Part 1 out of 9
This etext was produced by John Horner.
The Last of the Mohicans
A Narrative of 1757
by James Fenimore Cooper
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
"Mine ear is open, and my heart prepared: The worst is
wordly loss thou canst unfold:--Say, is my kingdom lost?"
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
* 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
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
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
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
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.
"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
"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
"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,
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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 abid 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,
"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
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
"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 hunging 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
"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
"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
"Do the Maquas dare to leave the print of their moccasins in
"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
"'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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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!" 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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Le Subtil knows the path to the great lakes, and he can
find the bones of his fathers," was the answer of the
"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
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
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
..."In such a night Did Thisbe 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
"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
"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!"
"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."