessantly over every object within the
power of his vision.

"See the noble fellow!" whispered Hawkeye, pressing the arm of Heyward;
"he knows that a look or a motion might disconsart our schemes, and put
us at the mercy of them imps--"

He was interrupted by the flash and report of a rifle. The air was
filled with sparks of fire, around that spot where the eyes of Heyward
were still fastened, with admiration and wonder. A second look told him
that Chingachgook had disappeared in the confusion. In the meantime, the
scout had thrown forward his rifle, like one prepared for service, and
awaited impatiently the moment when an enemy might rise to view.
But with the solitary and fruitless attempt made on the life of
Chingachgook, the attack appeared to have terminated. Once or twice the
listeners thought they could distinguish the distant rustling of bushes,
as bodies of some unknown description rushed through them; nor was it
long before Hawkeye pointed out the "scampering of the wolves," as they
fled precipitately before the passage of some intruder on their proper
domains. After an impatient and breathless pause, a plunge was heard
in the water, and it was immediately followed by the report of another
rifle.

"There goes Uncas!" said the scout; "the boy bears a smart piece! I know
its crack, as well as a father knows the language of his child, for I
carried the gun myself until a better offered."

"What can this mean?" demanded Duncan, "we are watched, and, as it would
seem, marked for destruction."

"Yonder scattered brand can witness that no good was intended, and this
Indian will testify that no harm has been done," returned the scout,
dropping his rifle across his arm again, and following Chingachgook, who
just then reappeared within the circle of light, into the bosom of the
work. "How is it, Sagamore? Are the Mingoes upon us in earnest, or is it
only one of those reptiles who hang upon the skirts of a war-party,
to scalp the dead, go in, and make their boast among the squaws of the
valiant deeds done on the pale faces?"

Chingachgook very quietly resumed his seat; nor did he make any reply,
until after he had examined the firebrand which had been struck by
the bullet that had nearly proved fatal to himself. After which he was
content to reply, holding a single finger up to view, with the English
monosyllable:

"One."

"I thought as much," returned Hawkeye, seating himself; "and as he had
got the cover of the lake afore Uncas pulled upon him, it is more than
probable the knave will sing his lies about some great ambushment,
in which he was outlying on the trail of two Mohicans and a white
hunter--for the officers can be considered as little better than idlers
in such a scrimmage. Well, let him--let him. There are always some
honest men in every nation, though heaven knows, too, that they are
scarce among the Maquas, to look down an upstart when he brags ag'in the
face of reason. The varlet sent his lead within whistle of your ears,
Sagamore."

Chingachgook turned a calm and incurious eye toward the place where the
ball had struck, and then resumed his former attitude, with a composure
that could not be disturbed by so trifling an incident. Just then Uncas
glided into the circle, and seated himself at the fire, with the same
appearance of indifference as was maintained by his father.

Of these several moments Heyward was a deeply interested and wondering
observer. It appeared to him as though the foresters had some secret
means of intelligence, which had escaped the vigilance of his own
faculties. In place of that eager and garrulous narration with which
a white youth would have endeavored to communicate, and perhaps
exaggerate, that which had passed out in the darkness of the plain,
the young warrior was seemingly content to let his deeds speak for
themselves. It was, in fact, neither the moment nor the occasion for an
Indian to boast of his exploits; and it is probably that, had Heyward
neglected to inquire, not another syllable would, just then, have been
uttered on the subject.

"What has become of our enemy, Uncas?" demanded Duncan; "we heard your
rifle, and hoped you had not fired in vain."

The young chief removed a fold of his hunting skirt, and quietly
exposed the fatal tuft of hair, which he bore as the symbol of victory.
Chingachgook laid his hand on the scalp, and considered it for a moment
with deep attention. Then dropping it, with disgust depicted in his
strong features, he ejaculated:

"Oneida!"

"Oneida!" repeated the scout, who was fast losing his interest in the
scene, in an apathy nearly assimilated to that of his red associates,
but who now advanced in uncommon earnestness to regard the bloody badge.
"By the Lord, if the Oneidas are outlying upon the trail, we shall by
flanked by devils on every side of us! Now, to white eyes there is no
difference between this bit of skin and that of any other Indian, and
yet the Sagamore declares it came from the poll of a Mingo; nay, he even
names the tribe of the poor devil, with as much ease as if the scalp was
the leaf of a book, and each hair a letter. What right have Christian
whites to boast of their learning, when a savage can read a language
that would prove too much for the wisest of them all! What say you, lad,
of what people was the knave?"

Uncas raised his eyes to the face of the scout, and answered, in his
soft voice:

"Oneida."

"Oneida, again! when one Indian makes a declaration it is commonly true;
but when he is supported by his people, set it down as gospel!"

"The poor fellow has mistaken us for French," said Heyward; "or he would
not have attempted the life of a friend."

"He mistake a Mohican in his paint for a Huron! You would be as likely
to mistake the white-coated grenadiers of Montcalm for the scarlet
jackets of the Royal Americans," returned the scout. "No, no, the
sarpent knew his errand; nor was there any great mistake in the matter,
for there is but little love atween a Delaware and a Mingo, let their
tribes go out to fight for whom they may, in a white quarrel. For
that matter, though the Oneidas do serve his sacred majesty, who is
my sovereign lord and master, I should not have deliberated long about
letting off 'killdeer' at the imp myself, had luck thrown him in my
way."

"That would have been an abuse of our treaties, and unworthy of your
character."

"When a man consort much with a people," continued Hawkeye, "if they
were honest and he no knave, love will grow up atwixt them. It is true
that white cunning has managed to throw the tribes into great confusion,
as respects friends and enemies; so that the Hurons and the Oneidas, who
speak the same tongue, or what may be called the same, take each other's
scalps, and the Delawares are divided among themselves; a few hanging
about their great council-fire on their own river, and fighting on the
same side with the Mingoes while the greater part are in the Canadas,
out of natural enmity to the Maquas--thus throwing everything into
disorder, and destroying all the harmony of warfare. Yet a red natur' is
not likely to alter with every shift of policy; so that the love atwixt
a Mohican and a Mingo is much like the regard between a white man and a
sarpent."

"I regret to hear it; for I had believed those natives who dwelt within
our boundaries had found us too just and liberal, not to identify
themselves fully with our quarrels."

"Why, I believe it is natur' to give a preference to one's own quarrels
before those of strangers. Now, for myself, I do love justice; and,
therefore, I will not say I hate a Mingo, for that may be unsuitable to
my color and my religion, though I will just repeat, it may have been
owing to the night that 'killdeer' had no hand in the death of this
skulking Oneida."

Then, as if satisfied with the force of his own reasons, whatever might
be their effect on the opinions of the other disputant, the honest but
implacable woodsman turned from the fire, content to let the controversy
slumber. Heyward withdrew to the rampart, too uneasy and too little
accustomed to the warfare of the woods to remain at ease under the
possibility of such insidious attacks. Not so, however, with the scout
and the Mohicans. Those acute and long-practised senses, whose powers so
often exceed the limits of all ordinary credulity, after having detected
the danger, had enabled them to ascertain its magnitude and duration.
Not one of the three appeared in the least to doubt their perfect
security, as was indicated by the preparations that were soon made to
sit in council over their future proceedings.

The confusion of nations, and even of tribes, to which Hawkeye alluded,
existed at that period in the fullest force. The great tie of language,
and, of course, of a common origin, was severed in many places; and it
was one of its consequences, that the Delaware and the Mingo (as the
people of the Six Nations were called) were found fighting in the same
ranks, while the latter sought the scalp of the Huron, though believed
to be the root of his own stock. The Delawares were even divided among
themselves. Though love for the soil which had belonged to his ancestors
kept the Sagamore of the Mohicans with a small band of followers who
were serving at Edward, under the banners of the English king, by far
the largest portion of his nation were known to be in the field as
allies of Montcalm. The reader probably knows, if enough has not already
been gleaned form this narrative, that the Delaware, or Lenape, claimed
to be the progenitors of that numerous people, who once were masters
of most of the eastern and northern states of America, of whom the
community of the Mohicans was an ancient and highly honored member.

It was, of course, with a perfect understanding of the minute and
intricate interests which had armed friend against friend, and brought
natural enemies to combat by each other's side, that the scout and his
companions now disposed themselves to deliberate on the measures that
were to govern their future movements, amid so many jarring and savage
races of men. Duncan knew enough of Indian customs to understand
the reason that the fire was replenished, and why the warriors, not
excepting Hawkeye, took their seats within the curl of its smoke with
so much gravity and decorum. Placing himself at an angle of the works,
where he might be a spectator of the scene without, he awaited the
result with as much patience as he could summon.

After a short and impressive pause, Chingachgook lighted a pipe whose
bowl was curiously carved in one of the soft stones of the country,
and whose stem was a tube of wood, and commenced smoking. When he had
inhaled enough of the fragrance of the soothing weed, he passed the
instrument into the hands of the scout. In this manner the pipe had made
its rounds three several times, amid the most profound silence, before
either of the party opened his lips. Then the Sagamore, as the oldest
and highest in rank, in a few calm and dignified words, proposed the
subject for deliberation. He was answered by the scout; and Chingachgook
rejoined, when the other objected to his opinions. But the youthful
Uncas continued a silent and respectful listener, until Hawkeye, in
complaisance, demanded his opinion. Heyward gathered from the manners of
the different speakers, that the father and son espoused one 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 no trail.

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 footsteps.

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 place.

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.




CHAPTER 20

     "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 leader.

"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 place."

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 demanded:

"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 enemies."

"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 narrow strait.

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 Chingachgook.

"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 Hurons--"

"Never!" exclaimed Heyward, in a voice far too loud for their
circumstances.

"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 do?"

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 Louis's!"

"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 their flight.

"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 us."

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 clearings?"

"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 important task.

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 two!"

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 breathed freely.

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 cause."

"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 land.

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.




CHAPTER 21

     "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 wild recesses.

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 their situation.

"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 years."

"'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
them accordingly."

"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 started.

"Such cunning is not without its deviltry," exclaimed Hawkeye, when he
met the disappointed looks of his assistants.

"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 moccasins.

"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 their formation."

"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 training."

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 encampment."

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 side.

"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 movements."

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 sing?"

"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."




CHAPTER 22

     "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 them.

"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 the body."

"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 their reception."

"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
voices."

"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 answer:

"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 mentioned.

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 themselves.

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 creeping
tortoise."

"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 path."

"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 your liking."

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 glances.

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 in 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 speaking.

"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
these."

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 Philistines."




CHAPTER 23

     "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 assent.

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 Hurons."

"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 mean?"

"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 lies."

"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
speaker.

"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 success in the
hazardous race he was about to run. Insensibly the young man drew nigher
to the swarthy lines of the Hurons, and scarcely breathed, so intense
became his interest in the spectacle. Just then the signal yell was
given, and the momentary quiet which had preceded it was broken by a
burst of cries, that far exceeded any before heard. The more abject of
the two victims continued motionless; but the other bounded from the
place at the cry, with the activity and swiftness of a deer. Instead of
rushing through the hostile lines, as had been expected, he just entered
the dangerous defile, and before time was given for a single blow,
turned short, and leaping the heads of a row of children, he gained at
once the exterior and safer side of the formidable array. The artifice
was answered by a hundred voices raised in imprecations; and the whole
of the excited multitude broke from their order, and spread themselves
about the place in wild confusion.

A dozen blazing piles now shed their lurid brightness on the place,
which resembled some unhallowed and supernatural arena, in which
malicious demons had assembled to act their bloody and lawless rites.
The forms in the background looked like unearthly beings, gliding before
the eye, and cleaving the air with frantic and unmeaning gestures; while
the savage passions of such as passed the flames were rendered fearfully
distinct by the gleams that shot athwart their inflamed visages.

It will easily be understood that, amid such a concourse of vindictive
enemies, no breathing time was allowed the fugitive. There was a single
moment when it seemed as if he would have reached the forest, but the
whole body of his captors threw themselves before him, and drove him
back into the center of his relentless persecutors. Turning like a
headed deer, he shot, with the swiftness of an arrow, through a pillar
of forked flame, and passing the whole multitude harmless, he appeared
on the opposite side of the clearing. Here, too, he was met and turned
by a few of the older and more subtle of the Hurons. Once more he tried
the throng, as if seeking safety in its blindness, and then several
moments succeeded, during which Duncan believed the active and
courageous young stranger was lost.

Nothing could be distinguished but a dark mass of human forms tossed
and involved in inexplicable confusion. Arms, gleaming knives, and
formidable clubs, appeared above them, but the blows were evidently
given at random. The awful effect was heightened by the piercing shrieks
of the women and the fierce yells of the warriors. Now and then Duncan
caught a glimpse of a light form cleaving the air in some desperate
bound, and he rather hoped than believed that the captive yet retained
the command of his astonishing powers of activity. Suddenly the
multitude rolled backward, and approached the spot where he himself
stood. The heavy body in the rear pressed upon the women and children
in front, and bore them to the earth. The stranger reappeared in the
confusion. Human power could not, however, much longer endure so
severe a trial. Of this the captive seemed conscious. Profiting by
the momentary opening, he darted from among the warriors, and made a
desperate, and what seemed to Duncan a final effort to gain the wood.
As if aware that no danger was to be apprehended from the young soldier,
the fugitive nearly brushed his person in his flight. A tall and
powerful Huron, who had husbanded his forces, pressed close upon his
heels, and with an uplifted arm menaced a fatal blow. Duncan thrust
forth a foot, and the shock precipitated the eager savage headlong, many
feet in advance of his intended victim. Thought itself is not quicker
than was the motion with which the latter profited by the advantage; he
turned, gleamed like a meteor again before the eyes of Duncan, and, at
the next moment, when the latter recovered his recollection, and gazed
around in quest of the captive, he saw him quietly leaning against a
small painted post, which stood before the door of the principal lodge.

Apprehensive that the part he had taken in the escape might prove fatal
to himself, Duncan left the place without delay. He followed the crowd,
which drew nigh the lodges, gloomy and sullen, like any other multitude
that had been disappointed in an execution. Curiosity, or perhaps a
better feeling, induced him to approach the stranger. He found him,
standing with one arm cast about the protecting post, and breathing
thick and hard, after his exertions, but disdaining to permit a single
sign of suffering to escape. His person was now protected by immemorial
and sacred usage, until the tribe in council had deliberated and
determined on his fate. It was not difficult, however, to foretell the
result, if any presage could be drawn from the feelings of those who
crowded the place.

There was no term of abuse known to the Huron vocabulary that the
disappointed women did not lavishly expend on the successful stranger.
They flouted at his efforts, and told him, with bitter scoffs, that his
feet were better than his hands; and that he merited wings, while he
knew not the use of an arrow or a knife. To all this the captive made
no reply; but was content to preserve an attitude in which dignity was
singularly blended with disdain. Exasperated as much by his composure
as by his good-fortune, their words became unintelligible, and were
succeeded by shrill, piercing yells. Just then the crafty squaw, who had
taken the necessary precaution to fire the piles, made her way through
the throng, and cleared a place for herself in front of the captive. The
squalid and withered person of this hag might well have obtained for her
the character of possessing more than human cunning. Throwing back her
light vestment, she stretched forth her long, skinny arm, in derision,
and using the language of the Lenape, as more intelligible to the
subject of her gibes, she commenced aloud:

"Look you, Delaware," she said, snapping her fingers in his face; "your
nation is a race of women, and the hoe is better fitted to your hands
than the gun. Your squaws are the mothers of deer; but if a bear, or
a wildcat, or a serpent were born among you, ye would flee. The Huron
girls shall make you petticoats, and we will find you a husband."

A burst of savage laughter succeeded this attack, during which the soft
and musical merriment of the younger females strangely chimed with
the cracked voice of their older and more malignant companion. But the
stranger was superior to all their efforts. His head was immovable; nor
did he betray the slightest consciousness that any were present, except
when his haughty eye rolled toward the dusky forms of the warriors, who
stalked in the background silent and sullen observers of the scene.

Infuriated at the self-command of the captive, the woman placed her arms
akimbo; and, throwing herself into a posture of defiance, she broke
out anew, in a torrent of words that no art of ours could commit
successfully to paper. Her breath was, however, expended in vain; for,
although distinguished in her nation as a proficient in the art of
abuse, she was permitted to work herself into such a fury as actually to
foam at the mouth, without causing a muscle to vibrate in the motionless
figure of the stranger. The effect of his indifference began to extend
itself to the other spectators; and a youngster, who was just quitting
the condition of a boy to enter the state of manhood, attempted to
assist the termagant, by flourishing his tomahawk before their victim,
and adding his empty boasts to the taunts of the women. Then, indeed,
the captive turned his face toward the light, and looked down on the
stripling with an expression that was superior to contempt. At the next
moment he resumed his quiet and reclining attitude against the post. But
the change of posture had permitted Duncan to exchange glances with the
firm and piercing eyes of Uncas.

Breathless with amazement, and heavily oppressed with the critical
situation of his friend, Heyward recoiled before the look, trembling
lest its meaning might, in some unknown manner, hasten the prisoner's
fate. There was not, however, any instant cause for such an
apprehension. Just then a warrior forced his way into the exasperated
crowd. Motioning the women and children aside with a stern gesture, he
took Uncas by the arm, and led him toward the door of the council-lodge.
Thither all the chiefs, and most of the distinguished warriors,
followed; among whom the anxious Heyward found means to enter without
attracting any dangerous attention to himself.

A few minutes were consumed in disposing of those present in a manner
suitable to their rank and influence in the tribe. An order very similar
to that adopted in the preceding interview was observed; the aged and
superior chiefs occupying the area of the spacious apartment, within
the powerful light of a glaring torch, while their juniors and inferiors
were arranged in the background, presenting a dark outline of swarthy
and marked visages. In the very center of the lodge, immediately under
an opening that admitted the twinkling light of one or two stars, stood
Uncas, calm, elevated, and collected. His high and haughty carriage was
not lost on his captors, who often bent their looks on his person, with
eyes which, while they lost none of their inflexibility of purpose,
plainly betrayed their admiration of the stranger's daring.

The case was different with the individual whom Duncan had observed to
stand forth with his friend, previously to the desperate trial of speed;
and who, instead of joining in the chase, had remained, throughout
its turbulent uproar, like a cringing statue, expressive of shame and
disgrace. Though not a hand had been extended to greet him, nor yet an
eye had condescended to watch his movements, he had also entered the
lodge, as though impelled by a fate to whose decrees he submitted,
seemingly, without a struggle. Heyward profited by the first opportunity
to gaze in his face, secretly apprehensive he might find the features
of another acquaintance; but they proved to be those of a stranger, and,
what was still more inexplicable, of one who bore all the distinctive
marks of a Huron warrior. Instead of mingling with his tribe, however,
he sat apart, a solitary being in a multitude, his form shrinking into a
crouching and abject attitude, as if anxious to fill as little space as
possible. When each individual had taken his proper station, and silence
reigned in the place, the gray-haired chief already introduced to the
reader, spoke aloud, in the language of the Lenni Lenape.

"Delaware," he said, "though one of a nation of women, you have proved
yourself a man. I would give you food; but he who eats with a Huron
should become his friend. Rest in peace till the morning sun, when our
last words shall be spoken."

"Seven nights, and as many summer days, have I fasted on the trail of
the Hurons," Uncas coldly replied; "the children of the Lenape know how
to travel the path of the just without lingering to eat."

"Two of my young men are in pursuit of your companion," resumed the
other, without appearing to regard the boast of his captive; "when they
get back, then will our wise man say to you 'live' or 'die'."

"Has a Huron no ears?" scornfully exclaimed Uncas; "twice, since he has
been your prisoner, has the Delaware heard a gun that he knows. Your
young men will never come back!"

A short and sullen pause succeeded this bold assertion. Duncan, who
understood the Mohican to allude to the fatal rifle of the scout, bent
forward in earnest observation of the effect it might produce on the
conquerors; but the chief was content with simply retorting:

"If the Lenape are so skillful, why is one of their bravest warriors
here?"

"He followed in the steps of a flying coward, and fell into a snare. The
cunning beaver may be caught."

As Uncas thus replied, he pointed with his finger toward the solitary
Huron, but without deigning to bestow any other notice on so unworthy
an object. The words of the answer and the air of the speaker produced
a strong sensation among his auditors. Every eye rolled sullenly toward
the individual indicated by the simple gesture, and a low, threatening
murmur passed through the crowd. The ominous sounds reached the outer
door, and the women and children pressing into the throng, no gap had
been left, between shoulder and shoulder, that was not now filled with
the dark lineaments of some eager and curious human countenance.

In the meantime, the more aged chiefs, in the center, communed with each
other in short and broken sentences. Not a word was uttered that did not
convey the meaning of the speaker, in the simplest and most energetic
form. Again, a long and deeply solemn pause took place. It was known,
by all present, to be the brave precursor of a weighty and important
judgment. They who composed the outer circle of faces were on tiptoe to
gaze; and even the culprit for an instant forgot his shame in a deeper
emotion, and exposed his abject features, in order to cast an anxious
and troubled glance at the dark assemblage of chiefs. The silence was
finally broken by the aged warrior so often named. He arose from the
earth, and moving past the immovable form of Uncas, placed himself in
a dignified attitude before the offender. At that moment, the withered
squaw already mentioned moved into the circle, in a slow, sidling sort
of a dance, holding the torch, and muttering the indistinct words of
what might have been a species of incantation. Though her presence was
altogether an intrusion, it was unheeded.

Approaching Uncas, she held the blazing brand in such a manner as to
cast its red glare on his person, and to expose the slightest emotion of
his countenance. The Mohican maintained his firm and haughty attitude;
and his eyes, so far from deigning to meet her inquisitive look, dwelt
steadily on the distance, as though it penetrated the obstacles
which impeded the view and looked into futurity. Satisfied with her
examination, she left him, with a slight expression of pleasure, and
proceeded to practise the same trying experiment on her delinquent
countryman.

The young Huron was in his war paint, and very little of a finely molded
form was concealed by his attire. The light rendered every limb and
joint discernible, and Duncan turned away in horror when he saw they
were writhing in irrepressible agony. The woman was commencing a low
and plaintive howl at the sad and shameful spectacle, when the chief put
forth his hand and gently pushed her aside.

"Reed-that-bends," he said, addressing the young culprit by name, and in
his proper language, "though the Great Spirit has made you pleasant to
the eyes, it would have been better that you had not been born. Your
tongue is loud in the village, but in battle it is still. None of my
young men strike the tomahawk deeper into the war-post--none of them so
lightly on the Yengeese. The enemy know the shape of your back, but they
have never seen the color of your eyes. Three times have they called on
you to come, and as often did you forget to answer. Your name will never
be mentioned again in your tribe--it is already forgotten."

As the chief slowly uttered these words, pausing impressively between
each sentence, the culprit raised his face, in deference to the other's
rank and years. Shame, horror, and pride struggled in its lineaments.
His eye, which was contracted with inward anguish, gleamed on the
persons of those whose breath was his fame; and the latter emotion for
an instant predominated. He arose to his feet, and baring his bosom,
looked steadily on the keen, glittering knife, that was already upheld
by his inexorable judge. As the weapon passed slowly into his heart he
even smiled, as if in joy at having found death less dreadful than he
had anticipated, and fell heavily on his face, at the feet of the rigid
and unyielding form of Uncas.

The squaw gave a loud and plaintive yell, dashed the torch to the
earth, and buried everything in darkness. The whole shuddering group
of spectators glided from the lodge like troubled sprites; and Duncan
thought that he and the yet throbbing body of the victim of an Indian
judgment had now become its only tenants.




CHAPTER 24

     "Thus spoke the sage: the kings without delay
     Dissolve the council, and their chief obey."
     --Pope's Iliad

A single moment served to convince the youth that he was mistaken. A
hand was laid, with a powerful pressure, on his arm, and the low voice
of Uncas muttered in his ear:

"The Hurons are dogs. The sight of a coward's blood can never make a
warrior tremble. The 'Gray Head' and the Sagamore are safe, and the
rifle of Hawkeye is not asleep. Go--Uncas and the 'Open Hand' are now
strangers. It is enough."

Heyward would gladly have heard more, but a gentle push from his friend
urged him toward the door, and admonished him of the danger that might
attend the discovery of their intercourse. Slowly and reluctantly
yielding to the necessity, he quitted the place, and mingled with the
throng that hovered nigh. The dying fires in the clearing cast a dim and
uncertain light on the dusky figures that were silently stalking to
and fro; and occasionally a brighter gleam than common glanced into the
lodge, and exhibited the figure of Uncas still maintaining its upright
attitude near the dead body of the Huron.

A knot of warriors soon entered the place again, and reissuing,
they bore the senseless remains into the adjacent woods. After this
termination of the scene, Duncan wandered among the lodges, unquestioned
and unnoticed, endeavoring to find some trace of her in whose behalf he
incurred the risk he ran. In the present temper of the tribe it would
have been easy to have fled and rejoined his companions, had such a
wish crossed his mind. But, in addition to the never-ceasing anxiety on
account of Alice, a fresher though feebler interest in the fate of Uncas
assisted to chain him to the spot. He continued, therefore, to stray
from hut to hut, looking into each only to encounter additional
disappointment, until he had made the entire circuit of the village.
Abandoning a species of inquiry that proved so fruitless, he retraced
his steps to the council-lodge, resolved to seek and question David, in
order to put an end to his doubts.

On reaching the building, which had proved alike the seat of judgment
and the place of execution, the young man found that the excitement
had already subsided. The warriors had reassembled, and were now calmly
smoking, while they conversed gravely on the chief incidents of their
recent expedition to the head of the Horican. Though the return of
Duncan was likely to remind them of his character, and the suspicious
circumstances of his visit, it produced no visible sensation. So far,
the terrible scene that had just occurred proved favorable to his views,
and he required no other prompter than his own feelings to convince him
of the expediency of profiting by so unexpected an advantage.

Without seeming to hesitate, he walked into the lodge, and took his seat
with a gravity that accorded admirably with the deportment of his hosts.
A hasty but searching glance sufficed to tell him that, though Uncas
still remained where he had left him, David had not reappeared. No other
restraint was imposed on the former than the watchful looks of a young
Huron, who had placed himself at hand; though an armed warrior leaned
against the post that formed one side of the narrow doorway. In every
other respect, the captive seemed at liberty; still he was excluded from
all participation in the discourse, and possessed much more of the air
of some finely molded statue than a man having life and volition.

Heyward had too recently witnessed a frightful instance of the prompt
punishments of the people into whose hands he had fallen to hazard an
exposure by any officious boldness. He would greatly have preferred
silence and meditation to speech, when a discovery of his real
condition might prove so instantly fatal. Unfortunately for this prudent
resolution, his entertainers appeared otherwise disposed. He had not
long occupied the seat wisely taken a little in the shade, when another
of the elder warriors, who spoke the French language, addressed him:

"My Canada father does not forget his children," said the chief; "I
thank him. An evil spirit lives in the wife of one of my young men. Can
the cunning stranger frighten him away?"

Heyward possessed some knowledge of the mummery practised among the
Indians, in the cases of such supposed visitations. He saw, at a glance,
that the circumstance might possibly be improved to further his own
ends. It would, therefore, have been difficult, just then to have
uttered a proposal that would have given him more satisfaction. Aware
of the necessity of preserving the dignity of his imaginary character,
however, he repressed his feelings, and answered with suitable mystery:

"Spirits differ; some yield to the power of wisdom, while others are too
strong."

"My brother is a great medicine," said the cunning savage; "he will
try?"

A gesture of assent was the answer. The Huron was content with the
assurance, and, resuming his pipe, he awaited the proper moment to
move. The impatient Heyward, inwardly execrating the cold customs of
the savages, which required such sacrifices to appearance, was fain to
assume an air of indifference, equal to that maintained by the chief,
who was, in truth, a near relative of the afflicted woman. The minutes
lingered, and the delay had seemed an hour to the adventurer in
empiricism, when the Huron laid aside his pipe and drew his robe across
his breast, as if about to lead the way to the lodge of the invalid.
Just then, a warrior of powerful frame, darkened the door, and stalking
silently among the attentive group, he seated himself on one end of the
low pile of brush which sustained Duncan. The latter cast an impatient
look at his neighbor, and felt his flesh creep with uncontrollable
horror when he found himself in actual contact with Magua.

The sudden return of this artful and dreaded chief caused a delay in the
departure of the Huron. Several pipes, that had been extinguished, were
lighted again; while the newcomer, without speaking a word, drew his
tomahawk from his girdle, and filling the bowl on its head began to
inhale the vapors of the weed through the hollow handle, with as much
indifference as if he had not been absent two weary days on a long and
toilsome hunt. Ten minutes, which appeared so many ages to Duncan, might
have passed in this manner; and the warriors were fairly enveloped in a
cloud of white smoke before any of them spoke.

"Welcome!" one at length uttered; "has my friend found the moose?"

"The young men stagger under their burdens," returned Magua. "Let
'Reed-that-bends' go on the hunting path; he will meet them."

A deep and awful silence succeeded the utterance of the forbidden name.
Each pipe dropped from the lips of its owner as though all had inhaled
an impurity at the same instant. The smoke wreathed above their heads in
little eddies, and curling in a spiral form it ascended swiftly through
the opening in the roof of the lodge, leaving the place beneath clear of
its fumes, and each dark visage distinctly visible. The looks of most of
the warriors were riveted on the earth; though a few of the younger and
less gifted of the party suffered their wild and glaring eyeballs to
roll in the direction of a white-headed savage, who sat between two of
the most venerated chiefs of the tribe. There was nothing in the air
or attire of this Indian that would seem to entitle him to such a
distinction. The former was rather depressed, than remarkable for the
bearing of the natives; and the latter was such as was commonly worn
by the ordinary men of the nation. Like most around him for more than
a minute his look, too, was on the ground; but, trusting his eyes at
length to steal a glance aside, he perceived that he was becoming an
object of general attention. Then he arose and lifted his voice in the
general silence.

"It was a lie," he said; "I had no son. He who was called by that name
is forgotten; his blood was pale, and it came not from the veins of a
Huron; the wicked Chippewas cheated my squaw. The Great Spirit has said,
that the family of Wiss-entush should end; he is happy who knows that
the evil of his race dies with himself. I have done."

The speaker, who was the father of the recreant young Indian, looked
round and about him, as if seeking commendation of his stoicism in the
eyes of the auditors. But the stern customs of his people had made too
severe an exaction of the feeble old man. The expression of his eye
contradicted his figurative and boastful language, while every muscle in
his wrinkled visage was working with anguish. Standing a single minute
to enjoy his bitter triumph, he turned away, as if sickening at the gaze
of men, and, veiling his face in his blanket, he walked from the lodge
with the noiseless step of an Indian seeking, in the privacy of his own
abode, the sympathy of one like himself, aged, forlorn and childless.

The Indians, who believe in the hereditary transmission of virtues and
defects in character, suffered him to depart in silence. Then, with an
elevation of breeding that many in a more cultivated state of society
might profitably emulate, one of the chiefs drew the attention of the
young men from the weakness they had just witnessed, by saying, in a
cheerful voice, addressing himself in courtesy to Magua, as the newest
comer:

"The Delawares have been like bears after the honey pots, prowling
around my village. But who has ever found a Huron asleep?"

The darkness of the impending cloud which precedes a burst of thunder
was not blacker than the brow of Magua as he exclaimed:

"The Delawares of the Lakes!"

"Not so. They who wear the petticoats of squaws, on their own river. One
of them has been passing the tribe."

"Did my young men take his scalp?"

"His legs were good, though his arm is better for the hoe than the
tomahawk," returned the other, pointing to the immovable form of Uncas.

Instead of manifesting any womanish curiosity to feast his eyes with the
sight of a captive from a people he was known to have so much reason to
hate, Magua continued to smoke, with the meditative air that he usually
maintained, when there was no immediate call on his cunning or his
eloquence. Although secretly amazed at the facts communicated by the
speech of the aged father, he permitted himself to ask no questions,
reserving his inquiries for a more suitable moment. It was only after a
sufficient interval that he shook the ashes from his pipe, replaced the
tomahawk, tightened his girdle, and arose, casting for the first time a
glance in the direction of the prisoner, who stood a little behind him.
The wary, though seemingly abstracted Uncas, caught a glimpse of the
movement, and turning suddenly to the light, their looks met. Near a
minute these two bold and untamed spirits stood regarding one another
steadily in the eye, neither quailing in the least before the fierce
gaze he encountered. The form of Uncas dilated, and his nostrils opened
like those of a tiger at bay; but so rigid and unyielding was his
posture, that he might easily have been converted by the imagination
into an exquisite and faultless representation of the warlike deity of
his tribe. The lineaments of the quivering features of Magua proved more
ductile; his countenance gradually lost its character of defiance in an
expression of ferocious joy, and heaving a breath from the very bottom
of his chest, he pronounced aloud the formidable name of:

"Le Cerf Agile!"

Each warrior sprang upon his feet at the utterance of the well-known
appellation, and there was a short period during which the stoical
constancy of the natives was completely conquered by surprise. The hated
and yet respected name was repeated as by one voice, carrying the
sound even beyond the limits of the lodge. The women and children, who
lingered around the entrance, took up the words in an echo, which was
succeeded by another shrill and plaintive howl. The latter was not yet
ended, when the sensation among the men had entirely abated. Each one in
presence seated himself, as though ashamed of his precipitation; but it
was many minutes before their meaning eyes ceased to roll toward their
captive, in curious examination of a warrior who had so often proved
his prowess on the best and proudest of their nation. Uncas enjoyed his
victory, but was content with merely exhibiting his triumph by a quiet
smile--an emblem of scorn which belongs to all time and every nation.

Magua caught the expression, and raising his arm, he shook it at the
captive, the light silver ornaments attached to his bracelet rattling
with the trembling agitation of the limb, as, in a tone of vengeance, he
exclaimed, in English:

"Mohican, you die!"

"The healing waters will never bring the dead Hurons to life," returned
Uncas, in the music of the Delawares; "the tumbling river washes their
bones; their men are squaws: their women owls. Go! call together the
Huron dogs, that they may look upon a warrior, My nostrils are offended;
they scent the blood of a coward."

The latter allusion struck deep, and the injury rankled. Many of the
Hurons understood the strange tongue in which the captive spoke, among
which number was Magua. This cunning savage beheld, and instantly
profited by his advantage. Dropping the light robe of skin from his
shoulder, he stretched forth his arm, and commenced a burst of his
dangerous and artful eloquence. However much his influence among his
people had been impaired by his occasional and besetting weakness, as
well as by his desertion of the tribe, his courage and his fame as an
orator were undeniable. He never spoke without auditors, and rarely
without making converts to his opinions. On the present occasion, his
native powers were stimulated by the thirst of revenge.

He again recounted the events of the attack on the island at Glenn's,
the death of his associates and the escape of their most formidable
enemies. Then he described the nature and position of the mount whither
he had led such captives as had fallen into their hands. Of his own
bloody intentions toward the maidens, and of his baffled malice he made
no mention, but passed rapidly on to the surprise of the party by "La
Longue Carabine," and its fatal termination. Here he paused, and looked
about him, in affected veneration for the departed, but, in truth,
to note the effect of his opening narrative. As usual, every eye was
riveted on his face. Each dusky figure seemed a breathing statue, so
motionless was the posture, so intense the attention of the individual.

Then Magua dropped his voice which had hitherto been clear, strong and
elevated, and touched upon the merits of the dead. No quality that was
likely to command the sympathy of an Indian escaped his notice. One
had never been known to follow the chase in vain; another had been
indefatigable on the trail of their enemies. This was brave, that
generous. In short, he so managed his allusions, that in a nation which
was composed of so few families, he contrived to strike every chord that
might find, in its turn, some breast in which to vibrate.

"Are the bones of my young men," he concluded, "in the burial-place of
the Hurons? You know they are not. Their spirits are gone toward the
setting sun, and are already crossing the great waters, to the happy
hunting-grounds. But they departed without food, without guns or knives,
without moccasins, naked and poor as they were born. Shall this be?
Are their souls to enter the land of the just like hungry Iroquois or
unmanly Delawares, or shall they meet their friends with arms in their
hands and robes on their backs? What will our fathers think the tribes
of the Wyandots have become? They will look on their children with a
dark eye, and say, 'Go! a Chippewa has come hither with the name of a
Huron.' Brothers, we must not forget the dead; a red-skin never ceases
to remember. We will load the back of this Mohican until he staggers
under our bounty, and dispatch him after my young men. They call to us
for aid, though our ears are not open; they say, 'Forget us not.' When
they see the spirit of this Mohican toiling after them with his burden,
they will know we are of that mind. Then will they go on happy; and our
children will say, 'So did our fathers to their friends, so must we do
to them.' What is a Yengee? we have slain many, but the earth is still
pale. A stain on the name of Huron can only be hid by blood that comes
from the veins of an Indian. Let this Delaware die."

The effect of such an harangue, delivered in the nervous language and
with the emphatic manner of a Huron orator, could scarcely be mistaken.
Magua had so artfully blended the natural sympathies with the religious
superstition of his auditors, that their minds, already prepared by
custom to sacrifice a victim to the manes of their countrymen, lost
every vestige of humanity in a wish for revenge. One warrior in
particular, a man of wild and ferocious mien, had been conspicuous for
the attention he had given to the words of the speaker. His countenance
had changed with each passing emotion, until it settled into a look
of deadly malice. As Magua ended he arose and, uttering the yell of a
demon, his polished little axe was seen glancing in the torchlight as
he whirled it above his head. The motion and the cry were too sudden
for words to interrupt his bloody intention. It appeared as if a bright
gleam shot from his hand, which was crossed at the same moment by a
dark and powerful line. The former was the tomahawk in its passage; the
latter the arm that Magua darted forward to divert its aim. The quick
and ready motion of the chief was not entirely too late. The keen weapon
cut the war plume from the scalping tuft of Uncas, and passed through
the frail wall of the lodge as though it were hurled from some
formidable engine.

Duncan had seen the threatening action, and sprang upon his feet, with
a heart which, while it leaped into his throat, swelled with the most
generous resolution in behalf of his friend. A glance told him that the
blow had failed, and terror changed to admiration. Uncas stood still,
looking his enemy in the eye with features that seemed superior to
emotion. Marble could not be colder, calmer, or steadier than the
countenance he put upon this sudden and vindictive attack. Then, as if
pitying a want of skill which had proved so fortunate to himself, he
smiled, and muttered a few words of contempt in his own tongue.

"No!" said Magua, after satisfying himself of the safety of the captive;
"the sun must shine on his shame; the squaws must see his flesh tremble,
or our revenge will be like the play of boys. Go! take him where there
is silence; let us see if a Delaware can sleep at night, and in the
morning die."

The young men whose duty it was to guard the prisoner instantly passed
their ligaments of bark across his arms, and led him from the lodge,
amid a profound and ominous silence. It was only as the figure of Uncas
stood in the opening of the door that his firm step hesitated. There he
turned, and, in the sweeping and haughty glance that he threw around
the circle of his enemies, Duncan caught a look which he was glad to
construe into an expression that he was not entirely deserted by hope.

Magua was content with his success, or too much occupied with his secret
purposes to push his inquiries any further. Shaking his mantle, and
folding it on his bosom, he also quitted the place, without pursuing a
subject which might have proved so fatal to the individual at his elbow.
Notwithstanding his rising resentment, his natural firmness, and his
anxiety on behalf of Uncas, Heyward felt sensibly relieved by the
absence of so dangerous and so subtle a foe. The excitement produced
by the speech gradually subsided. The warriors resumed their seats and
clouds of smoke once more filled the lodge. For near half an hour, not
a syllable was uttered, or scarcely a look cast aside; a grave and
meditative silence being the ordinary succession to every scene of
violence and commotion among these beings, who were alike so impetuous
and yet so self-restrained.

When the chief, who had solicited the aid of Duncan, finished his pipe,
he made a final and successful movement toward departing. A motion of a
finger was the intimation he gave the supposed physician to follow; and
passing through the clouds of smoke, Duncad was glad, on more accounts
than one, to be able at last to breathe the pure air of a cool and
refreshing summer evening.

Instead of pursuing his way among those lodges where Heyward had already
made his unsuccessful search, his companion turned aside, and proceeded
directly toward the base of an adjacent mountain, which overhung the
temporary village. A thicket of brush skirted its foot, and it became
necessary to proceed through a crooked and narrow path. The boys had
resumed their sports in the clearing, and were enacting a mimic chase
to the post among themselves. In order to render their games as like the
reality as possible, one of the boldest of their number had conveyed a
few brands into some piles of tree-tops that had hitherto escaped the
burning. The blaze of one of these fires lighted the way of the chief
and Duncan, and gave a character of additional wildness to the rude
scenery. At a little distance from a bald rock, and directly in its
front, they entered a grassy opening, which they prepared to cross. Just
then fresh fuel was added to the fire, and a powerful light penetrated
even to that distant spot. It fell upon the white surface of the
mountain, and was reflected downward upon a dark and mysterious-looking
being that arose, unexpectedly, in their path. The Indian paused, as if
doubtful whether to proceed, and permitted his companion to approach his
side. A large black ball, which at first seemed stationary, now began
to move in a manner that to the latter was inexplicable. Again the fire
brightened and its glare fell more distinctly on the object. Then even
Duncan knew it, by its restless and sidling attitudes, which kept the
upper part of its form in constant motion, while the animal itself
appeared seated, to be a bear. Though it growled loudly and fiercely,
and there were instants when its glistening eyeballs might be seen,
it gave no other indications of hostility. The Huron, at least, seemed
assured that the intentions of this singular intruder were peaceable,
for after giving it an attentive examination, he quietly pursued his
course.

Duncan, who knew that the animal was often domesticated among the
Indians, followed the example of his companion, believing that some
favorite of the tribe had found its way into the thicket, in search
of food. They passed it unmolested. Though obliged to come nearly
in contact with the monster, the Huron, who had at first so warily
determined the character of his strange visitor, was now content with
proceeding without wasting a moment in further examination; but Heyward
was unable to prevent his eyes from looking backward, in salutary
watchfulness against attacks in the rear. His uneasiness was in no
degree diminished when he perceived the beast rolling along their path,
and following their footsteps. He would have spoken, but the Indian at
that moment shoved aside a door of bark, and entered a cavern in the
bosom of the mountain.

Profiting by so easy a method of retreat, Duncan stepped after him,
and was gladly closing the slight cover to the opening, when he felt it
drawn from his hand by the beast, whose shaggy form immediately darkened
the passage. They were now in a straight and long gallery, in a chasm of
the rocks, where retreat without encountering the animal was impossible.
Making the best of the circumstances, the young man pressed forward,
keeping as close as possible to his conductor. The bear growled
frequently at his heels, and once or twice its enormous paws were laid
on his person, as if disposed to prevent his further passage into the
den.

How long the nerves of Heyward would have sustained him in this
extraordinary situation, it might be difficult to decide, for, happily,
he soon found relief. A glimmer of light had constantly been in their
front, and they now arrived at the place whence it proceeded.

A large cavity in the rock had been rudely fitted to answer the purposes
of many apartments. The subdivisions were simple but ingenious, being
composed of stone, sticks, and bark, intermingled. Openings above
admitted the light by day, and at night fires and torches supplied the
place of the sun. Hither the Hurons had brought most of their valuables,
especially those which more particularly pertained to the nation; and
hither, as it now appeared, the sick woman, who was believed to be
the victim of supernatural power, had been transported also, under an
impression that her tormentor would find more difficulty in making his
assaults through walls of stone than through the leafy coverings of the
lodges. The apartment into which Duncan and his guide first entered, had
been exclusively devoted to her accommodation. The latter approached her
bedside, which was surrounded by females, in the center of whom Heyward
was surprised to find his missing friend David.

A single look was sufficient to apprise the pretended leech that the
invalid was far beyond his powers of healing. She lay in a sort of
paralysis, indifferent to the objects which crowded before her sight,
and happily unconscious of suffering. Heyward was far from regretting
that his mummeries were to be performed on one who was much too ill
to take an interest in their failure or success. The slight qualm
of conscience which had been excited by the intended deception was
instantly appeased, and he began to collect his thoughts, in order to
enact his part with suitable spirit, when he found he was about to be
anticipated in his skill by an attempt to prove the power of music.

Gamut, who had stood prepared to pour forth his spirit in song when the
visitors entered, after delaying a moment, drew a strain from his pipe,
and commenced a hymn that might have worked a miracle, had faith in its
efficacy been of much avail. He was allowed to proceed to the close, the
Indians respecting his imaginary infirmity, and Duncan too glad of the
delay to hazard the slightest interruption. As the dying cadence of
his strains was falling on the ears of the latter, he started aside
at hearing them repeated behind him, in a voice half human and half
sepulchral. Looking around, he beheld the shaggy monster seated on end
in a shadow of the cavern, where, while his restless body swung in
the uneasy manner of the animal, it repeated, in a sort of low growl,
sounds, if not words, which bore some slight resemblance to the melody
of the singer.

The effect of so strange an echo on David may better be imagined than
described. His eyes opened as if he doubted their truth; and his voice
became instantly mute in excess of wonder. A deep-laid scheme, of
communicating some important intelligence to Heyward, was driven from
his recollection by an emotion which very nearly resembled fear, but
which he was fain to believe was admiration. Under its influence, he
exclaimed aloud: "She expects you, and is at hand"; and precipitately
left the cavern.




CHAPTER 25

     "Snug.--Have you the lion's part written? Pray you, if it
     be, give it to me, for I am slow of study.

     Quince.--You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but
     roaring."
     --Midsummer Night's Dream.

There was a strange blending of the ridiculous with that which was
solemn in this scene. The beast still continued its rolling, and
apparently untiring movements, though its ludicrous attempt to imitate
the melody of David ceased the instant the latter abandoned the field.
The words of Gamut were, as has been seen, in his native tongue; and
to Duncan they seem pregnant with some hidden meaning, though nothing
present assisted him in discovering the object of their allusion. A
speedy end was, however, put to every conjecture on the subject, by the
manner of the chief, who advanced to the bedside of the invalid, and
beckoned away the whole group of female attendants that had clustered
there to witness the skill of the stranger. He was implicitly, though
reluctantly, obeyed; and when the low echo which rang along the hollow,
natural gallery, from the distant closing door, had ceased, pointing
toward his insensible daughter, he said:

"Now let my brother show his power."

Thus unequivocally called on to exercise the functions of his assumed
character, Heyward was apprehensive that the smallest delay might prove
dangerous. Endeavoring, then, to collect his ideas, he prepared to
perform that species of incantation, and those uncouth rites, under
which the Indian conjurers are accustomed to conceal their ignorance and
impotency. It is more than probable that, in the disordered state of his
thoughts, he would soon have fallen into some suspicious, if not fatal,
error had not his incipient attempts been interrupted by a fierce growl
from the quadruped. Three several times did he renew his efforts to
proceed, and as often was he met by the same unaccountable opposition,
each interruption seeming more savage and threatening than the
preceding.

"The cunning ones are jealous," said the Huron; "I go. Brother, the
woman is the wife of one of my bravest young men; deal justly by her.
Peace!" he added, beckoning to the discontented beast to be quiet; "I
go."

The chief was as good as his word, and Duncan now found himself alone
in that wild and desolate abode with the helpless invalid and the fierce
and dangerous brute. The latter listened to the movements of the Indian
with that air of sagacity that a bear is known to possess, until another
echo announced that he had also left the cavern, when it turned and
came waddling up to Duncan before whom it seated itself in its natural
attitude, erect like a man. The youth looked anxiously about him for
some weapon, with which he might make a resistance against the attack he
now seriously expected.

It seemed, however, as if the humor of the animal had suddenly changed.
Instead of continuing its discontented growls, or manifesting any
further signs of anger, the whole of its shaggy body shook violently, as
if agitated by some strange internal convulsion. The huge and unwieldy
talons pawed stupidly about the grinning muzzle, and while Heyward kept
his eyes riveted on its movements with jealous watchfulness, the grim
head fell on one side and in its place appeared the honest sturdy
countenance of the scout, who was indulging from the bottom of his soul
in his own peculiar expression of merriment.

"Hist!" said the wary woodsman, interrupting Heyward's exclamation of
surprise; "the varlets are about the place, and any sounds that are not
natural to witchcraft would bring them back upon us in a body."

"Tell me the meaning of this masquerade; and why you have attempted so
desperate an adventure?"

"Ah, reason and calculation are often outdone by accident," returned the
scout. "But, as a story should always commence at the beginning, I will
tell you the whole in order. After we parted I placed the commandant
and the Sagamore in an old beaver lodge, where they are safer from
the Hurons than they would be in the garrison of Edward; for your
high north-west Indians, not having as yet got the traders among them,
continued to venerate the beaver. After which Uncas and I pushed for the
other encampment as was agreed. Have you seen the lad?"

"To my great grief! He is captive, and condemned to die at the rising of
the sun."

"I had misgivings that such would be his fate," resumed the scout, in
a less confident and joyous tone. But soon regaining his naturally firm
voice, he continued: "His bad fortune is the true reason of my being
here, for it would never do to abandon such a boy to the Hurons. A rare
time the knaves would have of it, could they tie 'The Bounding Elk' and
'The Long Carabine', as they call me, to the same stake! Though why they
have given me such a name I never knew, there being as little likeness
between the gifts of 'killdeer' and the performance of one of your real
Canada carabynes, as there is between the natur' of a pipe-stone and a
flint."

"Keep to your tale," said the impatient Heyward; "we know not at what
moment the Hurons may return."

"No fear of them. A conjurer must have his time, like a straggling
priest in the settlements. We are as safe from interruption as a
missionary would be at the beginning of a two hours' discourse. Well,
Uncas and I fell in with a return party of the varlets; the lad was much
too forward for a scout; nay, for that matter, being of hot blood, he
was not so much to blame; and, after all, one of the Hurons proved a
coward, and in fleeing led him into an ambushment."

"And dearly has he paid for the weakness."

The scout significantly passed his hand across his own throat, and
nodded, as if he said, "I comprehend your meaning." After which he
continued, in a more audible though scarcely more intelligible language:

"After the loss of the boy I turned upon the Hurons, as you may judge.
There have been scrimmages atween one or two of their outlyers and
myself; but that is neither here nor there. So, after I had shot the
imps, I got in pretty nigh to the lodges without further commotion. Then
what should luck do in my favor but lead me to the very spot where one
of the most famous conjurers of the tribe was dressing himself, as I
well knew, for some great battle with Satan--though why should I call
that luck, which it now seems was an especial ordering of Providence. So
a judgmatical rap over the head stiffened the lying impostor for a time,
and leaving him a bit of walnut for his supper, to prevent an uproar,
and stringing him up atween two saplings, I made free with his finery,
and took the part of the bear on myself, in order that the operations
might proceed."

"And admirably did you enact the character; the animal itself might have
been shamed by the representation."

"Lord, major," returned the flattered woodsman, "I should be but a poor
scholar for one who has studied so long in the wilderness, did I not
know how to set forth the movements or natur' of such a beast. Had
it been now a catamount, or even a full-size panther, I would have
embellished a performance for you worth regarding. But it is no such
marvelous feat to exhibit the feats of so dull a beast; though, for that
matter, too, a bear may be overacted. Yes, yes; it is not every imitator
that knows natur' may be outdone easier than she is equaled. But all our
work is yet before us. Where is the gentle one?"

"Heaven knows. I have examined every lodge in the village, without
discovering the slightest trace of her presence in the tribe."

"You heard what the singer said, as he left us: 'She is at hand, and
expects you'?"

"I have been compelled to believe he alluded to this unhappy woman."

"The simpleton was frightened, and blundered through his message; but
he had a deeper meaning. Here are walls enough to separate the whole
settlement. A bear ought to climb; therefore will I take a look above
them. There may be honey-pots hid in these rocks, and I am a beast, you
know, that has a hankering for the sweets."

The scout looked behind him, laughing at his own conceit, while he
clambered up the partition, imitating, as he went, the clumsy motions of
the beast he represented; but the instant the summit was gained he made
a gesture for silence, and slid down with the utmost precipitation.

"She is here," he whispered, "and by that door you will find her. I
would have spoken a word of comfort to the afflicted soul; but the sight
of such a monster might upset her reason. Though for that matter, major,
you are none of the most inviting yourself in your paint."

Duncan, who had already swung eagerly forward, drew instantly back on
hearing these discouraging words.

"Am I, then, so very revolting?" he demanded, with an air of chagrin.

"You might not startle a wolf, or turn the Royal Americans from a
discharge; but I have seen the time when you had a better favored look;
your streaked countenances are not ill-judged of by the squaws, but
young women of white blood give the preference to their own color. See,"
he added, pointing to a place where the water trickled from a rock,
forming a little crystal spring, before it found an issue through the
adjacent crevices; "you may easily get rid of the Sagamore's daub, and
when you come back I will try my hand at a new embellishment. It's
as common for a conjurer to alter his paint as for a buck in the
settlements to change his finery."

The deliberate woodsman had little occasion to hunt for arguments to
enforce his advice. He was yet speaking when Duncan availed himself
of the water. In a moment every frightful or offensive mark was
obliterated, and the youth appeared again in the lineaments with which
he had been gifted by nature. Thus prepared for an interview with
his mistress, he took a hasty leave of his companion, and disappeared
through the indicated passage. The scout witnessed his departure with
complacency, nodding his head after him, and muttering his good wishes;
after which he very coolly set about an examination of the state of the
larder, among the Hurons, the cavern, among other purposes, being used
as a receptacle for the fruits of their hunts.

Duncan had no other guide than a distant glimmering light, which served,
however, the office of a polar star to the lover. By its aid he was
enabled to enter the haven of his hopes, which was merely another
apartment of the cavern, that had been solely appropriated to the
safekeeping of so important a prisoner as a daughter of the commandant
of William Henry. It was profusely strewed with the plunder of that
unlucky fortress. In the midst of this confusion he found her he sought,
pale, anxious and terrified, but lovely. David had prepared her for such
a visit.

"Duncan!" she exclaimed, in a voice that seemed to tremble at the sounds
created by itself.

"Alice!" he answered, leaping carelessly among trunks, boxes, arms, and
furniture, until he stood at her side.

"I knew that you would never desert me," she said, looking up with
a momentary glow on her otherwise dejected countenance. "But you are
alone! Grateful as it is to be thus remembered, I could wish to think
you are not entirely alone."

Duncan, observing that she trembled in a manner which betrayed her
inability to stand, gently induced her to be seated, while he recounted
those leading incidents which it has been our task to accord. Alice
listened with breathless interest; and though the young man touched
lightly on the sorrows of the stricken father; taking care, however, not
to wound the self-love of his auditor, the tears ran as freely down the
cheeks of the daughter as though she had never wept before. The soothing
tenderness of Duncan, however, soon quieted the first burst of her
emotions, and she then heard him to the close with undivided attention,
if not with composure.

"And now, Alice," he added, "you will see how much is still expected
of you. By the assistance of our experienced and invaluable friend, the
scout, we may find our way from this savage people, but you will have to
exert your utmost fortitude. Remember that you fly to the arms of your
venerable parent, and how much his happiness, as well as your own,
depends on those exertions."

"Can I do otherwise for a father who has done so much for me?"

"And for me, too," continued the youth, gently pressing the hand he held
in both his own.

The look of innocence and surprise which he received in return convinced
Duncan of the necessity of being more explicit.

"This is neither the place nor the occasion to detain you with selfish
wishes," he added; "but what heart loaded like mine would not wish to
cast its burden? They say misery is the closest of all ties; our common
suffering in your behalf left but little to be explained between your
father and myself."

"And, dearest Cora, Duncan; surely Cora was not forgotten?"

"Not forgotten! no; regretted, as woman was seldom mourned before. Your
venerable father knew no difference between his children; but I--Alice,
you will not be offended when I say, that to me her worth was in a
degree obscured--"

"Then you knew not the merit of my sister," said Alice, withdrawing her
hand; "of you she ever speaks as of one who is her dearest friend."

"I would gladly believe her such," returned Duncan, hastily; "I could
wish her to be even more; but with you, Alice, I have the permission of
your father to aspire to a still nearer and dearer tie."

Alice trembled violently, and there was an instant during which she bent
her face aside, yielding to the emotions common to her sex; but they
quickly passed away, leaving her mistress of her deportment, if not of
her affections.

"Heyward," she said, looking him full in the face with a touching
expression of innocence and dependency, "give me the sacred presence and
the holy sanction of that parent before you urge me further."

"Though more I should not, less I could not say," the youth was about to
answer, when he was interrupted by a light tap on his shoulder. Starting
to his feet, he turned, and, confronting the intruder, his looks fell on
the dark form and malignant visage of Magua. The deep guttural laugh of
the savage sounded, at such a moment, to Duncan, like the hellish taunt
of a demon. Had he pursued the sudden and fierce impulse of the instant,
he would have cast himself on the Huron, and committed their fortunes
to the issue of a deadly struggle. But, without arms of any description,
ignorant of what succor his subtle enemy could command, and charged with
the safety of one who was just then dearer than ever to his heart, he no
sooner entertained than he abandoned the desperate intention.

"What is your purpose?" said Alice, meekly folding her arms on her
bosom, and struggling to conceal an agony of apprehension in behalf of
Heyward, in the usual cold and distant manner with which she received
the visits of her captor.

The exulting Indian had resumed his austere countenance, though he drew
warily back before the menacing glance of the young man's fiery eye. He
regarded both his captives for a moment with a steady look, and then,
stepping aside, he dropped a log of wood across a door different from
that by which Duncan had entered. The latter now comprehended the manner
of his surprise, and, believing himself irretrievably lost, he drew
Alice to his bosom, and stood prepared to meet a fate which he hardly
regretted, since it was to be suffered in such company. But Magua
meditated no immediate violence. His first measures were very evidently
taken to secure his new captive; nor did he even bestow a second glance
at the motionless forms in the center of the cavern, until he had
completely cut off every hope of retreat through the private outlet he
had himself used. He was watched in all his movements by Heyward, who,
however, remained firm, still folding the fragile form of Alice to his
heart, at once too proud and too hopeless to ask favor of an enemy
so often foiled. When Magua had effected his object he approached his
prisoners, and said in English:

"The pale faces trap the cunning beavers; but the red-skins know how to
take the Yengeese."

"Huron, do your worst!" exclaimed the excited Heyward, forgetful that a
double stake was involved in his life; "you and your vengeance are alike
despised."

"Will the white man speak these words at the stake?" asked Magua;
manifesting, at the same time, how little faith he had in the other's
resolution by the sneer that accompanied his words.

"Here; singly to your face, or in the presence of your nation."

"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief!" returned the Indian; "he will go
and bring his young men, to see how bravely a pale face can laugh at
tortures."

He turned away while speaking, and was about to leave the place through
the avenue by which Duncan had approached, when a growl caught his ear,
and caused him to hesitate. The figure of the bear appeared in the door,
where it sat, rolling from side to side in its customary restlessness.
Magua, like the father of the sick woman, eyed it keenly for a moment,
as if to ascertain its character. He was far above the more vulgar
superstitions of his tribe, and so soon as he recognized the well-known
attire of the conjurer, he prepared to pass it in cool contempt. But
a louder and more threatening growl caused him again to pause. Then he
seemed as if suddenly resolved to trifle no longer, and moved resolutely
forward.

The mimic animal, which had advanced a little, retired slowly in his
front, until it arrived again at the pass, when, rearing on his hinder
legs, it beat the air with its paws, in the manner practised by its
brutal prototype.

"Fool!" exclaimed the chief, in Huron, "go play with the children and
squaws; leave men to their wisdom."

He once more endeavored to pass the supposed empiric, scorning even the
parade of threatening to use the knife, or tomahawk, that was pendent
from his belt. Suddenly the beast extended its arms, or rather legs, and
inclosed him in a grasp that might have vied with the far-famed power of
the "bear's hug" itself. Heyward had watched the whole procedure, on the
part of Hawkeye, with breathless interest. At first he relinquished his
hold of Alice; then he caught up a thong of buckskin, which had been
used around some bundle, and when he beheld his enemy with his two arms
pinned to his side by the iron muscles of the scout, he rushed upon him,
and effectually secured them there. Arms, legs, and feet were encircled
in twenty folds of the thong, in less time than we have taken to record
the circumstance. When the formidable Huron was completely pinioned, the
scout released his hold, and Duncan laid his enemy on his back, utterly
helpless.

Throughout the whole of this sudden and extraordinary operation, Magua,
though he had struggled violently, until assured he was in the hands of
one whose nerves were far better strung than his own, had not uttered
the slightest exclamation. But when Hawkeye, by way of making a summary
explanation of his conduct, removed the shaggy jaws of the beast, and
exposed his own rugged and earnest countenance to the gaze of the Huron,
the philosophy of the latter was so far mastered as to permit him to
utter the never failing:

"Hugh!"

"Ay, you've found your tongue," said his undisturbed conqueror; "now,
in order that you shall not use it to our ruin, I must make free to stop
your mouth."

As there was no time to be lost, the scout immediately set about
effecting so necessary a precaution; and when he had gagged the Indian,
his enemy might safely have been considered as "hors de combat."

"By what place did the imp enter?" asked the industrious scout, when his
work was ended. "Not a soul has passed my way since you left me."

Duncan pointed out the door by which Magua had come, and which now
presented too many obstacles to a quick retreat.

"Bring on the gentle one, then," continued his friend; "we must make a
push for the woods by the other outlet."

"'Tis impossible!" said Duncan; "fear has overcome her, and she is
helpless. Alice! my sweet, my own Alice, arouse yourself; now is the
moment to fly. 'Tis in vain! she hears, but is unable to follow. Go,
noble and worthy friend; save yourself, and leave me to my fate."

"Every trail has its end, and every calamity brings its lesson!"
returned the scout. "There, wrap her in them Indian cloths. Conceal all
of her little form. Nay, that foot has no fellow in the wilderness; it
will betray her. All, every part. Now take her in your arms, and follow.
Leave the rest to me."

Duncan, as may be gathered from the words of his companion, was eagerly
obeying; and, as the other finished speaking, he took the light person
of Alice in his arms, and followed in the footsteps of the scout. They
found the sick woman as they had left her, still alone, and passed
swiftly on, by the natural gallery, to the place of entrance. As they
approached the little door of bark, a murmur of voices without announced
that the friends and relatives of the invalid were gathered about the
place, patiently awaiting a summons to re-enter.

"If I open my lips to speak," Hawkeye whispered, "my English, which is
the genuine tongue of a white-skin, will tell the varlets that an enemy
is among them. You must give 'em your jargon, major; and say that we
have shut the evil spirit in the cave, and are taking the woman to the
woods in order to find strengthening roots. Practise all your cunning,
for it is a lawful undertaking."

The door opened a little, as if one without was listening to the
proceedings within, and compelled the scout to cease his directions. A
fierce growl repelled the eavesdropper, and then the scout boldly threw
open the covering of bark, and left the place, enacting the character of
a bear as he proceeded. Duncan kept close at his heels, and soon found
himself in the center of a cluster of twenty anxious relatives and
friends.

The crowd fell back a little, and permitted the father, and one who
appeared to be the husband of the woman, to approach.

"Has my brother driven away the evil spirit?" demanded the former. "What
has he in his arms?"

"Thy child," returned Duncan, gravely; "the disease has gone out of her;
it is shut up in the rocks. I take the woman to a distance, where I will
strengthen her against any further attacks. She will be in the wigwam of
the young man when the sun comes again."

When the father had translated the meaning of the stranger's words into
the Huron language, a suppressed murmur announced the satisfaction with
which this intelligence was received. The chief himself waved his hand
for Duncan to proceed, saying aloud, in a firm voice, and with a lofty
manner:

"Go; I am a man, and I will enter the rock and fight the wicked one."

Heyward had gladly obeyed, and was already past the little group, when
these startling words arrested him.

"Is my brother mad?" he exclaimed; "is he cruel? He will meet the
disease, and it will enter him; or he will drive out the disease, and
it will chase his daughter into the woods. No; let my children wait
without, and if the spirit appears beat him down with clubs. He is
cunning, and will bury himself in the mountain, when he sees how many
are ready to fight him."

This singular warning had the desired effect. Instead of entering
the cavern, the father and husband drew their tomahawks, and posted
themselves in readiness to deal their vengeance on the imaginary
tormentor of their sick relative, while the women and children broke
branches from the bushes, or seized fragments of the rock, with a
similar intention. At this favorable moment the counterfeit conjurers
disappeared.

Hawkeye, at the same time that he had presumed so far on the nature
of the Indian superstitions, was not ignorant that they were rather
tolerated than relied on by the wisest of the chiefs. He well knew the
value of time in the present emergency. Whatever might be the extent of
the self-delusion of his enemies, and however it had tended to assist
his schemes, the slightest cause of suspicion, acting on the subtle
nature of an Indian, would be likely to prove fatal. Taking the path,
therefore, that was most likely to avoid observation, he rather skirted
than entered the village. The warriors were still to be seen in the
distance, by the fading light of the fires, stalking from lodge to
lodge. But the children had abandoned their sports for their beds of
skins, and the quiet of night was already beginning to prevail over the
turbulence and excitement of so busy and important an evening.

Alice revived under the renovating influence of the open air, and,
as her physical rather than her mental powers had been the subject of
weakness, she stood in no need of any explanation of that which had
occurred.

"Now let me make an effort to walk," she said, when they had entered the
forest, blushing, though unseen, that she had not been sooner able to
quit the arms of Duncan; "I am indeed restored."

"Nay, Alice, you are yet too weak."

The maiden struggled gently to release herself, and Heyward was
compelled to part with his precious burden. The representative of the
bear had certainly been an entire stranger to the delicious emotions of
the lover while his arms encircled his mistress; and he was, perhaps,
a stranger also to the nature of that feeling of ingenuous shame that
oppressed the trembling Alice. But when he found himself at a suitable
distance from the lodges he made a halt, and spoke on a subject of which
he was thoroughly the master.

"This path will lead you to the brook," he said; "follow its northern
bank until you come to a fall; mount the hill on your right, and you
will see the fires of the other people. There you must go and demand
protection; if they are true Delawares you will be safe. A distant
flight with that gentle one, just now, is impossible. The Hurons would
follow up our trail, and master our scalps before we had got a dozen
miles. Go, and Providence be with you."

"And you!" demanded Heyward, in surprise; "surely we part not here?"

"The Hurons hold the pride of the Delawares; the last of the high blood
of the Mohicans is in their power," returned the scout; "I go to see
what can be done in his favor. Had they mastered your scalp, major, a
knave should have fallen for every hair it held, as I promised; but if
the young Sagamore is to be led to the stake, the Indians shall see also
how a man without a cross can die."

Not in the least offended with the decided preference that the sturdy
woodsman gave to one who might, in some degree, be called the child of
his adoption, Duncan still continued to urge such reasons against so
desperate an effort as presented themselves. He was aided by Alice, who
mingled her entreaties with those of Heyward that he would abandon a
resolution that promised so much danger, with so little hope of success.
Their eloquence and ingenuity were expended in vain. The scout heard
them attentively, but impatiently, and finally closed the discussion,
by answering, in a tone that instantly silenced Alice, while it told
Heyward how fruitless any further remonstrances would be.

"I have heard," he said, "that there is a feeling in youth which binds
man to woman closer than the father is tied to the son. It may be so.
I have seldom been where women of my color dwell; but such may be the
gifts of nature in the settlements. You have risked life, and all that
is dear to you, to bring off this gentle one, and I suppose that some
such disposition is at the bottom of it all. As for me, I taught the lad
the real character of a rifle; and well has he paid me for it. I have
fou't at his side in many a bloody scrimmage; and so long as I could
hear the crack of his piece in one ear, and that of the Sagamore in the
other, I knew no enemy was on my back. Winters and summer, nights and
days, have we roved the wilderness in company, eating of the same dish,
one sleeping while the other watched; and afore it shall be said that
Uncas was taken to the torment, and I at hand--There is but a single
Ruler of us all, whatever may the color of the skin; and Him I call
to witness, that before the Mohican boy shall perish for the want of
a friend, good faith shall depart the 'arth, and 'killdeer' become as
harmless as the tooting we'pon of the singer!"

Duncan released his hold on the arm of the scout, who turned, and
steadily retraced his steps toward the lodges. After pausing a moment to
gaze at his retiring form, the successful and yet sorrowful Heyward
and Alice took their way together toward the distant village of the
Delawares.




CHAPTER 26

     "Bot.--Let me play the lion too."
     --Midsummer Night's Dream

Notwithstanding the high resolution of Hawkeye he fully comprehended all
the difficulties and danger he was about to incur. In his return to
the camp, his acute and practised intellects were intently engaged in
devising means to counteract a watchfulness and suspicion on the part
of his enemies, that he knew were, in no degree, inferior to his own.
Nothing but the color of his skin had saved the lives of Magua and the
conjurer, who would have been the first victims sacrificed to his own
security, had not the scout believed such an act, however congenial it
might be to the nature of an Indian, utterly unworthy of one who boasted
a descent from men that knew no cross of blood. Accordingly, he trusted
to the withes and ligaments with which he had bound his captives,
and pursued his way directly toward the center of the lodges. As he
approached the buildings, his steps become more deliberate, and his
vigilant eye suffered no sign, whether friendly or hostile, to escape
him. A neglected hut was a little in advance of the others, and appeared
as if it had been deserted when half completed--most probably on account
of failing in some of the more important requisites; such as wood
or water. A faint light glimmered through its cracks, however, and
announced that, notwithstanding its imperfect structure, it was not
without a tenant. Thither, then, the scout proceeded, like a prudent
general, who was about to feel the advanced positions of his enemy,
before he hazarded the main attack.

Throwing himself into a suitable posture for the beast he represented,
Hawkeye crawled to a little opening, where he might command a view of
the interior. It proved to be the abiding place of David Gamut. Hither
the faithful singing-master had now brought himself, together with
all his sorrows, his apprehensions, and his meek dependence on the
protection of Providence. At the precise moment when his ungainly person
came under the observation of the scout, in the manner just mentioned,
the woodsman himself, though in his assumed character, was the subject
of the solitary being's profounded reflections.

However implicit the faith of David was in the performance of ancient
miracles, he eschewed the belief of any direct supernatural agency in
the management of modern morality. In other words, while he had implicit
faith in the ability of Balaam's ass to speak, he was somewhat skeptical
on the subject of a bear's singing; and yet he had been assured of
the latter, on the testimony of his own exquisite organs. There was
something in his air and manner that betrayed to the scout the utter
confusion of the state of his mind. He was seated on a pile of brush,
a few twigs from which occasionally fed his low fire, with his head
leaning on his arm, in a posture of melancholy musing. The costume
of the votary of music had undergone no other alteration from that so
lately described, except that he had covered his bald head with the
triangular beaver, which had not proved sufficiently alluring to excite
the cupidity of any of his captors.

The ingenious Hawkeye, who recalled the hasty manner in which the other
had abandoned his post at the bedside of the sick woman, was not without
his suspicions concerning the subject of so much solemn deliberation.
First making the circuit of the hut, and ascertaining that it stood
quite alone, and that the character of its inmate was likely to protect
it from visitors, he ventured through its low door, into the very
presence of Gamut. The position of the latter brought the fire between
them; and when Hawkeye had seated himself on end, near a minute elapsed,
during which the two remained regarding each other without speaking.
The suddenness and the nature of the surprise had nearly proved too much
for--we will not say the philosophy--but for the pitch and resolution
of David. He fumbled for his pitch-pipe, and arose with a confused
intention of attempting a musical exorcism.

"Dark and mysterious monster!" he exclaimed, while with trembling hands
he disposed of his auxiliary eyes, and sought his never-failing resource
in trouble, the gifted version of the psalms; "I know not your nature
nor intents; but if aught you meditate against the person and rights
of one of the humblest servants of the temple, listen to the inspired
language of the youth of Israel, and repent."

The bear shook his shaggy sides, and then a well-known voice replied:

"Put up the tooting we'pon, and teach your throat modesty. Five words
of plain and comprehendible English are worth just now an hour of
squalling."

"What art thou?" demanded David, utterly disqualified to pursue his
original intention, and nearly gasping for breath.

"A man like yourself; and one whose blood is as little tainted by the
cross of a bear, or an Indian, as your own. Have you so soon forgotten
from whom you received the foolish instrument you hold in your hand?"

"Can these things be?" returned David, breathing more freely, as the
truth began to dawn upon him. "I have found many marvels during my
sojourn with the heathen, but surely nothing to excel this."

"Come, come," returned Hawkeye, uncasing his honest countenance, the
better to assure the wavering confidence of his companion; "you may see
a skin, which, if it be not as white as one of the gentle ones, has no
tinge of red to it that the winds of the heaven and the sun have not
bestowed. Now let us to business."

"First tell me of the maiden, and of the youth who so bravely sought
her," interrupted David.

"Ay, they are happily freed from the tomahawks of these varlets. But can
you put me on the scent of Uncas?"

"The young man is in bondage, and much I fear his death is decreed. I
greatly mourn that one so well disposed should die in his ignorance, and
I have sought a goodly hymn--"

"Can you lead me to him?"

"The task will not be difficult," returned David, hesitating; "though
I greatly fear your presence would rather increase than mitigate his
unhappy fortunes."

"No more words, but lead on," returned Hawkeye, concealing his face
again, and setting the example in his own person, by instantly quitting
the lodge.

As they proceeded, the scout ascertained that his companion found access
to Uncas, under privilege of his imaginary infirmity, aided by the favor
he had acquired with one of the guards, who, in consequence of speaking
a little English, had been selected by David as the subject of a
religious conversion. How far the Huron comprehended the intentions of
his new friend may well be doubted; but as exclusive attention is
as flattering to a savage as to a more civilized individual, it had
produced the effect we have mentioned. It is unnecessary to repeat the
shrewd manner with which the scout extracted these particulars from the
simple David; neither shall we dwell in this place on the nature of the
instruction he delivered, when completely master of all the necessary
facts; as the whole will be sufficiently explained to the reader in the
course of the narrative.

The lodge in which Uncas was confined was in the very center of the
village, and in a situation, perhaps, more difficult than any other to
approach, or leave, without observation. But it was not the policy of
Hawkeye to affect the least concealment. Presuming on his disguise, and
his ability to sustain the character he had assumed, he took the most
plain and direct route to the place. The hour, however, afforded him
some little of that protection which he appeared so much to despise. The
boys were already buried in sleep, and all the women, and most of the
warriors, had retired to their lodges for the night. Four or five of
the latter only lingered about the door of the prison of Uncas, wary but
close observers of the manner of their captive.

At the sight of Gamut, accompanied by one in the well-known masquerade
of their most distinguished conjurer, they readily made way for them
both. Still they betrayed no intention to depart. On the other hand,
they were evidently disposed to remain bound to the place by an
additional interest in the mysterious mummeries that they of course
expected from such a visit.

From the total inability of the scout to address the Hurons in their own
language, he was compelled to trust the conversation entirely to David.
Notwithstanding the simplicity of the latter, he did ample justice to
the instructions he had received, more than fulfilling the strongest
hopes of his teacher.

"The Delawares are women!" he exclaimed, addressing himself to the
savage who had a slight understanding of the language in which he spoke;
"the Yengeese, my foolish countrymen, have told them to take up the
tomahawk, and strike their fathers in the Canadas, and they have
forgotten their sex. Does my brother wish to hear 'Le Cerf Agile' ask
for his petticoats, and see him weep before the Hurons, at the stake?"

The exclamation "Hugh!" delivered in a strong tone of assent, announced
the gratification the savage would receive in witnessing such an
exhibition of weakness in an enemy so long hated and so much feared.

"Then let him step aside, and the cunning man will blow upon the dog.
Tell it to my brothers."

The Huron explained the meaning of David to his fellows, who, in their
turn, listened to the project with that sort of satisfaction that
their untamed spirits might be expected to find in such a refinement in
cruelty. They drew back a little from the entrance and motioned to the
supposed conjurer to enter. But the bear, instead of obeying, maintained
the seat it had taken, and growled:

"The cunning man is afraid that his breath will blow upon his brothers,
and take away their courage too," continued David, improving the hint he
received; "they must stand further off."

The Hurons, who would have deemed such a misfortune the heaviest
calamity that could befall them, fell back in a body, taking a position
where they were out of earshot, though at the same time they could
command a view of the entrance to the lodge. Then, as if satisfied of
their safety, the scout left his position, and slowly entered the place.
It was silent and gloomy, being tenanted solely by the captive, and
lighted by the dying embers of a fire, which had been used for the
purposed of cookery.

Uncas occupied a distant corner, in a reclining attitude, being rigidly
bound, both hands and feet, by strong and painful withes. When the
frightful object first presented itself to the young Mohican, he did not
deign to bestow a single glance on the animal. The scout, who had left
David at the door, to ascertain they were not observed, thought it
prudent to preserve his disguise until assured of their privacy. Instead
of speaking, therefore, he exerted himself to enact one of the antics of
the animal he represented. The young Mohican, who at first believed his
enemies had sent in a real beast to torment him, and try his nerves,
detected in those performances that to Heyward had appeared so accurate,
certain blemishes, that at once betrayed the counterfeit. Had Hawkeye
been aware of the low estimation in which the skillful Uncas held his
representations, he would probably have prolonged the entertainment
a little in pique. But the scornful expression of the young man's eye
admitted of so many constructions, that the worthy scout was spared the
mortification of such a discovery. As soon, therefore, as David gave the
preconcerted signal, a low hissing sound was heard in the lodge in place
of the fierce growlings of the bear.

Uncas had cast his body back against the wall of the hut and closed
his eyes, as if willing to exclude so contemptible and disagreeable
an object from his sight. But the moment the noise of the serpent was
heard, he arose, and cast his looks on each side of him, bending his
head low, and turning it inquiringly in every direction, until his keen
eye rested on the shaggy monster, where it remained riveted, as though
fixed by the power of a charm. Again the same sounds were repeated,
evidently proceeding from the mouth of the beast. Once more the eyes of
the youth roamed over the interior of the lodge, and returning to the
former resting place, he uttered, in a deep, suppressed voice:

"Hawkeye!"

"Cut his bands," said Hawkeye to David, who just then approached them.

The singer did as he was ordered, and Uncas found his limbs released. At
the same moment the dried skin of the animal rattled, and presently
the scout arose to his feet, in proper person. The Mohican appeared to
comprehend the nature of the attempt his friend had made, intuitively,
neither tongue nor feature betraying another symptom of surprise. When
Hawkeye had cast his shaggy vestment, which was done by simply loosing
certain thongs of skin, he drew a long, glittering knife, and put it in
the hands of Uncas.

"The red Hurons are without," he said; "let us be ready." At the same
time he laid his finger significantly on another similar weapon, both
being the fruits of his prowess among their enemies during the evening.

"We will go," said Uncas.

"Whither?"

"To the Tortoises; they are the children of my grandfathers."

"Ay, lad," said the scout in English--a language he was apt to use
when a little abstracted in mind; "the same blood runs in your veins,
I believe; but time and distance has a little changed its color. What
shall we do with the Mingoes at the door? They count six, and this
singer is as good as nothing."

"The Hurons are boasters," said Uncas, scornfully; "their 'totem' is
a moose, and they run like snails. The Delawares are children of the
tortoise, and they outstrip the deer."

"Ay, lad, there is truth in what you say; and I doubt not, on a rush,
you would pass the whole nation; and, in a straight race of two miles,
would be in, and get your breath again, afore a knave of them all was
within hearing of the other village. But the gift of a white man lies
more in his arms than in his legs. As for myself, I can brain a Huron as
well as a better man; but when it comes to a race the knaves would prove
too much for me."

Uncas, who had already approached the door, in readiness to lead the
way, now recoiled, and placed himself, once more, in the bottom of the
lodge. But Hawkeye, who was too much occupied with his own thoughts
to note the movement, continued speaking more to himself than to his
companion.

"After all," he said, "it is unreasonable to keep one man in bondage to
the gifts of another. So, Uncas, you had better take the lead, while I
will put on the skin again, and trust to cunning for want of speed."

The young Mohican made no reply, but quietly folded his arms, and leaned
his body against one of the upright posts that supported the wall of the
hut.

"Well," said the scout looking up at him, "why do you tarry? There will
be time enough for me, as the knaves will give chase to you at first."

"Uncas will stay," was the calm reply.

"For what?"

"To fight with his father's brother, and die with the friend of the
Delawares."

"Ay, lad," returned Hawkeye, squeezing the hand of Uncas between his own
iron fingers; "'twould have been more like a Mingo than a Mohican had
you left me. But I thought I would make the offer, seeing that youth
commonly loves life. Well, what can't be done by main courage, in war,
must be done by circumvention. Put on the skin; I doubt not you can play
the bear nearly as well as myself."

Whatever might have been the private opinion of Uncas of their
respective abilities in this particular, his grave countenance
manifested no opinion of his superiority. He silently and expeditiously
encased himself in the covering of the beast, and then awaited such
other movements as his more aged companion saw fit to dictate.

"Now, friend," said Hawkeye, addressing David, "an exchange of garments
will be a great convenience to you, inasmuch as you are but little
accustomed to the make-shifts of the wilderness. Here, take my hunting
shirt and cap, and give me your blanket and hat. You must trust me with
the book and spectacles, as well as the tooter, too; if we ever meet
again, in better times, you shall have all back again, with many thanks
into the bargain."

David parted with the several articles named with a readiness that would
have done great credit to his liberality, had he not certainly profited,
in many particulars, by the exchange. Hawkeye was not long in assuming
his borrowed garments; and when his restless eyes were hid behind the
glasses, and his head was surmounted by the triangular beaver, as their
statures were not dissimilar, he might readily have passed for the
singer, by starlight. As soon as these dispositions were made, the scout
turned to David, and gave him his parting instructions.

"Are you much given to cowardice?" he bluntly asked, by way of obtaining
a suitable understanding of the whole case before he ventured a
prescription.

"My pursuits are peaceful, and my temper, I humbly trust, is greatly
given to mercy and love," returned David, a little nettled at so direct
an attack on his manhood; "but there are none who can say that I have
ever forgotten my faith in the Lord, even in the greatest straits."

"Your chiefest danger will be at the moment when the savages find out
that they have been deceived. If you are not then knocked on the head,
your being a non-composser will protect you; and you'll then have a good
reason to expect to die in your bed. If you stay, it must be to sit down
here in the shadow, and take the part of Uncas, until such times as the
cunning of the Indians discover the cheat, when, as I have already said,
your times of trial will come. So choose for yourself--to make a rush or
tarry here."

"Even so," said David, firmly; "I will abide in the place of the
Delaware. Bravely and generously has he battled in my behalf, and this,
and more, will I dare in his service."

"You have spoken as a man, and like one who, under wiser schooling,
would have been brought to better things. Hold your head down, and
draw in your legs; their formation might tell the truth too early. Keep
silent as long as may be; and it would be wise, when you do speak, to
break out suddenly in one of your shoutings, which will serve to remind
the Indians that you are not altogether as responsible as men should be.
If however, they take your scalp, as I trust and believe they will not,
depend on it, Uncas and I will not forget the deed, but revenge it as
becomes true warriors and trusty friends."

"Hold!" said David, perceiving that with this assurance they were about
to leave him; "I am an unworthy and humble follower of one who taught
not the damnable principle of revenge. Should I fall, therefore, seek
no victims to my manes, but rather forgive my destroyers; and if you
remember them at all, let it be in prayers for the enlightening of their
minds, and for their eternal welfare."

The scout hesitated, and appeared to muse.

"There is a principle in that," he said, "different from the law of the
woods; and yet it is fair and noble to reflect upon." Then heaving
a heavy sigh, probably among the last he ever drew in pining for a
condition he had so long abandoned, he added: "it is what I would wish
to practise myself, as one without a cross of blood, though it is not
always easy to deal with an Indian as you would with a fellow Christian.
God bless you, friend; I do believe your scent is not greatly wrong,
when the matter is duly considered, and keeping eternity before the
eyes, though much depends on the natural gifts, and the force of
temptation."

So saying, the scout returned and shook David cordially by the hand;
after which act of friendship he immediately left the lodge, attended by
the new representative of the beast.

The instant Hawkeye found himself under the observation of the Hurons,
he drew up his tall form in the rigid manner of David, threw out his
arm in the act of keeping time, and commenced what he intended for an
imitation of his psalmody. Happily for the success of this delicate
adventure, he had to deal with ears but little practised in the concord
of sweet sounds, or the miserable effort would infallibly have been
detected. It was necessary to pass within a dangerous proximity of the
dark group of the savages, and the voice of the scout grew louder as
they drew nigher. When at the nearest point the Huron who spoke the
English thrust out an arm, and stopped the supposed singing-master.

"The Delaware dog!" he said, leaning forward, and peering through
the dim light to catch the expression of the other's features; "is he
afraid? Will the Hurons hear his groans?"

A growl, so exceedingly fierce and natural, proceeded from the beast,
that the young Indian released his hold and started aside, as if to
assure himself that it was not a veritable bear, and no counterfeit,
that was rolling before him. Hawkeye, who feared his voice would betray
him to his subtle enemies, gladly profited by the interruption, to break
out anew in such a burst of musical expression as would, probably, in
a more refined state of society have been termed "a grand crash." Among
his actual auditors, however, it merely gave him an additional claim to
that respect which they never withhold from such as are believed to be
the subjects of mental alienation. The little knot of Indians drew back
in a body, and suffered, as they thought, the conjurer and his inspired
assistant to proceed.

It required no common exercise of fortitude in Uncas and the scout to
continue the dignified and deliberate pace they had assumed in passing
the lodge; especially as they immediately perceived that curiosity had
so far mastered fear, as to induce the watchers to approach the hut, in
order to witness the effect of the incantations. The least injudicious
or impatient movement on the part of David might betray them, and time
was absolutely necessary to insure the safety of the scout. The loud
noise the latter conceived it politic to continue, drew many curious
gazers to the doors of the different huts as thy passed; and once or
twice a dark-looking warrior stepped across their path, led to the act
by superstition and watchfulness. They were not, however, interrupted,
the darkness of the hour, and the boldness of the attempt, proving their
principal friends.

The adventurers had got clear of the village, and were now swiftly
approaching the shelter of the woods, when a loud and long cry arose
from the lodge where Uncas had been confined. The Mohican started on
his feet, and shook his shaggy covering, as though the animal he
counterfeited was about to make some desperate effort.

"Hold!" said the scout, grasping his friend by the shoulder, "let them
yell again! 'Twas nothing but wonderment."

He had no occasion to delay, for at the next instant a burst of cries
filled the outer air, and ran along the whole extent of the village.
Uncas cast his skin, and stepped forth in his own beautiful proportions.
Hawkeye tapped him lightly on the shoulder, and glided ahead.

"Now let the devils strike our scent!" said the scout, tearing two
rifles, with all their attendant accouterments, from beneath a bush, and
flourishing "killdeer" as he handed Uncas his weapon; "two, at least,
will find it to their deaths."

Then, throwing their pieces to a low trail, like sportsmen in readiness
for their game, they dashed forward, and were soon buried in the somber
darkness of the forest.




CHAPTER 27

     "Ant. I shall remember: When C'sar says
     Do this, it is performed."
     --Julius Caesar

The impatience of the savages who lingered about the prison of Uncas, as
has been seen, had overcome their dread of the conjurer's breath. They
stole cautiously, and with beating hearts, to a crevice, through which
the faint light of the fire was glimmering. For several minutes they
mistook the 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 grave consultation.

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 dead.

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 vengeance.

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 thunder.

Another longer and expressive silence was observed, and was broken, as
before, with due precaution, by the same individual.

"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 subject.

"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 own projects.

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
anticipate.

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
plotting evil.

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 commendations.

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.




CHAPTER 28

     "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 Renard Subtil.

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 massacre, demanded:

"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 Cora.

"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 time.

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 woods?"

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 directly.

"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 chief.

"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 his race.

"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 tribe.

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 feeling.

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 themselves.

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.




CHAPTER 29

     "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 said nothing."

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
the subject.

"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 the man."

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 scout.

"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 aim!"

"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 assert 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 more interposed.

"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 its shell!"

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 rival.

"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 seen.

"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 Delawares listen."

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 breath.

"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 voice:

"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 firmness:

"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 camped?"

"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
     soil.

"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 himself:

"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 answered:

"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 villain."

"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 companions
said:

"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.




CHAPTER 30

     "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 Delaware."

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 his deer!"

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 multitude.

"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 nations!"

"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 great Unamis."*

     * Turtle.

"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 of
happiness.

"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 reply.

"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 enough."

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 Maquas."

"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 his friends."

"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 ears?"

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 patriarch.

"The just Tamenund," he said, "will not keep what a Huron has lent."

"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 them."

"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 together?"

"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 sorrow.

"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:

"Huron, depart."

"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 his own."

The aged man mused with himself for a time; and then, bending his head
toward one of his venerable companions, he asked:

"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 faces."

"Gold, silver, powder, lead--all that a warrior needs shall be in thy
wigwam; all that becomes the greatest chief."

"Le Subtil is very strong," cried Magua, violently shaking the hand
which grasped the unresisting arm of Cora; "he has his revenge!"

"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 not twice."

"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, drawing
back with suitable discretion, when he noted the eagerness with which
Magua listened to his proposal. "It would be an unequal exchange, to
give a warrior, in the prime of his age and usefulness, for the best
woman on the frontiers. I might consent to go into winter quarters, now
--at least six weeks afore the leaves will turn--on condition you will
release the maiden."

Magua shook his head, and made an impatient sign for the crowd to open.

"Well, then," added the scout, with the musing air of a man who had not
half made up his mind; "I will throw 'killdeer' into the bargain. Take
the word of an experienced hunter, the piece has not its equal atween
the provinces."

Magua still disdained to reply, continuing his efforts to disperse the
crowd.

"Perhaps," added the scout, losing his dissembled coolness exactly in
proportion as the other manifested an indifference to the exchange,
"if I should condition to teach your young men the real virtue of the
we'pon, it would smoothe the little differences in our judgments."

Le Renard fiercely ordered the Delawares, who still lingered in an
impenetrable belt around him, in hopes he would listen to the amicable
proposal, to open his path, threatening, by the glance of his eye,
another appeal to the infallible justice of their "prophet."

"What is ordered must sooner or later arrive," continued Hawkeye,
turning with a sad and humbled look to Uncas. "The varlet knows his
advantage and will keep it! God bless you, boy; you have found friends
among your natural kin, and I hope they will prove as true as some you
have met who had no Indian cross. As for me, sooner or later, I
must die; it is, therefore, fortunate there are but few to make my
death-howl. After all, it is likely the imps would have managed to
master my scalp, so a day or two will make no great difference in
the everlasting reckoning of time. God bless you," added the rugged
woodsman, bending his head aside, and then instantly changing its
direction again, with a wistful look toward the youth; "I loved both you
and your father, Uncas, though our skins are not altogether of a color,
and our gifts are somewhat different. Tell the Sagamore I never lost
sight of him in my greatest trouble; and, as for you, think of me
sometimes when on a lucky trail, and depend on it, boy, whether there
be one heaven or two, there is a path in the other world by which honest
men may come together again. You'll find the rifle in the place we hid
it; take it, and keep it for my sake; and, harkee, lad, as your natural
gifts don't deny you the use of vengeance, use it a little freely on the
Mingoes; it may unburden griefs at my loss, and ease your mind. Huron, I
accept your offer; release the woman. I am your prisoner!"

A suppressed, but still distinct murmur of approbation ran through the
crowd at this generous proposition; even the fiercest among the
Delaware warriors manifesting pleasure at the manliness of the intended
sacrifice. Magua paused, and for an anxious moment, it might be said,
he doubted; then, casting his eyes on Cora, with an expression in which
ferocity and admiration were strangely mingled, his purpose became fixed
forever.

He intimated his contempt of the offer with a backward motion of his
head, and said, in a steady and settled voice:

"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief; he has but one mind. Come," he
added, laying his hand too familiarly on the shoulder of his captive to
urge her onward; "a Huron is no tattler; we will go."

The maiden drew back in lofty womanly reserve, and her dark eye kindled,
while the rich blood shot, like the passing brightness of the sun, into
her very temples, at the indignity.

"I am your prisoner, and, at a fitting time shall be ready to follow,
even to my death. But violence is unnecessary," she coldly said; and
immediately turning to Hawkeye, added: "Generous hunter! from my soul I
thank you. Your offer is vain, neither could it be accepted; but still
you may serve me, even more than in your own noble intention. Look at
that drooping humbled child! Abandon her not until you leave her in the
habitations of civilized men. I will not say," wringing the hard hand of
the scout, "that her father will reward you--for such as you are above
the rewards of men--but he will thank you and bless you. And, believe
me, the blessing of a just and aged man has virtue in the sight of
Heaven. Would to God I could hear one word from his lips at this awful
moment!" Her voice became choked, and, for an instant, she was silent;
then, advancing a step nigher to Duncan, who was supporting her
unconscious sister, she continued, in more subdued tones, but in which
feeling and the habits of her sex maintained a fearful struggle: "I need
not tell you to cherish the treasure you will possess. You love her,
Heyward; that would conceal a thousand faults, though she had them. She
is kind, gentle, sweet, good, as mortal may be. There is not a blemish
in mind or person at which the proudest of you all would sicken. She
is fair--oh! how surpassingly fair!" laying her own beautiful, but less
brilliant, hand in melancholy affection on the alabaster forehead of
Alice, and parting the golden hair which clustered about her brows; "and
yet her soul is pure and spotless as her skin! I could say much--more,
perhaps, than cooler reason would approve; but I will spare you and
myself--" Her voice became inaudible, and her face was bent over the
form of her sister. After a long and burning kiss, she arose, and with
features of the hue of death, but without even a tear in her feverish
eye, she turned away, and added, to the savage, with all her former
elevation of manner: "Now, sir, if it be your pleasure, I will follow."

"Ay, go," cried Duncan, placing Alice in the arms of an Indian girl;
"go, Magua, go. These Delawares have their laws, which forbid them to
detain you; but I--I have no such obligation. Go, malignant monster--why
do you delay?"

It would be difficult to describe the expression with which Magua
listened to this threat to follow. There was at first a fierce and
manifest display of joy, and then it was instantly subdued in a look of
cunning coldness.

"The words are open," he was content with answering, "'The Open Hand'
can come."

"Hold," cried Hawkeye, seizing Duncan by the arm, and detaining him by
violence; "you know not the craft of the imp. He would lead you to an
ambushment, and your death--"

"Huron," interrupted Uncas, who submissive to the stern customs of his
people, had been an attentive and grave listener to all that passed;
"Huron, the justice of the Delawares comes from the Manitou. Look at the
sun. He is now in the upper branches of the hemlock. Your path is short
and open. When he is seen above the trees, there will be men on your
trail."

"I hear a crow!" exclaimed Magua, with a taunting laugh. "Go!" he added,
shaking his hand at the crowd, which had slowly opened to admit his
passage. "Where are the petticoats of the Delawares! Let them send their
arrows and their guns to the Wyandots; they shall have venison to eat,
and corn to hoe. Dogs, rabbits, thieves--I spit on you!"

His parting gibes were listened to in a dead, boding silence, and, with
these biting words in his mouth, the triumphant Magua passed unmolested
into the forest, followed by his passive captive, and protected by the
inviolable laws of Indian hospitality.




CHAPTER 31

     "Flue.--Kill the poys and the luggage! 'Tis expressly
     against the law of arms; 'tis as arrant a piece of knavery,
     mark you now, as can be offered in the 'orld."
     --King Henry V.

So long as their enemy and his victim continued in sight, the multitude
remained motionless as beings charmed to the place by some power that
was friendly to the Huron; but, the instant he disappeared, it became
tossed and agitated by fierce and powerful passion. Uncas maintained his
elevated stand, keeping his eyes on the form of Cora, until the colors
of her dress were blended with the foliage of the forest; when he
descended, and, moving silently through the throng, he disappeared in
that lodge from which he had so recently issued. A few of the graver and
more attentive warriors, who caught the gleams of anger that shot from
the eyes of the young chief in passing, followed him to the place he
had selected for his meditations. After which, Tamenund and Alice were
removed, and the women and children were ordered to disperse. During
the momentous hour that succeeded, the encampment resembled a hive of
troubled bees, who only awaited the appearance and example of their
leader to take some distant and momentous flight.

A young warrior at length issued from the lodge of Uncas; and, moving
deliberately, with a sort of grave march, toward a dwarf pine that grew
in the crevices of the rocky terrace, he tore the bark from its body,
and then turned whence he came without speaking. He was soon followed
by another, who stripped the sapling of its branches, leaving it a naked
and blazed* trunk. A third colored the post with stripes of a dark red
paint; all which indications of a hostile design in the leaders of the
nation were received by the men without in a gloomy and ominous silence.
Finally, the Mohican himself reappeared, divested of all his attire,
except his girdle and leggings, and with one-half of his fine features
hid under a cloud of threatening black.

     * A tree which has been partially or entirely stripped of
     its bark is said, in the language of the country, to be
     "blazed." The term is strictly English, for a horse is said
     to be blazed when it has a white mark.

Uncas moved with a slow and dignified tread toward the post, which he
immediately commenced encircling with a measured step, not unlike an
ancient dance, raising his voice, at the same time, in the wild and
irregular chant of his war song. The notes were in the extremes of
human sounds; being sometimes melancholy and exquisitely plaintive,
even rivaling the melody of birds--and then, by sudden and startling
transitions, causing the auditors to tremble by their depth and energy.
The words were few and often repeated, proceeding gradually from a sort
of invocation, or hymn, to the Deity, to an intimation of the warrior's
object, and terminating as they commenced with an acknowledgment of his
own dependence on the Great Spirit. If it were possible to translate the
comprehensive and melodious language in which he spoke, the ode might
read something like the following: "Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! Thou art
great, thou art good, thou art wise: Manitou! Manitou! Thou art just. In
the heavens, in the clouds, oh, I see many spots--many dark, many red:
In the heavens, oh, I see many clouds."

"In the woods, in the air, oh, I hear the whoop, the long yell, and the
cry: In the woods, oh, I hear the loud whoop!"

"Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! I am weak--thou art strong; I am slow;
Manitou! Manitou! Give me aid."

At the end of what might be called each verse he made a pause, by
raising a note louder and longer than common, that was peculiarly
suited to the sentiment just expressed. The first close was solemn,
and intended to convey the idea of veneration; the second descriptive,
bordering on the alarming; and the third was the well-known and terrific
war-whoop, which burst from the lips of the young warrior, like a
combination of all the frightful sounds of battle. The last was like the
first, humble and imploring. Three times did he repeat this song, and as
often did he encircle the post in his dance.

At the close of the first turn, a grave and highly esteemed chief of the
Lenape followed his example, singing words of his own, however, to music
of a similar character. Warrior after warrior enlisted in the dance,
until all of any renown and authority were numbered in its mazes. The
spectacle now became wildly terrific; the fierce-looking and menacing
visages of the chiefs receiving additional power from the appalling
strains in which they mingled their guttural tones. Just then Uncas
struck his tomahawk deep into the post, and raised his voice in a shout,
which might be termed his own battle cry. The act announced that he had
assumed the chief authority in the intended expedition.

It was a signal that awakened all the slumbering passions of the nation.
A hundred youths, who had hitherto been restrained by the diffidence
of their years, rushed in a frantic body on the fancied emblem of their
enemy, and severed it asunder, splinter by splinter, until nothing
remained of the trunk but its roots in the earth. During this moment of
tumult, the most ruthless deeds of war were performed on the fragments
of the tree, with as much apparent ferocity as if they were the living
victims of their cruelty. Some were scalped; some received the keen and
trembling axe; and others suffered by thrusts from the fatal knife. In
short, the manifestations of zeal and fierce delight were so great and
unequivocal, that the expedition was declared to be a war of the nation.

The instant Uncas had struck the blow, he moved out of the circle, and
cast his eyes up to the sun, which was just gaining the point, when
the truce with Magua was to end. The fact was soon announced by a
significant gesture, accompanied by a corresponding cry; and the whole
of the excited multitude abandoned their mimic warfare, with shrill
yells of pleasure, to prepare for the more hazardous experiment of the
reality.

The whole face of the encampment was instantly changed. The warriors,
who were already armed and painted, became as still as if they were
incapable of any uncommon burst of emotion. On the other hand, the women
broke out of the lodges, with the songs of joy and those of lamentation
so strangely mixed that it might have been difficult to have said which
passion preponderated. None, however, was idle. Some bore their choicest
articles, others their young, and some their aged and infirm, into
the forest, which spread itself like a verdant carpet of bright green
against the side of the mountain. Thither Tamenund also retired, with
calm composure, after a short and touching interview with Uncas; from
whom the sage separated with the reluctance that a parent would quit a
long lost and just recovered child. In the meantime, Duncan saw Alice
to a place of safety, and then sought the scout, with a countenance that
denoted how eagerly he also panted for the approaching contest.

But Hawkeye was too much accustomed to the war song and the enlistments
of the natives, to betray any interest in the passing scene. He merely
cast an occasional look at the number and quality of the warriors, who,
from time to time, signified their readiness to accompany Uncas to
the field. In this particular he was soon satisfied; for, as has been
already seen, the power of the young chief quickly embraced every
fighting man in the nation. After this material point was so
satisfactorily decided, he despatched an Indian boy in quest of
"killdeer" and the rifle of Uncas, to the place where they had deposited
their weapons on approaching the camp of the Delawares; a measure of
double policy, inasmuch as it protected the arms from their own fate,
if detained as prisoners, and gave them the advantage of appearing among
the strangers rather as sufferers than as men provided with means of
defense and subsistence. In selecting another to perform the office of
reclaiming his highly prized rifle, the scout had lost sight of none of
his habitual caution. He knew that Magua had not come unattended, and he
also knew that Huron spies watched the movements of their new enemies,
along the whole boundary of the woods. It would, therefore, have been
fatal to himself to have attempted the experiment; a warrior would have
fared no better; but the danger of a boy would not be likely to commence
until after his object was discovered. When Heyward joined him, the
scout was coolly awaiting the result of this experiment.

The boy, who had been well instructed, and was sufficiently crafty,
proceeded, with a bosom that was swelling with the pride of such a
confidence, and all the hopes of young ambition, carelessly across
the clearing to the wood, which he entered at a point at some little
distance from the place where the guns were secreted. The instant,
however, he was concealed by the foliage of the bushes, his dusky form
was to be seen gliding, like that of a serpent, toward the desired
treasure. He was successful; and in another moment he appeared flying
across the narrow opening that skirted the base of the terrace on which
the village stood, with the velocity of an arrow, and bearing a prize
in each hand. He had actually gained the crags, and was leaping up their
sides with incredible activity, when a shot from the woods showed how
accurate had been the judgment of the scout. The boy answered it with a
feeble but contemptuous shout; and immediately a second bullet was
sent after him from another part of the cover. At the next instant he
appeared on the level above, elevating his guns in triumph, while he
moved with the air of a conqueror toward the renowned hunter who had
honored him by so glorious a commission.

Notwithstanding the lively interest Hawkeye had taken in the fate of his
messenger, he received "killdeer" with a satisfaction that, momentarily,
drove all other recollections from his mind. After examining the piece
with an intelligent eye, and opening and shutting the pan some ten or
fifteen times, and trying sundry other equally important experiments on
the lock, he turned to the boy and demanded with great manifestations of
kindness, if he was hurt. The urchin looked proudly up in his face, but
made no reply.

"Ah! I see, lad, the knaves have barked your arm!" added the scout,
taking up the limb of the patient sufferer, across which a deep flesh
wound had been made by one of the bullets; "but a little bruised alder
will act like a charm. In the meantime I will wrap it in a badge of
wampum! You have commenced the business of a warrior early, my brave
boy, and are likely to bear a plenty of honorable scars to your grave.
I know many young men that have taken scalps who cannot show such a mark
as this. Go!" having bound up the arm; "you will be a chief!"

The lad departed, prouder of his flowing blood than the vainest courtier
could be of his blushing ribbon; and stalked among the fellows of his
age, an object of general admiration and envy.

But, in a moment of so many serious and important duties, this single
act of juvenile fortitude did not attract the general notice and
commendation it would have received under milder auspices. It had,
however, served to apprise the Delawares of the position and the
intentions of their enemies. Accordingly a party of adventurers, better
suited to the task than the weak though spirited boy, was ordered to
dislodge the skulkers. The duty was soon performed; for most of the
Hurons retired of themselves when they found they had been discovered.
The Delawares followed to a sufficient distance from their own
encampment, and then halted for orders, apprehensive of being led into
an ambush. As both parties secreted themselves, the woods were again as
still and quiet as a mild summer morning and deep solitude could render
them.

The calm but still impatient Uncas now collected his chiefs, and divided
his power. He presented Hawkeye as a warrior, often tried, and always
found deserving of confidence. When he found his friend met with a
favorable reception, he bestowed on him the command of twenty men,
like himself, active, skillful and resolute. He gave the Delawares to
understand the rank of Heyward among the troops of the Yengeese, and
then tendered to him a trust of equal authority. But Duncan declined the
charge, professing his readiness to serve as a volunteer by the side of
the scout. After this disposition, the young Mohican appointed various
native chiefs to fill the different situations of responsibility, and,
the time pressing, he gave forth the word to march. He was cheerfully,
but silently obeyed by more than two hundred men.

Their entrance into the forest was perfectly unmolested; nor did they
encounter any living objects that could either give the alarm, or
furnish the intelligence they needed, until they came upon the lairs of
their own scouts. Here a halt was ordered, and the chiefs were assembled
to hold a "whispering council."

At this meeting divers plans of operation were suggested, though none
of a character to meet the wishes of their ardent leader. Had Uncas
followed the promptings of his own inclinations, he would have led his
followers to the charge without a moment's delay, and put the conflict
to the hazard of an instant issue; but such a course would have been in
opposition to all the received practises and opinions of his countrymen.
He was, therefore, fain to adopt a caution that in the present temper of
his mind he execrated, and to listen to advice at which his fiery
spirit chafed, under the vivid recollection of Cora's danger and Magua's
insolence.

After an unsatisfactory conference of many minutes, a solitary
individual was seen advancing from the side of the enemy, with such
apparent haste, as to induce the belief he might be a messenger charged
with pacific overtures. When within a hundred yards, however, of the
cover behind which the Delaware council had assembled, the stranger
hesitated, appeared uncertain what course to take, and finally halted.
All eyes were turned now on Uncas, as if seeking directions how to
proceed.

"Hawkeye," said the young chief, in a low voice, "he must never speak to
the Hurons again."

"His time has come," said the laconic scout, thrusting the long barrel
of his rifle through the leaves, and taking his deliberate and fatal
aim. But, instead of pulling the trigger, he lowered the muzzle again,
and indulged himself in a fit of his peculiar mirth. "I took the imp for
a Mingo, as I'm a miserable sinner!" he said; "but when my eye ranged
along his ribs for a place to get the bullet in--would you think it,
Uncas--I saw the musicianer's blower; and so, after all, it is the man
they call Gamut, whose death can profit no one, and whose life, if this
tongue can do anything but sing, may be made serviceable to our own
ends. If sounds have not lost their virtue, I'll soon have a discourse
with the honest fellow, and that in a voice he'll find more agreeable
than the speech of 'killdeer'."

So saying, Hawkeye laid aside his rifle; and, crawling through the
bushes until within hearing of David, he attempted to repeat the musical
effort, which had conducted himself, with so much safety and eclat,
through the Huron encampment. The exquisite organs of Gamut could not
readily be deceived (and, to say the truth, it would have been
difficult for any other than Hawkeye to produce a similar noise), and,
consequently, having once before heard the sounds, he now knew whence
they proceeded. The poor fellow appeared relieved from a state of great
embarrassment; for, pursuing the direction of the voice--a task that to
him was not much less arduous that it would have been to have gone up in
the face of a battery--he soon discovered the hidden songster.

"I wonder what the Hurons will think of that!" said the scout, laughing,
as he took his companion by the arm, and urged him toward the rear.
"If the knaves lie within earshot, they will say there are two
non-compossers instead of one! But here we are safe," he added, pointing
to Uncas and his associates. "Now give us the history of the Mingo
inventions in natural English, and without any ups and downs of voice."

David gazed about him, at the fierce and wild-looking chiefs, in mute
wonder; but assured by the presence of faces that he knew, he soon
rallied his faculties so far as to make an intelligent reply.

"The heathen are abroad in goodly numbers," said David; "and, I fear,
with evil intent. There has been much howling and ungodly revelry,
together with such sounds as it is profanity to utter, in their
habitations within the past hour, so much so, in truth, that I have fled
to the Delawares in search of peace."

"Your ears might not have profited much by the exchange, had you been
quicker of foot," returned the scout a little dryly. "But let that be as
it may; where are the Hurons?"

"They lie hid in the forest, between this spot and their village in such
force, that prudence would teach you instantly to return."

Uncas cast a glance along the range of trees which concealed his own
band and mentioned the name of:

"Magua?"

"Is among them. He brought in the maiden that had sojourned with the
Delawares; and, leaving her in the cave, has put himself, like a raging
wolf, at the head of his savages. I know not what has troubled his
spirit so greatly!"

"He has left her, you say, in the cave!" interrupted Heyward; "'tis well
that we know its situation! May not something be done for her instant
relief?"

Uncas looked earnestly at the scout, before he asked:

"What says Hawkeye?"

"Give me twenty rifles, and I will turn to the right, along the stream;
and, passing by the huts of the beaver, will join the Sagamore and the
colonel. You shall then hear the whoop from that quarter; with this wind
one may easily send it a mile. Then, Uncas, do you drive in the front;
when they come within range of our pieces, we will give them a blow
that, I pledge the good name of an old frontiersman, shall make their
line bend like an ashen bow. After which, we will carry the village, and
take the woman from the cave; when the affair may be finished with the
tribe, according to a white man's battle, by a blow and a victory;
or, in the Indian fashion, with dodge and cover. There may be no great
learning, major, in this plan, but with courage and patience it can all
be done."

"I like it very much," cried Duncan, who saw that the release of Cora
was the primary object in the mind of the scout; "I like it much. Let it
be instantly attempted."

After a short conference, the plan was matured, and rendered more
intelligible to the several parties; the different signals were
appointed, and the chiefs separated, each to his allotted station.




CHAPTER 32

     "But plagues shall spread, and funeral fires increase,
     Till the great king, without a ransom paid,
     To her own Chrysa send the black-eyed maid."
     --Pope.

During the time Uncas was making this disposition of his forces, the
woods were as still, and, with the exception of those who had met in
council, apparently as much untenanted as when they came fresh from
the hands of their Almighty Creator. The eye could range, in every
direction, through the long and shadowed vistas of the trees; but
nowhere was any object to be seen that did not properly belong to the
peaceful and slumbering scenery.

Here and there a bird was heard fluttering among the branches of the
beeches, and occasionally a squirrel dropped a nut, drawing the startled
looks of the party for a moment to the place; but the instant the casual
interruption ceased, the passing air was heard murmuring above their
heads, along that verdant and undulating surface of forest, which spread
itself unbroken, unless by stream or lake, over such a vast region of
country. Across the tract of wilderness which lay between the Delawares
and the village of their enemies, it seemed as if the foot of man had
never trodden, so breathing and deep was the silence in which it lay.
But Hawkeye, whose duty led him foremost in the adventure, knew the
character of those with whom he was about to contend too well to trust
the treacherous quiet.

When he saw his little band collected, the scout threw "killdeer" into
the hollow of his arm, and making a silent signal that he would be
followed, he led them many rods toward the rear, into the bed of a
little brook which they had crossed in advancing. Here he halted, and
after waiting for the whole of his grave and attentive warriors to close
about him, he spoke in Delaware, demanding:

"Do any of my young men know whither this run will lead us?"

A Delaware stretched forth a hand, with the two fingers separated,
and indicating the manner in which they were joined at the root, he
answered:

"Before the sun could go his own length, the little water will be in
the big." Then he added, pointing in the direction of the place he
mentioned, "the two make enough for the beavers."

"I thought as much," returned the scout, glancing his eye upward at the
opening in the tree-tops, "from the course it takes, and the bearings of
the mountains. Men, we will keep within the cover of its banks till we
scent the Hurons."

His companions gave the usual brief exclamation of assent, but,
perceiving that their leader was about to lead the way in person, one
or two made signs that all was not as it should be. Hawkeye, who
comprehended their meaning glances, turned and perceived that his party
had been followed thus far by the singing-master.

"Do you know, friend," asked the scout, gravely, and perhaps with a
little of the pride of conscious deserving in his manner, "that this is
a band of rangers chosen for the most desperate service, and put under
the command of one who, though another might say it with a better face,
will not be apt to leave them idle. It may not be five, it cannot be
thirty minutes, before we tread on the body of a Huron, living or dead."

"Though not admonished of your intentions in words," returned David,
whose face was a little flushed, and whose ordinarily quiet and
unmeaning eyes glimmered with an expression of unusual fire, "your men
have reminded me of the children of Jacob going out to battle against
the Shechemites, for wickedly aspiring to wedlock with a woman of a race
that was favored of the Lord. Now, I have journeyed far, and sojourned
much in good and evil with the maiden ye seek; and, though not a man
of war, with my loins girded and my sword sharpened, yet would I gladly
strike a blow in her behalf."

The scout hesitated, as if weighing the chances of such a strange
enlistment in his mind before he answered:

"You know not the use of any we'pon. You carry no rifle; and believe me,
what the Mingoes take they will freely give again."

"Though not a vaunting and bloodily disposed Goliath," returned David,
drawing a sling from beneath his parti-colored and uncouth attire, "I
have not forgotten the example of the Jewish boy. With this ancient
instrument of war have I practised much in my youth, and peradventure
the skill has not entirely departed from me."

"Ay!" said Hawkeye, considering the deer-skin thong and apron, with a
cold and discouraging eye; "the thing might do its work among arrows, or
even knives; but these Mengwe have been furnished by the Frenchers with
a good grooved barrel a man. However, it seems to be your gift to go
unharmed amid fire; and as you have hitherto been favored--major, you
have left your rifle at a cock; a single shot before the time would be
just twenty scalps lost to no purpose--singer, you can follow; we may
find use for you in the shoutings."

"I thank you, friend," returned David, supplying himself, like his royal
namesake, from among the pebbles of the brook; "though not given to
the desire to kill, had you sent me away my spirit would have been
troubled."

"Remember," added the scout, tapping his own head significantly on that
spot where Gamut was yet sore, "we come to fight, and not to musickate.
Until the general whoop is given, nothing speaks but the rifle."

David nodded, as much to signify his acquiescence with the terms; and
then Hawkeye, casting another observant glance over his followers made
the signal to proceed.

Their route lay, for the distance of a mile, along the bed of the
water-course. Though protected from any great danger of observation by
the precipitous banks, and the thick shrubbery which skirted the stream,
no precaution known to an Indian attack was neglected. A warrior rather
crawled than walked on each flank so as to catch occasional glimpses
into the forest; and every few minutes the band came to a halt, and
listened for hostile sounds, with an acuteness of organs that would be
scarcely conceivable to a man in a less natural state. Their march was,
however, unmolested, and they reached the point where the lesser stream
was lost in the greater, without the smallest evidence that their
progress had been noted. Here the scout again halted, to consult the
signs of the forest.

"We are likely to have a good day for a fight," he said, in English,
addressing Heyward, and glancing his eyes upward at the clouds, which
began to move in broad sheets across the firmament; "a bright sun and a
glittering barrel are no friends to true sight. Everything is favorable;
they have the wind, which will bring down their noises and their smoke,
too, no little matter in itself; whereas, with us it will be first
a shot, and then a clear view. But here is an end to our cover; the
beavers have had the range of this stream for hundreds of years, and
what atween their food and their dams, there is, as you see, many a
girdled stub, but few living trees."

Hawkeye had, in truth, in these few words, given no bad description of
the prospect that now lay in their front. The brook was irregular in its
width, sometimes shooting through narrow fissures in the rocks, and at
others spreading over acres of bottom land, forming little areas that
might be termed ponds. Everywhere along its bands were the moldering
relics of dead trees, in all the stages of decay, from those that
groaned on their tottering trunks to such as had recently been robbed of
those rugged coats that so mysteriously contain their principle of life.
A few long, low, and moss-covered piles were scattered among them, like
the memorials of a former and long-departed generation.

All these minute particulars were noted by the scout, with a gravity and
interest that they probably had never before attracted. He knew that
the Huron encampment lay a short half mile up the brook; and, with
the characteristic anxiety of one who dreaded a hidden danger, he was
greatly troubled at not finding the smallest trace of the presence of
his enemy. Once or twice he felt induced to give the order for a rush,
and to attempt the village by surprise; but his experience quickly
admonished him of the danger of so useless an experiment. Then he
listened intently, and with painful uncertainty, for the sounds of
hostility in the quarter where Uncas was left; but nothing was audible
except the sighing of the wind, that began to sweep over the bosom of
the forest in gusts which threatened a tempest. At length, yielding
rather to his unusual impatience than taking counsel from his knowledge,
he determined to bring matters to an issue, by unmasking his force, and
proceeding cautiously, but steadily, up the stream.

The scout had stood, while making his observations, sheltered by a
brake, and his companions still lay in the bed of the ravine, through
which the smaller stream debouched; but on hearing his low, though
intelligible, signal the whole party stole up the bank, like so many
dark specters, and silently arranged themselves around him. Pointing in
the direction he wished to proceed, Hawkeye advanced, the band breaking
off in single files, and following so accurately in his footsteps, as to
leave it, if we except Heyward and David, the trail of but a single man.

The party was, however, scarcely uncovered before a volley from a dozen
rifles was heard in their rear; and a Delaware leaping high in to the
air, like a wounded deer, fell at his whole length, dead.

"Ah, I feared some deviltry like this!" exclaimed the scout, in English,
adding, with the quickness of thought, in his adopted tongue: "To cover,
men, and charge!"

The band dispersed at the word, and before Heyward had well recovered
from his surprise, he found himself standing alone with David. Luckily
the Hurons had already fallen back, and he was safe from their fire. But
this state of things was evidently to be of short continuance; for the
scout set the example of pressing on their retreat, by discharging his
rifle, and darting from tree to tree as his enemy slowly yielded ground.

It would seem that the assault had been made by a very small party of
the Hurons, which, however, continued to increase in numbers, as it
retired on its friends, until the return fire was very nearly, if not
quite, equal to that maintained by the advancing Delawares. Heyward
threw himself among the combatants, and imitating the necessary caution
of his companions, he made quick discharges with his own rifle. The
contest now grew warm and stationary. Few were injured, as both parties
kept their bodies as much protected as possible by the trees; never,
indeed, exposing any part of their persons except in the act of taking
aim. But the chances were gradually growing unfavorable to Hawkeye and
his band. The quick-sighted scout perceived his danger without knowing
how to remedy it. He saw it was more dangerous to retreat than to
maintain his ground: while he found his enemy throwing out men on his
flank; which rendered the task of keeping themselves covered so very
difficult to the Delawares, as nearly to silence their fire. At this
embarrassing moment, when they began to think the whole of the hostile
tribe was gradually encircling them, they heard the yell of combatants
and the rattling of arms echoing under the arches of the wood at the
place where Uncas was posted, a bottom which, in a manner, lay beneath
the ground on which Hawkeye and his party were contending.

The effects of this attack were instantaneous, and to the scout and his
friends greatly relieving. It would seem that, while his own surprise
had been anticipated, and had consequently failed, the enemy, in their
turn, having been deceived in its object and in his numbers, had left
too small a force to resist the impetuous onset of the young Mohican.
This fact was doubly apparent, by the rapid manner in which the battle
in the forest rolled upward toward the village, and by an instant
falling off in the number of their assailants, who rushed to assist in
maintaining the front, and, as it now proved to be, the principal point
of defense.

Animating his followers by his voice, and his own example, Hawkeye then
gave the word to bear down upon their foes. The charge, in that rude
species of warfare, consisted merely in pushing from cover to cover,
nigher to the enemy; and in this maneuver he was instantly and
successfully obeyed. The Hurons were compelled to withdraw, and the
scene of the contest rapidly changed from the more open ground, on which
it had commenced, to a spot where the assailed found a thicket to
rest upon. Here the struggle was protracted, arduous and seemingly of
doubtful issue; the Delawares, though none of them fell, beginning to
bleed freely, in consequence of the disadvantage at which they were
held.

In this crisis, Hawkeye found means to get behind the same tree as that
which served for a cover to Heyward; most of his own combatants being
within call, a little on his right, where they maintained rapid, though
fruitless, discharges on their sheltered enemies.

"You are a young man, major," said the scout, dropping the butt of
"killdeer" to the earth, and leaning on the barrel, a little fatigued
with his previous industry; "and it may be your gift to lead armies,
at some future day, ag'in these imps, the Mingoes. You may here see the
philosophy of an Indian fight. It consists mainly in ready hand, a quick
eye and a good cover. Now, if you had a company of the Royal Americans
here, in what manner would you set them to work in this business?"

"The bayonet would make a road."

"Ay, there is white reason in what you say; but a man must ask himself,
in this wilderness, how many lives he can spare. No--horse*," continued
the scout, shaking his head, like one who mused; "horse, I am ashamed to
say must sooner or later decide these scrimmages. The brutes are better
than men, and to horse must we come at last. Put a shodden hoof on the
moccasin of a red-skin, and, if his rifle be once emptied, he will never
stop to load it again."

     * The American forest admits of the passage of horses, there
     being little underbrush, and few tangled brakes. The plan of
     Hawkeye is the one which has always proved the most
     successful in the battles between the whites and the
     Indians. Wayne, in his celebrated campaign on the Miami,
     received the fire of his enemies in line; and then causing
     his dragoons to wheel round his flanks, the Indians were
     driven from their covers before they had time to load. One
     of the most conspicuous of the chiefs who fought in the
     battle of Miami assured the writer, that the red men could
     not fight the warriors with "long knives and leather
     stockings"; meaning the dragoons with their sabers and
     boots.

"This is a subject that might better be discussed at another time,"
returned Heyward; "shall we charge?"

"I see no contradiction to the gifts of any man in passing his breathing
spells in useful reflections," the scout replied. "As to rush, I little
relish such a measure; for a scalp or two must be thrown away in the
attempt. And yet," he added, bending his head aside, to catch the sounds
of the distant combat, "if we are to be of use to Uncas, these knaves in
our front must be got rid of."

Then, turning with a prompt and decided air, he called aloud to his
Indians, in their own language. His words were answered by a shout;
and, at a given signal, each warrior made a swift movement around his
particular tree. The sight of so many dark bodies, glancing before their
eyes at the same instant, drew a hasty and consequently an ineffectual
fire from the Hurons. Without stopping to breathe, the Delawares leaped
in long bounds toward the wood, like so many panthers springing upon
their prey. Hawkeye was in front, brandishing his terrible rifle and
animating his followers by his example. A few of the older and more
cunning Hurons, who had not been deceived by the artifice which had been
practiced to draw their fire, now made a close and deadly discharge of
their pieces and justified the apprehensions of the scout by felling
three of his foremost warriors. But the shock was insufficient to repel
the impetus of the charge. The Delawares broke into the cover with the
ferocity of their natures and swept away every trace of resistance by
the fury of the onset.

The combat endured only for an instant, hand to hand, and then the
assailed yielded ground rapidly, until they reached the opposite
margin of the thicket, where they clung to the cover, with the sort of
obstinacy that is so often witnessed in hunted brutes. At this critical
moment, when the success of the struggle was again becoming doubtful,
the crack of a rifle was heard behind the Hurons, and a bullet came
whizzing from among some beaver lodges, which were situated in the
clearing, in their rear, and was followed by the fierce and appalling
yell of the war-whoop.

"There speaks the Sagamore!" shouted Hawkeye, answering the cry with his
own stentorian voice; "we have them now in face and back!"

The effect on the Hurons was instantaneous. Discouraged by an assault
from a quarter that left them no opportunity for cover, the warriors
uttered a common yell of disappointment, and breaking off in a
body, they spread themselves across the opening, heedless of every
consideration but flight. Many fell, in making the experiment, under the
bullets and the blows of the pursuing Delawares.

We shall not pause to detail the meeting between the scout and
Chingachgook, or the more touching interview that Duncan held with
Munro. A few brief and hurried words served to explain the state of
things to both parties; and then Hawkeye, pointing out the Sagamore to
his band, resigned the chief authority into the hands of the Mohican
chief. Chingachgook assumed the station to which his birth and
experience gave him so distinguished a claim, with the grave dignity
that always gives force to the mandates of a native warrior. Following
the footsteps of the scout, he led the party back through the thicket,
his men scalping the fallen Hurons and secreting the bodies of their own
dead as they proceeded, until they gained a point where the former was
content to make a halt.

The warriors, who had breathed themselves freely in the preceding
struggle, were now posted on a bit of level ground, sprinkled with
trees in sufficient numbers to conceal them. The land fell away rather
precipitately in front, and beneath their eyes stretched, for several
miles, a narrow, dark, and wooded vale. It was through this dense and
dark forest that Uncas was still contending with the main body of the
Hurons.

The Mohican and his friends advanced to the brow of the hill, and
listened, with practised ears, to the sounds of the combat. A few
birds hovered over the leafy bosom of the valley, frightened from their
secluded nests; and here and there a light vapory cloud, which seemed
already blending with the atmosphere, arose above the trees, and
indicated some spot where the struggle had been fierce and stationary.

"The fight is coming up the ascent," said Duncan, pointing in the
direction of a new explosion of firearms; "we are too much in the center
of their line to be effective."

"They will incline into the hollow, where the cover is thicker," said
the scout, "and that will leave us well on their flank. Go, Sagamore;
you will hardly be in time to give the whoop, and lead on the young men.
I will fight this scrimmage with warriors of my own color. You know me,
Mohican; not a Huron of them all shall cross the swell, into your rear,
without the notice of 'killdeer'."

The Indian chief paused another moment to consider the signs of the
contest, which was now rolling rapidly up the ascent, a certain evidence
that the Delawares triumphed; nor did he actually quit the place until
admonished of the proximity of his friends, as well as enemies, by the
bullets of the former, which began to patter among the dried leaves on
the ground, like the bits of falling hail which precede the bursting of
the tempest. Hawkeye and his three companions withdrew a few paces to
a shelter, and awaited the issue with calmness that nothing but great
practise could impart in such a scene.

It was not long before the reports of the rifles began to lose the
echoes of the woods, and to sound like weapons discharged in the open
air. Then a warrior appeared, here and there, driven to the skirts of
the forest, and rallying as he entered the clearing, as at the place
where the final stand was to be made. These were soon joined by others,
until a long line of swarthy figures was to be seen clinging to
the cover with the obstinacy of desperation. Heyward began to
grow impatient, and turned his eyes anxiously in the direction of
Chingachgook. The chief was seated on a rock, with nothing visible but
his calm visage, considering the spectacle with an eye as deliberate as
if he were posted there merely to view the struggle.

"The time has come for the Delaware to strike!" said Duncan.

"Not so, not so," returned the scout; "when he scents his friends, he
will let them know that he is here. See, see; the knaves are getting in
that clump of pines, like bees settling after their flight. By the
Lord, a squaw might put a bullet into the center of such a knot of dark
skins!"

At that instant the whoop was given, and a dozen Hurons fell by a
discharge from Chingachgook and his band. The shout that followed was
answered by a single war-cry from the forest, and a yell passed through
the air that sounded as if a thousand throats were united in a common
effort. The Hurons staggered, deserting the center of their line, and
Uncas issued from the forest through the opening they left, at the head
of a hundred warriors.

Waving his hands right and left, the young chief pointed out the enemy
to his followers, who separated in pursuit. The war now divided, both
wings of the broken Hurons seeking protection in the woods again, hotly
pressed by the victorious warriors of the Lenape. A minute might have
passed, but the sounds were already receding in different directions,
and gradually losing their distinctness beneath the echoing arches of
the woods. One little knot of Hurons, however, had disdained to seek a
cover, and were retiring, like lions at bay, slowly and sullenly up the
acclivity which Chingachgook and his band had just deserted, to mingle
more closely in the fray. Magua was conspicuous in this party, both by
his fierce and savage mien, and by the air of haughty authority he yet
maintained.

In his eagerness to expedite the pursuit, Uncas had left himself nearly
alone; but the moment his eye caught the figure of Le Subtil, every
other consideration was forgotten. Raising his cry of battle, which
recalled some six or seven warriors, and reckless of the disparity of
their numbers, he rushed upon his enemy. Le Renard, who watched the
movement, paused to receive him with secret joy. But at the moment when
he thought the rashness of his impetuous young assailant had left him
at his mercy, another shout was given, and La Longue Carabine was seen
rushing to the rescue, attended by all his white associates. The Huron
instantly turned, and commenced a rapid retreat up the ascent.

There was no time for greetings or congratulations; for Uncas, though
unconscious of the presence of his friends, continued the pursuit with
the velocity of the wind. In vain Hawkeye called to him to respect the
covers; the young Mohican braved the dangerous fire of his enemies, and
soon compelled them to a flight as swift as his own headlong speed. It
was fortunate that the race was of short continuance, and that the white
men were much favored by their position, or the Delaware would soon have
outstripped all his companions, and fallen a victim to his own temerity.
But, ere such a calamity could happen, the pursuers and pursued entered
the Wyandot village, within striking distance of each other.

Excited by the presence of their dwellings, and tired of the chase, the
Hurons now made a stand, and fought around their council-lodge with
the fury of despair. The onset and the issue were like the passage and
destruction of a whirlwind. The tomahawk of Uncas, the blows of Hawkeye,
and even the still nervous arm of Munro were all busy for that passing
moment, and the ground was quickly strewed with their enemies. Still
Magua, though daring and much exposed, escaped from every effort against
his life, with that sort of fabled protection that was made to overlook
the fortunes of favored heroes in the legends of ancient poetry. Raising
a yell that spoke volumes of anger and disappointment, the subtle chief,
when he saw his comrades fallen, darted away from the place, attended
by his two only surviving friends, leaving the Delawares engaged in
stripping the dead of the bloody trophies of their victory.

But Uncas, who had vainly sought him in the melee, bounded forward in
pursuit; Hawkeye, Heyward and David still pressing on his footsteps. The
utmost that the scout could effect, was to keep the muzzle of his rifle
a little in advance of his friend, to whom, however, it answered every
purpose of a charmed shield. Once Magua appeared disposed to make
another and a final effort to revenge his losses; but, abandoning his
intention as soon as demonstrated, he leaped into a thicket of bushes,
through which he was followed by his enemies, and suddenly entered the
mouth of the cave already known to the reader. Hawkeye, who had only
forborne to fire in tenderness to Uncas, raised a shout of success, and
proclaimed aloud that now they were certain of their game. The pursuers
dashed into the long and narrow entrance, in time to catch a glimpse of
the retreating forms of the Hurons. Their passage through the natural
galleries and subterraneous apartments of the cavern was preceded by the
shrieks and cries of hundreds of women and children. The place, seen by
its dim and uncertain light, appeared like the shades of the infernal
regions, across which unhappy ghosts and savage demons were flitting in
multitudes.

Still Uncas kept his eye on Magua, as if life to him possessed but
a single object. Heyward and the scout still pressed on his rear,
actuated, though possibly in a less degree, by a common feeling. But
their way was becoming intricate, in those dark and gloomy passages, and
the glimpses of the retiring warriors less distinct and frequent; and
for a moment the trace was believed to be lost, when a white robe was
seen fluttering in the further extremity of a passage that seemed to
lead up the mountain.

"'Tis Cora!" exclaimed Heyward, in a voice in which horror and delight
were wildly mingled.

"Cora! Cora!" echoed Uncas, bounding forward like a deer.

"'Tis the maiden!" shouted the scout. "Courage, lady; we come! we come!"

The chase was renewed with a diligence rendered tenfold encouraging
by this glimpse of the captive. But the way was rugged, broken, and in
spots nearly impassable. Uncas abandoned his rifle, and leaped forward
with headlong precipitation. Heyward rashly imitated his example, though
both were, a moment afterward, admonished of his madness by hearing the
bellowing of a piece, that the Hurons found time to discharge down the
passage in the rocks, the bullet from which even gave the young Mohican
a slight wound.

"We must close!" said the scout, passing his friends by a desperate
leap; "the knaves will pick us all off at this distance; and see, they
hold the maiden so as to shield themselves!"

Though his words were unheeded, or rather unheard, his example was
followed by his companions, who, by incredible exertions, got near
enough to the fugitives to perceive that Cora was borne along between
the two warriors while Magua prescribed the direction and manner of
their flight. At this moment the forms of all four were strongly drawn
against an opening in the sky, and they disappeared. Nearly frantic with
disappointment, Uncas and Heyward increased efforts that already seemed
superhuman, and they issued from the cavern on the side of the mountain,
in time to note the route of the pursued. The course lay up the ascent,
and still continued hazardous and laborious.

Encumbered by his rifle, and, perhaps, not sustained by so deep an
interest in the captive as his companions, the scout suffered the latter
to precede him a little, Uncas, in his turn, taking the lead of Heyward.
In this manner, rocks, precipices and difficulties were surmounted in
an incredibly short space, that at another time, and under other
circumstances, would have been deemed almost insuperable. But the
impetuous young men were rewarded by finding that, encumbered with Cora,
the Hurons were losing ground in the race.

"Stay, dog of the Wyandots!" exclaimed Uncas, shaking his bright
tomahawk at Magua; "a Delaware girl calls stay!"

"I will go no further!" cried Cora, stopping unexpectedly on a ledge
of rock, that overhung a deep precipice, at no great distance from the
summit of the mountain. "Kill me if thou wilt, detestable Huron; I will
go no further."

The supporters of the maiden raised their ready tomahawks with the
impious joy that fiends are thought to take in mischief, but Magua
stayed the uplifted arms. The Huron chief, after casting the weapons
he had wrested from his companions over the rock, drew his knife,
and turned to his captive, with a look in which conflicting passions
fiercely contended.

"Woman," he said, "chose; the wigwam or the knife of Le Subtil!"

Cora regarded him not, but dropping on her knees, she raised her eyes
and stretched her arms toward heaven, saying in a meek and yet confiding
voice:

"I am thine; do with me as thou seest best!"

"Woman," repeated Magua, hoarsely, and endeavoring in vain to catch a
glance from her serene and beaming eye, "choose!"

But Cora neither heard nor heeded his demand. The form of the Huron
trembled in every fibre, and he raised his arm on high, but dropped
it again with a bewildered air, like one who doubted. Once more he
struggled with himself and lifted the keen weapon again; but just then
a piercing cry was heard above them, and Uncas appeared, leaping
frantically, from a fearful height, upon the ledge. Magua recoiled a
step; and one of his assistants, profiting by the chance, sheathed his
own knife in the bosom of Cora.

The Huron sprang like a tiger on his offending and already retreating
country man, but the falling form of Uncas separated the unnatural
combatants. Diverted from his object by this interruption, and maddened
by the murder he had just witnessed, Magua buried his weapon in the back
of the prostrate Delaware, uttering an unearthly shout as he committed
the dastardly deed. But Uncas arose from the blow, as the wounded
panther turns upon his foe, and struck the murderer of Cora to his feet,
by an effort in which the last of his failing strength was expended.
Then, with a stern and steady look, he turned to Le Subtil, and
indicated by the expression of his eye all that he would do had not
the power deserted him. The latter seized the nerveless arm of the
unresisting Delaware, and passed his knife into his bosom three several
times, before his victim, still keeping his gaze riveted on his enemy,
with a look of inextinguishable scorn, fell dead at his feet.

"Mercy! mercy! Huron," cried Heyward, from above, in tones nearly choked
by horror; "give mercy, and thou shalt receive from it!"

Whirling the bloody knife up at the imploring youth, the victorious
Magua uttered a cry so fierce, so wild, and yet so joyous, that it
conveyed the sounds of savage triumph to the ears of those who fought in
the valley, a thousand feet below. He was answered by a burst from the
lips of the scout, whose tall person was just then seen moving swiftly
toward him, along those dangerous crags, with steps as bold and reckless
as if he possessed the power to move in air. But when the hunter reached
the scene of the ruthless massacre, the ledge was tenanted only by the
dead.

His keen eye took a single look at the victims, and then shot its
glances over the difficulties of the ascent in his front. A form stood
at the brow of the mountain, on the very edge of the giddy height,
with uplifted arms, in an awful attitude of menace. Without stopping to
consider his person, the rifle of Hawkeye was raised; but a rock, which
fell on the head of one of the fugitives below, exposed the indignant
and glowing countenance of the honest Gamut. Then Magua issued from a
crevice, and, stepping with calm indifference over the body of the last
of his associates, he leaped a wide fissure, and ascended the rocks at
a point where the arm of David could not reach him. A single bound would
carry him to the brow of the precipice, and assure his safety. Before
taking the leap, however, the Huron paused, and shaking his hand at the
scout, he shouted:

"The pale faces are dogs! the Delawares women! Magua leaves them on the
rocks, for the crows!"

Laughing hoarsely, he made a desperate leap, and fell short of his mark,
though his hands grasped a shrub on the verge of the height. The form
of Hawkeye had crouched like a beast about to take its spring, and
his frame trembled so violently with eagerness that the muzzle of the
half-raised rifle played like a leaf fluttering in the wind. Without
exhausting himself with fruitless efforts, the cunning Magua suffered
his body to drop to the length of his arms, and found a fragment for his
feet to rest on. Then, summoning all his powers, he renewed the attempt,
and so far succeeded as to draw his knees on the edge of the mountain.
It was now, when the body of his enemy was most collected together,
that the agitated weapon of the scout was drawn to his shoulder. The
surrounding rocks themselves were not steadier than the piece became,
for the single instant that it poured out its contents. The arms of the
Huron relaxed, and his body fell back a little, while his knees still
kept their position. Turning a relentless look on his enemy, he shook
a hand in grim defiance. But his hold loosened, and his dark person was
seen cutting the air with its head downward, for a fleeting instant,
until it glided past the fringe of shrubbery which clung to the
mountain, in its rapid flight to destruction.




CHAPTER 33

     "They fought, like brave men, long and well,
     They piled that ground with Moslem slain,
     They conquered--but Bozzaris fell,
     Bleeding at every vein.
     His few surviving comrades saw
     His smile when rang their loud hurrah,
     And the red field was won;
     Then saw in death his eyelids close
     Calmly, as to a night's repose,
     Like flowers at set of sun."
     --Halleck.

The sun found the Lenape, on the succeeding day, a nation of mourners.
The sounds of the battle were over, and they had fed fat their ancient
grudge, and had avenged their recent quarrel with the Mengwe, by the
destruction of a whole community. The black and murky atmosphere that
floated around the spot where the Hurons had encamped, sufficiently
announced of itself, the fate of that wandering tribe; while hundreds of
ravens, that struggled above the summits of the mountains, or swept, in
noisy flocks, across the wide ranges of the woods, furnished a frightful
direction to the scene of the combat. In short, any eye at all practised
in the signs of a frontier warfare might easily have traced all those
unerring evidences of the ruthless results which attend an Indian
vengeance.

Still, the sun rose on the Lenape a nation of mourners. No shouts
of success, no songs of triumph, were heard, in rejoicings for their
victory. The latest straggler had returned from his fell employment,
only to strip himself of the terrific emblems of his bloody calling,
and to join in the lamentations of his countrymen, as a stricken people.
Pride and exultation were supplanted by humility, and the fiercest
of human passions was already succeeded by the most profound and
unequivocal demonstrations of grief.

The lodges were deserted; but a broad belt of earnest faces encircled a
spot in their vicinity, whither everything possessing life had repaired,
and where all were now collected, in deep and awful silence. Though
beings of every rank and age, of both sexes, and of all pursuits, had
united to form this breathing wall of bodies, they were influenced by a
single emotion. Each eye was riveted on the center of that ring, which
contained the objects of so much and of so common an interest.

Six Delaware girls, with their long, dark, flowing tresses falling
loosely across their bosoms, stood apart, and only gave proof of their
existence as they occasionally strewed sweet-scented herbs and forest
flowers on a litter of fragrant plants that, under a pall of Indian
robes, supported all that now remained of the ardent, high-souled,
and generous Cora. Her form was concealed in many wrappers of the same
simple manufacture, and her face was shut forever from the gaze of
men. At her feet was seated the desolate Munro. His aged head was
bowed nearly to the earth, in compelled submission to the stroke of
Providence; but a hidden anguish struggled about his furrowed brow,
that was only partially concealed by the careless locks of gray that
had fallen, neglected, on his temples. Gamut stood at his side, his
meek head bared to the rays of the sun, while his eyes, wandering and
concerned, seemed to be equally divided between that little volume,
which contained so many quaint but holy maxims, and the being in whose
behalf his soul yearned to administer consolation. Heyward was also
nigh, supporting himself against a tree, and endeavoring to keep down
those sudden risings of sorrow that it required his utmost manhood to
subdue.

But sad and melancholy as this group may easily be imagined, it was far
less touching than another, that occupied the opposite space of the same
area. Seated, as in life, with his form and limbs arranged in grave and
decent composure, Uncas appeared, arrayed in the most gorgeous ornaments
that the wealth of the tribe could furnish. Rich plumes nodded above
his head; wampum, gorgets, bracelets, and medals, adorned his person
in profusion; though his dull eye and vacant lineaments too strongly
contradicted the idle tale of pride they would convey.

Directly in front of the corpse Chingachgook was placed, without arms,
paint or adornment of any sort, except the bright blue blazonry of his
race, that was indelibly impressed on his naked bosom. During the long
period that the tribe had thus been collected, the Mohican warrior had
kept a steady, anxious look on the cold and senseless countenance of his
son. So riveted and intense had been that gaze, and so changeless his
attitude, that a stranger might not have told the living from the dead,
but for the occasional gleamings of a troubled spirit, that shot athwart
the dark visage of one, and the deathlike calm that had forever settled
on the lineaments of the other. The scout was hard by, leaning in a
pensive posture on his own fatal and avenging weapon; while Tamenund,
supported by the elders of his nation, occupied a high place at hand,
whence he might look down on the mute and sorrowful assemblage of his
people.

Just within the inner edge of the circle stood a soldier, in the
military attire of a strange nation; and without it was his warhorse, in
the center of a collection of mounted domestics, seemingly in readiness
to undertake some distant journey. The vestments of the stranger
announced him to be one who held a responsible situation near the person
of the captain of the Canadas; and who, as it would now seem, finding
his errand of peace frustrated by the fierce impetuosity of his allies,
was content to become a silent and sad spectator of the fruits of a
contest that he had arrived too late to anticipate.

The day was drawing to the close of its first quarter, and yet had the
multitude maintained its breathing stillness since its dawn.

No sound louder than a stifled sob had been heard among them, nor had
even a limb been moved throughout that long and painful period, except
to perform the simple and touching offerings that were made, from time
to time, in commemoration of the dead. The patience and forbearance of
Indian fortitude could alone support such an appearance of abstraction,
as seemed now to have turned each dark and motionless figure into stone.

At length, the sage of the Delawares stretched forth an arm, and leaning
on the shoulders of his attendants, he arose with an air as feeble as
if another age had already intervened between the man who had met his
nation the preceding day, and him who now tottered on his elevated
stand.

"Men of the Lenape!" he said, in low, hollow tones, that sounded like a
voice charged with some prophetic mission: "the face of the Manitou
is behind a cloud! His eye is turned from you; His ears are shut; His
tongue gives no answer. You see him not; yet His judgments are before
you. Let your hearts be open and your spirits tell no lie. Men of the
Lenape! the face of the Manitou is behind a cloud."

As this simple and yet terrible annunciation stole on the ears of the
multitude, a stillness as deep and awful succeeded as if the venerated
spirit they worshiped had uttered the words without the aid of human
organs; and even the inanimate Uncas appeared a being of life, compared
with the humbled and submissive throng by whom he was surrounded. As the
immediate effect, however, gradually passed away, a low murmur of voices
commenced a sort of chant in honor of the dead. The sounds were those of
females, and were thrillingly soft and wailing. The words were connected
by no regular continuation, but as one ceased another took up the
eulogy, or lamentation, whichever it might be called, and gave vent to
her emotions in such language as was suggested by her feelings and the
occasion. At intervals the speaker was interrupted by general and loud
bursts of sorrow, during which the girls around the bier of Cora plucked
the plants and flowers blindly from her body, as if bewildered with
grief. But, in the milder moments of their plaint, these emblems of
purity and sweetness were cast back to their places, with every sign
of tenderness and regret. Though rendered less connected by many and
general interruptions and outbreakings, a translation of their language
would have contained a regular descant, which, in substance, might have
proved to possess a train of consecutive ideas.

A girl, selected for the task by her rank and qualifications,
commenced by modest allusions to the qualities of the deceased warrior,
embellishing her expressions with those oriental images that the
Indians have probably brought with them from the extremes of the other
continent, and which form of themselves a link to connect the ancient
histories of the two worlds. She called him the "panther of his tribe";
and described him as one whose moccasin left no trail on the dews; whose
bound was like the leap of a young fawn; whose eye was brighter than
a star in the dark night; and whose voice, in battle, was loud as the
thunder of the Manitou. She reminded him of the mother who bore him, and
dwelt forcibly on the happiness she must feel in possessing such a son.
She bade him tell her, when they met in the world of spirits, that the
Delaware girls had shed tears above the grave of her child, and had
called her blessed.

Then, they who succeeded, changing their tones to a milder and still
more tender strain, alluded, with the delicacy and sensitiveness of
women, to the stranger maiden, who had left the upper earth at a time
so near his own departure, as to render the will of the Great Spirit too
manifest to be disregarded. They admonished him to be kind to her, and
to have consideration for her ignorance of those arts which were so
necessary to the comfort of a warrior like himself. They dwelled upon
her matchless beauty, and on her noble resolution, without the taint of
envy, and as angels may be thought to delight in a superior excellence;
adding, that these endowments should prove more than equivalent for any
little imperfection in her education.

After which, others again, in due succession, spoke to the maiden
herself, in the low, soft language of tenderness and love. They exhorted
her to be of cheerful mind, and to fear nothing for her future welfare.
A hunter would be her companion, who knew how to provide for her
smallest wants; and a warrior was at her side who was able to protect
he against every danger. They promised that her path should be pleasant,
and her burden light. They cautioned her against unavailing regrets for
the friends of her youth, and the scenes where her father had dwelt;
assuring her that the "blessed hunting grounds of the Lenape," contained
vales as pleasant, streams as pure; and flowers as sweet, as the "heaven
of the pale faces." They advised her to be attentive to the wants of her
companion, and never to forget the distinction which the Manitou had so
wisely established between them. Then, in a wild burst of their chant
they sang with united voices the temper of the Mohican's mind. They
pronounced him noble, manly and generous; all that became a warrior, and
all that a maid might love. Clothing their ideas in the most remote
and subtle images, they betrayed, that, in the short period of their
intercourse, they had discovered, with the intuitive perception of their
sex, the truant disposition of his inclinations. The Delaware girls had
found no favor in his eyes! He was of a race that had once been lords on
the shores of the salt lake, and his wishes had led him back to a
people who dwelt about the graves of his fathers. Why should not such
a predilection be encouraged! That she was of a blood purer and richer
than the rest of her nation, any eye might have seen; that she was
equal to the dangers and daring of a life in the woods, her conduct
had proved; and now, they added, the "wise one of the earth" had
transplanted her to a place where she would find congenial spirits, and
might be forever happy.

Then, with another transition in voice and subject, allusions were
made to the virgin who wept in the adjacent lodge. They compared her to
flakes of snow; as pure, as white, as brilliant, and as liable to melt
in the fierce heats of summer, or congeal in the frosts of winter. They
doubted not that she was lovely in the eyes of the young chief, whose
skin and whose sorrow seemed so like her own; but though far from
expressing such a preference, it was evident they deemed her less
excellent than the maid they mourned. Still they denied her no need
her rare charms might properly claim. Her ringlets were compared to the
exuberant tendrils of the vine, her eye to the blue vault of heavens,
and the most spotless cloud, with its glowing flush of the sun, was
admitted to be less attractive than her bloom.

During these and similar songs nothing was audible but the murmurs of
the music; relieved, as it was, or rather rendered terrible, by those
occasional bursts of grief which might be called its choruses. The
Delawares themselves listened like charmed men; and it was very
apparent, by the variations of their speaking countenances, how deep and
true was their sympathy. Even David was not reluctant to lend his ears
to the tones of voices so sweet; and long ere the chant was ended, his
gaze announced that his soul was enthralled.

The scout, to whom alone, of all the white men, the words were
intelligible, suffered himself to be a little aroused from his
meditative posture, and bent his face aside, to catch their meaning, as
the girls proceeded. But when they spoke of the future prospects of
Cora and Uncas, he shook his head, like one who knew the error of their
simple creed, and resuming his reclining attitude, he maintained it
until the ceremony, if that might be called a ceremony, in which feeling
was so deeply imbued, was finished. Happily for the self-command of both
Heyward and Munro, they knew not the meaning of the wild sounds they
heard.

Chingachgook was a solitary exception to the interest manifested by the
native part of the audience. His look never changed throughout the whole
of the scene, nor did a muscle move in his rigid countenance, even at
the wildest or the most pathetic parts of the lamentation. The cold and
senseless remains of his son was all to him, and every other sense but
that of sight seemed frozen, in order that his eyes might take their
final gaze at those lineaments he had so long loved, and which were now
about to be closed forever from his view.

In this stage of the obsequies, a warrior much renowned for deed in
arms, and more especially for services in the recent combat, a man of
stern and grave demeanor, advanced slowly from the crowd, and placed
himself nigh the person of the dead.

"Why hast thou left us, pride of the Wapanachki?" he said, addressing
himself to the dull ears of Uncas, as if the empty clay retained the
faculties of the animated man; "thy time has been like that of the sun
when in the trees; thy glory brighter than his light at noonday. Thou
art gone, youthful warrior, but a hundred Wyandots are clearing the
briers from thy path to the world of the spirits. Who that saw thee in
battle would believe that thou couldst die? Who before thee has ever
shown Uttawa the way into the fight? Thy feet were like the wings of
eagles; thine arm heavier than falling branches from the pine; and
thy voice like the Manitou when He speaks in the clouds. The tongue of
Uttawa is weak," he added, looking about him with a melancholy gaze,
"and his heart exceeding heavy. Pride of the Wapanachki, why hast thou
left us?"

He was succeeded by others, in due order, until most of the high and
gifted men of the nation had sung or spoken their tribute of praise over
the manes of the deceased chief. When each had ended, another deep and
breathing silence reigned in all the place.

Then a low, deep sound was heard, like the suppressed accompaniment of
distant music, rising just high enough on the air to be audible, and
yet so indistinctly, as to leave its character, and the place whence it
proceeded, alike matters of conjecture. It was, however, succeeded by
another and another strain, each in a higher key, until they grew on the
ear, first in long drawn and often repeated interjections, and finally
in words. The lips of Chingachgook had so far parted, as to announce
that it was the monody of the father. Though not an eye was turned
toward him nor the smallest sign of impatience exhibited, it was
apparent, by the manner in which the multitude elevated their heads to
listen, that they drank in the sounds with an intenseness of attention,
that none but Tamenund himself had ever before commanded. But
they listened in vain. The strains rose just so loud as to become
intelligible, and then grew fainter and more trembling, until they
finally sank on the ear, as if borne away by a passing breath of wind.
The lips of the Sagamore closed, and he remained silent in his seat,
looking with his riveted eye and motionless form, like some creature
that had been turned from the Almighty hand with the form but without
the spirit of a man. The Delawares who knew by these symptoms that
the mind of their friend was not prepared for so mighty an effort of
fortitude, relaxed in their attention; and, with an innate delicacy,
seemed to bestow all their thoughts on the obsequies of the stranger
maiden.

A signal was given, by one of the elder chiefs, to the women who crowded
that part of the circle near which the body of Cora lay. Obedient to
the sign, the girls raised the bier to the elevation of their heads,
and advanced with slow and regulated steps, chanting, as they proceeded,
another wailing song in praise of the deceased. Gamut, who had been a
close observer of rites he deemed so heathenish, now bent his head over
the shoulder of the unconscious father, whispering:

"They move with the remains of thy child; shall we not follow, and see
them interred with Christian burial?"

Munro started, as if the last trumpet had sounded in his ear, and
bestowing one anxious and hurried glance around him, he arose and
followed in the simple train, with the mien of a soldier, but bearing
the full burden of a parent's suffering. His friends pressed around him
with a sorrow that was too strong to be termed sympathy--even the young
Frenchman joining in the procession, with the air of a man who was
sensibly touched at the early and melancholy fate of one so lovely. But
when the last and humblest female of the tribe had joined in the wild
and yet ordered array, the men of the Lenape contracted their circle,
and formed again around the person of Uncas, as silent, as grave, and as
motionless as before.

The place which had been chosen for the grave of Cora was a little
knoll, where a cluster of young and healthful pines had taken root,
forming of themselves a melancholy and appropriate shade over the spot.
On reaching it the girls deposited their burden, and continued for many
minutes waiting, with characteristic patience, and native timidity, for
some evidence that they whose feelings were most concerned were content
with the arrangement. At length the scout, who alone understood their
habits, said, in their own language:

"My daughters have done well; the white men thank them."

Satisfied with this testimony in their favor, the girls proceeded
to deposit the body in a shell, ingeniously, and not inelegantly,
fabricated of the bark of the birch; after which they lowered it into
its dark and final abode. The ceremony of covering the remains, and
concealing the marks of the fresh earth, by leaves and other natural and
customary objects, was conducted with the same simple and silent forms.
But when the labors of the kind beings who had performed these sad and
friendly offices were so far completed, they hesitated, in a way to show
that they knew not how much further they might proceed. It was in this
stage of the rites that the scout again addressed them:

"My young women have done enough," he said: "the spirit of the pale
face has no need of food or raiment, their gifts being according to the
heaven of their color. I see," he added, glancing an eye at David, who
was preparing his book in a manner that indicated an intention to
lead the way in sacred song, "that one who better knows the Christian
fashions is about to speak."

The females stood modestly aside, and, from having been the principal
actors in the scene, they now became the meek and attentive observers of
that which followed. During the time David occupied in pouring out the
pious feelings of his spirit in this manner, not a sign of surprise, nor
a look of impatience, escaped them. They listened like those who knew
the meaning of the strange words, and appeared as if they felt the
mingled emotions of sorrow, hope, and resignation, they were intended to
convey.

Excited by the scene he had just witnessed, and perhaps influenced by
his own secret emotions, the master of song exceeded his usual efforts.
His full rich voice was not found to suffer by a comparison with the
soft tones of the girls; and his more modulated strains possessed, at
least for the ears of those to whom they were peculiarly addressed,
the additional power of intelligence. He ended the anthem, as he had
commenced it, in the midst of a grave and solemn stillness.

When, however, the closing cadence had fallen on the ears of his
auditors, the secret, timorous glances of the eyes, and the general
and yet subdued movement of the assemblage, betrayed that something was
expected from the father of the deceased. Munro seemed sensible that the
time was come for him to exert what is, perhaps, the greatest effort
of which human nature is capable. He bared his gray locks, and looked
around the timid and quiet throng by which he was encircled, with a firm
and collected countenance. Then, motioning with his hand for the scout
to listen, he said:

"Say to these kind and gentle females, that a heart-broken and failing
man returns them his thanks. Tell them, that the Being we all worship,
under different names, will be mindful of their charity; and that the
time shall not be distant when we may assemble around His throne without
distinction of sex, or rank, or color."

The scout listened to the tremulous voice in which the veteran delivered
these words, and shook his head slowly when they were ended, as one who
doubted their efficacy.

"To tell them this," he said, "would be to tell them that the snows come
not in the winter, or that the sun shines fiercest when the trees are
stripped of their leaves."

Then turning to the women, he made such a communication of the other's
gratitude as he deemed most suited to the capacities of his listeners.
The head of Munro had already sunk upon his chest, and he was again
fast relapsing into melancholy, when the young Frenchman before named
ventured to touch him lightly on the elbow. As soon as he had gained the
attention of the mourning old man, he pointed toward a group of young
Indians, who approached with a light but closely covered litter, and
then pointed upward toward the sun.

"I understand you, sir," returned Munro, with a voice of forced
firmness; "I understand you. It is the will of Heaven, and I submit.
Cora, my child! if the prayers of a heart-broken father could avail thee
now, how blessed shouldst thou be! Come, gentlemen," he added, looking
about him with an air of lofty composure, though the anguish that
quivered in his faded countenance was far too powerful to be concealed,
"our duty here is ended; let us depart."

Heyward gladly obeyed a summons that took them from a spot where, each
instant, he felt his self-control was about to desert him. While his
companions were mounting, however, he found time to press the hand of
the scout, and to repeat the terms of an engagement they had made to
meet again within the posts of the British army. Then, gladly throwing
himself into the saddle, he spurred his charger to the side of the
litter, whence low and stifled sobs alone announced the presence of
Alice. In this manner, the head of Munro again drooping on his bosom,
with Heyward and David following in sorrowing silence, and attended
by the aide of Montcalm with his guard, all the white men, with the
exception of Hawkeye, passed from before the eyes of the Delawares, and
were buried in the vast forests of that region.

But the tie which, through their common calamity, had united the
feelings of these simple dwellers in the woods with the strangers who
had thus transiently visited them, was not so easily broken. Years
passed away before the traditionary tale of the white maiden, and of
the young warrior of the Mohicans ceased to beguile the long nights and
tedious marches, or to animate their youthful and brave with a desire
for vengeance. Neither were the secondary actors in these momentous
incidents forgotten. Through the medium of the scout, who served for
years afterward as a link between them and civilized life, they learned,
in answer to their inquiries, that the "Gray Head" was speedily gathered
to his fathers--borne down, as was erroneously believed, by his military
misfortunes; and that the "Open Hand" had conveyed his surviving
daughter far into the settlements of the pale faces, where her tears
had at last ceased to flow, and had been succeeded by the bright smiles
which were better suited to her joyous nature.

But these were events of a time later than that which concerns our tale.
Deserted by all of his color, Hawkeye returned to the spot where his
sympathies led him, with a force that no ideal bond of union could
destroy. He was just in time to catch a parting look of the features of
Uncas, whom the Delawares were already inclosing in his last vestment
of skins. They paused to permit the longing and lingering gaze of the
sturdy woodsman, and when it was ended, the body was enveloped, never to
be unclosed again. Then came a procession like the other, and the whole
nation was collected about the temporary grave of the chief--temporary,
because it was proper that, at some future day, his bones should rest
among those of his own people.

The movement, like the feeling, had been simultaneous and general. The
same grave expression of grief, the same rigid silence, and the same
deference to the principal mourner, were observed around the place of
interment as have been already described. The body was deposited in an
attitude of repose, facing the rising sun, with the implements of war
and of the chase at hand, in readiness for the final journey. An opening
was left in the shell, by which it was protected from the soil, for the
spirit to communicate with its earthly tenement, when necessary; and the
whole was concealed from the instinct, and protected from the ravages
of the beasts of prey, with an ingenuity peculiar to the natives. The
manual rites then ceased and all present reverted to the more spiritual
part of the ceremonies.

Chingachgook became once more the object of the common attention. He had
not yet spoken, and something consolatory and instructive was expected
from so renowned a chief on an occasion of such interest. Conscious of
the wishes of the people, the stern and self-restrained warrior raised
his face, which had latterly been buried in his robe, and looked about
him with a steady eye. His firmly compressed and expressive lips then
severed, and for the first time during the long ceremonies his voice was
distinctly audible. "Why do my brothers mourn?" he said, regarding the
dark race of dejected warriors by whom he was environed; "why do my
daughters weep? that a young man has gone to the happy hunting-grounds;
that a chief has filled his time with honor? He was good; he was
dutiful; he was brave. Who can deny it? The Manitou had need of such a
warrior, and He has called him away. As for me, the son and the father
of Uncas, I am a blazed pine, in a clearing of the pale faces. My
race has gone from the shores of the salt lake and the hills of the
Delawares. But who can say that the serpent of his tribe has forgotten
his wisdom? I am alone--"

"No, no," cried Hawkeye, who had been gazing with a yearning look at the
rigid features of his friend, with something like his own self-command,
but whose philosophy could endure no longer; "no, Sagamore, not alone.
The gifts of our colors may be different, but God has so placed us as to
journey in the same path. I have no kin, and I may also say, like you,
no people. He was your son, and a red-skin by nature; and it may be that
your blood was nearer--but, if ever I forget the lad who has so often
fou't at my side in war, and slept at my side in peace, may He who made
us all, whatever may be our color or our gifts, forget me! The boy has
left us for a time; but, Sagamore, you are not alone."

Chingachgook grasped the hand that, in the warmth of feeling, the scout
had stretched across the fresh earth, and in an attitude of friendship
these two sturdy and intrepid woodsmen bowed their heads together, while
scalding tears fell to their feet, watering the grave of Uncas like
drops of falling rain.

In the midst of the awful stillness with which such a burst of feeling,
coming as it did, from the two most renowned warriors of that region,
was received, Tamenund lifted his voice to disperse the multitude.

"It is enough," he said. "Go, children of the Lenape, the anger of
the Manitou is not done. Why should Tamenund stay? The pale faces are
masters of the earth, and the time of the red men has not yet come
again. My day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis
happy and strong; and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to
see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans."





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